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Shattered Trust: Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors and The Distorted Rules Predatory Priests Taught Them

Laura Ahearn Attorney for Clergy Abuse Victims

If you are not a victim of sexual abuse think hard about what your world was like when you were 9, 10 or 12 years old. Now imagine that the trusted parent(s) in your world wants you to be part of something bigger than you, they want you to be an alter server or want you to be involved with your local religious community. Your parents blindly trust the priests they are entrusting their children to.

Now imagine that you, as that unsuspecting child, with the full support of your parents develop trusting relationships with certain predatory adults whose aim from the very start was to sexually exploit you - but you don't know that. You only know that this priest is nice to you, pays attention to you, makes you feel like you're something special. He may buy you gifts but he doesn't have to because he's grooming you emotionally - he is seducing you like an adult would seduce another adult.

You are a child and you are not equipped to cope with what is happening and what will happen to you. You are being "groomed," ultimately to be sexually victimized. Physical touching is innocent at first, maybe characterized as a mistake or as fooling around. Maybe the touching begins with him rubbing your feet, touching your face or back or maybe even giving you wine or beer to prepare you for sexual contact.

The touching starts. Children and teens are confused and that is exactly what predators count on. Human bodies respond to sexual stimulation but children and teens are ill equipped to deal with these emotional conflicts and these enormous violations of trust. Children are manipulated into believing that because their body responded to sexual stimulation they are responsible for their own sexual victimization. Imagine that? An adult performs oral sex on a 10 year old boy and the child feels its their fault. This is the power of secrecy that priests and others who sexually abuse children have over their victims. Survivors unfortunately carry deep shame and embarrassment that does not belong to them.

The child or teen learns that these are the "RULES." They care for the person who is abusing them because they were groomed and this is what they learned a relationship was. They get caught up in this process of being abused, sometimes for many years and sometimes into the age of majority. Further damage is done because the child or teen maintains this secret from others in their support system - teaching them not to trust the very people they need help from.

There are so many survivors out there, so many adults who lived and are still living through the life long torturous conflicts resulting from their sexual victimization. Many of you didn't realize that the havoc being wreaked in your life was a result of the memories of the sexual abuse, the emotional conflicts, the anger, the secrecy. Drugs, alcohol, OC behaviors, depression all numbed the pain, and some could not bear the pain, and did not make it.

When survivors retell their stories they often feel a loss of control of their emotions and feelings of being violated resurface along with the shame and embarrassment that belongs to the offender, not them. Survivors don't have to feel that way. They must protect themselves by sharing their experience with others who understand and do not judge. Those of you reading this who are survivors, YOU'VE MADE IT.

Each of you, and you know who you are, have a distinctive strength of spirit, a sort of unrelenting will to overcome all of the obstacles that abusers put in the way. You had to relearn what the RULES of relationship were supposed to be, to learn to trust yourself for the first time, and that there is no shame or embarrassment that belongs to any child, no matter what, who was manipulated and victimized by a sexual predator.

It's not enough to say ME TOO its time to also say NO MORE! Call me to discuss your legal options or how I can help you complete your IRCP if you are a victim of clergy abuse.

Dedicated to MTRLF

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