By SUSAN BLUM, guest writer for the YORK DAILY RECORD, March 11, 2016
The recent cover story on child sex abuse and the statute of limitations struck a raw nerve. Obviously, Gerald Grimaud must never have been a victim himself if he can state that “testimony becomes less trustworthy over time.”
I wonder if he remembers where he was and what he was doing when he heard the towers in New York went down? Don’t you? If older, don’t you remember what you were doing when you heard Kennedy was assassinated?
My violation was my own personal 9/11!
Why did I wait to speak up, knowing for 45 years I had been abused? Because of embarrassment (a child thinks it must be their fault). Because I thought I was the only one. Because I didn’t equate heavy fondling with molestation. (I thought you had to be raped to be violated and only told several people that “once someone tried to attack me.”)
It was only when I recently found out that there was another girl after me that I decided someone MUST be told and those that protected him held accountable. That was when I was able to connect the dots to understand the impact of the PTSD triggers that plagued me for all these years and start my recovery at Turning Point Counseling Center.
13 thoughts on “Abuse By Clergyman Was Her Own 9/11”
Wow! Can I relate. This June will be fifty five years since I was molested in the sacristy of the Church after serving Mass at the age of twelve .Back then nobody could or would believe that a priest would or could do such a thing. But they did. In the Church and school that I grew up in, we had two molesting priests. One was identified in one of Philadelphia Grand Jury reports. The other one, as far as I know was never accused. He died the year before the memories of the abuse came back to me. He was my abuser. For some time I questioned whether or not I was abused. He made me and the other boy undress before he spanked us while we lay across his lap .There was no penetration. I did not become aroused. But the effects of the abuse leave no doubt for me that it was definitely sexual abuse. This too was my 9/11. My entire life was altered by what happened to me that day .Although I consider myself a survivor,the effects will be with me til the day I die.
For those that forget their violation only to remember years later, I think of a friend who was in the World Trade Center. She escaped but has no memory of the time between getting to work and being on the sidewalk running for the ferry. The images of falling bodies is too much, but I fear the day they might return. Either way trauma is horror. The revolting penetration of a tongue through forced kissing leaves scars that can impact all future relationships. It is a mistake to discount the significance of any abuse. For some the video tape plays over and over and over. Others are just numb and don’t know why they are 1/2 alive
Fifty five years for Mr. Tucker, forty years for me and decades more for hundreds of other victims. Something that no one can fully understand unless you have experienced what we have been through and had to deal with. The nightmares, the cold sweats, the anxiety and depression.
I always knew later in life Fr. Hermley my abuser was a coward for what he did to me but I always thought he was a bigger coward for not finishing the job and allowing me to suffer all those years.
But I made it my goal that Fr. Hermley and the catholic church will not win. I will not let a dead man destroy me.
By now, I have very little patience for the ignorance of people who assume nothing happened unless abuse was reported near the time it happened. After 14 years of major stories about clergy abuse, open your eyes and ears, folks, and learn about reality.
A survivor I worked with to report abuse to law enforcement waited 45 years, mainly because the superior of her abuser (an OMI priest chaplain) told her to go to confession to him. She was asked to relay all that happened, and of course did so as a scared young adolescent. It felt like she was the sinner.
This religious superior had no damn business (pardon the mild language) making her confess anything to him. It was a ruse so that he could distort the secrecy of the confessional to make her swear she would never tell anybody of the abuse. That meant parents. counselors, police, anyone.
The perpetrator had been reported to the superior by a young relative of the victim, and he was looking to protect the reputation of the school and its clergy. That sworn promise never to tell plagued her for decades.
The intimidation and shame the victim experienced was a lifelong burden, until the publicity surrounding the Boston scandal helped her realize it was not her fault.
Thank you for your courage, Susan Blum, and may healing be fully yours from now on.
Carolyn Disco: I recently read a book entitled “The Dark Box: A secret History of Confession”. In his book, John Cornwell writes about how confession, especially confession for children and teenagers became a tool for priestly predators to find and abuse innocent children. He writes about how confession was changed in the early twentieth century to include very young children. Before that confession was targeted at older children past the age of puberty. I know as a child growing up in the Catholic Church confession was a very frightening experience .Recently .a young lady came forward to report that a priest had molested her after she confessed to having oral sex with her boyfriend. The priest had her perform the same thing on him Thankfully he is in jail right now. It is truly sad that a sacrament could be used as an instrument of sexual abuse.
Interesting Jim..and you are right it has been used as tool in abuse. Awful. I remember when one of our commenters told the story of waiting in line in a high school setting to go to confession to her abuser. I cannot imagine that feeling.
The one sliver of hope I have in all this is for this generation of kids who are more educated about abuse than we were..I am not putting that responsibility on the kids..it is our responsibility to keep them safe, but the kind of open and honest conversation we can have are so important. There was a priest we knew who recently passed away and a teacher mentioned his passing and my daughter spoke up and said that he was an abuser..which he was. Can you imagine that statement happening in a classroom years ago?
I have ONE good experience about confession. I was 15 when I told his pastor what Dolan had done to me over almost 2 years, then I marched right over to the church where he was hearing confession went in and told him I had just told his pastor what he had done to me. I then ran out threw myself on my bike and pedaled as fast as I could for fear he would come after me. I told the pastor I wanted him to get help. Six months later he was transferred to another parish!
Damn! You mean it took six months for the abuser to be removed from your parish, only to be transferred to another. There are no words. Where is the outrage on the part of Catholic laity??? One woman told me she was not so much angry as sad. What a pitiful, limp remark.
Rev. Vncent Twomey, English moral theologian:
“But the real cause – and it is frightening – is the lack of expected emotional response to reports about the abuse of children. Nowhere, as far as I can see, was there any expression of horror or outrage by those who were told. Horror and outrage are the natural passions of the good person which God gave us to ensure that we get up and do something in the face of injustice done to others.”
David Spotanski, vice chancellor under Bp Wilton Gregory in Belleviille, IL, 2/22/02, in a letter to Gregory, trying to get him to understand the impact of abuse:
““I have agonized over a way to help you comprehend the rage these atrocities have inspired in so many Catholic parents, including a graphic account of what’s alleged to have happened to some of the young people who have had the misfortune of meeting up with Law’s Geoghan and those like him.
But then I realized that without being able to imagine the teary-eyed, terrified, confused, misled, trusting, submissive face of your own cherished child in that rectory, automobile, or bedroom, you could no more grasp my anger at having three children who might be harmed by a repeatedly relocated alleged minister of the Gospel than I can understand the excruciating pain of those parents whose children actually have been.
And how dare any of us try to fully appreciate the lifelong emotional and physical agony of those of any age whom, when they were young, actually felt the pasty, horrible flesh of one of those wretched sons-of-bitches next to theirs!”
I doubt bishops will ever really absorb the reality. I’ve never heard any bishop even approximate the understanding Spotanski tried to impart.
Vicky: that fear that you mentioned was always there for those of us who lived through the abuse back in the sixties and seventies. For me there was fear everywhere. My parents raised their children in fear and not in love. Unfortunately that was pretty much the norm back then. I feared my parents, then went to Catholic School where I feared the nuns, who thought they could control us if we feared them. They taught us to fear God. Fear was pretty much the way of our parochial world. It is no wonder that we were not able to deal with the abuse. When Kathy mentions her daughter’s ability to state the truth about a priest who was an abuser in her classroom, I marvel. There is no way I could have done that. So we have come a very long way. Our children and grand children are at less risk now than they have ever been. They are still at risk ,but there is less risk Of course, the Church takes credit for that because of all those changes they have made. Those of us who were abused know better than that. They would have done absolutely nothing if pressure had not been applied by those of us who survived and those wonderful people who support us.
Jim, I have often brought up to my therapist the terror I felt that permeated my young life. You are so right, fear was all we knew under the umbrella of love! Fear of beatings from nuns, fear of being raped by priests, fear instilled in us every day at school and in church that this so called loving God would send us to hell for even unclean thoughts! Physical punishment was the norm for such small infractions or just child-like wonder. I hated my young life, just hated it wanted to end my life so many times before I hit 16. Almost succeeded but a girlfriend talked me out of it. I was so tired and so sad, life was so hard because I never felt any compassion from anyone, or kindness. Everything was either black or white, we were never taught that their are gray areas as well.
I am so glad you brought up that NOTHING would have been done by this institution if we the survivors had not lean on them to do the right thing. What shame that we, their victims had to to tell them how to protect children and…… it is a CRIME! I have said this so many times, they will meet the God of Justice as they breathe their last breath, mark my words!
Jim and Vicky the reason this generation of Catholic kids can speak about the abuse issue within the Church without the same fear is because of the victims/survivors speaking their truth. I am sure that sadly there are children still abused within the Church at present who remain silent with fear and that is tragic but the overall conversation has brought it out into the open because of all of you ! Each time the church pats themselves on the back in their press releases for all the “church” has done, I switch the word “church” for “victim/survivor” because it is all of you that have changed things for these kids.
Kathy, your last sentence…… I took my right hand and placed it over my heart. I had no hope as a child. Since 1993 I have been an advocate for survivors. I am so touched by people like yourself that continue to stand with us in the truth! I hold my heart while the tears well up in my eyes. I want so much for children to one day feel safe and to never, ever suffer the life-long trauma of sexual abuse!
A priest who treated a young relative of mine just terribly and banned him from a sacrament was later arrested for impersonating a 14 year old girl on the internet and child porn..Oh the satisfaction when I texted to tell him to turn on the news and see the pervert in handcuffs. That is the reality these kids grow up with.