Clergy Abuse: Betrayal and Relational Trauma

Report
Christine A. Courtois, PhD, ABPP
Psychologist, Private Practice
Courtois & Associates, PC
Washington, DC
[email protected]
www.drchriscourtois.com
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I. Clergy abuse and incest have similar
dynamics
◦ Both are forms of complex trauma
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II. Complex trauma ->complex reactions
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III. Complex reactions -> complex healing
◦ Understanding dynamics and common reactions
helps to better understand the injury and to heal
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What is trauma?
◦ Stressor event or experience (includes witnessing)
◦ Overwhelming
◦ Different types: impersonal, interpersonal, identity
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What makes it traumatic?
◦ Overwhelming emotionally and cognitively
◦ Cannot be emotionally processed in the normal way
◦ When interpersonal, adds to the trauma
 betrayal, secrecy, silence, taboo, force/violence,
blame/shame, etc.
◦ Avoided and not processed
 generalizes and/or goes underground
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What is Complex Trauma?
◦ Interpersonal/identity
◦ Often during childhood/adolescence
 Impacts development
◦ In context of a relationship
 Betrayal/Misuse/Exploitation
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Repeated/chronic
Entrapping
Escalating over time
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Seriousness & intrusion
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Sexual abuse by family members
(also by nonrelatives who have family roles, including clergy)
Violates primary relationships and roles
Violates responsibility to protect
Misuses authority, power, knowledge
Preys on and exploits those who are
younger/smaller /less powerful/naïve/
immature/dependent/accessible
◦ Have fewer resources
◦ Victims are more vulnerable if family is not healthy
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Betrayal and Relational Trauma
◦ Betrayal of an essential and sacrosanct relationship
and role
◦ Not “stranger-danger”
◦ Much more emotionally conflicted and damaging
◦ May affect ability to remember
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Second injury
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Those who don’t respond or help
Institutional injury
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Those that obstruct rather than help
Communities and organizations
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Dysfunctional Family
◦ With boundary and power problems; sometimes
violent, poly-abusive, addictions
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Power and gender dynamics
◦ Patriarchal
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Closed system
◦ Loyalty expected, even when not deserved
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Family rules and injunctions
◦ Don’t!: know, feel, react, respond, tell
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Paradox and hypocrisy
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Victim who discloses is blamed, shunned,
scapegoated,
◦ “You are with us or against us; Don’t ask us to
admit/change”
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Supporters/interveners are treated with
suspicion, may be attacked
Secondary and tertiary victims
◦ Trauma has a wake: like a pebble in a pond
◦ Other family members, others in the parish or
faith community
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Structured power and historical behaviors
(including abuse) and doctrine
Patriarchal and hierarchical: Cardinals , bishops
and priests as authority figures, extensions of the
deity; contradictory views of women
Church as family
Church as closed system
Structured morals and beliefs (that are violated)
Structured training of priests
◦ Vocations and seminaries
◦ Personal and psychosexual development in the seminary
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Loyalty and obedience expected
Priest as God’s representative: Spiritual father
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Authority and moral figure
May have a role in the child’s biological family
Always to be honored, obeyed, respected
Not to be questioned/suspected
Church and congregants as extended family
◦ Children of God
◦ Beliefs, structure, functioning
◦ Loyalty, attachment, kinship/faith ties
◦ Betrayal-trauma, hypocrisy, & disillusionment
 Betrayal of role and responsibilities
 Betrayal of beliefs and teaching
 Ambivalent attachment/conflicted emotions/loyalty
◦ Second Injury
 Enablers (housekeeper, other priests, etc.)
 Passive bystanders (other priests, congregants,
parents, Bishops, Cardinals, etc.)
 Those who should help and don’t
 Lack of investigation, follow-up, silencing
 Disbelievers, blamers, scapegoaters, and attackers
◦ Vicarious injury: collateral damage
◦ Institutional Injury
 Suppression of reports and inadequate
investigation
 Lack of reporting to criminal authorities
 Lack of cooperation with investigations
 Non-removal of perpetrators and moving them
from one parish to another with no warning
 Non-pastoral response to victims
 Actively working against victims’ suits & rights
 Statutes of limitation, bankruptcies, etc.
 Expensive defense attorneys
 Questioning of recovered or delayed memories
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And the list goes on…
◦ “Just get over it.”
◦ “What’s the big deal?”
◦ “All (litigating) victims want is money and to
bankrupt the Church.”
◦ “It’s homosexuality and not pedophilia”
 Can it not be one or the other or both?
◦ “The Church does not have to report to civil
authorities.”
◦ “The problem is recent and it is over.”
◦ “Management systems are in place”
◦ “Why should I/we apologize for what other
priests/Bishops did?”
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Individual and subjective
Initial and short-term:
◦ Wide variety of behavioral, cognitive, emotional,
physical/medical, identity, relational and family
issues and symptoms
◦ PTS and PTSD, depression, anxiety, dissociation,
substance abuse and compulsions
 by victim’s age and stage of development
◦ May be noticed right away, but not understood
◦ Child may not disclose, even when asked directly
◦ Effects and symptoms may go dormant
 Long-term:
 Same: PTS and PTSD, Complex PTSD, dissociation,
depression, anxiety, substance abuse
 Episodic
 Chronic
 Again, manifested by age and stage
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Delayed onset: Secondary elaborations of
the untreated original effects
 Cued by current events (positive and negative): media and
other reports of clergy abuse; death of the perpetrator or
others; feelings, thoughts, sensations; relationship and
family issues; children and childrearing; response of
others; institutional response, etc.
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Major symptoms (the big three):
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◦ 1. Re-experiencing
◦ 2. Numbing/detaching
◦ 3. Hyper-arousal
Associated symptoms
 Depression, anxiety, dissociation, substance
abuse
 Co-morbidity: medical and psychological
 Self and relationship difficulties
◦ Alterations in ability to regulate self and
emotions
◦ Alterations in sense of self
 PREDOMINANTLY NEGATIVE AND SELF-BLAMING
◦ Alterations in ongoing consciousness
◦ Alterations in relation to the perpetrator
◦ Alterations in relation to others
 MISTRUST, alienation
◦ Physical/medical concerns
◦ Alterations in meaning and spirituality
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Understand complex trauma and reactions
Find an experienced therapist
◦ Must understand sexual abuse, special issues of
clergy abuse, complex trauma
◦ Not all therapists have training in the treatment
of trauma
◦ Don’t take this for granted!
◦ Find someone you are comfortable with
◦ The therapy relationship itself is part of the
healing process
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Sequenced treatment with three main
stages:
◦ 1. Information/education, safety and stabilization,
dismantling defenses/survival skills and managing
symptoms, skill-development including emotional
regulation skills, development of therapeutic
relationship
◦ 2. Trauma memory processing: involves acceptance,
grieving, and anger; strategizing about actions
◦ 3. Life re-engagement, meaning, spirituality
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Personal SAFETY is the foundation of healing
Support of others is crucial
◦ Develop a support system
◦ YOU ARE NOT ALONE
◦ IT DIDN’T ONLY HAPPEN TO YOU
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Put yourself and your family first
◦ Determine your needs
◦ Family members such as parents can be vicariously
traumatized and may need support and treatment
◦ Explain to children in age-appropriate ways
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Re-gain control: Get empowered for you
◦ Treat any addictions/compulsions simultaneously
◦ Challenge old messages and the “lessons of abuse”
 Work to change thoughts and beliefs
◦ Learn to remove/limit triggers
◦ Learn skills to manage symptoms
◦ Approach versus avoid trauma material but with
skills and support in place and in a balanced way
◦ Trauma must be emotionally processed
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Use anger for you and not against you
 Healing
is a process
◦ Expect ups and downs
◦ Healing from complex interpersonal trauma is
longer rather than shorter-term
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Be unconditional and conditional
◦ Person versus behavior
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Expect your own reactions
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Vicarious or secondary trauma
Crisis in faith
Engage in self-care and have limits and boundaries
Have own sources of support/outside perspective
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Compounded, complicated mourning for
what was and what wasn’t
◦ Multiple layers of betrayal and injury
◦ Takes time and energy
◦ Often involves righteous and justifiable anger
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Ambiguous losses
◦ Might not be recognized -> more loss and grief
◦ Might not be supported
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Search for meaning and validation
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ANGER/RAGE IS AN ENTIRELY JUSTIFIED
RESPONSE TO ABUSE
◦ A difficult emotion, must be managed and modulated
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LEARN TO USE ANGER PRODUCTIVELY AND IN
WAYS THAT EMPOWER YOU
◦ Use anger to reverse the lessons and put the blame where it
belongs and not on you
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Litigation is one option, not the only one
◦ Can have a high personal cost, better if later in the process,
get information and choose carefully
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Personal healing and recovery are the
ultimate goals
Healing Is Possible and
Is Your Right and
Responsibility
Maintain Hope and Solidarity
with Others
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SNAP.org (Survivors Network of Those Abused by
Priests)
MaleSurvivors.org
ISTSS.org (International Society for Traumatic
Stress Studies)
ISSTD.org (International Society for the Study of
Trauma and Dissociation)
NCPTSD.org (National Center for PTSD)
NCTSN.org (National Child Traumatic Stress
Network)
Sidran.org
◦ Referral list, help desk, books and videos on trauma
topics

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