Monday, May 27, 2013

Sometimes You Just Have to Sue the B#$%#@&^!

Sometimes you just have to sue the b#$%#@&^!.  You have simply suffered too much injustice, and nothing you do inspires the party who harmed you to do the right thing.  You have no other choice.

I hate lawsuits.  I don’t like what lawyers do in general.  Only one lawyer donated $100 to my organization despite the fact that I have provided significant support to many of their survivors including survivors they have abandoned. So I have nothing to lose in criticizing lawyers and lawsuits.  Truthfully I feel a bit used by the lawyers whose clients I have helped.  I prefer mediation and mediators to lawyers and lawsuits.  I think our Retributive Jusitce system, which is based on finding the perpetrator and punishing them, is incredibly wounding to all sides.  Lawsuits are win/lose propositions, but the losing side often feels that justice has not been done and remains hurt and angry.  Whenever someone feels hurt and angry, conflict continues.  In addition, when your focus is on guilt and punishment, you have to have a threshold level of evidence before you decide a criminal act is significant enough to prosecute and then you need enough evidence to prosecute.  

Too many times there is too little evidence or the crime is not significant enough.  Civil lawsuits can help to a degree when criminal prosecution is not possible, but even civil lawsuits leave people without justice.  I’ve met a number of survivors who have not been able to receive any form of justice.

These cases include a number of women who were sexually abused as children who then had “affairs” with priests as adults.  All these women were vulnerable to a kind man who flattered them and was gentler than the abusers of their childhood.  Many Catholic blame these women for “tempting” the priests. I don’t.  The priest had a duty to be therapeutic and crossed the line into selfish and harmful behavior.  Some of these women have struggled greatly to function long after their interactions with the priest ended.  If the Catholic Church has given them support, it is likely to be less than $10,000.  In one case, a kindly priest or two have been the main source of emotional support for the woman for years, but the rest of the Church has mistreated her.  In the case of another woman who became pregnant, the priest father disappeared when she told him she was pregnant and pleaded vow of poverty when she needed child support for her sick son.

In another case, a survivor was abused by multiple people, including a priest, but the church denied having much responsibility for the damage she suffered.  They offered her a small payout that barely covered what she had already spent on therapy and that was before her lawyer took one-third of the settlement.

Legally, you can see the Church’s point on the case.  Others had harmed her, but she sued the church as they were the only offender with deep pockets, but this woman had remained a loyal Catholic for many years after the priest abused her.  

How the Church treated drove her from the Church.  

Would Jesus say, “ I am only responsible for healing 1/10 of your blindness?”

But this problem is not confined to the Catholic Church.  One mother I met was a victim of a severely, emotionally abusive husband who was also sexually abusing their daughters unbeknownst to her because they were too cowed to say anything.  The father played games with the girls minds, portraying the mother as a bad person, telling them they would never see their paternal grandparents again if they went to live with their mother because she would not allow the contact.  As younger children, they believed their father’s lies about how bad their mother was.  It was not until the girls both reached their mid to late teens did they realize their father was lying to them about their mother.  In the meantime they did not see her on a regular basis because their father did not obey court orders for visitation.  By the time they finally came to terms with what their father had done to them, they had lost years of their relationship with their mother and they were so damaged by abuse meted out by their father, that both are currently disabled.  They came forward as abuse survivors too late for criminal prosecution of their father for abuse.  As adults they remain too frightened of their father to sue him for damages although he has deep enough pockets to pay for their care.  Instead, they subsist on disability and with the support and the kindness of their mother and stepfather and other caring relatives.  Their father contributes nothing to their care and denies responsibility for the harm that he caused to them.

These are all cases of people who have been harmed by the Retributive Justice System.  Vulnerable people had no justice because there were thresh holds that had to be crossed before the system would act.

My chosen faith, the Catholic Church keeps on talking about healing clergy abuse, but continues to handle abuse accusations poorly.   If you can sue, you may qualify for a year to two of free therapy and support.  If you can’t sue, the church usually does nothing for you.  And if you do sue, the church will run rough shod over you with their lawyers questioning everything about you in order to evade responsibility for the damage they caused to you.

Many survivors are left wounded and without justice.  While a small number of people receive lots of money, many survivors receive no compensation for their abuse at all.

But even when survivors receive money, I’ve seen that money spent and gone in a  few years.  The survivor needs years of therapy and support to heal and struggles with addictions and doesn’t know how to handle money.

There has got to be another way that is better than lawsuits to heal the wounds of abuse.

And yet I understand why people sue.

One survivor who has been much in the news told me that he was asked by Catholic officials why he sued the Church.

He answered, “I couldn’t get your attention any other way.

And when the church and those with deep pockets fight doing anything to support the survivor, what else can you do but sue?

My own experience with suing another person has nothing to do with the abuse I suffered.  I’ve never sued for my abuse because I don’t remember the complete names of my abusers, and I doubt they have deep pockets to make a suit worthwhile.  The injustice I almost sued for involved my car.  My car was recently rear ended by a car driven by a young woman whose father is an insurance agent.

The damage to my car was minor; her car was undamaged.  She took responsibility on the scene of the accident.  

But as I was taking her information the young woman complained, “You don’t have to be so mad at me.”

Maybe I could have been kindler and gentler, but I didn’t yell at her or swear at her or berate her.  I merely wanted all her information.  I did tell her that I was going through hard times and did not need an auto accident at this time.

At some point her passenger got out of the car and looked at my back bumper.

“Your car is not damaged,” the passenger proclaimed.

I pointed out that the right side of the bumper was dislocated about 1/2 of an inch compared to the left side of the bumper.

I did not call the police to the scene of the accident because I didn’t think the damage to my back bumper would total to more than a few hundred dollars.  You are supposed to pull to the side of the road if you are hit, but we were in the middle of four lanes of very dense traffic on a city street.  Besides the exchange of information took less than ten minutes and then we were both on our way.

But then, when I tried calling her insurance company to make a claim against her insurance, I discovered that even if you rear end someone, you can find a way out of responsibility.  You simply never answer the insurance adjuster’s calls to take responsibility, and the adjustor will not authorize the claim.  If I had called the police to the scene or a minor accident and tied up traffic on the busy intersection where this young woman hit me, I would have had a slam dunk case.  I didn’t because I trusted her acceptance of responsibility at the scene of this minor accident and because the damage to my car was relatively minor.

For two weeks I begged the insurance adjustor to call her repeatedly.  After two weeks of driving, I noticed too that the 1/2 inch gap between my rear bumper and the car body had become a one inch gap that was expanding in both width and breadth.  Finally I felt I had no choice but to file a small claims lawsuit to get the woman who is clearly guilty for damaging my car to pay for the damage she caused.  

I filed a belated police report and picked up small claims documents from the courthouse and prepared to file a small claims lawsuit. I also took my car into be repaired as I didn’t think that the bumper could last much longer.

Only then did the young woman respond to the insurance adjustor.

“I didn’t get your messages,” she told him.

Really, after 12 messages?  Or did she not give me the correct phone number when we exchanged information?  Since her father worked for the insurance company, the adjustor had access to his business phone and had used that too.  her story of not receiving messages just didn't add up.

But even when the young woman accepted responsibility for rear ending my car, she told the adjustor, “When we were driving we noticed that Virginia's bumper was damaged.

I couldn’t believe that she said that when after her friend proclaimed at the scene that my car was not damaged.

The other question in my mind is if she was watching my car so closely that she noticed damage to the bumper, then how come she rear ended me?  We were both traveling at low rates of speed in heavy surface street traffic.

Her obvious lies and reluctance to take responsibility for her actions really annoyed me.

In the short run I did not have to take her to court, but if she had not taken responsibility, I would have felt the need to sue her in small claims court.

The other part of me is hurt that someone can lie and evade responsibility for their actions so much so easily, without any thought for the wellbeing of others.

And then I think about clergy abuse survivors.

If the Catholic Church did not want lawsuits and bad publicity, it should do much more to support survivors than it does, and it should do it without forcing survivors to file lawsuits.  Catholics leaders should never have lied or evaded the truth or failed to take responsibility for the abuse that happened not once but thousands and thousands of times under their watch.  If you go back 2000 years, then it is millions and millions of times that abuse has taken place in the Catholic Church.

So many survivors turned to the Church first and were not embraced.  So I understand why survivors sue, and I support those lawsuits.

I ache for my Church, for the many good people in the Catholic Church who do good works every day with love in their hearts.  It just feels to me that too many people in leadership in the Church have followed the counsel of lawyers and insurance agents to avoid the cost of what they or their predecessors did wrong.

How can you teach people about Christ if you do not follow his actions?

Jesus bore his cross.  Yes, he got crucified for it.  Yes, his experiences were awful.  

But would we remember Jesus if he had pointed to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane and said, “He did it; not me.”

Just as that pretty, young girl daughter of an insurance agent who rear ended my car, needed to take responsibility for her actions and stop lying so does the leadership of the Church.  If they do so, they will be following in the foot steps of Jesus Christ.

Even Jesus Christ said that if you were not able to resolve your dispute with your brother on your own, you were right to take the issue to the authorities and seek help for justice.

Although i generally advise gentle language, because angry language wounds and drives away people who would otherwise help us, but when you are among trusted friends you can let out your pain and anger and laugh about it.

Sometimes you just have to sue the b #$%#@&^!. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Lydia: 80, Running and Baring Her Childhood Sex Abuse Story

Lydia Wakefield Hubbard lives at the Marshall Manor in NW Portland, but she is eager to travel and to speak.  She is only 80 years old after all and has an important message to share.
Her message is that if we don’t talk about abuse, it continues.  If we don’t talk about abuse, we can’t heal.  
Lydia was chronically sexually abused for by her father.  He began abusing her at age four  by taking her for a drive in his car.  He told her to never tell anyone what happened.  The next day she experienced pain and told her mother that she hurt in her “privates”.  Her mother examined her and called for help.  Her father blamed a distant relative.  The police came and started searching for the accused family member.  No one asked Lydia who had abused her, and she did not tell because her father told her not to.   Her father also abused the girl hired to help her mother around the house, but another victim did not stop Lydia’s father from continuing to abuse her.  He even abused her as her mother lay dying in the hospital. And the abuse continued after he married another woman.  It was not until Lydia was 17 did she gain the courage to stand up to her father and stop the abuse.
After that, Lydia married, gave birth to and raised five children, became a nurse’s aid, a Practical Nurse and then a Registered Nurse.  For many years she never told a soul about what her father had done to her.
Finally, she suffered a nervous breakdown in her forties and began to share her story in private.  Many years passed before she shared it in public.  These last dozen years she has shared her story before many audiences.  She wrote a poem, a book, and a screenplay based on the book, all three named Feet Running and Bare, about her childhood and how she came forward as an adult and started speaking and how she found comfort and healing in Judaism.  Unfortunately, as time passed, travel and advocacy became more difficult for Lydia.  Some people took advantage of her fragility and naiveté.  She found help from Louise Bauschard, a pioneer in the domestic violence movement who helps transport her to and from speaking engagements and often visits her.

If you want to hear Lydia’s story, please contact Louise Bauschard at Voices Set Free by e-mail:
You can purchase Lydia’s book by contacting Louise Bauschard  at:

Virginia Jones founded Compassionate Gathering, to give survivors safe places to share their stories in private and in public.  If you want to share your story in private, on You Tube or in writing contact Virginia at compassion or 503-866-6163.