I’m glad that the stories of victims of sexual abuse by the Catholic Church are coming out. It’s so courageous and so important that the victims are able to speak in detail about what was done to them. It’s not easy and it’s heartbreaking to listen but it’s very important that we do. It’s the least these people deserve.
I am an adult victim of childhood sexual abuse myself in my family. In twenty years of practice I have heard hundreds of stories of sexual abuse. Ballpark stats is that 60% of women who present in private practice were sexually abused as children. We have no idea how many men were, because fewer men tend to seek help. I personally believe that the high rates of young men’s suicide (ages 18-25) has to do with sexual abuse.
It’s always painful and disturbing to hear those stories and witness the impact that this abuse had on victims. It doesn’t get easier and it never should. The majority of people who were sexually abused as children do not recover. They live and die with the psychological and physical impact of the abuse. It’s hard for people who were not abused this way to understand what this is like, how much shame victims live with and how much they blame themselves so much of their lives. The way this wires children’s brains is so devastating because it takes away the resources they need for healthy development. Trauma becomes the organising principle of our entire being and it takes over. It’s no way to live.
I am one of the lucky ones who has recovered and it’s partly why I am so passionate about working with others. People should be offered proper opportunities to heal, not just ‘band aids’ in the form of drugs or nonsense ‘therapies’ to help them with symptoms. There are no shortcuts in mental health and certainly not for recovery from childhood trauma.
My heart goes out to all the victims. The Catholic Church, other institutions, groups and families who have betrayed children and anyone who has ever aided and abetted, covered up abuse or ignored it when children were crying out for help should burn in hell if I ever believed in hell (which I don’t).
We must protect children and we must listen to them and notice what they feel. It’s enough with putting groups, families and organisations ahead of individuals. When we do, abuse happens. Children are always powerless and always vulnerable and that’s why they need to be backed up by others.
Predatory humans are always there and they can be anywhere. There is no social class, race, appearance, religion or anything that all abusers have in common, except their determination to satisfy their lusts by using children, their lack of the executive functions of impulse control, empathy and the capacity to understanding how they affect their victims and caring about it. Predators are opportunists. They abuse children who are available to them and who are unprotected. These are extremely dangerous people who are often hiding in plain view. Abuse is never the child’s fault. No one chooses to become a victim.
(Key words: Abuse, sexual abuse, racism, Catholic Church, children)