Sex Crimes & The Vatican
I recently read Andrew Madden’s Altar Boy after I had read something written by or about him (I don’t remember) on the net. Up until this November I have chosen not to read or watch anything about child sexual abuse by Catholic priests which was condoned and encouraged by the hierarchy, rules and practices of the Church all the way to the top. I found Madden’s book a revelation, it completely spoke to me and I read it in one sitting. Through reading more about him on the net I found Colm O’Gorman’s website and his book Beyond Belief, which I have also read and urge everybody everywhere to read. The following YouTube videos are the Panaroma programme O’Gorman made for the BBC in 2006. They are obviously shocking and disturbing. I have yet to see Suing the Pope which O’Gorman made in 2002.
Reading the wiki entry entitled Catholic sex abuse cases, it is clear the most common age range to encounter clerical abuse is between 11 and 14 which is the age range estimated to hold 51% of the victims of clerical abuse, and also boys are at much more risk than girls with an estimated 81% of clerical abuse commited on boys. In fact I was initially confused as to why I was so drawn to Madden and O’Gorman’s books, they were both abused by priests and obviously are both male. But it was the age. I was raped at 14 – not by a priest, but by two random strangers – a pair of friends I imagine who worked together raping whoever who they felt like. I was on a busy tourist beach on my own at about ten in the morning. The beach wasn’t busy when I arrived, but when I was able to leave it the beach was very busy with happy holidaymakers of all ages.
None of the normal risk factors pushed at women by rape prevention campaigns were present- in fact the only risk factor which is relevant to rape is to be in the presence of a rapist. I know that now, but I didn’t know that then. I cried for a long time and then I stopped. I walked barefoot (as I had lost a shoe) back to the holiday house my family were staying in and had a bath and went to bed. When my noisy large family returned I continued the holiday and kept quiet, for years. Like both Madden and O’Gorman did. I told the odd boyfriend in the intervening years to a general stunned silence and nothing more was said, except in the case of one particularly abusive boyfriend (my preferred type for many years) who at one bizarre point decided that the rape was to blame for everything he considered wrong with me and he told my mother who (without my knowledge until this year) told other members of my family. Obviously he had a point and if he had been a kinder person and gone about things differently along with the doctor who he frogmarched me too and made me tell that I had been raped and was “mental”, along with the (male) mental health worker who I was sent to, who decided I was too “hostile” to benefit from any further services, then my journey into becoming a rape survivor from a rape victim could have happened much sooner. And I could have had a different life.
It has taken me 22 years to seek the help I need to become a survivor and regain control of my life. And to thank for that I have a wonderful boyfriend who engaged with me when I told him I had been raped – the first person ever to do so. He encouraged me from my tentative first comments about getting counselling and has supported me during the last few months, which I have found difficult and at times overwhelming, and I know he must find it hard too but he doesn’t lay that burden at my door in any way. I have had the opportunity to experience a wonderful therapist funded by Rape Crisis, an organisation which is under continued threat by the authorities who could easily provide adequate funding so that Rape Crisis could help all those who have been failed by the rape culture that the same authorities support. Much like the Catholic church supported (and probably still does support clerical abuse), our Government actively supports rapists with a little tinkering around the edges by Harriet Harman et al. Andrew Madden and Colm O’Gorman have given me words to use to describe the effects that being raped have had on me. At 14 I simply didn’t have a language to describe how I felt and what I had experienced. At 36 I still have a problem with this. I have spent many years suppressing it and denying that it had any effect on me and my life with all it’s bizarre choices. I decided I suffered depression which has significantly altered my life chances in education etc. because the chemicals in my brain were at the wrong levels. That was it, and taking pills made the levels right and I would no longer have anything to be depressed about and I could blame myself if I still didn’t achieve happiness and everything else I should be achieving. In actual fact, I haven’t been very kind to myself and have lived with an unacceptable level of anxiety for most of my life for which I have mainly applied an alcohol sticking plaster and I have kept quiet. It didn’t work.
Rape Crisis don’t provide the inexpensive six week course of ineffective CBT so favoured by the NHS, but instead offer a much more long lasting form of support with no minimum or maximum amount of sessions. And it is working for me. I am still unable to articulate what happened me on the day I was raped but I am able to think about it now. I am surprised that now I can let my mind see what happened that I cannot remember sound at all until after it had finished, but that may come back in time, or I may decide it isn’t as important as I think it is now. I am unravelling how that “catastrophic event” as my counsellor called it, has led me to develop my coping mechanisms for life – these are effective for survival but not always the best way to survive as a happy person. To supress emotion does not allow any control over it. And that knowledge has seemed very weird – I simply do not let myself feel a wide range of emotion. Sadness for example is always translated immediately into irritation at best or more often to anger. Apparently it is good to cry, and perhaps one day I will do it again.
I was surprised to hear my rape described as catastrophic. I was surprised to hear my depression described as feeling pain. I am also constantly surprised to discover the dissonance between things I know and things I feel. This seems to be a major part of my journey – to link what I know to what I feel.
I admire and feel deeply for Andrew Madden and for Colm O’Gorman and for the fight for justice that they and other survivors have been forced into by the stance taken by a church that has shown no actual grace and little sign of change.