Saturday, June 30, 2007

An Appointment with The Perpetrator of My Abuse

The image at the right is an odd "crack" in a piece of limestone. The crack is called a stylolite. It occurs as pressure from opposite directions press the two rock layers together. The pressure actually causes the rocks to dissolve at the contact point and the stylolite forms and a new boundary is formed. I think you will see how the picture fits my last few days as you read on.
Bob's son-in-law, Michael, contacted my pastor, Tom, on Wednesday of this week and asked if we could sit down and talk this coming Tuesday, July 3rd. Tom emailed me and we talked and it is a go for Tuesday.

I emailed many who support me and asked for their input and prayers and I scheduled an appointment with my therapist for Monday. I talked briefly to both Cheryl and Dan (old shrink and marriage counselor) who were very supportive.
David Clohessy called me yesterday morning and woke me up after a night of staying up with Bonnie, but it was time to get up. His view is always in stopping further abuse. He encouraged me to ask questions as to what Bob is now doing in his spare time. Is he continuing to play tennis with women other than his wife? Is he doing anything to work with teenagers?

I thought his idea a good one and will try to incorporate it into the agenda. I would like to talk to Michael about him monitoring his father-in-law as well. Bob remains a predator at heart if not in action. From my phone conversations with him, little has changed.

When I asked my hubby for input he was all about explaining to Bob what a snake he was...... which has its place.

My point is that everyone thinks their input is the way to go and I have to sift through it to take the pieces I need and leave the others. It is good emotional exercise to shuffle through others feelings to prepare for this but that always hits my "acceptance issues" thus it has been a hard 3 days.


Friday, June 22, 2007

The Legacy of Pastoral Sexual Abuse

How does one quantify or qualify the damage done by clergy sexual misconduct? When I search online for answers to this question, I find little talk of actual cost. So, I began to ask myself this question - what did Bob's and Minton's abuse cost me?

I was privy, as a returning non-traditional college student, to free therapy for 5 1/2 years. I once tallied up what the therapy would have cost me had I been required to pay for it and the tab came to $120,000; a fee I could have never afforded. I currently pay a minimum of $150 a month. That $150 includes therapy and medication of which insurance covers the majority.
As large as that figure is to my budget, the greater cost is in my time, energy, and emotional health. Here is a cost list I created a few weeks ago:

  • shame, shame and more shame

  • lack of trust of myself

  • What is wrong with me?

  • self doubt

  • self flagellation - Do you understand the seriousness of what you have done?

  • fear of myself
By far the most important and most damaging effect was the loss of self respect. Once Minton made moves toward me as a result of my sharing Bob's abuse with he and his wife, I adopted the belief and question, "What is wrong with me?" Any tatters of belief in myself was totally destroyed. I truly believed the abuse was a result of something decidedly misconstructed in me. A later pastor asked me if I understood the seriousness of what I had done? Being the fantastic overachiever my son accuses me of being - I determined to understand this fact with all my being.

I daily flagellated myself with the seriousness of what I had done in hopes of preventing such misbehavior in the future. I lost any trust of my own personhood and saw myself as something to fear - and fear myself, I did. Who else would I contaminate?

Shame became the primary definer of my soul. I lived in shame. I believed in my shame. I was shame. Therapists will tell you that shame is at the base of most psychological issues. It WAS my psychological issue.
  • identification of attention and approval with sex

  • increase in need for approval

  • loss of healthy boundaries

During my relationship with Bob, my boundaries were destroyed. I equated sexual desire with acceptance. I was eaten alive inside by a hunger for approval and attention that was promised by the sex but I never seemed to attain. Have you ever been so thirsty that you would have drunk anything? I have - once. Since then I always make sure water travels with me. I have carried inside of me a similar thirst for approval and attention and acceptance. The hole inside my soul was unquenchable and constantly drove me to have it filled. It tormented every waking moment of my life. Tell me I am OK. Tell me you like me. Tell me I did a good job. Tell me you care about me. Tell me I am special. Tell me....... Only no matter how much love was shown, it never filled the hole. I became frantic to make the pain and emptiness stop.

  • involvement in a controlling church that was full of misogyny

  • anger toward authority which led to frequent conflict

  • transference onto relationships in the present

I sought approval in a very controlling and misogynous church. Misogyny means hatred of women, and women were treated like dirt. We had picnics at which the men played and the women took care of the kids and believed that was their place. The men went to meetings that the women were too fragile to understand or learn about. Women were not allowed to pray for anyone if their husband was not present. Whatever issues a husband might have was immediately deflected back onto the wife for if she was a proverb's women her husband would be an elder and "sit in the gates". If he wasn't - then there was something wrong with his wife. It took years for me to see the error of the church and then I couldn't leave it out of some warped sense of duty.

Anger toward authority leaked out of me like steam out of a pressure cooker. I was unaware of it, but those in authority felt it. It was my goal to emasculate them and expose their weaknesses. I transferred my anger at Bob and Minton onto others. Some deserved it but others did not. Relationships were affected and I was seen as someone to be avoided.

  • general anxiety disorder

  • need to be perfect, fear of failure increased

  • emotional turmoil

  • church avoidance

While prior to the abuse I had been an A/B student, after the abuse I had to be the top of the class. Being the top made me special and gave me attention and approval. It also drove me and haunted me and made me rather obnoxious at times. As I entered my late 40's an underlying anxiety built inside of me. It still remains and medication keeps me even keel most of the time. Panic attacks and a racing heart keep me taking that medication.

I left church and could not go back until 9 months ago. If I went for a wedding or once for the baptism of my son, a Xanex got me through the ceremony. Being in church was too frightening. I don't know whether I was more afraid of what someone there might do or of what I might do if let loose.

  • life focus stolen

  • identity changed and centered on abuse

  • dropped out of college

  • time

  • loss of friends

I dropped out of college early on because of the emotional turmoil over the abuse from Bob and Minton. I spent the the next 25 years pursuing the direction that brought the least anxiety. Even my eventual return to college at the age of 43 was in part out of fear of failing if I returned to the work force.

Much of the time in my 30's and 40's was spent wrestling with the after affects of the abuse. I did not always connect the two but without the abuse, much that brought turmoil into my life, would not have had its hook in me.

I lost dear friends when the relationship with Minton was aired by a pastor that promised to protect my identity. I had already been thrown out of the church group years before due to discomfort between me and Minton's wife. Then, post abuse, I was once again blamed for the action of my pastor and deemed too dangerous for some to allow their children to be around me. Their children were allowed, however, to hang out with Minton - at least until the truth came out.

I sometimes wonder who I would be if Bob had never happened - in one sense, a pointless question. Nevertheless, my life was changed. Oddly if you look at it one way, what I did to myself because of the abuse, was the deepest damage. It was not the physical happenings that hurt me, but the self hatred and despite that ate me alive.

Shame is a devourer of souls.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Statute of Limitations on Sexual Abuse

In my state, the statute of limitations for sexual abuse falls under the same category as any other personal harm. To file a civil suit you have 2 years after the abuse. For minors the two years do not begin until they turn 18 and there are some clauses that allow later filings if one can prove that the damage done was not realized until a much later date. Perhaps that is not a difficult thing to show if one is referring to physical damage but emotional damage is so much more difficult to measure. You can't x-ray it or scan it or weigh it.

As I was scraping, sanding, and priming the exterior walls of my house this morning my mind revisited yesterday's conversation in the lawyer's office. My mind pondered the emotional toll of reporting abuse and the greater toll of reporting it publicly. Six years ago I did my reporting privately. It required everything I had inside to make it through that process.

Why did it take me over 25 years to report my perpetrator? I can't deny that I knew it needed to be done. I felt guilt for a number of years for not reporting him. The answer to my self directed question is this: I did not have the emotional strength or health needed to report Bob.

Deep inside of me were the lessons of my mom: don't rock the boat, don't draw attention to oneself, and surely it is better dealt with swept under the carpet. My brother was a pastor in the same denomination and I knew it would be a stink if the truth escaped. The shame I carried was massive, so massive in fact that I was convinced something was deeply wrong with me inside. For years after gaining an understanding of the dynamics of power/abuse relations, I still did not grasp the implications of that reality. In my heart I remained at fault for many, many years.

Could I go public now? Yes. Could I have gone public a year ago? Not without costing my soul more pain than I think I could have managed. Healing has been a long and arduous task. It has come in the end like a ball gaining momentum rolling down the hill. What was fought so hard for 5 years ago, suddenly appears in the most amazing ways now.

This then brings us back to the justice in a statute of limitations for sexual abuse. Is there justice in one? There is no statute of limitations for murder. What about the murder of a soul? Is it fair to allow a sexual abuser to go free just because he did such a good job at the emotional end of the abuse that the victim is incapable of reporting it until the allowed time has expired? In a sense the better the abuser, the more predatorial, the more manipulative, the better their chance of never having to face justice - on this earth.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Visit with David Clohessy - January 20, 2007

Today was different. My brain was educated and my heart has much to ponder.

Today I picked up SNAP's (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) national president at the airport and chauffeured him around the big city for a press conference. If you are not familiar with David Clohessy you can Google his name and meet him. This is exactly what I did last night when my offer to pick him up and tote him around was accepted.

Whoa! The dude is in Wikepedia! A fact I don't think he was aware of prior to my informing him. David has been on all major networks, and interviewed by most talk show hosts. Major publications, like Time, have carried his articles and when someone news related needs a comment on pastoral misconduct they go to David. His own journey to becoming president of SNAP began at the hands of his own perpetrator.

So, what's he like? Nothing like one would expect such a notorious person to be. He is refreshingly real - and no better with directions than me! We spent quite a while roaming around some interesting sections of Atlanta looking for the lawyer's office. Once found, we were ushered in and I was even asked to help proof the press releases. I was also the official poster maker for the day.

Let's see...... Chauffeur, Editor, Advertising Agent - all in one day. Beats painting the house!

To the heart of things, David has me thinking about the importance of disclosure of the perpetrators name. Is he molesting the next door neighbor's kids? No pressure from David, just a question. One that God and I are going to have to wrestle out. What do you guys in blogger world feel about this?

Having never been a very politically active person - I think I have been heard to say things like I HATE POLITICS! - my cage was rattled a wee bit to be swept up into an announcement of new litigation filed against the ex-minister Earl Paulk. Feel free to Google him too. The list of accusations being handed the man will make you sick. Seems, he thought he was due a harem and he apparently collected and that is just starters as far as the law suit is concerned. Why is this type of behavior not illegal?

As I shared my own story with David, I watched and listened to the new me. That is who I was. Me. No striving for approval. No need for his acceptance. No need to be the constant center of attention. Healed and whole more than I even knew I could be and I didn't even realize how radical was the change until I sat down to write this.

Well, it is late and tomorrow I have to paint the house - or scrape, sand, patch, caulk, and prime it in order to get it ready to paint. I feel for the house....I have been there.