By Kathy O’Connell
As I sit and reflect on my very first experience with the Victim Assistance Coordinator at the Archdiocese of Chicago, I will say with honesty that it was very difficult. Just that one step took much strength and courage and trust from deep within myself. Yet, it was worth it. I learned that day how that one difficult step helped.
In my experience, the Victim Assistance Coordinator was not only understanding and patient, he also responded to my hurt and pain with a gift of compassion. He seemed to know of my fears and feelings of shame and guilt. Though, not experiencing the abuse I had, I could feel in his empathetic voice that he was feeling in his heart my own pain.
Being a victim/survivor of abuse working through healing has not been an easy road for me, as I’m confident it isn’t easy for anyone. With this, I’m in need of all the support I can get. My depression gets the best of me, isolating me, paralyzing me from moving forward. I struggle daily.
However, when struggling, if I reach out to the VAC he without hesitation sends encouragement and strength my way. He offers new strategies that I can work on, new ideas that can be best for me and my depression. He takes the time to respond to me in a caring and supportive way.
He has also introduced me to other survivors. They generously share their support with me. He helped bring others into my life to encourage me to share my story, including in the Healing Voices magazine. Knowing other survivors helps to free my heart from the silence and isolation. I can share with caring individuals who really understand my pain.
I couldn’t be more grateful and appreciative for the support of the VAC and his ability to introduce me to the support of the many others he has introduced me to. I still have a long way to go. This is a difficult road, but I’m confident with my VAC’s encouragement that I will find the healing and hope I need to recover from a terrible situation that should never have happened.
I have never dealt with any other VACs from other dioceses, but I can only pray and hope that their responses to victims they come across are also comforting and hope-inspiring. t’s a difficult situation for every abused person who is trying to the comfort and compassion they, indeed, deserve.
Thanks to my VAC, I feel that the pain of the silence, which I hung onto for so many years, has now been replaced with sharing my story here, to bring the next victim/ survivor a new hope, compassion and comfort which each one has been awaiting.
Kathy O’Connell is a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, friend, retired professional and is currently active in parish Care Ministry. She is also a survivor of clergy abuse and co-founder of The Healing Voices Magazine.