Month: March 2014

Creeping Guilt

Guilt creeps up on me and tries to grow in my mind, whispering that I am going to ruin the life of a man I believed I loved, that I cared about. Whispers that I have caused too much pain. The creeping guilt is so crippling. Debilitating. It makes it difficult to breathe. It feels sort of like my head is struggling to stay above water, heavy and dizzy, choking.

I know that I am doing the right thing by talking. I know, rationally, that I am not in the wrong. But a crippling, creeping guilt is difficult to shake. I have certainly shaken it to an extent or I would even have thought of talking about it and reporting him, and I am happy that I have moved forward so much and have an independent life. But it is still crippling. It still makes it harder for me to engage in intimate relationships. It still keeps me awake sometimes. It still makes me feel like I’m drowning sometimes.

I don’t know if it will ever go away. But it is reduced somehow. I do wish, though, that I knew a quicker way to stop feeling so crippled. I want to live a life freer of this. Some days and some nights are just hard.

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Contacting Safeguarding

National UK Safeguarding Number: 0207 467 5189 Mon-Fri 09-12:30

I called the above number this morning and by the afternoon the Safeguarding worker of the diocese in which my priest lives had phoned me, discussed the process with me, sent me her apologies and condolences for a difficult time and thanked me for calling. I was not required to give names at this point, and was told I would be contacted again soon to arrange a time for us to meet in person when I visit the area in the Easter break so that I can make my report.

So far the outline of the process I have looks like this:

  • Talk to the Safeguarding representative and make my report
  • If it is a criminal offence (it is), the police also come in and talk to me, at which point he is arrested
  • An announcement is made to the congregation by the diocese in collaboration with the police
  • He is almost certainly immediately suspended

Feeling good with more information and another step forward.

Positives and Negatives

Talked over the positives and negatives of people’s potential responses today, which really helped me process and think about what was going to happen. I was starting to get scared – I wouldn’t call it cold feet because I didn’t want to actually run away and I still maintained the conviction to carry the reporting forward, but I was getting scared thinking about the scale of impact my reporting would have.

I thought about the various people the news would hit especially hard, thinking about the negative feelings of shock and guilt, as well as the positives of closure and understanding. I have, after all, been absent from their lives for nearly a year now. I have spent only a handful of weeks with family and close friends back where the Church is and they are, and it will be good when they understand why I have been away, that I did not run away from them, that I still love them.

Positives and negatives. Worth thinking about. The negatives are hard yes, but the positives help one move forward and maintain strength.

Making Myself Ill

I need to be careful when I’m going through something difficult, as I have a tendency to make myself ill. Feeling scared and anxious leads to very cold hands and arms and my whole body unable to stop shivering for a while. Headaches ensue. Nausea ensues. Not particularly brilliant side-effects of facing harsh realities!

I didn’t write yesterday because I was exhausted and had to go to sleep before I could. I effectively spent the weekend not writing my essay. I spent some great time with loved ones, but also quite a bit of time worrying and thinking and getting stressed. My deadline is approaching, so focusing on my work needs to resume. Phone calls and further plans will be made in a few days when I’ve finished. Meanwhile, just trying to stay calm and lessen shivers.

A Lack of Information

It is surprisingly difficult to find information on official church websites which direct someone to the appropriate people to report clerical offences too. I’ve managed to find some phone numbers which I can ask for advice on in regards to the process, but there are no clear descriptions online. This should be easier to find information on. By only displaying a couple of phone numbers the Church is not helping people to come forward. Information needs to be clearer. People need to be encouraged to report this stuff, not be restricted to secular sites for understanding, because this isn’t simply a police matter, this is a Church matter. This is two boards of review and questions, not one.

Over the past few months I have grown to distrust priests almost entirely. Of the two I have spoken to in the past, one somehow managed to forget he was meant to be finding someone for me to talk to about reporting (summer 2013) and the other, though helpful, never called to check how I was getting on. Where is the compassion? Where is the desire to better the world? Where is the Church I want?

Having not been to church for nine months now, I suppose I believe the Church as an institution will always have elements of corruption and in that sense will not always be an entirely safe place. And so, though I’m not sure I want to admit this and so do not wholeheartedly say this, perhaps there is no official Church which Christ could be proud of. But then again, “sin” is everywhere. But still… a “holy” institution which can be such a tool for pain? I’m not sure that is justified. Though I miss it every week. I deeply miss it.

Who To Talk To

The question for today has been, who should I talk to? When I should tell this person? Who should I talk to first? Should I delegate someone to tell a group of people? There have been a lot of questions of timing and which direction to take this in today. I seem to have thought through who to officially tell, though family and friends is still a bit of a hazy area. I don’t know who to tell in my family first, I need to think more about that. With friends, I suppose when I see them and when it comes up, though I can get someone I tell officially who is in our friendship group to talk to them if I need to so that will be good. I’m looking forward to going back to see my family and friends for a week in the Easter break from university, but I am anxious about people’s reactions and having to have the same difficult conversation multiple times.

When I was talking to my counsellor today she asked me what I was most afraid of happening in the coming months. I said that it was not necessarily people not believing me, but people responding by saying that they in fact believe that we were simply having an affair. We were not. It was grooming, abuse and rape. Not an affair. That is what I am most afraid of. Not of people not believing me (the people who love me and support me will do so), but of people saying that I am pathetic for complaining about what happened. And I know that someone is going to say it. Someone will say it, they always do. I just really hope it isn’t someone I really love. And I hope I can get past that.

Reactions

Today I have kept thinking about people’s reactions. How much hurt there will be. How hard it will be. I’ve been thinking about each individual person as well as the collective whole. Their faces, their eyes. Their pain.¬†I suppose I need to try to think of it more as our pain than their pain. In a way I am causing it by speaking out, but I am also not the cause. I’m scared. But I suppose that’s obvious.

Despite fear, I have made progress with my work today, and have had some relaxing time on the XBox. Maybe I’ll treat myself to a chocolate cookie later. Some Disney films too maybe.

Whatever bad stuff you are going through, don’t forget the good stuff.

Decision Time

Today, after years, I finally came to the decision to speak out about the abuse I experienced. My story is not particularly unique, but it was only recently that I began to truly understand that I was not alone. That what I experienced was experienced by too many others. That my feelings of guilt and shame were psychological responses to grooming, and do not make me a bad person.

Perhaps some of you do not understand why someone would stay with someone who is abusing them in some way. I recently read the article “Don’t Call it Consent” on Surviving Therapist Abuse which really resonated with me:

[The grooming] process involved a methodical, systematic wearing away of my boundaries, my morals and values, and my quite appropriate inhibitions and prohibitions.

I met the priest, more than thirty years my senior, when I was 15. At 18 I finally found myself able to talk to a friend about it. Now, nearly 20, I have finally reached the decision to begin the reporting process, one which according to statistics is incredibly rare in terms of abuse, with only about 3 in 100 reporting it. Though I do not know how one can collect statistics founded in secrecy, I do appreciate knowing that the incredible difficulty I have had is not simply my own.

I have paralysed in silence, physically trembling with cold and fear at the thought of my previous priest, and any mention of him by others. I developed a strong emotional attachment to my priest, something which was filled with feelings of guilt. I was told repeatedly that I was special and that he depended upon me, so feeling that I could not leave. I had, he said, introduced myself into his life, and I could not leave anymore. Not once he needed me. I not only felt guilty whenever I tried to leave, but I would blame myself for his acts, for his anger and for his tears. I had to call and email him every day, though it was never the other way around. However, of course, if his wife was present at the time (who I was originally told was not close to him) then I was not to contact him until he was once again free and needed me back on the scene.

When the “relationship” began, I was incredibly confused. I did not understand when he put his hand down my jeans and told me to be quiet. I did not understand what was happening. I was 16 by then, yes. But I was a rather innocent 16 year old. I knew the birds and the bees, but no-one had touched me there since I was 8 and a boy and me harmlessly touched each others bodies, as many children do, to see what was different. I was confused and paralysed. I did not feel I could move. I felt completely trapped and compelled to help him however he needed me to back then. It was only when I was 18 that I began to entertain the possibility that this was not normal. Though I had maintained secrecy as required, I believed that his actions and his apparent pain were my fault. If I did not call him one day or I did not reply to his email within the day, he would cry and he would need me. I had no social life. I had few friends in those days. I suppose that is part of it.

I still do not know if he is aware of what he has done. He has always told me he has loved me. But I finally recognise the abuse and the lies. Whatever he believes, I can no longer survive with keeping silent. I need to speak out now, for I cannot move forward unless I do.

One of the reasons for this is that, though I am currently a university student, back in my hometown where my family and many of close friends live, he is there, with hundreds of congregants and admirers. He is, as a friend recently coined him, a “false prophet.”

I told myself for a long time that it was better for me to suffer in silent for the majority. I reasoned with myself that by remaining silent it was better in the whole, as then they would continue to believe in him, their love of him would not be shattered, and their faith, unlike mine, might stay vaguely more in tact. I do not want people to lose their faith in God or in humanity. But I know now that they need to know the truth. That I need to tell the truth. That if I do not, more people could suffer. And I would never recover.

I am going to call the heads of Church in a week’s time, so that I can complete my final essay of the semester before then with a little more peace. Exams will follow after Easter of course, but I have made my decision. I need all the support I can get. I am aiming to write each day so I keep sharing my thoughts and getting them down, so that, hopefully, I will not spiral back into a guilt-complex which disables and paralyses me.

Signed Anonymous for now.