A Sexual Abuse Survivor and Client of Attorney Joe Klest Tells His Story
A Catholic priest sexually and physically molested me decades ago. The names and place where it occurred are insignificant. I live in the Midwest. I remember the incident vividly. I wish to remain anonymous for various reasons. A neighbor, coach, teacher or any adult who gained my trust could have sexually assaulted me. Freud taught that premature sexual exposure and abuse was the genesis of all neuroses. My abuser, or what I like to call perpetrator, was a priest who I was groomed to trust. My parents also trusted him.
I choose to forgive him and think he has been punished enough with the consequences of his behavior. However, he left me behind to deal with the aftermath. It is OK to forgive but unfortunately I can't forget. I have tried.
Richard Sipe, a forensic psychologist who I talk about later in my story, estimates "that between 11 and 11 1/2 percent of all the priests active in Los Angeles in 1983 have subsequently been accused of sexual abuse of minors. No one has even dared to assert that an equal number of doctors or lawyers in LA abuse at the same rate. (Populations compared to priests have to be of equivalent education and ages.)" He has no comparative figures for ministers of other religions, but "the Roman Catholic Church documents now contain over 5,500 reports of priest abusers." Those are overwhelming statistics from Sipe.
After my assault I was dumbfounded about what to do. I was a teenager, and I was scared and alone. My parents trusted me with my perpetrator. Who were they going to believe? He was a priest and I was just a kid. I should have told them and they would have helped me. That is one of my biggest regrets. I can't forgive myself for not telling them. However, this is most often the case in these situations. It became my secret.
It started by my perpetrator grooming me for the big night. This went on for a period of months. He took me out to dinner and ordered alcohol for me. I thought that was strange because I was under age. However, I began to drink with him. It turned into using illegal drugs also while drinking when we were alone. It went on for a period of time. He showed me some pornography. The night of the abuse I was drunk and high and very vulnerable and accessible to him. I was just a kid. It happened so quickly but after a while I was able to free myself from him using force. I did not cooperate. He picked the wrong kid.
I lost my innocence that night. I did not even know it was possible for a man, let alone a priest to do that to a young boy. There is nothing more innocent than a child. He had led me down this path by gaining my trust. I felt violated ever since.
The reason I contacted Joe Klest because of what happened. What happened so long ago to me is that the victim is often forgotten in these cases or instances. I have never seen one article about the aftermath of the abused that is left behind. Sometimes victims ask and get a settlement of some kind. That is not normally the case. It usually comes down to the victim's word and the abuser denies it. Most often there is no compensation or counseling.
There is not enough money that can take away the pain, shame, thoughts and guilt that I have endured. Young victims are too ashamed to come forward and too young to understand the damage that was done until decades go by. By then the Criminal and Civil Statute of Limitations is long past due once they realize the damage that was done. That needs to be changed; it is unrealistic to think a child will come forward by the time he reaches majority.
I did not realize the extent of the damage until a few years ago. It is always there. It took me years of therapy and visits to psychiatrists and therapists before I even told them I was abused. I did not put the depression and bad thoughts together with the abuse so I never mentioned it to my doctors or therapists for decades. It was my little ugly secret. I did not put it together.
Soon after the sexual and physical assault, I started having thoughts of suicide. This is very common for sex abuse victims. I thought that was strange because I had everything I needed and wanted in life. I had a happy childhood with loving parents who provided for me. They were irrational thoughts that I did not understand. The first two doctors wanted me committed.
These thoughts went on for a few years until I asked for help. I ended up with a psychiatrist. I was diagnosed and medicated for my irrational obsessive thoughts. This is also very common in child sexual abuse cases. I was given medication and went on my way. The thoughts were reduced but have never gone away. Sometimes they get unbearable. I live one day at a time. I live with the thoughts today. I never put together what had happened that night to the thoughts I was having, until after I sought professional help a few years ago provided by my Archdiocese. I did not realize the extent of the damage until a few years ago.
Around the same time after the abuse, I began to abuse alcohol. I am an alcoholic and always will be. The abuse of drugs or alcohol is very common for child sex abuse victims. Alcohol was readily available growing up but I seemed to drink more than my friends. There were many times that I often could not stop until I blacked out. I self-medicated to shadow the pain that I did not put together with the abuse. With that came drinking and driving which was very dangerous and risky behavior. I drove fast and lived on the edge. Some of my friends said I had a death wish.
I also became very aggressive toward people who got in my personal space. There were many incidents (assaults) and eventually my friends disappeared from me. Anything could happen when I was drinking. I lost a lot of relationships because of my alcohol abuse and aggressiveness. I found myself alone drinking. I did not think much of the behavior as out of the ordinary. That was who I had become but I did not know why. Decades later I was asked one day by my brother, "What are you so angry about?" I did not have the answer. I truly did not know.
I sought help from my Archdiocese for counseling; I was having a difficult time. I was still having the bad thoughts along with other abuse issues. For decades, I imagined a gun to my head. They were kind enough to hire a therapist for me that is quite familiar with child sexual abuse. He is an expert in his field. Over a course of a year or so we were able to put it all together. I wish to thank the local Cardinal and his liaisons that handle these tragedies. It took a lot of work and sorrow to relive what happened and understand, face and accept the consequences. The therapist told me my behavior was a byproduct of the abuse.
I have been told by friends and family to get over it. Why don't you forget that it ever happened? It is just something I can't seem to get over. People have minimized it. They say, it only happened once or at least this or that did not happen. I have only told a handful of people. Most are compassionate and understanding. However, some don't understand the complexities or the consequences that abuse victims endure through their life due to the abuse. I feel betrayed when I trust someone with the story of the incident and they minimize it. Therefore, I don't talk about it except with a few people I can trust.
The reason I am speaking publicly yet anonymously is because the predators are still out there. When I see a young man I think of myself at that age. I was innocent and susceptible.
You see the news show on TV with the online predators looking for victims. They are your child's coach, teacher, scout leader or religious priest or pastor or they are met online. The public does not know the dire consequences of child sexual abuse. Let me tell you what I learned and researched over the past two years. I encourage you to read Dr. Richard Sipe's work.
Sipe says "that some of the consequences are as follows. Some abused get some or all of the byproduct of sexual abuse by a trusted adult. Here is what he says "A loss of faith, the legacy of anxiety, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual identity confusion, PTSD, low self-esteem, poor body image, depression and thoughts of suicide, phobias, panic episodes, obsessions, compulsions, irrational anger, trauma, trust forever betrayed, fundamental abandonment, personalities torn, divorce, separation, alienation, hollowness. He calls child sexual abuse "Soul Murder".
Dr. Richard Sipe was previously a priest himself. He is now a forensic psychologist who has counseled over 1,500 adults who have been abused as children. The above facts and his observations can be found on website under forensics section. He has posted his study of child abuse victims at www.richardsipe.com.
He says that the consequences of abuse are unspeakable. It is unbelievable what statistically happens to the abused. I encourage you to read it. He is very interesting. I know I have experienced some of the consequences myself. There is nothing more precious than a child. Please protect your children from potential predators. I will take my dire short sexual and physical abuse experience to my grave. It happened just one night so long ago. It starts up in my brain tomorrow. It is inevitable, debilitating, not understood, dangerous, terrifying, lonely, and very sad.