Man haunted by priest’s alleged assaults
Photograph by: Scott Webster, The Windsor Star
WINDSOR Ont. — He remembers all too clearly the day he skipped class — it was the only day “Andrew,” a self-described “goody two-shoes,” ever played hooky during his five years at Assumption College Catholic high school.
It was also the day he nearly killed himself.
He says he wandered down to the Detroit River, pacing the waterfront for hours, sometimes perching on the railing with his legs dangling over the water’s edge, trying to summon the courage to throw himself into the swift waters.
Nearly 30 years later, Andrew still thinks about suicide.
Now 42, the man who sparked a flurry of sexual abuse charges against Basilian priest and former Windsor high school principal William Hodgson ‘Hod’ Marshall says he can’t be sure that the abuse is what led him to the river that day.
But the alleged incidents have left an indelible mark on Andrew’s life.
“I use the expression to this day, ‘I don’t want to be here.’ I don’t want to be born, I don’t want to be alive,” he says.
“If someone offered to run me over with their truck, I would appreciate that.”
In May, Andrew’s story of abuse prompted the Crown to file a charge of indecent assault against Marshall for incidents alleged to have occurred between 1981-85. Since then, five additional charges have been laid against Marshall in Windsor involving five different victims. Those incidents are alleged to have occurred between 1954, when the priest was teaching at Assumption, and 1986, when Marshall was the principal of Holy Names high school.
On Wednesday, Toronto police announced two additional counts of indecent assault for incidents alleged to have occurred while Marshall was teaching at St. Michael’s College School in 1953.
“I cried last night for the first time. I don’t exactly know why,” Andrew said Thursday. “The amount of effort and protection that some people have used to keep it hidden is finally going to crack. I find that overwhelming in a good way and a bad way. It’s hard to be part of it.”
Due to a publication ban in the case, none of the victims’ real names can be printed. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
It’s only in recounting his story to The Windsor Star earlier this month that Andrew realizes how the priest allegedly groomed him for the abuse when Andrew was still a boy. A friend of the family long before Andrew was even born, Marshall often made trips to Windsor to visit while he was working in Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie.
“When you were six or eight or 10 he always came into your bed at night and gave you a goodnight snuggle and said some prayers or whatever,” Andrew says. “He would get into the bed, under the sheets, put his arm around you or give you a hug and hold you.
“Then, it changed.”
That change happened when Andrew was about 13 years old on a trip to visit Marshall in Sault Ste. Marie during March Break.
That night, as his father and brothers slept upstairs in the clerics’ residence attached to the school where Marshall taught, the priest allegedly climbed into Andrew’s bed downstairs and began touching him.
“It’d be, ‘Oh, you’re getting taller, oh you’re getting bigger, oh, you’re turning into a man, oh you’re getting muscles.’ That was kind of his thing — ‘Oh, you’re getting muscles,'” Andrew says. “And then these muscles (he gestures to his biceps) would lead to these muscles (thighs) which would lead to, ‘Oh, turn over,’ your butt muscles, and then your pants are down.”
Andrew alleges the abuse continued when Marshall visited his family home in Windsor. He says the priest entered his room and abused him while Andrew’s parents lay sleeping just on the other side of the wall.
“And then, all of a sudden you get up in the morning and he’s a priest. He’s consecrating the Eucharist. He’s a holy man,” Andrew says, shaking his head.
The abuse has shattered Andrew’s faith. Once a head altar boy who briefly considered entering the priesthood, he now believes the Roman Catholic Church is “a deliberately constructed evil organization from the top to the bottom.”
He says the abuse has contributed to his difficulties connecting with other people, his discomfort with physical proximity to others — especially men — and his ability to simply feel happy.
“I just don’t find that the joyous moments sustain me through the difficult moments,” he says.
“The unhappiness seems constant.”
Andrew decided to come forward with his story after decades of silence because he wanted other victims to know they aren’t alone.
Though he’s worried the court case will be prolonged by any additional charges against Marshall, who is now 88 and sick with cancer, Andrew urges other victims to consider contacting police to report the abuse. “I would say, do what’s right for you, but … if you feel you can come forward, now is the time to speak out and be counted.
“I want it to be known. It’s not about revenge. It’s about the truth.”
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