Last week’s post stirred up some comments that brought about some deep contemplation on my part. I hope it did for you as well.
At some point, we all have to decide if we are going to act on our abuse. It’s a personal decision and one that is not entered into lightly. Rape victims may decide to go to the hospital and report what happened. Once there, they must endure once again feeling vulnerable. There may be pictures taken of injuries. And to be sure, there will be collection of evidence, which means, once again, they will need to be exposed and prodded and have their intimate body parts treated as a crime scene and lab specimen. They will tell their story and be retraumatized in doing so. They will be questioned and they will question themselves.
And then they will have to go on with their lives, with 90% of perpetrators never being caught or convicted.
I do believe things are starting to change. But each time we move forward, it is like sticking a pin through the seal of a box when we are stuck inside looking for air. We move, but we don’t see a whole lot of improvement right away. People are successful, but their stories still seem to fit within the 10%. There are still so many people living in the darkness…not only of their own minds, but just not knowing that what happened to them was not their fault. Not knowing that SNAP helps people who have been abused as adults as well as those abused as children. We are just getting started.
We aren’t supposed to give each other advice, but being human, we want to help, so it happens. I was told that there are other victims. That if I choose to proceed with my case against the diocese and this priest, that it will help others come forward. It was suggested that I read more about the things that have happened with other priests and bishops that were evil and shocking. Someone said that bishops will go on protecting their priests and that priests will go on being predators.
And then one person said that I had already told my story. That I didn’t need to retell it again.
Well, these comments made me think…a lot. I feel angry and I want to scream from the rooftops that it is very likely that the priest you know and like could be a predator, a con artist, a narcissist, a sociopath, a rapist, and a thief. I would like to yell at the top of my lungs that what these people are doing by covering things up is wrong….and illegal.
I knew that what I did not want to do was to dig in and read more about what priests are up to. I have never cared if priests have sexual urges or if they like to dress up in drag and do the Charleston in their free time or if they identify as homosexual or heterosexual. I do care, however, if they pursue those urges however they’d like with whomever they’d like, using the fact that they are priests and in close proximity to vulnerable people, to use that power to hurt those people just because they can and because they can get away with it.
It’s the people that have been hurt, and their stories that I want to know about and hear.
And so I thought about these things and I thought about what I wanted and I thought about the likely outcome of things and I thought about the relief I felt when I was told that I had already told my story and that perhaps I had done all I could for the time being as far as that was concerned.
I could not “win” with the priest. I could not get a straight answer. And when I finally did get a straight answer, I found I had very little choice. And I was right. When I was finally in front of Human Resources, and already hoisted up upon the stake, they outright blamed me, would not hear any other side of things, and treated the priest as a victim. They tossed the logs and the kindling at my feet. When I was told that my words would not remain confidential, and when my therapist told me that women are usually the aggressors and that I must have been searching for my father’s love or something or other…..I was just stuck up on that stake, waiting for someone to light a match. It was pretty clear that nobody was going to help me down. Not even my co-worker who at first was upset that he was going to get away with it and later changed to “I want to keep my job”.
And then I looked at how things had gone over the past year. The victim’s advocate was very nice to me. But it took me following up to get a Zoom appointment with the bishop. The bishop tried to minimize what had happened with the priest by asking me if this had not happened anywhere else I had worked. It was like he was saying, wasn’t I just making a big deal out of a guy being a guy? And then not hearing a word for six months and having to make the follow up myself. I doubt I would have ever heard anything and I don’t doubt they just wanted me to go away quietly.
And you might say…well, all the more reason to plunge ahead. They want you to go away. Think of everyone you will help if you do this.
Ahhh…not so fast. I thought some more. You see, all my life I have tried to “do the right thing” even if it meant it was the more difficult thing. Well, okay, not always, but 90% for me was doing what I thought was right. Maybe 85%. But it’s up there. You get the picture.
I’m far from perfect, but I tried. I got pregnant and had my child. I kept my child. I raised my child. I felt we needed to get away from my parents so I married his father. That didn’t work. I still needed my parents. Still needed to have them in my life. It worked out for my children. Me emotionally….ah. I did appreciate them being there. I knew my husband was not good with the kids. I knew I had to get away. I got away. My brother had one crisis after another. I tried to help my brother. I really didn’t. I just got involved in something that dragged me down. I guess I helped my parents through that time. I protected my kids from all of it. We moved out of my parents’ house. I knew I needed to grow up…get independent. It was a struggle. I am co-dependent. Being on my own brought a torrent of neurosis to the surface that I could not push back down.
I had tried to help my kids but found I could not help myself. I became agoraphobic. After a few years, we returned to my husband. I felt I had gone as far as I could at the time. I tried to help my son and his girlfriend when she got pregnant when they were 16. I had a friend whose son got a girl pregnant. She refused to acknowledge the child because her son and his girlfriend were not married. So she chose to never meet her grandchild. I felt I could not do that. My son’s girlfriend lived in a very bad section of town and her mother was on disability for psychiatric issues. Her mom was very abusive towards her. I didn’t feel that I could let go. So I didn’t I gave them money and diapers and furniture. I babysat all weekend every weekend. We were in court so many times with them….and her friends who were harassing us.
Today I feel like nothing I did matters. Neither my friend nor I see our grandchildren. The difference was hers was by choice. As far as I know, she has no regrets and they never had a problem.
When our youngest son ran off at the age of 19 and married a women of 27 who had two children she did not have custody of and who did not hold a job for longer than a month at a time, I would drive to my son’s job every day and drop off lunch so I could be sure that he got something to eat. When I worked two jobs to make ends meet when I was on my own after leaving my husband (again), I would bring the leftover food from the second job to my son’s house after my shift to be sure he had enough to eat. He was skin and bones.
When they both moved in my house and rented my apartment, and it was apparent that she was being emotionally abusive, I had her leave and I paid for her to stay at a motel for six weeks and wrote letters for her to the Department of Mental Health to let them know of the situation so they could get housing for her. I visited her when she got her own place.
My son ended up getting into another relationship that was similar to the last but now there is a baby involved. Sometimes life puts up walls and says “enough”.
Sometimes life says “enough” when you get cancer and when your mom tells you for the millionth time that she thought your brother was doing better so she gave him some money and he blew it all on drugs and hookers, and now she is upset and needs to talk to me about it so now it upsets me and I realize my part is being the emotional sponge in the family.
Sometimes life tells you “enough” when you realize that your entire life has been spent trying to help or save people and you haven’t really helped or saved anyone. Because you’ve never had the chance to help or save yourself.
And when I look at this situation with the priest and the diocese, you know….it was about someone seeing that in me…..that I never learned how to take care of and save myself. And I asked myself what I thought my odds were of having a pleasant experience and a victorious outcome in this situation where so far, what I have experienced has been nothing but trickery, hostility, victim blaming, lawyers calling it he said/she said, a bishop who downplayed things which brought up feelings of disrespect towards women once again, then them waiting for me to go away and in order to go forward, I have to once again repeat the story that has been laughed at, disbelieved, downplayed, and me having to go unrepresented…alone….against a diocesan review board.
And for the first time in my life, hearing that, hey, you have already told your story. Again and again. They aren’t listening. They don’t want to hear. Do I want to further traumatize myself by putting myself out there once again so they can destroy me again? Do I want to try to help people who may not want to be helped? May not want to be found? And is this the way to do that? By giving them the match so they can finally burn me at the stake?
Okay, I am not saying that I’m giving up. I’m just wondering if this is the smart thing to do. At least right now. And I’m thinking it’s not. I’m thinking that it is time that I do what any sane person would do and avoid that flame. I’ve already been burned. Oh, and I did make a report to the Attorney General but nothing came of that. The bishop said he had heard of no complaints against the good father. So there’s that too.
And this is not the only way of helping others. By not getting a settlement, I don’t have to sign anything with the diocese. I can be free to let go of these toxic people while being able to help the people I care about by continuing to spread the word.
And you know, I’ve got to say, most importantly, I need to think about what is right for myself first. I think if someone came forward, I would be then willing to go with them do follow through on the legal battle. But until then, I think I have already fought a battle. Perhaps I have made only a tiny pinprick in the fight for saving survivors. But I tried. And I have fought many battles.
Perhaps the time has come for me to put down my sword and pick up my pen. Preferably on a beach somewhere under an umbrella. Drinking one of those drinks with its own little umbrella.
Stay safe and healthy and take this week’s poll.