A few years back, a close family friend asked me to do some modeling. He’d signed up for a photography class at a local college. I was happy to help out and was flattered that someone would want me as a subject. We met to go over details. He brought along albums given to him to use as a guide. They were filled with photos of women in dresses. He referred to some of the dresses as nightwear – long, slip-like gowns. He offered to supply the clothes, if I didn’t own what was needed. We also went over how my makeup and hair should look. I would see the proofs prior to his handing in assignments and, after he was graded, the prints and negatives would be given to me.
Our first photo session was at my home. Sit this way. Turn that way. Smile. I’d change into a new outfit and repeat the poses. It was simple but exhausting. After three hours, I hoped this was the only and last session. But he needed more photos for class. The shoots continued on weekends.
He called to say a friend’s newly-painted house would be a great place to take photos. I was more comfortable in my own home and reluctant. He must have sensed my hesitation, because he began offering reasons for me to say yes. “I’ll bring sandwiches.” “Don’t worry I have the clothes and everything set up there.”
Everything went as promised. After eating our lunch, he showed me that the clothing I was to wear was neatly hung in the bedroom closet. We started taking pictures in the basement, then on the steps and ended up in the bedroom. Then, he handed me “nightwear” to put on. But this wasn’t a long slip dress like I’d seen in the albums. It was a green slip that barely reached mid-thigh. I felt like a deer in headlights. Robotically, I walked to the bathroom and put it on. With camera in hand, he met me in the bedroom. First, he had me stand by the bed post. Then, he had me pose on the bed. He must have realized he’d pushed me too far and said we’re done for the day. Still in shock, I went home.
Unsure of how to handle what happened and what I was feeling, I made an appointment with a therapist. That sick feeling in my stomach was validated when my therapist explained that the photo sessions were totally inappropriate. There was no photography class with homework like this. Any nagging feelings I’d pushed aside seemed obvious now. How could I have been so naive? I began questioning everything. Who else saw the photos? Why me? Who were those other women?
There’s something else you need to know about my family friend. He is a priest. He was the one I confessed my sins to, the one who married me and baptized my child.
He’d been “grooming” me for several years. This was a carefully calculated plan to build and take advantage of my faith and trust. By treating me to meals, giving me presents and always going beyond the expected, he’d paved the way for my cooperation in his abuse.
He knew exactly how to manipulate me. I’d always been a giver and felt I owed him my help. Wasn’t I obligated? People may read this and question my reactions instead of his actions. But they should know it can happen to anyone – at any age. In writing this, I hope to give a voice to others – especially those other unnamed women in the photo albums.
Note from the editors:
As the #MeToo movement emerges, people are learning that sexual abusers aren’t usually strangers threatening with guns or knives. They are friends, family or bosses who wield psychological weapons with just as much force. If it’s still difficult to understand how the story above could happen to an adult, consider the following:
- Many people have a driving desire to help others and meet obligations – even when it’s at one’s own expense. You’ve probably heard the term “people pleasers.” Have you ever pushed down your own discomfort because you didn’t want another person to feel uncomfortable? Have you ever felt guilty saying no to a request?
- Do you believe there are people who take advantage of others for their own personal gain or satisfaction. “The Sociopath Next Door,” a New York Times bestseller, reveals that 4% of people are conscienceless sociopaths. Have you watched an otherwise “smart person” fall for manipulation? Can this rise to a criminal level? Yes, of course.
Put one and two together and that equals an opportunity for abuse, at any age and in any situation. What can you do? Demand better laws and support for victims. One victim shared that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia only offers six months of counseling for victims who suffered clerical abuse as adults. Surely, they can and should do more.
17 thoughts on “Photography Lesson: Developing from the Negative”
Certainly what he did was wrong, but so were you. Take some responsibility for your actions. Would you have done this with any male friend? Did you ever tell your husband what you were doing? If you were under 18, I’d say it was an evil man taking advantage of youth. However, you were an adult, and married. You should have said “No” at the start.
Mike, Your reaction is exactly what the author expected and is one of the reasons for her anonymity. I can appreciate your struggle in understanding how this can happen to an adult. She was in her early 20s. It was specifically because this friend was a priest, whom she trusted, that she and family felt comfortable. And the photo sessions were at her home until the final one. Because this victim isn’t a professional writer, it’s a challenge to convey the complexities. I think this is true with most victim accounts. Which is why those of us who aren’t victims have to listen with open minds, ask questions without judgment and help with the message.
Mark,having spoken with this women at length I can answer your question. If Flash photo Father had suggested she meet him at Motel 6 and bring a sexy slip, that answer would have been a resounding NO. This was a situation that started as a favor,fully dressed ,in her own home, support of family, with a priest who was a trusted family friend. Top that off with the belief that at one time many thought of priests as asexual.
Mark, people don’t want to think bad things of each other,especially priests ,which is why the situation is ripe for many types of clerical abuse. Even when priests break the rules, you are told it was not what you might think…stay tuned for the next post and that mentality might be made clearer to you.
I understand the confusion that can come from a short blog post trying to explain a complicated situation.
Sorry Mike, just noticed I called you Mark by mistake
Hi Kathy, that’s OK! I’m starting to see how this could happen, especially if you were raised to think priests were perfect, holy, servants of God (I wasn’t!!). I don’t understand how someone could be that trusting, but if you were raised that way from a child it would be natural.
Mike people who grow up in the Catholic Church are engulfed in the Religion and its rules from the day they are born. Especially those who attended Catholic Schools from the 1950’s-1990’s. Those of us who attended Catholic Schools lived, breathed and, had Catholicism rammed down our throats 6 Days a Week 9 Months a year. These predator priests know this and use their positions of Power to first Mentally Groom/Abuse and then Finally Physically abuse. Its a Sick game/cycle that they unfortunately most of the time win without any consequences due to our archaic SOL Laws. This priest was so embedded in this woman’s life he had complete mental/spiritual control over her. This guy is a sexual predator but, just so happens to be a priest. Replace “Priest” with Politician, Government Official or, Hollywood Big Wig you would have the same scenario. So to say this woman did wrong in this situation is just Ludicrous.
I also went to catholic school in the 60’s, right through college. I didn’t think priests were anything special; at best I thought many were gay and pompous. As a young adult I knew some of the normal ones were chasing women, but didn’t realize how abusive they could act. However, a good priest has no place doing glamor photo shoots with a woman and she should have sensed that this was wrong. An married adult woman should have known that posing in skimpy nightgowns, alone, was wrong no matter who was holding the camera. Certainly the priest was a POS and should be removed, but she should have known better, especially when it came to nightgowns in a bedroom.
Mike there is a company called Glamour Shots that women can go to and have their photos taken. It could not be more black and white that when you go there you will have your picture taken,possibly in skimpy attire if you wish Then there is this case of a priest pretending to have a photography project so he can trick a young woman into thinking she is helping him with a class project and the situation escalates from totally innocent to being in a house alone and being handed a negligee type outfit . This woman’s entire reason for writing this post is a cautionary tale. This was not a good priest taking glamour shots and the woman decribes being a deer in the headlights …I am thinking you have completely missed her point and that’s okay. I do agree that a priest doing this should be removed..absolutely with you on that.
This report is very disturbing to read. It shows how we must be on guard at all times,
We must have the SOL removed for sexual abuse. Interesting that some of the key legislators who opposed the previous bills have now been accused abuse.
Your statement about the Archdiocese of Philadelphia only paying for six months of care is not totally correct. The care can be extended if requested. I know that to be true.
Joyce the six month limit is regarding those who have experienced clerical abuse as adults. We are aware of the extensions past 6 months for those whose abuse happened as minors. I can double check this again with the Archdiocese but had been told previously it is a six month limit for those experiencing any type of clerical abuse as an adult. It will be good news if this has changed.
We know that many who follow the C4C site have been personally affected in some way by clerical abuse. If you are reading this and have encountered the picture taking priest and may be one of the “unknown” women in the photo album, please know there is support for you and you can conctact us through the contact link on the page or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your story is a perfect example of how insidious these situations can be. Playing upon an established relationship, taking advantage of a sensitive people-pleaser, gradually working his way into the situation until you’re suddenly wondering “How on earth did I get here” but still, though uncomfortable, not wanting to rock the boat because of the aforementioned situation of it being a family friend and you being a people pleaser, etc. It makes me so angry, as I’m sure it does you too, to know that he would be so calculating, manipulative, and just plain evil with you. Your sharing your story allows other people, who are also level-headed, sensible, and reasonably trusting, to realize that it can happen to anyone, and they shouldn’t blame themselves, but the demon, (in the biblical sense of the word) who took advantage of their position with your family and your basic good nature. If this can happen to mature adults such as you are, just think of how relatively easy it has been for priests, or other men, to prey successfully upon children. People like these master manipulators will always be out there, and there will never be a time when we can stop being vigilant about supervising children’s relationships with other adults. That’s why C4C is so, unfortunately, necessary and valuable. C4C is raising people’s consciousness about being vigilant, as well as trying to shine a light on the abuse that has already transpired. Good and trusting people, though mature, are not immune to evil machinations. Anonymous, thank you for sharing the story of this warped man and your reactions to this painful situation with C4C.
I was a shy timid kid. I grew up to be “nice” a people pleaser, a follower and not very assertive and rather trusting. I went to Saint Andrews in Drexel Hill and easily could have been a victim of one of the pedophile priests stationed there. I learned thru difficult experiences in my adulthood to say no , stand up for myself and trust my gut. I was around 36 when I learned these skills despite being a good advocate for others.On a regular basis I teach my kids to trust their gut, its ok to say “no” and tell me or a trusted adult if someone makes them feel uncomfortable. I am sorry this happened to you but glad you got the therapy you needed. We need to educate each other and support each to develop a healthy sense self esteem and self confidence so that we know its ok to look out for our own best interests when someone has infringed on our boundaries no matter what age we are. Predators are master manipulators they know exactly what they are doing and who is a good target.
Blame the victim. For years defense lawyers have been blaming victims in rape cases and sexual assault. They do this in many ways. They bring up the way somebody dresses or who they associated with in their past. They investigate the victim to try to find something in their backgrounds to incriminate them. When victims went to Church officials to report sexually abusive priests, church lawyers used their statements about the effects of the abuse to attack them and their credibility. There was one bishop who blamed young altar boys for enticing their innocent priests. And who can ever forget the church official who claimed a predator priest was not a pedophile because he had sexual relations with older kids and adults as well. i congratulate the anonymous victim for coming forward. You have shown tremendous courage. Know your own truth and do not let the naysayers get you down. Several years ago when I first discovered this site, Many of those who posted here would end their post with these four words; I BELIEVE THE VICTIMS. For those of us who were abused, the support of those who were not victims, carried us through some tough times.
I believe the victims.
After being in touch with Leslie Davila of OCYP/Victims Assistance at the Archdiocese I will attempt to clarify the info concerning clerical abuse experienced as an adult being limited to a 6 month counseling period. At first I was told that they were unable to discuss treatment plans for individuals, however of course that was not the question I even asked. Following this it was explained that everyone who receives services has experienced something unique to them and their reactions to those experiences is unique, so comparing plans from person to person would not be an effective approach. Actually, I could not agree more, which is why having a restricted policy makes no sense.
Then it was explained that a situation involving inappropriate conduct that does not rise to the level of sexual assault perpetrated by clergy as an adult,services are offered to that individual and there is an evaluative process to determine the types of appropriate services that the Archdiocese can make available and a plan is tailored to that unique situation.
This was all very confusing because somewhere over the past few years I remember knowing of the 6 month restricted counseling period for those having experienced clerical abuse as adults and the more conversation that this post generated, the more the bells were ringing in my memory. Then lo and behold I was able to read for myself the written policy in black and white, effective 2015, that is very clear on the 6 month restricted counseling policy for abuse experienced as an adult. I contacted Leslie again after now reading the policy. In Leslie’s second reply she stated that there is no written policy that is shared. The types of services they can provide,length of services and payment of those services are discussed with each victim and those seeking services are given a full understanding of what they are able to provide before services begin. The information is also provided to the therapist with the victim’s permission They do have general guidelines at the Archdiocese and the document I read was not valid as it does not accurately reflect the Archdiocese current process and sharing this information would be confusing to victims. Leslie refers to the written info as a document,.in the title it is labeled as policy. If any victims have questions, their office would be happy to discuss services.
Anyone follow any of that? My advice to any victims dealing with the Archdiocese is to hire an attorney. Get an attorney, explain that your situation is unique, as that is the buzzword the Archdiocese uses,demand to see all written policy,documents,guidelines. Personally I would not touch the Archdiocese with a 10 foot pole without legal representation. If that is not possible due to finances, at least make use of a local victim’s advocacy center,sometimes they have pro bono legal representation or at least staff can help you negotiate some issues. Of course C4C is always here and we will do what we can, but sadly I really would not go near the Archdiocese without an attorney if you are in a situation where services are being restricted,denied or you feel that you are getting the run around in getting answers. You need to realize that there are attorneys behind everything at the Archdiocese, so you need one behind you.
* to avoid any confusion this is in reference to services/ counseling if you experienced clerical abuse as an adult,not a minor.
I still would recommend anyone who runs into problems recieving services, no matter what age they were when abused, should have an attorney or advocate help them navigate the system…ask for all the written policy!!!!