Information, Suggestions and Questions
Written by and for
Survivors and Their Supporters
Since January of 2002 more and more survivors of clergy abuse as well as survivors of abuse done by church employed people have come forward. That process has revealed, in addition to the churches cover-up, countless survivors who had individually come forward years before and who were further silenced, betrayed and abused by the church hierarchy as part of secretive settlements that were emotionally abusive and financially inadequate.
These brave women and men were offered money that would not even come close to paying for the years of therapy that many of us require and were told that they could never tell anyone what had happened. Anyone who is a survivor knows that, if you are really trying to help a survivor, the last thing you should ever do is ask them to be silent. And anyone who has ever had to pay for therapy knows that the cost can be debilitating.
Therefore, we wrote this as a way to urge survivors who want to meet with church representatives to work with their therapists and/or supportive friends and, if they choose, to call one of us to explore their reasons, their expectations and, most importantly, what outside supports they have if they choose to engage in that process. While we believe that the church should be held accountable for their behaviors, the church has consistently demonstrated that they are neither qualified nor invested in helping survivors heal themselves.
Please read this material carefully. We recognize and honor the different journeys we all have and hope that it is helpful to you in your process. We also wish you the support necessary to your journey and hope that each day will bring you more healing as you move into wholeness.
Suggestions If You Decide to Meet with the Church
We strongly urge you not to go alone. Bring your therapist if she or he is able to attend. If not, bring a trusted friend who is aware and supportive of your history.
Start your own file, and keep copies of all correspondence with the church, including emails.
Document phone calls.
Be clear to yourself why you have chosen to go to the church and what your expectations are. It can be helpful to do the "what if" exercise which is an exercise where you try to imagine all the possible out-comes, both positive and negative. For example, what if they don't believe you? What if they say they are sorry? What if they forgot you were coming? What if you feel scared? Your therapist and others can help you with this. The most important thing is that even if the "what if" seems as if it could never happen, if it does, this exercise gives you the opportunity to prepare for it.
No matter how prepared you are for the meeting, you may have a delayed reaction. This is, in part, due to the fact that most of us were told, however differently, never to tell. It is crucial to have ongoing support.
Taping the meeting can be a good way to have a record of what happened. However, if that does not feel comfortable to you or if you are told it will not be permitted, either you or the person with you can take notes.
Prior to your meeting, request from the Office of Healing and Assistance (in Boston the number is: 617-244-9603) copies of any documents you will be required to fill out and/or sign. We strongly suggest that you review them with a trusted friend, lawyer and/or your therapist. (NOTE: if not from Boston, call the Archdiocese you will be reporting to for the appropriate phone number to call).
Keep copies of any documents you sign.
Periodically review for accuracy and content your file at the church office. When discrepancies occur, request changes in writing.
When the court system is involved, or you have not decided whether or not to pursue civil or criminal action, we recommend that you, the church and the lawyers agree to use an independent forensic psychological evaluator for court proceedings.
Talk with other survivors. The resources on the back can help you find others.
Some Questions to Ask at Your Meeting
- What happens with the information you have shared?
- What is the availability of the person you are reporting to?
- Who has access to your file and information in addition to the person you are reporting to?
- What happens next? When can you expect to hear from the person you are reporting to?
- How will you be kept updated on the progress of their investigation?
- Who should you contact with questions, additional information about your abuse, and/or concerns you have, etc.?
- How quickly can you expect a response after you leave a message with the office and/or person?
Information to Know Before Reporting
The church is mandated to report all allegations to the DA, even if the perpetrator/s are deceased or if you do not want it reported. However, if you do not want your name used, they can report it under the name of Jane/John Doe.
Staff at the Office of Healing and Assistance recommends whether or not therapy for a survivor should be paid for by the church.
Whether or not the church pays for your therapy, your records can be subpoenaed and your therapist deposed.
You do not have to answer any questions you do not want to answer.
You do not have to elaborate beyond minimum information and/or beyond what is comfortable for you.
You can change your mind and cancel the appointment.
You can end the meeting at any time.
You can bring someone with you to your meeting, preferably your therapist, a supporter or close friend.
You have a right to review and have copies of anything in your file.
You have the right to dispute anything in your file. To do so, you should submit your disagreement in writing to the office.
Do not expect this meeting to be a meeting with a therapist or healer.
SNAP (Survivors Network for those Abuse by Priests), www.survivorsnetwork.org
Co-ordinators: Bill Gately 508-743-0297
Ann Hagan Webb 781-239-1182
The Link-Up, www.thelinkup.org
Sue Archibald, President: 502-290-4055
Fr. Gary Hayes., Ex. Board: 270-788-6924
Survivors First, www.survivorsfirst.org
STTOP (Speak Truth To Power), P.O. Box 610156, Newton, MA 02461, www.sttop.org
The Lighthouse, a nondenominational resource center for survivors of abuse by clergy and other religiously employed people
In Massachusetts: 617-567-7575
Center for Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence, 2400 N. 45 Street #10, Seattle, WA 98103, 206-634-1903, www.cpsdv.org
Women's Theological Center, P.O. Box 1200, Boston, MA 02117, 617-536-8782, Wtc@worldstd.org
VOTF (Voice of the Faithful), P.O. Box 423, Newton Upper Falls, MA 02464, 617-558-5252, www.votf.org