BRIDGEPORT—One of the major challenges for victims of sexual abuse who have come forward in the past has been getting people to listen to them, to believe their stories and to respect the suffering and pain they’ve experienced.
A recent Catholic News Service story reported that sexual assault victims say they were hurt not only by individual priests, but by church officials and ordinary Catholics who treated them with intolerance and indifference.
CNS also reported that survivors also faced a stigma caused by sexual assault. The victims were molested at an age when they did not know about sex. Confused, they realized what happened when they grew up. Feeling disgust, anger and shame, they feared hostile reactions from their traditional communities.
In September 2017, as part of it own efforts toward healing and reconciliation, the Diocese of Bridgeport invited members of its Committee for Healing to share their stories in a video project. Two videos were produced at Sacred Heart University in association with the Safe Environments Office of the Diocese.
Appearing in the videos are Peter Philipp, Peggy Fry, Barbara Oleynick, James DiVasto, who experienced clerical sexual abuse in our diocese as children and teens.
The longer video, “A conversation on abuse,” explores the full range of feelings, challenges and hopes of those who have suffered from sexual abuse.
The short video, “Looking forward in hope,” offers a positive look at the reconciliation now under way in the diocese.
As Catholics throughout the United States seek to understand the abuse crisis and work toward reform, we are pleased to re-issue the videos authorized by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano as a major step forward in honoring the truth and testimony of survivors and moving forward in the healing process.
The moving and authentic testimony of the speakers gives an insight into their lifelong struggles with abuse, their personal courage, and their willingness to step forward and help others.
At last year’s Mass of Hope, Healing and Reconciliation held at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Fairfield, Bishop Caggiano said “No healing can occur unless we stand in the truth,” said the bishop, who condemned sexual abuse and its lifelong impact on victims.
“There are many with their hearts shattered because of the evil of predator clerics” he said. “The survivors have endured great suffering in the deepest part of their hearts.” The bishop said the evil of child sexual abuse robbed the innocence of victims and represented a betrayal of good priests, who also seek healing from the damage done by the crisis.
The Bishop praised victims for their strength and courage, and for the depth of their faith that has led to work with the Church in the process of reconciliation.
(For information about the Survivor’s Group or for victim assistance, call Erin Neil, LCSW: 203.650.3265 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Michael Trintrup, LCSW: at 203.241.0987, or email@example.com.)