When the news of the revelation that over 1000 children were abused in Pennsylvania at the hands of 300 Catholic Priests, it was shocking, horrific, but sadly not surprising. This is happening more and more often. People are now starting to give credence to the stories that are coming out. It almost seems that a week doesn’t go by without a new story appearing of yet further abuse at the hands of those who pretend to do God’s work. There is one word that I can come up with for that, and that is “sickening”.
People who are fortunate enough to have not endured abuse are puzzled as to why it takes so long for people to expose the truth about what happened to them decades earlier. It’s simple. It boils down to fear and shame. I can only speak directly to the abuse I endured as a child, but sadly it is similar for other survivors.
I was groomed for the abuse. Many of the priests who abuse children are serial abusers. Their tactics are extended over a period of time. If a pedophile priest was to simply grab a child and rape him or her then they would be caught out most likely. They know that. It begins by finding the most vulnerable in the pack. They are skilled hunters, and know what to look for. They seek out the children not so popular, who crave attention. They look for the mild and the awkward. It’s all part of their sick game. It was several months before I was sexually assaulted at my school. It began with corporal punishment, and the repetition of telling me how I needed to earn God’s love. At five years old this is all rather overwhelming. The next thing they must do to ensure their survival as pedophile predators is to make sure the children they target will keep the dirty secret. For me it was the constant “God will kill you if you tell anyone”, and “You’re a dirty boy, and need to earn God’s love.” Perhaps the worst thing I was told was that if I was to ever tell, God would kill my family.
GOD WILL KILL YOUR FAMILY.
Imagine being a small child and being told that by a man who claims to have a direct line to God. No wonder people are struck into silence through the fear and intimidation of the priests. At least it was in my case.
It wasn’t until grade 4 that I was finally freed. But, as devoted readers to my blog will know, it was because of a beating by my grade 4 teacher that it was so. My Mom discovered the bruises all over my arms and legs – the result of being whipped by the heavy prong of an electric kettle cord. The logic in my head was that I was never told that I couldn’t tell on someone who was not a priest. Immediately upon learning that I had been whipped so violently by a lay teacher, my Mother removed me from my tormentors. It was only when I was in my early thirties that I revealed what had happened to me. Even then, and now, do I hold back details of some of the worst rapes that happened to me in grade 4.
What is the result of being abused and raped as a child? For the longest time I had little self-esteem. I felt (and sometimes still do) as if I was not worthy of success. I felt a need to constantly prove to people that I was a good person. I wanted to be loved and yet shied away from situations when there may be recognition for my good deeds. To this day I prefer the company of my solitude. It’s not that I am a lonely person, it is that I am more comfortable alone or when I am in small groups. This is because I am happiest when I am in control of the situation, rather than letting the situation control me. There are certain smells that instantly evoke tears. The sense memory is very strong for me. Similarly, I cannot tolerate anything being in my mouth for any sustained period of time. This makes my trips to the dentist very upsetting for me. If I brush my teeth for a longer than normal time I begin to gag – I have even thrown up from the feeling of having something in my mouth – this is a direct result of the abuse I endured.
When I came out about the abuse in my community my family was chastised for it. I was made fun of. People joked about me being raped as they had their morning coffee in the local donut shops. My parents lost friends over it. It was a joke to the community. People were more comfortable shunning me than realizing what was happening at the catholic school. I was the first to publicly come out in my community about abuse. I was mocked for it. I even had an Aunt who made fun of me because I was abused and sent me a letter asking me “how it was working out for me”, and that I would “never amount to anything because I was a horrible child and deserved everything that happened.” Needless to say, she was not a kind woman. Over the years people have come to realize the “secluded incident” of my claim was more prevalent. The revelation of systemic abuse by the clergy exploded a few years after my revelation. Now, a thousand more victims are stepping into the light as a result of the recent findings.
How many victims couldn’t cope? How many have ended their own lives to escape the pain that is left behind after the abuse? I am sure the number is high. For many of us continue to neglect ourselves once the abuse stops. We continue to ignore our need for healing. Only through sharing our stories do we enable other victims to step forward – sadly, people abused by priests are not alone. If you are reading this and a victim of pedophile priests, thank you for reading. I am here for you. We are bonded through our baptism of blood and pain. You are my brother or sister. We need to stay together and share our voices if we want this to end.
On the outside I may appear whole. My soul was shattered in the aftermath of the abuse. Over time I have been able to piece together many parts of myself. It’s a long process. The Japanese have a practice called kintsugi – the art of repairing broken pottery. The idea is that by bonding the broken pieces of pottery back together with gold, the bond is made stronger and the repaired item is more beautiful for having been broken. The lines of repair are visible and not hidden. I feel my soul is a bit like that – it was shattered – over the years I continue to forge it back together – it’s not perfect, but it is beautiful for those who can see it. It is stronger and the scars are ones I am not afraid to show, for my story of abuse is important to share. I need to speak out and up for those who have yet to find their voice.
Star Wars appealed to me as a child because of the Force. An energy field that binds us and surrounds us – it makes life grow, we come from it and return to it when we exit this physical plane. The Force is a powerful ally. It is my ally, for I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me. My heart goes out to those in Pennsylvania, and to all who have lost the light – we are one with the Force. We must find the strength to carry on and to never let this happen again. Strengthening my soul, over time is becoming a practice in the art of precious scars, for we are all deserving children of the Force.