Independence Day

This day marks some kind of milestone in my life.  I’m not sure exactly how to name it.  Maybe “Independence Day” is the most accurate.  Today, I took a deep breath and told my story on the SNAP website. 

I have admired SNAP for many years.  I have not always agreed with SNAP’s choices, but I have always admired the determination to confront sexual abuse by clergy and religious in the Church.  I could never do so for myself.  Until middle age, I could not even allow myself to revisit the horrors in my memory.  Only with the support of my loving husband, and my beautiful daughter, my aging mother, and my brother was I able to grow strong enough to finally confront the Sisters of Mercy about the reality of my youth in their care.

Even when I did so, I could not participate in SNAP.  It just ripped open the wound and burned me to my core.  I could not read accounts of others who went through the hell of abuse.  I found it made me gag, and weep uncontrollably.  I needed to let strong SNAP folk do their work.  I could not.  I was able to put my energy into helping women who were abused as vulnerable adults by clergy, but could never face the horror of abuse of children or youth. 

Today I read about a priest I know well who was accused of sexually abusing boys.  I do not know if it is true or not.  It broke my heart to read about it.  I was shocked.  But something inside me snapped a bit as I read it, then read through various articles on Bishops Accountability website and on SNAP’s website.  I found the anger was still strong, although I was at peace.  That is an odd thing to say.  Anger with peace. 

Once, many years ago while talking with him, Dr. Richard Sipe reminded me that anger is the beginning of courage.  I have never forgotten that.  Anger about abuse is not a bad thing.  It is important! 

My anger is not about vengeance, it is about grief, and about accountability.  I grieve a youth lost to molestation, absolute control by a sick Sister, and to the confusion and horror that kept me from turning to my parents for help.  I grieve that.  I’m pissed about it. 

Yet, having worked through the emotions, I have come to a point in my life, a very peaceful place where I honestly forgive all those who have hurt me in any way in life.  That, in itself, is a Grace I never expected, but it is real.  I forgive Sister Mary Juanita for the abuse, but that does not mean she should not be held accountable for her actions.  Her community has never forced her to deal with me, her victim!  Never!  They took her out of ministry, which protected others from her, and them from further vulnerability, but they NEVER forced her to deal with me, to be accountable to me.   I forgive, but it does not mean I should ever forget what she put me through in youth, or long into my adult years as I carried the memories into marriage and family life, trying to survive, and gain strength from my Faith.  The psychological scars are myriad!  I must always remember.  It is what helps me grow in compassion for others, and, ironically, what has helped me come to understand a little bit about what makes the monster tick as well. 

She was not born a monster.  Her scars were given to her too.  Understanding the cycle of abuse has helped me to forgive, and to grow stronger.  It has helped me to recognize my own need to have control of my life, and learn to deal with life circumstances that are beyond my control.  It has helped me understand vulnerable humanity, both those who heal and those who do not–who go on to repeat the abuse. 

So, today, after many years of gradually dealing with the sexual abuse of my youth, I chose to participate in SNAP’s website and name my abuser there.  Some will not be happy that I did so.  I don’t care.  I will never hear an apology from the Sister of Mercy who told me “God is Love” as she molested me, from the religious Sister of Mercy vowed to Chastity as she raped me.  I had hoped we wouldn’t need to deal with this in the next life, that we, instead, could just get on with the heavenly party, with eternal Love.  She is old today.  An old woman.  Her next stop is meeting the Lord.  I’d hoped this would not be carried over to that side, that we could have ended it here.  I forgive.   In my heart of hearts I believe God will look at her brokenness and also forgive.  Yet, I think she will suffer in her heart of hearts for not having dealt with it all in this life.  I’d hoped to hear her apology, her relief at sincerely apologizing.  I am at peace, and hoped that she would find that too.  But that is beyond my control.  It isn’t my job, and is not something that causes me stress.  I’d only hoped her own monstrous wounded personality and soul that led to her becoming an abuser would heal too. 

Still, all will be well.  Today is finally Independence Day for me.  I will never again protect her anonymity.  My experience is real, and is a part of my life that I shall never again ignore or overlook because she would not want others to know!   I was a victim at the time of the abuse, the years of the abuse, and long after it.   I became a survivor.   Now, I thrive and live a joyful life, and far from forgetting, I’ve allowed Love to heal the wounds.  The scars left are only there to serve me as a reminder to pass on the Love I’ve been given.  It’s Independence Day!

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~ by caitfinnegan on October 23, 2013.

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