Are you a survivor of priest abuse? If so, the recently revealed, stunning fact that 300 priests sexually abused more than 1,000 children and adolescents in Pennsylvania over a period 70 years — with no one stopping them — will impact you powerfully.
If you have not been a victim of priest abuse, I still hope you read these stories, because it will help you learn more about sexual predators, which will help you protect your children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.
As I read the news stories, I find myself feeling incredibly grateful for one of the survivors: 55-year-old Jim VanSickle, who has been talking about his experiences more explicitly and more emotionally than I have ever seen or heard in the (non-professional) media.
I salute Jim. And if you are yourself a survivor of priest abuse, I hope that you will search out his interviews.
As a mental health professional, I have worked with quite a few survivors of priest abuse. Each of the people I worked with felt isolated and guilty, as if what happened to them was their own fault.
Almost every one of those patients has had trouble feeling able to enjoy sex with a beloved partner. Many have experienced sexual problems like erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation. Some have suffered with sexual compulsivity, even if they were in good relationships.
Jim has said that he felt his wife and children had been traumatized because he had such difficulty simply giving and receiving love as an adult.
He also talks about many aspects of priest abuse that you may never have heard of. Of course, he speaks of guilt and shame, but he also describes in detail the slow grooming process that sexual predators use to endear themselves to their victims.
In many cases, predators search out young adolescents who may be vulnerable or lonely because of absent fathers, parental neglect, or some other kind of family trouble.
In Jim’s case, the offending priest was his English teacher, beginning when he was age 16. This priest groomed Jim by getting him involved in chess club, which necessitated going to out-of-town tournaments, where they stayed in hotels, ate meals in restaurants, talked, and connected.
Jim came to love and trust the priest who abused him, and the love was so strong that even now, it pains him to see his abuser being taken to jail in handcuffs.
The victims of priest abuse in Pennsylvania are gaining incredible strength from meeting each other. If you feel isolated because you were abused in the same way, one group that can help is called RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network).
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