I’m A Survivor. Now What?

After the Celebration Service, I did what everyone does after a life-altering event.  I caught my breath, went to lunch then went to class.  The class, at least, was a pastoral care class.  Some of the students knew bits of my story.  Most did not.  The professor did, but she was not someone I knew well.  We had a time of sharing joys and concerns at the beginning of each class and I shared part of the struggle that I’d been going through.  I said it had been hard, and I think that was the first time I admitted that having my story published was hard.  It had just been another one of those things that I did to protect others.  It hadn’t really hit me yet that it was for me too.

The semester progressed and nothing had fallen out of the sky on me, so I assumed things were going to be ok.  I have decided each person should try to define a little better what ok actually looks like for him or her, so they can see it when it is and question it when it is not.  Being in a place of “my life has just completely changed” is a bit of an adjustment.  I just tried to stay on that cloud and ride it out.

I don’t think I realized the full impact of what had happened until December, 2006.  My friend from seminary was getting married in Hawaii.  There was no way in the world I could realistically afford to go, but how many times in life would I be able to go to Hawaii, go to this wedding, and spend Christmas in paradise?  As I stood in the airport gift shop on my way to Hilo, I saw O Magazine on the racks.  I just stood there and stared.  That was when I finally began to realize all the people who could have possibly seen the article.  People I grew up with could have seen it.  People I would encounter in church, at school, in the grocery store could have seen it.

It has been almost four years ago that the article was published and I am still a little taken aback when I see where the magazine is.  I’ve seen it in libraries, in doctor’s offices, in airports.  I wish I believed that it had as big an impact on the world as it did on me, but I know I cannot change the whole world at once.  I do hope that it has had an impact on a small corner of it though.

The responses people have posted to my blog posts have been amazing.  A lot of them have been private posts through facebook.  That is completely ok with me.  So many people I went to high school with have contacted me and apologized.  They said they had no idea what I was going through.  No one did, really.  Not even the other survivors knew.  We were all isolated from each other and lied to.  Statistics say that the average pedophile abuses 100 people in his or her lifetime.  I will just say I am not the only one who survived this horror.

As I said earlier, it has been four years since the article came out.  I’m still trying to figure out the “now what?”  I want to work with churches and pastors to educate them and help the survivors in their congregations.   It is easy for pastors to say there are no survivors in their congregation because no one has approached them.  It is the age old case of don’t ask, don’t tell.  If it isn’t brought up, that sends a clear message to survivors that their pain isn’t welcome.

In case anyone wonders, I did graduate from seminary in 2008.  I tried to educate my classmates as I went through the rest of the program and tried to tell my classmates to call me when they were faced with the opportunity to report abuse.  It is an opportunity, even though it is harrowing and overwhelming for all people involved.  It is an opportunity to stop suffering, and that is one that doesn’t usually come along very often.

Jackie Shaw jackielshaw@yahoo.com
Submitted on 2010/09/01 at 6:06 pm | In reply to Rosa Lee Osterbur.

It was horrible, Rosa Lee, but it doesn’t hurt so much now and I’m trying to use what I’ve learned.  Thanks so much!

Rosa Lee Osterbur rosieherb@aol.com

Jackie, I am so proud of the way you acknowledged your absolutely horrible abuse; it is an honor to be a “longtime friend”!  Love you, Rosa Lee

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