Friday, 1 March 2013

My Victim Impact Statement


I grew up in a small village in County Kildare. We were a close knit, happy and staunchly Catholic family. My father was a businessman and my mother a housewife. One of my earliest memories of family life is kneeling every evening to say the Rosary, even visitors would join in. We would attend Mass each Sunday in our local church where I was an altar boy. My mother would organise the annual pilgrimage to Knock for the local area. My parents would often entertain priests and counted some as their closest of friends. My mother in particular had a very strong faith and would pray for hours after we went to bed. As a child I was taught to have respect and reverence for priests and religious. I was a happy boy and according to members of my family, always had a smile on my face. I had quite a sheltered and cosseted childhood.

In 1975 I was sent to Newbridge College, an all-boys boarding school, as my parents wanted to give me the best education available at the time. My older brother also attended. When I started in Newbridge my baby sister had just been born and I missed home desperately. My sister is here today and her strength and courage have inspired me on many occasions. My grades for my first year were very good, although there were aspects of boarding school life I found ‘unusual’. The priests were surrogate parents and some of them took their role very seriously indeed, particularly when it came to ‘special’ boys. Just after Christmas 1976 I returned to Newbridge College. On the afternoon of Saturday 15th January, Patrick McCabe changed the path of my life forever. 

After the sexual assault I reported it to my Dean who in turn reported it to a priest, who had abused me during my first year. After giving this priest an account of what had happened to me, he again abused me in his office that same night.                                                    

For me it was a turning point, initially I was shocked, confused and nervous. I didn’t know who to trust. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I isolated myself from the other boys and when I came home at weekends, I was quiet and shy. My parents had been told by my Headmaster Vincent Mercer that if they “didn’t talk about what happened, it would go away”. My parents could see the change taking place within me and they were devastated. They had tried to give me a good foundation for my future and instead they felt responsible for sending me into a lion’s den.

Apart from how I was feeling, I watched my mother with tears in her eyes almost every time she looked at me. My father on the other hand could barely look at me at all. I don’t doubt they both loved me. As young parents they were facing the total betrayal of people that they deeply respected and trusted. How heart-breaking must it be to watch your young, vulnerable child become the polar opposite of what he was.  They felt responsible, yet powerless to help. They were told “not to talk about it” but on this occasion it was not going to go away.  My parents silence was playing into the hands of an organisation that was supposed to be the all-caring, all-Christian, and all-embracing but it turned out, the Catholic Church, the very institution that formed my parents’ lives and indeed formed all our lives, was the institution that brought our family life crashing down and we would never as a family, be the same again.

I was taken out of Newbridge College and then attended a co-educational day school in Castledermot. I liked the company of girls but was always reluctant when it came to forming relationships. I felt different. I was happy on the surface but felt haunted by my experiences in Newbridge. I was popular with my school mates but always felt dishonest because I carried a secret…a secret that no one should speak of.  I could not apply myself at school and would often only take home a pencil case because I had lost any real desire for learning. As a result my grades deteriorated and my exam results were littered with E and F grades. These results were in stark contrast to my grades in earlier years.

During this time, my Mother had found her voice and embarked on her own personal crusade for justice on my behalf. She visited many priests and Archbishops and started telling anyone of importance about my experiences and the affect it was having on the family. She was willing to speak out in the pursuit of acknowledgement and perhaps healing. Unfortunately, Irish society at that time had no appetite for the truth and she was dismissed by many for her inane ramblings. Not one so called ‘Religious’ would give credence to her story but as the world now knows, they did believe her, but they chose to handle it ‘in-house’.

I continued to hide my secret, but as I got older the impact on me became greater. My secret was shameful, thinking it was my fault and what did I do to make them choose me? I brought shame on my family and I was struggling with my own sexuality. For these reasons and more, I contemplated suicide at the age of 17. I failed my Leaving Cert, failed all attempts at relationships but most importantly, felt I had failed my family.

I was 21 when I left Ireland. I was on the run, but still unaware of what I was running from. I arrived in London and drifted from one job to another and one address to the next. I led a very promiscuous lifestyle with no regard for my own health or that of others. At last I had escaped. I felt liberated, but I felt very sad and lonely. After a while I realised that I hadn’t run away from my problems, I had just relocated them. Even then, nearly ten years after my abuse, it would be triggered each and every day by the smallest of things. I was teaching myself to ‘file away’ the unwanted images and memories and for the most part I was able to do so, at least enough to allow me to function on a daily basis.

Both my parents died within 3 years of each other, they were in their mid 50’s and died suddenly. To this day I shoulder the guilt of their premature passing, as they saw themselves responsible for my aimless meandering through life, added to their own lives becoming so stressful after my experiences at Newbridge College.

In 1987 I was arrested by the Gardaí and taken to Newbridge Garda Station for demanding from Newbridge college that they pay for my psychiatric treatment. I made a statement about what happened to me. 10 years ago I was contacted by the Gardaí who uncovered this 1987 statement. Suddenly I was a child again and found it more difficult than ever before to face my demons.  This started a legal process which I thought would be over in a short time but unfortunately it has taken until today.

I made my first written statement 37 years ago and made my first statement to the Gardaí 27 years ago. I am grateful to the few I met along the way who paid genuine attention to my family and had my best interests at heart.

I have been in counselling now for nearly 10 years and it has enabled me to start ‘filing away’ again. It has removed the need for anti-depressant medication and I have reduced my alcohol intake. In 2005 I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder by Dr Ann Leader at the Bon Secours Clinic in Glasnevin.

I feel my life has been blighted by the events of the mid-seventies. I have waited nearly 37 years for acknowledgement and justice. In that time I have had 25 jobs and as many addresses, I have experienced every emotion associated with self-loathing. I bite my nails until they bleed. I do not attend church because of their sheer hypocrisy and willingness to silence those within it for breaking ranks and speaking the truth. The Catholic Church as an institution cares about itself and its revenue stream.

I have alienated family, friends and relationships. I apologise to whoever I may have affected through the years.  I am angry, disillusioned and bitter towards the Church and authorities. However I have also been blessed with supportive family and friends, some of whom are here today and I will be eternally grateful for their love and support. I am also proud and very lucky to have a supportive partner for the past 16 years, who accepts my shortcomings and is always there, unconditionally, to pick up the pieces. 

I know I cannot carry these emotions around with me forever, nor do I want to.I have tried all available methods to reduce the anger, bitterness and resentment.The only thing I have not tried is forgiveness.

I realise forgiveness is a difficult process, that is why today is so important for me and for the others like me, who don’t have the strength or courage to speak out. I may never be able to forgive completely but I at least want to begin some kind of healing process.  I feel that anger and resentment will cut off the air supply to our future contentment and therefore we can never move forward….. With our own lives, or as a society.  

Today my voice is being heard after a long and painful journey and I am going to use today as a springboard for change. I am now 50 years old and I need to resolve so many issues. If I can forgive those involved through the years then I am optimistic for the future.I am not here to apportion blame or to maintain what happened to me was worse than to many others, but this is my life and because of what happened, the opportunities of youth were taken away from me and my formation as an adult was adversely affected. I regularly think about what I could have been.

I am sure we all need to be forgiven for something. Forgiving does not mean forgetting but if it makes me function normally in society and makes up for lost years, then I believe it will be a necessary and important exercise.

In conclusion I want to mention all the boys and girls that I think of so often. The boys and girls that have been too afraid or too ashamed to come forward and expose the contamination within the Catholic Church and for those who, because of legal process must compromise the truth so justice can be done. We are all survivors, except some have a louder voice. There have been too many days like today, too many victim impact statements read, too much heartbreak for victims and their families. For every court statement read and every court sentence given, I really believe at least one child is given the opportunity to live a normal life.
                                                           
I cry each time I hear a song called “Bui Doi” from the musical Miss Saigon. It’s about children born to American soldiers during the Vietnam War. Bui Doi means “the dust of life” and is intended to bring an image to mind, of a child moving around aimlessly…. Like dust. This is how I have seen myself and other victims for so many years and why the words mean so much to me.    
                                                                                                   
      "These kids hit walls on every side, They don’t belong in any place
       Their secret they cannot hide, It’s printed in their face
       They’re called Bui Doi, The dust of life
       They are the living reminders of all the good we failed to do
       We can’t forget
       Must not forget
       That they are all our children too."



This statement is dedicated to my loving parents
Larry and Teresa Moran. R.I.P

11 comments:

  1. The Catholic "Church" (more like a blinking cult than the Bride of Christ in my opinion) was also involved in the Pindown cover up, and I am one of the Staffordshire Pindown child abuse survivors, and I have been battling for 40 years to clear my name from the slanderous accusations against me, they called me LOLITA and accused me of having made up psychiatric disorders, they make crap up to cover up for paedophiles and human trafficking gangsters.

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  2. I do have PTSD, but thats because of what they have done, I am shattered because of the vile things they have done to cover up what they did to me as a child.

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  3. Thank you for being brave enough to share your pain and help other child abuse sufferers to realise that they are not, freaks or bad or guilty or to blame because of of what they were subjected to. We are survivors as adults and no matter how strong we are the price we pay for the loss of our innocence and childhood in some ways and on some days completely negates the lives we try to lead there after. I feel its hardest on our friends and loved ones who often as you say bear the brunt of our anger, fear and resentment. I truly hope you find peace and that you achieve what you have set out to do. You have my utmost respect and admiration.

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  4. This story is powerful but if anyone imagines Mercer was the only abuser at that place they are mistaken. There was another, I will not print his name because it will be censored but he ruined my life.

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    1. Clearly you refer to Candon who was prior from 1951/57 and was exiled to India from 1962/72 when even the Dominicans could not hide what he was doing.

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    2. I always thought Fr. Candon was creepy. But was he really an abuser?
      - Newbridge 1950s student
      - mac@baysights.com

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  5. http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/opinion/local-view/3720465-local-view-retired-duluthian-still-healing-after-abuse-life-shame-and

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  8. I was a day pupil at Newbridge College and finished in 1982. Thank god I was not a boarder. I know the stories I heard and I know parents did not believe. It only took a few bad apples but boy were they devastating. I'm no longer a practicing catholic, or any other religion because.....if that's what's Christianity then I want no part of it. I now have two amazing kids who I'm bringing up to be atheist and they are so well adjusted and have so much empathy towards their fellow human beings I wonder why anyone buys into the religious orders. I do want to stress that I did have one or two amazing teachers but there was a percentage (unacceptably high) that had alternative goals. Makes me sick.

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Thank you for your comment on this blog entry, James