In 1993 Frank Fitzgerald, aged 38, while driving to Boston from Conn. suddenly smelled something wafting through the open window of his Ford station wagon. “It smelled like mince pie!” This “mince pie” opened up the windows of his mind, and memories flooded in—terrible memories of being raped by the parish priest on the floor of the rectory.
For most of his life since childhood, Frank had spent a large part of his day with depression. Depression so debilitating that he was beginning to plan his departure from his wife and two children; perhaps a new job would make this better and then he remembered—30 years after the sexual assault by Father Porter. But perhaps this was just another case of false memory; a memory manufactured from his hippocampus somewhere. Maybe he was just making this up; so he decided to see if anyone else remembered Father Porter. So he took out an ad in the local newspaper
“Does anyone remember Father Porter?” Call 1 800 – ….: Expecting little—he waited…soon he had over 30 replies and he found space in his local high school and gathered those who remembered together to share their memories. “I remember Father Porter raping you on the floor of the rectory —I was there and heard your screams.” Made that memory all the more real for Frank! Similar memories were replayed by all of his classmates. But when Father Porter was finally brought to trial he confessed to abusing over 100 children. Children who at his sentencing took the stand to remember how “We were buddies, you and me, you made me promise never to tell—but you made my life a living hell since then with broken relationships; lost jobs, inability to complete my education and a overwhelming sense of dis-ease and failure.
There will never be enough apologies; never enough legal consequences to restore Frank’s world to normal. There is only his life-long fear of trusting others; of a sense of loss and of unhappiness. There have been so many times in my career when I have been challenged about memories; memories so dark that it is required by many to look the other way. They would prefer to look away and not be required to do anything—So once presented with this challenge it is clear that we are looking for those who can come and take part in our campaign to make it easy or perhaps easier to disclose assault and abuse without the fear of being crushed under the weight of victim blame and the laughter of those asking the questions or for that matter those who sitting in the Court Room chose to laugh when they raped her.
These memories are real; they are easy to validate if one asks the right questions and then listens to the complete answer. I am hoping that we have the courage to ask, listen and then provide the support needed for the small child, the teenager or the adult to find healing and a sense of safety. Listen carefully, you can hear the confidence returning to their voices; a strength in their stride and a light in their eyes.