The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
Speech by SNAP leader Belinda Martinez at SNAP Minnesota Conference in St. Paul, delivered January 25, 2003
"I have good news . . . and bad news, but what I am going to tell you is no joke.
I am a survivor of sexual abuse by catholic clergy. I was abused in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. I was repeatedly medicated to incapacitation and abused at a retreat facility for youth . . . less than one mile from this hotel. Years later, I was sexually assaulted by a hospital chaplain the day after I had surgery . . . less than one mile from here.
When I asked the first perpetrator why he did what he did to me, he said, "Because you are the most beautiful woman I have ever met."
By implying my guilt, the effect his statement had on me was devastating and immediate. From that very moment forward, for the following 15 -20 years, I became hell-bent on destruction.
I was a cutter, a slasher, and a burner. I embroidered my perpetrator's name just under the skin of my forearm. When I could no longer stand the thread under my skin, I removed it, traced the lettering with an object sharp enough to puncture the skin and then I poured acid in the wounds. When I could not stand to look at the name, I poured acid over the entire forearm and the third degree burn erased any evidence of my perpetrator's name.
I held cigarettes to my face and burned the same little round spot over and over again. Cigarette burns did not hurt as much as acid, so I eventually put acid in the burn hole on my face.
I have thrown up pills in every Emergency Room in this city and some Emergency Rooms in other cities as well. I have also been intubated in nearly every Emergency Room in this city when I refused to let them make me throw up. I have been in all the adult psychiatric units in this city and some other locations as well. During one of my stays in a hospital, it was discovered that I was even trying to kill myself in my sleep, by wrapping the blankets around my neck and choking myself.
I have beaten myself in the in the forehead with an unabridged dictionary until I had welts the size of a baseball - and still I could not get the memory of what happened to me out of my head.
I have overdosed thousands and thousands of pills. I have been dead twice. I poured acid in my eyes in the hope that I would no longer be able to look at my face in the mirror. I took a switchblade and slashed my face in a wound across my forehead and then from my temple to my chin. As I bled out, I fell into the gutter on a cold rainy night on the eastern seaboard.
I was rushed to the hospital where I had reconstructive cosmetic surgery. And then I was taken to the maximum security floor in a maximum security psychiatric institution. The patients I was with in that basement unit were not allowed to eat with the general population. When it was our turn to eat, we were marched single file through a long passageway to a staircase that accessed the dining room. When we finished eating we were marched back to our unit via the same passageway.
After each trip to the dining area for meals, we were searched for contraband. Our clothing lockers were searched and our rooms were searched. We were not even allowed to have shoelaces in our shoes. We were not allowed to keep personal care items in our rooms and when we wanted to brush our teeth, we had to ask for our toothbrushes.
What does that sound like to you? It sounds to me . . . like I did someone else's time.
I was lost in plain sight and no one looked for me.
No one ever said, "I'm sorry."
No one ever said, "I'm glad you did not die."
No one ever thanked me for reporting the perpetrators and having them removed from ministry.
When I initiated my litigation, someone stood before the congregation and said the allegations were made by a mentally ill woman. My file number was announced to the congregation so they could go to the courthouse and read it.
The saddest thing for me, however, was that . . . no one ever wept for me.
That's the bad news.
I already told you the good news in my very first sentence. I am a survivor of clergy sexual abuse. I survived! Despite what I did to my eyes, I can see. Despite all the other things I did, I can still walk and talk and think.
I choose mirth. I seek beauty. But mostly I have hope. I write messages of hope for an online newsletter that is e-mailed to thousands of survivors. I write poetry and songs, and no one will take away my voice again.
No one ever talked to me about hope. If we don't do that, then our futures and the futures of others look very bleak.
Today is about hope. We gather from different backgrounds but similar enough experiences to rally around a cause that will send a message to the people of Minnesota that survivors of sexual abuse are taking back as much of what was stolen from us as we can. And we are going to start by taking what we need the most of, and that is time. The language of the bill we wish to introduce this legislative session will give us more time to come to understand how we have been hurt.
Though you and I may not have written the language of the bill, it is our stories, yours and mine, that are the punctuation marks!
Thank you all for coming together today."
E-mail: [email protected]
Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests