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An ex-Marine processes struggle trauma, uncovers recollections of abuse at a Catholic college in Spain | Spain


José Luis Pereda served as a US Marine for 13 years. Between 1990 and 2003, he deployed to a few wars: within the Persian Gulf, in Somalia and in Iraq. He usually talks in regards to the “change” that occurs once you develop into a soldier — it’s an inner change, he says, one that everybody who enlists within the armed forces learns to activate, to develop into a “deadly weapon,” after which later, after years of service, should one way or the other study to show off, to reintegrate into society. Pereda says he’s a severe individual, and is fast to confess that he can generally be vulnerable to violence. “For me, any battle or disagreement can simply flip right into a full-on fucking battle,” he says. He attributes this perspective to his coaching, to the experiences he was subjected to, and to the residual trauma left over after so a few years within the Marine Corps. Actually, like many former troopers, Pereda suffers from continual post-traumatic stress because of the violence and trauma he skilled on the battlefield — a dysfunction that ultimately led him to hunt remedy.

Now, after 20 years immersed within the hell of struggle, the 55-year-old ex-Marine has realized that his trauma and rage have even deeper origins, stretching again to his childhood. Particularly, from when Pereda was 9 years outdated and was despatched to stay at Corazón de María, a non-public boarding college in Zamora, Spain run by the Claretians, a congregation of the Catholic Church. Pereda says that in his time on the college, a priest named “Father Félix” repeatedly subjected him to sexual and different bodily abuse throughout the tutorial years of 1976 and 1978.

Pereda saved these recollections a secret for greater than 5 many years. Final December, when he discovered that EL PAÍS was conducting an investigation into pederasty within the Spanish Catholic Church, he determined to achieve out and inform his story to the world. Months later, in April, he was lastly capable of recount his expertise out loud for the primary time. “I’ve handled my post-traumatic stress dysfunction from the struggle, however the issues of my childhood haven’t been handled,” Pereda instructed EL PAÍS throughout his first interview. “And that anger remains to be alive in me, nonetheless uncontrolled. I haven’t absolutely healed.” Pereda describes himself as “a struggle veteran, a sufferer of post-traumatic stress dysfunction, and a survivor of pederasty within the Catholic Church.” His story is considered one of tons of collected in EL PAÍS’s second report on pederasty within the Spanish Catholic Church and delivered to the Spanish Episcopal Convention (CEE) this June. The report consists of 278 new testimonies, accusing a complete of 244 people of kid sexual abuse (together with 44 alleged perpetrators beforehand denounced by different victims).

Like many victims of sexual violence, for many years, Pereda suffered in silence: “I believed that if I instructed somebody, they’d simply inform me I had requested for it.” He didn’t wish to give it some thought, as a result of he thought that if he remembered the main points, he would understand that it had all been his fault. Pereda buried the incidents. He says it felt as if these recollections of abuse have been another person’s recollections. However now he is aware of they weren’t. They’re his recollections, preserved for many years in a deep nook of his thoughts — sharp, intact, vivid. “It’s as if these years have been frozen in time,” he says. When he talks in regards to the abuse, and his outdated life in Zamora, he switches from English to Spanish. It takes him a couple of minutes to search out the phrases, however then he picks up the rhythm and the story flows out of him.

Pereda was born in New York in 1967, however when he was seven years outdated, his father, who was Spanish in origin, moved the household to Zamora, a small metropolis in northwest Spain. There, his father enrolled him in Corazón de María, a Catholic boarding college run by the Claretian Missionaries. Together with his father sick and not married, in 1976 Pereda and his two brothers have been positioned within the boarding college full-time, and would even keep by means of summer season trip, when a lot of the different kids returned to their households.

That first summer season, Pereda remembers, is when the abuse started: “Someday, my little brother and I acquired up early and went for a stroll across the college grounds. After we returned to the dormitory, we bumped into Father Félix.” The brothers greeted him, says Pereda, however then the priest simply “exploded”: “He began hitting me and demanding that I come to his workplace,” Pereda remembers, including that his brother managed to get away as Father Félix continued to beat him. As soon as in Father Félix’s workplace, Pereda describes how the priest requested him to take off his pants and underwear: “I wouldn’t cease crying, he was threatening to hit me extra, so I did what he requested. Then he yanked my penis brutally arduous and jerked me round on the identical time he held my penis and tried to slap my face some extra,” Pereda says.

The abuse continued, and Pereda was attacked by the priest “at the very least half a dozen occasions,” till he lastly left the varsity in 1978. “On one event, he abused me in a small workplace he had beneath the steps of the dormitory, which he used to make bulletins over the loudspeaker,” Pereda says. “That point he used one of many rackets we had for enjoying racquetball. He didn’t attempt to penetrate me with it — that will have been unattainable — however he pushed it in opposition to my personal elements. He would shove it arduous in opposition to my crotch or my anus, relying on which route he needed me to be trying.” If Pereda tried to withstand the abuse, the priest “would get livid” and hit him “so arduous that I might lose my stability.” Pereda remembers how Father Félix would make him “stand there bare, uncovered, humiliated. He would begin hitting me after which grabbing me. I used to be only a child, and he was a brute.”

A school video from the 1970s showing the accused Claretian priest as he officiates Mass.
A faculty video from the Seventies exhibiting the accused Claretian priest as he officiates Mass.

Pereda doesn’t keep in mind Father Félix’s final title — however he remembers his face. He acknowledged it in a faculty video from the Seventies that he discovered on-line. EL PAÍS verified that one other scholar additionally recognized the accused priest by the title Father Félix, in a put up shared on a Fb group of former Corazón de María college students, which additionally famous that the priest glided by the nickname “Cruyff,” probably due to his resemblance to the Dutch soccer participant and supervisor Johan Cruyff. In response to Pereda, Father Félix’s title was “prefect of self-discipline.” EL PAÍS contacted the Claretian Missionaries of the Province of Santiago by telephone, requesting remark, and a spokesperson has promised to make himself out there to the sufferer, and has stated that the order is now investigating Pereda’s case, in addition to the opposite 14 different circumstances that EL PAÍS has delivered to their consideration thus far. The spokesperson additionally confirmed that there have been two Claretian clergymen named Félix serving in Zamora throughout the Seventies. The spokesperson says they’ve but to determine the priest Pereda accused of abuse, however promised that the congregation is engaged on gathering the mandatory info to take action.

Uncovering the trauma of childhood by means of the trauma of struggle

It’s a Friday morning in late April in Williamsburg, a neighborhood within the borough of Brooklyn that sits on the sting of New York’s East River — the right place to absorb the Manhattan skyline. A powerful wind suggests spring lastly giving technique to the early days of summer season. It’s a kind of relentless winds that makes it arduous to stroll, speak, or see. Pereda, although, is unwavering: at effectively over six ft tall, he stands sturdy and severe. It’s the primary time he’s instructed anybody, nose to nose, about his expertise of abuse. Throughout a stroll by means of his neighborhood, Pereda says that New York is a really aggressive, even violent, metropolis — however it’s his house. He’s visited 55 totally different nations and lived in 16, however he at all times finally ends up again in New York.

After leaving the Claretian boarding college in Zamora, Pereda enrolled in public college. He studied Hispanic Philology on the College of Valladolid, and after graduating, returned to america in 1989. Not realizing what to do with himself, he adopted within the footsteps of his older brother, who had enlisted within the US Navy. Pereda selected the Marine Corps. As quickly as he enlisted, in 1990, he was chosen for a particular reconnaissance unit, thought of an elite drive inside the Marines. Reconnaissance Marines are educated to penetrate enemy traces and relay secret army intelligence. Pereda underwent quite a few particular coaching applications and programs, and was subjected to torture simulations together with extended hunger and waterboarding — the observe of strapping somebody face-up on a board, overlaying their face with a fabric and pouring water over their mouth and nostril to simulate the feeling of drowning. “Now that I give it some thought, I used to be in all probability obsessive about studying these survival methods due to the trauma I had from my childhood,” Pereda says.

José Luis Pereda in 2003, when he left his post in the United States Marine Corps.
José Luis Pereda in 2003, when he left his put up in america Marine Corps.

Pereda describes the army as “an phantasm.” Whenever you’re residing contained in the mirage, he says, “they make you neglect all the pieces you discovered within the civilian world and repress that a part of your life.” For Pereda, this created a rift between the individual he was earlier than he joined the army and the individual he grew to become after enlisting. “The Marines fully reworked me, gave me a brand new function,” he says. In a normal sense, his aim was to serve his nation. On a extra granular, on a regular basis stage, his aim was to outlive — whether or not he was fording a river in Colorado throughout army coaching, or seizing management of a cigarette manufacturing facility in Iraq throughout the 2003 invasion. And in conditions like these, he didn’t have time to consider the previous. He grew additional and additional away from it. “For me, the Marines have been a distraction,” he says. “I discovered to compartmentalize my trauma; I feel that’s what saved me.”

“On high of that, the trauma I skilled throughout my time within the army was worse,” he provides. Pereda says he’s not allowed to speak intimately about something he did or noticed throughout his time within the Marines till at the very least 20 years have handed since his discharge — that’s, till September 2023. However he says that the horrors of the struggle, and his participation in them, nonetheless hang-out him to this present day. He left the Marines in 2003, and each night time since his thoughts returns to the battlefield: “In my desires, I at all times wind up again in my uniform, like I’m nonetheless there.”

“My post-traumatic stress dysfunction is continual, it’s at all times current,” Pereda laments. He’s tried going to remedy twice. The primary time was simply after leaving the service. He says he remembers that he solely went to at least one session. The therapist prescribed antidepressants, and Pereda by no means went again. A decade handed earlier than he tried once more. This time it caught, and he saved going for a few yr, attending group remedy for veterans in addition to particular person classes. He was continually afraid of how he may react to a battle or a tense state of affairs. “Somebody like me, who went by means of the form of army coaching I went by means of — it may be harmful. What we’re able to doing is finest left buried. We might find yourself hurting somebody,” he says. In his day-to-day life, he tries to keep away from locations the place he may come throughout individuals who provoke him, just like the New York subway.

—Do you assume that struggling the aftereffects of struggle and being within the army made you keep away from processing the trauma from the abuse you went by means of as a baby?

—The factor about post-traumatic stress from struggle is that it buries another trauma you had earlier than. However now I’ve lastly been capable of mirror again on these earlier abuses.

Pereda is certain that the “demons” he carried with him all these years value him 5 marriages. “In my relationships, I used to be at all times boastful and egocentric. My issues all stem from this trauma I’ve, not simply from the army, no — I’ve needed to go all the best way again to my childhood to know it.”

When you’ve got information of a case of sexual abuse inside the Church that has not been revealed, write to us at abusos@elpais.es. If it’s a case from Latin America, you possibly can attain us at abusosamerica@elpais.es

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