Over 30 years ago I was sexually abused by a paedophile Catholic Priest. It is only since the TV documentary ‘Suing the Pope’ shown on RTE television last April that I came forward and have been dealing with the reality of what happened to me as a child since then. I say reality because as long as I could lock it away as I did for all those years I could somehow minimise it and say ‘well it wasn’t that bad and I am doing fine now’ and say to myself ‘Go away I do not want to face you’. However it did happen to me and it was my time to face it and deal with it. I felt desperate at that time and had to come forward albeit three decades later.
Since then I have been to counselling where I began to examine what had actually happened to me. I realised there that it was in fact worse than I allowed my conscious mind to believe, but my unconscious mind knew my reality well. Dealing with such ghosts in fact explains everything about my past. Anyone who has been sexually abused knows about the consequences of experiencing such abuse. The loss of potential in life, the lack of belief and respect for yourself, an inability to trust anyone, self destructive behaviour, depression, anxiety, sexual dysfunction and the myriad of other conditions experts explain us by. All of this was brought on through absolutely no fault of my own. I didn’t ask to be abused and while I do not intend to be defined by this abuse I acknowledge it happened. I was a child of ten years of age, a little pretty girl who wore beautiful dresses and loved the Virgin Mary. I skipped to mass everyday during my school holidays and loved the smell of incense because within it was contained the mystery of the man above the altar on the cross whom I was taught to fear.
The only thing I can now say about Jesus is that I joined him on that cross for the next 30 years of my life. That evil man wearing clerical clothing calling himself a man of God sexually abused me on numerous occasions and for a number of years he terrified the life out of me. Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t miserable all the time in my adult life. You would hardly know on the outside the way I felt within. To the world I was and still am OK and I have done well in life. Then last Easter things changed. Cardinal Connell invited me on the 14th April 2002 to come forward in his Episcopal letter at Sunday Mass. I then reported it to my local curate and he has been very supportive. However sexual abuse is forever, nobody can rewind the clock and the effects of it remain permanently. It seems the cardinal does not understand the true meaning of this. I have not seen or heard him say anything to date to make me believe otherwise.
Despite this I am still a Catholic. I have always been open about that fact from the start. However I cannot begin to tell you how disappointed I am with the way my own church has handled this issue. The Irish Catholic Church has a shameful past in relation to a pervasive culture of clerical sexual abuse and it needs to take full ownership now for the serious wrongs it allowed to continue for many years. Instead it hides, and lies and runs for cover. The only reason it appears to be dealing with it now is because it is being forced to by us the survivors. We are coming forward now in droves publically and the effect is unstoppable. We are finding support now through organisations like One in Four. It is giving us the courage to come forward and tell our story. At last!
Last June I met One in Four. It has proved to be a very good friend indeed. I am not alone here. I can ask for help if and when I need it and someone will listen and reply. It is a constant friend. Not once a week or a vague apology the cardinal gave me last April and then left me in a vacuum of nothingness. The One in Four message board is always available to me in the good times and the bad. There is always an ear, someone who will care. I availed of all the help One In Four could give me. I needed it and I was and still am very grateful for it. For the first time I felt understood by those who understand my problem. Here I experienced love and compassion, which was given unconditionally, and I started to heal.
I then decided it was essential that I put my experience on the official record. Despite the fact the evil priest that abused me was dead I needed to report it to the authorities. It was a visceral need within me to do so. Somewhere in my head I decided that my story counted and it was vital that if nothing else my account could be revisited by history and I would be present to that future experience if in nothing else but a name, and a series of evil events, in a period of time in the past. It felt wholly right to participate in this and therefore I decided to make a statement to the police.
Following this decision last week I wrote to the message board and asked anyone who was on line to wish me luck. I wrote on the site for the first time about what my childhood memories of the abuse were. The message board lit up with support. I was overwhelmed by it. My pal Christy, shared a poem called "Listen to me" that he had written previously with me which gave me great courage.
I presented myself to my local Garda station and spent over four hours in a cold police station telling my story to a very understanding Garda. To any of you who may be thinking of going down this road there is a much warmer option than the one I chose. There is a new unit in Harcourt Street specially set up for those of us who suffered clerical abuse and I spoke to them on my mobile phone whilst I was waiting for my local Garda to come to take my statement. They very kindly said they could organise it for me at a future date. However having decided to do this and given that I have waited 33 years to do so my overriding desire was to report my story on that day when I felt like it rather than wait for the 5 star conditions at a later date. Once again I was in control of my own destiny. My favourite expression over the past six months is ‘GO for it’ and not to feel inhibited. I completed the statement.
It is done now. I am now in the history books and it feels really brilliant. I am tired from the experience as it was very difficult to revisit the past. I am also depleted in energy and need a good rest to recover but I do not regret it. Not for a moment. I do not like giving advice to people but if anybody is thinking of reporting their own abuse, I hope this article will give you the courage to believe that your words and testimony about your understanding of your own truth is vital. Little will change unless we are prepared to put ourselves on the record. Our stories matter and we need to be heard. If I, as one person, have contributed to that disclosure of evil that existed within the institution of the Catholic Church then so be it. I am glad I did it.
From a liberated adult who endured sexual abuse as a child on a healing journey to find true peace of mind and heart.
The new Garda Unit at Harcourt Street can be contacted on 01 6663437
For information on Counselling services visit our Local Services section on the main sitePosted by Colm at November 11, 2002 04:02 PM