Sexual Assualt and religious vocations


#1

Hi I have a question that I am asking on behalf of one of my good friends. WE are in college and my friend since her junior/senior year of highschool has been discerning a religious vocation. She has never really told anyone…the sisters she was taugt by in highschool kind of have a hint because of how much she enjoys hanging out with them and talking with them. Something very sad and disgraceful occurred a few weeks ago to my friend that she feel changes everything…she was sexually assaulted by a guy her age when she was at the beach with a bunch of coworkers. I will not go into detail…but she was forced into a sexual act and was considering a religious vocation before the incident. if she were to go through the proper healing steps…and were to become not back to the full way she used to be but into an even more beautiful ever changed person who was able to stay rooted in her faith and just strivve and grow from the situation in time…would she be able to still possibly become a religious…would a religious community even consider her or would they look at her as damaged or tainted and not something they want to have theyre community involved with? She is considering the dominican sisters so if maybe someone from a dominican community/(OP) could answer this for me that would be best. Thank you


#2

Of course it would not disqualify or "taint" her in any way.


#3

Not this doesn't change anything....at all. Of course she'd be allowed!
She still can join the religious life, and though this is unrelated, she is still a virgin too....since she was unwilling. There is no sin on her part at all, and as soon as she heals, she could meet with a vocations director!


#4

The assault would not disqualify her for religious life but she would certainly have to deal with the psychological trauma from the event before applying to enter anywhere. It isn’t something that can be ignored or forgotten or hidden and not have some impact on her future life in community. Andi f she doesn’t deal with it, that in itself could be disqualifying for her because most communities today use some form of psychological assessment tool during the application process, and questions will be asked about previous traumatic experiences.

My recommendation is for her to get some psychological counselling, preferably from a Catholic professional who is experienced in this area. If she could discuss the situation with her current religious community, they might be able to help her find the appropriate help. If she can’t do that yet, then perhaps speaking with her priest or doctor would be a good first step.

And has the matter been reported to the police yet? If this is a case of assault, then this should be done immediately.


#5

To OP:

I was sexually assaulted in high school (10 years ago) and I have been discerning religious life for the past 4 years. I have gone through a psychologist and years of prayer from this trauma. I understand what your friend is going through and I hope she is, first of all, physically fine. Secondly, I hope as well that she has not lost faith in God.

The unfortunate event may have changed her heart, but her soul is still as beautiful as it was ever since she was born. This in no way disqualifies her to join a community.

It may take time, but as long as she continues to pray and trust in God, this horrible experience will only strengthen and solidify this desire to be a religious. This vocation is not to escape from suffering or trials, but to embrace them further, focusing solely on God and what He wants of you. I hope that she takes the event to heart and raise above the suffering that she is going through right now.

Praying for her :]


#6

I'm not a Dominican... but am a student at a Dominican University... and I am an expert in consecrated life law since that is my specialization. Not to toot my horn but just to let you know where I'm coming from.

Your friend. She needs help. Rape is extremely damaging to a woman, and for the sake of her own well being, she needs to heal emotionally, physically, spiritually before even thinking about further vocational discernment. Why? Because no one who is very wounded in this way is really capable of peaceful and thorough discernment until significant healing is done. This is applicable to all vocations. She needs to be healed if she's called to marriage or consecrated life. But first and foremost, because she is a person of great and intrinsic worth, she needs to be healed for her own sake (not for the sake of discerning)!

Now, if she was a virgin prior to this attack... she remains a virgin. Rape and assault are not voluntary on the part of the victim, and FREE consent is required to lose one's virginity. Forced "consent" doesn't count. If she was chaste prior to, she is chaste after the attack. Again, for the same reasons. Involuntary sex (forced) does not destroy one's virginity in the eyes of God/Church nor does it destroy purity if one is not a virgin.

As far as the Dominicans are concerned... this is personal, internal forum information. They don't need to be told (if she has a baby, well, that obviously would preclude her from joining). Oftentimes, it is best NOT to tell people these things. The only obligation your friend would have towards the Dominicans if she were to enter, is to be sufficiently healed for community life prior to joining. And this means among other things, she needs to be open to marriage (hard for some victims) and see the goodness of sex, and be open to the idea of children... Convent life is not a place of escape. By the way, this would be the same obligation if she were to get married. She needs to be healed first so that she can enter a serious covenant with obligations that a lot of victims cannot meet without counseling and healing.

Your friend is not tainted. She is a beautiful soul loved very much by God and this was done AGAINST her will. Are you aware of the fact that many virgin martyrs were raped and are considered virgins? My understanding is Romans could not execute virgins, so if they weren't sent to a brothel first, they were raped by the soldiers prior to martyrdom. I think they also couldn't execute pregnant women, which is why Perpetua and her friend hung out in prison until after they delivered their babies. The Roman-pagan understanding of rape was that it DID taint the woman. The Catholic understanding of rape was that it was an unjust act against the body of the woman, done without her consent, and in no way tainting her.

She may be wondering if she is guilty of mortal sin. No. No. No!!!!! She's not. Please let her know because a lot of women who have been abused feel guilty over the attacker's sin. Some have been driven to suicide because of the erroneous thought that they are worthless. Again, this is extremely important. If she doesn't already know this, please inform her.

As far as psychological evaluations are concerned... yes, she MAY be asked to bring this up, but she has the right to remain silent. It is her internal forum material and she needs to know her rights in this arena. Many dioceses and convents are abusing people with the psychological evaluations.

To sum this all up... she should work with a professional counselor, preferrably Catholic until she achieves substantial healing. She does not have to disclose this information to ANYONE else. Future husband, future convent... it is up to her, and I would recommend it only if she hasn't fully healed and needs more help.


#7

Although I would agree with SerraSemper that your friend is not obliged to divulge this information to anyone, at the same time, I would ask her to consider very carefully whether or not to withhold this information from the superior of her future community, if she decides to pursue religious life. As a former religious myself, I know of nuns who have had similar experiences of abuse in the past, and have chosen not to dislcose this information. There are many occasions of stress in religious life and sometimes one's personal history can affect how they respond under stressful conditions. A superior who has been provided with this information in confidence may be able to help whereas one who does not know this, might assume other reasons for the distress. And this could cause future danger to the ongoing vocation. One nun I knew had to leave the community for awhile to deal with issues that came up in community life because of her past history that she had not revealed to the superior. She later explained the situation and was helped to deal with it and returned to her community, but some of the anguish could have been avoided if she had been able to confide in her superior beforehand.

Of course, this is a very personal decision, but as in marriage, life in a religious community involves very intense and up-close personal relationships. some of the rough spots can be helped by loving support from an understanding superior.

Just my opinion, but of course it depends on each individual what they choose to reveal aout such an intimate and personal matter.


#8

Although I would agree with SerraSemper that your friend is not obliged to divulge this information to anyone, at the same time, I would ask her to consider very carefully whether or not to withhold this information from the superior of her future community, if she decides to pursue religious life. As a former religious myself, I know of nuns who have had similar experiences of abuse in the past, and have chosen not to dislcose this information. There are many occasions of stress in religious life and sometimes one’s personal history can affect how they respond under stressful conditions. A superior who has been provided with this information in confidence may be able to help whereas one who does not know this, might assume other reasons for the distress. And this could cause future danger to the ongoing vocation. One nun I knew had to leave the community for awhile to deal with issues that came up in community life because of her past history that she had not revealed to the superior. She later explained the situation and was helped to deal with it and returned to her community, but some of the anguish could have been avoided if she had been able to confide in her superior beforehand.

Of course, this is a very personal decision, but as in marriage, life in a religious community involves very intense and up-close personal relationships. some of the rough spots can be helped by loving support from an understanding superior.

Just my opinion, but of course it depends on each individual what they choose to reveal aout such an intimate and personal matter.


#9

She has not lost faith and she believes that this is her cross to bear. her faith is so strong and when most people would turn from God she has only grown closer. She has a close relationship with one sister in the community she was hoping to join if she discerned this is what God reallly wanted for her. Would you all advise that she talk to this sister or do you think that is a bad move considering this nun may bring it up to someone else or because the horrifying event would now be known in the community. I also would like to hear more about whether or not my friend should reveal this information to the vocation director when the time comes and she is more healed from this situation. I feel like full honesty would be important and omitting information might bite her in the *** later on if you know what I mean. these are just all things she has been worrying about because she knows the convent is not a place to run to because of how rigorous the life can be. She is so open to married life too and she has not lost the desire for either vocation and for children...she has told me she has beautiful men in her life and she knows that they know what real love is and that there are still guys out there that know how to respect a women and her sexuality. She is one of the strongest people I know and if anybody can grow from this its her.


#10

[quote="hhgregg, post:9, topic:292031"]
She has not lost faith and she believes that this is her cross to bear. her faith is so strong and when most people would turn from God she has only grown closer. She has a close relationship with one sister in the community she was hoping to join if she discerned this is what God reallly wanted for her. Would you all advise that she talk to this sister or do you think that is a bad move considering this nun may bring it up to someone else or because the horrifying event would now be known in the community. I also would like to hear more about whether or not my friend should reveal this information to the vocation director when the time comes and she is more healed from this situation. I feel like full honesty would be important and omitting information might bite her in the *** later on if you know what I mean. these are just all things she has been worrying about because she knows the convent is not a place to run to because of how rigorous the life can be. She is so open to married life too and she has not lost the desire for either vocation and for children...she has told me she has beautiful men in her life and she knows that they know what real love is and that there are still guys out there that know how to respect a women and her sexuality. She is one of the strongest people I know and if anybody can grow from this its her.

[/quote]

Before discussing this issue with anyone else, especially a religious community, I would recommend that she get psychological help first. when she has fully processed what happened and the psychological issues involved with a professional, then she will be in a better situation to determine who else should or should not be told about it. She is not at the stage of discernment yet (or shouldn't be until this is dealt with) that she has to say anything to anyone except a health professional or a priest (who should maintain confidentiality if she asks him to, whether in Confession, which is automatically protected), or in some other setting.

Once she deals with the issue and has a strong interior balance, both psychologically and spiritually, then she can consider whom to tell within the potential community. I would suggest that she not tell one of the sisters though, no matter how close, but speak with the superior first, who can decide who else if anyone (such as the Novice Mistress) needs to know. Once she tells, it can't be taken back.

I would certainly recommend discussing it with her future husband if she chooses this path instead of religious life. But now isn't the time to tell anyone apart from those who need to know in order to help her.


#11

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