SNAP: Stories for Living

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2008 Story #6 – I Walk in the Light of Truth

I am an adult survivor of clergy abuse in the Protestant tradition.  Adult abuse can be complicated to understand, but because of the power differential, the relationship is never consensual. The intricate ‘web’ that our perpetrator spun served to relax boundaries and create a sense of ‘normalcy’, as he befriended my spouse, family, and our friends.

       I came forth in God’s time, in 2007.  My husband was incredibly supportive despite his own woundedness. Together, we pressed the church for justice for harms done by our perpetrator, who admitted to more than just my offense in his long career.  In 2008, the Church processes towards seeking a ‘just resolution’ ended. Our perpetrator was stripped of his clergy orders and appropriate churches and other local institutions were notified. In addition, financial compensation through civil mediation was met to our satisfaction.

      The “Fruits of the Spirit” that Paul names in Galatians are thought to be nine attributes of Christian character that should be practiced collectively in living a life like Christ and to be healers to those wounded of body, mind, and soul. Within these attributes I have described what was helpful for both me and my husband in healing from the abuse.

Love. Having our story heard and believed is Love in a most profound way, as a victim/survivor has refrained from coming out due to the overwhelming sense of shame and guilt one imagines they might face.

Joy.  Joy is in the eyes of the beholder, perhaps, often in the mundane and ordinary of relationships. When one sees any notion of light amidst darkness, a quiet joy is found.

Peace.  Someone once said that peace is joy at rest.  Attaining justice-healing through both the Church and civil means has allowed us to experience the peace that passes all understanding.

Patience. Survivors need to tell their story over and over again.  We are grateful for our counselors and friends who were patient with us, giving us strength in their patient accompaniment. 

Kindness.  Kindness is also speaking the truth in Love.  The kindness practiced by some of our faith community friends –vs. scapegoating me - helped us reframe our theology and restore our faith and hope.

Goodness. We experienced sensitivity and empathy from co-workers and friends we felt comfortable disclosing to. Their supportive care made getting through each day just a bit easier.

Faithfulness.  The Bishop and Counsel for the Church practiced zero tolerance for our perpetrator’s ongoing behaviors. Their desire to see justice happen conveyed a zero tolerance not only for our perpetrator’s continued abuse of power, but also a culture that has allowed this destructive behavior to go on for decades.  It demonstrated to us the steadfastness and reality of a living God.

Gentleness.  Our college-aged children seemed to work from their instincts in helping us heal.  They encouraged us to walk or hike, go for a swim, or play board games. The connections with nature were gentle and healing, helping us get our minds off the prolonged Church judicial process.

Self-control.  Being able to see myself as neither heroine nor victim, but a knowledgeable bystander, is evidence of the healing I have experienced because justice was served. I walk on in the light of the truth.

Note: this story is from 2008. View other 2008 stories and 2008 voting results. View current stories.