Why I Write about Abuse the Way I Do

"Writing" by jjpacres is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I try not to write publicly about my emotions or deep personal struggles, especially when it comes to things relating to my experience of abuse in the Church. 

There are lots of people who do; who write primarily about the way that the abuse that they've suffered has impacted their lives and haunts them. There's a need for these stories to be told. The only way that evil is defeated is when it's hauled into the light of day, and that definitely includes stories of pain. 

Though I recognize their importance, and while I've written one or two of them myself, I don't feel that those pieces are what I'm meant to write in the long haul.

Here are the reasons why. 

1.) While I went through a period of that type of anger and pain, my healing isn't in that place anymore. It might be again at some point. These types of things are like peeling an onion, they're resolved in layers, and sometimes you get a few layers down before you find something else that needs to be addressed.

Regardless, it's not something that's going to be a consistent source of writing for me, and it's also not a part of my journey I especially want to make public. It's something that's personal, and it's something that's constantly changing: how I understand and process an aspect of something one day may not be how I see and approach it the next. 

2.) Lots of people already write from that perspective.

As I said, there is still a need for these types of stories, and it's often necessary for the survivor's healing for them to be told. 

But there's lots of them out there. Most writing I've seen from survivors of abuse focuses on what's happened to them and (sadly, almost invariably) how their case was ignored or mishandled by the Church and/or civil authorities they approached for help.

 What I haven't seen is any meaningful discussion on practical things that can be done by the laity to stop stories like those from happening in the first place. There isn't a lot that the laity can do (we really do need the bishops to do some serious house cleaning), but there is some, and I think empowering others to do what they can to stop this problem or address it is a worthy pursuit. 

3.) It might be because I'm a survivor of sexual abuse myself, but those stories are extremely difficult to read. Especially if parts go into graphic detail, they stick with me for days afterwards and disrupt my thoughts and intrude into daily life. 

This is what is meant by "triggering." It's a term that is occasionally overused or weaponized, but that doesn't change the fact that there's truth to it. Stories that describe or discuss the details of trauma can cause real emotional disturbances, even relapse of mental illness, in people that have experienced that type of trauma or something close to it. 

I want to write pieces that other survivors can read without having to emotionally prepare first, and that they can share to educate, encourage, and empower others.

Stories that detail abuse and suffering stimulate our emotions. They make us angry or upset or sad and engage our empathy. These are important things to do, but they're only a part of what needs to be done to solve to underlying problems that enabled the abuse to happen in the first place. 

Emotion can be useful as a starting point, but only if it leads to meaningful action. And the only way it can lead to meaningful action is if it's directed towards it. Giving people a direction, showing them what they can do in their communities and parishes, is as important as motivating them to want to do something in the first place.