clergy abuse


I went back to one of the places I was abused recently.

I’m struggling today. I’m getting a lot of “flashes”, thinking of hurting myself, thinking that I can’t fix this, that it is always going to hurt me in a way which at times will seem unbearable.

I want to bleed or to burn, but I don’t want to leave a mark that other people will see. I want to quiet the storm in my head, in my heart, in my body, I want to breathe without feeling dizzy, to be able to concentrate on something other than the need to fight off the pain.

I want it to stop now.

Sexual healing is very profound work. It takes great courage to work through problems caused by the abuse. Your body may feel like a battleground over which you fight ghosts who have great power, reclaiming territory which is your birthright.
– Miriam Smolover, Therapist


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.

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.

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.