Priest sex abuse victim helps heal through poetry

Norbert Krapf
Priest Abuse Survivor Speaks Out
Abuse survivor shares his story

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WTHR) - Just a few days ago, the Diocese of Evansville released the names of a dozen Indiana priests with credible accusations of sex abuse against children, spanning decades.

One of the victims only shared his story of abuse after years of silence. And it took his talent for poetry to start healing those old wounds.

"It really was a cathartic process," said poet Norbert Krapf. "When I moved back to Indiana, it brought all of it back up and that's when I started to write. I knew that I had to tell my story because I knew it would tell a lot of other stories, too."

Krapf read to us some of his poetry from "Catholic Boy Blues", that weaves honesty about the scars with hope for change.

"Nobody in any of these stories, wherever they take place, will live happily ever after," Krapf read. "But if people can summon what it takes to tell the truth, they can live together and help others find their voice. One voice singing by itself can sound awfully small, but several voices lifting as one can make a chorus that sings a mighty song."

Norbert Krapf turned to writing to ease the pain of sex abuse he suffered from a priest in southwest Indiana as a child.

It took 50 years for this former Indiana Poet Laureate to find his voice. Fifty years to publicly reveal his secret of being sexual abused by a priest. Krapf says the abuse happened between sixth and eighth grade.

"Abusers prey on trust and they betray trust. And I was not nearly the only person abused by our pastor. We could not tell our parents who would have been so shocked that it would have just destroyed them almost," Krapf said.

He says the abuse ended in 1957. He started writing in 2007.

"I felt an obligation to speak for my fellow survivors and then the poems just came," Krapf explained, "325 in a 12-month period."

Norbert Krapf, an Indiana Poet Laureate from 2008-2010, has written two books, hundreds of poems and now a play about the abuse he suffered as a child.

Just last week, the Diocese of Evansville released a list of priests with credible accusations of sexually abusing children. That includes Monsignor Othmar Schroeder. Krapf's abuser in Jasper, with at least 18 confirmed victims.

Many similar crimes worldwide were covered up by the Catholic Church for decades.

"The cover-up almost becomes worse to deal with than the actual abuse in many ways," Krapf said. "A community has to recover as much as an individual has to recover and if you don't and you pretend that nothing happened, it only festers and gets worse and it affects exponentially so many generations, really."

Krapf said he didn't go to church for about 20 years because of the impact of his abuse, though he has gone back since and his faith remains strong.

The Vatican just held a four-day summit on sex abuse. Krapf says he's glad the Pope is addressing this issue, but he wanted to hear more. He says abusive priests should be prosecuted.

"Coming clean and bringing people to justice who were such abusers and such deceivers," Krapf said. "How can you keep on going to church and pray and have full faith knowing what happened and that it was covered up and that it was wrong and they wouldn't even go to the civil authorities, which by law, they were required to do."

Until then, Krapf continues to share his truth, through written and spoken word, to help survivors heal.

"It was waiting to come up. It was needing to come up and it was very therapeutic and helpful for me and I'm happy to say, it helped a lot of other people apparently. One woman wrote to me and said 'thank you for giving me the language to talk about my abuse.'"