Dawn Eden's champion cause.*
For people who have been abused, one of the hardest things can be to realize that God was there loving her even in the most painful parts of her life.From my perspective. Some thoughts for those who might wonder - 'How could you have let that happen?'
God never positively wills that anyone should sin or that anyone should commit any kind of evil or have evil done to them. God only permits evil because He can bring about good that is greater than the evil. God permits evil because He wants us to be able to freely know and love Him. In a world where people have free will, there is evil. But the object in God’s eyes is always that this greater good be brought forth, and the greater good is our knowing and loving Him. - Dawn Eden, Washington Post
A lot of us didn't understand that we were abused, nor that we were 'victims' - I dislike that word on so many levels! Many of us didn't know that we were not responsible for what happened 'to us' - Many of us just thought we were bad or dirty, and that we somehow were at fault or even 'asked for it'. I'm really talking about myself here, not every one's situation is the same. Some kids have been suddenly, horribly, violently abused. Each persons experience is unique.
Having said that, when it happened to me, as well as to other men I've known who had been abused, a common experience was that it felt pleasurable, or as a kid might say, it felt good. A boy can become aroused. When such spontaneous and natural reaction to sexual stimulus or suggestion occurs, the experience causes confusion, and the child often thinks it's his fault, or that he consented in some way.
A kid is also curious - especially if he had been sexualized at an early age. A grown-ups body, fully developed, is fascinating to a young kid. Adding to the confusion, to be noticed and the object of interest to someone older than oneself, especially an adult who wants you as a friend, can be exciting for a kid. Especially in the case of children who have suffered neglect or were accustomed to being simply ignored, dismissed, or marginalized in some way. Likewise, there may be physical and emotional abuse at home contributing to the child's sense of alienation. Therefore, to have an adult say they want to make love to you, or go out of their way to show a special affection for you, can be very appealing to a little kid. The kid can feel like a grown up when that happens. To have a special little secret like that can make a kid feel special and unique, though he may otherwise be thought of as not fitting in.
At least that's how it felt for me, and how it felt for some people I've discussed it with, and it helps to know that since it is one reason why those who have experienced abuse frequently make the mistake of blaming themselves for what happened to them. What we must remember however, is that the adult, the perpetrator, is always the responsible agent/actor. The perpetrator is the adult and therefore the one responsible - he is the "offender" - the kid is a kid - no matter what or how shamed they may have been - they are/were the child - the shame is not theirs - it belongs to the offender. The offender can not claim seduction by the victim - because the offender is the one in control - the perpetrator is the responsible actor.
Victims of abuse — from within their churches, their schools and even their families — carry heavy burdens of crippling shame. This sometimes results in "self-treatment" to deaden the pain with drugs and alcohol. There can be difficulties with relationships, trusting others or managing anger.Sadly, many lose their faith in God and even end their own lives.The destructive impact abuse has on the lives of victims is particularly tragic because the shame is not the victim’s; the real burden of shame belongs to the adult offender.Adults are responsible for their own behavior, and adults are responsible as well for protecting children.
Child sexual-abuse perpetrators go to great lengths to gain the confidence and trust of children, families and communities. They know that parents and others will resist allowing their children to be with adults they perceive as "creepy."Offenders depend on a grooming process that gives them access to children, lulls responsible adults into compliancy, and attempts to make the victim feel complicit in the abuse. This keeps victims confused and silent and the perpetrators’ reputations intact.Most victims are abused by someone they thought they could trust. Child sexual abuse is a violation of that trust, made all the more heinous when a member of the clergy perpetrates it. - Bishop Conlon
This may not be the place or time to say this... but...
I probably should stop here - but I want to mention one other matter. Though the child/victim is never culpable or responsible for the abuse, it should be remembered that kids who have reached the age of reason are capable of committing sin. That is why we have first confession at an early age. So yes, when it happened to me, I felt I had sinned. I confessed my first experiences of abuse, but the priest did not know how to handle it. He suggested I tell my parents, but I can't recall if he said anything about me not having committed a sin. After I explained to him I couldn't tell my parents, he gave me absolution and that was that. In fact, I was happy with that.
As an adolescent, I also confessed sexual abuse - albeit I accused myself of sexual sin with another, but never explained the exact circumstances - I was too ashamed. My sacramental training was by the book - just confess number and kind. (One still hears that instruction today.) Anyway, the confessor freaked out and yelled at me that I would go to hell if I kept doing that stuff. Not long afterwards, I stopped going to confession. Priests today are better trained, I'm sure.
Please don't read more into this than I intend. I am neither blaming the victim here, nor am I speaking from some pathological state of un-wellness or victim abuse syndrome when I mention that children are capable of committing sin. That said, the subject of culpability is a matter of conscience for the victim, it is personal and private, between the soul and God, and therefore inviolable, and as such, it is not open to our scrutiny or judgement. I have such confidence in the Sacrament of Reconciliation however, that it is beneficial to bring these matters to confession. Despite my earlier experiences, the sacrament has been, and continues to be, the source of grace, healing and spiritual growth. As with any disorder or sin which has affected the soul, the need for sacramental confession can never be underestimated.
Nevertheless, morally and legally there can be no question of the minor child's innocence, and lack of culpability. I am not blaming the victim here.
* Dawn's deeply insightful book, My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints is available here. Check out Dawn's website here - she seems to be planning something new.