Being Sexually Abused by a Priest Was like "God Was Molesting Me"
By Michael Norris
October 19, 2018
I was sexually abused by a Catholic priest at the age of 10 at a summer camp. At that age, I knew nothing about sex, so I did not fully comprehend what this man was doing to me.
On top of that, the fact that I was taught that a Catholic priest is an extension of God, it was as if God was molesting me.
Because my mother was a devout Catholic, I knew she revered priests and their status in the community. I felt it was easier for me to not talk about the abuse than to tell my mother, thinking she wouldn’t believe me anyway.
My teenage years were very difficult as a result of the abuse. I lacked constructive coping mechanisms, which led to drug and alcohol abuse, culminating with a suicide attempt. At the age of 17, after dropping out of high school, I joined the Navy. I held the story internally for 15 years, not telling anyone.
Another story: Silenced no more, I spoke up about my childhood rape and incest
Due to the nature of the abuse, I lacked trust in others, which prevented me from getting close enough to anyone to share my inner feelings. At the age of 25, I told my first girlfriend and future wife what had happened. After we divorced, I finally shared my story with my parents. After telling them, they never doubted me and were able to finally understand why I went from being a good student to a dropout in such a short period.
Shortly after telling my parents, I met my current wife, sharing my story with her. She immediately recommended that I seek counseling, which is when the healing process began for me.
At the age of 38, after three years of intense counseling, I approached the Catholic church with my accusations. I came forward through guilt, knowing my perpetrator still had access to children. I was concerned that he was still a threat to other children. Another person does not need to experience the same pain and suffering that I have endured.
Instead of receiving the support I expected, I received ridicule, doubt and shame from not only the church leaders, but the whole community. The church determined my accusation was not credible, instead telling me that “I need not worry about him abusing children; he is older now and his sex drive isn’t what it used to be.”
I was forced to go public by contacting the police.
My perpetrator was allowed to continue in his ministry with full access to children for another 12 years before another one of his victims came forward. In 2016 — 15 years after initially contacting the church — my perpetrator was found guilty of sexual abuse by a jury of his peers. He is now serving time in a prison in Kentucky.
The impact of the abuse is lifelong. For a few minutes of pleasure for my perpetrator, I have endured a lifetime of pain. The abuse has had an impact on my self-confidence, my self-esteem, my ability to trust others, my spirituality and my sexuality.