‘The tip of the iceberg’. That’s how Edward Hayes describes his decision to speak out as the victim of female-on-male rape in the Catholic Church. At the tender age of twelve, Sister Mary Conleth (real name, Bessie Veronica Lawler) began regularly raping Edward. It took sixty-two years before he would meet the child conceived during one of the nun’s sexual attacks.
He believes he’s not the only one to be raped by a nun hence ‘the tip of the iceberg’.
Growing up in poverty and suffering from malnutrition, being accepted into the John Reynolds Home in Lancashire was a dream come true for young Edward. But the dream soon turned into a nightmare.
The first attack occurred in the laundry. The nun pulled down Edward’s trousers, pushed him to the floor and raped him. The scenario is shockingly similar to the attack my husband experienced as a tiny boy. An erection does not equal consent.
The attacks continued for years until the nun fell pregnant. Sent back to Ireland in disgrace, Sister Mary Conleth and her unborn child disappeared from the life of a very confused and wounded Edward.
‘We were more naive back then’, he says. Believing that kissing resulted in conception, he was at a loss to know how he and Sister Mary could have conceived a child together as they never kissed.
Banished from the orphanage in disgrace, Edward was finally adopted. But unfortunately, this was no happily-ever-after adoption story. By the time he was twenty-one, Edward was an alcoholic, a problem that resulted in his medical discharge from the Royal Artillery on account of his ulcers.
‘I couldn’t ever settle’, he said. Trying to drown his sorrow in the forgetfulness found in a bottle, Edward lost his marriage and his children. A semblance of healing came when he met Noel Chardon, who helps others who were victims of pedophilia within the Catholic Church.
Now Edward’s story has come full circle. After years of requests and legal action, Edward finally was told the gender of the child he fathered. But it gets even better. Edward recently met his daughter. At the age of seventy-six he finally met, for the first time, his sixty-two year old daughter.
She finally has a father and her four children finally have a grandfather. Although only fourteen years her senior, Edward has some semblance of closure in bonding with the daughter he fathered when he was raped by a nun.
In his words: ‘It was the day I dared never believe would happen. This is it now, now that we have found each other. My twilight years are going to be good ones’.
Photo by UROCK recycled clothing + life