I have just been talking to someone who was aware of a colleague (counsellor) who castigated a fourteen year old client for not agreeing to press legal charges against her abuser.  The “counsellor” resorted to what can only be labelled emotional blackmail, by saying “What about all the other girl’s? you should be doing it for them” !! Talk about fuelling that poor girl’s survivor guilt!

It reminds me of an occasion many years ago when I had to have a sygmoidoscopy to investigate my lower bowel. You may know that this involves sticking a rigid pipe with a camera on it up my backside to have a look round! (sorry about the graphics but there is a point!)

Let us not dress it up, I was badly abused and anything being put  “inside me” by someone else for me is a BIG issue. And it is bloody painful!

Now I  have a fairly high pain threshold, (I have had six kids)  but all of the pain, along with indignity and what seemed like a repeat of my violation, and so  reminiscent of my abuses, made me scream.

The nurse was furious, she told me to “shut up” because I was going to “put the others, who were waiting, off the procedure!

In both of those examples people’s personal pain was negated and we were made to feel responsible to others. 

This is what I have been talking about for a while, regarding how some survivor organisations believe that only  by “helping others” one is going to be “healed” 

Theres NO doubt at all that helping someone else is one of the best boosts of medicine we can have! We get far more “feelgood ” chemicals in our brain from the act of giving, than we do in receiving. Theres no one who gets a bigger buzz than I do when I am able to help someone.


This  should be a gift, not an expectation, and never be at the expense of our own caretaking! We have to be able to first own our pain, and heal ourselves. Otherwise we will be just sticking a plaster on our broken heart, it won’t hold!

This idea that we are of little significance, is surely one of the messages that we were given in our distorted catholic upbringing, and also when tackling  the issues of our abuses. The idea that we should”shut up” for the greater good.

When I was a child, I was told that every time I did anything wrong “You have just gone up to the baby jesus in his pram and SLAPPED him as hard as you could (complete with dramatic gestures and noises!) until his face is all red and he is crying!” “But he forgave you- he looked at you with his beautiful brown eyes (still wet) and smiled at you!” “And what did you do? you did it AGAIN!!!! You kept on slapping him and slapping him!”

Guilt! Guilt! Guilt! 

I felt lower than that snakes belly in the grass, the worst worm.

I am quite sure that my innate guilt and the learned ability to put the other person before myself was exactly how I was singled out for abuse! I was a prime (and primed) target!

This is why I must concentrate on each individual survivor, each one of us has our own pain and we have to be able to own it and have it acknowleged.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be active in the fight against  criminal clergy, or in helping others if that is our choice, But it also also o.k. to NOT do that.

If I am not able to look after myself first, then even my pain is not my own, even that will become a resource for someone else, a bit like my life was a resource for the church and the priest pedophile. 

It should not be a given that our pain is something to be scrutinised wheeled out as an example, or as a resource for society. It is something we may offer as a gift, not be taken, and it is NOT a responsibility.

So the message is that if someone sticks a camera up your backside – don’t worry about those in the waiting room,  scream the bloody place down.


One Comment

  1. Robert Harbord-Hamond

    Thank you Sue, I relate, am still age 50 unable to let go of the tension in my rear, so yes I scream as well in such circumstances. I read another survivor was able to eventualy let go of the tension and thus change thier posture and way they walk. I hope one day, I will be able to do the same.

    Yes my needs were put last, my abusers came first. Yes I need to nurture myself. Yes I was conditioned to accept neglect and abuse. Yes helping others is a gift. Surviving the abuse is a gift as is the ability to refeel the pain for the last 5 years without it killing me is a gift too; as it kills many.

    Thank you for the validation, of a problem, that still haunts me, being unable to let go, release the tension and trauma. I feel less on my own with the consequences of events of 45 years ago.

    In gratitude

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