I lived with PTSD for 40 years, after molestation by a Catholic priest at age five. Read my story as I write it here through 2015.

This is a True Story

**See the R-Rated Version of This Story at CofA16**
Read ongoing coverage of pedophile priest crisis at CofA12
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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ch2: The Thud and a Nipple Dress

How one pedophile priest skewered the dynamics of an entire family, continued.  (Read other chapters here:  Chapter One First Light Chapter Three Considering Who We Are) 

by Kay Ebeling

“There in a picture from 1981 are my parents, my sister, and her nipples, smiling at the camera in the family photo album.”  (See cartoon below)

In his home in the Castro district, conversation with my cousin* finally came to why I'd come to San Francisco with my six year old daughter.  I asked him, “Do you remember Father Horne?” and then blurted out a version of events from the past few months, where I’d recovered the memory of the priest sexualizing me at age five, and confirmed that he’d molested my sister Patricia too.  I  ended with “Now I know why I've been so screwed up my whole life,” excited, thinking my cousin would share my elation. Instead: The Thud. 

When you're in a conversation and everything is going fine, then you mention you're a pedophile priest victim, there it is: The Thud. [BEAT] All talk comes to a complete stop, any ambiance of friendliness that had once been there evaporates, the room is silent, and all persons within hearing distance stiffen. Once The Thud happens, communication is never the same again. 

Doing City of Angels Blog since January 2007, I've finally learned to stop bringing up the issue in casual conversation, but only after experiencing The Thud many times.

Back in 1994 I was just beginning this pursuit and my visit with cousin Jimmy had been going fabulous.  I did notice a tone of awe and reverence as he said: “I go to the Basilica several times a week,” with just a little too much enthusiasm.

The Bassiilllliiica, he said, stretching the word way out.

Jimmy had only weeks earlier returned to the Catholic Church.  I wanted to say to him, “But you're gay,” but he rushed on before I could, and talked about the classes and Masses he does now at “The Basilica.” 

“The Bass-ill-icaaahhhh”

I should have known not to say anything more about Father Horne being a pedophile priest, but again, I was still green in this world of survivorship. Once I told Jimmy that I accuse Father Horne of molesting me back in 1955, there was no getting past The Thud.

Cousin Jimmy had no room for 6 year old Lizzie and me in his three story home where he lived all alone, not even for one night.  So we left, and as he ushered us out the door we received these words one more time. “I will never believe Father Horne would do anything as bad as that.  He was a wonderful man, an absolutely wonderful man.”


He had said the name “Father Horne” with same reverence he had for “the Basilica”.

So Lizzie and I went instead to Aunt Patricia’s house, even though she’d said earlier by phone we couldn't stay there.

During a phone call with my sister a few weeks back, I told her we were coming to San Francisco because I’d found a national support group for pedophile priest victims with a branch in the Bay Area. 

“Something called Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests or SNAP,” I said, “isn't that cool?  We can get some group therapy and support.”

But Trish just sighed into the phone, “I don't know.” I could almost hear her shrug. “It affected my life, yeah, I had a lot of sex.  But I had a lot of fun too.”

To this day I'm perplexed as to why I can’t look with the same attitude at the damage done to me by that priest, and just let it go.

But I can’t.  Not yet.  Maybe soon.

How I Found SNAP Back in 1994

Up in Humboldt County, after recovering the memory at age forty five of Father Horne sexualizing me at age five, and after having a weird physical reaction to it, I knew I should see a doctor and that the episode was psychiatric, so I scheduled an appointment with a therapist.  Since I was in a small Northern California town, the only shrink I could see on my insurance was at a clinic run by Catholic Charities. 

In the waiting room were copies of St. Anthony Messenger magazine with a cover story about pedophile priests, (Cover at top of this post; see entire articlehere   ). As I waited I began reading it, and they mentioned a support group for pedophile priest “survivors” in the Bay Area.  By the time they called me for my appointment, I didn't want to talk to a therapist anymore, except to find out more about this group.  She said she knew nothing, she was not Catholic, she just worked there. I said, “I'm just going to take this magazine with me.” And left, making plans to move 

Since Patricia lived in San Francisco and had also been diddled by Father Horne, I thought she’d be as excited as I was to find a network of other people who were raped by priests, but she was nonchalant. 

In a loud voice over the phone I asked her, “Doesn't it bother you that because of Father Horne molesting us, we were total out of control whores our whole lives?”

And there was Lizzie age five standing nearby overhearing everything I said.


Just like when I learned about the Vietnam War as a teenager and wound up on staff of the Peace and Freedom Part and just like when I learned about the space program in my twenties and lobbied until I got a job at NASA, at age 45 I latched onto the idea of being an activist about pedophile priests.  Going Faster than the Speed of Life, I never slowed down long enough to say, hey, this happened to me and I'm damaged.  I was too busy babbling in a compulsion with which only I was familiar, trying to make sure everybody in the world found out.   

We held a yard sale and were outta Eureka in weeks.  Then we drove down Redwood Highway with all the belongings we had left in the backseat and trunk, packed so tight, there was just a small hole in it to see out the rear window. 

As I drove and Lizzie slept, I remembered the time around 1970 when my sister Patricia had twelve shock treatments right after having a baby. My dad told me she was having “horrible memories” and electric shock would get them out of her brain. 

What memory was Patricia having after her baby was born that they wanted to erase, I wondered.  Was it anything like what I was remembering now after my daughter turned five years old?

A Not so Flowery Haight-Ashbury

Since Cardinal Levada had apparently made it okay to be gay and Catholic in San Francisco in 1994, so my newly renewed Catholic cousin would not let us stay in his house, Lizzie and I drove over to the Haight to see what Aunt Patricia might do.

Usually when people think of the Haight Ashbury District in San Francisco, they hear finger symbols, imagine flower children in breezy cotton clothes dancing around psychedelic maypoles.  That was not the Haight Ashbury of 1994, when Lizzie and I arrived in San Francisco in pursuit of a pedophile priest victim support group.

In 1994 the Haight had a darkness, as if all the grime of twenty five years since the Summer of Love had become ingrained in the concrete.  A different kind of street kid populated the doorways and staircases than in the 1960s.  I had last come through The Haight in about 1967.  Back then there was a magic in the air.  My friends and I on that visit left our bags in a “crash pad,” some strangers’ house, and wandered the city for hours, then returned to the pad and our bags with all our things were left untouched.  Dozens of hippies had passed through the house and seen our bags and yet no one even thought to steal anything.  The original hippies would not harm each other, we were all in this together, hey, man, peace love cool. 

In 1994 the grime on the street blended with the graffiti and tattoos on the kids’ skin.  Hair was still long, but it was greasy and bore no flowers.  The bony bodies and holes where eyes should be showed the drug of choice on Haight Street was no longer pot and psychedelics.  Drugs in The Haight of 1994 were heroin and speed, preferably shot into the vein, where tattoos hid the needle marks. 

Of course along Haight Street in 1994 there were still coffee houses and book stores with street seating cafes so the remaining aging hippies could meet and talk about politics and culture.  But the new population of Haight Street was not reading alternative newspapers, or selling them on the street for sustenance.  There was no hopeful notion of changing mankind and leading the way to a better future, as we all believed in the hippie era.  By 1994 the passion of Dylan and Baez had been drowned out by Kurt Cobain.

Into this dark and crowded place I drove with my six year old daughter trying to find a parking place so we could go to Aunt Patricia’s house. 

Aunt Patricia’s House

When you go east on Haight Street from Golden Gate Park, the first street you cross is Shrader.  Turn right, and two doors down on the left was the entrance to Aunt Patricia’s home.  You almost could not see the door.  It's right up against the sidewalk cut into the wall, with a tiny doorknob and a peephole.  A person passing could mistake Patricia’s front door for the entrance to a crawl space under the building, or maybe even a hobbit hole.

Down about 20 feet further from Patricia’s front door was a more ordinary door that looked like a front door, which was where Patricia’s tenant lived. 

By renting out part of her apartment, my sister paid almost no rent, to live two blocks from Golden Gate Park in 1994, because she had the same apartment she’d had since 1974.  With rent control she could charge her tenant 700 a month for a furnished room and pay the rent for her entire place.

Patricia told me the rental unit was empty when we were still up in Humboldt County, and that had only been a few weeks back.  Since I told her we were coming, I figured the rental unit would still be empty, but instead she must have rushed to rent it as fast as possible.  

I don't know if Patricia’s disinterest in helping Lizzie and me when we came for help could be called another incident of The Thud or not.  

It is an example of that weird thing she said in Chapter One, That she'd been hostile to me our whole lives because at age sic, I took away her first lover.  

It does tell you something about the screwed up dynamics that result in a family where a pedophile priest has stuck his prickly fingers.

The Nipple Dress

As we sat during our first visit since 1988 (link to Chapter One) Patricia got out her photo album and I paged through it, coming to a stop when I saw The Nipple Dress.

There from Thanksgiving 1981 is my sister Patricia and her nipples smiling out at the camera in her family photo album (see Cartoon at right, or Click here for R-Rated version version, sorry, I'm trying not to take any of this too seriously). 

In the family photo, Patrica is bent over our mom and dad wearing a lacey black blouse with nothing under it. 

Throughout that entire holiday, everyone in the family tried to act as if there was nothing unusual about having Patricia’s nipples peeking out at us, all through cocktails and dinner, but there they were, pointing out bright red under the thin lace of her dress. At some point I had apparently taken this picture of them that now Patricia wanted me to see in her family album.

Why no one ever suggested that  Patricia put on a sweater, I never understood. 

How Would I Do My Art? Patricia asked.

We sat awhile in the narrow entry room that Trish used as her living room, with the carpet that had only been swept, never shampooed since she moved in in the seventies, surrounded by shelves with figurines of Betty Boop, Marilyn Monroe, and various fairy princesses.

I asked, “What is behind that closed door?”

“That's my studio,” she said. “Come see my art.”

Here was a spacious room with French windows looking out on the yard, with scraps of colored paper and art supplies such as scissors and glitter spread out on a table.

“I am now officially a San Francisco artist,” Patricia announced, and put an example of her work in front of my face.  “See?  I go to the park with my camera and shoot pictures, which I then cut into pieces and paste back together.  The result is this.  A colorful cardboard pastiche collage, See?”

The picture in front of my face made me have trouble focusing: masses of mixed color with no patter, rhyme, or reason that evoked no feeling other than confusion.  Patricia went on to explain, "It's a new art form that I invented myself,” and she was so proud of her work, I kept humor from showing on my face, and agreed they were beautiful works of art.

I said, “Maybe we could stay here in the studio just until we find a place,” but she interrupted, “Then how would I do my art?” and began a diatribe about the people now populating Haight Street.

She said, “They're not hippies like we were, they're junkies. I can’t even get them to buy any of my art."

I, as always, tried to show I'm on her side saying, “Yeah the new street kids are like toxic waste left over from the Summer of Love,” but that only made Trish glare at me.

So Lizzie and I went to a homeless shelter in the Tenderloin District where we stayed six weeks before finding a place to live in San Francisco, another experience for a whole nother book. 

And since this shelter, like most shelters, made the “clients” go to Therapy once a week, I told my story to a college-aged psychologist who, believe it or not, opened her Roll-O-Dex and gave me the number for the Bay Area SNAP group that was meeting back then in Hayward. 

So the family dysfunction I lived with, probably as a result of being vocal about the pedophile priest, ended up getting me connected with a network of support and activism about pedophile priests.  Or so I thought. 

The Dog Fights Next Door

Snarling dogs tore at each other’s flesh right outside the window where Lizzie and I huddled on the mattress we got from a guy at an AA meeting.

When I’d looked at this apartment on Webster near Haight, I asked the agent, “What is that building out the back window?" and the she'd shrugged back, “Oh just some apartments.” I didn't ask more questions.  Lizzie and I had to get out of the shelter in the Tenderloin where I had to carry a hammer with me when I went to the kitchen in case someone jumped me.  When I finally found a landlord in the city who would rent to us, I went Faster Than the Speed of Life through the walk-through and just rented it. 

Turned out the buildings behind us were the recently condemned Projects. A group of holdouts now lived in the crumbling, police taped structures, refusing to move, holding dog fights. 

So there were me and Lizzie huddled on our mattress each night, listening.  

The snarling dogs seemed to be starved to a manic rage and along with men's cheering voices would get louder and louder.  Then you heard the plaintive wail of one dog, a sad and surprised bark of shock and pain from the one that just lost the dog fight, hollering until it died.  Then men would cheer and it would finally get quiet.

We listened to that outside our back door almost every night.

Soon after moving in, we got a TV set and I turned on the local news.

There on Channels 2, 4, and 7 was my sister Patricia in front of the hobbit hole that was her front door talking on camera.  The voiceover began, “A woman in Haight Ashbury has opened her home to the homeless street people who live on the sidewalks nearby.  She’s letting them come in to her home, no questions asked, so they can take showers, and rest.”

Then there was a closeup of Patricia talking to reporters who’d gathered outside her home in the Haight.  

“I decided to let them come in here, just to let them have some time off the streets,” said my sister to the reporter with deep compassion in her voice, “to give them a place to chill, maybe regroup.”

I sat there dumbfounded on my mattress with the snarling dogs in the background and watched as the reporter and camera then followed Patricia through the hobbit hole door into the dark rooms inside. 

The camera panned my sister’s living area, where disheveled street kids were strewn about blending with the décor.  They leaned on chairs tables and stairs, their hair split like clouds around their heads.  A murmuring sound mixed with smoke, eyes darted left and right. 

The camera and everyone in San Francisco watching the local news then turned their attention back to my sister Patricia the Haight Street homeless advocate.

“Why would you open your home to these street kids this way?” asked the reporter with compelling urgency.

Looking like a scolding mother, stout yet a little like Lana Turner, Patricia looked straight into the camera lens and said, “Well somebody’s got to do it.”


* Same cousin I mentioned in Chapter One incident, which may be the real reason he didn't want us around.



Patricia got citywide media coverage.  News stories ran everywhere lauding her efforts to end homelessness in San Francisco, in spite of the fact she hadn’t let her sister and niece stay in her home a few months earlier and we ended up in a shelter downtown.

Still, as always, I patched things up with Trish and a few weeks later Lizzie and I went back to her place.  Before I could even sit down, my sister Patricia insisted I look at her scrapbooks again as she’d added a lot of new clippings.

I flip past the picture Patricia in the nipple dress, to get to the new part she wants me to see, news clippings from her homeless activism a few weeks back.

Patricia also insists we watch a VHS tape she made with all the TV news coverage she’d gotten for her campaign. 

After watching them, I ask my sister Patricia, “Whatever happened to that homeless project you ran?”

She answers, “Oh hell I had to throw those brats outta here,”  and takes a long drag on her Camel.  “They stole my whole Marilyn Monroe collection.”


A Hobbit Hole

Patricia’s part of the home was a really weird place, carved out of a weird building.  As you walked through, you couldn't really identify the rooms with names such as living room, dining room, etcetera.

Trish used the area you encountered when you entered through the front door as a place to hang out, so she called it the living room.  It was narrow and window-less. Below your feet was a well-worn carpet that always felt kind of wet, but the dark colors and floral pattern camouflaged the dirt.  In the twenty years my sister had lived in that apartment, I doubt she ever did more than sweep or vacuum it.  She was not inclined to anything as mundane as shampooing a rug.

In that narrow entryway / room was a couch on the left and a a television set on the right, stereo equipment on shelves along the hall.  You followed the walkway into the kitchen.  Here were elements similar to what's found in the kitchens in most human homes, a sink, counter top, cabinets with dishes and cooking utensils.  Still there was a strangeness to the place. For instance, when you sat at Patricia’s kitchen table, you should be able to look out on a backyard with trees and a sitting area.  But Trish had covered the floor to ceiling windows with clippings from fashion magazines.  So the only way to see the grand backyard was to walk out the doors which she always kept closed and locked. 

“There’s a lot of creeps living on the other side of the yard,” she explained.

I got the feeling she’d fought with her neighbors, just from decades of reading body language with my sister.  But I didn't ask. .

Trish wore a Japanese style kimono with nothing under it.  She smoked unfiltered Camels through a foot-long cigarette holder and her smile showed tobacco blackened teeth. Still she was, as always, stunningly beautiful. 

Trying to make small talk I commented on the shelves that lined the walls, as if the apartment had once been a shop of some kind.  Knick knacks, figurines of fairies and nymphs, and Betty Boops filled the shelves. 

Most alluring were hundreds of figurines depicting Marilyn Monroe, about which I asked Patricia and she said:

“Every time I see anything about Marilyn, in a second-hand store or a yard sale, I buy it.” She added, “So sad the way she died. It was all a conspiracy, you know.”

I wanted to remind her of this (link to Marilyn and Me posted May 29 2012 ) but let it go for now.

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