Clergy abuse survivors face a lifetime of PTSD recurrence

Catholic News Service via UCA News

September 22, 2020

By Dennis Sadowski

Stress can last for months or years with triggers that can bring back memories of the trauma

New job in hand, Jim Richter was adjusting well to life in Minneapolis several months after leaving his hometown of Chicago.

He was enjoying his fellowship at the University of Minnesota Medical Center despite the long hours and he was coming to realize his move was a good one.

Sexually abused as a teenager by a South Side Chicago Catholic priest who had similarly assaulted other young men, Richter wasn’t expecting to hear more about the clergy abuse scandal in Minnesota.

Then news broke about Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis, who eventually resigned in 2015 over accusations he had mishandled allegations of abuse against an archdiocesan priest. Criminal charges were initially filed against the archdiocese over this, but were later dropped. Archbishop Nienstedt also faced allegations he had engaged in sexual misconduct with adults as a priest and as a bishop, claims he denied.

Richter said he felt he had been “assaulted” again when listening to news reports on the radio as he drove to work. The reports, he said, triggered a recurrence of post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PTSD.

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