Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Hell, hope and healing: a four-part series Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dea

*Editor's note: This blog introduces "Hell, hope and healing", an *NCR*four-part series on sexual abuse. Part 1 of the series http://ncronline.org/node/123821; [1] has been posted online. Parts 2, 3 and 4 will be published first in our print edition first and then posted to our website. You will be able to read the whole series at the feature series page Hell, hope and healing.;http://ncronline.org/feature-series/hell-hope-and-healing; [2]*

Since 2002, we rightly have been bombarded by stories about sexual abuse in the Catholic church. Many Catholics have felt the church has been singled out as a particularly heinous committer of crimes. There is truth to this, but it is also important to contextualize clergy abuse as a part of the wider phenomenon of serious child maltreatment that is still much too prevalent in this country and in others.

The first article in this four-part series,;http://ncronline.org/node/123821 [1] therefore, will place clergy sexual abuse within the universe of child abuse and neglect and will describe the damage suffered by victims of early maltreatment. The other three parts will be published in upcoming issues of *NCR*, and later posted to NCRonline.org.

We also have heard many times since the church crisis exploded into the public square that victims/survivors of clergy sexual abuse are damaged for life, that these horrible experiences never leave them and instead turn their lives into hell on earth forever. While this can occur, it does not have to. Survivors of adverse childhood experiences can heal and the second article in this series extends hope by describing what processes can help that happen.

In the third article, I extend the discussion beyond healing to discuss the possibility, now validated through research, that some trauma survivors actually experience post-traumatic growth. While never suggesting that somehow the survivor is better off because of the abuse, it is possible to derive meaning from those traumatic experiences and the healing processes addressed in Part 2 of this series. At that point, survivors often develop capabilities, interests and skills that add fullness to their lives. Part 3 also suggests that institutions and organizations affected by trauma can strive for growth by understanding the parts they are playing in healing or impeding their own and others' recoveries.

Finally, in Part 4 of the series, I offer some practical suggestions for making empowered choices among healing resources.

[Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dea is author of *Perversion of Power: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church* and a psychologist who has been working with sexual abuse survivors for 30 years.]

*Source URL (retrieved on 05/09/2016 - 12:59):*
[1] http://ncronline.org/node/123821
[2] http://ncronline.org/feature-series/hell-hope-and-healing


Childhood abuse and neglect take their toll 
Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dea | May. 9, 2016
Hell, hope and healing

*Editor's note: This is the first part of a four-part examination of the clergy sex abuse scandal in the Catholic church. Read more about the series here: "Hell, hope and healing." <http://ncronline.org/node/124381> [1]*

The past two decades have witnessed an interdisciplinary explosion of new information about the prevalence and aftermath of child abuse and neglect.

From 1995 to 1997, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente conducted a study of more than 17,000 Americans to determine how many had been subjected to adverse childhood experiences
(ACEs) and what symptoms and disorders they suffered that differentiated them from those patients who did not have such histories. At the same time, researchers in clinical, developmental and neuropsychology, along with
neurobiologists and trauma specialists, have increased our understanding of the potential impact of early abuse and neglect on virtually every aspect
of a victim's life.

So what do we know?

The CDC data indicates that only a little over one-third of subjects had no ACEs; 26 percent had one; 15.9 percent had two; 9.5 percent had three; and 12.5 percent had four or more. The study found that symptoms and disorders in ACE survivors were correlated with the number of ACEs experienced and with the frequency and/or intensity of each particular stressor. Let's make this real.

The U.S. Census Bureau tells us that in 2014, there were about 245.2 million Americans over 18, meaning that more than 156 million adults have histories of ACEs, with more than 30 million having four or more. Over 50 million of us were sexually abused before the age of 18. Over 30 million watched our mothers get hit.

Think about these numbers when we get to the aftermath of adverse childhood experiences. Big numbers, but by now you may be wondering why you are being deluged with all this information. Isn't the issue for Catholics "just" the sexual violations of kids by priests and the sometimes still-ongoing cover-up by bishops and provincial superiors?

I would say no. While clergy sexual abuse is the ACE most haunting the church right now, it is important that Catholics take in and feel that more than every other person in their pew has a history of ACEs and every eighth person has had four or more of these devastating childhood experiences,  many of which are not single episodes, but ongoing incidences of abuse, neglect, watching mom get beaten, or coming home to a drunk parent.

If churches are to be field hospitals, as Pope Francis so eloquently suggests, we should all understand who the patients really are and what they suffer, even when they don't look obviously injured. The abused and neglected are not "them"; they are us.

We now know that ACEs can have major effects on every aspect of human functioning. Symptoms and disorders increase commensurately with the more types of ACEs we have been subjected to and the more times those ACEs have occurred. Let's quickly review what happens to ACE victims and survivors. [...]

1 comment :

  1. Notice how gingerly the reporter steps around the topic that a lot of the abuse originated from the clergy. Clergy abusing children is not a new phenomena in the Catholic Church. In fact, it could be argued that it is part of the historical fabric of the Church. How convenient that their religion apparently grants forgiveness to anyone who merely expresses the desire for it without necessarily having a corresponding internal regret (correct me if I'm wrong, that is an impression I've gathered.)


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