Religious people need to face reality. The Rev. Dr. Serene Jones is the president of the Union Theological Seminary and the author of Trauma and Grace: Theology in a Ruptured World. As Dr. Jones tells it, “we need to get out of our sweet little worlds…and not be afraid of the horror of what’s happening around us.” We need to listen.
For the next two weeks, “Deliver Us” will feature four episodes where sex abuse survivors have a chance to tell their stories, in their own words.
Listening to the survivors of sexual abuse can be difficult, but it is an essential part of the process of healing, says Dr. Jones. Bearing witness is a crucial component of the Christian life and Dr. Jones noted that “giving testimony and bearing witness is the absolute, most essential part of the process of healing. Until the stories and the reality of what's happened can come out into voice and can be heard by another person received by them, you can't start the healing process.”
Each survivor's story illustrates a unique journey through the shattering trauma of sexual abuse. We spoke with some people who found healing in breaking the silence and telling their stories. Another survivor committed herself to justice, fighting to prevent abuse from happening in the future. One survivor made his way back to his home parish and his spirituality after years away. There are many others who are just beginning these journeys.
As we prepared these episodes, Dr. Jones reminded us that when the stories become too much, we have to be able to admit that to ourselves and to find places, communities and people where we can also share our responses and “work through in [our] own heart what happened.”
In our first survivor stories episode, we will hear from Dr. Jones and sex abuse survivor and former national director of SNAP, David Clohessy.
If you have been affected by the sex abuse crisis, there are resources to help and support you. You can find your diocesan Victim Assistance coordinator here.