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Today, I am here to say that I’m taking my life back
In 2002, I was driving on 93 South while listening to NPR. The host was discussing the church sexual abuse scandal and I didn’t know that at that moment my life would be changed forever. One of the guests said, “for the victims that haven’t come forward yet, others will be abused by the same person that hurt you.” I remembered my heart beating faster and feeling flushed. My breathing was so fast and I couldn’t concentrate on the road. I was having an anxiety attack and had to pull over on 93. It took me several minutes before I could move. The only thing I could think of was the priest who abused me, abusing my children. I COULD NOT let my children go through the anguish that I did and I needed to do something about it.
I didn’t know what to do, so I contacted the NPR guest and had a conversation with him. The first thing he told me was that my statute of limitations had expired. I was denied justice because I hadn’t come forward in time.
From the time I was 15 years old until 2002, I felt that being sexually assaulted was a secret that I would take to my grave. I came from a deeply religious family, and both of my parents saw the priest who raped me as their hero. I couldn’t tell them what this man did to me. They loved and adored him; he was just as powerful as God. I was young and figured that it was my fault that this happened. I was a 15-year-old boy, why did this man choose to hurt me? I felt all alone and believed that I was the only one that this happened to.
It has taken me 18 years to understand and believe that I didn’t do anything wrong. I was just a kid who was targeted by a pedophile and I wasn’t the only person he raped. Ultimately, it has taken me 43 years to learn how to take my life back and to learn to love myself again. During this time, my parents both died not knowing what happened to me. I couldn’t destroy their faith in God.
Trauma is like a shadow; it is always with you. Since I first shared my story I have had to deal with the burden of that trauma and bear the cost it has had on my life. For years I have experienced night terrors and depression. I isolated myself from my kids, family and even friends. I was plagued with doubt and worried that I should never have said anything about my abuse and lived with the pain of silence. I am healing, but it has taken years.
I feel like I was a lucky person, because I didn’t turn to drugs or alcohol. However, I live as a workaholic because it is the only way I can function. It may not seem like a bad way to live but I haven’t been living just existing.
The effects of being sexually assaulted have reverberated throughout my life. It took me years to say that I was a survivor and even longer to heal. Today, I am here to say that I’m taking my life back. I’m a survivor, not a victim and I deserve the opportunity to seek justice whenever I am ready to.
David Oullette is a teacher and former director of SNAP-NH (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests). David recently testified before the New Hampshire Legislature in support of Senate Bill 508, a bill to abolish the civil statute of limitations for crimes of sexual assault.
No matter when abuse has occurred, it’s never too late to reach out for support. In New Hampshire advocates at the Coalition’s 13 independent member programs are ready to help.
24-hour Helpline: 1-800-277-5570 Chat and text support services are available at several member programs, and more are beginning to offer these services. Visit www.nhcadsv.org to learn more.
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Member programs of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
Get 24/7 confidential support and information at one of the 13 member programs of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
Support for sexual abuse and assault outside of New Hampshire:
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