About five years ago, Joe Montañez sat in the parking lot of St. Peter Claver Catholic Church in Simi Valley, feeling immensely nervous and shaky over what he was about to do. Minutes later he walked into a meeting with representatives of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to reveal “shameful abuse by my predator” – a priest who sexually abused him almost 50 years earlier.
“It’s amazing how many things an abused person goes through, but I wanted to somehow try to get well,” said Montañez, a retired teacher who taught in the San Fernando Valley for over three decades. At that first pivotal meeting, Dr. Heather Banis, coordinator of the archdiocesan office of Victims Assistance Ministry, was there to listen. “[When] I first reached out to Dr. Banis, she took my hand and I cried for about an hour – I couldn’t believe that I was telling my story.”