A Road Less Traveled
Sometimes we are called upon to do the very things in Life that we would rather avoid the most. By saying “yes” to these deep emotional and spiritual impulses, we find that the very things that make us believe we are weak or defective, can become our greatest assets.
Many of us feel a deep call within ourselves to “put ourselves out there” to advocate for a particular issue that resonates within us. For those of us who were previous victims of abuse, whether experienced as an adult or as a child, our advocacy is part of our recovery from that abuse.
Over the years I have written many articles about child abuse, and child abuse recovery, many of which are highly regarded. When I write, I move forward. When I don’t, I feel like I slide backwards, because I am not giving voice to a part of myself that will cry out to be heard as long as I live, and as long as there is someone out there who still does not understand the repercussions of child abuse, or the process of child abuse recovery. Even though this voice inside us cries out to be heard, allowing this voice inside us is also sometimes very painful, and seeing the magnitude of denial in our society is daunting. I sometimes despair, not wanting to put effort into something where I may never see results. But giving up on this voice is an abandonment of my truest, most honest self. I will not do that!
For the second time in two years, I have met a local doctor who confided that he advises child abuse survivors that “They just have to get over it” …. “What are you going to do, let it ruin your life?”, he says. I was shocked that I would run into more than one doctor in the same town who thinks this way. Although his statements were not directed at me (I don’t believe he knows my history), I was very uncomfortable. I knew that although discussion of the subject would probably not be very productive, I also felt my silence would convey assent. I waited a while for an opening (and for my own insides to calm down), and gently responded, with an attitude of “waiting to see what would happen”. I pointed out that a person must be careful when dealing with someone struggling with their past, because we may not know where they are on their recovery path, on a spectrum between victim and survivor. He gave only cursory acknowledgment of this, moving quickly to his next point of conversation. His next point was an intellectual remark about percentages of molesters in churches, and why people shouldn’t worry about a particular church. He had no idea that both my wife and myself were abused by priests when we were children, and that safe clergy are extraordinarily important to us when choosing a church. I guess it never occurred to him that we might be child abuse survivors, or clergy abuse survivors. We are both. Ever since that day in his office, I have noticed a need to write about it within myself that I cannot ignore.
Twenty-four years ago, I stood at the brink of choosing recovery. I was drawn out of my protective shell of frozen emotion, self medication, and fear by the weight of the pain I carried, but also by folks who knew how to provide the safety required to draw me out of my self imposed prison. They were proper advocates of recovery. I know absolutely what works because my history reveals what works.
In order to respond effectively to the needs of adult child abuse survivors, a number of things must be present in order to be effective advocates:
From the time I was 4 or 5 years old, I was beaten with an open hand on an almost daily basis. Later, I was punched, kicked, tackled, thrown down, and had things thrown at me. I was yanked by my arms until I thought my shoulders would dislocate. I was tied to chairs, beaten with metal vacuum cleaner pipes, and threatened with a butcher knife. When I was 9 or 10, my mother confided in a rage that she would kill me if she could get away with it. I was sexually abused by at least two men, one of them the parish priest. I witnessed my sisters being chased, screamed at, and beaten. The abuse that I suffered was extreme, but I am fortunate. I entered recovery at a time when we knew very little about how to help victims recover, yet here I am. If you are uncomfortable with what I have to say, then I am sorry, but I think that I have earned the right to be heard.
I am a survivor. I am grateful for all the help I have received. There are others like me. It took me 35 years to get to a doorway that led to recovery. I have been in the process of recovery for 24 years. I look inside myself, and I see the astounding amount of patience it has taken me to get to where I am. We survivors must call upon that same patience when dealing with those who offer no such patience towards us. Nevertheless, we must speak out until there is no one left who does not understand the journey of a child abuse survivor.
©2010 Ken Scully
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