By Vatican News
“I wanted to tell you about when I was a child,” she said, “but there is no point. Because when I was 11 years old, a priest from my parish destroyed my life.”
“Since then, I, who loved colouring books and doing somersaults on the grass, have not existed.”
The second day of the Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church concluded with the harrowing testimony of a European woman, who told how she had been abused by her parish priest. “The abuse went on for five years,” she said. “No one noticed.”
She spoke about how she desensitized herself, trying to escape what was happening to her. She spoke about the confusion she felt as a child, how she questioned herself, blamed herself.
She spoke about how her body reacted to the abuse she could not process – eating disorders, time spent in the hospital, anxiety, difficulties in school. How the abuse affected her relationships, her marriage, her children.
When finally able to confront her abuse, after many years, she told those present in the Aula about her struggle to regain her identity, the “enormous perseverance” necessary. “Abuse causes immediate damage, but it doesn’t stop there,” she said. “What is most difficult is dealing daily with that experience that attacks you, and presents itself in the most unexpected moments. You have to live with it… forever!”
“Inside you, there are endless questions you will never be able to answer, because abuse makes no sense!”
The pain and confusion caused by the abuse can make it difficult to speak. But, she said, “We victims, if we can find the strength to speak out or expose, must find the courage to do so, knowing that we risk not being believed, or seeing our abuser getting away with a small canonical penalty.” She insisted, “This cannot and must not be the case any longer!”
She said the Church can be proud that it is capable of dealing with abuse despite the legal statute of limitations, but said that a long time between the offense and the accusation should not be seen as a mitigating factor in favour of the accuser. “Victims are not guilty of their silence… Wounds can never be the subject of a statute of limitations.”
“Today, I am here – and together with me are all the abused boys and girls, all the women and men – trying to be reborn from their wounds,” she said. “But here too, above all, are those who tried and did not make it. It is from here, with them in our hearts, that, together, we must begin anew.”