I am including an article from NPR regarding former Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard, who not only was accused of the sexual abuse of minors, but also of covering up abuse in the Albany Diocese of which he had knowledge. He is now retired but is asking the Pope to remove him from the priesthood.
I don’t really know what this means for him legally. Bishop Hubbard says that he hopes, and he prays that one day before he dies, he will see his name cleared of all of these false allegations. To me that shows how out of touch he is with the situation.
He allowed the abuse to continue. He picked a side. He distanced himself from the abuse and the pain of those abused. Words don’t matter. He is responsible for the actions he took and failed to take when he was in charge.
He is not the sacrificial lamb. He covered up the crimes of his brothers (and sisters) and kept silent.
The recognition of the part bishops have played in covering up abuse is beginning to come under scrutiny a bit more these days. That is a good thing, because they surely know what is going on.
But is part of the reason they do not speak up because they too are afraid? About twenty years ago, there was a priest who tried to speak up about what was going on. Not so much about the abuse, but about how Bishop Hubbard was allowing homosexuality within the priesthood. Perhaps it wasn’t recognized as abuse at that time.
The priest was forced to sign a retraction and the next day, that priest was found dead. A victim, they say, of suicide. The thing I question now, is that about a week or so before that happened, that priest said a mass for another young man who had also committed suicide. I knew and worked with both of these people. Not closely, but we worked at a V.A. Hospital, where everyone knew everyone somehow or knew of someone…and nobody saw anything amiss with these two people before they died.
It makes me wonder now if the two deaths weren’t somehow connected. Had the young man who died a week or so before the hospital priest been a victim of sexual abuse in the past? Is it possible that one or both of them were victims of foul play?
Is it possible that those who live behind the church walls are coerced and threatened into silence as many of its victims are? Or are they just so adjusted to the order of things that they have a bent system of justice? Perhaps they have lied so many times that they believe their own lies to be the truth.
I don’t think this is the time to be discouraged. Things are beginning to move slowly in a more positive direction.
I recently watched a mini-series on Netflix called “Anatomy of a Scandal”. It really got me feeling some uncomfortable feelings.
If you have not seen “Anatomy of a Scandal”, here is a quote on something written by John DiLillo,
“Anatomy of a Scandal is pretty dark: It follows a prominent British politician whose marriage and career is threatened by a credible accusation of sexual assault. The show covers trauma, sexual harassment in the workplace and gendered double standards.“
I didn’t think I could sum it up better than that.
At the start of the series, we see a very happy well to do family. Then we find out that the husband had an affair with his assistant that lasted about six months…after which, he ended it, but the woman still had feelings for him. The man tells his wife about the affair, she forgives him and says everyone makes mistakes and all seems well enough as life goes on.
But then, a plot twist…the first of many. The assistant is now charging the husband and her ex-lover, with rape.
So, what is the first thing that we have been conditioned to think? A woman scorned, right?
What really struck me about this show is the realism. The relatability. We understand what went on in the mind of the victim. We get to understand what went on in the mind of the accused. We get to see the facts that the jury sees. And we get to experience the feelings of the wife as she sits at the trial of her husband and begins to fit pieces of a puzzle from their past together to come to her own conclusion.
The prosecuting attorney states that the accused and his assistant did indeed have sex in an elevator at work. This happened after he had broken off the affair. She willingly followed him onto the elevator. When he initiated a kiss, she willingly kissed him back. But then things changed. He became aggressive. There were bruises and torn clothes. She tried to push him away. She said no. He did not stop.
The victim took the stand and admitted that she loved the man. Admitted she had felt unhappy about the break-up. She admitted that when she followed him into the elevator and he kissed her, she had hopes that he had changed his mind and she was willing to resume their sexual relationship. But when he became forceful, she tried to push him away and told him, “Not here”. Instead, he bit her and ripped off her underwear and did not stop, all the while calling her a “prick tease”.
The man’s attorney stated that the two had sex in the building in which they worked before. Consensual sex. The attorney asked why all of a sudden was the woman shy about being caught? The attorney further stated that “Not here” did not mean “No”.
The man said that the woman lured him into the elevator. She had that look upon her face, he said. He said that she kissed him first and threw herself on him and that neither one of them said a word. He never heard her say anything. And he would certainly not use such language. If her underwear was ripped, he said, it was because she wore “an inadequate brand of underwear” and it must have happened in her haste to remove it. Furthermore, it was only a love bite, and he was not trying to hurt her. They knew each other well and he would never force himself on any woman.
The jury believes him, and he is set free. However, the verdict is particularly upsetting to the prosecuting attorney, who the wife feels looks a bit familiar. The wife goes to visit the attorney.
It turns out, in yet another twist, that they all used to go to college together. Back when the man and his wife were the beautiful people on campus and the lawyer was living her hippy style life with baggy clothes and unkempt hair and going by her maiden name. Of course, the big man on campus gets into some illegal stuff and upon running away from the cops in fear for his bright future, literally runs into our future lawyer, drunkly staggering home to her dorm after a party. Can you guess what happened?
Campus man aggressively makes out with future lawyer, she stops him and says she wants to leave, he pulls her back again and… pushes her against a wall, rips off her clothes, calls her a prick tease, then apologizes to her because he said he didn’t realize she was a virgin. Had he known that he would have taken a little more time.
He’s a charming guy.
Interesting thing, when the wife learns about this past rape and confronts her husband, he looks startled and shocked. Rape? No. I have never raped a woman. Sure, she seemed somewhat disappointed when I was done…figured that was because she was a virgin.
Now, I think the guy sincerely did not believe he had raped anyone. I think he felt entitled to whatever he wanted. Perhaps used to always getting what he wanted. Maybe he was used to women wanting him…I don’t know. But what struck me was his total inability to see beyond himself.
I know this was a fictional story based on a book, but it did have something important to say. The legal system looks at facts, but they do not have a psychological background. I think that many people abused as adults can relate to the thing that can screw you up emotionally and be used against you.
And that is…you can feel that you care about someone, you can feel that you love someone, you can feel that you were a part of, or allowed certain things to happen. But when your mind screamed “NO”, things changed, and you were not responsible for someone else’s behavior.
I think with my own story…I didn’t mind that we were friends or that he confided in me or flirted a bit with me…but the final couple of weeks where I felt painted into a corner…where I was told I had better get over my hesitation or else…things changed. But by that time, I felt that I had walked into the trap willingly. By the time I knew the truth, it was too late. And by then, I wasn’t sure what to do.
The same way the law has in some instances, may feel that if you were drinking, or if you went to someone’s apartment after a date, you wanted sex. And perhaps you did. And that can destroy you. Because you blame yourself then if someone becomes aggressive or does not respect your words if you say no, or your body language if you push them away, or you are raped because you passed out after drinking, or you feel threatened and coerced and forced.
But like the woman in the elevator in the tv show who became uncomfortable with what was happening and tried to put a stop to things by saying “Not here”…because she at that moment felt horrified that the elevator door would open or was horrified at the aggression in the man’s demeanor…we know that you can be raped by a partner, by a friend, a neighbor, a priest…and be less likely to be believed if it is someone you know or if you were with them willingly or if you had feelings for them.
And there are people who think they did nothing wrong and that their name should be cleared because they just cannot seem to grasp the hurt their actions or lack thereof, have caused others.
I hope you all had a very peaceful and tasty Thanksgiving if you celebrate the day. Our next Abused as Adults Meeting will be held Sunday December 4th. I have had a request to make the time earlier as those in other countries have to sleep. But I also have to run that decision/change by a couple of people. So, for now until you hear differently, the meeting will be from 4pm to 6pm EST on December 4th. Dorothy Small will be running the meeting.