by Mike Hoffman
I didn’t want to tell them. Even as an adult, I didn’t want to tell them. It took me years of counseling, and a lot of hard work, but I finally told them their little boy was sexually abused by their priest friend at the time.
My parents live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and my family and I live in Chicago. During that time in my life, I was deeply unsettled. My life was disrupted by the painful memories of abuse and fuller understanding of all that was taken from me by my abuser. My abuser stole away my family relationships by grooming my parents to gain their trust. He manipulated and betrayed their genuine friendship and affection. He drove a wedge between myself, my parents and my siblings. He stole away the innocence of my youth, which was replaced with confusion, fear, isolation and despair.
Suffering through that painful realization, I finally decided to tell them. I called them on the telephone and I asked for both of them to be on the line. It was the hardest thing that I had ever done. I love my parents very deeply and I didn’t want to visit this kind of pain and anguish upon them, especially as they have grown older. We cried and we cried and we cried. We cried so much, I couldn’t cry any more. Finally my mother said, “Thank you for telling us.” She said now that we know, we can finally understand what was going on in our family during that time in our lives. My mother was able to express her emotions, and over time she and I together were able to talk about it.
However, Dad struggled. He didn’t know what to say, or how to say it. He was unable to express his emotions. Over time, he and I had many conversations, some related to my healing journey and how I was feeling, but we never spoke about the actual abuse, or his feelings. I didn’t push because I knew he simply didn’t have the words to express himself on such a devastating story.
Since Dad’s retirement, he always enrolled in adult continuing education classes. Out of this experience, a discussion group formed, which he really liked. The group consisted of retired professionals just like him. He was comfortable with them, admired them and trusted them. Approximately two years after I told my parents my story of abuse, he was finally able to express his heart wrenching devastation and anguish that his little boy was sexually abused. The group listened to him and heard the depth of his sadness. Dad could have kept it all inside, but he trusted this group with his most difficult story, and he was comforted by them. In my opinion, it took heroic personal courage for Dad to label his emotions and tell this group. Dad called me after he did this. We talked about that bad time in our lives. We cried and we cried and we cried some more. Through that experience, we were able to reconcile ourselves to the truth of the abuse and the disruption it caused each member of our family.
Together, my parents and I are now reconciled to the fact that it wasn’t faulty family relationships which was to blame for our family dysfunction, but the cumulative effect of a very bad man who harmed not only myself, but my parents and my siblings as well. Now, all of us are all determined to reclaim what was lost. I consider my parents to be a model of reconciliation, which has brought hope and healing to me and my family. I love you Mom and Dad.