By Timothy S. Ruffner
As I sat in my car waiting to walk into the Archdiocese and explain exactly what had happened to me, I remember tearing up. I don’t remember why I was tearing up, but looking back I am sure it had a lot to do with how I was treated during the whole process. Being a victim itself is quite hard to deal with; however, when you find yourself relying on the Church to help you through the very same hurt and betrayal that, at an earlier time, the Church created … well, it is even more difficult. With that being said, I was treated extremely well in my diocese from start to finish.
I was assigned Leah McCluskey as my Victim Assistance Coordinator, and I still to this day I am very happy for this. She played an important role in the transition from telling my story to the Church, to getting me set up with help right away, to furthering the supportive involvement by following up with me every week. She even asked if I would like to be at retreats if I needed more help. With her support, I went from being someone who was lacking trust in the Church to someone feeling like I had a friend, and was given a confidante. To this day I get to deal with Leah, and it’s been a decade since I have walked into those doors.
I immediately was given the name of a therapist who took me in with arms wide open. I didn’t feel any pressure while walking in there; however, I did feel anxious. Anxious about telling the story again, and again and again. It felt like salt was just pouring all over my wound, and my wound was staying wide open. As years went by, the therapist dug deep into my life and reminded me that this was not my fault that I was abused. With time, and care, I was able to then be part of a larger group. I joined a dozen or so others at a local parish where we told our stories and openly talked about our abuse. This was something amazing. It allowed us to talk about our experience, and that ultimately gave me the strength to tell others what had happened to me. Now look at me, joining in with The Healing Voices group and as we all tell our stories together to everyone out there. We all have our reasons as to why we do that, but mine started with how I was able to feel strong from the get-go all because of my VAC.
I am extremely happy that I get to see Leah on a regular basis. It reminds me of how she helped change my life. Leah, if you are reading this…thank you. Thank you so much for making me become the man I am today, for allowing me to stay strong and positive. For giving me the strength to join in with others around the world in the senseless act of abuse but to help others in return.
Timothy S. Ruffner is a devoted husband, father, friend, son and brother who coaches baseball, works in high-tech sales, co-founded The Healing Voices Magazine, and serves on the independent review board in Archdiocese of Chicago. He is also a survivor of clergy abuse.