Saturday, September 19, 2015

Second Sexual Abuse Survivor Comes Forward About Former St. Francis Prep Teacher Brother Joe Mussa: Grand Theft Childhood

This work is not easy. I cry a lot when I read stories like Daniel's. But when I can help people like Daniel receive one ounce of closure by helping them be heard, I know in my heart this three year journey from when I first started the Saint Francis Prep series of blogs has been worth it.

I first wrote about the child molester Brother Joe Mussa, (who now is retired from Xaverian High School and living in the friary on Remsen Street in Brooklyn) in June, 2013. Here it is: Brother Joe Mussa Sexual Abuse Victim Speaks Out

A few weeks ago, a gentleman commented on this blog. His name is Daniel, and this is his story, in his own words. This is the first part of a two-part blog. 

Danny, this is for you. No one is ever going to shut you up again.


"It was right before Easter 1976, I was in the 5th grade at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic School in Brooklyn, New York. I was 11 years old. A student from Mr. Joseph Mussa's 8th grade class came down to my classroom and told my teacher that Mr. Mussa needed two volunteers, one boy and one girl, to help him decorate the bulletin board in his classroom . Everyone's hand shot up. Mr Mussa was the coolest teacher in the whole school. He was Joe cool. He ran the intramural hockey and football leagues at the school. If you had Mr. Mussa as a teacher you were considered very, very lucky. A lot of teachers at Holy Name were nuns and a handful of Brothers, for the most part they were all considered to be very strict and mean, quite frankly they were. During my grammar school years there was also a decline in nuns and Brothers being teachers, they seem to be fading out. Now there were some regular people teaching, and they seem to be more easier going and pleasant then the men and women of “ the cloth." You would think it would be the other way around, you know with the GOD thing and all ! So when I was picked as the boy student to go up to Mr. Mussa’s classroom, I was thrilled and the envy of all the other kids in my class. and when my teacher picked the prettiest girl in all of the 5th grade i was thrilled and envied even more. Looking back now all these years later……….I wish I never raised my hand on that day. But at the time it was akin to Charlie finding the golden ticket for a day at the chocolate factory with Mr. Willy Wonka himself. The girl, Michelle, and I spent that afternoon decorating Mr. Mussa's classroom for the upcoming Easter holiday. we joked around and laughed the afternoon away. I was nervous about meeting and interacting with Mr. Mussa , but as I soon realized, he was not like the other teachers at Holy Name, He would pal around with you, put you in a playful headlock and give you a few nuggies on the head, way different than any of the other teachers . He would even told me to call him Joe. Mr. Mussa had noticed me when he would be in the schoolyard refereeing the flag football games. At one game I was picked to be the kid who was in charge of the clock that kept the time for the games . It was a position everyone who wasn't in the game jockeyed fo , and a job Mr. Mussa would assign someone at each game. I would watch the older boys like John C. and Bart P. jump into his station wagon after the games when he would take them down to Burger King for some burgers. I would hear the stories the next day of all the laughs they had and I wanted to be a part of that fun. For the next two months after our afternoon decorating his classroom, Mr.Mussa , or Joe as I was allowed to call him, would hang around the schoolyard after school and throw a football or baseball around, talk sports and would joke around the neighborhood kids who played there after school . I only lived two blocks away from the school and spent lots of time there. One day I received a letter at home from Mr. Mussa. I was surprised. In the letter, from what little I remember, Mr. Mussa told me how happy he was to meet me and how special of a kid that I was. He also said that we were going to be very good friends. I remember how in the beginning of our friendship he would always repeat those same things to me. How special I was, and how we were going to be good buddies. That really made me feel good about myself. There were even a few kids, me being one of them, that Joe was taking a liking to. Kids my own age, kids in my class. we were finally being the ones he would take for burgers or ice cream. He even took me and another classmate home to his parents' house to look at his record album collection. I remember going there specifically so he would show us the clues that were hidden to the “Paul is dead “ rumors about the Beatles' Paul McCartney.  They claimed Paul McCartney was dead and replaced by a lookalike, with hidden clues on album covers and inside album jackets and you could even hear someone saying “Paul is dead“ by playing one of their albums backwards. Mr. Mussa knew and showed us where all these clues were. 

The end of the school year was coming. At that time I got average grades of B’s, C's and D”s. School was a bit of a struggle for me. Summer was coming and I couldn't wait to go the CYO surf club in Coney Island were me and my family spent the summers BBQing and swimming with other families from Holy Name Parish. I was starting to gain confidence in myself. My self esteem was starting to grow. Mr. Mussa had taken a liking to me that made me feel like I was the most special kid in the world. He promised me more trips to Burger King for french fries and hamburgers and to Carvel for ice cream. We had been there several times, mostly with other boys from school, but the last couple of times it was just Mr. Mussa and myself…….Summer arrived and Mr. Mussa sent a couple of more letters to me and then all of the sudden they stopped. Summer went and no sign of Mr. Mussa. I was devastated. I thought I may have done something wrong. Was he mad at me ? These thoughts ran through my mind. My self esteem and confidence which was picking up steam was now dissipating. I was baffled and confused. No Joe Mussa !! Where did he go? He was a fixture at the school, active in sports programs and very much liked among the student body. Sixth grade was beginning soon and I was anxious to see Mr. Mussa if only for one thing, to find out what I did wrong, and why at one moment I was his new little pal and then the next I wasn't .

I spent the summer wondering where he was…… spent the summer waiting for one of those letters that were also like a golden ticket to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory………... . very few kids got personal letters from him, but if you did you felt as part of an elite group. Mr. Mussa was your buddy…..a school teacher went out of his way to see you, you were friends to the envy of your classmates. And he has such a distinctive handwriting that you would be able to tell it was a letter from him without even reading anything on the envelope.. It was that distictive. You could even tell if someone else had a letter from him at a quick glance of it from across a room.. He was already having a bad effect on my life and I only really knew him for two months. It's as if I was raised up past all my peers and put on some sort of pedestal only to be tossed aside and forgotten. The worst part…...I had no idea or explanation as to why. Me and my school mates speculated as to what happened and where he was. Then school started up, and he never showed up. We were told he wouldn't be teaching at Holy Name . He was being replaced, gone. and no one seemed to have a clue as to where he went. Sometime towards the middle of the 6th grade, the girl who lived downstairs in the building I lived in solved the mystery. There he was, a photograph in the Tablet, a Catholic newspaper. There was a picture of him with a few other men in a semi-circle all dressed in brown robes with a headline above the photograph announcing them all as new Christian Brothers in the Franciscan Friars order of the Catholic Church. Mr. Joseph Musa had become Brother Joe. I was disappointed when I saw it. Why would the coolest teacher in the world join a group of men that the students were all frightened of ? The few Brothers that were at Holy Name all had a reputation as being strict hard-nosed men and they did nothing to make you believe otherwise. (From this point forward I will refer to Mr. Mussa as just mussa, the m in lowercase and I will never refer to him as Brother. He is not deserving of respect that I would show any man by referring to them with Mr. , and I will not refer to him as Brother in respect to myself for my own feelings in regards to Brothers in general .) Me and my classmates were in shock over this bit of information , I couldn't understand it. To me mussa had joined a group of mean spirited men who walked around in heavy brown robes with a thick bright white rope tied around their waist, who ruled with an iron fist carrying around a ruler to discipline out of line students with . At least that's the impression we younger kids got from the older ones. During my 8 years at Holy Name, the lay people , as they were referred to as (people who were not members of any religious order) were just starting to gain numbers over the nuns who in turn outnumbered the Brothers in my school. There still were several nuns at holy name and if my memory serves me right, I can only remember there being two Brothers teaching in Holy Name, Brother John and Brother Tom. And in contrast to a student being considered lucky to have mussa as their teacher, you were considered not as fortunate to get either Bro. John or Bro.Tom as your teacher. Their class was rigid and strict. In my eight years there I never had a Brother as my primary teacher. I think maybe once I had a nun as a primary teacher as well as the art teacher and the librarian who were both nuns and whose interactions were limited to an hour each a week.. Then somewhere towards the middle of my 6th year at Holy Name when I came home from school and I received a letter from mussa…...instantly upon seeing the envelope, I recognized his distinctive handwriting and the bright blue ink (he always used a specific bright shade of blue ink) I was nervous and tense about getting his letter. In fact it took several hours before I opened it and read it. Inside the letter mussa told me about where he was for the last year and how he was ordained as a Brother, and what changes that is having in his life. mussa also told me that those changes would not have any effect on our friendship and that his movement were restricted while he was studying to become a Brother and now he had more freedom to come visit his “little buddy” which was what he called me all the time. He use to always sing “oh Danny Boy “ to me all the time , I find it very difficult whenever I hear that song now. I wrote back to him, I had many questions. I put the letter with the others in a shoebox under my bed. I was acquiring quite a collection. And now that he wasn't on any restriction, the letters started coming pretty much on a weekly basis. One of the first things I was worried about was what mussa was going to be wearing. The brown robes and sandals disturbed me. How were we going to go to the movies or to Burger King? I was concerned about being seen in public with a Brother, and what was I to call him? Should I call him Mr. mussa or do I have to call him Brother Joe (I know i said i wouldn't but I had to refer to him as mr. and Brother, but that's really the last time ever!!!!) mussa assured me that his being a Brother would not affect our relationship. As a matter of fact I was told from here on out I was to call him Joe just like before. Never his surname and never refer to him as Brother, I was he little buddy. We were friends. I cannot tell you how important that makes a young kid feel when a teacher at your school who everyone had to address them with respect with now using Brother before his name, where I was allowed to call him Joe. He liked me better than you, it was euphoric . Also mussa told me that when we hung out he would always be wearing street clothes. Him being a Brother was just his job, the robe was his uniform. when he wasn't working he wasn't required to have his uniform on. He compared himself to a policeman. When they were on duty they were required to wear their uniforms. They weren't allowed to wear them when they were off duty and that included traveling to and from work . I only remember seeing him wearing his robe only once, and the sight of him wearing it made me uncomfortable. mussa was big on the Muppets, he took me to the Muppet movies, bought me a Miss Piggy doll and a Kermit the Frog doll. he surprised me with these things and I was really embarrassed about them, so much that I kept them hidden in my closet. We also would take trips to Sam Goody, a record store in Kings Plaza Mall. In total I had 171 record albums that mussa had bought for me over the 2-½ years of my encounter with him. Whatever I wanted he would buy it for me, a boom box, electric toy car, a Kiss make up set that you can make yourself up as any of the members of the band..movies, baseball games, Burger King , McDonalds, Baskin Robbins, Carvel. As I look back that 1st year mussa never touched me in a bad way. He would pat and rub my back affectionately, mess up my hair and squeeze my kneecaps in an attempt to razzle me, it's akin to hitting your funny bone. Then all of the sudden all that changed. mussa would start to put his hand on my knee and then start moving his hand up my thigh rubbing my thigh as if to say “Hey buddy, good to see you." I became very tense and uncomfortable. I really didn't know what he was up to. I was very confused! The last thing I think he would do, is try to go to my private area. but his hand continued up my thigh. At this point I placed both of my hands on my lap, placed in such a manner that blocked the path I was sure now he was taking. He was heading for my penis. God-damn-it, they were right. The rumors were true, the teasing somehow justified. Ever since I started hanging out with mussa, some of the older kids who were in his class in Holy Name or were on the intramural hockey or football teams said that mussa liked little boys. They use to tease me when after that 1st interaction with him, decorating his bulletin board. The older kids would say he was lining me up to be his next boy toy. that's all I thought it was ….teasing, I don't know if I didn't want to believe it or not . At the time I was hearing these “rumors“ I had nothing but good memories of spending time with him. Besides I really wasn't clear of what the meant at that time. But as the year went by I was beginning to understand. In 1976 I was 10 years old. A very little boy, physically and mentally. I was ALWAYS 2nd in line, weather it was lining up in the school yard every morning for class, or my 1st Holy Communion or my as yet to happen at that time, my Confirmation (for which I picked the name Joseph after mussa.) I was always behind Richard R. who held the prestigious honor of being the shortest for our 8 years together at Holy Name. But today as I write this and over the years I would look at young boys that were 10,11,12 even 13 years old and think how can anyone do something like touch these babies the way mussa was starting to touch me. How the fuck could they do such a thing?! I can't remember exactly what had happened that first attempt at molesting me. Whether he succeeded at getting to my penis or not, it really is irrelevant. I do know from that day forward my life was completely changed. I was an 11 year old boy who wasn't even close to puberty. I didn't see my 1st pubic hair until I was 18 years old, (all the boys around me were showing obvious signs of manhood, I really thought that I was physically damaged from the sexual abuse and I'd never see puberty. High school gym was an absolute HORROR for me) just a young kid who’s adolescent years were robbed from me. I was involved in an adult activity that I had no idea what it was about, it was frightening and it was disgusting. It was ugly and it was incomprehensible. I just didn't understand. And most of all I was ashamed ! He romanced me for that first year, groomed me and isolated me. I stood up for him if someone was to say something in regards to him and young boys. mussa would spend the spring of 1977 manipulating me with a false love and gifts, there was never two words said between us when he was attempting to abuse me and when he abused me. It's almost as he wasn't aware of what his right hand was doing. He just would drive the car to wherever we were heading while nonchalantly putting his hand on my knee, making its way up to my crotch and manipulating my zipper on my pants. Mind you , I was trying my best to not allow him to get to my zipper. It was a silent war between us. He would try to go under and over my hand, back and forth I would shift down, he would try to go deeper under my hand. He would then go over, then go over and quickly go under as if to trick me up when I thought he was going one way. And I had so much time invested in our friendship that I didn't know what to do. I was too scared to tell my parents, thinking of how they were starting to be concerned about the things I was bringing home, and I defended him or at least I defended the gifts. I was being molested in his car, in the movies, in the schoolyard. It started happening more and more. And the more he molested me the more things he bought me. Times were a lot different then, I'm sure that if it was going on today, as far as my parents are concerned, they most definitely would have stepped in. People are more educated today, these whispers about shady scoutmasters or camp counselors, teachers, priests or the neighborhood adults who tended to gravitate around the young children. People today are more aware of the characteristics and tell tale signs of potential pedophiles. Also both my parents were the product of the Catholic school system, both my parents attended Holy Name. So I can imagine what they went through, how they viewed these men and women who are drawn to this life of celibacy, vow of poverty. When they were students all of the staff were priests, nuns, and Brothers. And when I made a stink about defending him, (when I did he hadn't touched me yet), so I legitimately defended him. I was afraid that I was going to have to return things back, too. Then when mussa started touching me in an inappropriate way, when he started to force his way into my pants so he could fondle my genitals I then felt responsible, somehow now I was complacent in allowing him to abuse me. He groomed me to feel this way. I mean at the end of the day, I did take the record albums, the cars, the footballs, the baseball gloves, clothes or any movie I wanted to see no matter what the rating of the movies were, no matter how inappropriate they may have been for the minor that I was ( i.e. Kentucky Fried Movie, Saturday Night Fever, Exorcist to name a few).There were 2 parts of my relationships with mussa, 90% of it was great and 10% an absolute fucking horror. I felt like I was a whore, allowing mussa to touch me inappropriately in exchange for gifts and money. Yea he would even give me money every time we got together $10 - $20 bucks after every visit. Hush money I freely accepted in return for my silence. My parents say they gave me a Catholic education that they believed was the best thing for me and for my other siblings it was. They were fortunate enough not to meet the monster that I met in school. I was a small, timid boy in grammar school that was bullied and teased by the bigger kids in class which turned me introverted even more. And problems at home that were developing were a direct result of my friendship with mussa. I became withdrawn , my grades took a nosedive from a struggling point to start out from..My respect for the entire education institution had become jaded, the Catholic church and GOD even deeper ensnared my belief system. The punishing God that was embedded into our young minds was taking his wrath out on me. How else can you explain one of his own doing what mussa was doing to me, to me the protocol was nuns, Brothers priests then GOD !! That summer of 77 I was given a break from the manipulation and abuse from mussa. My parents, brother, and two sisters along with myself all piled into the family wood paneled station wagon , and headed west to California, I hold this trip dear in my heart and have cherished memories of it. The places we saw along the way, camping out every night at some of the coolest campgrounds with these fantastic playgrounds. Falling asleep in the tent and waking up in the back of the station wagon every morning because my Dad would gently carry his sleeping children there so he would get an early start on the road. Seeing such majestic places like the Grand Canyon, Mt. Rushmore, Hoover Dam, the Rocky Mountains the great Salt Lake, the Pacific Ocean, Hollywood, Disney World. Even though I was damaged goods at that point, I had a tremendous sense of relief that I wouldn't have to see mussa for a while. In essence it was my last real childhood memory. I knew when I got home I had to somehow end this relationship. But until then I was going to try to enjoy my trip to California. I remember trying to come up with a way to stop seeing him all together. . The stress that had put on me….how was I going to stop him , I couldn't go to my parents, the last thing was to go to my teachers. Not only was I becoming a troubled student who was getting failing grades and acting out I just didn't trust them. Did not trust the nuns, didn't trust the priest. Was so alone with only my thoughts to rely on, and they told me not to trust anyone.. That trip to California was truly, truly the end of my childhood, my innocent  and youthful spring in my step was now to become a dark scary outlook on people and an even darker outlook on life. I hold dear to my heart that trip. That was the last time I was Danny Cunningham. A little dramatic? You may think so if you have never been through this overwhelming internal tug-of- war that goes on deep inside your gut, deep into your soul a soul that has yet to know the cruelest and sickest parts of human nature. Realizing how cruel and selfish people can be, how blind to someone else's pain . How completely selfish and self centered one person can be towards another human being without any concern for their well being, there mental state. Do you know how difficult it is to hide the pain I was living, to walk around with a knot in your stomach that felt the size of a softball? How hard it was to hide the pain from everyone? No adult should have to go through such turmoil…..let alone a child ,. THE CONFLICT THAT I HAD TO ENDURE WITHIN MYSELF< I WAS LITERALLY INTERNALLY ARGUING INSIDE MY HEAD, ASHAMED AS A FUCKING 11-12 YEAR OLD BOY . 

When I should be playing baseball or trading cards, playing war, fort, or cops and robbers with my friends instead I was stuck in a friendship having been tricked into and for the most part having sex with a full grown man. A child involved in adult activities that that child had no fucking idea what that meant or the damage that it would cause me for the rest of my life. Almost every waking moment at that time my thoughts were consumed with what he was doing to me, in class all of the sudden having images in my head of him touching, in the middle of eating a sandwich a image flashes in my mind, playing at the playground another flashback. Consumed with the worry of people finding out what he was doing, feeling like a cheap streetwalker because I was accepting money and gifts. And the fear of not being able to turn him away when he was touching me, it was done in silence. Two words were never spoken between the two of us. I would have what would be some sort of outer body experience , like I rose above the event and watched from above as if it was someone else he was abusing. 

I was afraid to see him. 

Seventh grade was a nightmare. We returned home from our road trip to California. The end of my childhood. A letter from mussa arrived days after our arrival to Brooklyn . I took that letter and put it aside, not opening it for days. I'm guessing that mussa was catching on that I was trying to distance myself from him. Because his next move was one for the books. He finally reached me on the phone, the house phone, at that time that's all there was. No caller i.d. ,no answering machine. Just a standard ringing phone that had to be answered in order to find out who was calling. This time I found out it was mussa. There was also a strong attachment to mussa. I really, really, really liked this man, you could say I loved him, and believe me he conditioned me that way. It was if I was a ball of clay and was molded into precisely what he wanted and needed to get away with his crimes. And he was brilliant at masking these crimes. When he saw me distancing away from him he sensed my discomfort I guess when I was silently struggling with him trying to keep him from my genitals. He started laying on me a line about all of the touching was necessary that he had a real reason for doing it. He asked “I'm a teacher, right?” and yes he was. “Well I was trying to teach you sex education. What everyone your age should be taught, really I taught." That started to bring my guard down , I wanted a reason why …..a good reason. And even though it didn't explain everything he was doing 100%, at least I felt 60% of it maybe being the reason. And that's all I needed. He had convinced me in my 11 year old mind that he had me ask my mother if it would be ok if he taught me sex education.. That was one of the classes he taught at Nazareth high school which was now where he lived and worked. Along with teaching me sex education which he got the ok from my mother for him to do, he also was going to teach me how to drive, which mussa thought we should keep it between us for the time being……...Now let's look at this perfect execution of manipulating an 11 yr. old boy. The abuse was educational, after all he is a teacher and in order to continue that education he had gotten permission from my mother. IMAGINE THAT ….HE HAD MY MOTHER'S PERMISSION TO PUT HIS HANDS ON ME SEXUALLY. The sex ed class he gave me after he got permission to give it to me took place inside his car in Holy Name school yard. And it was hands on and it involved pornographic photos him showing me his “full grown” genitals and him forcing me into showing mine so we could compare the two. Outstanding, well played mussa! Now you had an even shorter leash on me, and knowing that I wouldn't go to my parents because now he had permission. 

He was crafty……………………………………………………………………………..then came the driving. the classic of all the mussa mind games . His promise of letting me drive his car, to teach me how to drive safely and correctly. Like most pedophiles , mussa knew how to lure me in, how to gain my confidence only to be conned. mussa driving academy consisted of me sitting on his lap, feeling his erection while he controlled the foot panels and me the steering. And this was done in an isolated area down on 2nd Ave and 32nd Street in Sunset Park. We went down there for one, the obvious reason. so I didn't get into an accident, but as I suspected, so he could get away with abusing me. With my hands doing the steering , that freed up mussa's hands to do the abusing, all while I sat on his erection.

My behavior had started to become very bad. I was acting out a lot more . I had all tis confusion and anger going on inside of me. This conflict internally would in turn become the conflict externally. My parents would yell at me at home. I would yell back and storm out of the apartment, cursing and screaming, teachers would discipline me for acting out or spacing out in class and mussa would keep sexually abuse me. I was drifting apart from everyone, I became withdrawn. The problems grew bigger and bigger. I was a little time bomb ready to explode. And from time to time that's exactly what would happen. I once threw chair at a science teacher, was having fights in class, I had become a chronic bed wetter ( which lasted to my mid twenties), my school grades absolutely horrible. The stressors that I was dealing with just withdrew me deeper into depression. I was trapped and I felt as if I had no one to turn to. I was manipulated into believing that. Here’s a funny thing. Around the time that mussa started to abuse me every week or every other week I would be taken out of class to go and talk to this nun in a tiny office on the 1st. floor. Don't remember her name, she was some sort of counselor. she would ask personal things about my family what I did outside school. Thing is, my parents never knew anything about these meetings with this nun. Had no idea I was taken out of class on a weekly basis. No letters to them informing them of their intentions, no phone call asking for their permission to pry into their son's mind. They took it upon themselves to take a look at me in a prying and personal matter. And at no time were my parents notified or brought up to speed on what they were doing and the results of these sessions that were very exhausting for me. I remember discussing mussa with this nun, what did she think about a former teacher from this school still returning to the school to spend time with a student that was never in one of his classes. I know that if I was told to evaluate a student's behavior and try to find some signs of why he would be acting out, what is it that could be causing him to be withdrawn and struggling with his schoolwork, I may take a harder look at a relationship he appears to be having with a past school employee where there was never any academic connection with said student.. What conclusion did she come up with? I'm sure I was discussed by my teachers prior to these sessions. They must of had some concern for me to bring in someone who was never at the school before, bring them in to see me My name wasn't just pulled out of a fucking hat to see this lady. I'm sure she had to report to her superiors on what conclusions she came to. I WOULD LOVE TO SEE THAT, would love to see what came of it. My guess is they went on a fishing expedition and threw a net and dragged up something they thought was rotten and threw it back in. Threw it back in with no concern for any future regard for it and the damage it may cause later on. The only concern for the reputation of the institution as a whole . A true collateral damage in the wake of one of their own . Now this is only speculation on my part, then again I am the person who went through this experience first hand and am sure I'm not too far off the mark. The faculty and staff had to have had a reason to pull me from academic classes for an hour a week or bi-weekly, whichever it was is not relevant as much as why they did it is , I'm sure my teacher and principal were involved and had discussed me, had decided not to inform my parents of this decision and take action on their own, and then come to some conclusion. And I'm sure if they felt the problem was at home they would have had someone take a closer look into it, But maybe they found the problem was in-house and decided to turn a blind eye to it. Again , speculation. But I lived through it and it is my speculation. AND IT'S THE FIRST OF MANY DECEPTIVE LOW BALL BULLSHIT THAT I WOULD DEAL WITH WHEN DEALING WITH THE MEN AND WOMEN OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.

The summer of 1978 had brought tremendous changes in my life. Changes that may not have been the best thing for me in the long run. But they were definitely what I needed for the short term solution for the problems I was going through in my young life, the pain and turmoil I experienced every day of my life, fantasizing of swinging a bat to mussa's head and ending my life. I should have been dreaming of girls, instead I was dreaming of assault. My parents had purchased a house down the block from where we were living at the time. 9 ½ blocks away. From one parish into another parish. From a very close-knit Catholic proper neighborhood into a more diverse mixed rougher area than the one in which we were currently residing. We lived in Brooklyn to start off with, so rough was pretty much the norm. But it was definitely more colorful living down at the bottom of the hill in Windsor Terrace. It might as well been a hundred miles from up the hill.. ……..

My neighborhood was cut off by the Prospect Expressway to the north and Prospect Park to the south. At the top of the hill there is 9th. Ave, and the bottom of the hill there's Greenwood Ave. This is my neighborhood, my boundaries. Windsor Terrace is of course much larger. This is the area I spent my childhood/adolescent years in. This included the apartment we lived in for the first 13 years in my life on the Circle and the house my parents bought down the hill on east 7th Street. Down the hill had a much more diverse group of kids in it. It was a little more the wild, wild west in comparison. Prospect Ave was a tiny business strip at that time. There was a butcher, deli, candy store named Blondie's, a luncheonette called Angie's, a plumber, Kingsbrook Printers where I had a small job at as well as a job delivering pizzas at Laura's Pizzeria.

Prior to us moving down the hill, I was on a baseball team for the Holy Name Father's Guild. I was lousy at sports, but my coaches were pretty cool younger guys. The coach , Tommy S., took a liking to me and sensing I was a bad player sort of made me his assistant. So here I was carrying a clipboard for another coach. But this dude was a lot more a ladies man. Where mussa would surround himself with young boys, Tommy S. would have pretty girls surrounding him. While mussa was into Helen Reddy, Barry Manilow and the Muppets, Tommy S. was at the other end with Led Zeppelin, The Who and smoking weed. When he and his assistant coaches, Ritney, Chris with the lazy eye, and Sidney, needed to take a pot break somewhere in the middle of the game, I would take over for all of them.Well when my family moved down the hill unbeknownst to me these guys all hung out there. I started hanging out with them, and I started to understand that what was happening to me because of mussa was wrong, Up until this point I was very uncomfortable with what mussa was doing to me. I felt very confused and scared by his actions, but I wasn't aware that what he was doing to me was against the law and I was becoming aware of it more and more, especially hanging out with these older dudes. That was giving me an education in itself.


And that goes as well for all the kids at or around my age that were in this neighborhood. They were drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes and weed. They were way ahead of where I came from. It was at this time that Slats gave me my nickname “Ziggy” and i was reborn. I was almost like another person. Danny was put away and I let Ziggy take over. That summer I saw mussa a handful of times, as I was gaining new friends, bad kids. With my new friends I was shutting down from the lifelong friends I had in Holy Name. I was resenting everything about the school, students and faculty, the church, priest nuns and of course Brothers... But this didn't happen overnight. mussa still forced his company on me, as well as bribe me to be his friend. That summer we did two things…well he tricked me into these things ,,,one was floor seats to a Kiss concert, there was no way I was saying no to that especially after he surprised me with the tickets. The second was a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Two very damaging points in our dysfunctional friendship we supposedly had. The KISS concert, at that time I lived and breathed KISS, they were the greatest band in the world to me at the time, Had all their albums to that point and now had tickets a feet from the stage. There are two things I remember very clearly about that show. The first was when the band came up through the floor, two on one side, two on the other, with an announcer saying over the P.A. “You want the best, you got the best, the greatest rock-n-roll band in the world, KISS!" Pyrotechnics were going off, their fist raised above their heads. It was so cool. The second thing I remember was the look from the guy who was sitting in front of us, or rather standing in front of us. The look on his face when he saw mussa putting his hand in my pants while he had me sitting on his shoulders. The guy was probably 18 to 20 years old. He didn't do anything to stop it for whatever reason, but he was horrified at what he was seeing…….that's my memory of that show. The guys exploding on to the stage and then me being molested in front of 17,000 people. The trip to Cooperstown to the Baseball Hall of Fame was a very traumatic experience for me that I just as soon not remember. I know that someone else was on that trip with us but I blocked a lot of it out that i have no idea who that person was. And the biggest thing that I remember about the trip was a dark creepy building that looked like something out of the 18th century. It was some monastery between Brooklyn and Cooperstown, NY. Don't know where it was, all I know was that was where mussa forced his way into the shower with me offering to wash me. Him grabbing my genitals and massaging them. And then him grabbing my hand and having me touch his penis in some warped attempt to jerk him off…...I was so frightened, trying to pull away from him. Don't remember how it ended, the shower that is. I know after when it was bedtime that he got into bed with me. I was horrified, being in this large damp building with all these monks walking around in their brown robes, not knowing where I was, blaming myself for putting myself in this situation. I remember him tickling me and me not wanting him to, as if he was trying to inject humor into this assault on me . Then I remember having a sort of out of body experience, as if I was watching someone else in the bed with mussa, someone else being violated by a grown man. And that is all the memory I have of that. Couldn't tell you where this other kid was during this. 

Since I had spent 7 years attending Holy Name my parents thought I should spend my last year there and graduate with all my classmates who I spent the last 8 years with. My younger sibling went to a different Catholic school. When we moved.. we moved into a different parish. At this point I was totally damaged goods. When I got home from that trip to Cooperstown, I now trust no one, every teacher, every storekeeper, priest or relative was treated as a potential abuser."

That's all Danny has to say for now. Part Two of his story is coming soon, detailing his attempts as an adult to get closure for himself, confronting the Franciscans and Brother Joe Mussa.

I only have one thing to say: FUCK YOU, FRANCISCANS.

By the way, I am receiving email after email after email from people telling me what bad shape Saint Francis Prep is in financially, and that teacher morale is at an all-time low. If you read my previous blog about Joe Mussa, you will see that when that victim complained about Mussa to then St. Francis Prep principal Richard McCann, Mussa was transferred to another school. That school was Xaverian High School, and he taught there for years.

St. Francis Prep and the Franciscans are culpable in perpetuating these horrors over decades. Please continue to donate your hard-earned dollars elsewhere, until they apologize to ALL THE VICTIMS, and make drastic policy changes in how they handle allegations of child sexual abuse and harassment.

If you think I can help you, please contact me through my personal website, http://www.elizabethsorvillo.com/





1 comment:

  1. Hang in there Danny, I always knew something was up with Mussa, he spent a crazy amount of time with a blond haired pitcher from Holy Name Baseball team. They drove in their car together all the time. God will pay them back>

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