You Don’t Own Me
This blog was written by Adults Sexually Abused by Priests (ASAP)
I would like to talk more about how adults should “know better” about getting sucked into being groomed and sexually harassed and abused.
We aren’t born adults any more than we start out in the middle of someone’s web of deception. We start out as children. As children, we need love, or at the very least, attention and care, in order to survive. If we don’t get that love, or if that love is linked with emotional or physical pain, that becomes our normal. We only see the world as it relates to ourselves, so the actions of others towards us begins to become how we see ourselves in our world. In other words, if our father has a really bad day at work and comes home in a foul mood, the once peaceful place where you live, and whereas a child you cannot leave….becomes a place of unrest and of fear. And as a kid, you don’t understand “bad day at work”. You just get the feeling that things are out of control. And you can’t say anything, so that feeling just gets buried inside. And you keep that feeling there and you keep it under control. Because you begin to learn that feelings can be dangerous and that the expression of feelings is very scary.
I just need to say that my dad was a good man and I knew that he loved me, but he had some issues. I remember one day when I was a young child, I was very sick. My mom had me sleeping in their bed downstairs I guess so she could keep an eye on me and not have to run up and down the stairs.
I just remember feeling pretty bad. My dad came home from work and there was a conversation that began to escalate between my parents. I just remember it had to do with me being in their bed and my dad having to sleep in my bed for the night or something. For whatever reason, my father was furious about being put out of his room.
I remember feeling 100% responsible for my father’s anger. That on top of the fact that whenever I got sick as a kid, I was always told I got sick because of something I did or didn’t do, so I felt like I had brought on the mumps or whatever it was I had at the time.
So, don’t you know, the argument came into the bedroom right in front of me. All of a sudden, I remember my father slamming the closet door into the wall, leaving a gaping hole where the doorknob had pounded through the wallpaper into the drywall and beyond.
He made a joke about it later when he patched it up and fixed the hole. But to this day, you can see where I made my dad get angry because I got myself sick and he couldn’t sleep in his own bed. And so my parents weren’t happy together. I was a bad person.
We figure out who we are when we are kids. You also learn about sex before you know what sex is all about. You know that there are parts of you that you keep covered. You know you’re not supposed to comment about how other people look so you don’t hurt their feelings. You know there is something forbidden but highly curious about what other people are hiding and that you are not supposed to talk about it or draw pictures of what your three year old self thinks what a naked person looks like on your brother’s homework because then people know you have thoughts and that’s as bad as speaking about things.
And you know it feels “yucky” and it’s wrong when someone who is supposed to be watching you wants to see your personal areas when your mom and dad leave the house. Even though you want to have fun with them. That doesn’t feel like fun. It feels like something else. And you don’t say anything because you aren’t supposed to talk about it and it feels uncomfortable and that feeling is mixed with not wanting to disappoint someone and wanting to be liked and also having a boundary begin to grow thinner around your little kid self. And it affects you.
And you might be thinking that it was no big deal….just playing doctor. But it was because this person continued to influence me all throughout my life. And whenever I thought it was over, it was there again. When I was 28 years old, it was there again. It never stopped.
So when you are a kid and you are the caretaker and the peacemaker and the one who feels responsible, and the one who protects, you can get a strange view of who you are and where you fit in with other people.
And it becomes who you are and you don’t know that is what has happened. Because it is your normal. But then you wonder why the nice guy you started dating turns into a control freak or physically abusive.
I am not making excuses. I’m not. I truly did not understand why what felt like love turned into abuse. Or being what I thought was loving and supportive turned into being used for money.
So when you say an adult should “know better”, tell me when you think this comes about. Does it happen on your 18th birthday? Do you suddenly become wise at that point? Of course not. You go out into the world with the knowledge you have and the self confidence you amassed along the way.
Predators can tell. They test you. They have a game plan. You don’t know this. You think they are a good person. And when it’s a priest? Jackpot! This person is sincere. And it may seem awfully naive to think that looking from the outside. But is it really? Why are priests believed instead of their victims? Why when we report what a priest has done is it seen as attacking the church and God? Because we all believe that priests are Godly and sincere. They are the ones who keep us in line spiritually.
We don’t take cooking lessons from people who burn the roast…we take lessons from people who know what they are doing in the kitchen. So we feel safe in assuming that the people who are caring for our souls would not hurt us. Or else they would not be priests.
Because we have all been groomed to believe that.
But going back a moment to how our childhood experiences shape who we are and how a predator knows who to pick….when looking for an adult who is vulnerable, they hit pay dirt when they see the signs of someone who grew up with unsolid boundaries. My abuser smiled knowingly and said something out of the blue….as he always did….about child abuse or sexual abuse. Because they know the signs. They see clear as day when someone does not have a firm secure boundary.
It makes grooming easier when the boundaries have been twisted before. It makes it easier to confuse someone with a mixture of love and abuse when it already has been seen as normal with the people they have loved in the past. It makes it that much easier to twist the person into an emotional pretzel once again when they have worn down that path many times before.
So again, I am not on the couch blaming my actions on other people. But I am becoming aware of how other people’s actions helped to form mistaken belief systems inside of me. And I don’t feel differently. But I am beginning to see things differently. And that is not easy.
Because knowing and doing are two different things. Doing what you are not familiar with can be painful. And scary as hell. It feels counterintuitive. It feels like if you let go, the world will collapse around you.
It feels like if you stop trying….if you stop chasing…if you stop loving people who hurt you…if you stop hurting yourself…what will there be? Will we cease to exist? Will the world end?
Everyone please take care of yourselves. And take this week’s poll as well.
Read more and take the poll at Adults Abused By Priests.