Netflix documentary features victim’s story of abuse at Independence Catholic church

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A new Netflix documentary depicting the impact of child abuse suffered at the hands of Catholic priests features a survivor now living in the Missouri Ozarks.  

Fifty-year-old Joe Eldred lives in Willard, Missouri.  

In 2011, Eldred sued the Kansas City Catholic Diocese after recovering memories of abuse he said he suffered by Father Mark Honhart and Father Thomas Reardon, two priests in Independence, when he was about 10 years old.  

He also named Monsignor Thomas J. O’Brien who spent time in Springfield in the 1950s before Eldred was even born. 

Eldred settled his lawsuit with the church in 2014. In an email to CBS News in 2018, the diocese said “their specific claims were not officially investigated … but we do believe them to be victims of clerical sexual abuse.” 

In the film, Eldred and five other survivors document their efforts to come to terms with memories they had suppressed for decades.  

“If there had been a documentary like this back in 2011, it would have been so helpful for me personally to have a template to see other guys go through this an survive, and not just survive, but start to thrive,” Eldred said. 

It’s accomplished through what’s called drama therapy, described by Eldred as a way of recreating memories surrounding abuse in order to cope and accept past trauma. 

“But the great thing about drama therapy is that I can rewrite the ending. You know, you can create this space where you are recreating what happened to you, but then you stop short of the abuse. You rewrite the ending to save yourself,” he said. 

Many scenes of the film show Eldred and others acting out scenes they choose, all with a therapist in the room.  

“What you see in the movies is six guys all with this shared past, each one on that same recovery, but at different stages,” he said. 

As the six men work through their trauma, Eldred said a deep connection and friendship formed. He told KOLR it was the first time he had met someone with a similar story.  

“Realizing that, ‘Well you had the same priest that was caught at your church, sent to my church,'” Eldred said. “Now we have this kind of sickening connection, but it still kind of pulled you closer and you were no longer alone.” 

He said filming quickly turned into healing. Now that he’s seen the finished documentary, Eldred said he now realizes the impact these scenes will have on survivors across the country.  

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