01-07-2011 Verona – Instituto Provolo

1st July 2011 – 2nd Meeting in Verona of the deaf and speech impaired survivors of catholic clergy abuse from the Antonio Provola Institute.
by Sue Cox

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Once again, I was privileged to be with the wonderful deaf and speech impaired survivors of clergy sexual abuse from the Instituto Provolo in Verona.

It is almost impossible to describe the feelings as we all met up once again. We have very definitely become a family.
Not very long ago, it would have been unthinkable to imagine a group of clergy abuse survivors to be able to walk through Verona together, revealing their ordeals and declaring their revulsion.
In a profoundly catholic area, where for so long the priests wielded power over the communities and most especially over the vulnerable people in their care, the possibility of these very brave and dignified people being able to have their voices heard would have been impossible. But there they were standing together proud and courageous and with right and decency on their side.

With the wonderful Italian sun beating down on us, we all met outside the institute where they suffered so much at the hands of pedophile priests and indeed nuns. Immediately I marvelled at their ability to stand tall in front of the imposing building that housed such horrors, without once resorting to “victim” mode. They are real survivors! Strong because they know that they have each other. There were others there too, supporters, families, politicians and press.

Their creativity always evident, they came with posters and hats and banners made to show the World their wounds, and to ask for justice.
The police, as always, gathered. It seems that as survivors of Catholic clergy, we pose something of a threat!
A huge sheet was produced and was to be put on the door of the Institute shouting ” Throw out the pedophile priests from the Provola Institute ” – not a good idea the police thought – they told us to take it down.

They hadn’t reckoned on the determination of the group, with Giorgio at their helm, reminding the police of the “bambini” they stood on each others shoulders and attached the banner for all to see. The building, imposing and threatening, was transformed by this adornment, and took on an air of shame. Quite rightly.

We renewed our connections made in Rome, with lots of hugging an smiling, and I was shown the building through their eyes.
My beautiful friend Alda, who was “imprisoned ” in this dreadful place when she was a very small girl, showed me the window where she lived, and the bars on the windows where they all felt like prisoners. She didn’t shed a tear, she left that to me! But her sadness as she showed me the place where she suffered was so obviously a heavy burden. I thought my heart would break. A nun who was unaware of the protest, came out to look at the banners on the van outside the building, and then scuttled back in when she saw the nature of the protest.

There was a rope produced, that we were all to hold on to, walking in single file, in the way that these wonderful people had been made to walk through Verona when they were tiny children. It was very powerful and moving as we walked silently through Verona to the square in front of the magnificent amphitheatre, scene of the operas.
People stopped and read the banners, some looked bewildered, some looked away, but after a while people started to wave, and then blow kisses, and then to clap and shout BRAVO!!
We arrived at the amphitheatre, and in a circle listened to Maurizio Turco a politician talk about justice for Italian survivors, who often are the last in line, and then Marco Lodi Rizzini, the spokesperson for the group, who said how in Verona there were people who knew what crimes were being committed against the children there, and did nothing. We all agreed that anyone who knows about these crimes and stays silent is equally to blame.

And then in true “survivor” fashion we all went out to eat together, a wonderful end to an inspiring day. I always feel stronger and more enriched after our encounters. I was left as always with a roller coaster of emotions, pride, sadness, anger, love and hope. I wondered what the Vatican saw when they looked at this amazing group of people? I know there are no words vile enough for me to describe how I feel at their treatment of them. We will be a family all together again in Rome in October, I suggest the Vatican takes heed or takes cover!

As I said my goodbyes, I came away knowing that this brave group of people have the ability to change the World, they already have changed mine!

With Love and gratitude
Sue Cox


  1. maria evelin guzman duran

    hola un abrazo a tanto sobrevivientes felicitaciones por alzar esta voz de protesta en colombia aun la iglesia continua teniendo un gran poder politico economico y el manejo espiritual de miles de jovenes que no denuncian por miedo y temor. un abrazo fraterno, maria evelin

  2. Robert Harbord-Hamond

    Yesterday I was called by a reporter who had spoken to my brother, he said he had not received my email (confronting him for abusing me when I was five and another email asking him for a DNA sample as he looks different from my father) & I that I was delusional. My Father died last Friday, he did nothing to stop the abuse, my brother got my e mail from the lawyers I approached to recover half my inheritance he stole, and e mailed me with the news.
    I had changed my phone numbers and email address to stay away from him.
    I saw you on Aljazera , I was feeling so alone, hurt and betrayed again, the abuse never stops, it just changes form.
    I am crying, I started a mixed SIA meeting in London and supported it for a year till I left UK to get far away from my siblings who abused me.
    I have no meetings here. I am so moved to read about your work. I still have amnesia about some of the trauma and details. I still doubt myself, fall into denial and wonder was it really possible my sister was a perpetrator as I believe she is my biological sister, whereas I have my doubts about the 2 supposed brothers & sometimes think it was their anger towards me that caused them to do it, though I know I am making excuses for them, still therefore colluding with them, protecting them subconsciously, denial still lurks.
    I read Maureen Brady, Daybreak, meditations, every morning, they help keep the denial at bay & keep me moving forward in my recovery.
    It was reassuring to read the nuns where guilty too, as it helps me understand or feel less alone about my sisters and mothers abuse of me.
    My friend and work colleague was saying I should be softer on my sister as my brother abused her for years after it stopped with me age 5, well the sexual anyway, the emotion started and later financial fraud, control etc.
    I told him I told the Police about her before mine had really surfaced, I was still blind to what had happened to me, my middle brother and maybe the elder as well started on her when I was five and my mother got me a nightlight, so mine stopped and hers started. She was 8. My friend said she has probably still got denial, holding the silence and enabling my brother. He said she is in a worse place than you, still too traumatized to break the silence. I said I would keep an open mind and will endeavor to be kinder to her, in our family business dealings.
    I was walking up Hampstead Hill in London away from a survivors meeting with another male survivors, inspired to take a risk and share, I said, I had Ghosts in my bedroom when I was a child. He said, my therapist told me the ghost in my bedroom was my perpetrator. So in taking a risk that I thought might help him, I got the truth about my own.
    I asked my chartered town planner, who is working with the new owners of the house, who also have a 5 year old boy, to ask his wife to ask the clients wife if there were ghosts in the house. No ghosts. I have discovered it is very common to fog out the images, as is amnesia.

    I feel I have gone on enough. Feel free to write. In unity we grow stronger. I realise I am not a victime of the clergy, though my father was church warden, did nothing to stop it, so coluded with and protected the perpetrators, so maybe a do qualify. My elder brother is now a church warden, looks after the money for the church where my father will be buried tomorrow.

    I am staying away as my sponsor told me to stay detached from them. so will miss the funeral and support I would otherwise get from my friends. I understand though that I have an inner child who never had a father, or childhood. When I went through my step one with another male in SIA after the 97 events had been recounted he said, where was your father, I said Oh, I had not thought, um, never there, like he did not feature, he was so distant and cold. I then said I thought there was not enough abuse, he said, what after all of that.

    Anyway as I was saying I realize my inner child was traumatized, had it’s boundaries smashed, lost it’s innocence age 5, never really had a childhood like other people. Only developed the back of the brain, not the frontal lobe as there was no nurturing from the primary carers, so had learning difficulties, was regularly beaten. This inner child now needs a father to protect him.

    My abusers are the same people, though I have changed, they are just as dangerous as they were before. If I had children I would keep them away from them, as they would surely get abused. So out of respect for my inner child and myself I will keep him away, protect him from the sick monsters.

    I guess I can do something nice instead, light a candle for him and take him, myself to a 12 step group & a movie after. Call some of my friend survivors, text some others, pray for all of you, yes despite the pain, I do believe I have an all loving and all powerful God, who wants the best for me.

    I had real problems with this before as my parents and siblings being older were like God to me. I have had so much, still do trouble trusting or accepting love. But somehow with the help of another sponsor I have worked with for 12 years around the drug addiction that kept my pain at bay for 17 years and now in recovery for 12, helped me to have a faith. As did another sponsor who helped me in my recovery from anorexia, which again was a way of coping with the pain, but for 5 years I have been in recovery, 3 meals a day, and stay away from the foods that are non loving and enjoy those that are loving for me.

    Love, best wishes and hugs to you all, I feel so much stronger having shared with you. Thank you.

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