Lifelong Horror Of Priest's
Rape Of 13 Year Old Girl

By David Kiefer
S.F. Examiner Staff

A priest raped Sharan Falotico when she was 13.
She's since tried to kill herself three times, spent nine months in a psychiatric ward, and saw a marriage shatter. Years of pent-up inner anger finally caused her body to deteriorate. Five years ago, a doctor told her she didn't have long to live. Tubes connect the 65-year-old woman's nose to an oxygen tank.
Falotico speaks slowly, so as not to run out of breath, when she greets a timid visitor.
"I don't mean to intrude on your life," the visitor says apologetically.
She pauses, places her hands together as if in prayer, and measures her words. Her stare is palpable, penetrating. But it comes with an unmistakable glimmer, a trace of something good. Perhaps, hope.
"I've waited 50 years for this," Falotico says. And she begins to tell her story.
It revolves around The Rev. Victor Ortino, who came to the small town of Painesville, Ohio, in 1950, arriving on the Greyhound bus driven by Falotico's father. Ortino, a heavyset Italian, was drawn to the wavy-haired brunette, an outgoing, athletic eighth-grader at St. Mary's Grade School. Besides being her Latin teacher, Ortino also became her driver, taking her home from basketball practice in his new blue Mercury.
This went on for a month until one November evening when he asked the girl if she wanted to drive the car. Falotico, who learned to drive at age 9, was excited about the chance. She felt special.
The priest drove her down a long, deserted dirt road and stopped. The trees were bare and it was cold. She got behind the wheel. There was silence.
The priest leaned over and started kissing her cheek and neck.
She gripped the steering wheel tight. Her knuckles turned white. Her brown eyes widened.
She was scared, confused, terrified -- paralyzed.
"Please don't, please don't," was all she could muster.
"It's OK," he said. "It's OK."
The rest of what happened that night is a blank. Unfortunately, she couldn't put the following months of abuse out of her mind, the rigid attempts to keep her legs together in the back seat of that miserable car before the priest pried them open.
"Please God, make him stop," was her silent cry.
She couldn't tell her parents, she couldn't tell anybody. They wouldn't believe her.
"A priest was God's representative on earth," Falotico says above the soothing sound from her oxygen tank. "That's what I'd always been taught."
The once-gregarious little girl evolved into a dark soul. Each day, as her Latin class would draw closer, she would put her head on her desk, the one in the back of the room by the window, pulling her arms over her head. Teachers asked what was wrong. What could she say?
The shame was overwhelming.
One night, two policemen pulled up on that deserted road, and told the priest to get out of the car.
"I'm saved, I'm saved," thought Falotico, who was at once terrified and grateful.
After inspecting Ortino's license, the officer pointed the flashlight at Falotico in the backseat, and took a long look.
"Can't he see I'm a kid," she thought, unable to utter a word.
"Don't let us catch you here again," the officer said as he turned toward the police car. She couldn't believe they were leaving.
"They had to know who he was," she says, still with a tone of disbelief. "It was a small town."
The rapes went on, at least once a week, until one day The Rev. Thomas McMahon called her out of class and began to ask her questions about Ortino, and about him driving her home.
She wouldn't look at him. With her head down, she nodded yes to each question, leading up to the final one.
"Is he doing something sexually?"
She nodded yes.
McMahon let out of a bellow of curses that shocked her enough to look at him.
"You don't have to see him or go over there anymore," McMahon said.
The physical abuse was over. Ortino was transferred to a monastery. About five years later, McMahon called to tell her that Ortino died in his sleep, and also that Ortino had molested a girl in Philadelphia, which caused his transfer to Painesville. McMahon was livid that bishops in both dioceses knew about Ortino's history and had no one monitoring him.
"This is what I cannot forgive," Falotico says, her voice growing in intensity. "I just can't.
"My anger at the hierarchy is so strong. The priest raped my body, but they raped my integrity, my character. They knew about it. How could they do this?"
Her maturity level "frozen at 13," Falotico had a baby at 18, and gave him up for adoption on the advice of a Catholic Charities monsignor when she was 23 and struggling to avoid a life on the streets.
By her 30s, a rage welled inside her, one directed at God for ignoring her prayers. She called the bishop's office in Pennsylvania known about Ortino. She confronted the assistant, and asked how the diocese had allowed this to happen.
His response?
"It's my understanding that you seduced him," she recalls him saying.
Falotico "felt raped all over again."
Her anger began to fester and manifested itself into Wegener's granulomatosis, a rare auto-immune disease that effects the respiratory and circulatory systems. She stays at home and watches television, following the sex scandal in the Catholic Church, which has caused her anger to return and affected her health.
She's also not convinced Pope John Paul II's recent meeting with American cardinals and proclamation of reform has much substance.
"I didn't see any victims at the Vatican," she says, before stopping to catch her breath.
The conversation is over and Falotico, no longer a little girl, is thankful for the chance to tell her story.
"Nobody ever wanted to listen," she says. "Nobody ever wanted to know."
E-mail David Kiefer at


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