Effects of Sexual Abuse Can Last a Lifetime

“When I was 12, I was abused,” he said while wiping tears from his cheeks. “So, I recognized that pain, that suffering. I wish I had confronted those demons. But there was a lot of hesitation because my parents had such deep faith. I didn’t want to let them down. I didn’t want to let them believe that a man of God could have done this to [their] son. So, you keep this inside yourself. You hide it from everyone…Because you feel like it may have been my fault. You try your best to move forward, ignoring that it happened. When you’re 12 years old, a priest is telling you: ‘This is healthy. This is good. If you tell anybody, I’ll kill myself.’ Your life is instantly changed.”
While the words quoted above are former Congressman Mark Foley, they could be spoken by any number of priest sexual abuse survivors. Foley resigned his Congressional seat after it was learned that he had solicited House pages. While what Foley did is wrong and can’t be excused, it also needs to be put in proper context. Foley, who had been a popular Congressman had been abused by a Catholic priest, Anthony Mercieca, then a priest of the Archdiocese of Miami.
Foley suffered in silence and his inability to deal with the abuse ultimately led to his downfall as an adult. Those who’ve been abused often suffer just like Foley has, attempting to confront the demons on their own. Their attempts often lead to broken relationships, alcoholism and/or drug abuse. This is the tragedy and the evil of sexual abuse. The scars don’t heal, the wounds are deep and so often the Church’s salve is superficial at best.
In my experience, it’s the survivors who come forward and confront their past that end up healing and bringing this sad chapter of their lives to some sort of closure. Part of this process is holding the Church who aided and abetted these priest abusers accountable for their actions.