Survivors' Voices: Words for My Younger Self, Part 2
I am honored to share with you a few more powerful reflections on the topic "Words for My Younger Self.” (In case you missed it, you can find Part 1 here.) Such wisdom and strength contained in these words!
If you have experienced sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, I would be grateful to include your own perspectives on this topic. You can find information about joining the Survivors’ Voices Panel here: An Invitation for Survivors.
I would tell my younger self that it wasn't her fault and the shame is not hers to hold. I would also urge her to be more gentle with herself. We have faced a lifetime of abuse, continuing to beat myself up only perpetuates the cycle. I would tell her that she is lovable just as she is and she is not tainted. I would love to give that younger self a hug and keep her safe.
I have had a lot of dialogue with my younger self, as we have worked so hard to heal together. The lessons she has been grateful to learn include: Contrary to what they told you, it was NOT YOUR FAULT!!! You did NOTHING wrong. You were not old enough to understand what they were doing, much less why, so all those bad things they said about you were lies. They shamed you unmercifully, but the only one who deserves to feel ashamed is THEM! You went through so many years feeling that you were unworthy, that you were a failure, that God was disappointed in you, because that’s what they told you, but God LOVES you, and He is proud of your resilience, your courage and your strength, because that is what is required to survive all that they did to you. You are always trying to blame yourself for not running away, for not fighting back, for not telling someone when they did those bad things to you. Well, they GROOMED you to feel powerless, to feel scared and frozen, and to keep “secrets.” They took advantage of your innocence and your trust, which all children cherish, and God LOVES those loving parts of you. Instead, they filled your head with lies, and created terror in your entire being – THEY are the ones who broke God’s rules, who acted despicably, and who deserve to feel all those bad feelings. You deserve nothing but love and kindness and worthiness for who you are and how you found your way against all odds.
As an adult victim I say: Trust your gut. If a priest is 'off' your gut is right. Don't trust other priests or ecclesiastical authorities to have your best interests in mind. They don't. Going to the police is also pointless because at the end of the day, rape is always he said/she said. If you are offered a settlement with an NDA and 'No Admission of Guilt' DO NOT accept it. They are only buying your silence, not your well-being.
Dear Younger Me: I am writing this to reach across time and space to you and to let you know that you WILL be ok. You will get through this, even though I realize that, right now, at times, it doesn't feel as though you will. Please know... not everyone will believe you or validate you. Some will take grains of truth and build them into a house of horror - as real as the house of horror in which you find yourself right now. There is nothing you can do to stop them from doing this. But you CAN control whether or not you choose to enter that house or listen to the screams, moans, insults and mocking that will emanate from that house or horror. Tou can also choose to find your tribe... those who WILL believe you, and support you, and love you. It sounds trite, but it's really true: You cannot control what happened to you, but you can control how you choose to respond to it. (By the way, there's no value in you perseverating over what you could have done to have 'prevented' this, because you couldn't have. He was going to do what he was going to do. He did it to at least one woman before you, and -- guess what? he went on to do this to at least one woman after you. So, it's truly NOT you. No matter what others tell you, no matter how many times people tell you it was your fault, please know that it was NOT your fault. You will be called terrible names. This will cut you to the core - if you let it. Again, it will be your choice how to care for yourself as you deal with this. And please- do not try to deal with this alone. Do not harbor this secret. Do not own the shame. It is not yours to bear -- it is HIS to bear. Seek help and love and support. The sooner, the better. You will be ok. Never lose sight of that. I am proof that you will come through the other side of this - wiser, and even more loving than you are now. With you every step of the way... With love, Older Me
To my younger self I would say: What this priest did to you was not your fault. It's understandable that you were frozen; that you couldn't process what was happening. You were too young to have words for what he did. But the time for processing this and healing from it will come, and you will be OK.
Thank you all, for reading and for caring.