Actor, writer and producer Joe Capozzi grew up Catholic and had known his local priest for most of his life. His priest had been a part of his family life, his social life and his married life. However, there was one secret Joe had been keeping for 20 years of his life. Joe had been sexually abused by this priest.
Capozzi in an interview with The Circular talked about the abuse which is the subject of his current short film, Confession.
Confession is about a man tormented by the voice in his head and must confront his abusive past to save a young boy from suffering the same fate.
‘I considered him a close friend, a confidant and a mentor,’ he said about the priest who abused him.
The abuse started when he was 16 years old and went on for 6 years he says. The priest according to Capozzi had given him gifts and money as well as attention that made him feel special.
‘He feeds your ego,’ he said. ‘As you start to realise the abuse that’s going on it starts to; it really f***S with you. It screws with your head.’
He says that he was aware that the friendship wasn’t necessarily a friendship with the priest, but acknowledges that at the time in his life his self confidence and self worth were so low that he needed the attention.
‘So you’re kind of like, I’ll deal with the sexual abuse because he is giving me what I need to hear emotionally or for my self confidence,’ he said.
Capozzi says as time went on he was aware that this friendship and relationship with the priest was not right, but was unsure how to deal with it.
‘It’s like you don’t want to give that up and so you’ll take putting yourself through situations where he’ll try to sexually assault, or sexually abuse me, but he’s also going to give me money, he’s also going to give me the emotional support that I need,’ he said.
‘I did not want to give that up or I wasn’t ready to give that up,’ Capozzi said. However, it was when he observed the priest with another young boy who they were mutual friends with and friends of his family that he started to have flashbacks of how the priest was with him.
‘I realised he’s going to do this to someone else,’ he said.
Capozzi says at this point in his life he was either, ‘going to kill myself or speak up’ until the guilt fell upon him. At this point he started to feel like he would ruin everything because the priest was so interwoven into his life.
‘I can’t say anything because I’m going to ruin everybody’s life. I’m going to ruin memories,’ he said. ‘It became a very twisted situation.’
If was during during 2001 and 2002, when he began reading about the priest scandal in Boston that he was surprised to learn he was not alone as there were other priests who had molested children. ‘This is my life. This is Identical,’ he said.
He finally got to a point in 2005 where he could no longer deny what had happened to him and came clean. ‘I came clean with the secret that I was abused, molested, sexually assaulted, however you want to put it by a Catholic priest,’ Capozzi said.
In 2008 he had written and starred in the play For Pete’s Sake.
‘I performed that play for four years off Broadway in New York City and at festivals,’ he said. Then he wrote a script for a feature film about his journey to sexual abuse survivor.
‘Last year I was finally like I have an idea for a short version of this film where in 15 minutes we can kind of give someone the idea of what it’s like to be in the head of a sexual abuse survivor,’ Capozzi said.
Capozzi says he hopes this movie will inspire people to listen, speak out and to understand the issues related to sexual abuse.
‘That they understand why. That they understand the impact of abuse on someone’s mindset on how how keeping a secret such as that over time can eat away at you, your outlook on life, your interaction with people,’ he said.
And for anyone who is keeping a dark secret, Capozzi says he hopes they will seek help with a therapist. He says he was able to find support in therapy, survivor support groups and other sexual abuse survivors.
‘I wanted to even for myself answer the question why? And that’s what I wanted to do with the movie,’ he said. ‘If we can kind of understand the why’s then somehow we can take away the emotional impact of it, and we can move on from it and past it.’
Capozzi says he does not consider himself a Catholic anymore rather a more spiritual person.
‘I felt that the Catholic Church is all about guilt and fear, and I didn’t necessarily understand that why should guilt and fear be a reason to believe,’ he said.
He says he also would like to do a feature film version of Confession focusing on the abused and how it affects their lives.
To those who are Catholic and believe in the Church, Capozzi says the Church should be returned to the people and not necessarily those who run it.
Capozzi said, ‘There’s still so much cover up going on.’