Sharing stories of sexual abuse ‘helps to heal the hurt’ / National Catholic Reporter

“I believe this is one of the keys to understanding and healing the sexual abuse wounds in the church. It isn’t that people are just looking to bash the church, or that they want to wallow in victimhood. They desperately need to be heard so that the hurt can be healed in God’s way. When I experienced this phenomenon recently (at a Voice of the Faithful Healing Circle), Dot’s almost hokey way of describing our primal human need came back to me.”

‘Having the horror heard helps to heal the hurt. My stepmother, Dot, shared her wonderfully alliterative mantra with me years ago as we pondered the benefits of a person going to a counselor when stuck in pain. In her wise and eye-twinkling way, Dot — whose husband had been struck by a car and killed many years before, leaving her with 12 children to raise — was telling me how she had survived.

“After my mother died suddenly from brain cancer at 64, my father, Tom, was traumatized with grief and seemed to be on his way ‘out of the picture,’ as he used to say of others who had died. One of my nine sisters, Kate, challenged him to get up and start living again. ‘Because at least you had a life before Mama, but we never did,’ she reminded him. My father not only started to live again, five years later he married Dot. Between the two of them — Dot with her 12 kids, and Tom with his 14 — they had 26 mostly grown children. Talk about having the horror heard!

“Dot’s mantra shows how she understands people getting over the pains of life. They need to be heard. If someone is willing to listen to the horrors that befall us, it feels like we are not alone. We can bear it and even find meaning in it. As St. Paul wrote to the Galatians, ‘Bear one another’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.’

“I believe this is one of the keys to understanding and healing the sexual abuse wounds in the church. It isn’t that people are just looking to bash the church, or that they want to wallow in victimhood. They desperately need to be heard so that the hurt can be healed in God’s way. When I experienced this phenomenon recently, Dot’s almost hokey way of describing our primal human need came back to me.”

By Paul F. Morrissey, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this column. Augustinian Fr. Paul F. Morrissey is the author of “The Black Wall of Silence.”

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