Looking for justice after years of being molested
AFTER 20 years, William Segodisho has laid criminal charges against a priest he claims abused him as a child. Now he’s looking for others who also may have suffered a similar ordeal behind the cloak of piety.
In 1986, when he had just turned 14, Segodisho was part of a group of militant youths fighting apartheid in Polokwane, then Pietersburg. They set numerous government vehicles alight and he was forced to flee to Joburg where he lived on the streets.
He ended up going to the Streetwise shelter that was being assisted by the Cathedral of Christ the King in Doornfontein.
There he met Father McCray*, a priest of the Catholic church who was fundraising for the shelter.
Segodisho said after about a month, the priest invited him out and took him to Zoo Lake.
“He said he had a plan for me. He wanted to take me out of the shelter and find me a good school.” Segodisho said he loved hearing what he was being told. The priest then allegedly began fondling him.
This led to a kiss, his first kiss.
“I let him do what he wanted because of what he said. I didn’t like the shelter. I had dreams to better my life.”
By the following weekend, the priest had found the teenager a sponsor, and he was enrolled at a boarding school in Roodepoort. Before the school year started, Segodisho began staying with the priest in his room at the cathedral.
The sexual encounters allegedly became more intense. By the time he was at school, the abuse had allegedly become a weekend habit, often prefaced with alcohol.
The teenager was struggling to adjust to being in a private school and was expelled after writing a sexually-charged let- ter to a female classmate.
In mid-1987, he was enrolled, with McCray’s help, at the Treverton Preparatory School and College in Mooi River.
By this time, the priest was staying at the Holy Trinity Church in Braamfontein. In December, the priest had planned a holiday for the two of them in Amanzimtoti, at a guest lodge.
After being plied with drinks and passing out, Segodisho alleges he woke in extreme pain. He claims he had been penetrated in his sleep, and the priest told him that he likely fell off the bed in his drunken state.
“Later we were playing a game of table tennis; he was beating me because moving was painful. I remember I picked up a wet towel and I began to (beat) him with that towel,” said Segodisho.
“I told him: ‘I know what he did to me last night’.”
The teenager broke down in tears, and says as the priest held him, he cried an apology.
“He said he shouldn’t have gone that far. I remember telling him I would prefer it if it stopped altogether.”
He asked if he could return to his mother for the rest of the holidays. Segodisho said he didn’t want the joyous reunion to be soured by his experiences of abuse, so he kept quiet.
Upon seeing the poverty of his township he realised he had been given an opportunity to receive a quality education, and decided to return to school.
In the holidays of 1988, he refused to stay with McCray.
But the priest was tenacious, insisting Segodisho visit him for the last night before returning to school.
“I let him have his way with me. It was painful but I shut it out. The reason being that after I told him about the situation at home, he said he would make a plan for me to support my family.”
A stipend was promised – and delivered.
“I didn’t want to upset him. To make him change his mind.”
In mid-1989 he was expelled again, allegedly for assaulting a bully.
However, McCray used his connections to clinch a spot at Woodmead School, where he began to flourish.
But after returning to Joburg, Segodisho resented being asked to visit the priest on at least two weekends a month and during his holiday.
Segodisho finally forced a confrontation in 1989, saying he would report the abuse to the upper-echelons of the church.
Segodisho approached another priest at the Christ the King Cathedral.
“I think I know what you’re going to tell me and I would rather not be involved. Go to the superior and tell him,” the father told him, seemingly unwilling to help.
But within a few months, McCray had been relocated to the UK.
No longer in the care of the church, Segodisho was sent back to the shelter, and told the fees at Woodmead were too high.
For a decade he remained silent, only laying a complaint with the church in the early 2000s. His then lawyer told him he would focus on a civil case.
The lawyer managed to arrive at a settlement apparently without Segodisho’s full approval, and allegedly stole some money offered by the church.
Attempts to contact this lawyer were unsuccessful, as he has since been disbarred.
Last year, after reading
to about the Sidney Frankel matter – the high court ruling that altered the law around the prescription of sexual assault charges – Segodisho decided to approach the lawyer who had represented Frankel’s alleged victims.
Through Ian Levitt Attorneys, Segodisho opened a criminal case against McCray in December. But Segodisho says the reason he came forward was not only to bring his alleged abuser to justice but also to find others who were abused at the Joburg shelter during the same period.
He said he knew of at least two others who suffered similar ordeals.
*Not his real name
The Cathedral of Christ the king in Doornfontein, Gauteng, where William Segodisho claims he was molested and raped in the mid to late 1980s.