2007 STORY #37: “MOM, YOU DON’T KNOW…”
To a male survivor of nun sexual abuse, the work can be hard but surviving was inhuman.
The work can be lonely and the surviving, barren.
The work is capable of frightening my insides with fears of misplaced rejection.
The work, I learned, may not yield hurried effects.
Without the pillars of three distant, tender survivors I would have not found my beginning strength. Without the strength of so many survivors since, I would have not found strength to leaflet alone at a rural Iowa church on cold, dark Saturday night three years ago nor to stay that January night to reach out to those attending the following service for the community's Hispanic meat-packing workers and their families.
My fears that night turned to disappointment as to why the Pastoral Associate, a nun, had called police (two in an unmarked unit who I identified myself to and one regular patrol officer in a marked unit) to watch me as I reached out knowing at least three sexual predatory priests had been assigned at that church. I had called the parish ahead of time of my intentions. The fears didn't last… my disappointment did. Not because the officers were present but the explanation the Pastoral Associate gave me.
To her, I asked, "Sister, tell me you didn't call the cops on me."
"Yes, we did."
"For your protection."
"For my protection? From whom? The people in the pews?"
"No, for their protection."
"From whom?" "Me?"
"For everyone's protection."
"From what, from whom?"
She then walked away. I wished that someone had called the cops forty years ago.
I'm saddened and disappointed by survivors who are afraid to come forward because they fear the reaction of those who they sit next to them in the pew. Police cannot protect those in the pews against ignorance or fear.
I received no calls from this event until this summer - nearly three years later.
"Steve, I made a trip to my home town recently for a family re-union. The discussion turned to abusive priests. My mother said, 'Weren't we lucky that Fr. X never abused anyone while he was here?' I said to myself, 'Mom, you don't know what Fr. X did to me.'"
The unidentified caller and I spoke. He has begun his journey.
When the call ended, my eyes watered with emotions.
Way inside, I knew that lonely, dark cold night would not be in vain but I began doubting.
Thank you, the three distant, tender survivors, for your shoulders for me to stand on.
Thank you for the countless shoulders.
Because of you, another said, "Mom, you don't know.