Monday, December 2, 2013

Meditations on Why I am Still Catholic or the Need for Spiritual Inspiration

For those who don't know me well, I am still Catholic.  Some survivors of clergy abuse consider that tantamount to being married to the devil while a small number remain Catholic themselves.  I am not Catholic because I find inspiration in the leadership of the Church because I don't.  I am Catholic because I find inspiration in Mass.

I did not start out Catholic.  I started out the daughter of an atheist (my father) and a deist (my mother).  We were a scientifically inclined family and in the early sixties we watched National Geographic specials on television for fun.  My favorite shows were about Louis Leakey and Jane Goodall.  I wanted to be a Physical Anthropologist and paleontologist and find the "missing link" when I grew up.

Fundamentalist Christians who opposed the theory of evolution kept me away from Church and Christianity for a very long time.  As I grew up and studied Zoology in college I went on field trips in a plant ecology class.  We went to a fossil bed at 8,000 feet -- above timberline.  The fossils included oak leaves and other broad leafed plants found at around 2,000 feet in elevation today.  This was not evidence of Noah's Flood.  It was evidence that the Sierra Nevada mountains had experienced millions of years of uplift through earthquakes which California is known for.

An aside about Noah's Flood:  I now live by the Columbia River Gorge, which was carved by a series of massive floods that took place at the end of the last Ice Age.  And we were not alone.  I am reading about more massive floods that took place at the tend of the last Ice Age, such as the one that filled in the Black Sea.  My best guess is the story of Noah is a composite story based on the memories of survivors.  When people from different places who had memories of recent massive floods met, they shared their stories, and it must have seemed that the whole world flooded.  The story of Noah is probably more how these people tried to give spiritual meaning to an overwhelming and devastating experience.  The story of Noah is spiritually true rather than literally true.  Trust in your heart what God tells you to do.  God does not take away your struggles.  God helps you survive them.

So I did not place much stock in religion.  For me religion was a group of people who denied scientific evidence to place their faith in a God whose existence could not be proven.  I did not disbelieve in God.  I did not believe in a God either.  I just wasn't interested in religion very much.  But I was interested in religion a little.  Something stirred in me when I read about the Gnostics, the idea that Jesus had said something profound and his followers screwed it up appealed to me.  I could appreciate Jesus as a great teacher.  I read enough of the gospels and the books that followed the gospels to know that I liked what Jesus said.  Then when I read more about the Gnositc gospels, I found myself more skeptical of them.  They contained what felt like spiritual truth, but they also contained some odd ideas that seemed off base to me, but that is another story for another time.

Now fast forward to ……

My ancestors were Quakers who came to the United States.  They were the ultimate Puritans who purified everything out of Christianity.  But I really respected and still respected them.  If you go to Quaker meeting you will see in the parking lot twenty year old cars that need a paint job.  Walk inside and talk to the attendees and you will meet a university professor, a children's book author, a visitor who works with US AID in Pakistan, a woman who is an engineer, and others who are similar.  They can afford better cars.  They simply don't buy them because they are not necessary.  In other words, Quakers are short on dogma and long on living their faith which is very simple: Live simply -- don't be attached to material object, nonviolence in word, thought and action, and recognizing that which is of God in everyone or that all are equal in the eyes of God.

I started attending Quaker meeting on and off in the early nineties and became more serious after my children were born.  But I could not attend the extra classes and offerings that would have helped me grow and develop spiritually.  I had two young children and minimal help with child care.

I had an epiphany that sent me to the Catholic Church.  I could go to Mass on Thursdays and Saturdays  and Sundays and because I went to a tolerant Franciscan Church, I could bring my noisy toddlers with me.  All that standing up and sitting down, bible readings, music, and homilies helped me keep bringing my mind back to spiritual matters while I was trying to keep my kids entertained with drawing pads and games.  I even connected with another mother in the same predicament, and we attended Mass together on Thursday during my early years as a Catholic.

I still love the Quaker religion (Religious Society of Friends).  In some ways I remain more Quaker than Catholic, but silent Quaker meeting didm't offer the opportunities that the Catholic Church offered me for connecting and learning about God and prayer and more.  Ironically, after learning to pray in the Catholic Church, it is easier for me to sit in silent prayer the few times I attended Quaker meeting after becoming Catholic.

Fast forward to this last Sunday.

I went into Church last Sunday morning and before Mass I kneeled on the little fold out kneeling stool provided.  I have probably heard the name for it but don't recall it.  Well anyway, I knelt on the stool, my son kneeling to the left, and began to pray.  At first my thoughts were of my life now, all the hectic things going on in my life.  I reminded myself I was there to connect to Jesus and focus on Jesus.  Tears came to my eyes although they were closed.  Some sort of feeling about the birth and crucifixion of Jesus -- an ecstatic joy followed by the grief of losing someone very special.  And then in my minds eye Jesus was standing there superimposed on the people of the church, not physically, just a translucent Jesus with his hands stretched out, palms forward in welcome to the people of the Church.  I wasn't thinking anything.  I was just there, eyes closed, feeling.  Then people began singing.  To my left my son began singing in a lovely falsetto voice I had never heard from him before.  I opened my eyes and discovered my son had moved to my right to be replaced by a middled aged woman who was singing.  All this movement had taken place around me, and I had not noticed.

That is why I am still Catholic.  I find myself moved in Mass.  I struggled to meditate and pray in Quaker meeting before I became Catholic.  Although I have huge affection for the Quaker religion as Quakers are better at living their faith than many Catholics, I simply find the music and the readings and the homily of a good homilist helpful to connecting to God.  This intellectual exercise for me about evidence but an ecstatic experience  of something I cannot describe easily with words.

My second spiritual experience of this last Sunday took place in the evening.  I went for a drive to see the Christmas lights with my son who has Asperger's Syndrome.  He sometimes gets caught up in negative thoughts.  When he was young and we were part of a homeschool group with other families with children with Asperger's, he tried to found a "I Hate Maya and Miguel" club to hate the PBS children's television show.  He had no takers who wanted to join his club.  I suggest that a fan club was easier to found.  He is still struggles with a talking too much about things he does not like although he is not a negative person.  I found the chatter about things he did not like annoying.  I am aware of all the studies that that gratitude is healing, so rather than engage in a negative lecture about how his negativity was hurting him, I simply asked him name three things he was grateful for.

I was hoping I'd make those top three, but I didn't.

Instead he was grateful for the Columbia River Gorge, his high school, and for one other thing I don't remember.  And then I started mentioning all the things I was grateful for, but I did not stop at number three,  I kept going.  Pretty soon our conversation was turned completely positive.  My son was grateful for some of the things I was grateful for and we began to converse about our common gratitude.  We talked of friends and family members who had done good things for us and for others.  We talked about the beauty of the place we live and the fun things we like to do together.

Then I realized that we were engaged and talking and the conversation was completely positive.

I suppose this is the end of my story.  Nothing much.  Just two spiritual experiences that took place on December 1, 2013.

Copyright 2013 Virginia Pickles Jones

Friday, November 15, 2013

Healing is a Sacred Journey: Larch Mountain Fall Walk

Note from Virginia Pickles Jones:  I am a child sex abuse and date rape survivor who came forward in my 40s.  I was sexually abused by two teenaged boys when I was 4 and struggled with depression, low self esteem and anxiety through out my childhood.  Due to the lack of proper treatment, I was not able to protect myself from date rape at age 22.  And yet, despite the lack of support, I managed to endure through the one thing open to me -- time spent hiking in nature.  The very act of walking helps fight depression as when we move the feet forward, we also move the mind forward.  As an adult, I tried Prozac for depression.  I actually found prayer and meditation more healing and helpful than any medicine.  Prayer and meditation did not take my problems away.  They made me calmer and stronger as I coped with my problems, but depression and anxiety can make prayer and meditation difficult because it is hard to distract the mind from repetitive, negative thoughts.  Walking in nature, hiking and kayaking in beautiful places made the meditative state automatic.  For example, on Mother's Day 2008, I was struggling with depression but went for a walk by three Columbia River Gorge waterfalls with my children.  The waterfalls were so beautiful that I went from struggling with tearfulness to elation within two hours.  The beauty of the waterfalls and the movement of walking took me from repetitive, negative thoughts to thinking about the beauty of the place and the moment.  After all life is usually a mixture of good, boring and challenging even for happy poeple.  But we can create the opportunities for pure joy that cost us nothing -- by walking in a garden or in nature.

I experience this on Mother's Day 2008.  When my children and I arrived at our car at the end of the hike by the waterfalls, we found that the passenger's seat window was broken and our picnic lunch from New Seasons market gone along with the chocolate bar and Mother's Day gift my daughter had made for me.  Even so, I did not descend to the sadness I felt before the hike.  The high of the hike was so high, I just descended to an ordinary mood of neither depressed nor elated.

Whether we are high on the beauty of nature or merely "fine," we are able to move forward through prayer, mediation and learning new relationship skills much more easily than when we are struggling to keep sadness and anger and pain at bay.

One of my favorite places to heal myself by hiking is Larch Mountain near Portland, Oregon.  Multnomah Creek arises in the caldera of Larch Mountain below the peak -- Sherrod Point -- and then descends to world famous Multnomah Falls.  My favorite times to hike on Larch Mountain are June, October and early November when the mountain is often shrouded in mist creating a mystical atmosphere.

Below are photos from a recent walk on Larch Mountain along with my reflections and meditations inspired by my walk.  Soon a my You Tube (Healing is a Sacred Journey) site will include a slideshow with these meditations.  An older, less developed video can already be found there:Larch Mountain Meditation Walk ( ).

Larch Mountain Fall Walk

Rain washes the macadam road as we drive to Larch Mountain on a foggy Fall day.

The forest lines the way: Tall, spindly second growth Douglas Firs, Sword Ferns, withered bronzed fronds of bracken, leathery, green, holly shaped Oregon Grape, and Vine Maples, a few golden leaves clinging  to their branches before the final fall into winter.

The road winds around the mountain’s west side to......

The fog shrouded parking lot for the trails to Sherrod Point, Multnomah Falls and Oneotah Creek.

You cannot see through the mist from end to end....

Sometimes in life our path is obscured from us.  What can we do to find our path?

Larch Mountain has many trails.  Today we take the path to Sherrod Point.

The trail winds through the woods...

….and passes trees bent by many seasons of snow.

As with trees, we are bent and shaped by the burdens we carry.  But sometimes burdens nurture beauty ...  
What burdens are you carrying?  
What beauty can you nurture from those burdens?

Two tree grew intertwined, becoming one at the base.  

How is your life intertwined with others?  Do they help you grow or do they hinder you?

Further down the trail we see a tree clinging to the mountain, it’s roots laid bare by erosion.  Some windy winter night not enough soil will remain to support the tree through the storm, and the tree will fall.

Have your roots been eroded?  How?  

What are you doing to hold on?

Two paths meet in the forest, but we can only choose one .

How do you choose your path in life?

Rocky outcroppings. exposed ancient volcanic core, line our path in places.

....along with Bear Grass, which is not a grass, but a flowering plant the bears long stems of white blossoms in the spring...

Here the path becomes steep as we climb to the peak of Larch Mountain.

The soil thins; tree roots cling to the rocks like talons

Sometimes we must hold on to life tightly as our base of support erodes away..

On the steep, rocky slopes trees grow spindly and stunted


Do our circumstances leave too little fertile soil for us to grow straight and strong? 

Can we improve our circumstances?

The narrow rocky path leads away..

We return to the broad, paved path leading upwards into the misty abyss.....

A narrow boundary fence keeps us from falling

Boundaries keep us safe, but if they are too high, they can obscure our view, hamper our relationships.

Do you have careful boundaries in your relationships with others?

Can you think of a time when your boundaries were too low and you did not keep yourself safe?  What happened?  What can you do to keep yourself safe in the future?

Can you think of a time when your boundaries were too high and impeded your relationships with others?

Sometimes we fall into the abyss when we do not keep safe boundaries.  How do we heal our wounds?

I heal by coming to Larch Mountain....

I Pause where the rocky peak falls off into the unseen caldera below....

Life clings to the cliff face.  Each niche offers an opportunity for survival.

I lose myself in thought..

I lose my losses in awe and mystery and the myriad patterns, textures and colors of rocks and plants: Lichens and mosses, Buckwheat and Penstemon.

Then I continue on to the top, to the viewpoint.

the steep pitch of the peak drops off into the abyss...

Heading back down the path to the parking lot....

I find a dead tree, it’s bark peeling into piles around it’s base.

Sometimes life’s wounds lay us bare to the flesh..shedding the rough exterior that protects our core....making us vulnerable...

How are you vulnerable?

In the forest these trees offer homes to squirrels and woodpeckers and beetles...

Can we find new life and new growth when our wounds lay bare our souls?

Can you find a virtue or a strength in your vulnerability?

We come to the fork in the path.  I take the path not taken before

...and find the ghosts of a long ago Forest Service campground.....

Sometimes the ghost of our past haunt us.  What ghosts lurk in you mind from a past half forgotten?

I return to the path through the forest and follow.

........where it leads....

..full circle back to the beginning and the journey home.......

Copyright 2013 Virginia Pickles Jones, All Rights Reserved

This blog is being made into a slide show for the You Tube Channel:  Healing is a Sacred Journey

Check out these two slideshows already posted:

The Toad and The Princess -- about Rhonda "Trullinger" Madison

"The Toad and The Princess" is a story encompassing some of the great truths a certain princess has learned in her life lessons.

Some truths are from the great book, the Bible; other truths are the simple steps used by Twelve-Step groups.

Join a princess on her journey through lessons to serve her father while learning to keep focused on the tasks and moving forward in the face of friends who do not yet understand the truth this princess has learned. This story is about ending violence against others.
Rhonda has experienced many life-changing events, including the loss of a son in a drunk-driving accident. Rhonda has also had experience with violence, including domestic violence. It is Rhonda's desire to help the world see the truth about violence and the current attempts to change others.

When leaving a dangerous marriage, Rhonda experienced the attacks of well-meaning friends and community leaders. One day Rhonda wrote this fairytale to help kids of all ages see the importance of accepting people for who they are, not who we want them to be. This book contains powerful and valuable information.

Bullying is just another form of violence and learning the skills of inner strength and walking away from all forms of violence is the only way to stop all forms of abuse and violence. Bullying works because the "victim" believes the lies, this is true of all forms of domestic violence.

The world is domestic for it is our home. Any violence, anywhere in the world is domestic violence. Only when each person knows they are worthy of freedom from all violence will they call upon their inner voice and strength to stand against the attacks and walk in freedom and peace. What good is it to have life if that life is misery?

Please use the information in this book to take a deeper look at the words and deeds of everyone around you and decide to live differently.

Note by Virginia Pickles Jones:  Rhonda is a new blogger for the Garden of Roses: Stories of Abuse and Healing.  She is a domestic violence survivor from Wallowa County, Oregon.  If you want a copy of The Toad and The Princess, contact the publisher ( or order from a bookstore local to Wallowa County -- The Bookloft (107 E. Main St. - Enterprise, OR 97828 - 541-426-3351Email: or check out

If you want a EBook, contact the publisher. 

Or you can contact Rhonda by E-mail at with "your book" in the subject line so it can be retrieved if it is sent to spam.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

When Disease Strikes the Beloved Garden by Rhonda Madison

Dear Friends:  A new blogger Rhonda Madison will be posting to The Garden of Roses:  Stories of Abuse and Healing.  Rhonda is a domestic violence survivors from Wallowa County and the author of a book for children about coping with domestic violence -- "The Toad and The Princess."  Rhonda's post, "When the Disease Strikes the Beloved Garden" appears to me to be true on more than one level.  It is about gardening, but is also about us survivors.  We have trouble trusting when our trust has been so abused, but we may not have all the tools we need for healing all by ourselves.  We need resources and help with healing to flourish and bloom abundantly.  -- Virginia Jones

To treat leaf spot, mildew and scab diseases in garden plants begin with proper Ph soil. Test kits for Ph soil are available and a must first step in treating these disease. Soil Ph should be between 5 or lower or 7 or higher. Once this Ph is determined the gardener needs to treat the soil with the proper fertilizer to adjust soil to correct Ph. Commercial or organic fertilizers right the balance.

Once the soil is balanced there are both organic and commercial sprays to treat these diseases. Non-toxic treatments such as vinegar and water sprays, baking soda sprays and a multitude of plant based spray treatments made at home.

If the disease is severe a crop rotation plan is helpful in correcting the soil. Small grains, corn and alfalfa are all good crops to plant for rotation and cures for these diseases.
Correct watering and disease free seeds are the completion of the requirements for healing the soil and restoring the garden to healthy production.

Many organic websites offer a large volume of treatments for all plant diseases and many of these treatments are made at home using plants from the garden and flower beds as well as household items such as apple cider vinegar, soda, milk and certain oils.

Commercial treatments may require license or certification to purchase chemicals of some diseases. Being prepared to hire assistants if making the decision to use commercial treatments is a consideration for the gardener as this can add to the cost of treatments.

Gardening is fun and a great way to work out the body and raise food. Learning all the many ways to treat the soil and plants is a part of gardening and over time one becomes comfortable when a disease shows up. All disease stems from lack of proper care and treatment of soil and plants. Just as the human body requires proper care our plant world is at one with us in those proper care requirements. Happy gardening and may all your crops be disease free!

Copyright 2013 by Rhonda Madison.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Catholic Woman Who Supported the Clergy Abuse Survivor in the Middle of the Night

Recently I was rifling through the overloaded files on my computer to see what I could delete as I have so many files, I sometimes have trouble finding the one I want to work on.

I came across an article I wrote in 2008, about a Catholic parishioner who helped a survivor of clergy abuse cope with conflict with his family in the middle of the night.  He was and remans a fragile survivors with a long history of addiction and outbursts of anger that periodically get him jailed.  His mother called the police on him in the middle of the night, and he called me, and I referred him to the Catholic parishioner as I had young children and could not help him in the middle of the night.  But this other Catholic parishioner could and did.

She is a passionate Catholic unwilling to be uprooted from her church, but she is also the mother of girls sexually abused by a stepfather.  When she found out about the abuse, she did whatever she could to protect her girls and keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.  When she came forward with accusations of abuse against the soon to be ex-husband, she found out that the community sided with him and not with her and her girls.

Those girls are grown now and are struggling, but they are grown and don’t need immediate care.  That night the survivor called me, she went over the the his house and picked him up from the police who did not want to jail him, and she sat with him for several hours that night while he talked and talked.   And then she sat with his mother while she talked and talked.  Finally she was able to persuade the survivor to apologize to his mother, and his housing was situation was temporarily saved.  Eventually he did become homeless.  He lost his clergy abuse case in court which is just as well, because with too much easy money, he might have medicated himself to death.  He did win disability payments which were enough for alcohol and food while he lived under a bridge for the last three years, but how he has survived while living under the bridge is another story for another day.

The point is that a Catholic parishioner provided him and his mother with enough emotional support that they could managed together for another several months.

She gave him something more valuable that money.

It reminded me what a therapist told my son recently.

“I can’t solve your problems, but I can support you while you go through them.”

I have a couple thoughts working on the clergy abuse issue.

First, the Catholic Church has a great many caring and giving parishioners who, with a little training and guidance, could provide huge amounts of support to clergy abuse survivors.  If the Church made use of this resource, maybe there would be fewer lawsuits and less bad publicity.   Maybe there would be lots of good publicity.  But the Church does not do this.

In my experience and my view, the Catholic Church has mostly kept survivors and parishioners apart.  My best guess as to why is Church leadership worries about two things.  First, I think they worry that people will lose faith in Church leadership if they know just how much abuse and how much coverup of abuse there has been.

I think the second worry is that they think that if they speak openly about the abuse, many more survivors will come forward and they will be sued and lose still more of the buildings and bank accounts they have already lost.

I think they take their own counsel and that of their insurance companies and lawyers...when they could look instead to the history of saints and near saints who have inspired others for millennia.

We can’t all be Mother’ Theresas, but we can take our inspiration form Terese of Lisieux.  Little things matter.  Listening with compassion matters.  Giving someone your time matters.  Being there in the middle of the night matters.  Being kind matters.  Being open and non-judgmental matters.

My own parish was torn apart by judgement and angry words when the pastor was accused of abuse.  The Youth Minister came forward with disturbing stories of how the pastor had sought unsupervised contact with Church youth, but instead of thanking her, other parishioners vilified her.  Church administration told Church staff to remain mum instead of support her.  So angry parishioners who loved the priest persecuted her even when they saw her in the grocery store away from the Church.  People accosted her and criticized her in public.

She was so wounded she left the Catholic Church.

But what if Church administration had given different guidance.

What if they said, “Thank her for coming forward.”

What would have happened?

The same thing happens to clergy abuse survivors.  Instead of being thanked for coming forward and preventing future abuses, instead of compassion, they are criticized and rejected.

Our little group, Compassionate Gathering, has shown what happens when rejection is replaced with welcome, when anger is replaced with kindness.

You get peace, and uplift and forgiveness and reconciliation.  Steve Fearing is the survivor whose 1992 lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Portland went all the way to the Oregon State Supreme Court and opened the way for a flood of lawsuits that led to the bankruptcy of the Archdiocese of Portland.  Steve was welcomed into my Franciscan parish by my group and Fr. Amando Lopez.  He shared his story, and Fr. Armando apologized to him as a brother priest of Steve’s abuser, and the rest of us, a mixed group of Catholics and clergy abuse survivors, validated his story.  We embraced Steve and supported Steve and believed Steve.  The result was forgiveness and reconciliation.  Everyone cried tears of joy.

Elizabeth Goeke, my clergy abuse survivor and Compassionate Gathering co-founder echoed the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu who led the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission in examining civil rights violations in apartheid South Africa -- rights violations that included murder and torture.

“We are on holy ground here,” she said.

I have never used recreational drugs in my life, unless you count the Fentanyl that was given to me when I was in labor with my babies.  I felt so high the day we listened to Steve’s story at Ascension and Fr. Armando apologized to him, I was non-functional the rest of the day.  I was so happy and so uplifted, I couldn’t concentrate.  I just floated around.

The concept appears to be difficult for all sides.

The Catholic Church remains wedded to keeping survivors and parishioner apart and keeping things silent and many survivors can’t imagine why they would want anything to do with the Catholic Church.  They wounded me.  Why go there for support?  Why not go where I am safe?  The Catholic Church is not safe.  Catholic parishioners are not safe.

All I can tell you is I facilitated it and witnessed it and experienced it -- more than once.

Reconciliation is a piece of heaven when it is done right.  I found that Catholics have to be taught to listen with compassion as it is not intuitive.  We tend to get caught up in our own wounds and react rather than respond, but we can learn to respond with compassion.  The most basic element is to listen without judgement, to listen to be present with the wounded person.

I don’t have enough clergy abuse survivors or Catholics working with me at present to bring them together with any regularity.  But I still work with clergy abuse survivors, and I still work with some Catholics.  There is a lovely little, lady here in Portland whose normal demeanor is gentle and kind, but she is a fragile clergy abuse survivor.  She had a legal case, not against the Church this time.  She hoped a judge would hear her out, but her case was dismissed.  She was not heard.  She had gone into debt trying to find someone to support her.  What she worked so hard for was gone.

She felt hopeless and asked me to pray for her.

She long ago stopped attending Mass, but prayer still had meaning for her.

So I put her request for prayers out there in e-mail and Facebook form.

The first person to respond was the former nun married to the former priest who heads Call to Action in Portland.  The next two were clergy abuse survivors -- one whose Catholic faith helped her heal, and one who had tried to remain Catholic and could not.  The third person to respond was Franciscan friar, Fr. Ben Innes.  The next person who responded with prayers was a high school classmate of mine who just happens to be Catholic.  They were joined by Franciscan Friar, Fr. Armando Lopez, a Catholic parishioner from the Midwest who feels passionately that his Church has not done the right thing by survivors, and a mother whose son was abused by a priest and who has since struggled with her Catholic faith.  A few other non-Catholics joined the group -- people who simply care about survivors of any sort.

What these people offered was just prayers.  One survivor wrote back to me and criticized me saying prayers were inadequate. Actually, his words were much harsher than that.  I agree.  Prayers are not enough.  But when the Catholic women went over in the middle of the night and picked up the survivor and spent time listening to him and his mother so he could stay at home for another several months, was that inadequate?

That is what we can do if we come together.

How many lawsuits would there be against the Catholic Church if we all came together and worked together to be there for survivors in need??

How much good publicity would there be?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Are Abused Chickens More Important Than Abused People?

It can be lonely being a little not-for-profit.  Not even big not-for-profits gain all the media attention they would like to have to support their mission, but being a little not-for-profit, I have to work even harder for recognition.  I submitted what I considered an important Op-Ed piece to The Oregonian.  I can't say that I was overly surprised that they did not publish it.  So I am sending the same piece to another weekly paper that can be cheeky and naughty.  Since they are cheeky and naughty, I wrote a slightly cheeky cover letter which I am sharing here along with a longer version of the Op-Ed.

Dear Sirs

Portland Mercury

I submitted my Op-Ed piece, Will We Let Domestic Violence Services Disappear?, attached below to The Oregonian a few weeks ago as they carry one or two Op-Ed pieces by members of the general public in their online edition every day.  The piece highlights the problems faced in Southern Josephine County by domestic violence victims and advocates caused by the delay in the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a decline in government and foundation financial support for domestic violence advocacy and tax revenues too low to support adequate law enforcement.  Basically when you cut funding for domestic violence agencies and for law enforcement you end up with disappearing domestic violence services and people reporting assaults to 911 facing their perpetrators alone.  Each day of the last few weeks I scanned the online edition of The Oregonian to see if they printed my Op-Ed.  They printed a piece by a young Republican about how the Equal Rights Amendment provided positive opportunities for Republicans.  They printed a piece about Clackamas County being an oasis of opportunity and they printed a piece about egg production standards, but they did not print my article.  While I agree producing eggs by placing hens in tiny cages abuses them, and while I personally only eat eggs produced by cage free hens, I also feel that the abuse of women, children and small numbers of adult men is even more important than the abuse of chickens.

Maybe the editorial staff of The Oregonian was too concerned about what their bosses would think to print my Op-Ed.  I read somewhere that a new libertarian editor or publisher took over The Oregonian, and my Op-Ed piece, which points out that tax dollars paid to the government and spent by the government can save lives or at least save women from being beaten and raped by their ex-husbands, doesn’t fit with the Libertarian message of lower taxes and less government is better than higher taxes and more government services.  

Maybe my not-for-profit is too small to pay attention to.

Maybe I am not good enough of a writer, or maybe my piece lacked enough precise information about exactly what has happened since President Obama signed the latest revision of VAWA into law on March 7.  Or maybe The Oregonian receives so many Op-Ed submissions that they have a really hard time choosing which ones to print.

Being a little disappointed about my piece not being published, I went to Grand Central Bakery to drown my sorrows my way -- by sipping a cappuccino and chewing on a chocolate croissant.  I like to read and eat at the same time, so I picked up The Portland Mercury.  I feel about thirty years too old for The Portland Mercury articles on the music scene.  I stopped listening to the radio when Boy George was popular.  Despite my liberal politics, I live my personal life in a conservative fashion.  I don’t drink or go out to bars or other entertainment venues.  I am a little too poor to go to movies.  Drinking cappuccino and eating croissants at Grand Central Bakery is about as wild as I get.  And while I appreciate the cheeky, ironic tone of The Portland Mercury, it is not my writing style.  I teach Compassionate Listening to help supporters know how to help survivors of abuse heal.  Humor is important to healing but needs to be gentle when we work with deeply wounded people until or unless we understand what kind of humor they feel safe with.

However, that day I sat in Grand Central Bakery reading The Portland Mercury, I saw an article about snappy comebacks to sexually harassing comments women hear from men on the streets.  These comments are a form of domestic violence.  As I read the article, I wondered if you all might take my Op-Ed piece.

At the very least read it and consider investigating what is going on in Josephine County and write your own article.  We, in Portland, are not immune to the problems faced by women and domestic violence services in Josephine County.  The overall trend in our country is towards lower taxes and less government support for those in need.  Moreover, unless these lower taxes and spending improve the economy, foundations will have less money to support not-for-profits while more people will be in need of their services. 

You can call Chris Mallette at 541.592.2515 to find out about domestic violence in Josephine County and about the Illinois Valley Safe House Alliance that she directs.  She also asks that everyone take note of the Facebook Page of the Illinois Valley Safe House Alliance at


Virginia Jones, cofounder
Compassionate Gathering/ Walk Across Oregon to End Abuse and Heal the Wounds


Virginia Jones, cofounder
Compassionate Gathering/ Walk Across Oregon to End Abuse and Heal the Wounds

Don’t Take Domestic Violence Services For Granted -- 
They Might Disappear

Last summer a woman in the Illinois Valley in southern Josephine County called 911 and asked for help while her felon ex boyfriend was trying to break down her door (  There were no sheriff’s deputies available to help her.  She was transferred to the state police who were also unable to send anyone to her house.  The ex-boyfriend eventually broke into the house and beat and raped the woman. 

I remember first hearing about domestic violence when I was in college in the 1970s.  A battered women’s shelter opened up in the college town where I attended school.  Since I have not needed shelter and support to get away from a man bent on harming me or my children, I took these shelters and services for granted until very recently.  Changes in society imperil existing protection for women and their children and small numbers of men.  Much of the progress we have made is being rolled back -- by tax and spending cuts, by a poor economy and by a lack of political and community will.

I have been Walking Across Oregon, through towns and on scenic trails, since 2008 to raise awareness about various forms of abuse and have met domestic violence advocates along the way.  I’ve listened to them describe the support they provide to victims as well as the challenges they face.  Many shelters for battered women sprang up in the 1960s and 70s, but they did not receive stable funding until former Senator Joe Biden shepherded the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) into existence in 1994.  VAWA also supported the funding of Victims’ Assistants, which are the only source of local support for survivors of rape and domestic violence in some rural Oregon counties.  VAWA succeeded.  Between 1993 to 2010, the rate of intimate partner violence declined 67%, and the rate of intimate partner homicides of women decreased 35% and that of men decreased 46% (  VAWA was renewed in 2000 and 2005, but support for VAWA faltered in 2010 when Democrats added some new protections for gays and lesbians, Native American women and illegal immigrants.   Many Republicans objected to these provisions and the Act lay dormant until February 2013, when it was finally renewed.  There were consequences to the political infighting over VAWA.  I learned from advocates I visited on the Walk Across Oregon that they had experienced a 50% cut in funding and staffing between 2009 and 2012.  The federal budget sequester threatens more still more funding cuts.  Declines in foundation funding due to the poor economy have caused even more cuts.  And it gets worse.  In Oregon counties that have seen a decline in federal timber sales and support, Curry and Josephine Counties in particular, there have been dramatic cuts in police and sheriff’s departments as the counties residents have resisted tax increases to make up for lost federal funds.  These cuts in law enforcement created the situation in Josephine County where a victims had to face her felon ex-boyfriend alone, without police support.

The consequences of all these cuts is that we are losing domestic violence services.  Just this last week, I spoke with Chris Mallette, the Executive Director of the Illinois Valley Safe House Alliance in Cave Junction, Oregon.  She told me that the Alliance had experienced an 80% decline in funding due to declines in grants from foundations.  They are struggling to stay open with volunteers and two part time employees.

Middle Class and Upper Class women get beaten and harassed and murdered too, but they have more resources for support.  Domestic violence services help poor women with few resources.

It is important to note that small numbers of men also seek help from domestic violence services.  However, many of these men find their situation so embarrassing that they are even more reluctant than women to come forward and seek help.

No one -- neither adult nor child, nor male or female, nor rich or poor -- should have to face rape and abuse alone.  What can we the rest of us do to end domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse and support the survivors so they can heal?

To join a Walk to raise awareness about abuse and domestic violence or to support survivors or work on your own healing, contact Virginia Jones cofounder of Compassionate Gathering/Walk Across Oregon at 503-866-6163 or

To here more about what is going on in Josephine County with survivors of domestic violence, contact Chris Mallette at ___________.