Happy New Year Everyone
A topic of discussion this past week was…where would we be if we had not found SNAP?
I had to think for a moment as to where I was emotionally five years ago. I was blaming myself for sure. I couldn’t find any reason not to blame myself. At my boss’ most unpleasant times and most threatening behavior, I was making excuses for him. He was angry and fearful and questioning his celibacy and his feelings of sexuality and attraction and love…or so I thought. And I needed to help him.
Part of the reason I needed to help Father Jade (not his real name but rather made up from his first and last initials), was because I sensed a tsunami of emotion inside of him. And I feared all of that energy turning against me. But as a woman within the walls of the Catholic church…literally…I knew that I would be held responsible for his impure thoughts and reactions.
Part of me also feared an eruption of emotion causing questions at the office…and it already had. My “training” along with the praise and the love which was the grooming, consisted of me learning that my actions or lack of actions created different reactions in my boss. So that I began to feel that my actions were responsible and not him.
I knew my job was in jeopardy, and perhaps my life, or the life of those I cared about. I was never sure how huge or powerful that tsunami was capable of becoming.
I certainly believe that he wanted to rip away my confidence to the point where I would do whatever he wanted in order to avoid catastrophe. And when it was “over,” of course, it was not over. I came out of it feeling lower than dirt and I also had to deal with the fact that I had sent him two emails trying to reason with him without sounding threatening to him and of course, that left a trail of evidence against me just enough where he could say he felt unsafe and was the victim.
So, in addition to feeling devasted for losing my job, confused as to what had just happened, shamed by Human Resources for being unsafe around priests, and afraid that he might still come after me and nobody would believe me, I also felt that I did not deserve to be in the world around good people.
But something inside me still felt that this was utter nonsense. This couldn’t possibly have been something that only happened to me.
So, I began to search on-line, and I found SNAP. And once I found SNAP, I began to search for a story that was similar to mine. But I could find none.
I was told that what happened was not my fault, but I was still not convinced because I still had not found anyone else who had been abused by Fr. Jade, or had lost their job, or was abused in my area as an adult. I couldn’t find another “me”.
But in finding SNAP when I did, I began to question whether or not things were my fault. And that took a long time to get over. I still have not found another person abused in my area as an adult by Fr. Jade, or anyone who shares my exact same story, but I have found many, many adults with stories of their own in diocese all over the country…and all over the world.
And in getting to know these other survivors and hearing their stories, I found that I was able to begin to talk about my story and open up more and more and even get to the parts of which I was most ashamed and felt nobody else would understand. I found understanding.
I learned about gaslighting and grooming and Narcissists and enablers and Stockholm syndrome and how sexual harassment is really a big deal emotionally. I learned about church coverups and how widespread abuse is and how adults are abused as much as, or even more than children by church leaders.
I’ve also learned a lot about myself and what made him target me and what made me more vulnerable. And I’ve learned a bit about making myself less vulnerable to predators.
I think eventually I would have moved on past what happened. But without SNAP, I would not have been told when I needed to hear it most that what happened was not my fault. Without SNAP, I would not have been able to walk into a room full of survivors and began to understand the number of people affected by the abuse that has gone on within the church. Without SNAP, I would not have found a supportive community of people who get what I say without judgment and who get it because they too have been there.
With SNAP, I feel that I have not only begun to heal from the abuse, but that I have also grown as a person because of the support that I have received.
I truly am thankful that this group is there to help pick up the pieces left behind. SNAP has helped me and thousands like me find their voice. And I believe that is where healing truly begins.
I was watching a documentary this week that said how we are all connected energetically and what one person does can have a ripple effect onto others. But before we give our power away by focusing on what others have done to us or how bad the world can be, it is said that our power to change things in the world lies in our thoughts, our intentions, our actions, and in what we create.
We have the power to send light out into the world by creating calm and loving thoughts and images in our heads and on paper or in creative mediums.
We also find peace in being true to ourselves and finding our own voice despite what the world may do. Here’s hoping to a wonderful New Year for everyone.