The student news site of the University of WI - Eau Claire

Abused and scarred: Children survive priest sexual assault

May 13, 2018

Peter Isely, a survivor of priest abuse and a founding member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), was sexually assaulted at age 13 at Saint Lawrence Seminary High School in Fond Du Lac county. His story illustrates the struggles he and other survivors faced and how the abuse changed his life.

Documents discussed in the podcast are linked below for listener reference:

  • Isely publicized his abuse in the Milwaukee Journal in 1992.
  • Victim blaming tactics used by Isely’s offender.
  • Court documents and victim testimony involving accused priests at St. Lawrence.


Father Gale Liefeld starting abusing Peter Isely when he was 13. The grooming techniques Liefeld used are recognized in a 2015 research article written by the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire professor and researcher, Jason Spraitz. The tactics priests who abuse children use, make it hard to identify and stop the assault.


Through his work with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, Peter Isely says the reason sexual abuse occurs in the Catholic Church is because the culture and structure of the church is flawed. Sexual assault is possible in the Catholic Church due to the high esteem priests are held in, the complex, duel legal system sexual assault cases go through and the belief system of the church.

1 Comment

One Response to “Abused and scarred: Children survive priest sexual assault”

  1. John Thompson on May 16th, 2018 3:52 pm

    I grew up (or beaten down) in the Catholic church where I was abused by nuns and priests (and by my own parents, extended family and other people outside my family). In the Catholic Church there is much more abuse going on besides sexual, Physical, verbal, psychological and emotional abuse are rampant. At the recovery support meeting I co-facilitate adult survivors of abuse in Catholic institutions still come and talk about the various abuses done them as I do myself. Nothing has changed. Nuns and priests are still given a free hand to do to children what they please and parents still think they can do nothing. Obviously a great deal of this abuse comes about because boys and girls growing up in dysfunctional families become nuns and priests as a way of escaping from their own abusive families. Over the past 40 decades I have heard from many men and women who said they considered this escape route. My many years experience of observing the nuns and priests I had as teachers and my own history of abuses committed on and to me has convinced me that many of the people who become nuns and priests are not mentally or emotionally healthy.

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