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How to survive after being abused by a priest

As any good child development expert can tell you, children who experience trauma are forever changed in some way, even if they manage some level of healing.

Priest scandalAnd the trauma of sexual abuse is so searing that healing from it is almost always incomplete, and the effects are in many ways permanent.

That's the lesson to be drawn from this series of stories that the Associated Press has just published about people who were sexually abused by Catholic priests.

As I've mentioned here fairly recently, the AP is doing some of the best current reporting on the state of that scandal and how it's playing out in the lives of victims and others touched by it.

The new series, accompanied by effective stylized photography, focuses on people who were victimized and who had to come to terms with how that has shaped their lives.

"For the faithful," the AP reports, "the Catholic Church isn’t only a place of worship but the center of social and cultural life, its doctrines and customs woven into the fabric of families and communities. And its priests and deacons are more than holy men but confidantes, teachers, father figures with unparalleled power. To many, they’re the closest thing to God on earth.

"For those abused by priests, the violations are spiritual, the damage inflicted not just on the body and mind, but a system of beliefs."

The AP project is called "Sundays After," and for it "photographer Wong Maye-E and writer Juliet Linderman traveled across the U.S. and sought out men and women who were willing to share their experiences -- both how they were abused by Catholic clergy, and how they survived.

"Wong captured the subjects with digital and Polaroid cameras. She soaked the instant photos, freeing the images on fragile membranes -- wrinkled, torn, distressed -- and pasting them on watercolor paper. The film transfers themselves, with their imperfections and rough edges, are resilient, much like the survivors they portray."

The link to the series will get you to seven different stories of abuse and survival. These are the deeply human stories that get missed when we speak merely of statistics. I hope you'll give them a read and rededicate yourself to finding ways to protect children from anything like this in the future.

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A new report shows that the founder of the Legionaires of Christ Catholic religious order, Marcial Maciel, abused at least 60 boys. Insiders at the Vatican had protected the Legionaires, but now the truth is starting to come out. And it's appalling. But that's what happens when secrecy reigns.


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