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Maryetta Dussourd (1944–2019), mother exposed clergy abuse

Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

When a parish priest molested her sons and nephews, she pushed back against the Catholic Church

Maryetta Dussourd was one of the first to work to expose sexual abuse in the Boston-area Catholic Church, leading to the worldwide church scandal of the early 2000s. In the 1970s, she was honored to have a local parish priest, Rev. John Geogan, visit her home often and spend time saying bedtime prayers with her young sons and nephews. She was shocked to find out that he had been molesting them upstairs as she and her husband watched television downstairs. Dossourd reported the abuse, but church officials simply swept it under the rug and transferred Geogan to another parish, where he was able to continue molesting young parishioners. But she refused to drop it, continuing to complain and suing the church in 1997. Her record of communications about the abuse were key in the 2002 exposure of abuse in the Catholic Church, broken by the Boston Globe and eventually spreading worldwide. Her paper trail is mentioned in "Spotlight," the 2015 movie about the scandal.

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Died: May 24, 2019 (Who else died on May 24?)

Details of death: Died at home of breast cancer at the age of 74.

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The aftermath: Doussard, disillusioned by an organization that would cover for its own while allowing abuse to continue, left the church that had once been an integral part of her life. The scandal broke apart her marriage and left her feeling deep guilt for not knowing what was going on in her home. Yet she continued the activism that found its voice when she was advocating for her children. She volunteered on political campaigns and fought for better conditions in her children's schools.

What people said about her: “She was a very strong activist in the community. She helped feed the elderly and the homeless. My school had bad air quality, and she got them to fix it. She always wanted to protect people, especially children, from any type of harm.” —Dussourd's daughter, Alicia Dussourd

“Maryetta used her faith to fuel her desire to rid the church of evil. I don't feel as though Maryetta thought she was being disrespectful to God but, in fact, was doing God's work.” —Mitchell Garabedian, attorney who represented the family

“This is a lay Catholic woman who stood up to power in the Roman Catholic Church. It was extraordinary, almost unheard of.” —Bob Hoatson, former priest who was an activist with Doussard

Full obituary: Boston Globe

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