A pastor at a Boston church accused of child rape was ordered to be held on a total of $150,000 cash bail after facing a judge Monday.
George Swain, 71, a pastor at Greater Victory Temple in Mattapan, was arraigned via phone in Dorchester District Court. He is charged with multiple counts of rape of a child and indecent assault and battery of a child under 14.
Prosecutors say Swain sexually abused three boys between the ages of 8 and 16 from 1997 to 2004.
The three victims, who are now in their 30s, were members of the church and trusted Swain, investigators say.
“He was seen as a role model, and the victims’ families all looked up to him,” Assistant District Attorney Audrey Mark said in court.
Investigators allege Swain abused two of the boys at Greater Victory Temple and the third boy at his Dorchester home where the youngest child sometimes spent the night.
The abuse went on for years, prosecutors allege.
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Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins released a statement Monday night saying Swain's alleged crimes are even more horrific because he used religion to access his alleged victims.
"The defendant used his position of trust and authority to ingratiate himself to his victims and their families in order to gain access to vulnerable targets for his sexual abuse," she said. "Even more horrific, he used religion as an entryway into these children’s lives, potentially forever altering their faith."
Greater Victory Temple is a Pentecostal church that has been part of the Boston community for 19 years, according to the church's website.
“I would never think about that happening here in Mattapan,” said Shauna Dawson, who lives near the church. "I have a 7-year-old and a 3-year-old son, so it just scares me, and I’m devastated.”
Dawson says the charges are unnerving especially because so many kids live in the area.
"It scares me because anything could’ve happened to a child on my street, or any child in the neighborhood,” Dawson said.
In her statement, Rollins commended the strength and courage of the survivors who came forward in order to make sure Swain has to answer in court for his actions.
“It can be incredibly difficult to disclose childhood sexual abuse, whether as a child or as an adult survivor. The survivors who came forward to disclose abuse by Bishop Swain showed a tremendous amount of strength and bravery," she said. "It can take decades for victims to make the decision to come forward about sexual abuse, as is what happened here."
At Swain's arraignment, bail was set at $75,000 for each of two dockets for a total of $150,000. Conditions for his bail include GPS monitoring, surrendering his passport, staying away from the victims in the case and having no unsupervised contact with children under 16.
Swain was arraigned by phone because he is hospitalized at Carney Hospital for complications of congestive heart failure and he's on oxygen around the clock.
“Not only is COVID a concern for him because of his age — he’s 71 years old. It’s also a concern because he has breathing difficulty,” his defense attorney, Lauren Greenberg said.
Anyone who believes that a child in Massachusetts may be the victim of abuse can call the DCF Child at Risk Hotline at 1-800-792-5200.