Thursday, November 29, 2012

The "System" is Abusive: Why Compassion for All Heals Wounds of Abuses

“The system is abusive,” the homeless man told me as he shared his story with me.              

This was many years ago that he shared his story with me, many years ago when I was young and living in Seattle.

He told me what it was like staying in a shelter -- how lights went out at 10 PM or 11 PM and how you had to be up and out by 7 AM.  How you couldn’t drink or use drugs in the shelter.

I understood those rules.  Many homeless people use drugs and alcohol, but drug use is a coping strategy that harms the user.  I also understood the shelter hours.  Shelter is provided but you really don’t want people to become dependent; you want them to move forward and onward.

But as I worked with abuse survivors, I heard more details as to why these seemingly sensible rules don’t work.  The survivor who felt loved only by his dog could not go to a shelter because he could not take his dog.  The homeless female survivor who was married to another homeless survivor could find no shelters that took couples.  In all these cases all the survivors would have had to leave their primary source of emotional support in order to have shelter over their heads.

I also discovered that much more help with housing exists for homeless people who have drug and alcohol problems and other psychiatric problems than for the ordinary homeless person who lost job and home and is having trouble pulling themselves up without a mailing address or phone or computer or the ability to maintain decent, clean clothes and take a shower.

Moreover, we “housed” people truthfully have trouble understanding what it is like to be that insecure.  I’ve found the people who work with the homeless to be good and caring people, but sometimes there is a disconnect and their compassion gets expressed imperfectly or not at all.

The homeless are not the only ones struggling with an “abusive system."

First, let me make a disclaimer, All the people I've met who worked for Child Protective Services compassionate people wanting to do their best to advocate for children.  The same goes for all the therapists I’ve ever met.  They are all good, kind people trying to heal a broken world or at least broken individuals.

All the same, I hear complaints.

A few years back I met a frantic grandmother who kept on trying to report the obvious abuses her grandson kept experiencing at the hand of his mother, only to be told, “You are the problem.”

One problem CPS has is knowing what to do with accusations of abuse that are a little too old to document well.

The grandson would be taken the Emergency Room for breaking his arm, his mother says, after falling out of a tree.  The grandmother later sees very visible handprints on the boy’s arm, but because the boy was only occasionally in her care, by the time she saw these handprints and reports them to CPS,days have passed since the event causing the broken arm and the evidence is not good enough to support the accusation of abuse.  But then some other bruises appear on the boy and he tells his grandmother that his mother beat him with a stick.  Once again the accusations are made too late to obtain good documentation, and the grandmother, an immigrant who speaks imperfect English, does not understand why nothing ever happens to the mother who beats her son badly enough to break his bones at least twice in his short life.  The grandmother grows angry at CPS workers and that is when they told her, “You are the problem.”

In another case, a father reported a mother to CPS after she held her newborn baby in her arms while smoking and cooking.  She burned herself while dumping out hot pasta water while holding the baby.

She didn’t drop the baby but the father was worried about her lack of care.  They separated shortly after the baby’s birth, and he reported her to CPS.  The mother was very careful to tell CPS that the father, who was a child sex abuse survivor, suffered from chronic depression and occasional outbursts of anger from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Instead of investigating the mother’s parenting style, CPS investigated the father's mental disorder and questioned his fitness for parenting while praising the mother for being protective of her child.

Let me make a disclaimer because I think the main problem with CPS is they have too much work and too little money.  The CPS investigator in this case was in her early twenties and fresh out of college.  She soon moved on to a better paying job.

Every time a case is mishandled there are many factors causing the failure -- too little time, too little experience, a bad day or a bad week or simply a bad case.

We all have bad times.  We are human.  However, when child abuse is invoked, the stakes are very high all the way around for everyone.

I met a mother who had one child who sexually abused the other.  The abuse was disgusting but none-the-less far from the worst case I’ve ever heard about.  The family did the right thing and reported this abuse to CPS.  The child abuse advocates could not believe how the mother could love both children.  They treated the perpetrator as disposable even though he was not yet a teenager.  The family went deep into debt providing therapy for everyone all around and paying for accommodations for the perpetrator who could no longer have any contact with any siblings.  The abused child had very mixed feelings -- feelings of disgust for what had happened mixed with feelings of love for the sibling all the advocates seemed to hate.  No one outside the family acknowledged the validity of those feelings.  Fortunately the family eventually found a sympathetic therapist, but they felt deeply and profoundly wounded by child abuse activists.

That is not to say that the activists were not well meaning and caring people.  They most certainly were.  But maybe the model is wrong.

To be fare to CPS and the advocates for child abuse victims, not all complaints made about them are fair.  I’ve had complaints made about me.  Most recently a clergy abuse survivor contacted me and hinted she was alone for Thanksgiving.  I knew she wanted me to invite her to my house, but I’ve been going through a pro-longed family crisis that has nearly silenced this blog.  I knew that I could not bring a fragile survivor home to my kids.  I called around to my friends to see if any could come over and help interact.  All had other invitations.  It would have been just my kids and me and the survivor.  I knew that was the wrong mix. I did not invite the survivor to Thanksgiving.  The survivor stopped e-mailing me.  I am sure the survivor felt alone and uncared for although that was not my intention. 

I have found that many times when fragile survivors call me up, they share information about their plans for future actions which I know will harm the survivor.  When this happens, I have offered advice, but I’ve learned that when a person is wounded, offering advice tends to make them feel judged and unsupported.  I’ve been more successful offering advice only when asked for it.

From my experience, when someone complains about me, even when there is unfairness in the complaints, it challenges me to be a better, more compassionate listener.

What I can do, what I am struggling to learn to do, is to listen unconditionally, without judgement and when I do, the person sharing their story opens up and trusts and shares their story more completely.

I’ve been working with someone who made mistakes with her child and paid a high price in losing that child.  She hates telling her story because telling her story involves her telling about her mistakes.  The facts of her story are not all sympathetic, which causes her great shame and doubles her pain.  At the same time she needs to tell her story to process what happened and to find a way forward.  She has refused on many occasions to tell the full story to me.  It comes out in bits and pieces, here and there.  Recently when we were speaking, her phone died.  I thought I had offended her and caused her pain, inspiring her to hang up on me.  So I wrote her a kind e-mail apologizing for unintentionally saying something that hurt her.  She called me back immediately and told me more of her difficult story and shared more about the child she lost.  She had never abused her daughter or left her uncared for.  She had only made mistakes in her relationship with her ex-husband.  Even those mistakes were ones of trusting the wrong person and not of perpetrating abuse herself.

I listened impatiently because I was busy and facing a deadline for some of my work.  Then I realized what a tremendous compliment this woman was giving me.  I have known her for seven months.  She has been mistreated and disbelieved by so many people in the “system” that she took seven months to tell me some of her most painful secrets.

To reiterate, she shared her deepest, most painful secrets because I had apologized and expressed compassion for her.  In expressing compassion for her pain over losing her daughter, I had become a part of her healing process.

This life is wounding.  Yes, there are joys, weddings, the birth of a baby, sunrises and sunsets and waterfalls and wildflowers.........

But much of what happens to us is painful.  A child is abused or wounded in some way.  The messy adult survivor continues to struggle many years later with drug addiction, homelessness and broken relationships but no one wants to care for that messy adult. The mother, the father, the brothers and sisters, the whole community are all wounded by the abuse in their own way.  Each struggles with their own experiences.  Our current model is to treat the abused child as a discreet unit.  The wounded child receives our compassion most readily.  The mother and father and brother and sister of the survivor all remain less visible.  The view is adults can take care of themselves, but who us going to take care of a child not relegated to the foster care system -- the mother or the father or the older brother or sister.  How can we not care about the whole family?

I first read about Restorative Justice relative to abuse in 2005 and it was like being struck by lightning. The article recounted how justice was handled by many American Indian tribes before we white people wiped out most of their culture.  Everyone in the tribe would sit in a talking circle and each person would share their side of the story of a crime.  All were listened to with respect.  I knew here was an answer.  I got my start as an advocate for survivors after an abusive priest was removed from my parish.  The survivor advocacy groups only spoke about wounded survivors.  The church leadership kept insisting that we parishioners needed to respect the priest and what he wanted and needed for healing.  Meanwhile attendance at mass dropped by one third.  I wondered why parish leadership seemed paralyzed and unable to address the fact that their parish was deeply wounded and struggling.  Eventually, by searching the internet for answers the Church leadership left unanswered, I realized that Church leadership was aware of accusations of abuse against this priest going back twenty years.  The coverup of abuse left a huge trail of abuse over many years.  I connected the wounds of the elderly parishioners who had never been told any details of the abuses perpetrated by the priest they continued to love and support to the wounds of the survivor whose story had been denied for 20 years.

I realized the whole community is wounded by abuse and the whole community needs to be involved in the healing process.  This is also true for families.  The whole family is wounded by abuse and maybe there needs to be concerns for the healing of all the family members, not just the survivor, because who is going to care for the survivor unless they become a ward of the state?  We heal wounds by listening to everyone on all sides of a crime with compassion and respect.  There have to be consequences for a perpetrator of abuse such as placing him in prison for the rest of his natural life, but we accomplish the most healing and gain the most information about the abuses perpetrated and receive the most support for the the survivors when we are compassionate with everyone.

Copyright 2012 Virginia Pickles Jones

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Final Results of Survey on Clergy Abuse

In 2007, inspired by several survivors of Catholic clergy abuse I constructed a survey of survivor wants of needs related to healing.  I received some positive support from survivors and advocates and an instructor of Social Work from PSU.  I approached SNAP, therapists, the instructor of Social Work,, the media, and several clergy abuse lawyers but received little help in distributing and publicizing the survey.  I had previously approached three Victim Assistants who worked for the Catholic Church and was essentially told to let professionals handle this.  I attempted to work with the local Voice of the Fruitful and was told that I was too angry and hurt and drove people away.

I was hurt and angry.  I was baptized Catholic along with my young children in 2001.  After baptizing me, he proceeded to groom me and my 5 year old son although I have to stress that nothing bad ever happened.  My son sat on the priests lap for almost 2 hours one time, but I and my daughter were present the whole time.  I was aware that this was unusually familiar, but my son, who I had been told was on the autism spectrum, had severe separation anxiety and would only interact with about 6 adults other than me.  I was happy to see that he was bonding with another adult.  Church leadership  knew about accusations of abuse against this priest for 20 years when this happened, but had never bothered to tell parishioners.  If I had known about these accusations, I would not have entered that priests office with my children, but then, he probably wouldn't have remained a priest if the accusations against him had been made public.

So even though no one in my family has been abused by a priest, we ended up in the middle of the clergy abuse scandal.  When the priest was removed, forums were held.  People were angry and hurt and divided between people who could not believe the severity of abuse the priest had perpetrated and those who could not understand people who would support a pedophile.  I struggled, knowing that my private story cast doubt on the priest's innocence.  I remained silent even when a Youth Minister came forward with a story that cast even more doubt on the priest's innocence.  She was harassed so badly by other parishioners she left the Catholic Church.  Who knows what would have happened if I had spoken out in the forum, but I needed time and space and support to come forward and ended up having to struggle mostly by myself to come to terms with what had happened.  I formed a prayer group to support the priest, but I also researched the clergy abuse scandal on the internet.  Eventually I read enough to firmly believe the survivors.  I handed out newspaper articles about the clergy abuse scandal in my parish and was thrown out.

In the meantime, my parish struggled with many people leaving the parish in the months after the priest was removed.  In time I came to realize that abuse and the cover up of abuse wounds the whole community and that the whole community needs to be involved in the healing process.

I felt that as a parishioner and as a mother of a potential victim, I had a role to play, but I have not been treated that way by any more than a few, individual clergy abuse survivors and a few individual Catholic parishioners.  Sadly, I have not been able to inspire more than a few Catholics to become more involved with this issue.

I've been told by one parishioner, "The bishops have taken care of everything.  We don't need to do anything."

I was told by another, "SNAP has taken care of everything.  We don't need to do anything."


So I posted my survey online in 2008 and finally advertised it in a blog in January of this year. Before publishing the blog, I spent a week analyzing the data I had received in dribs and drabs over the years.  After I posted the blog, I received three new responses in the next few days.  The survey and blog remained on the internet for a few more months, longer than I anticipated, but no more responses came.

Of the three new responses, one came from someone abused by an Episcopal priest.  No one made interesting comments that I could share with all of you.  I decided not to take the time to add three new responses to my analyses that I made in January.  It simply takes too much time and without more support and interest, it simply isn't worth my effort.  I've already put hundreds of hours into this with little to show for my effort.  I have to put my effort where people care and help out and give back.

But I promised to republish this fall what my results were.  So here they are again along with my explanation for not including the three additional results.

My one comment is that if people want anything to change concerning clergy abuse, maybe more people need to take individual responsibility for acting instead of waiting for someone else to act.  If you wait for the people who "lead" you to change things, you will wait a long time.

Changing society for the better is not a spectator sport.

My other comment is that in working with survivors, I know they are healing when they reach out and help others.

Survey of Survivor Wants and Needs -- Preliminary Results

All priests and members of religious orders should sign each reply (to this survey) submitted, and included their own estimate of how much money they personally intend to pay for the damages to victims and when.  Responses will then be initialed by their immediate supervisors, collated and tabulated by their superiors, audited by victim owned accounting firms, results published in all the places named in Question 8b, which would be mandatorily subscribed to by every church, and placed daily on the dining table in every residence inhabited by priests and members of religious orders.  The independent auditor would also be hired by priests and members of religious orders to conduct an evaluation of effectiveness for the aforementioned process with continual review and change, in perpetuity.
        --Anonymous survivor of clergy abuse

I really appreciate this survivor’s support.  I quite agree with him, but I can’t even remotely attempt to do this without much more support from many more people.  Please help for the sake of this survivor and many other survivors.  Both survivors and their family members or loved ones can fill out this survey -- please, only one response per survivor.
You can take the survey of survivor wants and needs here:  Survey of Survivor Wants and Needs for Healing

Origin of the Survey
I started working on this survey on what clergy abuse survivors want and need for healing in the Fall of 2006, after contacting Olan Horne.  Olan is a Massachusetts resident who was abused by the very prolific abuser, Fr. Joseph Birmingham.  He worked with other survivors abused by Fr. Birmingham to organize meetings between survivors and both Cardinal Law and Cardinal O’Malley.  He later met with Pope Benedict XVI.  Olan also participated in an advisory group for the US Conference of Bishops on a survey of survivors and their experiences with the Catholic Church.  Olan advised me to conduct a survey of what survivors wanted and needed for healing.  It seemed obvious to me that he was correct.  I wrote down a list of things survivors had suggested to me from Olan, Ray Higgins (father of a survivor and founder of the Therapy Trust for Victims of Clergy Sex Abuse) of Santa Barbara, California, and Elizabeth Goeke, then the SNAP support group facilitator here in Portland, Oregon, as well as ideas I had seen in numerous newspaper articles.  Some ideas included in the survey were inspired by the work of Aaron Lazare MD, former Dean of the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine.  Dr. Lazare studied apology for more than 20 years and is an expert on the healing power of effective apology.  I presented my ideas to three different Victims’ Assistance Coordinators who worked for the Catholic Church, but they were not interested in my in put.  So I sought advice on the construction of the survey from an instructor and researcher in the School of Social Work at Portland State University.  She advised me on the construction of the survey.
Obstacles to Disseminating the Survey.
To disseminate the survey, I first attempted to contact the leadership of the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests.  They never returned my e-mails so I have no idea why they chose not to participate.  Please note that no one taking the survey criticized SNAP in any way, and 53% of respondents felt that SNAP support groups had helped them heal from the wounds of clergy abuse.
In the summer of 2007, I contacted several lawyers in Oregon who had represented survivors of clergy abuse and asked them to distribute the survey to their survivors.  However, I never received back any copies of the survey that I sent to various lawyers and have no idea whether or not any of the attorney I contacted ever made any attempts to disseminate the survey to their survivors.
Without any help from any of the major possible sources of help, I just let the survey lie dormant for a year.  Then, when we walked across Oregon to raise awareness about abuse for the first time in 2008, I paid a computer programmer $500 to post the survey on my website.  Unfortunately he did not manage to complete the project until after the Walk was completed so I was unable to take advantage of the media attention the Walk generated.  After the Walk ended, I e-mailed a link to the online survey to the survivors I worked with, but only three responded.  The survey is rather long, and I suspect some survivors or their family members found it difficult to find time to fill it out -- specifically because they kept promising to fill it out and did not do so.
In the fall of 2008, I contacted some of my media contacts from the Walk Across Oregon to see if they were interested but was informed they would be interested after I had significant results and not before hand.

The lack of support I received was very discouraging.  However, periodically, someone would find their way to my website and peruse it and fill out a survey.  Some people find survey time consuming to fill out but for others the survey appears to have given voice to some survivors who needed it.  Infact, over the years, a few non-clergy abuse survivors filled out the survey or asked to fill out a similar survey for non-clergy abuse survivors.

From the fall of 2008 to the spring of 2010, I waited, doing nothing to disseminate the survey, until after I started a blog.  I wrote a blog to advertise the survey, but then the news broke that the pope appeared to have known about the abuse of children when he was a bishop and failed to do anything about it, my writing turned to that issue and by the time media interest had died down, I had to pay full attention to the Walk Across Oregon 2010 and to my 501 (c) 3 application.  In the fall of 2010 I had to revamp my website to make it more user friendly, and then I fell and broke my elbow and all my efforts to work on the issue of abuse went on life support.

Once again, I have to revamp my website as I have used Apple’s Mobile Me to host my main website since the Fall of 2009.  Apple is discontinuing Mobile Me.  I want to build a new website that can do more than my current .org website so I have to dismantle the old website.  The survey is now rather old as it refers to the Healing Alliance, which has been defunct for some years, but the core ideas remain valid -- namely survivors are more likely to heal, the more they have in put and control over the healing process.  Somebody should ask survivors what they want and need for healing, so I will.
Below are the preliminary results from the rather small number of responses received from the survey along with the comments (in blue) survivors sent to me along with a few of my own comments (in red).
From the date of the publication of this blog, January 11, 2012, the survey will remain on the website for one month.  Then I will remove it.  I will publish final results in the fall of 2012 after the Walk Across Oregon 2012 is over.

I may conduct surveys in the future using Survey Monkey or some other resource, but construction of surveys, their dissemination and their analysis is time consuming.  I welcome help from interested people.  So if you like this survey, please contact me, Virginia Jones, at, to offer your help.    Both survivors and their family members or loved ones can fill out this survey -- please, only one response per survivor.

The full survey is available here if you wish to express your opinion:  Survey of Survivor Wants and Needs for Healing

 At the end of the survey I include a few comments about the scientific validity of the survey.
An Independent Assistance Fund can be established with money donated from the church, parishioners, community members who care about survivors, and from survivors themselves. The fund would be independent of the Catholic Church and would be operated by a board consisting of survivors, family members of survivors, and social workers who are not employed by the Catholic Church. This board would meet once a month, take requests for grants of money, discuss the requests, and give out money to survivors for various needs such as help paying past due rent and utility bills, mortgage foreclosure, college tuition, medical bills, therapy, drug and alcohol treatment, or even help paying for summer camp for a survivor’s children. The amount of money given out each time would total a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
82% of respondents were willing to use such a fund;
18% were not.  One of these people is a clinical counselor who does not believe it is helpful to give people money.
45% were willing to help set up such a fund or serve on the board of directors.

Survivor comment: I think something life the Farm (former Healing Alliance retreat center) a healing place away from the Church would be useful.  Skills could be taught and new projects could be funded through staff/board.

One model for helping survivors of trauma heal is mentoring by another survivor further along in the process of healing. Mentors typically validate feelings and experiences and offer their own experiences with coping strategies, therapy, etc.
64% were willing to mentor other survivors
64% were willing to be mentored by another survivor
82% wanted more information.

Some survivors are able to maintain a relationship with the Catholic Church. Others are uncomfortable working with church employees. In some places survivors are able to go to other survivors for assistance in dealing with church employees, such as a Victim Assistance Coordinator.

73%  wanted assistance going to a coordinator
36% would be willing to assist others in contacting the coordinator
82% were willing to participate in a retreat
9% was not willing
73% wanted trained survivors leading retreat
64% wanted experienced therapist leading retreat
36% wanted a non-Catholic organization leading retreat.
Sharing story in church
45% wanted to share without anonymity
27% would share if they could be anonymous
18% did not want to share their stories under any circumstances
9% said maybe

My comment: The co-founder of Compassionate Gathering, Elizabeth Goeke was one of the people who was dubious that she’d find the experience of being listened to by other Catholic healing.  However, she found the experience very uplifting when she participated in it.  She had been so wounded by her experiences with other Catholics she was dubious if it could work.  When we trained Catholics to listen with compassion, she found the experience very uplifting and supported further efforts to listen to other survivors.

Ways people were willing to share their stories with others:
Photographic Display 45%
Booklet of stories: 55%
Small group of parishioners: 55%
Larger mixed group of survivors and other Catholics: 55%
Large group of priests (as in Philadelphia) 27%
Small group of priests with other survivors 45%
At a penance Mass ( Boston) 27%
Survivor comment:  All depends upon the openness of the priests participating.  What is the agenda?
Public apology from bishop or head of religious order: 45%
Personal apology from bishop or head of religious order: 27%
Public apology from abuser: 27%
Personal apology from abuser:  45%

What did survivors want to see in an apology:  These ideas are based on book and articles by Dr. Aaron Lazare.

55% want statements of responsibility which make clear who are the offenders and who are the offended.
36% Want statements acknowledging the clear failure of the leadership of the Catholic Church.
55% Want clear statements acknowledging the suffering of survivors.
73% Want statements that survivors are not responsible for abuses.
64% want assurance that the abuse and the cover- up of abuse won’t happen again.
36% want assurance of punishment for those perpetrated abuse.
45% wanted opportunities for survivors to grieve in a compassionate setting
36% wanted personal apologies from abusers
27% wanted a personal apology from Bishop of head or religious order

1 person added that they wanted apologies from family and friends to failed to support and believe them.

Survivor comment: Please be aware that an official apology from the Archdiocese of Portland was offered several years ago.  I know in my parish the apology was offered from the lectern and at a church service where victims came forward anonymously (sic) and told their story (briefly) to a priest.  This was very helpful, however it was a one time shot.  .......As I stated above, the “apology” was done several years ago and there have been Eucharistic Services dealing with this issue in a very non-confrontational manner.  I believe more could be done however.

Advertising of resources for survivors:
100% wanted the church to actively advertise resources for survivors
63% in church bulletins
45% in church newspapers
63% in major local dailies papers
63% in alternative papers
63% wanted television stories
55% wanted pubic service radio announcements
55% wanted radio news stories
63% wanted resources actively advertised on Archdiocesan websites.

How helpful were various resources?

Justice and compensation from lawsuits against the Church
Very unhelpful 1 person -- this person was not able to sue the church
somewhat unhelpful 1 person -- this person sued in a landmark case.  He hoped for healing and found himself not feeling very healed when the lawsuit was done.  However, he felt it was extremely helpful and important for survivors to be able to sue the Church.
A little helpful 9%
somewhat helpful 18%
Very helpful 45%

The Church releases some personnel files of selected abusers
1person found this unhelpful -- this person felt that the Church should release complete files for all abusers.
18 percent -- somewhat unhelpful
9 Percent -- a little unhelpful
9 percent somewhat helpful
27% -- very helpful

Church releases all personnel files of all abusers
18% somewhat helpful
45% Very helpful

Church names abusers in newspapers, websites and television news
9% -- very unhelpful
18% -- very unhelpful
18% -- somewhat helpful
45% --very helpful

Church writes letters to former parishioners of abusive priests asking if they or their family members were abused by that same priest
9% -- very unhelpful
9% -- somewhat unhelpful
18% -- somewhat helpful
27% -- very helpful

My comment: Please note this has happened.  The Santa Barbara Franciscans did this in 1993 and quite a number of survivors came forward.  This was also done by in New Jersey in the case of Fr. James Hanley.  There may be other cases I don’t know about.

Church leaders publicly apologize for failing to take action on reports of abuse
18% -- very unhelpful
9% -- a little helpful
9% -- somewhat helpful
27% -- very helpful
27% -- did not respond

Church lobbies politicians for more time to come forward to charge abusers with crimes (extension of statute of limitations for criminal prosecution)
9% -- very unhelpful
9% - somewhat helpful
63% -- very helpful
19% -- did not respond

Church lobbies politicians for more time for survivors to come forward in order to file civil lawsuits
9% -- somewhat helpful
63% -- very helpful

Survivors sharing their stories with other Catholics in a safe environment:
18% -- very unhelpful
9% -- a little unhelpful
9% -- a little helpful
9% -- somewhat helpful
36% -- very helpful
18% -- did not respond

My Comment: Please note, most of the people who responded to this have never shared their stories with other Catholics in a safe environment.  This is one of the activities Compassionate Gathering does for healing the wounds of clergy abuse.  One person, Elizabeth Goeke, the first survivor to take this survey, responded to this question with ambivalence.  Then she shared her story with the group of parishioners from Ascension Catholic Church, who had been introduced by me to the concept of Compassionate Listening.  Everyone participating found the experience uplifting and Elizabeth became a full partner with me as we went on to facilitate more such interactions, including the reconciliation between Steve Fearing, who was abused by a Franciscan priest in the state of Oregon, with, Fr. Armando Lopez, a brother Franciscan priest from the same order as his abuser.  Steve’s 1992 lawsuit went all the way to the state supreme court and was not resolved until 2001.  His legal victory opened up Oregon for many more such lawsuits.  My thought is that survivors who are doubtful that it is possible to have a good interaction with other Catholics probably have had bad experiences with other Catholics and can’t imagine support from anyone in the Catholic Church.  Fortunately some of us Catholics are trainable -- we can be taught to listen with compassion.

Retreats provided by Catholic Church
27% -- very unhelpful
9% -- somewhat unhelpful
28% a little helpful
18% -- somewhat helpful
18% -- very helpful

Retreats provided by non-Catholic spiritual groups
9% -- a little helpful
27% -- somewhat helpful
36% -- very helpful
18% -- did not respond

Retreats organized by survivors
9% -- somewhat unhelpful
27% -- somewhat helpful
27% -- very helpful
27% -- did not respond

Spiritual Direction by the Catholic Church
9% -- somewhat unhelpful
18% -- a little unhelpful
9% -- a little helpful
9% -- very helpful
55% -- did not respond

Survivor comment:  I would need better information about the person (offering Spiritual Direction).

Survivor comment:  I was given Spiritual Direction by the Vicar in charge of survivors abused by clergy, and he was extremely helpful.  He went on to establish a council comprised of different people who deal with the abuse in the diocese.

Spiritual Direction offered by a non-Catholic group
9% -- very unhelpful
18% -- a little unhelpful
9% -- a little helpful
9% -- somewhat helpful
45% -- very helpful
10% -- did not respond

Seeking therapy and support by yourself from a Church employed Victim Assistance Coordinator with a choice of therapists recommended by the Church
45% -- very unhelpful
9% -- a little helpful
36% -- somewhat helpful
10% -- did not respond

Another survivors assisting you when you seek therapy and support from a Church employed Victim Assistance Coordinator
18% -- very unhelpful
9% -- very helpful
27% -- somewhat helpful
18% -- very helpful
28% -- did not respond

Therapy provided through a church employed Victim Assistance Coordinator with the survivor choosing the therapist
9% -- Very unhelpful
9% -- Somewhat unhelpful
18% -- a little helpful
36% -- somewhat helpful
28% -- very helpful

Therapy provided through an independent assistance fund run by survivors and social workers who do not work for the Catholic Church
9% -- a little helpful
9% -- somewhat helpful
36% -- very helpful
46% -- did not respond

Help with emergencies such as medical emergencies and past due rent or utility bills provided through an independent assistance fund run by survivors and social workers who do not work for the Catholic Church.
9% -- very unhelpful
9% -- a little helpful
18% -- somewhat helpful
55% -- very helpful
9% --did not respond

Mentoring from another survivor on coping with the damage from abuse.  Please note that independent scientific studies found that this is the most effective form of assistance given to survivors.
9% -- very unhelpful
9% -- a little helpful
27% -- somewhat helpful
45% -- very helpful
10% -- did not respond

Support groups run by the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests
9% - a little helpful
18% -- somewhat helpful
36% -- very helpful
53% of survivors responded to this question

Attending activities held by the Healing Alliance or other survivor support groups
9% -- a little helpful
9% -- somewhat helpful
73% -- very helpful
9% -- did not respond

My comment:  Unfortunately the Healing Alliance is now defunct.
Church actively advertising resources of support for survivors
18% -- a little helpful
9% -- somewhat helpful
63% -- very helpful
10% -- did not respond

Clearly survivors want the church to provide lots of information in multiple venues so survivors can easily find out what resources are available
18% were willing to meet with bishops or heads of religious orders to present their concerns and desires
36% were not willing to meet with bishops
46% did not respond

Survivor Comment: Most clergy abuse survivors will turn away if any “church involved” issue is a part of the task.  The attitutde “the church can help” should not be  apriority, it should be a secondary action onlu suggested for those that still think the bishops give a sh#*.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Into the Abyss; A Survivor Struggles With Romance and Relationships

I've been going through a prolonged family crisis and have not posted recently.  Life is too difficult and too demanding.  I keep trying to do my work and trying to care my children.  I don't have time for much else, but I decided to share some poems I wrote some years ago about old boyfriends. I was sexually abused at age four.  As a survivor, I was used to painful relationships, and I kept repeating the pattern, one variation or another, over and over.  Until I could afford more effective therapy, diaries and poetry were my therapy.  The pages of my notebooks listened patiently to what others tired of hearing -- the weepy sadness over loves lost.  I haven't figured out this part of my life yet.  I think my life needs to be easier before I can date again.  The easiest response is to retreat altogether.  I've retreated in part because alone is easier, but also because life is too damned difficult for dating.

Well, anyway, the subject of this poem, a young man, now old and grey, was a wild land firefighter from my field biology internship back in 1980.  He had committed to a girl in high school who left him after four years of a long distance relationship.  He wasn't ready for commitment again so soon even though he knew I could not handle a casual relationship.  He said so.  I was too fragile.  There were others who came after him, and not a few, because I had this habit of working with firefighters and fishermen, neither of which professions are inhabited by chaste men.  But when the summer of 1980 was over for good, and August heat gave way to September breezes, I was never the same.  The relationship and its demise was a turning point in my life.  I was raped the next summer, the summer of 1981, as I struggled to cope with depression and low self esteem caused by love lost the summer before.  I trusted the wrong two men, and a part of my life switched to off with 50 strips of duct taped over the toggle to hold it in place.

I wrote this poem during the summer of 1982 -- the year after the rape.  I was thinking about the wild land firefighter from the summer of 1980.  I was still grieving lost love as well as that newly lost portion of my wounded soul.  I still worked in the same general area for a wild land government agency.  I could stand in the yard of my house looking southeast across the Modoc Plateau and know he was out there, working with some of the same people I worked with.

I had been bold enough to visit the fire station where we had both lived and worked the summer of 1980 during the summer of 1981, just two weeks after I was raped.  He was still there, still fighting fires.  I held  talk about the rape inside of me.  I told no one.  It was date rape.  Why had I been so stupid?  I knew why.  Low self esteem, depression, clinging to the hope that these crumbs of attention might be something more, and they were more, but in a bad way.

At any rate, during my visit to the fire station in summer of 1981, my old fire fighter boyfriend seemed happy to see me when I stopped by our old station two weeks after the rape.  He brought me ice water and cracked nervous jokes as we sat and reminisced with other firefighters. He invited me to come back the next day to give the station chief my gift of a can of olives in person instead of leaving them and not coming back, but when I came back the next day, the firefighter remained distant.  Other firefighters tease him about me during the summer of 1980, and I wondered if they teased him once again, and he was not strong enough to be kind when others were making him miserable.

That third summer, the summer of 1982, he moved on to another fire station to a position with higher pay.  I knew that.  People we knew in common persisted in telling me about him. By then I was tired of grief.  One day at dusk I sat on the floor of my lonely house and looked out the window at the distant range across the basin and thought of how he was out there, just fifty miles away across a few more ranges and basins, if I could walk that far and fast over the basalt rocks and sagebrush.  Not so far away, but an eternity away.

Night fell and the Milky Way and a multitude of other stars blinked on over the plateau.  All things astronomical came to my mind and the poem wrote itself from the tip of my pen marking the paper pages of my diary.

Into the Abyss

by Virginia Pickles Jones

Last thoughts only as I fall away,
A particle of planetary debris
Sucked into the black hole.
Whose gravity not even light escapes.
Now you see me;
Now I am a billion light years away
Across the universe,
Reborn as a microwave pulse oscillation
In your radio telescope,
Invisible to the naked eye.

Are we not all doomed to eternity
as Subnuclear particles,
Locked into the endless
Oscillations of matter,
Each of us
Our own black hole universe?
Our lives lost
In tidal expansions and contractions.

As you reach out to me
I am already gone,
Traveling away from you at the speed of light,
Matter to your antimatter,
Doomed to mutual destruction whenever we meet.

copyright 2012 Virginia Pickles Jones

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