Tell Ruth the Truth

This is a moderated blog is a project of the Ruth Institute. Have a story to share? We're listening.


Hidden Dangers of The Mind: A Detransitioner’s Tale

I was a lesbian for 22 years. Then I lived as a female to male transsexual for 17 years before detransitioning back to female.

My name is Maritza. I was born in Havana, Cuba. My mother was given a form of estrogen to prevent miscarriages. She was able to carry me to term, but not without ramifications. I dealt with health issues, from asthma to reproductive female issues. I was not your average female. I had a deeper voice, bad menses, and a slew of emotional and neurological instabilities.

I was sexually molested from age 8 to 12. My parents were dysfunctional, particularly my father, who was an abusive, alcoholic control freak.My mother was emotionally incapable of dealing with me. She was an ill woman and was spoiled by my grandmother.

Many of our childhood traumas come back to haunt us as adults. Unresolved emotional issues show themselves in various facets of disassociation and grief, to the point where we create poor coping skills to mask the pain. I believe same sex attraction stems from rejection, sexual abuse, and a mother or father wound. I’ve seen this not only in myself, but in many others.


If we’ve been hurt, we engage in a behavior that allows us to run away from who we are. Instead of being angry at the person who mistreated us, we blame ourselves. We self-harm. We see our self as not good enough; therefore, an alteration of our character, to include mannerism, gender or sexual expression, rises.

We try to fix the situation by creating an alternative person attracted to the same sex, so we do not have to repeat the scenario that took place with our parent. Many try to replace that parent with a same-sex partner. No one in their right and balanced mind would choose to gender swap or be same-sex attracted. This is done out of despair and in attempt to "fix" a situation.

There is no objective finding to prove that we are born gay. This new gender craze is based on nothing more than junk science and a rather crafty marketing scheme. There is a dark agenda behind it, led by the elites, who are trying to bring in a brave new world.

So how did I get to where I am today? After all, I had bought the lies and believed the gender craze. I advocated for the trans community, did the TV circuit, and even wrote a book called, The Mirror Makes No Sense. I believed that I was born wrong. Years of research, however, led me to understand that there is no evidence that anyone is born wrong or that there is a nature within that makes you gay. We are programmed by our creator to be heterosexual, so where does this paradigm come from? Our fallen nature and our need to fix things.

From all the failed relationships and lack of true happiness came the realization that the life I chose had lots of holes in it. You begin to think that feeling this way is normal. You fight for it. You claim others are wrong, but when you dive into the real essence of it, you realize that it is all based on lies.

I believe that the Father, our creator, used my situation to awaken me to the truth. I was in several relationships with trans women who still had their male parts. And although I was repulsed at one point by men, due to the sexual molestation and the aggressive alcoholic father, being with transwomen helped heal those wounds. In some strange way, I no longer feared men. I was also healed from my same sex attraction.

Today people claim all sorts of disorders, none of which have any biological nature but are psychological and situational. But politicians have an agenda to push. There are medications to be sold and procedures to be had. The corruption of society is quite the circus, one I am glad to no longer be part of.

I am in gratitude to my savior, who through his patience, love and persistence, allowed my chains to be broken. I no longer identify as a lesbian. I no longer want to be seen as a man. I am content to be the daughter of the Most High, here help others break free from the programming and brain washing the trans agenda has to offer.

I want people to know that there is hope. If they want healing and ask the Father for guidance, they will find it. Without a shadow of a doubt, no one is born wrong, and God does not make mistakes. The adversary toils with your pain, places bad ideas in your mind and heart, and will make you believe lies. You owe it to yourself to learn the real you, to realize that life was not meant to be as hard as you make it. Let him take control and heal you once and for all.


I was walking like a lifeless body, a corpse that moved.

I’ve struggled with same-sex attraction for most of my life. Although I had a difficult childhood (having attempted suicide when I was about 12), I never thought there was a connection between my attractions toward other boys and my lonely, rejected, hurtful upbringing.

My whole life, I was told that embracing the gay lifestyle would make me feel better, that my life would get on track, and I would finally be happy. When I was about 20, I came out and embraced "who I really was."

In the beginning, it felt good. Entering the gay community was like becoming someone. Being kind of attractive and young, it was unbelievable to suddenly have all those guys giving me attention and pursuing me. Men with high financial status taking an interest in me and treating me like I was special was surreal to me.

But as the years went by, I started to notice that the gay lifestyle wasn't as I was told it would be. What was quite in contrast with what the culture told me was the promiscuity, the instability of gay relationships, and the drug-drenched atmosphere. In fact, gays have way more partners and sexual activity than straight guys. A gay man having sex with more than five guys on a weekend is not unusual. Having sex with two unknown guys in one day is not unusual. And this is not just a small portion of the gay community, it's the main portion.


Gays use more drugs, and drug use in the gay community is skyrocketing. The drug-drenched parties are countless. Not to mention that a good portion of gay hookups only happen if there are drugs involved. Chemsex culture is indistinguishable from gay life.

Also, gay relationships were different from what I was made to believe. They were all open. In fact, I've learned from older gays that if you wanted a relationship to last, it had to be open. Otherwise, you would just be fooling yourself. I've never seen a gay couple that was together for years that didn't do that.

At first I wasn't into the promiscuity, drugs, etc, but with time I got used to it. I resisted at first, but things go out of control really fast in the gay lifestyle. I thought I would be different, but I became desensitized to what at first seemed ugly. The number of sexual interactions in my life increased and became kind of obsessive and crazy. And while I was doing it, I was getting more and more drugged and dependent on substances. I was feeling more and more empty, and it made me look for more and more sexual contact and more substances, as an attempt to fill the void.

I wouldn't say that boyfriends and I didn't want a monogamous relationship, but the feeling of boredom and discomfort with each other was inevitable. One invariably always lost interest in the other. I saw that this was not just in my relationships, but with all of my friends.

After a few years, I felt completely empty and meaningless. I had been told that when "I assumed who I was," my life would be fulfilled, that I would meet someone and be happy. After the excitement and the glimpse of the beginning of my life in the gay community, all I had left was emptiness and anguish. I was walking like a lifeless body, a corpse that moved.

I couldn't take life anymore. I felt there was nothing left for me here. I had a particularly acute depressive episode. I moved back in with my parents and stayed in bed for a week without getting up or eating. It was painful to exist. I had already concluded that it was the end, my life had failed, and there was nothing here for me anymore.

I was not particularly religious. I had a tremendous prejudice against religious people. I thought they were all wrong, especially the more traditional ones. But I kind of knew there was something, a Being. I felt deep anguish and cried with that pain. I was ready to cut myself and bleed to death. Then from the bottom of my heart came: “Lord, please help me!” And I heard a voice: “Believe in me.”

Automatically, even to my surprise, I said: “Yes.” Without knowing or understanding anything, I decided to believe. I had some contact with Catholicism in the past, so I looked for a church and started a Christian life. At that moment I had decided to leave the gay world and cut all ties.

At first, it was very difficult. My body was used to all those sensations. Gay pornography was part of my daily life, and it was difficult to resist the temptation to watch it. But over time it got easier. In addition, I was adopting a series of new practices: prayer, meditation. I was feeling connected to and loved by God, not to mention the new friends I made, people who came from a world completely foreign to me. From the beginning, the happiness I saw in them called my attention. It seemed so strange and different from everything I saw in the world. That lightness and joy--I had no idea these lives existed.

I met a Catholic missionary with an internet apostolate for men like me. He also lived gay-identified for a few years and got out. I always thought I was born that way. In his podcasts, he spoke about the reality of the gay world - which does not appear anywhere in the media and culture - and the causes of homosexuality. I identified with everything he said about the causes of same-sex attraction: Father wound, family issues, everything. It felt like he was describing my life.

From the moment I started to understand, I started to change. This missionary had been in therapy with Dr. Joseph Nicolosi. I started reading Dr. Nicolosi's books and articles and watching his online videos. That was like an explosion. His descriptions of the different stages of a boy's development and how they get messed up, was very similar to my life. Now I could understand and deal with my deeply-rooted wounds: the fear, discomfort, and inferiority I felt around men, the need for affirmation and affection that I never had. I felt a weight lift out of me. I saw that I was just like other guys, an equal. And it made me feel more comfortable with them, more relatable, more relaxed in my body.

At that point I wasn't feeling so much sexual desire for men. In fact, I started to feel attracted to girls--feelings and sensations that I felt a long time ago, but had forgotten.

I also haven't felt a need to inject substances or take prescription drugs in a long time. I feel satisfied. I don't know what the future holds, but sometimes it seems unbelievable that this is all happening. All the meaning and fulfillment I feel makes me want to stay here forever.

The Institute's work is of great importance in my life now. I've read many articles on the website, heard many podcasts and interviews, and watched many talks by Dr. Morse. The Dr. J Show is one of the best things during the week for me.

The first great thing was that I understood that much of the hurt and suffering I experienced came from the lies of the Sexual Revolution. I saw that the dysfunction in my family, the abuse, the misleading advice from the culture, and so on, all lead me to the suffering I experienced.

It was healing to know that I wasn't to blame; I was a victim of these lies. The Ruth Institute showed me that Christian morals are not just moral rules. They are commandments, because they are what makes us happy and healthy. You guys are really a blessing, truly doing God's work. Thank you so much.

 

-Submitted by M.


Abused and rejected

I am a different victim of rejection from society due to being fired in 1986 after I was married and then assaulted in a women's restroom in the building I worked. I was fired again after I gave birth to my first child upon returning from maternity leave. I was assaulted again by my mentally disturbed brother right in front of my elderly mother and have struggled with mental illness since the assault in 1986. I've received medical help and understanding from my five homeschooled kids and my husband who has come a long way in understanding my fears.


It hasn't been a bed of roses during our 33 years of marriage even though our kids are devoted to the faith and are academically and socially successful. There have been 10 or more hospital stays of which my main fears have been experiencing further "psychological" (partly imaginary) rejection from normal daily activities and even my husband. There are police reports and trial records from the assaults and records from psychiatrists (some who've made minor mistakes) and a Catholic therapist (not enough of them) who I finally found to be of great help about 12 years ago.

I believe I was fired in 1987 because I was trying to get locks on the bathroom doors. I believe I was fired in 1991, after my first son was born, because I spoke up when things were astray at work, and they conveniently made my transition to another position when I returned from maternity leave.

These situations of rejection have psychologically distorted my every day experiences at times. I've been diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety, depression, and later even psychosis. I've been on medicine my whole married life to help curtail my fears. I temped for a couple years until I realized my whole salary was going to pay for the daycare of my two younger sons. Afterwards, we happily homeschooled the kids during their elementary and middle school years. As a white married woman, I've been rejected by society in a big way.

Submitted by EM.

 



That was the “life” I knew.

Sexual abuse by a pornography-addicted family member, mistrust in men, toxic homosexual relationships filled with every form of abuse to the point of almost dying, promiscuity, codependency, drugs and alcohol use to numb the pain, depression, anxiety, suicide attempts to escape the empty existence I was trapped in. These catastrophic chain of events rippled on and left me lost, broken, hopeless, hating myself, hating the so called “God” for all that I had endured.

That was the “life” I knew.

Until one night, a vehicle crash left my truck filling with water at the bottom of a lake. Unable to escape, I cried out to the God I no longer believed in. There He met me, in the middle of my pain and brokenness. Face to face with my Savior. Filled with peace and feeling His love in that moment. He broke me free from the death I was staring at. That began the journey to truth, healing, and deliverance from decades of damage to my body, heart, and soul. And despite my hesitancy to relinquish complete control of my life to Him, from that night on, He pursued me patiently but persistently. Revealing to me slowly all the areas He wanted to heal with His love.


After that night, I let Him in but refused to change everything about my life or myself. Still not trusting men, I continued to hide in relationships with women but women who believed in God and went to church. Little did I know, He would never stop pursuing me and would use every person, circumstance, and even bad choice to continue to bring me to Him.

My second to last girlfriend, He used to bring me to the Catholic church where I would experience the peace and love I’d first felt a few years before at the bottom of that lake. My last girlfriend He used to reveal a heterosexual attraction. Every step of the way He removed another layer of brokenness and replaced it with healing, love, and truth.

Counseling, prayers, active involvement in the Sacraments continued to bring clarity and healing. Then one day a desire for marriage and family as God intended it, entered my soul. All the while, falling madly in love with my Creator who pursued me fervently and revealed His love for me. As He revealed His refusal to let go of me, I began to realize that I am not my past, my bad decisions, what happened to me, or what anyone else sees me as. I am His child, His daughter. I am a woman created by Him for a purpose, His purpose. I am loved, valued and have never felt more whole and complete as I do now in Him.

I am a survivor of the Sexual Revolution for many reasons, but am no longer a victim of Satan’s plan to destroy the world one person at a time by sexual sins. And now, I will be an advocate. What happened to me that started a downward spiral of self demise was not my fault, but I now make it my responsibility.

I want to spend the rest of my life fighting against the evil of the Sexual Revolution by sharing what happened to me and letting others know that healing and redemption is possible. The love, mercy, and goodness of the Lord brought healing and gave me a new, adventurous, joy filled life! I will advocate by sharing God’s goodness, encouraging chastity and purity in knowing your worth as a child of God, fighting for marriage between man and woman as God intended, for holy families who will go on to wage war against the evil in this broken world, fighting for the protection of children from sexual abuse, and spreading hope to those who are in the depths of despair. The cycle of pain and brokenness will continue and will worsen unless we do something! The evil one’s quiet whispers have been wreaking havoc long enough. Now is the time we as survivors must shout out and expose the lies, and lead others to see the truth.

Submitted by C.

 


Abuse victim: "Most nights, I have at least stressful, if not outright terrifying dreams."

1. Have you ever had flashbacks? PTSD symptoms?

Definitely; in fact, I have been diagnosed with PTSD. The most constant symptoms are hypervigilance and self-hate. I also have internalized panic attacks sometimes, especially triggered by my social anxiety. On my worst days, I attribute the worst motives to people or imagine that others dislike or even hate me because I see myself as essentially unlovable. I have also struggled with suicidal ideation in the past. I cannot sit with my back to a door or large window without extreme discomfort. I am intensely afraid of the dark, even to the point of not going out at night if not absolutely necessary, keeping bright night lights in every room throughout the house, sleeping with the lights on in my bedroom, and asking my husband to turn on the light in a room so that I might not have to touch the darkness. Anything that reminds me of my abuser, the location of the abuse, or that time period in my life can trigger panic attacks or nightmares for days or weeks after. If I hear a song from the 90s or walk into a spider-infested outdoor structure like a barn or storage shed or even hear certain names in conversation, I often will have nightmares afterward. These nightmares can usually be categorized as either memories of the abuse reworked in my imagination (dream flashbacks?), images of demons or demonic activity, or a recurrent nightmare in which I float on top of dark, murky, deep water with the strong sensation that something unspeakably horrific is beneath me, but I cannot move. I would venture to say that most nights, I have at least stressful, if not outright terrifying dreams.


2. How does the public discussion of clergy sex abuse affect you emotionally?

I mostly try to distance myself emotionally from it and not expose myself to anything too incendiary. When I do allow myself to become too emotionally involved or accidentally read something disturbing, I almost always have PTSD nightmares after and have had some periods of depression triggered by reading some articles that were too detailed in their descriptions of the abuse.

3. How does the cover-up of clergy sex abuse affect you emotionally?

Again, I mostly distance myself emotionally, but my main reaction to cover-up is disbelief that someone could be capable of such a thing. Maybe I have too much faith left in humanity!

4. Do you have anything specific you would like to say to Cardinal Mahony, or the LAREC organizers?

I know it is a little late to address the LAREC crowd, but I would simply encourage complicit clergy to take a moment and honestly think about what they have done or not done. Are you comfortable with having caused the loss of peace, sense of dignity and self-worth, and even the salvation of an eternal soul (in cases where the victim commits suicide or turns to some addiction that involves habitual mortal sin like drugs, alcohol, or masturbation, all of which are very common)? If your answer is yes, how can you be called a father or a shepherd to those souls? To use a popular turn of phrase, how is that pastoral accompaniment?

5. Any of this information that you are willing to share, would give people the context that would help them understand:

5a. Your age when the abuse took place,

My earliest memories are trauma memories, and it ended when I was 12.

5b. Were you abused by someone you knew and trusted? Clergy? Coach? Relative?

My eldest brother

5c. whether people believed you,

My parents, eldest sister, and other brother did, but my two other sisters did not.

5d. how long it took for you to reveal what happened

I told my eldest sister in very generic terms sometime in high school, but besides that I couldn’t speak of it until I started therapy the summer after undergrad.

5e. whether the Church treated you appropriately (if relevant to your story)

Yes, though I will add that I often have the sensation that people (priests, spiritual directors, even my therapist, who was a Vatican II nun) don’t know what to do with me. I’ve grown used to my spiritual mentors commenting that some issue (with forgiveness, distrust, or self-hate, for example) is out of their realm, which leaves me rather on my own. Catholic literature on the subject is also lacking; I’ve never read a Catholic book on the subjects of abuse or healing that was helpful, as they almost as a whole pander to the more dubious aspects of modern psychology (i.e. I’ve yet to meet one that does not accept the faulty anthropology of modern psychology indiscriminately).

Submitted by "Claire."


I still carry the emotional scars

1. Have you ever had flash backs?

Yes. Had the same nightmare for many years until I met my hubby. Suddenly they stopped. However, occasionally my husband will touch me or ask me to touch him as my grandfather told me to. I have to fight the vision and it was 40 years ago.

2. How does the public discussion of clergy sex abuse and the cover up affect you emotionally?

It makes me very angry because my mother knew of the four family members who hurt me and she did nothing. When I complained to her sister that her husband grabbed me, she said if I wrestled with him I should expect it. I will carry the emotional scars the rest of my life.


3. Do you have anything specific to say to Mahony or the organizers?

Do you have any idea the damage you have done to victims by not reporting abusers?

4. This happened ages 2-10 by my paternal grandfather…around 10 by my uncle by marriage, 12 by my maternal Uncle, 10 or 11 by my brother.

My maternal uncle was the hardest one to tell my mom because I loved him so much. But when I did she blew it off. It was about 10 years afterwards when I was married. He had come into the Catholic Church and in going to confession, realized what he did and apologized. It was easy to forgive him. My mom caught my brother the first time but he continued. I never spoke to her again about it. I told her about my paternal grandfather when I was 16. Again she blew it off. As an adult I told my dad, but I don’t think he believed me because he allowed my half sister to spend summer breaks with my grandfather..

My parents divorced when I was 8. Mom brought many boyfriends home and was open with her sexuality. I grew up thinking sex wasn’t a big deal. I was very promiscuous. Thankfully I never got pregnant. God has been very good to me. I am disappointed in the Church and how it has let society influence it.

I am a Catholic Convert who works for my local parish. I have seen a lot on how things are run. Abuse is everywhere. Abuse doesn’t have to be sexual and the perp can be a volunteer, lay employee or clergy. People have taken their eyes off Christ and are looking into themselves for their own joy and fulfillment.

Submitted by Katerina.


Sadistic abuse at a young age

1. Have you ever had flashbacks?

Yes. They revolve around being trapped, running away from the house (my grandmother’s house) after some times of abuse, begging my grandmother for help as she held the door while I was being trapped and wouldn’t let me out. I also have flashbacks about bleeding at night and in the bathtub, stinging panic and crying myself to sleep.

PTSD symptoms?

Some, like losing track of time. I have memory blackouts for much of the the actual rape. I know an old-fashioned pointed can opener was used on me several times. I remember the sadistic nature of abuse escalated because I wouldn’t show emotion. It was the only choice I had.


2. How does the public discussion of clergy sex abuse affect you emotionally?

I feel betrayed by the clergy and especially enabler bishops. They could have stopped much abuse and they chose to shield the abuser rather than defend the innocent. I can only imagine the emotional pain of victims who weren’t believed or treated like they were the problem. That’s how my grandmother treated me. I was four or younger when it started and certainly didn’t enjoy or ask for the abuse that evolved into sadistic rape.

3. How does the cover-up of clergy sex abuse affect you emotionally?

Asking for silence and an end to gossip instead of being willing to be accountable and let investigations go forward after the Viganò testimony was a huge betrayal of Pope Francis. His actions and public statements since August have been completely inappropriate and reprehensible. I cannot defend the Pope and this troubles me greatly as a lifelong Catholic. American bishops who were implicated as enablers or worse by Viganò continue to embarrass themselves and lead me to believe the accusations against them. The silence now of even good bishops grieves me greatly. Investigations into those allegations are warranted and should be moving forward, as many bishops called for at the time. It’s no less important now. The message to victims and their families is simple- the Church simply doesn’t care that much.

There appears to be an overriding push to make sure the homosexual lifestyle doesn’t suffer any bad press... this against so much evidence of gay networks and predatory behavior. Why the obfuscation? Because it collides with the agenda of many bishops to change teaching on moral theology? Again, this is a horrible message to send to people who have suffered immensely. While all victims matter, my heart breaks for seminarians and other male victims especially, as they are statistically less likely to report crimes of this nature.

4. Do you have anything specific you would like to say to Cardinal Mahony, or the LAREC organizers?

Please, consider the vulnerable who have suffered and/or are suffering because of sexual abuse of clergy. Please accept accountability for enabling abusers through silence and hiding the problems.

How can the organizers claim to care about vulnerable immigrants and be so tone deaf to the pain of vulnerable sexual abuse victims? It’s like asking those with a wide track record of contempt for immigrants to offer presentations on addressing the suffering of sex abuse victims. It doesn’t make sense, and it’s deeply hurtful to people like me.

5. Any of this information that you are willing to share, would give people the context that would help them understand:

a. Your age when the abuse took place?

4 or earlier to 7

b. Were you abused by someone you knew and trusted? Clergy? Coach? Relative?

Step-grandfather, with the knowledge and assistance of my paternal grandmother

c. whether people believed you,

My mother did. My father didn’t want to, but the family pediatrician confirmed internal damage and scarring.

d. how long it took for you to reveal what happened

The pain was too much by the time I was seven. I was told by my father not to tell anyone or they’d hate me- so as to save my grandmother from embarrassment. I didn’t say anything to anyone until I was 15-16.

Submitted by "Lee Ann."

 

 



Abuse testimony--"It's a miserable existence."

1. I have PTSD symptoms frequently (once is enough!) and unexpectedly. I go into a zone of terror; it's a terror that paralyzes like a deer in headlights. I cannot think rationally and those around me are not truly present to me.

2. The public discussion of the clergy abuse makes me feel physically ill, and I mostly avoid reading about it. There is no way I could ever read the PA report.

3. Emotionally speaking, the cover-up feels like gas-lighting.

4. To Cardinal Mahony, I'd like to say, humble yourself, be honest about the past, and repent, both publicly and privately. Don't make things worse by speaking from a place of authority because you've lost the credibility necessary.

5. My age: starting at 11 to 15 from a friend of the family. And then at about 17 from my father.

 


 

I told my mother at about 15, and she believe me. I told my father, having somehow suppressed what he'd done, when I was in my late 20s about the friend of the family, but he became defensive and did not validate my pain. It was his best friend's oldest son. 

These two traumas have affected my life in a myriad of ways. First, I must say that I've healed from both tremendously over the last decade with the help of the Church, sacraments, and good therapy in person and books.

But there are profound effects that I still struggle with and need more therapy. I have trouble sleeping at night. I fear sexual perversion ALL the time ~ even among my own children. It's as if the internal sensor that would alert me of danger is broken, and I can't tell what is real or perceived. I'm uncomfortable around priests now and worry about my kids going to confession or alter serving. I worry that my husband of over 20 years will turn out to be a pervert and abuse our children. I was especially triggered by a friend whose husband went to jail for sexually abusing their only daughter. I'm inhibited sexually and feel ugly without clothes. Not always, but I still can't seem to relax. It's a miserable existence.

Submitted by "Laura."

 


Abuse victim: misplaced guilt and shame

I am a victim and survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I was 10 years old when my father began abusing me, and approximately 17 when the abuse stopped. The attempts to manipulate and punish me for my defiance in finally getting up the courage to say I didn’t “want to do it anymore” went on for years after that. I think for those who have never been abused, it is often hard to understand why an older child or teen doesn’t tell anyone and doesn’t simply refuse to accept abuse. You have to understand that in most cases the abuse didn’t start when we were 17 year-olds: it started when we were young children, and quite probably there were years of “grooming” before that. In one sense, we were “stuck” in that early childhood stage and never got to grow up; and in another, we were grown beyond our years. Soiled by an intimate encounter with evil from those we should have been able to trust most.


 

And then there is the misplaced guilt and shame. During the years of my abuse, I could not think in concrete terms about what was happening to me beyond the vaguest prayers of “please, make it stop.” Even though I was a writer, the words to describe sexual abuse were far too threatening for me to ever put to paper, both because I could not deal with them and because they were too dangerous. I believed that I was responsible for my own abuse, that I could never admit to someone that I was being abused because in the same breath I would have to admit that I was not doing anything to make it stop. That I was too scared to even say “No.” I did not have it in me to understand that telling was an attempt to end the abuse. My father involved me in the cover-up of my own abuse from an early age, with phone calls directing me to clean up his soiled under garments as one example. By a strange twist of reality, I believed that I was both the other woman and that I was holding my family together by my silence; that’s a very sordid and heavy burden for a young person to have to carry.

I was 20 years old and in college away from home when the truth of my abuse finally came out. I had been seriously suicidal for many years without any real understanding of my distorted thinking. I was seeing a counselor, talking about my abuse, writing papers on incest, even entering the long-dreamed of world of romantic relationships. I was finally “safe,” and yet it was there, in college, when the numbness of years began to wear off, that I attempted suicide. And it was in the aftermath of my suicide attempt that I was finally able to unburden myself of the secret that I had been keeping.

Flash forward 30 plus years to the summer of 2018. The Church’s “Summer of Shame.” Today I consider myself a healthy, stable person. It took me many years of struggle and healing to reach this point. I am a wife, mother, committed Catholic. And I have been obsessed with the clergy abuse crisis. It is like a very personal train wreck which I cannot bring myself to look away from. I read everything. I actually lived in PA during the years of my abuse. I read the PA Grand Jury Report in its entirety because I had to know if any of the priests I knew had committed sexual abuse against children. (Thankfully, not.)

Over the last months, I have felt the most searing sense of betrayal. I have had persistent thoughts and memories of my own abuse. I want every sexually abusive priest and every prelate who covered up clergy sexual abuse gone. Not today, not tomorrow; I want them gone YESTERDAY. Each new revelation in the clergy abuse scandal is like pulling off a bandage from a raw wound, again and again and again. I count myself lucky that I have not experienced flashbacks, nightmares, or suicidal thoughts this time around, but I am no stranger to these signs of trauma. They were the substance of the years I spent in healing from my own abuse, and I expect they are the substance experienced by many survivors of sexual abuse, and in particular clergy sexual abuse, today who are still in the trenches dealing with their abuse.

I cannot begin to recount the nightmares and horror I lived through during and long after my own abuse had finished, but I can share with you here a raw slice of the suffering I have revisited in the wake of the Church’s “Summer of Shame” and the months that have followed.

Sunday was the most dangerous day”

For a child who is being sexually abused, it’s all about survival. Your sense of reality is skewed. You don’t think in terms of pleasure or happiness. You think in terms of danger, and danger is always relative. You think in terms of coping strategies that make the situation a little less dangerous. For instance, if you are wearing some clothes, if you are out of bed, if there are others in the home when the abuse episode begins, the situation may not get as bad. You might be able to control the level of danger. You never have the control to stop it, just a thin veneer of relative control. So you do your best not to be caught in bed or dressing or alone with him. Clothes will still come off, abuse will still happen, but it may not be quite as bad if you can control these factors.

The situation will still escalate, but the starting place for the escalation will be lower, so maybe the escalation won’t go as far.

You learn numbness, because it’s all about survival, and you could never survive and keep this huge secret if you had feelings. So you shut down. You compartmentalize. You never allow yourself to cry. How could you stay in control if you cried? How could you keep the secret you’ve been burdened with? So you close yourself off.

You learn coping strategies that may offer thin protection in the time of abuse, but which are actually dysfunctional in the time post-abuse.

For instance, when you’re struggling to get through one more day - and that’s what it’s like surviving childhood sexual abuse - thoughts of suicide might get you through. You might dream of suicide as a solution. You might fantasize about suicide “if it ever gets too bad.” You probably hold onto thoughts of suicide as a form of ultimate control in a world where you have no control. Images repeating in your head of all the ways you could kill yourself. If that’s the case, by the time you’ve made it out, you’ve probably built a rich fantasy world featuring suicide as escape, revenge, a way to shut off the pain, and the only viable way to make a statement about what’s been going on. And then you go out into the real world, post-abuse, and one day you just snap, and you attempt suicide for real. Because you’re finally feeling after years of numbness, and feeling is painful, intense, too hard to bear.

It’s not an accident that people rarely attempt suicide in terrible situations. They attempt suicide after it seems the situation is getting better, and then it takes a turn for the worse. They attempt suicide after they’ve begun to dream of something more, because they can’t bear the pain of lost hope.

Post-abuse, that sense of danger still exists in your mind. You don’t expect happiness or safety, and it’s all still relative. You wake from nightmares. The horror still lives within you. It never goes away. But this time you wake from nightmares into the reality that you’re not actually being abused as you sleep. So it’s all relative. The danger doesn’t seem as bad, because you can wake up from the nightmare.

Many sexual abuse survivors turn to drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, even prostitution in their efforts to deaden the pain. These were not my personal “drugs of choice.” I went with suicide and numbness. And luckily for me, I had some good and caring friends, counselors, and priests; I came back from my suicide attempt; I reclaimed my Catholic faith. I do not say it was easy, but in time, healing happened. Not everyone heals or survives. So many are lost to drugs, alcohol, prostitution, suicide. So many are broken and have left the Catholic Church following the clergy abuse scandals. Can you blame them? Finding out that the predator is with you in your Catholic sanctuary when you finally thought you were safe, that it was all over, is the stuff of nightmares.

For me, Sunday was the most dangerous day because my busy family split up and went to different Masses, and I was expected to go to the later one with my father. Catechism classes for my age group consisted of an interactive, once a month, two-hour rap session, following the later Mass. And on those other Sundays... it was well-known in my family that I liked to sleep in. How could I tell anyone I didn’t want to go to the later Mass? Then I’d have to tell them why. And that was something I could never talk about.

Sundays broke my rules for relative safety from danger. I was in the house alone with my father. The abuse might even happen before I’d gotten out of bed, or when I was dressing. And it would be bad.

Afterward, we stood in Mass together and exchanged the sign of peace. How laughable is that? I was dying inside because of his abuse, and we shared the sign of peace.

I have my own unresolved issues about confession. My father told me once, in the course of a conversation about our “relationship,” that he went to confession. I always wondered, did the priest tell him to say “3 Hail Marys” and his sins would be forgiven? Did the same priest hear the same confession from him again and again and do nothing to protect me? I know the seal of the confessional is sacred, but couldn’t he have refused to grant absolution? Maybe he did refuse. Maybe my father went once to a visiting priest and said something vague like he had broken his marriage vows. He was a canny, manipulative man, after all. But I’m still haunted by the thought that a priest somewhere knew what he was doing to me and did nothing. I haven’t been to confession in years.

How do you think it makes me feel to know priests were abusing children in the confessional? That those children were living the same awful lie I was living at home, but it was being done by their spiritual fathers. By our spiritual shepherds. Msgr. Charles Pope describes clergy sexual abuse as “spiritual incest.” (NCR Blog Feb 2, 2019) That’s not far off.

I read everything. Including the PA Grand Jury Report and the LA Times Investigative Report from 2013. How do you think I feel knowing that our bishops, our spiritual shepherds, knew about abuse and did nothing to stop it? That they protected abusers over the children, blamed and defamed victims of clergy sexual abuse. Moved predators from one parish to another so they could keep on abusing children. Moved them out of state or out of country to protect those abusers and their own reputations. Colluded to protect the predators from the law and to leave the innocent children at their mercy. That’s what Mahony did. And he lied. He claimed he reported clergy abuse whenever he was informed of it. Not even once did he do so. He lied.

How do you think that makes me feel? I’ll tell you: Sick to my stomach.

And now they want to honor him by having him speak at a conference attended by 40,000 Catholics? A conference most likely attended by victims still suffering from the clergy sexual abuse Mahony enabled? In a city still teeming with the fruits of his betrayal?

How do you think I feel when I read about Bishop Zanchetta of Argentina invading the privacy of seminarians as they slept at night with his flashlight and his sexual filth? I’ll tell you: Violated. Violated on their behalf. How do you think I feel when I read that Pope Francis returned his good friend Zanchetta to ministry after the first complaint and then created a prestigious position for him at the Vatican after later complaints? I’ll tell you: Betrayed.

How do you think I feel about the Church’s silence on the sin of actively homosexual clergy when it is clear that the vast majority of clergy sexual abuse is homosexual in nature?

Clericalism??

How do you think I feel?

DEVASTATED.

Submitted by Odilia.

 


Interview with a sexual abuse victim

1. Have you ever had flashbacks? PTSD symptoms?

I don’t think I had any flashback or classic PTSD symptoms. Though as a teen I misunderstood sleep paralysis and thought I was being attacked by demons and wondered if it was related. I also felt very uncomfortable in later years sleeping in the same bed where the abuse had happened as a child (in current terminology, that might be called triggering). At points, I questioned my own sexuality and I know my ability to form lasting relationships has been affected (I am over 50 and still single). In many ways I have overcome the effects of what happened, and I don’t like to dwell on it or use it to excuse my shortcomings. Still, I think it helps explain/understand some of them (including continued struggles with the common vices associated with the deadly sin of lust).

2. How does the public discussion of clergy sex abuse affect you emotionally?


 

I have very mixed feelings. I don’t want all clergy (much less the charism of Holy Mother Church) damaged by the actions of some. But, when a culture of corruption and coverup and complicit silence develops; it is hard to know who to trust. I am currently in spiritual direction with a retired bishop, and don’t know if I can even trust him to recognize the seriousness of all of this. I don’t know if he appreciates how hard it makes it to witness to my niece, nephews and godchildren about the beauty of the church.

3. How does the cover-up of clergy sex abuse affect you emotionally?

It angers me greatly, less because of my own abuse than because of my experience working with other survivors and because of the damage it does to the Church’s credibility in other areas.

4. Do you have anything specific you would like to say to Cardinal Mahony, or the LAREC organizers?

Sardonically: Get a damn clue?

Seriously: How can we maintain any credibility as a moral teacher when we celebrate and advance those acting with such blatant disregard for the truth and/or morality. It is not that forgiveness isn’t possible. It is that lack of repentance and lack of accountability is galling and makes us think no one cares.

5. Any of this information that you are willing to share, would give people the context that would help them understand:

5a. Your age when the abuse took place,

I’m not exactly sure, repeated occurrences somewhere between the ages of 4 and 8?

5b. Were you abused by someone you knew and trusted? Clergy? Coach? Relative?

An older brother.

5c. whether people believed you,

Generally, yes.

5d. how long it took for you to reveal what happened

I was probably college aged before I first started talking about it (so at least ten years, probably more).

5e. whether the Church treated you appropriately (if relevant to your story)

Not relevant, my brother had no church position at the time of my abuse. Interestingly however, my brother eventually spent several years in the seminary; but, the abuse happened long before then and I don’t think it was known to them. For whatever it is worth, he did not make it through until ordination (though he got close).

Submitted by Oliver.