The following was written by a survivor of sexual abuse to their Alma Mater upon asking for an update on their life since graduation:
I have a story I would like to share. I have never submitted any “news” for updating my classmates and I suppose its time. Please feel free to share it with the Class as you see fit.
I had a terrible tragedy occur while on campus. It happened in 1974.
I read about the lives of my classmates here. Marriages, children, grandchildren. Deaths. Trips. Vacations. Whole lives led and enjoyed. And I grieve.
I would like to share with the Class of ’77…my class…my terrible story. The sexual abuse that happened by a priest when I was a sophomore. The betrayal by the man, the counselor, the priest. I would like to tell you all about the betrayal by the Notre Dame Administration. The lack of love, the lack of Christ’s Spirit. The lack of holiness to be sure.
I have such a different view of Notre Dame now. And it’s too bad.
The priest hurt me, stole from me. Robbed me of the opportunity to build a life.
After the abuse my GPA went away. My friendships went away. I went away. I wanted to quit, but my father talked me into staying and finishing. I barely was able to get to classes and I certainly couldn’t focus any longer. My grades were good my freshman year. I thought I was headed to a medical school. But the abuse changed everything. Wrecked everything. My grades slipped. My friendships slipped.
No family for me. I wasn’t able to trust people (especially men and especially God). I kind of died that year. 1974. It was a mortal wound.
I told the administration about it. They didn’t want me there…I kind of forced the visit. I asked for another education, since the one that my parents and I had paid for didn’t really happen. (I got a WAY different education than what I had signed up for…and we were not wealthy people). My parents sacrificed to get me to that campus. And the love of Catholicism and God and Mary propelled (compelled?) my application.
I asked the University to put me through school again. Let me become a therapist and help others. Help me. Help me get the higher education I had been denied. That was stolen from me.
But “no”. There was no help at all. Only a resistance to accept any responsibility for the priest they had kept on campus. I DID get an “apology”. “We are sorry such a thing happened”. Or something along those lines. A “third person” apology. Hollow. Meaningless. Only meant to protect and deflect the institution. It was not made to me by the way…it was put into the press. I had an article in the Associated Press and they had hounded the University…and THAT is what made them finally agree to see and hear me. They had to be forced.
So, my life has been so hurt. Lots of “survival type” jobs. My first job after graduation was at a Howard Johnson’s at the Thruway entrance in my home town…as a short order cook. They didn’t want to hire a guy that had just graduated from the University of Notre Dame. I would never stay they said.
I spent years waiting table, tending bar. Delivering vehicles. No med school for me. No grad school. Not with THAT GPA. I tried, but I was too hurt. My self confidence and will to live…all shot. I now know that this is typical of sexual abuse victims. The effects of sexual abuse are staggering and actually life threatening.
So, I read about the Class of ’77 and I grieve. I hurt. All that didn’t happen in my life…that should have. I grieve a life I didn’t get. I had friends my first year there. Good people. That too dropped away. Again, perfectly normal for a victim of abuse. I had all the tell-tale signs. The depression and anxiety. The pain of it. The shame of it.
So, Ginger, please know that not everyone had it so lucky as you or most of the others.
Every time I read of a mission trip to some other country to help the needy…it hurts. And when I read about Notre Dame being so wonderful and humanitarian. Well…quite frankly…its bullshit. Maybe it is humanitarian where and when its handy. But it seems to me at least, that the “helping” is most advertised and performed when it can be used as image-building. Notre Dame most certainly hasn’t been “humanitarian” towards me. So much for “en loco parentis”.
Its to bad. The way Catholicism has gone. The way Catholic Institutions have gone. The way Notre Dame has gone. Such a shame. “Our Lady” would never have acted in such way. And Her Son never would have either.
So, well, I have a lot, lot more. Perhaps I could write a weekly of monthly update on the Clergy Sexual Abuse scandals. I could write about my experience and/or the experiences of other survivors. And I’m not kidding. It really would probably be helpful…to wake up. To see reality. If the Class would really like to do some helping…
A long time ago John Salveson came out with his story. He was an RA in Grace Hall…as was I…our senior year. I remember he wrote such a beautiful article and it was published in the Notre Dame Magazine. And when I went to the 40th Class reunion he was mentioned…kind of like a hero. Well, I would like the class to know, that I also took sex abuse from a priest…I just took so much longer to come to terms with it. I am a hero too. To survive such a thing is heroic. And I have been helping so many others. A true humanitarian. And I never even had to leave the country.
My friends from freshman year mostly became MDs and they travel and meet up and go to games. They are social. One goes to Africa to help the needy. I would have loved that life. To have so much extra…to be able to afford to not work and just go help others. Awesome. I never had that luxury.
The abuse put me on a whole different life trajectory. Didn’t it.
BTW, I love the way you write and you do an amazing job. I am not angry with you or anyone in the class. I wish all well. I wish you well. And I wish the University would reconsider and reimburse me for the education I did not get and for the life I did not live. So far, I am NOT happy with the Institution. At all.
So, there you have it. I don’t know how you could put this into the “Class of ’77 news”. But please feel free to do so. I am totally OK with that. It is all the truth after all.
Peace Ginger. Best to you and the Class of ’77.