Photography Lesson: Developing from the Negative

By Anonymous

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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.

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Stay Tuned: Archdiocese to Remove Priests

The Philadelphia Archdiocese may have finally suspended accused priests from active ministry, according to credible sources. The number is unclear, but could range from 25 to 34. According to the grand jury report and an article in The New York Times, there are as many as 37 credibly accused priests in active ministry.

The announcement may take place later today. This action was most likely prompted by media coverage, pressure from the D.A.’s office and the threat of more costly civil suits.

Morality and common sense would have dictated immediate removal of all credibly accused priests. Apparently the Archdiocesan hierarchy falls woefully short in this area.

This action is far too late for countless victims. Putting our children at risk for even an additional day after a credible accusation is inexcusable. Will they name the 37 priests who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse and harassment? Will those parishes and institutions show their outrage at being put at risk. I pray they will.

Typically, the archdiocese makes these announcements late morning. Check your local news stations at noon.

Another Civil Suit Lodged Against Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Citing childhood abuse at the hands of his pastor and the failure of the victim abuse hotline, a Delaware man announced yesterday he will sue the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

In the suit, Philip Gaughan, 31, specifically names Rev. John E. Gillespie; Cardinals Anthony Bevilacqua and Justin Rigali; Msgr. William Lynn and two victim-assistance staffers.

“According to the 2005 report, Gillespie admitted in 1994 that he had molested boys but was allowed to keep his position as pastor for six years after that,” reports John P. Martin for The Philadelphia Inquirer on March 8, 2011.

Is this acceptable to you? Had the Archdiocese acted immediately, appropriately and morally – Gillespie would not have had the opportunity to abuse Gaughan.

This pathology of cover up and inaction continues with 37 credibly accused priests still in active ministry. The children of your own parish could be in danger and you wouldn’t know it. They won’t care until they are forced to care by the courts, the media and YOU!

Don’t Apologize for Me

In the most recent edition of The Catholic Standard & Times, editor-in-chief and Archdiocesan spokesperson Matthew Gambino issued an apology on behalf of the Church.

“We are sorry. We, the Church, are the lay men, women and children; the religious who pray for us and work with us; the deacons, priests and bishops who lead us and bring us the divine graces of the Catholic sacramental system.

We, the Church, are sorry for the sexual abuse suffered by our brothers and sisters when they were young people at the hands of the Church’s clergymen and teachers. The Church is sorry for the sins and crimes of some members against other members. The Church begs forgiveness of our brothers and sisters, and of almighty God.” Read more.

I worked with Gambino for several years while I was an editor with The Catholic Standard and Times. Knowing him personally, I have no doubt his intentions regarding this apology were well-meant and sincere. But I take issue.

Do not apologize for me. I’m guilty of plenty, but I’m not guilty of pedophilia or the cover up. There are very specific individuals who need to apologize and reconcile with God and their victims. So far, they haven’t. Even if they did, it would be too little and too late.

I’m sickened that I worked for such a morally corrupt archdiocesan administration.

I do believe in the healing power of forgiveness, but true repentance and real reform must come first. Gambino asks for our trust. I say the Church hierarchy hasn’t earned it.