Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Observing Domestic Month: Virginia’s Resources for Help and Healing From Abuse -- Domestic Violence Month

Please note that I deactivated links for organizations that I do not have specific permission for links, but you can still cut and paste addresses.

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Email: mainoffice@ncadv.org Hotlines:1.800.799.SAFE (7233) and 1.800.787.3224 (TTY) Website: http://www.ncadv.org

domesticshelters.org https://www.domesticshelters.org  Find  a shelter anywhere in the country and access dozens, hundreds of articles on survivors stories and all aspects of coping with domestic violence.

Some local Portland area resources for help for coping with domestic violence (all found on domesticshelters.org):

The Gateway Center for Domestic Violence Services -- business phone: 503-988-6400 website: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/gatewaycenter/
Portland Women's Crisis Line -- hotline: 503-235-5333 website: http://pwcl.org
VOA Home Free -- hotline: 503-771-5503 website: http://www.voaor.org/children-and-family
Bradley Angle House  -- hotline: 503-281-2442 website: http://bradleyangle.org
Raphael House of Portland -- hotline: 503-222-6222 website: http://raphaelhouse.com
Russian Oregon Social Services --hotline: 503-777-3437 website: http://www.emoregon.org/ross.php
Native American Youth and Family Center Healing Circle -- business phone: 503-288-8177 
website: http://nayapdx.org/services/critical-services/domestic-violence-healing-circle/
Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center  -- hotline: 866-879-6636 website: http://www.866uswomen.org
Immigrant & Refugee Community -- business phone: 503-234-1541 website: http://www.irco.org
Sexual Assault Resource Center -- hotline: 503-640-5311 website: http://sarcoregon.org
Los Ninos Cuentan -- hotline: 503-933-7840 website: http://losninoscuentan.org
South Asian Women's Empowerment & Resource Alliance -- hotline: 503-778-7386 
website: http://www.dvrc-or.org/sawera-1/

Stories about survivors of abuse and their supporters:

The Story of a Supporter of a Survivor:  Preston McMurry met and married, Donna Theresa, the love of his life and then puzzled over her struggles with intimacy and her tendency to leave him without explanation  The their marriage counselor said only one thing could cause such issues -- severe child physical, emotional and sexual abuse.  The problem was that Donna Theresa did not remember being abused.  Donna and Pres made a trip to her home town in Italy to find the truth.  They found it, but when they returned to the United States Donna was so profoundly disturbed by her past that she left Pres for a final time.  Pres struggled with deep grief and founded Theresa’s Fund to provide financial support and fund raising advice to non-profits combatting family violence.  Then, one day after a seven year silence from Donna Theresa, Pres received the phone call of his life....

Here is Pres’s story in his own words: https://vimeo.com/129269349

The rest of these stories are from my blog, the Garden of Roses: Stories of Abuse and Healing ( http://compassionategathering.blogspot.com ) or my You Tube Channel -- Healing is a Sacred Journey (https://www.youtube.com/user/StopAbuseHealWounds ).  You can also check out my Facebook for stories on abuse and healing from a variety of sources -- Compassionate Gathering: https://www.facebook.com/Compassionate-Gathering-359700572676/timeline/?ref=hl

Preston McMurry also shared his story with me:

Part One: The Man Who Went to the Ends of the Earth To Help His Child Abuse Survivor Wife Heal http://compassionategathering.blogspot.com/2014/11/pres-and-donna-theresa-love-story-that.html

Part Two: Pres Works on Healing From the Loss of Donna Theresa http://compassionategathering.blogspot.com/2014/12/pres-and-donna-theresa-part-two-pres.html


The Story of a Domestic Violence Survivor: Princess, the Domestic Violence Survivor Who Was Abused by Her Husband and then by Her Church http://compassionategathering.blogspot.com/2014/04/princess-domestic-violence-survivor.html




The Story of a Clergy Abuse Survivor Who Became Homeless

Please Help Me Find Gary, the Homeless Clergy Abuse Survivor Who Disappeared http://compassionategathering.blogspot.com/2014/04/please-help-me-find-gary-homeless.html

Helping Danny or How to Heal the Wounds of Clergy Abuse (Danny and Gary are the same person but Helping Danny takes place in early 2008, and the story about finding Gary took place in early 2014.) http://compassionategathering.blogspot.com/2014/07/helping-danny-or-how-to-heal-wounds-of.html

Child Sex Abuse:

The homeless, alcoholic gay man I met in downtown Portland turned out to be a former prostitute...and child sex abuse survivor -- My Spirt, My Call http://compassionategathering.blogspot.com/2011_09_01_archive.html

Feet Running and Bare: How Lydia Survived Incest https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2HhfbyOQqE

Virginia’s Story of Surviving and Healing From Child Sex Abuse.  I was also raped on a date at age 22, but I am not able to share that story yet.   In addition, I am a survivor of severe, ongoing, emotional domestic violence.  I am not yet able to share more than bits and pieces of that story either.

Into the Abyss (http://compassionategathering.blogspot.com/2014/11/into-abyss.html) is my story of struggling with depression after the end of a relationship.  Many survivors of child sex abuse struggle with feeling abandoned and unwanted, feelings that are magnified when relationships end.  I wish I knew that 40 years ago.  I would have understood better the deep depressions I suffered after the end of every significant romantic relationship I experienced. 

Coming To Terms With Date Rape and Child Sex Abuse: I Was "The Sinful Woman" http://compassionategathering.blogspot.com/2015/06/i-am-sinful-woman-who-washed-jesus-feet.html

My Fifth Memory (Was Being Sexually Abused at Age Four) http://compassionategathering.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-fifth-memory.html

How I helped myself heal:


How I Harmed Myself With My Anger and 9 Ways Gardening Calms Anger: http://compassionategathering.blogspot.com/2015/04/the-healing-power-of-gardening-or-how.html

How I Harmed Myself With My Anger and 8 Ways Housework Calms Anger:http://compassionategathering.blogspot.com/2015/04/the-healing-power-of-housework-or-how.html

As a child I had no support from my parents who were struggling with their own issues.  I am old enough that society was much less aware of the harmed caused by abuse when I was a child than it is today.  I struggled with depression and other issues.  I found a measure of healing walking in nature   Please note that to truly heal, I still needed insight and relationship and communication skills.  To learn these I needed individual therapy, books on the subject of abuse, and classes in Non-Violent Communication and Compassionate Listening.  However, walking in nature or in parks in the city both calmed my anxiety and anger and lifted me up when I was sad.  Sometimes nature also helped me have better insight about my life.

Larch Mountain Meditation Walk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-GVKiQZLhw

Willamette Esplanade Evening Walk 2013 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2geTM5Ez3E

Healing the Wounds of Abuse Through Nature Meditations: A Walk By Smith and Bybee Lakes http://compassionategathering.blogspot.com/2015/05/meditation-on-moving-from-victim-to.html



Thursday, September 3, 2015

No More Jeanettes, Please -- rerun blog from December 2009


I sat down in Barnes and Noble Cafe with my laptop, green tea and something chocolate to eat.  I thought I’d peruse The Oregonian and The New York Times online before working on a blog.  Well, I worked on a blog, this blog, but not the one I intended to work on.

As I scrolled down through the “Opinion” section of The Oregonian, I found a piece on Jeanette Maples.  She is the 15 year old girl who died at her home in Eugene, Oregon, on December 9, apparently tortured to death by her mother and step-father.

The abuse did not go unnoticed.  Jeanette’s mother sent her to Middle School in Eugene in ragged sweatpants and t-shirts.  Her classmates teased her, as Middle Schoolers are inclined to do to those who don’t fit in.  But for Jeanette school was a haven because it offered her a respite from her mother’s abuses.  Her friends noticed that Jeanette was always hungry and that she had injuries on her body.  They pushed her for the truth, and she confessed that her mother abused her.  One friend’s mother  reported the information her daughter gave her to the Department of Human Services (DHS) and was told that second hand reports were not sufficiently serious to investigate.

It was not enough, but it was too much for Jeanette’s mother, who took her daughter out of school and isolated her further.  When the step-grandmother visited her son and his family, she saw Jeanette.   She noticed that Jeanette was very thin and that she had a split lip.  She made two reports to DHS.

Nothing happened.

Then, on December 9, the grandmother got a worried call from her son and his wife.  Jeanette was cold and not breathing.

She screamed at them to call 911.

Later, after investigators removed bags of evidence from Jeanette’s family’s house, she had the responsibility of cleaning out the house.  

As The Oregonian reporter put it, “She found food padlocked in kitchen cupboards and a blood spattered bedroom.”

Investigators told her that Jeanette’s body was too horrible to look at.

I found myself crying in public as I read The Oregonian article.   I covered my face with my hands and sobbed as quietly as I could.  I prayed and told Jeanette in my heart that I loved her and was so sorry for her suffering.  The Walk Across Oregon to Stop Child Abuse passed through Eugene in September 2008.  We received wall to wall media coverage from one television station.  It wasn’t enough to save Jeanette.


How did this happen?  How come this sort of thing keeps happening?

Over and over.  I remember the headline cases in past years -- Lisa Steinberg and Hedda Nussbaum beaten to death in Lisa’s case and beaten to a living death in Hedda’s case -- by Joel Steinberg.  Then there are the cases of Miranda Gaddis and Ashley Ponds, both murdered, and in Ashley’s case, raped by Ward Weaver here in Oregon in 2002.  Accusations of abuse and rape against Ward Weaver dated back to 1981, but he remained free to abuse and rape more.  Both Ashley and Miranda had been sexually abused as children and were especially vulnerable to a murderous predator.  Ashley’s family, in particular, was not functional.  They could not protect their vulnerable daughter. 

These cases that received so much media attention are like the tips of icebergs peaking above the water.  So much more lies beneath.  So much abuse goes by, reported and unreported, and nothing ever happens.

On the Walk Across Oregon I have the opportunity to meet people involved in cases too small to make it into the media.  There was the man who was abandoned by his parents as a child but cared for by an uncle who sexually abused him and an aunt who physically abused him.  The abuse was obvious and got reported, but the uncle just picked up, moved and got another job in another town.  Years passed before the child was removed from the abusive home.  Now the grown man is homeless and struggling to overcome addictions.  In another part of Oregon a grandmother struggles to watch over her grandson.  Her son died before marrying his pregnant fiance.  The grandmother supported the mother every way she could, viewing her grandson as a precious gift from God.  Over the years she noticed the bruises and the broken bones.  She reported them.  Nothing happened.  She reported them again and again and again, each time more urgently.  She got told that she was the problem.  The mother cut off contact with her grandson.  The grandmother agonizes over what to do.  She knows her grandson is being emotionally abused every day and physically abused on a regular basis.  But there is so little she can do

There are two major causes of this as far as I can see.

Here in Oregon we have two tax measures coming up in a special election.  I hope people vote in favor of higher taxes because one of the major factors in nothing being done to help people being abused right now, is the lack of funding for adequate staffing of the government agencies designated to cope with these problems.  I am not mad at anyone at the Department of Human Services.  I know they have way too much work.

The other problem has a deeper cause -- it is us.  We all turn our faces away form abuse or even participate in milder forms of it -- like middle schoolers taunting not so popular classmates.  We are attracted to those people who appear strong and good looking and well dressed.  We want life to be easy.  We can’t find the capacity in ourselves to befriend the retarded girl or the boy with dyslexia.  The child who misbehaves may have a secret pain at home that causes him to misbehave, but we only see the misbehavior.  When a child is awkward enough to be teased, we join in the teasing rather than defending her and risk being teased ourselves.  What if that awkward child is being abused and we are simply perpetuating these abuses?

We can’t wait for the government or the Church to fix these deeper societal problems.  We have to do the work on ourselves.  We have to become more aware of the abuse happening around us, more sensitive to those being abused, and more vigilant in reporting these abuses.  We have to become more compassionate and kind in caring for the wounded.  We have to take risks that frighten us, whatever these risks may be. 

The best way to change the world is to change ourselves.   

Can we stop these abuses now, today?  Please, let us have no more Jeanettes!

Matthew 10:29 What is the price of two sparrows--one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.
Luke 17:2  It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. 

(c) 2009 Virginia Pickles Jones 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

How I Found Fun and Healing (From Abuse) During the Klamath Falls Third Thursday Evening Walk

Fun is healing.  I googled this sentence but couldn't find any scientific studies to verify the fact that fun is healing.  Nor could I find blogs with tags for the words "fun and healing".  But I know fun is healing from personal experience.  

I know because I suffered sex abuse as a child and date rape as a young adult.  Survivors of sex abuse and rape both struggle with depression, anxiety, outbursts of anger, low self esteem, sensitivity to touch, promiscuity, difficulties with relationships, jobs, and finding and maintaining housing.  I have struggled from time to time with most of these symptoms, but my struggles with depression dominated much of my life.  My freshman year in college was an especially bad year, but I lived in the dorms so people were always around.  When I was lonely, I could walk out my door and find someone to talk to almost any hour of the day or night.  After two quarters, I moved into a cooperative community.  The community hosted weekly potlucks where I also regularly met people to talk to.  But after a couple years I left the community for an internship in Nevada working in Wildlife Biology with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  After the internship ended, I moved into a house with roommates.  Unfortunately that year in college was another bad year.  The boyfriend I met working for the BLM ended our relationship, and I felt unlovable and abandoned.  Even though I lived with housemates, they were busy with their own lives, and there were too few of them.  I could not walk out the door of my room and meet people to talk to as I had in the dorms and the co-op.  I felt hopeless.  Fortunately a friend I met while studying in the library invited me to dinner with some of her friends.  She was Greek, and her friends included some very cute Greek guys with fabulous accents and Southern European charm.  I never saw those Greek guys again although I remained close to my Greek woman friend for many years.  I still remember that evening of Greek food and Greek warmth at her house.  That evening helped me realize that my life was not without hope for happiness.  Happiness was possible and good times would keep happening if not always when and how I wanted them to.  

This is what fun does for depression.  It gives us hope that we can be happy.

Depression saps our energy.  When we feel depressed, we often find it easier to stay home feeling hopeless while waiting for someone to reach out to help us.   The extra depressing part of my life was that usually no one came to me to rescue me.  I had to do the hard work of making myself happy myself.  I had to find ways of having fun and meeting other  people because no one reached out to me.  

One of the fun ways I found to connect with other people was taking part in community events such as farmer's markets and art walks.  These events offer the ability to connect to others through conversation and music as well as the opportunity to meet other people going through similar experiences.

At a farmer's market, you can buy some asparagus or cherries, and you will at least talk with the vendor selling them.  Wander down the street and you may find musicians performing for free.  Get out there and dance.  Wander further and you may find a community group, such as AL-ANON, hosting a booth with pamphlets and free cookies.   

AL-ANON is an organization for family members of alcoholics allied with Alcoholics Anonymous.  The organization is an easy place to meet supportive people whose lives have been touched by one or more forms of abuse.  Alcohol abuse is a common symptom of physical, sexual or emotional abuse.  

But I digress and must return to the "fun" mentioned in the title of this blog.

Fun not only reminds us that bad times are not forever, fun can also help motivate survivors to attend support groups.  Whatever the reason, while facilitating my own support group, I found that survivors are much more willing to join a group participating in fun activities such as an art walk or a farmer's market than in attending a regular support group.  

Many survivors have so much going on in their lives that they have too little time to attend support groups.  Others struggle to find the tools for healing in support groups because they have a bigger struggle before them -- just making it through the day.  Some people need to be in the right place to work on healing.   Fun activities incorporated into a support group encourages attendance by survivors who struggle to find time for support groups.  

 In Portland, Oregon, I love to spend summer Saturday mornings walking through the gigantic Portland Farmer's Market by Portland State University.  Outside of Portland, one place I love to walk for fun and healing as well as outreach, is the Third Thursday event in Klamath Falls.  

The Third Thursdays offer the opportunity to get out and experience some music, to connect with healing community groups such as AL-ANON, and to connect with other groups that offer activities that just happen to be fun, uplifting, and healing, such as Audubon and the Garden Club.  Then you can top off the evening with healing comfort food at Crave Cupcakes at the East end of Main Street in Old Town Klamath Falls.

Below you will meet the people I met during a Third Thursday Evening Walk in 2014.

The middled aged mom (me) hangs out with the three Princesses of Klamath County:  Miss City of Sunshine, Miss Oregon Teen and Miss Klamath County.

These three young women with beautiful faces and beautiful spirits teamed up to support a cancer stricken mom


who had to travel hundreds of miles south to the Sacramento 
Medical Center for treatment.  They sold donated bottles of water to pilgrims like me who came to enjoy Third Thursday in downtown Klamath Falls.




Down Main Street and around the corner, the Garden Club helps children plant their own seedlings.


I often turn to gardening for healing when I feel stressed.  See my blog on the subject: Healing the Wounds of Abuse: How I Harmed Myself With My Anger and 9 Ways Gardening Heals Me




Across the street a Master Beekeeper shares information about bees.


The beekeeper also shared with me that she struggled to cope with the deaths of both her parents before age 18  -- very traumatic events for any child to endure.


She also shared her beehive socks.

Silly socks such as these offer whimsy and fun -- very healing.


Then I passed by a table staffed by ALANON members.  These good people work to inform people, including me, about 12 step groups to help family members of alcoholics.


Many survivors of abuse numb their pain with drugs and alcohol.

They are self medicating to cope with the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder including depression, low self esteem, anger, anxiety, problems with jobs, problems with relationships, problems with housing, and more.

These two women (below) knew family members, loved ones, and friends who were victims of abuse, but ALANON, like Alcoholics Anonymous, respects the privacy of their members.  They asked me not to show their faces in my blog...


but agreed to let me take pictures of the cookies with which they welcomed visitors.


I ate a cookie and continued down the street...


Next I saw Jesus radio.  I guess Jesus needs help getting His word out.

Jesus told us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe those who need to be clothed, and to visit those who are sick in the hospital or in prison.  What would Jesus say about survivors of child abuse and domestic violence?  Personally I think the "sinful woman" who washed Jesus' feet with her tears may have been a victim of child sexual abuse.  Many people assume the word "sinful" is a euphemism indicating that the woman was a prostitute.  Many victims of child sex abuse loose the ability to protect their personal boundaries.  Some find charging for access to their bodies an easy step  to take when control of their bodies has already been taken from them.  They struggle with depression and anxiety and outbursts of anger which make keeping a job to support themselves and their children challenging.  I think Jesus would understand that prostitution is not a victimless crime.  There is a victim -- the prostitute.  Many prostitutes, including some who were not victims of child sex abuse, struggle with the same symptoms as sex abuse survivors: Difficulties with touch, difficulties with trust, low self esteem, depression, and self medication through substance abuse.  How did Jesus treat the sinful woman?  He welcomed her and embraced her gesture of washing his feet with her tears despite the fact that other men at dinner told him that he would not associate with her if he knew what kind of woman she was.  I think Jesus knew better than they did what kind of woman she was, and I think Jesus would admonish us to treat survivors of domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual assault the same way he admonished us to treat the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, and those in prison.  (For more on this subject see my blog:  Was the "Sinful Woman" in the Gospel of Luke a Child Sex Abuse Survivor?)


Next, I met the local superintendent of schools.  He was campaigning for votes to increase taxes to update technology and buildings.  Schools are important.  A few teachers make serious mistakes with boundaries, but many more are "mandatory reporters" who are the first to see or hear about abuse of their students and, by law, are mandated to report abuse to authorities.


Down the street I proceeded...


....until I met the Linkville Players who put on plays up the street at the Linkville Playhouse.
Klamath Falls was initially named Linkville, but was renamed Klamath Falls in 1893.


Going to plays is fun.  Acting in plays is also fun and connects you with other people with similar interests.  Drama can also help some survivors of abuse and domestic violence develop the skills and confidence they need to thrive.  If they are unable to stand up for themselves in real life, they can learn to do so through acting.  So go to see local plays or become one of the players.  Either one will help you heal from abuse.


Then, the people of Klamath County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for children) invited me and everyone else in for a meal and information.

This is from the CASA national website.

What is CASA for Children?

Every day in this country, 1,900 children become victims of abuse or neglect, and four of them will die. Every day. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children is a network of 951 community-based programs that recruit, train and support citizen-volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in courtrooms and communities. Volunteer advocates—empowered directly by the courts—offer judges the critical information they need to ensure that each child’s rights and needs are being attended to while in foster care.
Volunteers stay with children until they are placed in loving permanent homes. For many abused children, a CASA volunteer is the only constant adult presence in their lives.


These lovely women include the Executive Director of CASA for Children of Klamath County.

If you want to help abused and neglected children, CASA is a good place to help.  CASA needs and welcomes volunteers.


Then I continued on my way down Main Street.

At the end of the street you used to be able to find CRAVE cupcakes which I always craved until I returned to 
Klamath Falls.  You know, when you are down, cupcakes are a great comfort food although I have to counsel, for health reasons, that perhaps the best frequency of cupcake eating is one per week.  But maybe you can increase that frequency of cupcake eating when walking off the sugar by walking down Main Street in Klamath Falls whether the date be the third Thursday of June, July, or August or any other day of the week or year for that matter.


After I ate my cupcake I, too, turned around and walked back down Main Street to work off my dose of sugar for the week.



Finally daylight darkened to night, and streetlights began to glow.

Time slowed as exhibitors and visitors packed up to

 go......

Sadly Crave Cupcakes closed earlier this year.  I will have to find a new place to go for my cupcake comfort food.


Thoughts on what I learned at the 2014 Third Thursday of August in Klamath Falls:

What organizations directly support survivors of abuse?

What organizations and activities can help survivors heal even if helping survivors is not the primary focus of the organization?

Are there any local community events where you live that you can go to for fun and healing?

What additional healthy, fun activities can you do to help yourself overcome depression?

Downtown Klamath Falls -- Main Street -- is located off of Highway 97.  The Third Thursday Events take place from 6 to 9PM on the third Thursday of June, July, and August.


© 2015 Virginia Pickles Jones

Contact Virginia at compassion500@gmail.com

















Sunday, June 21, 2015

Coming To Terms With Date Rape and Child Sex Abuse: I Was "The Sinful Woman"

Many people assume that the sinful woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears while he was dining in the house of Simon, the Pharisee, was a prostitute.  The story is told in the Gospel of Luke (7:38-50).

Simon observed Jesus’ interactions with the woman and said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what kind of woman this is.”

Jesus heard Simon and rebuked him.

If the sinful woman was a prostitute, then her sin of sex outside of marriage made her unclean and unfit to touch a man, especially a priestly man.  But was the sinful woman just a prostitute?                 

I know the sinful woman.  She is me.  I am a survivor of sexual abuse as a child and date rape as a young adult.  When adults sexualize their relationships with children, they puncture boundaries and teach children that their greatest value to others is through sex.  Many survivors struggle all their lives with relationships and sex.  While some withdraw from sex, others become very promiscuous.  A few survivors are so crippled by depression, low self esteem, and punctured boundaries they find it difficult to support themselves in other ways and end up prostituting themselves. 

Although I never prostituted myself, my experiences being sexually abused at age 4, made me vulnerable to date rape at age 22.  My life has been a textbook of symptoms caused by these twin traumas.

At age six I told my mother about the abuse.

She said, “That’s where babies come from.”

But she didn’t do anything.

At age seven I told the neighbor girl and her teenaged friends where babies came from.  They were amazed by what I knew (It was 1966), but if they ever told anyone about what I said, I would not know.  Once again, nothing happened.

As a child, I sometimes hid in the closet when boys came to our house to visit my older brother.  My family hauled me bodily out of the closet but never asked me why I was afraid of boys.  I didn’t know myself.  Concerned about my constant sadness and believing me to be afraid of men, my mother insisted on taking me to a pediatric specialist when I was nine.  My mother blamed my problems on my father.  She told her theories to the doctor.  The doctor instructed me to go sit on my father’s lap.  I obeyed.  The doctor commented that my interactions with my father were normal.  But of course they were. My father never abused me.
          
Once again nothing happened.  My problems continued.  By the time I was a teenager, I suffered from a mild form of bulimia, alternately binging and starving myself.  My depression also deepened, and I made the first of several suicide attempts.  When I started dating, my romantic relationships were uniformly brief and unhappy.  I experienced problems with touch, problems I recorded in my diary.

During my first Christmas break from college, one former high school classmate asked me, “Are you still impossible to touch?”
          
Another young man said, “I can’t tell if you like it or not when I touch you.”
          
I loved his touch, but intimacy provoked feelings of fear in me.  My feelings made it difficult for me to respond to the young man.  This young man also accused me of being a prude.
          
“You come right out of the Victorian era,” he said.
          
I was unable to tell him about the abuse.  I didn’t know what it had done to me.
          
The summer I turned twenty-one, I worked as a wildlife intern for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and shared a dorm with a BLM fire crew.
          
The fire crew asked me, “How come you don’t have a boyfriend?”
          
“I wish I knew,” I replied.
         
That summer I fell in love with one of the fire fighters.  He had blue eyes and auburn hair.  He teased me constantly and made me laugh, but once we started spending time together, he began avoiding me around the other fire fighters.  When I told him how hurt I was, he rationalized his behavior, explaining to me that he behaved the way he did because the other fire fighters teased him about me.  He promised to write when the summer was over.  I waited for his letters, but they never came.  I was devastated.  I wondered, If I had been more attractive and had a better personality, would the fire fighter have wanted a real relationship with me?  Once again, I became suicidal.

I survived that year saying to myself each morning, “Don’t kill yourself today.  You can always do that tomorrow.  Just get through the day today.”

When a friend’s roommate propositioned me for sex, I consented.
          
The man complimented my curves, “No man would turn you down.”
          
It was just a one night stand, but I felt better about myself for a little while.
  
Then another young man, a former high school wrestler, asked me to join him and his buddy, a former high school quarterback, for a menage a trois.  I consented again.  Two young men wanting me for at least one night made me feel desired.
          
When I got to the wrestler’s house, the atmosphere was all wrong.  The two young men were much more interested in getting stoned than in me.  I thought of leaving, but I could not walk away from the crumbs of attention promised to me.   When the young men finally put down their bong and turned their attention to me, there was no easy way to leave.  What could I, a five foot two inch tall, one hundred pound woman, do against a former wrester and quarterback combined?  Truthfully, I was scared.  I didn’t know what to do.
          
That night was as though someone took fifty strips of duct tape and placed them over a light switch in the “off” position.  In the 34 years that have passed since that night I could count the number of times I enjoyed sex on my two hands.
          
The morning after than night I wrote in my diary, ”I am dying.  I feel degraded, a whore, a prostitute.”
          
Several months later I wrote, “I hate men and sex.  I hate men and sex.  It occurred to me that all the men in my life have been like the men who raped me.  It mattered less to them, who I was, than that I had the basic asset of all women.  If I had feelings, too bad, that was none of their concern.  I am just a number, a trophy.  If they could cut the insides of me out and hang them on the wall, they would.”
          
Years passed before I told anyone about the rape.  The circumstances hurt too much.  I had agreed to sex.  What could I say?  Ironically, date rape is often more difficult to recover from than stranger rape because it elicits less sympathy and support from others, who often blame the victim.
          
Problems with sex plagued every relationship I had after that and devastated my marriage.
          
My most skilled lover said to me, “Virginia, you’re a cold fish; I can’t move you.”
          
My husband knew about my abuse and rape but still took my dislike of sex personally.  We divorced after eleven years of marriage.
          
I know the "sinful woman".  She is me.  My shame and guilt over sex were so deep, I remained silent, alone, and paralyzed with pain for decades.
          
The Catholic clergy abuse scandal finally galvanized me into seeking treatment.  My children and I were befriended and baptized Catholic by a priest who was later removed as pastor of our parish because he sexually abused boys.  The Church focused more on limiting discussion of the abuse scandal than on promoting healing.  I was left alone with my grief and unanswered questions.  To cope, I delved into the sexual abuse of children by priests and ended up confronting my own past.  I met clergy abuse survivors who encouraged me to seek therapy specifically for the symptoms for abuse and rape.  I also found healing in attending workshops, retreats, in reading books on the various forms of abuse and healing, and in working to help other survivors heal.

I share my story, hoping to encourage others to seek treatment instead of remaining silent and alone with their pain as I did.

© 2010 Virginia Pickles Jones

Future blogs will list my resources for healing:  Lessons I have learned on how to heal, psychological treatment modalities I found helpful, books on healing, and organizations that helped me heal.


You can contact me at compassion500@gmail.com.

Please check out my Facebook at Facebook/Compassionate Gathering.

Please check out my You Tube Channel at Healing Is A Sacred Journey/StopAbuse/HealWounds.



Was the "Sinful Woman" in the Gospel of Luke a Child Sex Abuse Survivor?

A woman enters the house of Simon, the Pharisee, and washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and dries them with her hair while he dines.  Her story is told in the Gospel of Luke (7:36-50).

Simon remarks to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman is touching him, that she is a sinner.”

Jesus hears Simon and rebukes him with a parable about two debtors owing money to the creditor.  The creditor forgives both debts.  Jesus asks Simon which debtor is more grateful.  Simon correctly understands that the debtor owing more money is more grateful.  The parable is normally understood to illustrate the power of God’s forgiveness of sin.  As a survivor of sexual abuse, I think there is an untold story in this Bible passage -- the story of Jesus’ feeling special compassion for the losses and pain endured by abuse survivors.

Many people assume that the sinful woman is a prostitute.  Her sin of sex outside marriage makes her unclean and unfit to touch a man, especially a priestly man.  Scientific studies show a strong correlation between childhood sexual abuse and prostitution.  One study found that adults who were sexually abused as children are almost 28 times as likely to be arrested for prostitution as adults who were not abused. (1)  Another qualitative study of female prostitutes found that 63% of participants reported being sexually molested as children. (2)

When adults sexualize their relationships with children, the children often grow up learning that their greatest value to others is through sex.   Sometimes the survivors already feel so degraded that deliberately prostituting themselves comes easily.  If such a strong correlation between abuse and prostitution exists today in a time of less stringent social condemnations of moral flaws, then a case could be made that in the time of Jesus, a prostitute was even more likely to be an abuse survivor.  

Particularly in young children, it has been shown that sexual abuse can cause irreversible, biochemical and structural changes in those portions of the brain governing emotion, memory and the body’s reaction to stress.  Medication, therapy, retreats, workshops, conferences and emotional support can help abuse survivors to cope better.  However, many survivors never completely recover.

Perhaps Jesus knew what Simon the Pharisee and his own disciples did not know -- that the sinful woman was a sexual abuse survivor, plagued by feelings of guilt and shame, and condemned by a society completely lacking in compassion for her plight.  In our own era, many abuse survivors are unable to hold steady jobs up to their level of abilities so crippled are they by depression and low self esteem. Indeed, a few survivors turn to prostitution because they find it difficult to earn a living in other ways.

Why wouldn’t there have been such an interpretation written into the Gospel?  Jesus was crucified and gone by the time the Gospels were written down.  Moreover, he would likely have kept the woman's painful secret knowing that revealing it would have resulted in more condemnation and judgement of the woman had it been known.  Two thousand years ago there were no psychiatrists, no psychologists, no social workers working with and studying people who survived abuse.  Understanding of the consequences of childhood sexual abuse simply did not exist.  

But I think there is a lesson for today in the story of the "sinful woman".  Even today, in more enlightened times, many survivors do not receive support and compassion when they come forward.  Can we  treat victims of child sex abuse, sexual assault, date rape, domestic violence, clergy abuse and even prostitutes with the same compassion with which Jesus treated the "sinful woman"?  They all have untold stories we don't know.

Notes:

1.  Widom, Cathy Spatz, “Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse--Later Criminal Consequences.” National Institute of Justice Research in Brief, March 1995.

2.  Dalla, Rochelle L., “Exposing the ‘Pretty Woman’ Myth: A Qualitative Examination of the Lives of Female Prostitutes.”  Journal of Sex Research, Nov. 2000.





© 2010 Virginia Pickles Jones

Virginia Pickles Jones was sexually abused at age four by two teenaged boys and raped on a date at age 22.  She was baptized Catholic in 2002, by a priest who was removed 11 months later when it was revealed that he had sexually abused children.


Contact Virginia at compassion500@gmail.com.

You can visit my Facebook at Facebook/Compassionate Gathering.


Monday, May 4, 2015

Healing the Wounds of Abuse Through Nature Meditations: A Walk By Smith and Bybee Lakes

by Virginia Pickles Jones

I find metaphors for healing all around me.  Walking in nature slows me down and gives me time to contemplate and meditate.  The beauty of the place and the moment soothe me and uplift me.  One of the most inspiring places I love to walk near Portland, Oregon, is Smith and Bybee Lakes.



More than two hundred years ago when Lewis and Clark and the Corp of Discovery paddled canoes by here on the Columbia River, there were no levies, no roads, no warehouses, no electrical lines -- just acres and acres of wetland.  The Columbia River flooded the seasonal lakes in winter.  By September, sun and summer drought left behind swaths of cracked mud along their edges.  Fish and Tree Frogs and the Western Painted Pond Turtles thrived in the virgin landscape.  Native grasses grew around the shores.  Rushes and sedges grew in the shallows.  Mule Deer and Pronghorn Antelope came to browse the grasses and brush and to sip water along the shore.  Bushtits, Brown Creepers, Robins, Tanagers and many other song birds made homes and raised babies in the branches of the cottonwood and alder trees.  Swallows swooped low over the lakes and grasslands.  Ducks and geese, Great Blue Herons, egrets and avocets found refuge and fish and frogs and insects to eat in the shallow waters.  Bald Eagles and Osprey flapped and flew high above, also watching for fish or frogs to feast on.

Life teemed in this pristine landscape.  But everything lived in balance.  The Bald Eagles never took too many fish.  The fish thrived despite the occasional depredations of eagles and herons.  Deer and antelope browsed but never enough to denude the shrubs and grasses...

And then the white settlers came.  First one family and then another .... building a house here, a house there....and filling in lakes with dirt for farm fields.  They brought cattle which devoured the tender native grasses.  Weeds from the Old World that evolved tough stems from generations of grazing by cattle, thrived, crowding out native grasses.  Still the landscaped teemed with life, even if there were small changes.

As the 20th century loomed, people built houses and roads and burned coal and drove cars that burped fumes from gasoline engines.  They shot the deer and antelope and built too many houses, too many fences, and too many roads with too many motor cars for the antelope to survive.  They built dams upriver that changed the seasonal ebbs and flows of river water through the wetlands.

As humans thrived and built and consumed, they began to dump their 20th century refuse at Smith and Bybee Lakes: Old automobiles leaking oil, leftover pesticides, plastics, household debris....

The poisons leaked into the water and sickened the fish, the frogs, the turtles, the ducks and the herons.  Invasive European grasses and blackberries and starlings choked out the native grasses, shrubs and birds.  English Ivy climbed trees, tapping them and sapping life from them.

Smith and Bybee Lakes became a damaged landscaped, barely surviving.

Fortunately some people realized the damage that we humans imposed on the land.  They closed the dump and removed the garbage and the toxins.  They built water control mechanisms to mimic the pre-dam ebbs and flows of water.  Other people came and removed the invasive grasses and ivy and blackberries, and planted native grasses and native blackberries.  But these people, volunteers mostly, have to keep coming back to Smith and Bybee Lakes and coming back and coming back to remove the persistent invasive foreign plants.  Many native shrubs thrive, but some native grasses are not able to re-establish themselves. They can only survive when carefully tended season after season.  The Western Painted Pond Turtle survives, but Smith and Bybee Lakes is one of the few places they survive.

Some damage is permanent.  Some losses can never be repaired, but, despite generations of abuse, Smith and Bybee Lakes once again teems with life, and the park provides a place of beauty and peace for ducks and geese and eagles and osprey and songbirds and for us humans too.

Questions for meditation:

How did Smith and Bybee Lakes heal?

What can a victim of abuse learn from the history of Smith and Bybee Lakes?

Which wounds can you heal fully or in part?

Which losses are impossible to restore?

How do you feel when you are out walking in nature?


Journey alone; journey with friends.


Follow the path through challenges.



Find space for beauty.





Cultivate a sense of wonder.

Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area is located at 5300 North Marine Drive, Portland, OR
Take the exit to Marine Drive West from I-5.

© 2015 Virginia Pickles Jones

See my Facebook at Compassionate Gathering