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How You Can Transcend Trauma of Clergy Sexual Abuse

Pope Francis compares child sexual abuse to human sacrifice.

Think about that for a moment. The comparison is appropriate. But it’s worse than that.

We who were abused by leaders in the church continue to live. We didn’t die of our injuries on the altar of sacrifice.

Our hearts still beat a tattered pulse. Our brain still holds the truth, and the body always keeps the score. The horror of abuse is followed by a lifetime of adapting.

Here are some things I know:

  • We can’t unring that bell. It happened.
  • Jesus left the 99 in search of the one.
  • Protecting the one is protecting the entire church.
  • We cannot move forward without hope and community and love.
  • Health in each arena will take an incredible amount of will.
  • In most cases, we won’t have remorse from the predator.
  • Many, if not most, abusers will never face justice.
  • One can heal without an apology or remorse or justice.
  • Our bodies, minds and spirits were designed to heal.
  • With work – a lot of work – we can adapt and create a victorious life.

But, oh, the process. I understand both from personal experience and by working with the wounded ones the depth and breadth of emotional, spiritual and physical trauma.

The brevity of the next piece is in no way linked to the speed at which one builds a new life. And I unpack it in more depth in my TEDx Talk. But here are seven brief ideas that will help you transcend trauma:

  1. Acknowledge the truth of your experience. Stand in it.
  2. Allow yourself to experience your very real, appropriate responses to it. Fury, for example.
  3. Choose what you want your life to look like.
  4. Plan a path to the healing changes needed to realize your envisioned life.
  5. Reclaim your life. It’s the only life you’ll get. Own it.
  6. Find the silver lining in your experience for your own sake.
  7. Explore ways to offer hope to another in need.

I am grateful that the sexual malfeasance scandals, such as those in the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention, were finally exposed.

It forces those who would clap their hands over their ears and chant, “Na, na, na, na, na, nah” to face truth.

What happened, happened. That it is now public will hopefully induce change. It is OK to be a conscientious objector to war, but it is not OK to be a conscientious objector to truth.

We need you listening. And then we need to know that you hear. In your midst are courageous men and women who above all need to be accepted for who they are – now.

Please honor them by being present for them. Honor them by taking a stand on their behalf. Honor them by holding any abuser accountable. Honor them, for they were sacrificed in a hideous abuse of power. Honor them by believing it is never, ever a child’s fault. Honor them with love and compassion and grace and acceptance.

The Japanese call Kintsugi the “art of precious scars.” When a favored piece of pottery is broken, it is repaired with precious metal (gold or silver) bringing the pieces together in an enhanced, more refined aspect.

Every repair is unique based on the “flaws” or breaks in each piece. The repaired china or pottery is far more precious than before – each a work of art.

You, of precious scars, can put yourself back together again with gold to become a work of art. The gold for you is the work you will do, with the help of others, to come to health in mind, body and spirit.

Each of you has your own story, unique breaks to your shattered heart. As you put those myriad pieces back together again and fuse them with gold, you strengthen you.

Become that work of art. If I can do it, so can you.

Laura Landgraf

Laura Landgraf, author of "The Fifth Sister," is a social activist, retreat leader and motivational speaker. Her TEDx Talk is "Razed by Lions: A New Way to Think about Healing after Trauma."