Paul Ashton, PsyD, DMin
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear.
1 John 4: 18
“Me, too. Me, too.” Those softly spoken words, almost whispered, came like a tsunami washing everything away, leaving silence and then, more tears, this time shared by the few of us in this small group.
It is devastating to be a victim of sexual abuse. It is isolating. It is scary. It is a fearful place to be. It is a place where anxiety dominates. It is lonely. It is dark. It feels dirty. It makes things feel dirty. It is like someone is always watching, knowing and seeing that something is wrong. It is tiring. It is a place where you run a lot, but can not escape. It is hiding. It is shameful. It is anger making. It is non-trusting. It is giving up. It is finding excuses to avoid anxiety causing situations. It is not trusting love. It is wondering all the time. It is not knowing when someone will find out or ask you. It is being worried that you are not handling it well or right. It is denying. It is disbelief. It is numbness.
Me, too. I am a victim. We are all victims in this small group coming together to offer support and to share and to show concern. The group is like a funny chorus line of people who have come together to stand together, but none of us fit together—except that we can say “Me, too.” We are all shapes and sizes and ages, and come from all different walks of life and experiences. We have so little in common, but so much, all at the same time. When we lower our masks and tear down the walls, and avoid the smoke screens we create, we have so much to share, but mostly it is in the listening. When we listen and nod and say it is “OK” we know how important that “OK” is because we all need it ourselves. We need to feel the opposite of all of the dark feelings described above. We need to feel connected and we need to feel like we belong. We are not entitled, but we are justly due the same place of security and freedom that everyone else has.
Sometime we see shadows at the door in the hallway leading to the room where we meet and share. Sometime we hear the muffled tears from those shadows. Sometimes the shadows come into the room and sit in the back outside of the circle. Sometime they run away and out of the room. We continue to sit and we wait. We listen. We share and we talk. We hope that these shadows will one day return and come out of the darkness and have their voice heard.
When we are not in this room we are teachers, psychologists, surgeons, stay at home mothers and fathers, phlebotomists, dentists, and professional dog walkers. We are like everyone else. Sort of.
When we gather to support each other, we always turn to prayer…for acceptance of our lives, for the grace to be able to make good decisions, for the ability to know what is important and what is not so important, and for the courage to deal with surviving and to be able to thrive. We pray that this will never happen to another child, and we pray that all perpetrators understand, and get even a small glimpse of what we feel so that they might stop hurting others.
Thank you to all of those who have been courageous enough to teach prevention of child sexual abuse. Thanks to all of those who have opened their doors and hearts to those of us who need support group meetings and places to be listened to and heard. Thanks to all of you who stand with us in solidarity wanting to make this world a place of love, safety and security for all of God’s children. May the “Me, too’s” be fewer and fewer.
Paul Ashton, PsyD, DMin, serves as a Liaison for Victim Assistance and Director of Ministerial Conduct and Education for the Augustinian Province of Saint Thomas of Villanova and as a consultant for the Virtus™ programs.