***If you are visiting this page for the first time, please do look at the previous posts in this section. This is my story and it will all make more sense if you begin to read where I began to write***
There is a view that clergy have it all sorted. After all we have God on our side. Right? Wrong! It is not that we don’t have God on our side, of course we do, but He is not there for us to any greater degree than he is for anybody else. We are not called to be clergy because we are special and we are most definitely not immune to the hurts of this world. To be in ordained ministry is to becalled to serve, to be happy to be the lowest in society, not the highest, the most exalted or protected. And we are certainly not called in to a position of privilege, other than the amazing privilege of being able to serve and walk alongside other people during the most vulnerable, painful and also the most joyous times of their lives.
Common perception of clergy, and what they experience though, is all too often well off the mark.
After thirty six years in teaching, and almost half of this time as a Primary School Headteacher, I was used to being subjected to both verbal and cyber abuse. I was even used to being threatened with physical abuse, but I was shocked when I encountered cyber and verbal abuse in my position as a Vicar. This was now adding to my anxiety. I had recently had the complaint made about me and the resulting rumour circulating in the parish was that I was leaving because of this. How then would my absence from ministry be taken? Would they put around another rumour that I’d been disciplined following their complaint? These questions were adding to my stress. As much as I was being encouraged to take the time out to heal, I really didn’t need to give those who sought to find fault new ways to discredit what I do.
As I began to take on board the advice I was being given, I knew that I had to be as open as I could manage, to avoid any further gossip, which had the potential to be damaging to my church, to be allowed to circulate.
First though, I really did need to talk to my family.
Telling your husband, your son and your daughter that you were sexually assaulted at the age of seven was no easy thing to do, let alone everything else I still had to face up to and disclose.
I dreaded sharing this information with my lovely children, even though they were now both adults and mature enough to deal with it. I felt ashamed. I felt dirty. I felt I was to blame for letting myself get into such a position. Every logical part of my being tells me that it wasn’t my fault, but that is so difficult for anybody who has been abused to hear. We do blame ourselves. Even as I prepared myself to speak to my children I was shrivelling up inside with the shame of it all.
Of course they were devastated. This was not what any child would want to hear about their mum. I was too much of a coward to share the worst with them at that time. I’d skirted around it with my husband. I couldn’t even admit it to myself. I knew that somehow I needed to get more help. I couldn’t do this on my own. I couldn’t phone NAPAC again. I had acted as much as I could on their advice. I needed something more.
I was at my wits end when I telephoned the Safeguarding Officer for my Diocese. I phoned her in the hope that she just might know of somebody and be able to put me in contact with anybody who could help me.
It was a phone call that was to change things significantly for me. Once again I poured out my story. She was very sympathetic and agreed with me that I really did need specialised further help and promised to come back to me. Within a short space of time she telephoned me back. The Acting Diocesan Bishop had offered to fund counseling. It felt like real help was on the horizon at last.
Over the next few days I was kept informed as the search for a suitable counsellor was undertaken. Eventually, I was provided with a name, a phone number and a computer link to make initial contact.One dark night at the end of February I met the person who would walk the most painful journey of my life with me.