Dear Barb—Altar, the Past

Dear Barb:

Hi, I am a guy in my thirties, working toward my degree at AU.  I was one of the altar boys that were sexually abused by a priest when I was 10 years old.  I rarely speak about this abuse and have only told a few people.  Now that stuff seems to be coming out in the open, the few people I have told are telling me that I should step forward and make the priest accountable for what he did.  The person who did this to me is quite old and has already been accused by other boys.  I have tried to keep this out of my mind and live a normal life, although I admit it has been difficult.  I think for the most part my life would seem normal.  I try to keep my struggles to myself.  I am reluctant to come forward, as it was a very painful experience and I feel embarrassed that it happened to me.  Besides since others have come forward, this priest has had to become accountable, they really don’t need me.  As for any compensation, I’m not interested.  So I don’t see the necessity in having to recount this horrible time in my life.  Does that make sense to you? Thanks, Ben.

Hey Ben:

Thanks for your letter.  First of all let me say I am sorry for what you experienced as a young boy.  Childhood sexual abuse scars the person for the rest of their life.  As you know it is very difficult to come forward, but if it wasn’t for these courageous men and women coming forward, this abuse would continue.  Telling your story does not only bring this story out into the light, it can also help you to heal.  You may feel you are living a normal life, but perhaps you are just going through the motions.  Sometimes it takes many years for people to be able to confront this terrible event and take the necessary steps to heal from this traumatic event.  The long-term psychological effects resulting from childhood sexual abuse can include living your whole life in fear, as the perpetrator most likely swore the child to secrecy by saying something terrible would happen to them or their loved ones if they told.  As well, these children often have residual feelings of guilt and shame, as often they blame themselves, and the offender reinforces this belief.  Other effects include feelings of betrayal, anger, sadness and the belief that they are somehow different because this happened to them.  As adults, survivors may experience depression, anxiety, inability to trust, suicide attempts, substance abuse and panic attacks, just to name a few.  I understand that you don’t want to confront this issue, but I believe in the long run you will benefit.  Perhaps a counselor who specializes in childhood sexual abuse would be able to help you to confront these awful demons and finally put them to rest.  Hope I was able to help, best of luck Ben.

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