Thursday, July 31, 2014

Helping Danny or How to Heal the Wounds of Clergy Abuse

Virginia Pickles Jones

(Published as “Coping With Clergy Abuse” in the Colusa Sun Herald on February 8, 2008.)

Danny’s lawyer grasped my hand and said, “Thank you for bringing Danny into court today.  Can you bring him in tomorrow?”

“I’ll try,” I said,  “I have young children; I can’t guarantee that I will make it.”

“Can you give him a call to help him get going if you can’t bring him in?” the lawyer asked.

“No problem,” I said, “I’ll call him twice.

Danny had missed an earlier court date.  The charge was criminal mischief.  He was angry at the Catholic Church for being so slow to settle his clergy abuse lawsuit, and he took his anger out on someone else’s property.  So I offered to bring Danny to court to prevent him from missing another court date.  We arrived late.  I could not leave my own home earlier as my children did not have anyone else to care for them before school.  When I got to Danny’s house, he hadn’t finished dressing.  He spent fifteen minutes wandering around his house looking for his shoes and jacket while his mother criticized him.

The judge, expecting another no- show from Danny, had already issued a warrant for his arrest.  She rescinded it when he managed to arrive -- albeit twenty minutes late.

After court, Danny and I walked through the Park Blocks in downtown Portland to the garage where I parked my car.  I drove him home.  On the way, he showed me his photo album.  I tried glancing over as I drove up I-5.  The photos showed his mother’s First Communion, his sister’s First Communion, his own First Communion, his great aunt, the nun, his mother hugging a priest....  When I parked in front of his parents’ rundown bungalow, he pulled out a second and third album -- photos documenting a very Catholic childhood.
I needed to go.

Before getting out of my car Danny turned to me, “Thank you very much; it has been a very long time since anyone has done so much for me.”

The next morning I called Danny twice -- once to wake him up and a second time just before leaving -- with hopes of avoiding any delays.  This time Danny couldn’t find his Xanax.  He was afraid that he would break down on the stand.  He never found the Xanax.  Time was drawing short.

‘We’ve got to go, Danny,” I said.

Danny’s hands and legs shook visibly as we drove to downtown Portland.
“I’m going through a panic attack,” he said.

I dropped him off by the courthouse to look for parking.  I didn’t want him to be late.  Danny didn’t know the room number of his courtroom.  His lawyer was planning to meet him at the top of the stairs to the third floor of the building.

“I will find you, “ I said to Danny, “I won’t abandon you.”

I found him huddled with his defense lawyer and the prosecutor outside his courtroom.  I sat at a distance and read my newspaper.  The prosecutor was offering Danny some options.  Danny didn’t want any of them.  The prosecutor decided to give Danny two weeks to think.

Afterwards the prosecutor shook my hand too, “Thank you for bringing Danny in.”

There may be glory in prosecuting a murderer or a rapist or a robber.  There is no glory in prosecuting a hurt and angry clergy abuse survivor for a minor property crime.

I had been mentoring Danny for five months.  When he was up, he would call me two or three times a week.  When he was down, he was too depressed to call so I called him.  His father, himself a sex abuse survivor and former drug addict, was drinking himself to death.  His mother, exhausted by the drugged out, dysfunctional men in her life, coped by actively expressing her pain and anger at them.  Danny was always on edge.  He talked of leaving his parents’ home but where could he go?  He hadn’t held a job in five years.  I urged him to seek therapy, but there were roadblocks I couldn’t persuade him to get around.  I didn’t judge or criticize Danny.  I just accepted him. I could only offer myself, my ear, my heart, my own experiences coping with my own childhood sex abuse.

Danny told me about his journey of coming to terms with his abuse and realizing that he had been harmed.  He believed that angels guided him.

But he said, “I am mad at God.  How could God let children be abused by priests?”

Danny also described his fights with his mother and sister and problems with his father, who would pass out on the floor after drinking whisky instead of eating.

The night after I took Danny to court for the first time, I called to make sure he was on track to go to court the next day.

“I’ve had it with my mother,” Danny said, “She’s been mean to me all day.  I’m leaving.  I can’t stay in the house with her anymore.  I’m going for a walk.”

The January night was cold and rainy.

“Pray for me, Virginia,” Danny said.

Those words meant more to me than all the thanks that he and his lawyer had given me that day.

Virginia Pickles Jones is co-founder of a not-for-proift, Compassionate Gathering, and Facebook sites, Compassionate Gathering and Inspirational Oregon.  Virginia was baptized Catholic in 2001, by a priest who was later removed from ministry for abusing children.  She asked questions and combed the internet for answers and concluded that the leadership and the people of the Catholic Church BOTH needed to do more, MUCH MORE, to support clergy abuse survivors.  You can contact Virginia at

Becoming a Survivor Advocate
paradigm up until now has been that clergy abuse survivors could only trust other survivors.  How did I, a convert to Catholicism, become an advocate for clergy abuse survivors?
  I live in Portland, Oregon, but I grew up in Colusa, California.  When I was four years old, two teenaged boys lured me into a neighbor’s basement and sexually abused me.  Through the years that followed, I struggled with the demons of low self esteem, anxiety, depression, suicide attempts, and a combination of anorexia and bulimia.  I was a very good student and graduated from Colusa High School in 1977 as Valedictorian.  But my demons followed me into college.  I never achieved what other people think a Valedictorian should achieve.
  I never forgot being abused.  I always knew what had happened to me was bad, but I did not come to terms with my abuse until I converted to Catholicism.   The clergy abuse scandal started me on the path of exploring my own abuse and seeking healing through therapy, spiritual retreats and mentoring by other survivors of sex abuse.
  The scandal motivated me because it touched my life in such a personal way.  The dynamic and giving  priest who baptized me and my children Catholic in June 2001, was removed as pastor of my parish in May 2002, when a man came forward claiming this same priest had abused him more than twenty years before.  This loss was so painful.  The people of
my parish were angry and confused and divided.
Church leadership provided few answers.   Within months, church attendance dropped by more than one-quarter.
  Devastated by the loss of the priest who had baptized me and frustrated by the lack of information, I sought my own answers on the internet.  I discovered that accusations of sex abuse against my priest dated back to 1981.  A boy told authorities at his Catholic high school that this priest was abusing him.  School authorities did not report the abuse to the police.
  I realized that clergy sex abuse and coverup hurt the whole Catholic Church, so
I started reaching out to survivors.
  In August 2004, I met the boy who had accused my priest of abuse in 1981.  He was a forty year old man whose struggles with depression and anxiety
were so great that he was unable to hold down a steady job.
  I tried telling other parishioners about what I learned.
  A cantor replied, “The bishops have taken care of everything.  We don’t need to do anything.”
  A receptionist said, “I don’t want to get involved.”
  A lector said, “It’s people who won’t let go of the issues who are the problem.”
The Gift of Listening Compassionately
  I despaired over the repeated rejection I received when I tried to talk to other parishioners about the clergy abuse scandal, but I kept following the issue on the inte
rnet.  In October 2006, I saw a reference to The Compassionate Listening Project.  The word “compassion” intrigued me, so I started investigating The Compassionate Listening Project.  The Project works to bring peace between Palestinians and Israelis by listening compassionately to both sides.  Both sides of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict feel wounded.  Both sides view each other with anger and distrust.  But when wounded people are listened to deeply, they begin to heal, they begin to trust, and
they begin to open up.  People on opposite sides of a conflict begin to listen to each
  This is what is needed to heal the wounds between survivors and other Catholics, I thought.
  Sexual abuse is very wounding to the psyche.  But we Catholics feel wounded too -- by abuse and coverup of abuse but also by accusations of abuse and coverup against priests and bishops we have known to be good.
  I started training with The Compassionate Listening Project, and I preached Compassionate Listening to every Catholic I knew.  Eventually, I persuaded several parishioners of the value of listening compassionately to survivors, and we took the first steps to form our own group, Compassionate Gathering.
  We began by meeting in my living room -- several Catholic parishioners listened to survivor Elizabeth Goeke tell her story of enduring an attempted sexual    assault by a priest when she was a young nun.   The
priest who served as Elizabeth’s confessor in her convent ordered her to remain silent about the abuse.  When she could not, he told her to leave her Order.  She remained a practicing Catholic after leaving the convent and went to another priest to ask for his advice during Confession.
  This priest called her “a dirty woman” and threw her out of the church.  Elizabeth left the Catholic Church and remained silent about her abuse for nearly forty years.  In 2002, she went back to her convent for a reunion.
  Another former nun said to her, “Of all the young nuns, I thought you were the most likely to stay.  What happened?”
  Only then did Elizabeth tell her story in public.  She hoped she would be embraced by her Sisters.  Instead they questioned her decades of silence.
  But parishioners from my church listened and empathized.  Our Gathering ran an hour over the planned time.  Everyone talked about how uplifted we felt -- and we spent the afternoon talking about sex abuse!
Now we hold Compassionate Gatherings at my parish on the second Saturday of every month.  Elizabeth Goeke, who is a therapist as well as a survivor, leads a support group for survivors while parishioners listen to the story of one survivor.  Later everyone comes together to work on spiritual and practical avenues for healing.
  Several survivors have come forward.  Other parishioners hurt them with
critical comments.
  But we listen as long as we are needed.

Note:  Some names have been changed in this story to protect people.
Virginia Pickles Jones lives in Portland, Oregon.  She founded Compassionate Gathering with clergy abuse survivor, Elizabeth Goeke, to support survivors and to bring survivors together with other Catholics for mutual healing and understanding.  For more information contact Virginia Pickles Jones at or 503-866-6163.


Friday, July 25, 2014

How I Find Healing From Abuse by Going into Nature and Where You can Find Healing Too

I have struggled with depression, anxiety and low self esteem for much of my life.  Fortunately for most of my life I have known about one major place I could go to relieve my pain -- nature.

I was four years old when I was sexually abused by two teenaged boys in a serious but one time incident.  Then at age 22, I was raped on a date.  There were other major stressors in my life.  For one, my mother periodically went through major depressions.  She would stop functioning and end up being hospitalized in a psychiatric facility.  Later, when I was 12 or so, she became alcoholic.  She was a lifelong smoker who, after developing Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), would unhook the oxygen tank and remove her nasal tubes so she could smoke a cigarette.  She only stopped smoking because she could no longer drive to the store and buy cigarettes, and no one would buy them for her.

One family member claimed that my maternal grandfather sexually abused all his daughters.  Another family member says that our grandfather was loving and good and was not capable of sexually abusing anyone, and that she herself never experienced any inappropriate touch from my grandfather.  Since my mother died of Congestive Heart Failure, Cirrhosis of the Liver and COPD 26 years ago at the age of 67, I can't ask her.  What I do know is her symptoms were similar to many sexual abuse survivors I have worked with over the years.

I was only 3 years old when my grandfather passed away.  I have only one vague memory of him.  I remember him holding a hose in his garden while I played in the water.  I was about 2 at the time.

I am now 55.

Maybe my grandfather did not abuse my mother, but I think somebody did.

My troubled mother was like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead.  When she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid.  I have already told you a little bit about how my mother was horrid, so now I will tell you how she was good.

She read to us every night before bed for years -- the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Call of the Wild, and many, many more books.  She taught me how to cook by patiently letting me whip  butter and stir in sugar and eggs when she made cookies.  She embraced my efforts in the kitchen, always encouraging and never criticizing even when I added mustard instead of ginger to my cookies.  Best of all she took me out into nature.  Due to her smoking addiction, she was not capable of rigorous hikes, but she loved the kind of gentle nature trails found in national parks.  She loved picnics, and we picnicked often in places such as Point Lobos near my paternal grandmother's home in Monterey, California.

She brought along books on flowers and trees and birds and mammals to all our picnics and family outings in nature.  From her, I learned much about the flowers and shrubs and the little furry mammals and most of all about the birds of Northern California where I grew up.

One time we picnicked by a creek in the Sacramento Valley filled with polliwogs.  We brought home a bucket of stream water and algae and polliwogs and placed the contents in a rectangular Pyrex baking dish on a table by our back entry.  Then, in the days that passed, my brother and I watched as the polliwogs became frogs.  After the frogs started hopping out of the baking dish, we took them back to the stream and set them free.

Perhaps it was no surprise that I majored in Zoology in college and became a wildlife and fisheries biologist before tiring of temporary jobs and moving onto nursing and motherhood.

Through the dark days of my childhood and the difficult adulthood that followed, my love of nature sustained me until I went through therapy and spiritual retreats and mentoring which helped me know what to do to heal myself.

The darkest days of my life followed my parents divorced when I was in eighth grade.  When you are a child you can't leave a bad situation easily.  Often you are without support.  Things were worse in the 1970s when my parents divorced than now as our society was that much less aware of both abuse and healing and had that many fewer laws protecting children.   There were also many fewer good resources for the wounded.  My father remarried, and my stepmother would have preferred it if my brother and I not exist.  Or at least she would have preferred that my father disinherit us.  My father kept my brother and me in his life and his will, but he did not protect us from emotional abuse from our stepmother.  He would remain silent while she berated us and then tell us in private that he disagreed with her.

So I had two imperfect parents.

I felt hurt and scared and sad through much of my childhood, but from my mother's influence, I developed this habit of going into nature.

Truthfully, my father loved nature too.  He, too, loved picnics, walks, and drives in nature.

When the bad days came, days that were so painful I could barely cope, I always knew I had one place I could go for comfort -- nature.

I took frequent walks at night along the river by my hometown.  After school and on weekend mornings I rode my bike along the farm fields into foothills of the coast range or along the river.  I would get up at four in the morning, ride my bike on the river bank until I found a sandy beach to sit on, and then I'd watch white breasted Bank Swallows swoop and dive over the river at dawn.

Later in college, I acquired a pickup truck with a canopy and went camping alone with my dog.

Eventually, I interned with the Bureau of Land Management in northeastern California and hiked into the mountains on foot on my days off.  In some places I could see east into Nevada desert and west into Modoc Plateau of California.  I remember the perfect azure sky, the exposed rock and grey green Juniper tress scattered through a mountain meadows with a creek lined with grey green velvet leafed  yellow Mule Ears flowers that resembled miniature sunflowers.

I was an agnostic, almost an atheist, but in the moment I thought, "This place is so beautiful that no man could ever make a garden this beautiful.  This is God's garden."

In that moment whatever woes afflicted my heart and my mind were very far away.  I felt only joy.

There are many things we survivors need to do to heal.

We need to develop new relationship coping skills to help us break away from past bad patterns either learned from those who abused us or the dysfunctional ones we learned to cope with an impossible situation.  Nature does not teach these relationship skills.  We need to learn these in classes and workshops or retreats so support groups or one on one with a therapist.  I recommend going through Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or studying non-violent communication as taught by Marshall Rosenberg.  Both these therapies have proven effective in scientific studies in helping people heal.  No one can wave a magic wand and make us better.  We have to work hard at this ourselves, maybe for our whole life long.  We have to take responsibility for ourselves as no one else will.  In addition, both these therapies teach  meditation and prayer as practices that help us destress as this helps us handle both stress in the moment and in the future.  Going into nature can help us destress in both the moment and in the long run much the way that prayer and meditation do, but it is much easier to do.

I want to point out that both Christian Messiah, Jesus, and Catholic saint, Francis of Assisi, went into nature to heal themselves.  Jesus went into the desert and Francis went into the mountains near Assisi, Italy.  But going into nature for healing is not exclusive to Christians.  Over the last 30 years in Japan there has developed a non-denominational move called forest bathing or Shinrin-yoku.  Blood pressure drops noticeably after spending even 15 minutes in a beautiful forest setting.

There are three great gifts nature gives us.  First, going in nature helps us calm ourselves down and center ourselves much as meditation and prayer do, but it is ever so much easier to do. Moreover, a well designed city park can work as well as a waterfall or a forest or a beach.  Second, spending times in nature does not require any money except gas or bus fare or the price of a bike or good walking shoes to take us there.  There, walking or swimming or paddling a canoe not only helps us destress physically in the moment, it also improves our physical health which helps us decrease stress over the long term.

I repeat.  Being in nature helps us let go of our anxieties and fears and our pain over the past and experience beauty in the present moment automatically and for free.

The moments, hours and days we spend in nature strengthen us so we are able to move forward and work through our problems and crises.

To help you all relieve stress in the present moment without actually going into nature and to help you all know where to go to find peace and healing and uplift when you have time, I am writing blogs and posting to You Tube slide shows and videos of specific places in Oregon where I go to commune with nature.

Below are my four best slideshows and videos and where to find the places shown.

Larch Mountain Meditation Walk

Take 84 to Exit 22 to Corbett.
Turn Left onto NE Corbett Hill Road
Turn Left onto East Historic Columbia River Highway
Take a slight turn to the right onto East Larch Mountain Road.  Do not stay left.  Do not go to Vista House.  You have taken the wrong road if you end up at Vista House.

Willamette Esplanade Evening Walk

The official name of the Esplanade is the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade
I often enter the Esplanade by the Peace Memorial Park on the corner of NE Oregon Street and NE Lloyd Boulevard.
Watch the video to follow my footsteps over the lower portion of the Steel Bridge or chart your own path by heading south on the Esplanande.
My favorite time for walking is summer evenings.  I like to eat at a food truck cart in downtown Portland along the way.

The Barlow Trail Road

Take Highway 26 from Portland to Mt. Hood.
Highway 26 splits into a one way couplet at the west end of downtown Sandy and reunites at the east end.  Going east just after the couplet reunites, turn left onto SE Ten Eyck Road.
Follow Ten Eyck Road downhill until it crosses over the Sandy River.
Just after the Sandy River, turn right onto E. Marmot Road.
Follow East Marmot Road until you meet East Sleepy Hollow Drive.
Turn right onto East Sleepy Hollow Drive to get back to Highway 26.
Interesting Fact:  East Marmot Road was part of the main east to west route by Mt. Hood before the Mt. Hood Highway was built around 1930.

Port of Garibaldi/ Bay Lane Clam Bed Pier

Go north from Tillamook, Oregon on Highway 101 about 10 miles.
In the center of Garibaldi watch for signs for the Port of Garibaldi.  Turn left.
The Port of Garibaldi usually has lots of free parking space.

To find the Bay Lane Clam Bed Pier, go a little fourth up Highway 101 towards Seaside and Rockaway Beach.
Turn left on South 12th Street, and go  one block.
Turn right on Bay Lane and go about one block to the pier.

© 2014 Virginia Pickles Jones

References to scientific studies to the healing power of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Non-violent communication

1. ttp:// internetJuly 25, 2014t

Abstract for Effectiveness of dialectical behavior therapy for borderline personality disorder in an inpatient setting
Christoph Krögera, , 1, , Ulrich Schweigerb, Valerija Siposb, Ruediger Arnoldb, Kai G. Kahlb, Tanja Schunertb, Sebastian Rudolfb, Hans Reineckerc
"Psychopathology was significantly reduced at post-treatment and at follow-up. Effect sizes for outcome measures were within the range of those of previous studies. Our findings support the notion that the results of the DBT efficacy research can be generalized to an inpatient setting and to patients with BPD disorder with high comorbidity."  In non scientific language this means DBT effects significant improvement in the symptoms experienced by patients with Borderline Personality Disorder.

2.  Internet, July 25, 2014.
This website is an online therapy resource centered on Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.  Among the resources it offers is guided mindfulness meditations to help people destress.  I highly recommend this, but it probably even more effective to visit the beach or the forrest on a regular basis than meditate about them.  However mediating about them with the guided meditations from this website or looking at them and enjoying them on my blogs or You Tube videos also works.

3.  Internet, July 25, 2014.
"Conclusions: For the future we need more prospective cost-effectiveness research built into research of different treatments across different client populations. However, for now, DBT offers Level 1 (highest level) evidence of efficacy and effectiveness, and is an evidence-based option for treating people with BPD that is likely to meet the objectives of funders, economists, accountants, administrators, providers and consumers."

4., Internet, July 25, 2014.
Hospital Nurse Managers in Korea
2011.7.11 (Wed)
Hee-Shim Chung, RN, MN, PhD
Soon-Lae Kim, RN, MPH, PhD


Using NVC program on hospital nurse managers was effective in the promotion of facilitated communication.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hush Little Boys -- repost from Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mr. Eric Gudmunsen sent this song to me last night, and I got his permission to share it with all of you:


Mr. Gudmunsen is a Comedian-Singer/Songwriter-Musician from Dundee, Scotland, who currently lives in the Canary Islands with his Irish wife.  He wrote this song as a protest against clergy abuse.  He said that when he performs it, people laugh for a couple lines and then stop and listen.  My daughter described the song as both depressing and funny.  

Sometimes things are so bad all we can do is laugh at how bad they are.  Many years ago I met a Peace Corp volunteer who had returned from Africa.  She told me that Peace Corp volunteers who come back from South America, come back politically active.  Those who come back from Asia,  come back spiritually oriented.  Those who come back from Africa, come back laughing.

“Is that because Africans are fun loving people?” I asked.

“No,” she replied, “It’s because the problems in Africa are so bad that all you can do is laugh.”

The value of laughing at problems is that we don’t become so mired in them that we can’t move forward.

Thank you Mr. Gundmunsen for helping us laugh.

Contact Virginia at