I have been doing a lot of sitting.
Amidst this sitting, there has also been a lot of praying.
But then, much more sitting.
In August I broke silence of my own experience of clergy abuse. Not as a child, but as a young, impressionable woman. I am broken by my own admission, which was brought forth in response to other people’s suffering, often silently. The statistics of sexual abuse are high – one in five women in the US will be raped in her lifetime. One in four girls will be sexually abused before she turns 18 (source). There is a good chance that you, the one reading this, have been sexually abused; maybe not by a member of clergy, but abused nonetheless. I am here with you in that seat.
There has been a lot of information pouring down upon us all. I was triggered by reading about McCarrick’s sexual predation among seminarians. I can imagine trauma has lain dormant in you for years, being woken like a dragon: hungry and ravaging, as mine was.
My question is: are you doing okay? Have you been listened to and really heard?
I’ve discovered that I am not, in fact, doing okay. Not at all.
What it feels like
I’ve been given the option to re-report my abuse (under a new bishop), and I have now done so. I also started therapy again, as I could hardly get through a day without a breakdown of some sort: uncontrollable anger, uncontrollable sadness, uncontrollable tears; all would overcome me without warning, sometimes all at once. Does this sound like your experience in this?
Does it overcome you when you least expect it? Deep sorrow in your breast that has felt caged too long, clawing for release. Finding its way out unanticipated: while listening to kids scream at each other, when you can’t figure out why it’s so hard to make dinner, when you’re in a crowd and there are just so many people around you, when you’ve been graced with time alone, but you can’t stop thinking of the innocence you once had, and how hard it is to see it looking back at you without a clue about what was going to happen. …
There are so many opportunities to just lose it, unpredictably. That is exactly what can happen after abuse, I’ve discovered. Even when you thought that you had found peace about it all. If you’ve experienced this, you’re not alone.
The hope for healing
Our stories aren’t over. God has placed in us dignity beyond imagining, and your story is worth hearing. It is worth being aired out and brought into light. We have been adopted into Christ’s family — we are truly His body. If any ONE of us is hurting or suffering silently, we all are damaged because of it. We are all being infected by the wound. And, sisters, the wound of sexual abuse in our Church is a deep and festering lesion. Bringing to light what has been silenced and in the shadows is a necessity in order for healing to begin, in order for God’s light to truly shine, not through a fogged-up window, but with the clarity and brilliance of a diamond.
Silence is not the answer. Silence and ignorance will only increase the infection, for while we are inactive, this wound is actively trying to take out Christ’s body. Trying to take us out. This cancer will only seek to kill us unless we drastically cut it out. This infection has been revealed in Ireland, Chile, the US, Germany … unofficially Canada, where I live. The question is not ‘how many more countries will this affect?’ but, ‘how deep is the infection everywhere?’ and, ‘who has been infected and how can we help them find healing?’
The first step to healing is to locate the source. Our antibodies are truth, justice, prayer, and compassion. Let’s invite the Holy Spirit to continue this purging fire, in our Church and in our own hearts. We also must take care of ourselves in this, to mind our own words and thoughts that we do not stray outside of compassion.
What we can do
If you’ve been re-traumatized by the revelations of sexual abuse in our Church, I urge you to reach out for healing. Therapy is a gift to help us be able to re-orient our lives to Christ; use it if you are able. Reach out to Catholic services for help. And know that I am thinking and praying for you during this time. Re-living our trauma is horrifying, and I want you to know that you are not alone.
How have you found consolation amidst these scandals? Have you found a way to help heal your wounds?
Copyright 2018 Jane Korvemaker