SÃO PAULO, Brazil – Police in Brazil have questioned the account of a Venezuelan refugee and her father, who have accused a military chaplain of raping her three times while she was being treated for cancer.
The 29-year-old woman, who has Asperger syndrome, said the assaults took place in May and June, and she denounced the priest to police in the northern Brazilian city of Manaus on July 3.
The police inquiry, however, concluded last week the accusations of rape are false, and it was just a case of a “relationship between a man and a woman.”
According to local newspaper A Crítica, which obtained a copy of the report, the refugee said she first met the 60-year-old priest at the shelter where she and her father have beeen staying since they arrived from Venezuela, just a few weeks before the alleged crimes happened.
Last year, a surge of refugees began fleeing the economic collapse and political repression in Venezuela, and there are over 100,000 Venezuelan refugees now in Brazil. Refugees often arrive penniless, with only the clothes on their back. The Brazilian government has been welcoming, but the large number of Venezuelans have often strained the resources of local governments.
The alleged victim and her father told the police the woman is autistic and has Hodgkin lymphoma, for which she has been receiving treatment. The name of the priest has not been made public.
According to the woman, on May 18 the priest invited her for a walk, but said they first had to go up to his apartment so he could put away some shopping. The priest allegedly offered her a glass of juice, after which she felt dizzy and unable to move. She said he then raped her, and he even claimed it would heal her cancer.
On May 29 and on June 13, according to the report, the priest appeared at the hospital where she was being treated and offered her a ride home. He also offered to buy her medicine. Again, he allegedly took her to his apartment and sexually assaulted her after giving her a drink that made her feel disoriented. Afterwards, according to her, he would say: “God loves you.”
According to the alleged victim, the priest also punched her after the final time he raped her and told her if she reported him to the police, he would have her deported. On July 11, her father told A Crítica she was pregnant.
During the investigation, the police interviewed the accused priest, examined his cellphone, and did a physical examination of the alleged victim.
The inquiry was completed on August 2 and the authorities concluded there was no evidence of a crime.
“The analysis of the messages exchanged by the priest and the refugee shows there was no rape, but a relationship between a man and a woman,” Deputy Deborah Barreiros told Crux.
According to Barreiros, the police investigation also hasn’t confirmed the Venezuelan woman is actually autistic or that she has cancer.
“She’s been in Brazil for no more than four months, so she doesn’t have medical records. We’ve done searches in the hospitals where she claims she was treated but found no evidence she is autistic or that she has cancer,” she said.
The police officer did say one hospital confirmed the woman had been pregnant and had a miscarriage.
Barreiros said the accused priest cooperated with the investigation from the beginning.
“He always denied the crimes and said it was a regular love affair. He told us he gave her money at times. When he ceased to do so, she threatened to publicly accuse him,” she said.
The police charged both the woman and her father for making a false accusation. It’s now up to the prosecutors’ office to move the case forward.
The Archdiocese of Manaus suspended the faculties of the priest to operate in the city.
In a statement sent to Crux, Brazil’s military diocese confirmed that the priest is a lieutenant-colonel of the Army and retired in 2011 but had “ceased to exercise his priestly ministry at this institution since then.”
The Ordinariate said no official communication of the alleged crime was transmitted to it until the police investigation had concluded but said the Ordinariate “vehemently repudiates any unworthy conduct” and does not tolerate possible “criminal actions perpetrated by military officers.”
A Crítica reported the father of the alleged victim maintains his family’s version of the events and said he’s willing to “suffer the ultimate consequences” to prove the priest committed a crime against his daughter.
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