Touched by the Sun

Last week’s poll showed that the thing that keeps most of us from telling our truth is the fear of public scrutiny.

I get that. I think most people get that. Think about what happens with kids on social media or anyone for that matter no matter how old when personal information or photos are exposed. You don’t want to be vulnerable again. You don’t want to be hurt again. The only control you have seems to be hiding and not going through all of that again on an even larger scale.

Since I’ve spoken with the bishop, I’ve been a bit paranoid. I get emails from people all of the time and occasionally things just don’t feel right for some reason and a spidey sense goes off. Such was the case where a gentleman wanted me to call him instead of email. When he got done telling me his story, he wanted to know something about me….how many kids did I have and was I planning to take legal action in my case. I felt vulnerable. I didn’t know this person. Yes, we are all connected in a sense and I don’t mind sharing if it helps other people, but to be directly asked by someone….I don’t know.

And it’s not about who is asking or the situation really….it is about a feeling. I’ve ignored or questioned feelings before. Not anymore. Well, I say that, but upbringing is hard to overcome. I was raised to be polite to everyone. And to smile. My mom tells me to smile even when I am video chatting with her.

Anyway, someone this week said that they didn’t think the priests actually knew what the outcome was for their victims. Perhaps if they could see the damage they have done, it would help open their eyes. Personally, I don’t think they care. And if they were shown the outcome, would somehow make it about themselves and their own “feelings”.

Have you ever lived with an alcoholic? Someone you know who has good in them somewhere, but as much as they seem to show remorse for something they’ve done and promise never to do such a thing again….do we really believe that will happen?

I think enablers do. I’m an enabler. I’m working on it. But I am.

But, perhaps it’s time to take a look at the fourth rule for dealing with a narcissist…and that is….

Don’t assume a narcissist cares.

And once again, I don’t diagnose people and I really don’t care whether or not someone is a textbook anything. I only know that when I look at these rules and apply them to my life, it makes sense in many cases, so….

Our “Narc” love bombs us. Praise, warmth, sensitivity, flirtation….making you feel warm and fuzzy and worthy of love…and we want to believe. I mean, we live in a gray world where the highlight of our day might be having good painting weather or being able to button our jeans. Or is that just me?

Anyway, although we say we don’t want drama in our lives, we do want that bit of color when it comes along. Doesn’t it feel good to be appreciated? To have a talent or your intelligence acknowledged? To have someone look into your eyes like you’re on a first date in high school again?

Pleasurable feelings that have been deeply buried because life sucks and I’ll never fall in love again….as someone else pointed out this week….we are pack animals. We are programmed to connect and to care and to touch and be touched by others.

And if we are “damaged” and unsure of what love is really supposed to look like, we can be tricked. Even when we think we know better. That is why older people are more vulnerable and are targeted by con artists….because they tend to be lonely.

I remember one night, sitting in a bar with a friend. I had a drink in front of me….the only one I planned to have as I was driving. She had been seeing a married man. A physically abusive married man to boot. She “knew better”, but was drawn to him for whatever reason. Usually they say it is because we fall in love in the beginning of the relationship, within the love bombing stage.

So this guy shows up. I am not thrilled as I know what he is and what he has done to my friend. But he brings all of us ladies a rose, and buys us a round of drinks. Okay, this guy I saw through….because I knew the backstory and because we were in a bar where you meet someone like this all the time. I didn’t touch the drink . I finished the one I had and left.

Again with my mom….when I told her what had happened, my mom told me I had been rude and since he had paid for the drink, I should have drunk it. My mom never hung out in bars without my dad. And she is….once again….a representative of a time…not so very long ago.

But back to “our Narc”. We’ve been love bombed by someone who has taken an oath to follow Jesus. Someone who knows the Ten Commandments and would not break them on purpose. Someone who can see into our soul and loves everyone as does God.

He’s not some guy in a bar. We know what that guy is after. This guy is pure. Sex for him only exists within a loving relationship…and marriage. There is no doubt that he cares.

Plus, I think that if we are damaged….and by that, I mean have had damage done to us and carried it with us….I think we tend to relate to the damage in others….or what we think we see.

Now, I’ve read that Narcissists are indeed very damaged people….and that they know how to put on a front very well. But I think we need to look at their damage as if it were ashes in the aftermath of a fire. There is nothing left inside. Nothing to give you. Nothing of substance exists within. They are empty and in need of taking from you. And take they will….until you feel like you are empty inside as well.

These are not just words on a page. There seem to be so many people in unbalanced or emotionally abusive relationships. Relationships that seemed so right at the beginning. Relationships that sometimes take many many years for people to figure out what is going on because they are too close to see the forest for the trees. Good people who empty people have sunk their hooks into and drain the life from. But I digress.

Logic can be an unwelcome intruder when it comes to having your love light lit and you feel passion stirring. But listen. We make mistakes and we always will. But value the love that you have to give. And try to bring more color into your life…not so easy right now….but try to bring the color to your life yourself. Enjoy being you.

Have a good week, and please take our poll.

Getting to Know You

Last week’s poll showed that the majority of people if they could, would go back to the year 1970 knowing what they know now. Wow, the mistakes I could have avoided if I could back.

This past week, I had an old acquaintance from high school post her support for Catholic priests on Facebook. Sometimes when I have posted things on Facebook…usually sharing a news article about the church….she has added words in support of priests to my post. This week, she posted something on her own saying how she supports priests and what good men they are.

I am not usually one to argue points with people, having found that most of the time, people who hold such staunch opinions are pretty closed-minded. But in this case, I said my piece. To her argument that priests are good men and that if anyone goes after them, they should also go after other religions and people, I said that abuse happens in all religions and wherever there is a chance for abuse of power. It also included abuse by nuns. I also said that there are support groups for different religions and that I speak to survivors of abuse all the time.

Her heated response to this was…and this is not a direct quote but rather an idea of what she said as she has since deleted her post….So what you are saying is that this can happen with anyone….even by the person who lives next door?

And that was followed by how she agreed that child abuse was never a good thing and that a nun she knew belonged in jail….although she didn’t specify why.

And this was followed by something that made no sense at all to me…..she said….Where were you when John Wayne Gacy was around?

I didn’t respond to that as I didn’t know what she wanted to me to do about John Wayne Gacy or how that had anything to do with survivors of clergy abuse, but it was clear that she feels strongly about priests being good men that are being unfairly targeted so…

What is sad is that I too felt that way….not that priests were being unfairly targeted…but that it wasn’t a big problem and that priests were basically good people. And feeling that way tends to allow predators to keep abusing. Because some people….I think many people…..feel that you just don’t go after priests because they do good work for God.

I told a friend of mine that I had spoken with the bishop and I have not heard a word back from her. She is the one who got me the job at the diocese. The reaction I get from people who have not been abused by a priest is that you keep quiet and you don’t speak up against the church.

And it seems like an impossible task….like throwing pebbles against a brick wall….trying to tell people what is going on and trying to seek justice….but I believe that each time you speak your truth, it is an intent, and an energy being sent out….and that is power. There is power in truth. You may not win your case, you may not see justice, you may not be believed, but I think you grow stronger within yourself.

And speaking of talking….I wanted to add here the third rule of dealing with a narcissist….and that is….TMI.

This is a tough one when it comes to clergy. When you have been raised Catholic….or any religion really….we look to our religious leaders for absolution and “spilling your guts” is all part of the plan. Seriously. Think about it.

From the time we are in first grade…six or seven years old…we are told to go tell a stranger in a dark booth what we have done wrong. And be honest now because God is watching and he knows all. I get the concept. We want to raise our kids to be accountable and to know right from wrong, but when you think about it….how vulnerable are you as a six year old going alone into a dark booth with a strange adult who you are told to trust unconditionally….with your “bad” thoughts and deeds?

And we continue to do this over our lives as our “bad” thoughts and deeds increase on the “sin” scale.

And having worked at the Tribunal, I saw people come talk to the priests and have to tell them personal details about their marriage so that canon law could determine whether the marriage was valid in the eyes of God. These people hear all of the details. Why? Because for some reason, we need approval from someone in order dissolve a marriage. We need the priest and the Roman Catholic court to tell us that it was okay and that we did the right thing. This marriage didn’t count. Your spouse did not fulfill God’s desire that you pro-create or did not fulfill their job as a spouse in some other ways and so God says that you were right and that you may now go on to marry in the church again.

And it is amazing how many people have their second or third church wedding before the ink is dry. So important is it that they can wear white or have grandma at the church.

It’s part of our upbringing that we fit into our role in the church. That we make our families happy and do things the “right” way. It brings order and security to our lives. Continuity and so many things our lives and the world are lacking. And so we open up. We confess. We have no boundaries when it comes to the clergy. There is no such thing as TMI (Too much information). Because we are encouraged to bare our souls.

We want to trust. There is a comfort in feeling that when you walk in the door of the church, the outside world disappears and you are in the presence of love. That when the priest dons his priestly garb, he is a professional who is held to a strict code of ethics. When we walk in that door feeling grief-stricken or suicidal, or in need of comfort and support and guidance, we should expect nothing else. What should not happen is that we find there someone who sees an opportunity to use that vulnerability against us and to further harm us.

So, while it is said that sharing too much information with a narcissist can be used against us in the long run, it goes against everything we have been taught to trust and believe.

It’s good to know because there are abusive narcissists everywhere in life and if you happen to be a kind, trusting, naive, open person, or someone who happens to appreciate someone who encourages you to open up and talk about yourself…..and who doesn’t like to talk about themselves….well, be aware that in all kinds of relationships, people can use your vulnerabilities against you. It’s a sad fact. And to me there is nothing sadder than the fact that you can’t always trust the people who you are supposed to be able to trust.

But also as they say “knowledge is power”. And so is truth.

Please take a moment to take our poll. And have a wonderful week.

Background Music

A lot of buttons are being pushed for me this week. First and most importantly, I guess, would be that I have a virtual meeting with the bishop coming up this Wednesday.

The fact that it is a virtual meeting is both good and not so good. I’m used to attending virtual SNAP meetings for one, and also, I don’t have to go into the diocese building after hours into the bishop’s suite to see him. I will be on home ground. I will be able to have notes in front of me and a strong drink if I so desire. And I can keep a bucket nearby in case I need that.

The not so good part is that I won’t be able to look around the room to be sure nobody else is there.

I don’t know who else has gone to see or talk with people at the diocese. I have to think about what I expect from the conversation if that is asked of me. I have to be ready also for the possibility of the Spanish Inquisition.

Victim shaming and blaming. Why did I do this? What didn’t I report that? What proof do I have? Do I realize how serious an accusation this is?

I think about my time spent in Human Resources and how anything that I said I was told would get back to the priest. And I thought about how he said he would kill me and how I could end up in the obituaries and how the social worker who worked with him ended up with his brains all over his car.

And how I was told that I was the danger. A dangerous woman. With the flash of an ankle, priests will be fainting in the pews in Rome. Who knows what else would happen if I stayed working in that diocese building? Total collapse of all of the bricks in the walls, most likely.

Yes, for sure, they were casting out sin and upholding purity when they walked me out of there and told me not to come back.

So, I am trying to take the time to get the facts together as I know them and I am going to expect that they will be asking me why I didn’t report him and why I seemed like I was going along with things.

Because, it took me so long not to feel like a very bad person.

Why? I am so ashamed and so embarrassed that I allowed myself to believe this man and that I made so many excuses for his behavior. And that I tried to protect him and to help him and that I thought that somehow, this whole thing was God’s plan because it was a priest and somehow maybe God was giving me an ultimate intimacy test or something. Help your fellow man. Be unselfish. No, that can’t be it….back and forth.

And I will tell you….I will tell you that supposedly he got many women to approach him and initiate sex with him. I don’t know how many, but I know he officiated at someone’s daughter’s wedding and then “got involved” with the mom. Don’t know any more details.

Knowing that I was not alone in being drawn in makes me feels somewhat better. Knowing that this has happened to many men and women makes it better because I felt I should have known better because I was not a child.

I was afraid. I was angry. I was physically exhausted. I was looking for my power in this situation with the priest. I felt that I was being coerced into being raped. I actually thought that to myself….I was being forced into performing a sexual act that I was not only extremely uncomfortable about…but I also felt that what he was doing to me was extremely degrading.

He had given me the choice of his office or my car. He said nobody goes to his apartment, and I was living with someone. Now, this was not a lover’s thing where it was that we are so hot for each other that we are going to find a bathroom stall or the back of a car or the corner of a building when nobody is around. This was a non-negotiable. And this was not romance.

So the night after he screamed at me to get out and I knew I would be fired if I didn’t comply, I sent him the email telling him that I would do what he wanted if he would meet me at a hotel.

It is because of this email that nobody will take my case. And it is because of this email that I was accused of being a danger to priests. And it is because of this email that I was fired, and almost ended up in psych lock up and ended up in the E.R. twice for physical ailments.

I realized after I had sent the email that I might be in more trouble with him than I had been before. I had told him that I was not going to be the only one taking a chance if he wanted what he wanted….because I could not just walk up to him and do it.

I thought in some way that I was taking my power back, but I only ended up thinking….what am I doing? This is just more humiliating. And again, I thought I could perhaps reason with him in some way to make this easier for me.

So, yes, I can be judged. You wanted this. What did you wear to work that turned Father on so much? You must have lingered in his office longer than you should have.

Basically…..what did I do and what didn’t I do? When the actual question should be….what did he do? What caused me to write this email? Why would they fired me and then tell me that I had chosen to resign? At the time, I thought they were just being kind. Now I feel they wanted to cover up their tracks.

So many layers of difficulty here. I was sinful for sending a “suggestive” email to a priest. I sexually harassed him. He could prosecute me. I must have been in love. He said that was a problem for him. I wish you could see his picture. You would laugh at the notion of women swooning for him.

In my own family I see the remnants of the old days affecting me. The days where what men do is excused (sorry guys…my family) and women are seen as having no say, no opinion, and no rights.

I was upset about family matters the last couple of weeks and was talking to my mom. And once again….this is a family thing but it does reflect the old believes…and beliefs that are still being clung to and affecting people today.

The topic was about grandchildren basically. In my family, besides me and my mother, it’s all guys. Cousin, brother, sons….guys. There is also alcoholism. That is something we call “relaxing with his friends”, or “he likes his beer”….never what it is. We don’t look it square in the eye. We make it prettier than it is.

My brother has three children by three different women. One child I knew for seven years before she was yanked out of our lives. The second one I got to see once or twice. By the third one, the relationship lasted until the child was about ten and he still sees her. That child has issues of her own.

Then we have my older son. Two children by two different women. My grandchildren. I had to take him to court in order to see my grand-daughter. The older one I got to see more often. Between the mother’s in all of these cases remarrying and wanting to cut ties and the fathers…issues….it has come down to the fact that my two grandchildren don’t talk to me and I have to accept that.

But something triggered an emotional reaction in me this weekend….as it does…it will flare up and the wound is opened, and then I go back to sleep with acceptance….but when I was talking to my mom about how I was upset, I felt that I was being blamed. And I also felt that I could not have an open conversation about it with son #1 because it was like walking on eggshells and I also…no matter what he has or has not done….do not want to hurt him….by basically pointing out the truth, really, but still

But I was raised this way, I realized. You do not poke the bear. You exist within chaos and it is your job to make sure that nobody has to talk about anything at the end of the day.

So, I hear my mother, as usual, tell me that everyone has problems, and that I should be happy for what I have, and that I have no idea what anyone else’s life is like and that the mother’s really gave my son a hard time seeing the kids and how about her? She has not seen her grandchildren. (Truth be told, she has at times refused invitations to see them and refused to go to court to get visitation)

So I said to my mom…..listen, I don’t need philosophy. I don’t need to hear you defend anyone else. I just need you to tell me that (what happened that day) must have hurt and that you are sorry that it happened to me because I am a good person and I don’t deserve that. I just need a verbal hug from my mom.

And my mom said….that’s up to you to do for yourself. And then she added….you are quite a hothead.

And it was in that moment that I realized basically that has been what I have been doing in my life. I have learned to live in chaotic situations with no emotional support, being told that I need to understand and excuse people who treat me badly. And to not acknowledge my feelings less I upset them.

And it is not my mom’s fault or anyone’s fault. it was the way I was raised and I didn’t know any better. And it was the way she was raised. And society and the church in many ways has supported a patriarchal system.

I remember growing up hearing that a woman should be a cook in the kitchen, a lady in the living room, and a whore in the bedroom.

My dad used to talk about how he had to hire woman for “men’s” jobs whether they were qualified or not.

My brother borrowed my parents’ car for a date one night. When my mom and I went to use the car, I saw something stuck to the passenger side door. It was a used condom. My parents said nothing. I came home after curfew. My father called me a slut.

I was told that the women was solely responsible for what happened between a man and a woman because a man “can’t help himself”.

I was watching “All in the Family”, a show that watching it now, shows a lot of what it was like in the 70’s….in one particular episode, Gloria laments to Mike that she fears if she gets a job, she won’t be able to keep the house for him as well as she should. This was less than 50 years ago.

I was also recently watching a show about serial killers. Well, predators, you know….and a specialist was saying that people are different now than they were 40 or 50 years ago. They are learning to be more cautious, less trusting and more vocal if something doesn’t feel right. So the thought is, that perhaps predators may find their work more difficult with that and with DNA evidence and people becoming more aware.

But we have a long way to go. A very long way. Kids have not stopped being abused at home. Abusive parents are still given custody. Incest still exists. Priests are still being moved around which now makes me suspicious.

Has our inner dialog changed much? Not as long as the public dialog is still saying that women aren’t supposed to enjoy sex, because if they do, then they must like rape….and if a woman enjoys attention, then she must then be responsible for letting a person with evil intentions get close to her.

And I hate making my mom the target here because she really is a lovely dog-loving, remarkable woman, but she has the beliefs with which she was raised.

She still does not believe that there is anything wrong going on inside the church….and is very concerned that with Covid, the church will run out of money.

She’s not alone in those beliefs. And she had not heard that the Catholic church was granted billions….yes, billions with a “B” dollars in Covid survival funds, before small businesses got their chance. I’m not political…just stating facts.

But anyway, my own inner dialog is what I need to rely on when I speak to the bishop this week. It is not a question about what I allowed or didn’t report or how I chose to handle the situation. I did not initiate the situation. I had no idea there was a situation other than a personal one, and really…what am I doing?

I. do. not. have. to. explain. myself.

I don’t. He knew exactly what he was doing…from the very beginning…to the day that I was fired….when like a mafia boss signaling it was time to make the hit….he emailed me saying he was getting into his car and was on his way back from the meeting he attended. Very strange email indeed. Until five minutes later when I got the call from H.R.

He knew what he was doing. And they probably already know about things he has done in the past. And they need to put this on record so it doesn’t get buried.

He’s the one who needs to be called out for his behavior and not allowed to continue to counsel people or work on the board of a college anymore.

My inner dialog…the background music of my life…..needs to be strong and supportive and filled with self love.

The results of last week’s poll said that most people thought that “maybe” a compliment sandwich would work with a difficult person. Please check below for this week’s poll and let your voice be heard.

Borderline

This past week I was reading more about Narcissists and those they are attracted to. Narcissists, I read, are attracted to empathic people and people who are co-dependent.

I know that I am both of those things and I am willing to bet many people who have been abused as adults are one or both as well.

Ever since I was abused by the priest, I began searching for answers. Other than being weak or stupid, and him just being a plain evil person who trapped people and coerced them and confused them….I couldn’t come up with a “why?” other than the fact that this had happened to me and to a couple of other people, according to himself.

But slowly, I began to both understand that not only was this not about me having a personal relationship with a dickwad, but that in fact, there were dickwads worldwide wearing priest collars who did this. And that they then slink back into their caves and giggle like little hyenas because they got away with it. And then they feel very smug and superior like a narcissist does.

I’m not diagnosing anyone or saying that all priests are narcissistic, but I did read a long time ago that priests are at the top of the list of those with narcissistic and sociopathic behavior. This is known. I’m not saying anything new.

The more I have read about the “attraction” between narcissists and empathetic or co-dependent people, the more it makes sense…..not only why me and what happened with me and the priest….but why I have been attracting people into my life who have taken advantage of the caretaking vibes I send out. Or as a woman who gave me an astrology reading earlier this year said….I have the word “victim” written on my forehead and people looking for someone like that would be attracted to me.

So….I also read that one of the first ways to protect yourself against those who would abuse your good nature….such as sociopaths and narcissists….is to have firm borders.

But before we get to borders and boundaries, let me remind you that the reason Narcs are attracted to you/me/us, is because they are looking for a supply of something…validation, money, sex, or something else. All of that love bombing that feels like a gentle rain from Heaven to someone who has been abused or somehow starved for attention or love? It has nothing to do with you. Nothing. Other than you are being seen for what you are willing to provide. You could be anyone. So if you are feeling loved and special and willing to give your heart to someone who needs you….please, question things. And run away. I know that it’s not easy. I know that it feels like you are walking away from your own life source. I know you need to feel love and that connection with someone who understands you and who makes you feel special. But please, run.

I once knew a guy….he knew how to use the words. He was exciting. A little bit naughty. But he also seemed like a good guy. I thought he was just a flirt.

So I was at his place one afternoon, sitting there talking to him, and he said to me….”I have broken up more couples than I can count”. And he was proud of that fact. He was interested in the chase and the challenge and once he was successful in breaking up a couple….and we are talking his friends here….ah…that’s just good old Bob. He’d back away and distance himself from the woman and hang out with his friend whose woman he seduced away and take no responsibility for the pain or heartbreak he had caused anyone. Just a game to him. I’m thinking it was an ego thing with him…..just to know that he was capable of doing it.

Boundaries, boarders, whatever you want to call them, are difficult to people who help others.

Does any of this sound familiar? Do you have a hard time saying no? Do you give in when someone becomes difficult? Do you volunteer to help out a lot? Are you the one who does the caretaking in your family? Do you give in to avoid an argument? Do you get anxious with conflict? Do you value being nice? Do you put other’s needs before your own? Do you feel a need to take care of other people?

If so, you are not alone. When I read that the co-dependent /narcissistic partnership happens often in marriages, and that the children raised within the family of this partnership often learn what they live and go on to recreate the same dynamic in their own adult relationships, it opened my eyes. I have wondered for years what it was that was creating so much dysfunction within my family. And within myself. I began to see why it was so very difficult to separate from my ex-husband and why my brother and my children follow along the same path, either picking someone abusive and controlling or having difficulties with alcoholism and insecurities and having difficulty being on their own.

Again, not being a therapist, I don’t have any answers. But I do know that knowing you have a problem is the first step in any problem.

Be aware. When someone seems to be love-bombing you, be aware. When you give in to avoid an argument because you are afraid of being alone. Be aware. If you feel guilty about not taking care of someone in your family, even if you know that means being put onto the front line of losing your own mental health and happiness, be aware.

Just become more aware of when you back off and allow someone to push you back, or whenever you do something that is not in your own best interest…..and I am not talking taking advantage of someone….you know the difference….I am talking about compromising your own physical health, money, happiness, mental health….or whatever it may be your are sacrificing….to allow someone else or a situation to push you over your borderline.

Just for this week….be aware of who pushes your boundaries and how you feel and react. Write it down. And if you have a minute, please take the poll.

Close to You

Ah, yes…..dating, romance, commitment, sex. Why does it look so easy for other people?

I was reading something this week….hypothetically…a woman (or man) walks into a room where there are 100 eligible people. Ninety-nine of these people are nice, emotionally healthy, self-supporting, sober, human beings. But this person picks the one that stands out to them. The one that resonates with them. The emotionally unhealthy, financially dependent, substance abuser. Does that sound familiar?

It does to me. I look back to high school and I see that I passed up a respectful, talented, kind person who took me out to dinners and movies for people with drinking problems or who were emotionally unavailable.

I see that now. Back then, I saw boring or exciting. I saw people whose shell I thought I could crack and people who I saw as needing saving. Needing me. I saw people who hurt me….people I pined over; I saw people whose affection I needed to pursue. If it didn’t hurt, I wasn’t love. I got that message from somewhere. I felt less-than so I gravitated towards people I felt would not expect a lot from a relationship. And drinking made what passed as getting close to someone much easier.

Fast forward many years later and I’m separated from my husband. For the first time in years, I’m out in the dating world. I’m thinking….I see where I made my mistakes. This time will be different.

I am going to find a nice man, I thought. I’m not going to go for excitement or for physical attraction. He just has to be a nice guy. It’s going to work this time. I can feel it. Now I know what I’m doing.

So I met a doctor at work. Older than me. Skinny. Not attractive. But he was respected where I worked. Had his own home. Had money. A good pick for my later years, I thought. I knew my parents would love him because he was a doctor, so that didn’t hurt either.

Well, things were fine until they weren’t. Slowly I began to see that while he was thrilled at being in a relationship, I needed to change to fit what he expected in a woman. He constantly talked about my weight and getting exercise and being healthy. At the time, I smoked. Not around him, but that didn’t matter. That needed to stop. Because he said so. Then his relatives showed up for Christmas. Did I mention he was Jewish? No reason for it to matter other than….I swear to God…his cousin brought up how she didn’t like to hang out with anyone who wasn’t Jewish. She really did. Also brought up with regularity was his ex-wife’s masters degree and how she had converted to Judaism during the course of their marriage.

But things really began to fall apart when I drove him to the airport for a work trip and then he called me from California and said that I should really be there because I would love it. Okay, this guy was a self-proclaimed millionaire. He only had to pay for my airfare if he wanted me to go with him. But that was not what was going on. One weekend, I just didn’t feel like spending the night. I paid for that the next time we began to get intimate. Yes, he actually told me….there will be no more of that…..until you show some enthusiasm for this relationship.

Okay, that was it for me. I know that people who hold up the bar for you to jump over, are trying to train you and each time you jump when they say jump, the bar goes a little bit higher.

What had gone wrong? I thought he was a nice guy. Instead, he was insecure and controlling.

The next guy I met I thought for sure was okay. He was a therapist. A veteran. He loved his daughter, who is such a sweetheart. He loved his dog. He said grace before meals. He like board games and watching movies. I’d bring my two dogs up and spend every weekend with him. He would get up early and walk the dogs when it was cold. Wow, I had met the man of my dreams.

Along the way, there were red flags. I pushed them aside because nobody is perfect, I’d say to myself.

Our first date, he asked me to meet me at a restaurant. I sat at a table and waited but he did not show up. Finally I ordered my meal and ate alone. Right after I had paid my bill and was finishing my soda, I get a phone call. He said….are you here? I’m so sorry…..work, traffic…blah blah blah. Oh, there you are….I’ll be right over. And he sat down, ordered himself a soda, and we talked like what had happened had not happened.

Until it happened again. He would ask to go to a family style restaurant and be detained so I would be sitting there alone waiting for an hour, expecting that the food would be paid for by the time he arrived to enjoy it. His lights were turned off and could I please help him out. He needed to get his daughter presents for Christmas, could I cover him until he got to an ATM? Once at the ATM, he found out he only had enough money to cover gas and dog food for the week.

Again, I kept telling myself…well, nobody is perfect….although I didn’t appreciate what was going on. So I tried to work on things with him. Whatever we do, whenever we spend money, he would cover a third and I would take care of two thirds. He worked two jobs and had child support payments. I kept telling myself that was the reason he was struggling.

But when he insisted that we go to a restaurant right after we had this discussion about payment….and he had picked the restaurant and a decently expensive dish….all of a sudden, I became the bad guy for asking for 1/3 of the cost.

That was it for me with him. I knew that if he wasn’t going to put effort into working with me, that money was not the issue and that nothing would ever change.

But what was wrong? Why was I picking dead end relationships? Was my judgement off? How was a person supposed to know what percentage of bad or incompatibility in a relationship was acceptable?

But nothing prepared me for what happened with the priest I worked for. I’m thinking that whatever was going wrong in previous relationships….whatever anyone picked up from on me as maybe being “moldable” or “able to be compliant” or “will pay all of my bills” was what drew the priest to me as well. Add to my niceness, naivety, stupidity….whatever you want to call it….there was always “but he’s a priest” and of course, there was the gaslighting as well that further added to the confusion.

And so that leaves me wondering if other people who have been abused as adults have experienced confusion as to what is acceptable in a relationship, or a hesitancy to confront unacceptable behavior until it piles up and becomes too much. I don’t remember going into the relationships I mentioned thinking about what I was going to get out of it as much as what I needed to do in order to make things work. How much I had to adjust to please the other person. And how little I asked. How much bad behavior I accepted or believed.

I have heard people abused as children talk about how that abuse has prevented a sense of normal to many of their romantic relationships.

But what do we, who have been abused as adults know about normal and actually good relationships? Is that one of the things that made us vulnerable?

I know that it made me vulnerable….that acceptance of behavior, that making of excuses, that meekness of being that is supposed to be valued as a Catholic, that putting someone else first, that not expecting for myself, that belief that no matter what, priests were safe.

I grew up in a time where Women’s Lib was an odd new thing. Marriage was still expected of you. You weren’t expected to have a “career”, except perhaps part time. The husband was still looked upon as the breadwinner and head of the house.

Things have changed but I think formative years live inside of you forever and it’s a constant emotional/logical battle as a grown-up. A priest’s word was never questioned. The pope was infallible. A good Catholic woman stayed married and did not seek a divorce or ever seek to date another man after that ring had been placed on her finger.

Women tempt men into sin. Men are not responsible for their actions. What did you expect you would deserve if you left your husband?

The emotional child who grew up listening to this is always there, and always wanting to come forward in emotional situations or when we feel vulnerable. Men will be men. You want to be in a relationship, you gotta accept that. (Apologies, guys)

Growing up and quieting that emotional child with logic and strength, and sometimes tears, they say is what growth is about.

But a priest can trigger that inner child. They have always been our leaders, the people we trust, and our safe haven. They are, in a sense, like our dads or a kindly uncle. Those priests who abuse seem to use the knowledge of our souls and vulnerabilities to break us down and whatever faults we see in them, we know we must trust and forgive. So the use of logic, which has helped us in other relationships when things didn’t feel right, is almost non-existent because this man is not a man. This man is of God.

I remember thinking at one point that perhaps God had sent me to help him through something. All the more believable because I wasn’t supposed to get the job but another woman had turned it down. It was fate. Had to be. God and gaslighting made me feel wrong for the logical thoughts I would think at times.

Now, I don’t blame God for what happened. But I blamed myself.

 

Cheek to Cheek

This past week I heard someone mention, “Turning the Other Cheek”. And I thought….what does that mean actually? Does it mean that if someone hurts you, it should be okay with you and that you should walk right back up to the person and allow them to hurt you again? Seriously?

And yet, isn’t that what we have been taught? To be a martyr? To suffer? To obey? To ask for nothing for ourselves? That the right thing to do is to love and forgive our neighbor all the time, every time?

Bullpoopy. That’s right, you heard me. Sorry for the strong language, but it couldn’t be helped.

Do we really think that we were brought into this world to learn to devalue ourselves and to let other people determine our value as far as how obedient we are to them or how self sacrificing or how much money we give our church?

In learning to turn the other cheek, we tend to think about it literally. Basically, if someone is pummeling you, let them pummel you some more and do nothing. That is what is generally seared into our brains. That reacting is wrong. Taking care of ourselves is the wrong thing to do. Instead, do nothing. Nothing at all. Allow it to happen. In fact, go back, give them another cheek and let them keep hitting you.

But what if all of this talk of offering an offending party another part of our face to beat to a pulp, this was just a metaphor for, say, empowerment. I mean, the saying is to turn the other cheek, not have someone else do it for you. The message is that in the case of turning the cheek, you are doing so willingly. You are not under duress and nobody is turning your head for you, so this is obviously not a case of abuse or having little or no control.

My feeling on this then is that you turn your cheek to someone when you choose not to let a situation escalate.

You are choosing not to swear at someone for taking a parking spot you wanted. Or your friendship with someone is more important than the fact that they forgot to include you in something.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t say anything to someone about your feelings. In fact, in a healthy relationship, stating your feelings about something shouldn’t be seen as a start to a fight. With someone you don’t know, you may choose not to say anything just to keep the peace.

I feel that when the whole thing with the cheek changes is when you don’t feel emotionally in control or if you feel you don’t have power over the situation. Then you are making a choice to comply out of duress.

I rarely feel the need to escalate the circumstances in which I find myself. My natural reaction is to shut down and go inside myself and try to fix things instead of confronting someone. I wonder how many of you do that….turn the other cheek in order not to be the source of things getting out of control. That’s where the table starts to turn from empowerment and mutual respect to fear and abuse and manipulation.

What is at the heart of that fear where you begin to find a disconnect between your emotions and your actions?

We disconnect because we want people to like us. We disconnect because we want to avoid feeling pain or discomfort. We disconnect and begin to lose ourselves because we go into fix mode, which is when we try to turn someone’s frown up-side down. We do it because we have learned to be the ones to hold everyone else together.

We begin to turn our cheek and in doing so, allow someone else to take our control and deliver a punch instead of a slap.

I find that I am more assertive when I am working for someone else’s well-being. For instance, I will take a behavior from someone that I won’t allow them to do to my children. (See ex-husband) I’m also more assertive if I am with someone who is not in authority or who I don’t know well.

Come with me here for a moment to this scenario….you are planning a party for someone. You make all of the plans….the time, the place, the setting, the food, the invites…you have done everything. Now, many people are going to be happy. about the party. These people will praise you. You will feel happy too.

Then you will hear from other people who have issues with something you’ve done. There are always going to be people with issues about something. I don’t eat meat. I can’t eat that late at night. I don’t dance. I’m not allowed out on Saturday nights. I can’t afford a gift.

So what do you do? You make sure there is a vegetarian selection, you get hors devours so people can take home their dinner and not go hungry, you don’t get a band or a DJ, you change the party to Friday night, you make gifts optional.

And then you have made more people happy. In a sense, you have made a sacrifice, allowed them to slap your cheek, offered them the other side, and you are happy because now these people think you are as wonderful as the first people thought you were. And because they are happy and heaping praise onto you, you are happy and enjoying a dose of endorphins flooding into your brain.

But then comes Grumpy Grant. Nobody pleases Grumpy Grant. But you are sure you will because…because it’s what you do. But Grumpy Grant ain’t buying none of it.

He will say things like…cheap party, why did I get my invitation after everyone else got theirs, I thought you were supposed to care about people, I see how you really are.

So what happens now? The difference here is that Grumpy Grant is not giving you problems you can take care of. He is basically attacking you and everything you are trying to do and tearing it down. How do you make him happy? Should you make him happy?

Did you see where the line got crossed? Will you still try to make Grumpy Grant happy to get a crumb of an endorphin from him if he is going to make you go home and cry when you try? Will you be giving him your other cheek and still have self-respect?

Well, the way I believe you turn the cheek and stay in control in this situation with Grumpy Grant, is that you make an attempt to see perhaps if he was having a bad day or if you are indeed trying to make it a happy party for all…and once you give that a try and have given him a chance….if you see that his agenda is that he is having more jollies being sadistic towards you than he will ever have at any party…..stop trying. Yes, you have allowed him to behave badly towards you. But you don’t need to get even. Sometimes peace is found by walking away.

Don’t beg someone or attempt to make them happy so that they will dole you out a crumb and snatch it back.

That is not what turning the other cheek is about. That is where your control ends and you have handed it over to them.

So I guess the point I am making here is perhaps there is a difference between allowing a slap and allowing being pummeled into a corner, which is never acceptable…..and that if a slap is truly a slap…that being something that is perhaps ignorant and not intentional…maybe it is better to let it go. To let it just slide off. Because you choose to do so. Not out of fear and not out of needing approval. But because you choose not to let the world get to you and let it shake up your inner serenity and strength.

I am saying that it is not only okay to like yourself and to value yourself…..I’m saying that your very life depends upon liking yourself. And I’m saying that you cannot make anyone else like you. That is on them.

Turning the other cheek should be a choice. As in I choose not to react or retaliate.

Turning the other cheek does not mean putting yourself in the line of fire and destruction from someone else and allowing them to destroy you.

It means to change what you are able to change. It means allowing from a place of strength and of choice. Not from a place of vulnerability where you have no power in the situation.

If you feel you have no power and no choice, then you are not turning the other cheek, you are being abused. In my opinion, there is a big difference and the two should not be confused.

If you are being abused, it is okay not to be abused. It is right for you not to be abused. It is wrong for you to be abused.

And if anyone tells you otherwise, or tries to use the bible as a means for their own end, get your cheeks the heck out of there.

Live and Learn

Healing has been a long journey. A life-long journey really. As I came out of the gaslight fog that I experienced with Father Jade (not real name…just initials), I had this painful, bright light shining in my eyes. It was shining directly on me and my flaws.

I still know that he initiated a game…..and one that he knew would end in my destruction one way or another. And he knew he had the advantage of being my boss and of being a priest in his “home court” where he would most likely be backed or believed…..or covered for. He also knew that the more attractive the job became to me by receiving more money and hours and leave time and by acting like the best boss in the world when it came to doling out rewards, the harder it would be for me to leave. Also by hiring a person I knew to work with me…someone who I admired…..and the nicer it became to work there and the happier I felt….the more he had to take from me.

But once again, why did he choose me and is there something about me that I could have changed so that I was less vulnerable to his trap?

I’m not one to challenge authority. And I’m not sure that doing so in this case would have helped much. Once he began to play his game, to challenge him or question him only raised anger and retribution. It may have helped to have said to him…”I am feeling very uncomfortable when you sit there and stare at me”. But perhaps not. In this case, though, am I trying to see if I would change the outcome? Perhaps I never had control over that. Perhaps I may have had to accept the unfair fact that he had the power to go to H.R. at any time and tell them that I was not working out. The fact that I knew it was unfair and why I was being let go would not have mattered at that point either as I would have known why I was being let go and I think I still would have felt that it was my fault for having been “insubordinate”. Perhaps the only control I had in that situation was acknowledging my own feelings and voicing them.

The fact that voicing my feelings may have had repercussions was something I could not control as I had no control over keeping my job in this situation. The only control I did have was saying how I felt…which I did not. At the time, I was not feeling in imminent danger of losing my job. It was more of a choice of not saying anything because as uncomfortable as it may have been to have my boss sit there and stare at me at my desk, saying anything at the time felt more uncomfortable for many reasons. Many layers.

Those layers included: questioning authority, acknowledging sexual feelings in a priest, risking an angry outburst, talking about feelings…which is a difficult thing to do for many people, fear of breaking the comfort bubble of denial, and perhaps fear of losing what I thought was his way of showing his affection or attraction. All of that plus it just feels really uncomfortable and wrong to talk to a priest about his own sexual feelings. The polite thing to do seems to be to ignore it.

Another thing that I tend to do is try to fix things for people. In my family, I have always been the go-between and the protector. When a family member was in the Emergency Room for a psychiatric evaluation, I was the one his friends contacted. I was the one the friends called to ask for advice when help was needed. I was the one who had to have my ex take our kids out of the house so I could break the news to other family members as to what was going on. But even simple things….family asks me about other family members instead of asking them directly so as not to “bother” them. I believe that when the priest showed anger and then switched back to “love”, I felt the need to do whatever was needed in order to fix things so that nothing got out of hand. I was used to being the responsible one.

I also tend to be a caregiver and take care of others before myself. I am living now with someone who I broke up with in 2014 because he is sick and cannot afford to move out. Obviously I have some boundary issues.

I also bought a two family house so my youngest son would have a place to live. When I couldn’t sell my other house, my oldest son and his friend moved in and I now get occasional rent payments.

I also have three rescue dogs over the age of ten. Okay the dogs I should keep.

But my point is, I tend to be a caretaker and I am not bragging. Care taking is not being “nice”. Care taking has got to be some kind of need to be needed issue.

And in looking at the issues above, the term that comes to mind is “Adult Child of an Alcoholic”. Because needing to fix and control and caring for and all of that is not healthy behavior. Not even just psychologically but what it does to you physically and spiritually.

This does in no way excuse what the priest did or what the Diocese further did to me. But it does show a vulnerability to a predator looking for someone to abuse.

What I have learned from the experience I had while working for the Diocese and being sexually harassed by Father Jade was that you can’t let your guard down and that you always have to be the one to protect yourself.

You need to love yourself. What you went through you went through because you are a good caring Christian person and that was used against you by those who taught you to be that way in the first place. So stop blaming yourself.

Don’t be afraid to lose the love and approval of others. Because if you need to compromise yourself in any way in order to keep that love and approval, that relationship is not worth it. You are better off alone. You know why? Because you are special and you need to get to nurture yourself and not expect anyone to love you more than you love yourself.

My first job after I was fired from the Diocese was (and still is) a part time job I found managing a medical office. At a time when my self confidence was at an all time low, I was picked out of 200 applicants for this job. I was so afraid they would find out I was fired. (Excuse me….I was told that I resigned….that was the word used) I had never been let go from a job and never under such humiliating circumstances.

On my way to work that first day, I told myself “You got this”. I have that friendly care taking thing going for me. I have worked in an office. My boss lives in another city and I am basically my own boss. I am willing to work hard and am reliable. It was a bittersweet victory. But life went on and so did I.

Trauma Response

Psychological abuse can be confusing. I am not a psychologist but through life experience I know about pushing unpleasant experiences inside and acting as if nothing happened so that the world does not know any secrets. I also know about feeling responsible for holding everything and everyone together so that things do not escalate and nobody gets hurt.

So when I write, I am writing from my own experience as it relates to the world. I have had people question my ability to have an opinion as I do not have a degree. One of these people was my ex-boss, the priest. He seemed to pride himself on his knowledge and superiority and therefore, if I expressed an opinion or a feeling, it was quickly squashed as rubbish as I did not have a psychological degree and so therefore everything I thought or felt had to be faulty. But it was just one of many maneuvers abusers use to undermine the victim from finding their own truth in a situation.

And when I would confront him about saying something that was disrespectful such as the fact that he would never take advice from a secretary….he would then deny ever saying such a thing.

And that is how things went with my boss….first there was such admiration and praise for my work, then the admiration became a little bolder and a bit flirty, then a bit naughty, then an all encompassing beaming love, followed by rejection, confusion, insults, anger, back to naughty and flirty, then denial, then anger again, then bolder statements and threats, apologies, promises of love, abuse of power, blatant demands and then total rejection. During that time, I was absorbing everything.

I grew up absorbing everything in my family. I didn’t react….I didn’t interfere….I just did as I was told so that I was not the cause of anything getting out of hand. I could not be the cause of any trouble as I had to make sure everyone else was okay. I was responsible for everyone’s feelings.

And so that response to feeling an outside instability put me back into a familiar mode of feeling responsible and absorbing all of the emotion and not causing any trouble to escalate. The familiar response to trauma. Be good. Go along. Do what you are told. Then nobody gets hurt and everything stays a secret.

Understand please that I believe there is a difference between blaming your parents and your upbringing for all of your problems and kind of handing off any of your responsibilities for your actions, and being responsible enough to try to understand how your upbringing brought you to your beliefs so that you can learn about how you are apt to fall into certain behavior patterns so you can do something about changing your patterns.

Because I believe that being the target of a predator priest opened my eyes to my own vulnerabilities for being targeted. I had said that doing what my boss wanted would have prevented many horrible things from happening. But I also knew that by doing what he wanted, I would be in a more precarious position of giving him more ammunition against me with more things that could cause me shame if it went public, as well as my constantly having to be catching onto his guessing games and being under pressure to get things right…and putting that before my own sense of self-respect. Things could also have escalated to more than one priest as this has been known to happen and my boss did tell his fellow priest that I was “fun”.

Once blackmail had set in, any number of things could have happened for my boss’ amusement and his delight at belittling me. I mean, anything. That’s scary. And I knew that. But being the people-pleaser that I had learned to be, I didn’t want to lose his approval of me. It was not just about losing my job. It was about losing what I had perceived as love and friendship and of being important to someone. And let us not forget those very strong and convincing brain chemicals that surge through our skulls when our love lights are shaken awake from their slumber and it just feels good to be alive. It feels horrible to have your heart broken….and to be deprived of the dopamine. I’m pretty sure that’s why after one particularly rough day at the office, I came home and poured myself a glass of wine and dug out the pack containing four cigarettes I had hidden away for about a year and a half since my cancer surgery…….because I needed to replace my low feelings with something that would give me a hit of a high once again…..and quickly. From one unhealthy habit to another.

Since I am not a psychologist, I will have to steal information from another source.

From 1994, The Present State of Sexual Harassment Law: Perpetuating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Sexually Harassed Women from Jennifer L. Vinciguerra…

It is said in this report that sexual harassment can cause PTSD, and that forcing a woman to explain her actions in reaction to sexual harassment can do further harm emotionally. It is also said within that a woman’s emotional reaction to sexual harassment can be similar to that of having been raped.

It is…and this is me saying this….a loss of power. It is being programmed to please and having it feel horrible wrong to do so.

I have worked for many years and during that time, I like many women, have experienced sexual advances in the workplace. I once had a drunk male employee call me from home to ask me out when I was about three months pregnant. I did tell H.R. about that and they told him not to do it again and he didn’t hold it against me.

Then there was the plumber that nobody wanted to call whenever there was an issue because he made us all feel really uncomfortable. I don’t even think sexual harassment was a thing when this happened as the man ended up passing away when I was 21 but up until that point, he would be all…honey, sweetie, let me give you a kiss…blah blah blah. I did tell my boss about him and I said I felt really uncomfortable around him. I was told to grow a thicker skin because that was just how he was and I should get used to it. But I was pretty young at the time and I didn’t appreciate some old guy grabbing me and slobbering on me.

I’ve had my butt groped, got a tongue in my ear, got a kiss full on the mouth from a supervisor when I was alone in the office with him, and was told by a co-worker that he wanted to make love to me. I also had a boss who used to make a big deal out of adjusting his pants and his belt and fly while standing in front of my desk and talking to me.

I didn’t report any of these things. I didn’t feel the need to write about any of these things. Because nobody told me that I had to do anything. There may have been an attempt or move or suggestion made, but nobody ever told me that if I wanted to pay my bills, feed my kids, or stay out of the obituaries, that I had better reciprocate. I was free to either slap their face and walk away or say nothing, or take them up on their offer. I did not feel trapped. And it was not done by someone I thought of as maybe I would a member of the family like you do with a priest.

I did react to the sexual harassment. The thing is, everything is not black and white. I was never comfortable around my boss, but I did not mind the flirtations and the jokes about getting me to marry him. At first I thought things were harmless. There was no physical contact and once I left the office, no other kind of contact. So at first, it was mainly what was happening in my head that caused the torture. The back and forth of the emotions and wondering what was going on and where it was leading….and the fact that I had developed feelings for a priest.

In fact, it was more like he was dangling the hint of something wonderful in front of me….only to snatch it away as punishment for not understanding. But done like a game….a cruel game…but one which made me feel somehow bound to him and protective of him.

So I was not being physically pinned up against the wall or beaten, but psychologically, I lived in fear of the loving approval being withdrawn and of being shunned and rejected by him. I felt this even after I was fired….the feeling of being punished by being banished by him and replaced by someone else. Seriously…..I felt jealous of being replaced by someone not because they got my job but because I was personally cast out and rejected. Later on when I began to heal and I began to realize what had happened, it became about the job and what had happened to me. But it scares me how he was able to get inside of my head like that.

Talking to other men and woman who have been abused as adults, I know that how I felt is understood. Some say that their priest was the love of their life. Some woman have given years of their life to these manipulative men.

But because I was not kicking and screaming and yelling “no!” and running to H.R., but rather because I tried to tell myself that I was the one being unreasonable and because he used the fact that I did not do what he said but sent him an email trying to reason with him and twisting it to say that I was the instigator…..well, I felt it was my fault what had happened. I felt stupid and dazed and nobody saw what had happened as something he did to me and so I believed that.

But in reality, what it was….was psychological and emotional abuse as well as sexual harassment…..and what I was experiencing…was a trauma response to his actions.

The Wolf in Priest’s Clothes

So, the tendency when you or anyone is around a priest is to respect the boundary of the collar. Father may play basketball with the kids and maybe be even really cool and have a beer at a picnic, but you might find that dad doesn’t swear when his team doesn’t make a touchdown and long ago packed away holy items may make a reappearance before Father comes to visit. Wherever a priest goes….so does church. And where there is church, there is church behavior.

We all know logically that there is a man underneath the priestly garb. But as long as the collar is there, we address him as “Father” or “Reverend” and he is automatically elevated to the status of teacher, judge, grantor, chosen one, most holy, deliverer of penance, and one bestowed of power beyond that of the average man. And as much as we tell ourselves that he is just a man like everyone else, we have been trained to react differently to a priest. Automatic respect, turn the other cheek and do your penance is ingrained when around a man of the cloth. There is a wall there that logic can’t cross. We know there is a man under there somewhere, but one that is different and one at whom we don’t want to look at too closely or personally.

I’ve always thought of priests as asexual or married to God, with a shield around them that anything sexual bounces off. As far as their personal life outside the public eye, I figured they read the bible, prayed, went to mass, discussed God with other priests, watched G rated movies and family shows, and probably collected stamps or photographed nature. Maybe they honed up on their singing skills. That would be in between writing sermons, visiting the sick and elderly and saying mass, of course.

Like I said, we don’t want to look to close. If there is sex going on, they are probably masturbating or perhaps they have a more personal relationship with another priest. Maybe they have a secret girlfriend. Some cause for gossip but out of respect, it is not recognized publicly. Or perhaps we don’t want to acknowledge anything that may alter our perfect image of a pure priest.

In any case, the average parishioner’s knowledge and curiosity about the existence of a priest’s sex life tends to end at the door of the rectory. Don’t want to know and don’t want to talk about it.

Unfortunately some people do get to see what goes on behind that door. I say “unfortunately” because what is found on the other side can be creepy, dishonest, illegal, disrespectful, hurtful and downright horrifying. And since people who go beyond that door only know that priests equal love and Jesus, they may go there innocently and without fear….as a sheep would follow a wolf who appeared to be the shepherd.

On the contrary, they expect to be treated with love and kindness. They expect to be recognized for the beauty that lies within their souls. They expect to be held warmly within the walls of what is the heart of the church.

But for many people…..most I think, what they find on the other side is the reality of what is the sex life of a priest. Much of it is mucked up with confusion and blame, but the reality is not a love affair. It’s finding out you are one of many people being used and strung along, or being taken advantage of at a vulnerable time in your life, or raped, or coerced into being at his beck and call for him or perhaps for him and his friends like a prostitute. This is sometimes accomplished with threats and the use of power, control and blackmail.

It’s not as romantic as they would like you to believe when the door has closed behind you and you are being enticed to go further.

But you see, it’s not just cut and dried either. Predator priests can be skilled manipulators. And it takes time….sometimes a long time…..for an adult victim to understand that they most likely are not the priest’s “first” and are only special in what they can do for him, not for who they are.

It can be extremely difficult to realize you have gone behind the door where few fear to tread, only to realize that there will be no love or comfort found here. To put it bluntly, you are simply a hand job or an orifice. And once you begin to see things for what they really are, that you are an unpaid sex worker, do not expect a sincere apology from anyone.

Expect to be shunned and ignored and not believed. Because nobody really wants to hear about it and nobody wants their perfect version of reality tarnished. Basically, you are seen as the person who is at fault. Because it’s easier that way. Less messy. Less changes have to be made. Nobody likes change. Stick with the majority. It’s only sex. Just a little sin. Wink, wink. So he was getting a piece of ass….who was he hurting? He’s a man after all. Women are the temptresses. Victim shaming still alive and unwell. The victim is victimized once again.

The priest can hide behind his vows and, of course, sin. Temptation. It’s weakness, not a crime. He’s certainly not a dangerous narcissistic psychopath who should not be around unsuspecting and trusting children and adults. Because, God help us if he is and and we prefer not to speak up but instead allow this wolf to continue to disguise himself and hurt others. God help us if we choose to look the other way because it feels less messy.

Finding your way through gaslight

I recently talked to a woman who is right now in the middle of what I call “the game”. It was difficult for me to listen to her because I saw a lot of myself in her and I didn’t like to see that side of me so clearly. It hurts. It is very painful. It’s hard for me to bite my tongue and let her talk through things.

She is in denial. And she is going through a maze of thoughts and feelings. She cannot see what is going on.

I had people question me how I had still had feelings….or rather thought I had feelings, for someone when they were abusive. For me, it was as if someone was trying to tell me that grass was never green and the sky was never blue. It just took a long long time to be able to process that information.

During the time that I was going through my abusive relationship with my boss, the Reverend Father, I thought I knew what was going on…at first.

I did my research…on-line. Being a priest gets lonely. They perform a wedding and see a loving couple and extended family and a joyful occasion…..and they leave and go home alone to a quiet and empty place they call home. It is not uncommon for a priest to have a girlfriend, I read, especially as they near retirement and face spending the rest of their lives on their porch with a single rocking chair. They may flirt harmlessly. A clever little line here or there all in good fun with the housekeeper or the woman who sings in church on Sunday.

It was this logic that gave me feelings of sympathy and understanding of my boss as a man and not just a priest.

So when his behavior became slightly risque and he joked about me needing to do more than buy him fancy post it notes to butter him up, I laughed. And most importantly, when he was joking around, he was not yelling at me…..so I felt both safe with his behavior and secure in my job. And that felt good.

With grooming, behavior that can create discomfort is increased or mixed with other behaviors that cause pleasure. Mixed in with the insistence of walking behind me up the stairs, or of watching me walk down the hallway, was also a bit of what seemed like adolescent nervousness which I thought was cute in a way. I brushed off my warning bells by telling myself he was just inexperienced and I had to be kind to him so as not to hurt him.

And the more I accepted the behavior as it increased and laughed or joked with him despite pushing aside the things he did that made me uncomfortable, the more complicit I became in our little secret. He had picked me. I was his special friend that he trusted. And giving my loyalty to protect him meant even more because he was a priest. Not only because he was a human being….I thought…showing feelings….and who could blame him for that, right? But because betraying him in any way was betraying God.

Oh, come on…..you know that I’m right. We all know that priests are not God…..but they work for Him. He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows when you’ve been bad or good…..and He’ll know if you betray one of His own.

Well, that’s about as far as most people get. Acknowledging that priests are people too. Cool Father Joe plays basketball with the kids and has a beer with the dads afterward. Well, you know he must have, you know, those feelings….but we don’t discuss things like sex or swear in front of him. He’s not THAT human, after all. Oh, is it his birthday, make sure you get him the birthday card with the nun on it….I’m sure he will love that…..

So most people…..including most people who are groomed, acknowledge somewhat that priests are human beings with human feelings…..they just don’t want to be around if any of those feelings go off. Or be responsible for setting those feelings off.

Oh…unless God says it’s okay. That’s a big loophole, you see. Sometimes God sends the priest messages that they should spend extra time with people or, you know….things done under the religious tent make it okay to, you know, hug or be alone with a person so they can save their soul and such.

And if the priest himself does not say that, the victim begins to rationalize that it must be okay with God. The woman I spoke to said her priest got a message from God to help her. I myself questioned why God had given me this person in my path and was sex somehow what God wanted? Was I supposed to be learning something about love with this man or helping him not feel alone or allowing myself to be more vulnerable?

But you see, before these questions arose, just when things were going well and life was good and I got a raise and more hours and could earn leave and was really enjoying my job and getting along with my boss…..the lights started to go dim.

Just like with this other woman who is being bombarded with questions about sin and who is to blame in her situation, my situation went from heavy flirtation and teasing about a party on his day off to screaming at me, and I was asked if I was unable to comprehend a simple office game, and he could never understand where I was getting my ideas or how could I even mouth the words that made him feel so uncomfortable? And I began to doubt everything. I mean everything. I would stop all contact except what was needed from him in order to do my job and find that when I tried to ignore him, he would be in my face, seeking attention and validation. If he did not get what he needed, he would begin to threaten me in subtle underhanded ways. He would begin to act unusual so that co-workers would notice and they would come to me and ask why he seemed to be changing when it came to his faith. I would get emails and bible references about sinful women in the bible tempting men to do bad things from his other priest friends.

If I said I felt threatened, he would tell me I was not allowed to ever talk about his behavior and that I must be obedient. So I’m thinking he’s quirky and what the heck we only work together. Total denial. If someone had told me he was dangerous, or to run as far and as fast as I could…..I wouldn’t have believed that a priest could be dangerous….the word was quirky folks…..I could handle this…..

I have to say here…..please people, priest or not…..if you feel you need to fix things for someone or you find yourself making excuses for their behavior….for whatever reason….or the big one…..you feel you need to talk things out so you can understand because not knowing is driving you crazy…..or if you say things are bad but it cannot be the other person…..I don’t care if you share an appendage at that point in time……this is not a good situation and the answer is not going to be something you want to hear…..that is, if you ever get an answer. Walk away. Don’t try to help or fix or rationalize.

When you’ve gone passed the grooming and the denial and you have reached the stage where they are flat out denying what they said and all you know that seems right and makes sense is doing whatever it takes to keep the person happy….which could change daily…..so that there is a semblence of peace in your existence…….know that you are now trying to read the rules by gaslight…..and that is impossible.

You are now getting into very dangerous territory…….and the most dangerous part about this territory is that you feel responsible for being there because your head is now in a smoke filled haze of words that surround you but can dissipate as soon as the next breeze comes through.

You are not weak. You are not stupid. You are probably a very decent person. But you have been brainwashed by a very effective technique called gaslighting.