Sunday, June 17, 2012

Louise Bauschard: A Life Dedicated to Breaking the Cycle of Abuse

Background Information: Louis Bauschard: A Life Dedicated to Breaking the Cycle of Abuse
Louise Baushcard started her adult life as a stay at home mother before going back to school during the flowering of the feminist movement in the 1960s and 70s.  She studied Social Work with an emphasis on Women’s Studies.
Her studies and her mentors inspired her to open a Women’s Self Help Center in St. Louis, Missouri, in May 1976, to bring women together and empower them to create positive changes in their lives -- a noble goal that would soon be subsumed by specific problems of an overwhelming nature.  Within a short time, phone calls came in to the Center seeking help for physical abuse and sexual abuse, and the mission of the center transformed to that of a hotline for domestic violence and child sex abuse survivors.
The problem of abuse, that has surely always been with us, was just coming out into the open in the 1970s.  Much secrecy, guilt and shame surrounds abuse, causing victims to remain silent even today, but at least today we know that 1 in 4 girls is a victim of child sex abuse and 1 in 4 women will become a victim of domestic violence at some point during her lifetime.  Men and boys also experience both physical and sexual, albeit in smaller numbers. In the 1970s, no one knew how prevalent these problems were.
To serve the overwhelming needs of survivors, the Women’s Self Help Center did not remain a simple hotline.  It developed and grew and added other programs and support groups to help women survive and thrive after abuse and to share their stories to raise awareness in the community.
One issue The Center came to focus on -- helping women in prison rebuild their lives -- developed when they were asked to support a victim of domestic violence who had killed her husband in self defense.  Through this woman, Louise met other women who were victims of abuse who had been imprisoned by a judicial system that often would not hear their evidence of years and years of sexual and physical abuse.  
Louise began working with both juvenile and adult female offenders in prison and discovered there was: evidence that anyone, in any standard way, had ever documented the extent of abuse in the lives of these girls, and that they were being punished for behaviors that were symptomatic of an abusive family structure: running away, drug abuse, prostitution, and so on.   (Louise Bauschard, Voices Set Free: Battered Women Speak From Prison,1986 pg. 112).
Inspired by her experiences, Louise wrote the book Voices Set Free: Battered Women Speak From Prison, to raise awareness and share the stories of the survivors on the Oprah and Phil Donohue television shows.
She moved to Oregon in 1994, and began working with Washington County Department of Corrections as a mental health therapist.  This allowed her to initiate the concept of Restorative Justice into the criminal justice system through the efforts of a student volunteer, Dr. Carrie Banks.  Dr. Banks is the founder of Safe Dialog, a not-for-profit that puts survivors and offenders together in a safe environment with trained facilitators for dialog.    
Louise Bauschard also founded a not-for-profit, Voices Set Free, in Washington County in 1997.  Voices Set Free works to make public the stories of abuse survivors, including those who have served time in prison, and to provide these women programs to promote healing and self empowerment.  One program, The Family Justice Project, specifically works to reunite women coming out of prison with the children they lost during their involvement with the judicial system and to give them parenting skills to enable them to be good parents.
One issue Louise has a particular passion for is creating nurseries in women’s prisons so that the women who have babies while they are incarcerated, can care for their children themselves.  The attachment to their children that these women feel provides them a powerful incentive for changing their lives so they can keep their children after they leave prison.  Such programs decrease the costs of caring for children of female prisoners through the foster care system and usually result in better outcomes for both the children and their mothers.
Children, their mothers and even the men who abuse them, are often caught in a cycle of abuse.  Children exposed to abuse and domestic violence are much more likely to repeat these patterns of behavior in their own lives and end up either victims or perpetrators of crimes or both.  Louise Bauschard has dedicated her life to raising awareness about this cycle and bringing it to an end.
Compassionate Gathering/Walk Across Oregon Background Information:
Virginia, co-founder and director of Compassionate Gathering, a not for-profit that works involve the community in outreach and awareness and healing for survivors of abuse, hosted a screening on a movie about clergy abuse in 2007.  June Selis, the mother of two child sex abuse survivors, came to this event seeking contact with others interested in the issue of child sex abuse.  During the movie event, Virginia introduced her to an attorney, who introduced her to other survivors and family members interested in legal issues related to child sex abuse.  In 2008, inspired by Granny D of New Hampshire, June decided to Walk Across Oregon to change statute of limitations on criminal prosecution of abuse.  June walked most of the way from Ashland to Portland in September 2008, with the support of her second husband, who followed her in a support van stocked with water and snacks.  Unfortunately, June’s daughters were still very afraid of their abuser, and did not want her to have her name in the media, so June asked Virginia for help with the press and with the walking.  Virginia agreed, although Virginia’s primary focus is not legal issues, but awareness, outreach and survivor support.  Virginia helped June determine an approximate itinerary for the Walk, wrote a press release and contacted the media.  Virginia’s children were in school, but she walked with June as much as possible along the way.  She made multiple car trips back and forth across Oregon with her children on weekends, joining June in Ashland, Winston, Roseburg, Eugene, Monmouth and Independence, Salem, Canby, and Portland, Oregon.  Clergy abuse survivor Randy E. joined June in Ashland, Eugene and Portland, Oregon.  Randy went on to co-found Oregon Abuse Advocates and Survivors in Service (OAASIS) with the help of an attorney and other survivors and advocates in 2009, to work on both legal issues related to abuse as well as raising awareness about abuse. 
Virginia was impressed by the potential for raising awareness and outreach created by walking across the state, so she continued to Walk Across Oregon on her own.  However, as a single mother of two young children with no husband to support her, Virginia had to change the walk from an athletic approach requiring walkers to walk across the whole state on the highway to shorter walks through towns and on scenic trails in nature with interludes of fun so her children would willingly participate.  Fortunately, fun is healing as many survivors struggle with depression and forget the importance of fun.  The focus on having fun also changes a potentially confrontational action to a low key approach, making a difficult issue much easier for people uncomfortable to cope with.  Virginia also began networking with and walking with other organizations that work with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
The Walk Across Oregon: Walk With Voices Set Free came into being when Virginia met Louise Bauschard, the founder of Voices Set Free, at a conference of child sex abuse survivors hosted by Oregon Abuse Advocates and Survivors in Service (OAASIS) in October 2011.  Virginia and Louise decided to work together to create a Walk Across Oregon event and invited OAASIS to join in and walk with us.

by Virginia Pickles Jones

Please check out my YouTube channel, Healing is a Sacred Journey/StopAbuse/HealWounds, to meet one of the survivors that Louise has worked with -- Lydia.

Check out my Facebook at Compassionate Gathering.


  1. Thank you, Virginia! So appreciating this story of Louise and the people behind the Compassionate Gathering Walk.

  2. Thank you Deborah for your generosity.