Survivors No Longer Walking Thin Line

In the wake of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on clergy child sex abuse, 900 survivors have called a hotline launched by the attorney general’s office.

PA Clergy Abuse Hotline: 888-538-8541

For many, that call was the first time they shared their abuse.

I vividly remember the first time our pediatrician went over good touch/bad touch with my toddler-aged daughter during a routine exam in 2000. It took me by surprise. The doctor explained it was part of her training and protocol. It was a simple protective measure that hadn’t occurred to me.

Growing up in the 80s, there wasn’t an ABC afterschool special titled, “The Day Father Mark Molested Me.” It wasn’t even a blip on my radar. I knew kids were abused, but I thought it was really rare and happened somewhere else.

It took the release of the 2011 Grand Jury Report about the clergy sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to hit home – literally. I couldn’t understand why the world, or at least my part of the world, wasn’t more shaken.

Many of the survivors were my age and grew up within miles. After suffering in silence for years, they were telling loved ones and strangers that they’d lived a lie by omission – and by necessity.

There’s a fine line between self-preservation and self-destruction when it comes to surviving child sex abuse. The disbelief, rejection, stigma and additional trauma of disclosure has to be weighed against the hope for acceptance, support and healing.

It may finally be easier to choose the latter. I sense a cultural shift since the latest grand jury report, the Me Too movement and widespread media coverage of sex abuse.

According to therapists, when those who endure trauma share their story out loud, it helps them acknowledge it. Then healing can begin, but only if those listening really hear them.

It’s become loud and clear. Public awareness and support is growing. Maybe even more important, survivors know their numbers now. The percentage of the population is staggeringly high.

Neither Kathy or I are survivors, but the statistical odds tell us that someone we love is a survivor or will become one. Neither is an acceptable circumstance. Support and protect.







7 thoughts on “Survivors No Longer Walking Thin Line

  1. Governor Wolf, in his September Newsletter, has requested that the legislators to act quickly on laws that will protect victims/survivors of sexual assault. He is asking that the statue of limitations be ended. This is my response.

    I have been following this nightmare closely and on many levels for about 20 years. How many Grand Jury Reports do we need to change our PA laws? Why do our lawmakers repeatedly vote down legislation that would support victims of sexual assault? Why did the bishop (two years ago) have pastors read a letter to their congregations to vote down proposed legislation for victims/survivors? The ecclesial church cannot be trusted to morally lead itself out of this. Too much time, too many crimes, too many lawyers and too many silent payoffs. Finally, I am hearing well loved clergy speak up – their life is in crises as they try to help their communities – now they have found their voice.

    We must change our laws to protect our children: past, present and future. The church has been hiding sexual predators and undermining victims who come forward and setting up an environment for predators to live out their daily lives. They are still releasing child molesters into our neighborhoods to live in our neighborhoods next to our children/grandchildren. The bishops claim in their rhetoric to be protecting children. They are not. They have a revised a Bishops Charter that doesn’t seem to apply to them- only their authority over others.

    As much as I could tolerate, I have read the Grand Jury Reports when they were published. Two weeks ago, I went back to look at the 2011 Philly Grand Jury Report. I read the names of certain bishops/clergy involved in the cover up. They are still bishops/clergy active today and confirming our children in sacrament. Pages of the stories of victims is heartbreaking: the death of despair by victims who lost their case. Why did they lose? Why did they die? Perhaps the trust established with certain clergy that obtained victim signatures for release of medical records played a part? These records were later used by diocesan lawyers against the victims in court. When I read this in the report, my heart sunk even more. I lost all trust in our diocese- in those men named. The diocese has a repeated disregard of recommendations made by past DA’s 2005-2011 and the John Jay Report nearly 20 years ago.

    Last week, after 40 years of active membership in the Catholic Church, I formally quit. I am still a catholic (freelance) – my name is removed from “the list” of thousands of Philadelphia Catholics under the Archbishop. Catholic adults can take charge of their faith. I don’t support what they are doing to children and families.Catholics can absolutely resign their parish membership in objection to how the Philly church is handling this for the past 20 + years. We can stop financially supporting the church, and their bishops and lawyers that protect them. We can attend Mass anywhere – (there are plenty of seats) until they get the message and become the church leaders we need. We can insist that our representatives represent children and families and not the church officials.
    Pope Francis seems to be quite okay with the lawmakers doing their job outside the church. I have faith that he will work on what needs to be done inside the church. It will take some time for him to discern. Its probably the biggest knot of his life.

    Thank you Governor Wolf. Lets get the right laws in place to help survivors and protect past and future children so they can deal with their childhood victimization when they are able.

  2. Like most victims of clergy sex abuse as a child, I stayed quiet for many years. I suffered alone and in silence. I blamed myself for what happened to me. It had to be my fault. Priests were Gods’ representatives here on earth. That and many other falsehoods had been drilled into my brain from early childhood. When I started to deal with the abuse, I needed to question everything that I had been taught. Some things I kept, other things I discarded. Much progress has been made since I started to talk about what had happened to me as a child. One had to be careful who you talked to about the abuse.The abuse had been horrible, the effects of the abuse many times worse than the abuse itself. But myself and most victims are extremely fragile when we first start to reveal all the secrets. It scares the hell out out of us that we will not be believed.Some of us have gone completely downhill after not being believed. Lately with the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report more victims are coming forward. I wish them all well and hope others will step forward. I believe that forums such as C4C have helped victims to come forward.I do not believe that anything would have changed if not for the internet and social media. As a victim, one learned you were not alone. There were others.Lately we have learned there were many others.

  3. Jim.
    You and others who write on C4C have taught your readers many lessons. One of them is highlighted today as another accusation is revealed regarding Bret Cavanaugh. The Potus response seems to be typical of those who are not aware of the dynamics of the survivor. Only in the awareness of the stages of healing for survivors does one actually grasp the years of inward silence that victims experience before they can sometimes begin to find words.
    This is not new news- and after all these years, it almost seems ridiculous that some church and political leaders are ignorant and criticize victims for not coming forward years ago. It is clear that the public and our leadership needs to be educated and made aware. Thanks for what all the bloggers share here to raise awareness..

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