A New Commandment – Honor Thy Children
from survivor Kathy Dwyer
[Kathy began her message with definitions of respectful (“marked by
showing respect or deference” outrage, (“an act of violence or
The VOTF affiliates that speak words of support but do not act in supportive
ways, not necessarily of only survivors but of all children, is getting old.
There is just too much information out there and too many of us who have
come forward and told you of our histories. I am grateful for the women and
men who belong to VOTF and who do get it –what happened to me and what
will happen to many more children, without meaningful change. I am grateful
to those of you who do keep speaking and challenging your religion to behave
morally. To the small, but wonderful and strong number of you, I say thank
As for the others, I have found it best to interact with you as little as
possible. But, because I so want a safer and more sacred place to be created
for those yet to come, one more time I will offer a suggestion.
Just once, try an exercise using all of who you are – your emotional,
physical and spiritual self.
Imagine emotionally, physically and spiritually what it would be like for
you if a child you know and love was sexually abused by a priest (or any other “respectable” figure).
Imagine what the child’s face might look like at first when this person,
so much bigger than they starts perhaps to tickle the child’s tummy.
Of course you must keep in mind that this child you know and love knows the
priest who is tickling her/him and has been taught that not only is he next
to God, but he is also a “friend.” There is no reason for this
child to fear this person. After all, they have interacted before. How could
the child know he has just been “prepping” her/him to be sexually
abused. Perhaps at this initial stage of what will become a life-altering day
for this child, imagine the child giggling and maybe crunching up her/his body
in order to “protect” it from being tickled.
When it’s over, how do you imagine the child’s face looks now?
Suffice to say that the bottom line of this exercise is a challenge for each
of you to do your own work before you start making organizational decisions
of what action you will or will not take. (This may be a surprise to some,
but survivors aren’t the only ones who have work to do.) In the end,
calling for accountability and change is not about helping me or anyone else
who has already survived. It is about helping those yet to come to just “survive” but
to live and become all they are able to be.
At almost 61 years old I still must say a one-liner I created twenty
years ago – “Surviving is what I know...living is what I am learning.” For
me, it’s okay. I’m doing it. I’m learning how to live and
how to heal into wholeness. My healing is my responsibility and I am just
lucky that I have been blessed with some wonderful people who continue to
support my healing, a big part of which is to use the horror I experienced
to help create a safer and more sacred place for all children.
Some of you may know someone you love that was sexually abused; many of you
simply know you’ve read and most of you know these stories are true.
For all of you who continue to show deference to the powers that be, all
I can say is that I do not understand your respect and tolerance for those
who keep allowing it to happen.
One more thought: What about taking a look at the Ten Commandments. Have
you noticed the one that says “Honor Thy Father and Mother” but
with no instructions what to do if “Father or Mother” does not
act “honorably.” There is no commandment to “Honor Thy
Children.” Do you suppose it wasn’t considered necessary to say?