After I was fired from my job for not accommodating my boss by desk diving, I was in shock. I don’t remember driving home. I couldn’t find my house keys until six months later because I didn’t remember what I had done with them after walking in the door.
I felt like I had hit a tree driving at 70 mph. There was all of this emotion inside still churning with suddenly nowhere to go. My foot was still on the gas pedal but I was unable to move. I wanted to write to my boss. I wanted to ask him why he had to be so cruel and unreasonable. Why would he betray me? I was still under the impression that his behavior all had to do with him being tied to his vows of celibacy and being afraid to get into trouble. So I blamed myself. He had said that I was making things more complicated and that is what I had done and so I was not a good person. I was also not a good person because I had emailed a priest and mentioned meeting outside of the office which someone simply does not do with a priest no matter what and I did so he had to protect himself and of course, being a man and a priest….well, you know…he couldn’t help himself and so I was a clear and present danger.
So my wound was large and gaping and I wanted to rip my insides out of the hole and be done with it. If I walked into a church, would everyone know by looking at me what I had done? Would they whisper and point? Was this a sin so bad that it didn’t even fall under the big 10? Would they excommunicate me? I really didn’t know what could come next.
I looked for solace from friends. I told a male friend what had happened. His response was, “What did you think was going to happen with a priest?” again the blame was pointed in my direction.
I called my co-worker to let her know why I never came back to my desk after going to Human Resources. At first she seemed sympathetic. She asked why nobody asked her anything. She had remembered that I had told her that our boss was going to fire me and she had said no way because she thought he liked me so much. She said, “He is going to get away with it”. But then she asked “why are you telling me?” And later on a couple of weeks later, she said that I had to see my own part in things and she stopped talking to me after saying “I want to keep my job”. And that was that. I was replaced at work like I never existed and the friend who got her job because of my contacting her and recommending her to H.R., chose to extricate herself from the whole situation. I had not asked her for legal backup. I had not asked her to say anything to anyone. I had not asked her to take sides. I had just wanted to…I don’t know. Still feel worthwhile? Not feel shunned? Instead, I felt the scab being ripped open and the pain felt as fresh as the day it all happened once again.
I had thought that it was a kindness that I was told they would enter me on the books as having resigned from the Diocese, but later I realized it just covered their butts if I went back and said they fired me. There would be no record of that. But I left a good paying part time job and was made to get unemployment….which I also thought at first was a kindness but it turned out that it just meant that I was then forced to look for work and forced to report my job searches and it meant that the state got a report as to why I no longer worked for the diocese. At the time, I was so ashamed that I didn’t want anyone to know about what had happened. Going through this whole process prolonged the period of healing as each time I had to report to Unemployment or send in a weekly earning report, I still felt tied to what had happened and still felt as if I were being punished….and the wound remained unhealed.
I went to a therapist at the time and I told her what had happened. I read her the two emails I had sent my boss. Again, I guess I was hoping for some comfort, some logical reasoning for what had happened, perhaps some constructive guidance from this professional person. Instead she told me that I had been the aggressor. She said the woman is always the aggressor in a relationship. I remember looking at her thinking the whole world had to have gone mad. What? Do you know what he did, I asked. Oh, yes I do, was her response…he was a priest and he was wrong for what he did but you were the woman and the woman always leads the relationship. I walked out of there more confused and feeling more responsible and my wounds were in danger of becoming infected at that point. I went home and said to my friend….I should’ve just given him the blow job….seriously. Ridiculously enough, it seemed like that would have been the right thing to do in this case. I would have kept my job, I would have still felt like I belonged, I wouldn’t have been struggling for money, I would have had my friend from work and my lunch bunch friends and I wouldn’t have felt the need to fight for my honor. I mean, who was I kidding anyway?
I got a hold of my lawyer to see if I had a case. One time when I called and asked to speak to my lawyer, the secretary at the desk said to me that I had no case and that I had “given myself” to my boss. Other lawyers since then will not take the case because I guess harassment itself is not considered illegal unless I had either turned him in while it was going on, had proof, and/or if he had touched me. Well, my boss made a point of telling H.R. that he never touched me.
I have said that I struggle with feelings of self worth when I compare myself to the cases of innocent children who have been abused. (More next time on the very real struggle that all victims of clergy abuse face.) It has taken me a very long time to heal.
It took me a couple of months before it actually hit me that I was the victim of harassment from my boss. At the same time, I began to realize that I had never been special to him and that he and I had never been friends of any kind. That was monumental. And extremely painful. Again the wound opened. Until then, I had felt that perhaps it had been some major misunderstanding between us and that, again, it was because of his being a priest and not understanding how relationships work or his fear of sexuality that had caused the problems. I began to see slowly over time that he had indeed deliberately set out to harm me. I began to wonder if there were more priests out there like him. And more people who felt the way I felt. I knew my boss had had prior “friendships” but I had thought they were truly friendships and that the woman who he said he would not talk to if she called because she was “crazy”….maybe was not crazy after all.
Eventually I wrote my book, “The Priest’s Pawn”, which helped tremendously in getting the words out of my head and onto pieces of paper. And I told my mom about what had happened as she had worked in the same office years before…although before my boss had worked there. I will go into my mom’s reaction more next time as well but at this point I will say that when my mom passes, I will be forced to give the Catholic church the money she wants them to have.
I don’t think I will ever completely heal as this abuse has entered into the cells of my body and my body will never forget. I ended up in the emergency room twice within the first six months after I was fired. But understanding what happened and having support from good friends and a good support system helped tremendously in allowing me to get through the pain and survive. Most survivors don’t give themselves the credit for getting through incredible emotional upheaval and coming out on the other side.
My scab does not open as much as it once did. I was able to accept that you really do find out who you can lean on when you need support and you can let go of those that don’t understand because you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life anyway. I have begun to see the big picture more and more. I work all of the time on forgiving myself for falling victim to a manipulator set out to harm me because no matter how weak or stupid or morally inept I can ever tell myself that I was….all the very worst insults I can fling at myself….I never set out to harm anyone. My heart was always in the right place. And it still is.