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‘He manipulated you mentally as well as physically,’ Alleged victims of priest abuse speak out

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CLINTON COUNTY — A grand jury investigation into sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Pennsylvania determined dozens of priests in the Altoona-Johnstown diocese molested children for decades.

Now some of those alleged victims are speaking out to share their stories.

The men, now in their 50s, spoke with WNEP  because they say they want people to know the truth.

They say they were 6 or 7 when they were molested by Father Joseph Bender, but kept the memories of abuse tucked away for decades.

Robert Holtzapple told WNEP, “He led you to believe that he cared about you and he loved you. You know what I mean? That’s what he did. He manipulated you mentally as well as physically.”

Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced that dozens of priests were being accused of rape and molestation, and that two bishops allegedly covered up their actions.

“Everybody was out playing and he would bring you in singly so he knew he was safe, so to speak,” said Holtzapple.

Holtzapple says he and other boys were invited up to Father Bender’s cabin where he claims he was assaulted.

“I remember thinking, ‘Man, you know this isn’t right. I’m a little kid, but this isn’t right.’ But at the same time, nobody talked about it,” said Holtzapple.

Another alleged victime, Stanley Schenck told WNEP, “I know positively there was at least 30 or better kids that were molested.”

Stanley says when he questioned what was going on he was told, “That’s the way he showed his love for kids.”

Father Bender passed away back in 2000.

Read the full story at WNEP.

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