'I was a wreck': Former Cincinnati priest's rape victim shares his story of pain, recovery and hope

Geoff Drew was a lay minister when he raped an altar boy 30 years ago
Former altar boy Paul Neyer was raped by his Catholic music minister, Geoff Drew,  more than 30 years ago
Posted at 8:12 PM, Aug 17, 2022

CINCINNATI — After living in a "hell" created by the Catholic music minister who raped him more than 30 years ago, Paul Neyer told police in July 2019 that he was ready to file criminal charges against his rapist, Geoff Drew, who had become pastor of one of the Cincinnati area's largest parishes.

"I felt like I had an obligation to protect kids," Neyer told the WCPO 9 I-Team.

Based on Neyer's emotional testimony, a Hamilton County Grand Jury indicted Drew on 9 counts of rape.

If convicted, there was a chance Drew would live the rest of his life in prison.

"I wanted 32 years — an eye for an eye," Neyer said on Monday during an interview with the WCPO 9 I-Team. "The years that I struggled through this entire thing, I give it back to you (Drew). It's your turn."

Geoff Drew during a court hearing in Aug. 2019
Rev. Geoffrey Drew was indicted on nine counts of rape earlier this week. He entered a not guilty plea during his arraignment hearing in Hamilton County Wednesday morning -- Aug. 21, 2019.

But the prosecution of Drew moved slowly due to pandemic restrictions and continuances.

"I didn't want my family to have to go through this," Neyer said. "I didn't want to deal with the pain. I was a wreck."

Neyer's wife Liesl remembered answering a phone from the prosecutor's office informing them of the final continuance in October 2021.

"You're not going to have a victim if this keeps happening," Liesl Neyer said she told the caller. " He can't keep going through this. I don't think he's going to be alive."

Liesl Neyer said she was concerned that her husband Paul wouldn't survive the criminal prosecution of Geoff Drew
Liesl Neyer said she was concerned that her husband Paul wouldn't survive the criminal prosecution of Geoff Drew, the Catholic music minister who raped Paul more than 30 years ago

Weeks later, the Neyers approved a plea agreement with Drew.

On Dec. 2, 2021, Drew pleaded guilty to every count.

"I got my assailant to say he was guilty nine times," Neyer said. "He was accountable."

Judge Leslie Ghiz sentenced Drew to seven years in prison, the punishment called for in the plea agreement.

Drew is also required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Two months after Drew's sentencing, Neyer and his wife said they met with Archbishop Dennis Schnurr and Teresa Maley, the coordinator for the archdiocese's ministry to victims of abuse. Neyer told them he wanted more than $1 million in damages for the pain and financial loss he experienced as a result of Drew assaulting him.

The Neyers said the archbishop declined to let Paul speak with church advisers who would review his case.

Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr
Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr

The Neyers said no one from the archdiocese had apologized to them until Paul called and requested the meeting.

According to the Neyers, the archbishop told them church leaders hadn't reached out to Paul because they didn't know who he was until he called them and identified himself.

"I don't believe you, and I told them that," Neyer said.

The Neyers said the archbishop also told them he couldn't guarantee that Drew wouldn't work or volunteer for a Catholic church or organization somewhere in the United States after his release from prison.

The I-Team requested a response from the archdiocese.

“Archbishop Schnurr clearly stated in a press release Dec. 2, 2021, that Father Geoff Drew will never again have a priestly assignment in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati or any other diocese," Archdiocese spokeswoman Jennifer Schack wrote Wednesday in an email to the I-Team. "Moreover, by virtue of his conviction, Geoff Drew will be permanently registered as a sex offender, which will be discoverable on a criminal background check. Per the Decree on Child Protection, Geoff Drew is not eligible for employment or volunteer work in any capacity in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.”

The Neyers said about two weeks after their meeting with Schnurr, Maley called and said the archdiocese was offering them counseling.

Schack confirmed the offer.

Neyer said he declined it.

"It's a business decision that they're making," Neyer said. "I get it. It's just dirty."

The Neyers said they want use their experiences to hold the church more accountable and to help other victims find their unique voices that were damaged or buried when they were abused as children.

"Somewhere, there's someone that hasn't found that voice yet," Liesl Neyer said. "Even if they never find that, at least they can get some of that healing through watching you do it. If (Paul) can do this and he can be okay, maybe I can be okay, too."

In May, Paul Neyer testified at an Ohio state legislative hearing in support of a bill that would extend the statute of limitations in cases where children were abused. Paul said through the emotional ordeal of the last few years, he and his wife have grown stronger together in their marriage and faith with the help of therapy, family and friends.

"I'm in a place where I'm starting to become myself," Neyer said. "I'm still that guy that looks back and goes, 'What could I have been?' But I'm going to be okay with me."

You can see more of the Neyers' interview below.

Extended interview: Man raped by Cincinnati priest Father Geoff Drew speaks out

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