Clergy abuse ‘a lifelong cross these people carry’

The sex abuse scandal involving Catholic priests in the Philadelphia Archdiocese won’t go away.  Following the recent suspension of 21 priests, victims’ advocates are calling on the archdiocese to take further action to protect children.

The headlines are prompting some people to finally begin talking about the abuse they suffered. Joy Wuenschel has heard some terrible things. “Addiction is a big, big problem … they have eating disorders,” Wuenschel said. Wuenschel, who lives in Germantown, helps lead the advocacy group Voice of the Faithful. She is also a spokeswoman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests of Philadelphia.  As a result, she has been an early point of contact for many abuse survivors. “The memories come back to them, and also the words to express what happened to them.  A lot of them didn’t have that when the abuse happened, as children, but in later years they’ve learned what happened to them was wrong and they are learning how to express that,” she said. “It’s taken many of them therapy to get to that point too.” Wuenschel said she’s hearing from people who say they were abused by one of the 21 suspended priests.   One of them, Wuenschel said, is a 40-year-old woman who said the abuse began when she was 8. “She obviously was extremely upset and she had not reported it to the district attorney. I referred her to the district attorney and she said, ‘But ‘I don’t think it’s important, it happened so long ago.’ And I said, ‘Yes it is.  It’s very important to report it.’ ” About five years ago, Wuenschel started a support group for mothers of abused children as a way to help them deal with their own guilt and anger after years of staying strong for their children.   “These mothers are facing this problem daily.  Because, it’s been quoted a number of times, you’re only as well as your sickest child is,” said Wuenschel. “And these children– they’re adults now–well they’re constantly battling the same problem.”

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