Through Anne-Sophie Hourdeaux
The report of the CIASE, independent commission on sexual abuse in the Church, revealed the scale of the disaster, with 216,000 victims of priests or religious in France. The victims are also numerous in the Nord and Pas-de-Calais. Among them, Jean-François, 49 years old, from Pas-de-Calais. He explains what he attends in the Church.
Abused by a priest when he was 12
He wants to get things done : this is the first remark of Jean-François, 49 years old years.
At the age of 12 years, he was the victim of sexual abuse on the part of a priest in Aire-sur-la-Lys, while he was preparing his first communion. Said priest is deceased, but Jean-François is looking for other victims and wants to know how this tragedy could have happened.
Why did you wait so long to testify ? Jean-François evokes post-traumatic amnesia, which begins to be known and which affects victims after abuse. For him, it was 35 years of virtual oblivion! “I was not well, I did psychotherapy, especially with the practice of EMDR *. Everything came back to me, but I could hardly believe myself… ”
Rape and sexual assault experienced during school in the 1980s go back to his memory. The author: the priest of the parish, “a strong personality, whom we adored or hated, remained in the same town pendant 25 years ”.
He then discovers the website coabuse.fr, who met the victims of the same assailant. “We fill out a questionnaire, with the place, the dates…”. It was in 2019. His profile “matches” that of another person. “We contacted each other. This confirmed that I was indeed a victim. “
Since then, other victims of the same priest have made themselves known. “One of the abusers apologized because attacked before me, he could have prevented my attacks if he had spoken. »The victim who feels guilty …
Advance with weights, or a handbrake
Jean-François also wants to make people understand what it really means to be victims of sexual crimes in childhood. “It’s an open wound that never fully heals. The smallest detail can reopen it. I would compare this to a Koh Lanta event, a race in which the more the participant advances, the more weights he receives. My life is moving with weights, or riding with a handbrake. Sometimes it’s so heavy that you can’t go any further … “
The first time he spoke in public about what had happened to him, it was in Lille, precisely on November 29, 2019. The opportunity was given to him by the passage of the commission on sexual abuse in the Church at Sciences Po. In the amphitheater, he spoke. We were there at the time: “I needed proof, I was questioning my own word. This priest is dead, has he made other victims? », He had launched.
The CIASE report, Jean-François the wait. He also testified at length to this commission, like around 250 people (plus 1,628 responses to a questionnaire). “I was auditioned for over 3 hours. I had a respectful, professional, benevolent listening. “
Emotion, anger and pride
Tuesday, October 5, 2021, he followed the press conference live by video: “I felt emotion, anger, but also the pride of having had the courage to testify to make things happen. “.
Regarding the pardon expressed by the president of the bishops of France, Mgr de Moulins-Beaufort: “It is the minimum union, but these are only media words. The next day, the bishop was already saying that we had to think about it! “
What does he expect from the Church today? Regarding financial “reparations”, “it is not my priority, but we must recognize that we have suffered damage. It comes at a cost to be a victim! We have important psychological and medical care. We don’t have the life we should have had… ”
Jean-François is not optimistic about the ability of the Church to react.
I don’t believe in their real will to make things happen. The reaction to the possible lifting of the secrecy of confession sums it all up: they are above the law …
However, it was the bishops who commissioned this report, “but they did not expect this figure and such a thunderous report! “
Courses of action
We need some benchmarks to be implemented to prevent the abuse from continuing: “We need external safeguards. In companies, there are many audits carried out by independent firms. The formation of the priest is also to be reviewed. Because giving such a level of power gives the keys to the perverts. We also need zero tolerance! “
For him, there are things that are obvious and easy to put in place quickly, “like making sure that an adult is not left alone with a child, in the church, in the school, to remove any ambiguity… This is part of the twenty recommendations that a group, of which I was part with other victims, like Olivier Savignac, already sent to the bishops a few months ago. “
Also, “victims could intervene in the formation of priests, and not only people who remained in the Church”. Above all, “thinking of the victims first and protecting the children” should be the priority.
Concerning the faith, Jean-François is “atheist”, “but it is not related to what happened to me, already at the time, I was doing the category more by tradition than other chosen”.
Help victims speak out
Beyond this expectation, the forty-something has only one fight: to help other victims to speak, because he has experienced that this helps.
It feels good to talk. The victims must testify, but also the witnesses. It is invaluable to corroborate the facts, even if they did not denounce at the time. We must advance the truth, I want to help with that …
For his personal case, he is still looking for other victims in Aire-sur-la-Lys and Desvres. About ten people have already made themselves known. Even though the priest is dead, an investigation is underway. Jean-François is also ready to go to testify in the parishes.
* EMDR: Desensitization and reprocessing of eye movements, that is to say desensitization and retreatment by eye movements.
For witnesses or victims in Desvres and Aire-sur-la-Lys : [email protected] For other victims, contact France Victimes : 116 006, or france-victimes.fr
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