The Story in Your Eyes
This blog was written by Adults Sexually Abused by Priests (ASAP)
I had a woman at a meeting last week say that she didn’t want to bore the rest of us with her story by telling it over again. Sometimes I feel that way too. Why do we need to tell our story over and over again?
Well, we really don’t. We can say how we are feeling or what is going on in our lives as it relates to things. But you know, I find that every time I tell my story, it gets a little bit easier. And the more I learn from reading and from listening to others’ stories, the clearer my story becomes to me.
Until I found SNAP, it was very difficult to talk to anyone about what had happened. Even then, although you cannot compare your pain to someone else’s, I will never understand how anyone can breach the boundary of hurting an innocent…whether child or animal. And there seem to be more and more horrible stories these days about such abuse and torture.
It wasn’t until I found other people who had been abused as adults that I began to understand what had happened to me.
And it’s been a process. But every once in awhile, I will feel like I experience an insight that makes something clearer. I read something about how to realize you are involved with a Narcissist recently. And what stood out for me was how difficult it was to have a clear and honest conversation with someone with a NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder). They will deflect. They will deny. They will turn the blame on you. They will make you wonder if something actually happened or if you misinterpreted or imagined it. They will find your weaknesses and your flaws and the things you feel sensitive about and they will exploit them. They will make you feel unattractive, stupid, crazy, needy, guilty, wrong about everything, vulnerable, in danger, and completely at fault for everything. They will turn things around so that they are the victim.
They will turn others against you and they will have you protecting them. Is it any wonder you end up an emotional mess and feeling suicidal?
What I began to see…really began to see…was that I was never going to be able to communicate with my abuser. He was never going to see me as anything but someone to serve the needs he felt entitled to have served. Nothing was ever going to be fair. Nothing was ever going to be clear. As difficult as it was to even begin to speak to this man/priest/boss about the subject of his sexual expectations, my mind kept going into denial and I ended up feeling wrong about bringing up the subject. Especially when he said that I was making him feel uncomfortable. I felt horrified by that. I wanted to communicate, not to offend.
Again, I’m not a psychologist. I am just what I consider a kind and quiet person who was working for someone who I assumed was the same. And I felt like I had somehow gone through the looking glass and drank some bad tea.
And along with the denial comes trauma bonding….the use of sex and fear and gaslighting which creates a sort of love/protective bond between the abuser and their prey. This is what also happens in abusive relationships where someone just can’t seem to leave because they think there is love somehow going on. Love bombing in the beginning of grooming solidifies that thinking. There is the….if only I had….or if only I was…if only I hadn’t….feeling that you are the cause for the other person’s mood swings.
That is why it is important to talk about your story. And you don’t have to tell the complete story over and over again….but you can pick a point that you might find difficult…something that makes you feel particularly vulnerable….and begin to bring that out into the light.
It’s not mandatory to spill your guts to the world. But I will tell you a number of reasons that I think it is important to begin to try to talk about what happened to you.
Fear. You were conditioned to be afraid. You may have been threatened with harm to you or loved ones if you said anything. I can’t tell anyone what is best for them. But I do think that sometimes getting something you’ve held onto out to find that others understand can help.
Embarrassment. Sex…and I use that term because we are talking about body parts and functions…can be really difficult to talk about. It is an incredibly emotional subject that is not only physical but beliefs and desires and self esteem play an important part. When we talk about sex, we are literally exposing our inner selves. We are making ourselves feel very vulnerable. Even more so if we were put in a vulnerable or powerless situation. We would probably rather not think about it as doing so may unearth horribly powerful emotions we are not ready to handle.
I think about the other women who this “gentleman” had been “involved with” before he met me. The absolute terrifyingly degrading feelings they must have felt when they believed they were trapped and had to approach this person who had played with their mind to the extent that they had to allow themselves to feel like they were less than human and shut off their minds while they approached a grinning being of pure evil and submitted to him.
What people who have not been through this don’t understand is that this is rape. It may not physically be the act of rape per se, but it is coercive force and the destruction of a human being. This is not an act of love. This is not even a sexual act like if you were involved with someone and decided to initiate something. This was like being told to do the most humiliating thing you can think of. This was about dying inside emotionally.
So why talk about it? Why bring it up at all?
Blame and self hatred. I learned that I could not get an honest or respectful conversation out of my boss. I could not turn him in. I cared about him in some weird way. He would remind me that he was losing all hope and that he could die at any moment and how I turned him on just by being in the room. I felt complicit. I felt protective. I felt that I didn’t want anyone asking questions that I didn’t want to answer. I didn’t want to talk about it. Or really acknowledge it. I had also been told to be obedient. To not question. Questions only went in circles anyway.
For most of the time, I wasn’t really sure if he was harassing me or if I was imagining it. What if I did what I believe he is saying I’d better do? Will the world know what horrible person I am? Will he spring up from his chair in horror and disbelief and run right to H.R. and call the police? Or will one of his friends join us? Or maybe a room full of his friends. Once you begin to believe you’ve run out of dignity, you stop believing you have a right to ask for it.
By talking about what happened, by allowing the emotions to exist, by beginning to understand what actually happened, and by having your story accepted by others, I found at least, that I am becoming a little braver and a little less afraid to discuss what happened.
Here’s the thing. The church is a huge entity and fighting for justice can be difficult. I can’t even get a lawyer to take my case. I’m on my own. Because I thought I had feelings for my abuser. Because I initially protected him. Because I tried to reason with him instead of reporting him. So justice is not always going to happen.
People are many times judgmental. If you say that a priest abused you, especially as an adult, you can expect to be shunned, have people cross the street when they see you, not want to see you in church, think you have some kind of psychological disease that makes you go after priests, think you are weak or stupid or that you should have seen this coming…..”what did you expect…he was a priest”. And my favorite? The person who I thought was my friend who I had asked for help….said to me something like….”I’m kinda like that priest, y’know? But I mean, with me, you can say no”. Uh….what’s that now? I’m telling you about my abuse, you moron, not giving you my price range. That’s how I felt. Let down. Misunderstood. Betrayed by someone who I thought was a friend….again.
The only justice you may find in this world is the one you make for yourself. In the end, you are the one who has to find your way back. Despite the fact that evil will always exist and people are almost always going to be ignorant.
You need to begin to forgive yourself. That is more important than anything. More important than anything. Forget about what “they” are getting away with. Forget about the hurt that has been flung at you. I know. I know. Maybe forget isn’t the word I’m looking for. How about just forget about forgiving “them”. Focus on forgiving yourself. For being human. For trusting. For trying to survive a difficult situation that nobody else can understand. That is one reason I had said a couple of weeks back to rub lotion on yourself and to listen to music. That is why I ask in the polls what you enjoy doing.
We may not see justice in our lifetime. But it is not too late to find enjoyment in our lifetime. To understand it was not our fault. To let go of everything and anything that relates to self blame. Let it go. Forgive yourself. If you can’t talk about it until it begins to lose its power over you, than read and listen to others’ stories so that you see that your abuse did not happen because of some serious fault in your nature and that you are not a mistake who should just go away because you make people uncomfortable.
Sex, sin, guilt, fear……all strongly religiously emotional words. Words ingrained in us that we cannot seem to separate between good and evil and God. But the church is not God. Our all-loving source is that which we call God. Words can be used as chains to control the congregation.
Choose your own thoughts and words with love. Because you are enough.
Read more and take the poll at Adults Abused By Priests.