Friday, August 8, 2014

Walk Across Oregon to End Abuse and Heal the Wounds 2008: Dispatch From Ashland

This is reprinted from my website from 2008.  Joan's name is June.

I will call her Joan.  She has to remain anonymous.  Joan wanted to do something to stop child sex abuse and support survivors.  Her children were abused.  They came forward after age thirty -- too late to file criminal charges for abuse.  Twenty years after the abuse ended to file a civil lawsuit, they were still too frightened by their abuser  There was no justice, no recourse, no support from an indifferent society.

(Did I keep my children anonymous enough?  It seems as though I eliminated their heads and their helmets are floating on air.)

Joan thought that if only the statute of limitations on criminal prosecution of child sex abuse could be eliminated, then her children could have justice and be confidant that the man who abused them would never abuse anyone else again.  So Joan went on a one woman campaign of knocking on doors, writing to politicians, contacting therapsits who worked with sex offenders trying to rally support for eliminating the statute of limitations.  Door after door slammed in her face.  She began to lose faith that anyone cared about child sex abuse survivors.

Then Joan heard on Oregon Public Broadcasting a story about two women, one Catholic and one a former nun, who were screening a film and hosting a symposium on clergy sex abuse in Portland, Oregon.  Joan lived far away from Portland, but she knew she had to go to that film screening.

At the film screening and symposium she met a small group of survivors of clergy abuse, their family members and other caring supporters   She also met Elizabeth Goeke and me, Virginia Jones, two women who put the film screening and symposium together. Later Joan came to our Compassionate Gatherings and told her story to others in an atmosphere of support .  She felt loved and believed.

Joan thought that if we could do this work, she could do it too.

In the fall of 2007, Joan saw the documentary, “Run Granny, Run,” about Granny D, a 93 year old woman walking across a state when she ran for US Senate.

Joan thought, I should do that and tell people that the statute of limitations has to be eliminated on criminal prosecution of abuse.  She decided to walk from south to north on Old Highway 99 and recrutied her daughter to walk with her.  Then she found a documentary filmmaker to film her walk the way Granny D was filmed.  She had a friend at the Oregonian find the addresses of newspapers and televsion stations along the way to publicize her Walk Across Oregon.

Slowly Joan’s carefully set up line of doors started closing.

First, her husband got cancer and the time she intended to spend on planning went to supporting her husband through treatment.
Then her children told her they didn’t want her name in the media.  They remained terrified their abuser would see her or hear about Joan and do something to her or to them in retaliation.  Joan asked me for help.  She wanted me to speak to the media for her.
My own family has been scarred by abuse for generations.  I understood her fear.  I understood the lack of support survivors often experience. I told my mother about the teenage boys who abused me when I was six.

“That’s where babies come from,” she said.
That was all she did or said.  Another 40 years passed before I came to terms with the abuse I suffered when I was four.
First I recruited some abuse survivors and supporters from Compassionate Gathering to participate in the Walk.  Then I helped Joan shape her press release.  I knew she needed an itinerary so that news reporters, survivors and supporters could meet her along the way.  I checked out a road atlas from the library and fiugred out a route mostly on Old 99 that had Joan walking close to ten miles every day -- the way she planned.  Then, while visiting OMSI with my children, I saw Google Earth in the computer lab.  I checked out Oregon and followed, in mind numbing detail, the route I planned for Joan.  When I got home, I called Joan and we visited OMSI together, pouring over Goggle Earth to lay out her route with starting and stopping and meeting places and times for each day.
Finally, on August 31, 2008, I went to Mass at my parish in Portland, Oregon, and then drove three hundred miles through the rain to begin the Walk with Joan on September 1, in Ashland, Oregon.
Fortunately, September 1, the weather was mild and sunny.  We started at 8 AM by Albertson’s on Ashland Street. While a television reporter from KRDV TV in Medford interviewed me in my bright yellow t-shirt with “Stop Child Sex Abuse” on the front and “Walk Across Oregon” on the back, a gray haired man in shorts and white walking shoes came up and stood by us.  Next the television reporterter interveiwed Joan who wore a hat, a wig, and sunglasses.  I approached the gray haired man.
“Are you interested in joining us?”  I asked.

“I’m walking with you,” he said.
As we walked, his story came out bit by bit.  I’ll call him Andy.  He was abused as a teenager by the minsiter in his Episcopal church.  It took him 40 years to realize he had been harmed by the abuse.  Andy walked with us from Ashland to Talent, Oregon, and joined Joan walking from Eugene and again when we walked through downtown Portland..
Along the way, Andy, the Mother and I felt as though the four people behind us, an older couple and a younger couple, were following us.  We turned around and asked them if they were walking with us.
“No” they said, “But we really support what you are doing.”
The Mother explained her children were still terrified of their abuser and unable to do anything about it because the statute of limitations had run out when they came forward.
The older, gray haired woman interjected, “There is no statute of limitations on bad behavior.”
The older woman and her companion continued on their way after a few minutes, but a slender, young woman with long, streaked hair and a young man lingered.  The man did all the talking. The woman was silent, but her eyes glistened with tears.
I embraced her and whispered into her ear, “Are you a survivor?”
“Yes,” she whispered.
And she turned and walked away.  The man followed.
We had to pause and collect ourselves before moving forward.
The next television news reporter from Medford KOBI-5 caught up with us at our first planned stop at Triangle Park in Ashland, filming us in the shade of the tree filled park.  She had a piece of paper she kept referring to as she interviewed me.  It was an internet printout a copy of the September 1, Medford Mail Tribune article on the Walk Across Oregon -- “Spreading the word about child sex abuse, a step at a time.”  After the interview was over we continued down Siskiyou Boulevard.  The television reporter kept getting into her van and driving ahead of us to catch candid shots of us walking.  We’d pass a van or a tree or bush and there she was standing with her television camera mounted on a tripod.
Eventually we reached the most touristy section of Ashland -- a street lined with cafes with outdoor seating and trendy boutiques.
Outside Starbucks a man with long, dishwater blond blond dreadlocks, wearing a beret emblazoned with a peace sign, approached me.
“I really support what you are doing,” he said.
“Did you read the Mail Tribune article?“ I asked.
“No, I read your T-shirt,” he replied.
We chatted.  He told me that his sister and some of his nieces and nephews were abused.  He told me that when he and his wife separated, he was terrified that his daughter would be abused without him there to protect her.  My companions chatted with other Starbuks customers and then proceeded down the street..

“I have to go,” I said as I hugged the man.

“I am just trying to spread some peace and love in the world,” the man said as he hugged me back.
“Me too, “I said.
As the day progressed  the weather grew warm, but not hot.  We left Ashland and walked along Highway 99 towards Medford.  Buildings and houses with gardens gave way to Oaks and sun bleached Wild Rye Grass and a meandering bike path by the highway.
A Medford based KTVL television reporter called me and met us along the way, interviewing and filming us too, as we faced into the brig
ht afternoon sun.  Then we continued on our way, the television reporter once again dashing ahead of us in her van to film as we walked along.
The Oaks gave way to scattered industrial buildings -- the outskirts of Talent, Oregon.  We stopped by a restaurant for a rest stop.  A man holding a copy of the Medford Mail Tribune under his arm approached us with his silent, gray haired wife.
“You’re the Walk Across Oregon, the man said,  “We really support what you are doing.”.
“Hi, I’m Virginia Jones,” I said as I shook the man’s hand, “Healing from sex abuse is a lifelong process that takes one step at a time.”
His wife leaned away from me, her eyes wide and staring.  She did not offer me her hand.  While the man chatted with Andy and Joan, his wife stayed silent by his side.
Andy’s wife picked him up in Talent, and Joan and I continued to our next stop  on our itinerary at Annie’s cafe in Phoenix, Oregon.  We arrived just after jsut after 3 PM.  Annie’s was a white box wrapped with glass windows.  A sign on the door read “OPEN.”
We entered.
A plump waitress barked, “We close at 3 PM.”
So we sat outside Annie's waiting in case someone decided to come before 4 PM -- the time given in the itinerary.  I didn’t want to miss anyone who had read the article in20the Medford Mail Tribune.
A thin woman wearing her wispy dishwater blond hair pulled back into a pony tail and paint splattered blue jeans shorts and blue tank top approached us.
“What do those shirts say?” she asked.
“Stop Child Sex Abuse, “ we answered.
“I really support you, “ she said.
“Did sex abuse touch your family?” we asked.
She didn’t need much prodding to tell her story.  Her fourteen year old daughter was raped during a home invasion.  That night the family left that house and never went back.  The daughter identified the rapist, but he was let go when someone gave him a sworn and signed alibi.  The mother was too poor and too uneducated to seek other avenues to justice, so she took a baseball bat and set out to physically castrate her daughter’s rapist.  The man didn’t press charges against her.
“I’ll shut my yappy mouth and let you two go,” she said after chatting for thrity minutes.
“You don’t have a yappy mouth,” we said.  “You are a hero mother who will do anything to protect your children.”
I can’t support anyone attacking anyone else with a baseball bat, but I understand the mother’s pain over her helplessness to keep her own children and other children safe.
The mother went on her way, and Joan and her husband drove me back to 0Amy car at Albertsons.  I drove back to Portland to be with my school aged children who were startign the new school year.  Joan continued to walk throught he Rogue River Valley towards Grants Pass.  We would meet again ouside of Winston five days later.
There are others out there.  All over.  Two out of ten people  you meet every day will have been sexually abused as a child.  Many are too terrified to ever come forward.  Others come forward but have no support emotionally or legally for what they have gone through.  As we walked across Oregon we enountered many more people, many more stories.

Contact Virginia at 503-866-6163 or

Copyright 2008 Virginia Pickles Jones

No comments:

Post a Comment