Under scrutiny, facts blur in victims’ Web site tales

Daily Record, July 26, 2002
http://www.dailyrecord.com/news/02/07/26/news9-akcollumn0726.htmOff-site Link

By Abbott Koloff, Daily Record

Rebecca Coffey runs a Web site devoted to people telling stories about being abused. She runs a disclaimer on her site and says that she can’t check all the stories. She knows, as an author who has written about people recovering from abuse, that even true stories might contain elements of fantasy.
“I cannot believe all these stories literally,” Coffey said this week. “Survivors have trouble remembering well. “The truth is sometimes hard to find. That doesn’t mean we have a license to disbelieve.”

Coffey once listened as a woman told her about being gang raped. Coffey said that part of the story probably was true but that other parts of it were not. She said that the woman telling the story, filtered through the emotions of remembering, knew parts of her story were probably not true. She had a hard time filtering out the false memories.

One of the stories on Coffey’s Web site was written three years ago by a woman who recently claimed that she was abused by three priests, including the former headmaster of the Delbarton School in Morris Township, the Rev. Bruno Ugliano. In the Web site story, she claims that she was abused by family members and a cult.

Buddy Cotton of Mendham, a representative of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said this week that her use of the term cult was a reference to the three priests.

The woman, who now lives in North Carolina, had another story on another Web site, since taken down, in which she appeared to be making the claim that she had three children who died: one stillborn, one aborted and one who lived just a few weeks. It inferred that the last child was conceived in a rape.

Michael Critchley, Ugliano’s attorney, found the Web site and issued a statement calling the woman’s credibility into question.

The story about the babies, the woman said when asked about it, was not her own. It was a friend’s.

Critchley has claimed all along that his client never heard of his accuser before she went to church officials last month with an accusation that three priests had passed her around, telling her that she would help her sick mother by having sex with them.

He put out a statement last week saying that the woman had taken down her Web site, which included the baby story, after he had revealed its existence.

“Due to circumstances beyond my control, I must remove my site for the time being,” a message on the Web site said.

“The circumstances beyond her control is the unraveling of her story,” Critchley said in his statement.

If she wasn’t truthful about one thing, Critchley was saying, why should anyone believe her story about the priests?


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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday July 26, 2002.
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