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.