Last week, Emily Yoffe, a well-known blog writer and columnist for Slate, wrote a personal account titled “My Molesters” on her experience being sexually assaulted by former Georgetown law professor and Jesuit Rev. Robert Drinan. She was 18 or 19 when the incident occurred in the 1970s. Drinan passed away in 2007, and according to Yoffe’s account he was in his 50s during the incident, before he began his tenure at Georgetown.
Yoffe and her family were supporting Father Drinan’s campaign for congressman at the time. Drinan offered her a ride to the subway when the incident occurred:
We got to where he was letting me off, he turned off the engine, and he began jabbering incoherently about men and women. Then he lunged, shoving his tongue in my mouth while running his hands over my breasts and up and down my torso. It seems like the set-up for a joke, a Jewish woman being molested by a Jesuit. As we tussled, I had probably the most naïve thought of my life: “How could this be happening, he’s a priest!”
She mentions that if these events were reported today, the case has the potential to be considered indecent assault and battery. “Again, I told no one. It was embarrassing, revolting, and I had no desire to make accusations against a congressman, especially one I admired,” Toffe wrote.
Drinan was nothing if not an extremely accomplished and respected member of Georgetown’s community. During his time, the prominent Jesuit became one of the first Roman Catholic priests to vote in Congress. Drinan was a Congressman in 1970 with an anti-war, pro-choice platform who served until Pope John Paul II issued a decree prohibiting priests from political activity. According to the Washington Post, he also was a key member of a panel that filed the resolution to impeach President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal.
After his death, eulogies were delivered by prominent politicians and diplomats Senator Edward Kennedy, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Ambassador Max Kampelman. In a personal comment after Drinan’s death, GU Law Professor Peter Rubin posted a comment about Drinan’s life at Georgetown. “In person, he was more than a match for his reputation. Bob was remarkable for his humanity. When meeting someone new, his questions would always turn to the person’s family: their parents, their children, their spouse or significant other,” Rubin wrote. “In this, you could see that, while he was a lawyer, politician, and activist, he was, first, a priest, a pastor in the best sense of that word.”
Other accounts described his caring disposition. “My first year at Georgetown Law, he overheard me whining about being without a sweetheart yet again on Valentines Day, he produced a heartshaped box of chocolates for me, smiling devilishly he said, ‘Just don’t tell the Pope,’” Professor Sheryll Cashin wrote. Another GU Law Professor David Luban reminisced about the relationship Drinan had with his nine-year-old daughter as a mentor. The two would meet in the office and discuss “religion and politics…For a couple of years afterward, Bob would stop me in the hallway and ask, with mock concern, ‘Are you still feeding Rachel enough?’” Luban wrote.
Drinan’s niece responded to Yoffe’s account on the sexual harassment in a statement to Slate: “We find it odd that anyone would come forward with this allegation decades later when our uncle is dead and in no position to defend himself.”
Drinan’s respected and admired reputation is bound to leave many who knew him confused and in disbelief. “As we’ve seen too many times, coming forward in a case like that opens a woman up to character evisceration,” Yoffe said in her post. “Father Drinan died in 2007, and I’m aware that I’ll be assailed for besmirching the memory of a distinguished man.”
Yoffe wrote that the Jerry Sandusky trial prompted her to come out with her struggles as a victim of sexual abuse despite the fact that the events happened over thirty years ago. Sandusky, former Penn State assistant coach, was found guilty of 45 child sex abuse charges. She also mentioned that her different encounters with molestation did not leave her permanently scarred, but her intention is to encourage more victims to come out publicly with their stories.
Vox is still waiting on a response from the University.
Photo: Wikipedia Commons