April 13, 2016 // Local

One victim’s personal reflection of mercy


My favorite Christmas movie is “It’s a Wonderful Life”. I appreciate the scene where George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) hugs his home’s creaky old staircase banister, giving thanks and gratitude for the home’s beautiful imperfections and for his life. And this is where my story begins…

From the late 70’s into the 80’s, a priest from the Ft. Wayne diocese sexually abused me, starting at age 12. To my shame, this went on for 10 years. The abuse occurred in the church rectory, school residence, camping trips, and gym clubs. He knew this innocent boy was anxious, depressed, and afraid. He analyzed my family and mental state and then proceeded to systematically groom me. He took me to movies, Komet games (he knew I loved hockey), and exclusive gyms to play racquetball and swim. We went on camping/skiing trips out of state. All these benefits and favors were to gain my trust. He sealed the secret in the most sacred of all places, the church confessional, demanding that I tell no one. I couldn’t tell anyone for fear of publically scandalizing my family, injuring my parents, and I felt no one would believe me. I told myself, “you can figure this out”…so the secret remained sealed for many years and my life was shattered and fragile.

The abuse deeply affected me in so many aspects of my life. I suffered from anxiety, compulsivity, perfection, and low self-esteem. Mostly, I lived in fear. I lived my whole life afraid of authority and conflict. This fear permeated to my adult life in the workplace, where I struggled for years to deal directly with people who didn’t treat me well or bullied me, real or perceived. I ran away from every tough discussion and conflict. I did everything in my power to perform at the highest standards of perfection. My goal was to look good at all costs. I tried to please everyone (my parents, family, co-workers, management, and friends) and did everything I could to look perfect and “normal”. I lived a compulsive life, constantly cleaning the house, garage, and yard (picking leaves off the lawn one by one), an illusion to gain control and mask myself from the outside world. I wanted no one to see the real me. Most shamefully, I turned to addictive behaviors like pornography and alcohol to comfort myself, and drown my sorrow and deep sadness, further isolating me from reality. I was very angry with the Church.

In 2006, my wife, with grace and love, held my hand and encouraged me to seek help – her insight revealed to me my addictive behavior and anxiety was linked to my sexual abuse. With courage, I finally admitted that I had serious problems and went into intense therapy, where I began to realize the lasting impact of the abuse. I was hurting myself and hurting those that I loved.  With support from my wife, family, wise therapists, men’s recovery group, and 12-Step, I began to embrace the recovery journey and I came alive. I began to understand that I didn’t do anything wrong, it was not my fault, and that the priest was completely accountable. Amen.

In 2008, I made contact with the Diocese (for abuse victims, it does take time to come forward — years in my case), and my wife and I met with Bishop John D’Arcy. I shared my entire life story with the good bishop. He listened with humility and loving care. It was life changing. I asked Bishop D’Arcy if God would ever forgive me, and he said, “God has forgiven you completely, and you let us take care of forgiving the priest. You just focus on recovery and healing”. At that very moment, the weight of my suffering was lifted and I cried in my wife’s arms. My wife and I met with Bishop Kevin Rhoades in 2011, to receive pastoral counsel and support. I remain in contact with Mary Glowaski, from the diocese, for spiritual support.

Today, I am in therapy with a group of men who are survivors of sexual abuse. This recovery work continues to be life changing as I work on shame reduction. Even after ten years, recovery is not a perfect linear line to “fixing” me, but I can see progress. I’m beginning to heal and find peace. I am still afraid, but not as fearful. I still get anxious, but I’m less anxious. I still worry, but I worry less. I still catch myself at work trying to be perfect, but I don’t worry too much about what people think of me! I still have compulsive thoughts, but I can assure you, I have not picked up one leaf off the grass in years! I treasure having fun with my wife and family, being spontaneous and playful. With courage, I am no longer afraid to explore retirement options from the corporate world, and I am currently pursuing plans to follow my heart — to become a teacher.

Recently, I began working on one of the most difficult aspects of recovery — forgiveness. I have finally been able to quietly say in my heart to the priest, “I forgive you.” This doesn’t mean I won’t hold him accountable. This is a breakthrough in my recovery work — to forgive, heal and let go.

So…when I come downstairs in the morning to start each day, I touch the bottom of our staircase banister (just like George Bailey), reminding myself — in all my imperfections, how grateful I am for my life. I love God and I still love my Catholic faith. To me, this profoundly symbolizes my progress and healing.

Note: I went back and forth whether to sign my name. Though I would like to sign my name, out of respect to some members of my family, who do not know my story yet, I chose not to sign my name. Patience in recovery is key. Some day, on my timeline, I will sign my name…


Abuse is never the fault of the victim

It is always the responsibility of the offender. The reality is that most victims of abuse know their abuser. One in four females and one in six males report being abused as a minor.

If you or someone you know is a victim of abuse there are things you can do even if the abuse happened years ago. Call the police to report the abuse. If the abuser was in a position of authority in an organization, report the abuse to that organization. Call an abuse crisis hotline. Click here for the Indiana Child Abuse Hotline

If it happened in a Catholic church or school, contact Mary Glowaski, Victim Assistance Coordinator for the diocese at 260-399-1458.

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