the Hope of Survivors

Why Help?—Part 5—Mary Jo Huels-Noworyta

Break the Silence!To Break the Silence!
I was sexually abused by my pastor.” Silence. The pain is excruciating. The shame is overwhelming. The guilt runs deep. But the silence—it is the loudest and most painful of all. The deafening silence.

These feelings are found among the survivors of clergy sexual abuse that I've had the honor of meeting. Since my involvement with The Hope of Survivors, I've had the privilege of getting and giving support to other victims. The stories are eerily similar and the church's non-reaction, paralyzing.

The church is known, or should be known, as a safe place, where anyone entering can expect they won't be harmed, especially not by one in a position of leadership. We should expect that our wellbeing will be considered above the ones in power, the ones serving their congregants. Sadly, that expectation has become null and void for thousands of people searching for spiritual health and growth.

In Ezekiel 34, God speaks of shepherds who feed themselves and use the flock for self-satisfaction as His enemies and He removes them from leadership. Moses was stripped from his position after disobeying God's direct command. God does not want leaders who abuse their positions of power to continue leading. Sadly, what is currently happening is far from what God desires.

Regardless of faith or denomination, the overwhelming majority of those abused are shunned, ignored, and blamed while the church stands by the offending leader. The reasons vary. They say this was the first time he's sinned sexually, as if they know his history. Another excuse is to say that God commands us to forgive and is in the business of restoration, as if the two are mutually inclusive. But what is not taking place is listening to and supporting the abused or speaking out against these horrific acts.

News reports inevitably leave out the victim's pain and focus on the abusing pastor or priest's need for forgiveness and restoration. Recently, a pastor was fired due to several allegations of control and ill character, including several inappropriate relationships. The church's website has a place to leave comments to encourage the pastor and family. There is no place to leave encouraging words to the victims. Silence. The victims' cries go unheard as the church turns its back on the wounded.

Thankfully, there are places working to speak out on the truths and dynamics of clergy sexual abuse! The Hope of Survivors has been faithfully serving victims of clergy abuse since 2002, being a voice for those silenced by shame, guilt, and threats.   

The church is not safe. When leaders are able to abuse congregants, be quickly forgiven, and restored to the pulpit, God is not pleased. When the church ignores this incredible sin committed by their leader, putting other congregants at risk, God is not pleased. When the church remains silent, allowing abuse to continue, God is certainly not pleased.
God is pleased when we hear the cries of the wounded, listen to their pain, speak out against clergy sexual abuse, and end the deafening silence. The Hope of Survivors is committed to breaking the silence! Will you help?

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart...Psalms 34:18