The first phase of care is obviously welcoming and listening to the victim. Listening… It turns out that, deep within, a victim senses whether or not they are really being listened to. Listening is an attitude that does not deceive. Or rather, it’s not a simple attitude, it’s a state of mind, a state of welcome. This quality of reception depends on the freedom of speech of the victim and the level of memory that he will be able to reach and communicate to whoever listens to him.
Our listening is not the stage of becoming aware of repressed trauma. That’s psychotherapy. Our job, at the commission, is first of all to make it possible for the victim to tell a story of what she is already aware of having experienced, but which she was unable to talk about in order to have this story recognized by those responsible for the institute of which her attacker was a member – and by her own community if she is still a member of it.
Our greatest attention
The story of the evil suffered requires our greatest attention. It is necessary that it be composed one day with the precise words which will account for the violence undergone. Often very unpleasant words. However, you have to manage to “call a spade a spade”, according to an expression that often comes up. However, the precise words of a sexual abuse are raw words, words of the body, which one does not speak between well brought up people.
It is not easy for a victim, young or not young, to tell what his attacker did to him. The word was not in his vocabulary – and this absence of a word to say it is part of the trauma: the words to tell the story are missing from the victim during the events. What was experienced therefore could not be spoken by her to others or even within herself. The exact words, if she knows them, can shame the victim, make her feel like they would make her mouth dirty if she said them.
Believe the victims
Caring means offering the victim this active listening, listening that allows both to dare to say the words, to support saying them, to support being listened to by others while saying them. . Without judgement. Something almost every victim tells us is that they have tried to speak. Very often, she spoke to someone close, a superior, a priest. But as soon as she told at least a little about what happened to her, she felt she was not believed.
It is also a phase of our listening that this account by the victim of the moments, of the people by whom he was not listened to. And for her, talking to someone who isn’t listening to her is worse than not being listened to at all. And that, everyone says, is sometimes worse than the aggression itself. Especially since, if we don’t believe her – and I add with the verb “believe” another dimension of care – her denunciation of evil will turn against her as an accusation – how dare she question such a person, often reputed to be admirable, even holy?
In the care of the victim therefore enters the fact of believing him. This is the second essential repair: after being listened to, it is to be believed. All the more important since, very often, the victim, even if she clearly sees the devastating effects in her life of what she has suffered, can also doubt what she has experienced (especially when she was a child when abuse.)
With the fact of being believed will come another care: the one who listens to it shares with it an indignation. Whereas, until now, it has happened that he has been told: ” It’s not so bad ” or “You could see things differently”. Our indignation says nothing more than that: what his assailant did to him hurt him because it is wrong. Point. And I believe it is very important that the listener be certain in himself that the gestures, the words of the aggressor are wrong.
Then begins another stage of the treatment. The victim, assured now that she has indeed suffered something serious from her attacker, this time asks herself: but why didn’t I refuse, didn’t I run away, didn’t I not even protest? What can we respond to this collapse of self-esteem?
Particularly awful spiritual abuses
I believe it is necessary for us to have knowledge of the effects of perversion. The aggressor has done something that takes him out of his place, he is no longer a man in front of another human, he is… – she does not know what he is but she, she is no longer nothing, she is a thing. The victim is stunned in the literal sense (stunned, that means: that someone is struck by a sudden annihilation of the vital forces).
It is then useful to have knowledge of other cases, to know what stupefaction before the perversion of a person in authority is. It is helpful to testify to the victim that resistance is not possible in this situation, that the child or vulnerable person “loses his means”, as they say. See “give up your body” to the abuser, as children may relate.
Taking care of victims in the world of religious men and women is also, in my opinion, gradually adapting one’s listening to what is particularly terrible about the spiritual abuses that are at the origin of these crimes. It is not an abuse of physical force, or even just an abuse of a dominant position, but to use the victim’s trust in God to enslave him to himself.
Where to find help
This can be likened to incest but at the same time it differs from it on an essential point. For the child victim of incest by the father, for example, it is only a question of his own father. Not all fathers. But in spiritual abuse, in our monotheistic cultures, it is about the relationship to God, that is to say, for believers, it is about the Dad, the Supreme Authority, there is no other. If the predator (the predator) makes the victim believe that he (she) holds the word of God concerning him, that he knows the will of God, the project of the Holy Spirit on him, to whom to go for find help?
To take care of the victim is, finally, not to see him only as a victim, to broaden the listening. She is not a victim, when she comes to see us, as has been highlighted by the Ciase, her very approach towards us reveals her change of place: She no longer suffers evil, she tells it. She went from victim to witness. She now has the initiative in the face of evil.
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