I am a very long-time Kos reader with an very low 5-digit UID - registered over 8 years ago. I have posted no diaries, have commented only a handful of times but have rarely gone more than a week without reading. For this diary, for reason of necessary anonymity, I have created a new user name and UID. I look very new but am a long-term, if seldom seen, Kossack.
I am looking for a bit of general and non-committal legal advice or opinion concerning an uncomfortable subject. Perhaps a 4th or 5th opinion to add to the few I've gotten in person and from well-respected legal minds. I am hoping to make sure all my bases and options have been covered before accepting what I feel is a sadly insufficient settlement offer.
I am the victim of sexual abuse by a clergyman. I am a lost boy healing...
I am the victim of sexual abuse by a clergyman (who was also a distant family member). I am a man. My abuse began when I was 6 years old. It continued until I was 20 years old. An unfathomably length of time that all but destroyed most facets of my life in whole or part. But I have survived. Perhaps in ways even thrived. But for 14 years and across maybe dozens of instances of sexual molestation my life was a sad hell-hole filled with depression, rage, self-destruction, self-abuse, lack of development of social skills, flashbacks, nightmares, loss of relationships - right down to taking my great sadness, depression and lack of control out on people who loved me becoming, at times, an abuser myself in the form of physically and emotionally hurting my partners and wife and having to work to undo even that. I have had a very difficult and sad life and thought you wouldn't know it from the outside - I have a good career, a nice home, a wonderful wife and children – but on the inside, I have spent a lifetime hurting, failing, trying and recovering.
I am here now because I made a decision a year and half ago to open the door more than I had. I was hurting, possibly losing my wife (again), my life in shambles (again) and I decided I had enough. So I wrote. All my life I have written. It was a thing I developed early on the help myself. I write about my life and experience and when I do and share any of it with people close to me, they read it and say that I should share it because it is entrancing and inspirational. I write pretty well, I suppose. So I figured I'd use that to shine a light on my troubles. So I wrote letters to everyone I could think of that would have an interest or a connection. I wrote to the Order involved, the two Archdioceses that were involved, the legal authorities, etc. I told them everything. I told them I was seeking justice and a voice. I began to hear back from people. District Attorneys who could do nothing because too much time, and all Statutes of Limitation, had passed and my abuser - who was already old when he hurt me - was dead. I was passed on to the Victim's Coordinator of the church who was to "work with me". They apologized to me in letters. They offered to "help" (I didn't know what this meant). They began to pay for my insurance co-pays for my therapy. They would apologize again and always ask to meet me in person. I always turned them down. I didn't see the sense. I didn't know why they wanted to see me. I was intimidated even. I am always unsure of so much.
A year rolled by. My marriage was failing. I was hurting my wife, as I had hurt two other partners. I was a scared, loud fraud. I was diagnosed with cancer. I had surgery and recovered. The checks for co-pays kept coming $50.00 at a time. I pushed my wife. I was arrested. I had been here before. I entered a program to try to fix me because I was very, very broken. Fortunately this program and some other things have done wonders for me and I have been a year now without hurting anyone or really even getting to overly sad or mad or loud. My wife loves me so hard, so well, so patiently. My goodness, I have never been so loved. I am hard to love. She is with me and loves me and forgives me. I am healing. Each day I try to remember why I made it this far and forget at the same time.
It is not easy to forget being 6 years old and being pulled to the face of an old smelly mummy of a man who fondles you. Or being 8 or 12 or 15 and having and large old man hold you in steel arms and jam his tongue in your mouth and shiver himself to orgasm against you as you try to fall away into space so you don't feel it. Or be a teenager hiding in the back of closets smashing glass bottles on your head trying to release the pain and cutting your arms to bleed out the sadness. It's hard to forgive yourself for hurting people that loved you because you were so mad and sad and they tried to love you but you felt so worthless and unlovable. This is all so hard sometimes. But I'm getting there.
And in this final chapter of my dealing with the church, I have a decision to make. They offered me money. $50,000. I asked the opinion of a very well respected team of attorneys in this specific field. They told me my case was tool old, to convoluted, to this and too that. These attorneys are handling some of the big cases in the news. They are very good and very vigilant - and they recommended taking the offer.
I answered the church, no. I said that was an insult and gravely insufficient considering the length of time I gave to their monster, the devastation it did to my life and their moral obligation. They asked for a number. I gave them a large one that mirrored a settlement they paid to another man 5 years ago so not a u number that would shock them. I understand he was much more a threat to them as he was well inside his Statute of Limitations. I was so far along with far fewer options that I must appear far less a threat. I figured that would be negotiated downward to a middle number that was both fair and punitive. They took 6 weeks to reply (and further prodding from me to get on with it). They wrote. And offered exactly the same $50,000. It's all they could do considering their resources, they say. They don’t mean to insult me, they say. They hope I understand, they say.
I got that letter 2 weeks days ago and have not responded. I consulted with another attorney and received the same recommendation. Take it, they say. I have another appointment tomorrow with another firm and expect them to say them same. Take it. There is nothing more there. I am frustrated. I understand that it was a very long time ago. I understand that the S.O.L. in both of the states where I was molested have passed. I understand the law says it’s sorry but it can do nothing. So many layers to my story and each make the church more liable (morally-speaking) and obliged and yet I seem to be at a point where I must release from this fight and carry on with what they think I should take.
But it is a patently unjust number considering the things in my life that have been broken for so long and need mending. My family is hurting and needs repair. My children have been deeply affected and need guidance past the life that I unfairly filled with confusion and to whom I passed bad decision-making skills. I cannot explain fully how many aspects of a person life go wrong when this happens to them. It touches and harms you children, your home, your life-decisions. It's like making decisions and living life while wearing 20 layers of gloves - your touch and feel for what is good for you is so diluted that you don't know that effect of what you're doing. Even when all looks well from a distance, the tornado swirls and is held together by fragile layers of papier mâché illusion.
So my long-winded story comes to this question. Do I have any further recourse or threat? Do I have anything that will help my family and me more than this measly go-away payment? Not measly in dollars as I understand that others are hungry, jobless and homeless. But measly in terms of relativity to the crime and to what it is supposed to fix. I'm not even ashamed to say that I wanted something more punitive - something that would hurt them and hopefully teach them to treat the next kid better. I have many corrections to make in my life. I could have been a completely different person. Some days I question who I am and who I chould have been. Yet this is the number the church hangs their hat on. One small boys life = $50,000, before taxes.
I want to tell them no. You have to move you number. It's only right. I don’t even really like being told by them what the number will be. If I could demand even just one dollar more it would at least mean that I chose the final number and they said yes. But I am afraid of them saying "never mind" to what's on the table - and my family needs and deserves at least what’s on the table so I can’t risk that.
My options are to say no and insist they come up and substantially so. Or ask for a bit more so I can at least pay the taxes on it. Or accept it as is.
Thank you for reading this small bit of my very large story. I could write for days about it. But it means a lot that anyone at all would spend any time at all reading me. Any input or opinion at all would be gratefully accepted.