Saturday, December 22, 2007


It is the Christmas season. A time of warmth and family for some, but also a time of loneliness and depression for others. For me this year, it is a little of both.

I spent this evening at church helping herd sheep, goats, and one very stubborn donkey into and out of the living nativity scene. Last years pageant was a very emotional one for me. When I was a teenager we had a similar pageant, started by the same pastor that began the tradition here. I had only been attending the church here for a couple of months last Christmas. Hell had been breaking loose inside of me over past abuse issues as I began building a relationship with a new pastor in the same denomination. I remember sitting and wondering, "Would I still be around next year for the pageant." Now I wonder about about 2008.

Tonight brought back a lot of thoughts of this past year. Times with Tom, trying to work through my fears and emotions; phone calls to Bob, my first abuser; and finally a day of confrontation and closure for me as I faced Bob with Tom by my side. It has been quite a year.

I find myself wondering where I will be next year. Will more issues be settled inside of me? Will I finally have closure with the denomination as a whole? Will I have finished dealing with the shame I have carried for so long over the second pastoral sexual relationship?

I find myself now in the thick of dealing with that second relationship. Tonight while herding the very stubborn donkey, my hand was caught between the rope and the stall we were trying our best to tug him in to. I yelled pretty loudly as the rope began to feel more like a vice. A couple of blood vessels were popped but some ice and Gladys' wrapping it and it felt a lot better.

Gladys is Tom's wife. She is also the church nurse. And, I am transferring my emotional stuff all over her. Transference is one of my best accomplishments! Helpful when I realize it and can use it to find freedom.

Minton's wife Sue was also a nurse and one time wrapped my knee for me after an injury offering me the same kind intervention. The replay of history hit my emotions before they hit my understanding. I went into the restroom and cried over the pain I was feeling without a clue as to why I felt such intense sadness. An hour or so later and the light bulb came on. The parallel between the two situations had brought long buried emotion to the surface.

I don't know how to explain to those of you that read my blog, the power of past emotions. I wanted to run to Gladys for approval. I wanted to apologize for something I never did to her. I feel so much shame over my behavior with Minton and how I chose to stab Sue in the back when I crossed the line with her husband.

Shame is surfacing everywhere. My past two nights sleep have been interrupted by multiple dreams of abuse and agents seeking me out for abusing other children. I have woken with shudders of grief, waves of confusion, and a nauseated stomach.

Yet, all this is good. Hard but good. It has taken 7 years of work to get here to the place that I can now face this tragedy. I know that I am on the verge of a tremendous healing. I feel so alone. I know that my therapist, Dan, understands. I wonder if others who have dealt with this type of issue understand or am I truly alone in this venture. And I am aware that many are in my life who have no clue as to what I am dealing with or the tragic depth of pain and destruction it has carved into my soul.

Pastoral sexual misconduct caused me to lose so much. I just want someone to put their arms around me and understand.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Shrinking my Shame


Just a little bit of a pun in this title..... as I just spent an hour with my shrink working on shrinking my shame.

Dan's great, and I continue to grow in my appreciation of him. Ever encouraging, he picks up on what is important, sees my anger, feels my pain, and understands the depth of it all. He never thinks something is not a big deal. He sees past the outside to what occurred inside.

Tonight I finally uncloaked some details of my relationship with Minton. I expected the most difficult part to be the sexual details but I ended up sharing, remembering little of that. What wrenches itself up and out of me is the immense fear and shame. Fear of being caught. Shame of what I am doing - not doing, did. But that Freudian slip reveals the immediacy in the emotion associated with these happenings of 30 years past.

I recalled our first tryst. The shame of giving in to his request that I come by his house on my way to work. I described the day he reserved a room at a hotel just out of town. He lied about where he was and took the day off. I remember the stares as we swam in the pool. I remember the dark headed lady that kept looking at me and knew the truth. I remember the horrible desire to hide and run but simultaneously feeling trapped and unable to. Perhaps worst of all, I remember the day his parents returned from their vacation early and found me at their house waiting on Minton to return from the store with me something to drink. I remember the horror I felt as I pushed opened the locked screen and ran out the door and ran on and on until I finally stopped exhausted and sat on a hill and waited on Minton to come and find me. I remembered the sick feeling.

I sat holding the pillow tonight wanting to throw up while Dan summarized all the emotion I had described: fear and more fear and shame - mounds of it. The horror of being trapped in something that I could not find the ability to end. The driven neediness inside warring with the anxiety - neither winning. To walk away meant complete aloneness. The church had long ago dumped me. I could not do it until my fear became so great that I couldn't not do it.
I left Dan's tonight with a smorgasboard of emotion. All I had uncovered was still fresh but right along with it was this fantastic relief from having shared it with someone else - not just the words but the vivid emotions that accompany the memories.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Short Update


My normal desire to post blogs has taken a vacation for some reason, but I felt I needed to go ahead and push it in order to keep folks up to date.

A week ago, I emailed the regional minister and asked for an update as to the appointment of the task force and the answers to my questions. He had promised me that when the regional assembly was past he would get back to me. I sent an empasioned email asking for what he had promised. Reg immediately responded with the fact that the task force was appointed but they were waiting until the first of the year to start meeting.

As far as my questions, the ones I asked in August that he failed to answer and has still left unanswered, I had to send another to get a response. I found out that he was not in the office but out of town at his mother's house who had just died. He once again promised to get me answers as soon as he returned.

Who in Bob's church was notified about his misbehavior? Was the policy followed or not? If I do not hear by the first of the year, I am not sure what to do. I know that I probably have a legal case. Will I do it if that is what it takes? The biggest question is what will it cost me if I do sue and what will it cost me if I do not.

On the other side of the coin, I just heard from my therapist, Dan. There is some unsurety as to my insurance paying for an more sessions this year. The association Dan works with is supposed to be finding out, but he has not heard anything back from them. He will ask again Monday but told me to just plan on showing up Tuesday. If the insurance won't swing it, then he will throw it in for a Chritmas present. Yes, you heard that clearly. He is an amazing man.

Most of my spare time has been quickly taken up by Christmas buying, wrapping, and decorating with a little party going and some school work added. I am looking forward to a 2 week break as much as the kids are.

My eyes are slowly closing. It has been a busy day. Happy Advent!

Di

Saturday, December 1, 2007

A Friend's Story

Mona Brewer is a friend of mine. We have only met on two occasions but we have kept in touch since then. She sent me this link from an Atlanta radio station concerning her illicit relationship for 14 years with a very well know minister named Earl Paulk.

I invite you to listen to her story and think. Think about the power of this kind of relationship in a person's life. Think about how the church must appear to the world.

This is very sad to me.


Di

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Valuable?


The beginning of last summer I posted a story about my friend Bonnie who was in a terrible car accident that almost took her life. Bonnie's life was spared but she still lost a lot. She lost the use of her left arm and hand, though a new surgery is in the plans for next Wed that will help restore her some use and further therapy should help her gain more use of her fingers. She lost her left-side vision. If she looks at your right eye she can see your nose but not your left eye. Thus everything appears dark to her and reading is very difficult. She lost her ability to run but has now regained her ability to walk due to multiple remarkable surgeries on her ankles and knee. She lost her whole summer. She remembers none of it. She lost the beauty of her arms and legs as they are now covered in scars and her left arm had much of the muscle and skin stripped off of it. She lost her teeth though the ones she now has are beautiful. But she is still Bonnie, a gentle and caring person who I was given the opportunity to work beside for 4 years.

As I talked with Bonnie on Tuesday, and celebrated in my heart her survival, she talked of a sense of uselessness. I wanted to scream, "Bonnie, how can you feel useless? You are so important to me! Your very existence is what my whole Thanksgiving is about this year." Instead I calmly pointed out her importance to me and how God is even now using her injury to teach doctors and nurses who will go on to impact others lives. I told her how very important she was and how I had to see her before Thanksgiving Day because my heart was so full of gratitude for her life.

And then I thought. How easy it is for all of us to fall into seeing our value in what we do and accomplish. That is what Bonnie was doing, missing terribly the sense of achievement that comes from teaching young minds. But from my end, Bonnie is valuable just because she is Bonnie. I couldn't quite explain that to her, but the light bulb came on for me. This is how God's sees us, valuable just because we exist. Nothing we do earns His love. Nothing we do defeats it.

He loves me because I exist and am precious to him. So today, beyond celebrating Bonnie's physical life, I celebrate the lesson that her trajedy just taught me. My value is in my being.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Di

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Freedom


I continue to work on the shame issues over the relationship with Minton but I am only working on it sporadically. Life has been so very busy at work and home that the time to think is scarce. Though, I also wonder if I have not passed some kind of milestone in being able to work on emotional issues when I choose instead of them devouring me at their whim.

I had a really good session with Dan last night and we continued to talk about my transferential feelings with Tom and their connection to the shame with Minton. I can tell I am making progress in defeating the shame because it isn't so strong as I talk about it. Even now sitting and typing I feel much more at ease. I also recognize that it will take more work to finish this.

I feel a little concerned and guilty that I am in no hurry to hear from the task force on sexual misconduct. I am dreading having to pull all that back out to deal with it again. It is so emotionally draining. I asked Dan what he thought about my change of feeling in this area.

Dan's thoughts were that it is not a problem since I am doing some good work in the moment and one thing on the burner at the time is probably enough for anyone. What I am presently looking at is timely and will further prepare me for the opportunity to share with the church's committee.

When I talk with Dan it feels so good to talk with someone who so thoroughly understands what I am saying. I don't have to work to make myself understood. We flow together. I feel a lot of support and peace in my relationship with him. And I trust him. Nice.

God's timing first with Cheryl and then John and now Dan has been so evident. Each of them has played a role in the work I was doing in that time period that the others would not have been able to play so well. His hand in my healing is an area I am very grateful for this season.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Shame

I have been thinking about the cords of shame and how they have tied me in knots for so many years. Last week when I left Dan's so aware of the shame I felt, I was equally unaware of how to disentangle myself. I truly felt lost even as I had in my dream.

Now that is rather ironic since I had spent years disentangling myself from the cords of shame over my relationship with Bob, but nevertheless I felt equally as lost as I had when facing the original shame. It took a while for the words I wrote in my last post to find their way to my conscious mind but once I wrote them they brought powerful healing.

Cheryl, the therapist who worked for me during the first 5 years of my therapy, told me that she believed shame was at the root of all of our human issues. Cheryl is agnostic and leans toward Budhism. I tell you that because it is very interesting to me that Cheryl's view of humankind's problems is the same as the Christian's God's view. What did Christ bear on the cross but all our shame? What is the new covenant if not one based on grace which is as far from shame as one can get?

The church taught me of God's grace but did a poor job of teaching me how to extend my own personal grace inward. That took Cheryl. "What is God saying?" was changed to "What are you telling yourself, Diane?" I am not negating the first question. I went into therapy knowing well what God was saying long before I met Cheryl. I knew he was a God of grace. I did not doubt his grace filled ways of dealing with me,his child. Yet, I could not figure out how to translate it into my own practice toward myself.

It was truly as if I was adicted to the self hatred. The pathways of despite had eroded themselves into my brain. After years of work, I think differently about myself. I talk differently to myself. I relate to myself with gentleness.

Dan last week focussed on a question asked of me by a pastor after the relationship with Minton was shared with him. "Do you understand the seriousness of what you have done?" Dan asked me what that seriousness was? I fumbled around for an answer and still do not have a clear one. I think further freedom will come as I answer for myself and reframe the meaning of that question.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Lost


Two night ago I dreamed: Rejected by friends at a function in the UGA auditorium and even abandoned by my husband, I got lost in Athens and could not find my way back onto the campus. I tried and struggled and people tried to help but I kept making wrong turns and nothing worked out right. Even when the path was pointed out to me, I either missed it or it somehow evaded my attempts to get on it.

It was a vivid dream and emotionally troubling to me when I awoke. I took the memory with me to my session with Dan. He likes to work with dreams and has taught me that our subconscious often tries to work out our struggles for us while we sleep. At first we talked about the obvious abandonment and I discussed how Minton and the church had abandoned me. Then Dan asked me why UGA was part of the dream. What did it mean to me? What was the connection? I was shocked to realize there was a big one.

I left UGA as a failure in the fall of '75. The bottom was falling out of my grasp on any emotional stability. That summer I had told Minton and his wife about my relationship with Bob, and Minton had begun persuing me physically. I am not sure you can imagine the emotional confusion I felt because I haven't completely grasped it myself. I only know that by that time I was completely and totally convinced that something was terribly wrong with me. I was doomed and dirty and I must have a sign on me that said I was a whore. I went back to school that fall and came very close to a mental/emotional breakdown. I could not study. I could not attend to anything in my classes. For the first time in life and perhaps the only time, my anxiety was so high that I could not function mentally. I shut down. My mind was in a fog. I was alone and since I didn't understand myself what was wrong, I had no idea how to tell anyone else or to ask for help. I was lost.

I thought God told me to go home, drop out, and I told my mom and dad and they were upset but let me. I withdrew from the fall quarter and went home. There is massive shame tied to letting my parents down. There is shame over dropping out. There is shame in mishearing God.

Perhaps it is time to reframe that. Let me try right now:

I was 20 years old and for the second time in my life a pastor was coming on to me. I was confused. Who wouldn't be? I was being told by the second shepherd that I was some kind of whore who attracted this kind of behavior. I was full of anxiety. I believed a lie that I was somehow a big mistake.

That is a LOT for anyone to handle. This was before anyone talked about psychologists or counseling though at the time I did wonder about talking with someone at the clinic. I had heard they had counselors of some kind. But I didn't go. I didn't know what to tell them. I never connected my emotional turmoil with Minton's passes.

If that was today and I knew about a kid going through this, I would talk to her. I would listen. I would offer to put my arms around her and tell her that she is not a whore, that she did not deserve that treatment, that she was not at fault, that it was the pastor's place to hold the boundary and to not push it. I would tell her that all the confusion and fear she feels is ok, that dropping out is ok if that is what she needs to do to get her thoughts and feelings sorted through. I would tell her that the improper advances were not statements about something being wrong with her but rather a loud statement about those two men. And over and over I would tell her she is valuable and loved and not alone any more. She is not abandoned and I am not ashamed of her. I would be there with her and with all her confusion. I wouldn't leave her alone or simply point the path out to her. Instead I would walk with her until she found her way back. And then I would stay with her so she did not have to fear the dark.

And so, in this very moment, I choose to stop running from her and to walk toward her with arms outstretched and acceptance in my heart for her. I choose to no longer hate her and her imperfectness. I see her courage. I feel her pain. And I love her.

Di

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Stirrings

Several issues are being moved to the front burner and God is stirring the pot.
The most exciting is that my new online friend, Sandy, is looking at flying down for a long weekend in February. Sandy was a victim of sexual misconduct at the age of 17 and during the same year that I was. We are the same ages. Our stories are eerily similar. Emailing has been a wonderful experience but the thought of connecting for 3 or 4 days face to face sounds like a dream. We are even talking about combining forces on some issues that we think need viewing from a victim's standpoint.

Another issue that is being stirred is not so exciting. The second pastoral relationship in which I was involved seems to still have its claws in me. As my husband and Dan and I sat and talked this evening about some of my issues with sex, I realized that some undealt with shame was still lingering around the relationship with Minton. When I think about Bob I don't feel the same shame. I have dismantled so much shame in the past few years that I can usually spot it in an instance and voila there it is.

I have told of my relationship with Bob on the blog in much more detail than mine with Minton. That is because I cringe still to share about that one. Why? I have some ideas as to why...... I was two years older at the time and I think I still blame myself more fully. I felt a lot of guilt and shame during this relationship while during the one with Bob, while shame and guilt were there, they were deeply buried under the ideology of a 17 year old. I still believed nothing could hurt me. My brain was not fully fuctioning as an adult. I never really connected mentally with how bizarre and wrong the situation was with Bob. With Minton, I knew from the start.

Also, I was caught alone with him one time by my mom very early in the relationship and before anything of any magnitude had occured in the sexual realm. She reacted and thought something wasn't right. Having been raised to believe that life revolved around "what was done" and "what was not done" I had no reference to the fact that sin was sin because it would HURT me. All I picked up on when my mom tried to talk with me about it, was that it embarrassed her. I denied anything being wrong and that was the last time she mentioned it. She just spent a lot of time freaking over stuff that was stupid to freak over. I don't think I mattered as much as "what was done" and "what the neighbors would think." I am still angry about that..... hmm.

This is not going to be fun digging back through this stuff but I know the freedom that has come from dealing with the baggage over Bob so I won't avoid it. I don't guess.

God do I have to do this, again?

I don't think He will push me. He doesn't have to. The overachiever in me pushes. If I don't deal with it voluntarily it will spew out of places I am unaware and at people that don't deserve it.

It is a lot harder to see the power issue and the abuse in the relationship when I was an adult.

Di

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Love and Loyalty

I had an awesome vacation camping at the beach with my husband. It was remarkable for two reasons. First, it dawned on me how faithful and loyal my husband has been to me for 27 years. We talked about the fact that he has always stood by me and never even considered abandoning me in the midst of any trial in our marriage. For the first time, his ever present support sunk in to a new level. Out of all my fears of abandonment, I suddenly was able to rejoice in the wonder of my husbands care. As the light bulb came on at a new level, our relationship blossomed over the 5 days. It was a special time together - one of the most special times in our marriage. It was hard to come home.

I returned to an appointment with Dan - my first with him as my official personal therapist. Dan has worked with us as a couple for years and though I have met with him a few times alone when Rob was out of town or sick at the last minute or Dan was filling in when Cheryl was gone and I was in a crisis, this was the first official meeting with him as my own therapist. It felt comfortable, right. Though I am grieving in saying goodbye to John, I am mostly enjoying saying hello to Dan. I am already able to turn some of my emotional baggage from Tom to Dan and it was obvious to me last night that this is a very good thing.

I almost felt normal at the Wednesday night meal and program. Instead of reaching emotionally into Tom or wanting to reach into him and fighting the tendency, I was at peace. Today, when I considered emailing Tom about some thoughts, I stopped and decided to keep that between Dan and me. It isn't that I won't continue to work with Tom. I can't attend church and not do that. However, I think I will be able to keep some of the emotional transference in therapy and deal with it with a professional who is trained to help me do just that. It gets really messy in real life when my emotions, thoughts, and fears from the past invade the present.

I feel much less of a need to explain the sometimes bizarre emotions to Tom now. It is more OK that he doesn't "get it". I just remind myself that Dan very much does get it. With Dan, I don't have to explain it to feel OK with who I am and what I am struggling with. Those of you who have experienced a good therapeutic relationship will understand this. For those who haven't, I'm not sure I can explain it. I could not have understood prior to being in therapy myself. I think if must be the kind of relationship that has to be experienced to understand.

Dan is a Christian and not afraid to say he is. He is less guarded in his "blank wall" needs or beliefs and it feels more natural and normal to me than working with John did. Besides being good at what he does, Dan has a way of always seeing the positive - something that does not come naturally to me. As I shared with him on Tuesday all the fears, struggles, and frustrations of the previous Wednesday at church, he saw the progress. He saw the courage. He saw the getting up and brushing myself off and the determination to move on. I tend to see the mistakes and the never ending struggles to function in the denomination in which I was abused. Dan pointed out to me far more positive than any negative I could innumerate.

I also continue to talk via email with Sandy, my fellow survivor. One day, perhaps, she will write her story and let me post it on this blog. It is amazing how our journeys have paralleled each other's. Talking with her is meeting a need I did not know how to scratch. Being with my SNAP friends has been a powerful experience, yet this one is even more so. Sandy's abuse having happened at the same age of 17, in the same year as mine, at the hands of her youth pastor makes the connection powerful. The fact that she too has confronted her perpetrator and a regional minister in the same denomination, and contacted the national church adds a lot of parallels to share. I am presently reading her written account of those confrontations. I am reading slowly though and not late at night. The connection is so strong that her story sets off a plethora of feelings - anger being the primary one.

Well that should catch my friends up on the happenings of the last week. God continues to work and I continue to be grateful.

Di

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Firing a Shrink

The title sounds harsh but the reality isn't. John has met my needs in a unique way over the past year and a half. He allowed me to test boundaries and try out my fledgling ones. Under his care I found my own secure boundaries as I learned experientially why they were needed. I have gained a new sense of security as I practice telling myself what is "my stuff" and what is someone else's. I have learned to not fight the humaness within me with such vigor and to surrender at times to the internal pressures.

Yet, on several occasions during the past 6 months, I have considered changing my personal therapist to the man who has seen my husband and I for 6 years. Dan and I have a relationship that transcends mine and John's. As I drove home on Tuesday evening and thought of the struggles and issues with Tom and his wife, subconsciously expecting to be betrayed, I didn't think of John and his support but rather that as long as Dan understood the dynamics at work in me and believed in my goodness that I could withstand whatever came my way. It was that moment that I knew it was time to change.

Dan agreed to see me personally and a letter is in the mail to John explaining things. We had talked a month ago about the possibility of this occuring, so John won't be totally broadsided by my decision.

I am sure it would be better if I went in to see John rather than tell him via letter, but insurance companies only pay for so many sessions and it is the end of the year. To use a session to talk to John about what I already talked with him about a month ago feels wasteful. At $150 a session, if he wants to talk, then let him do it out of heart and not my purse.

I bet there is a fortune of psychological issues in that last sentence!

Di

Friday, October 12, 2007

Betrayal

I was 20. Sexually and emotionally exploited by my youth pastor at the age of 17, the shame and self doubt grew inside of me daily. I had left the denomination of my youth and joined a small congregation that met in the pastor's home. This man knew the scripture and lived the love within it. With my respect and heart, he grew to be like a father to me.

Then he betrayed me.

Eaten with guilt, I went to he and his wife over the relationship with Bob. They listened and prayed with me. Within two weeks he made his move.

I remember the moment. I remember the thoughts sizzling through my brain. "Now what do I do? This is it. It is over. I have lost it all. I can run or I can go along with his wants." I had been betrayed by a man who I had known for 3 years and who I trusted as my pastor. I had trusted him enough to share about the other abuse. It had never occurred to me that he too would exploit me.

The internal struggle began. I argued with myself but I always gave in. I hated myself for not being able to tell him "no" as the relationship intimately progressed. The need to be special was riveting. It was all a lie, but the lie was easier to believe than the truth. The only "truth" I could seem to believe was that something was terribly wrong with me.

In time the small congregation began to pick up on signals and at his wife's pressing, the elders (who were all men) met to discuss the situation. I was not invited. I was not questioned. Instead, I was disposable and the church, who I saw as my family, cast me out. The end. Goodbye. Go away. I was devastated and to this day, I know of no other memory that has brought me such pain.

What had this man told them? I do not know. He obviously did not tell them the truth. Yet, I was blind to this new betrayal and having been thrown out and pushed away, I picked up the phone and threw myself completely into the relationship he wanted. At least that way, I was not alone.

I saw him frequently until one week God got my attention. On the way to meet this "pastor", after a year of avoiding God, I heard God speak, "Di, I am removing my hand of protection from you." Three days of hell commenced. We were caught together twice, once by a mutual friend and once by his parents, and then on the third day, I swallowed a yellow jacket and it stung my throat and as my throat began to close I could only think, "God don't let me die here with him." On the way back to my car, I broke off our "affair".

We ended up attending the same church and telling the pastor of our past. He was a legalistic man but one who believed God could heal. I was broken and hungry for that healing. My ex-pastor-abuser talked with him first. When I went to see him and talk, it never occurred to me that my ex-perpetrator might have lied about me. What I heard, I thought I truly deserved: "Do you understand the seriousness of what you have done!?" Looking back, it seems obvious that the story was probably misrepresented once again and for the third time a man who was ready to leave his wife for me a few weeks prior, let me take the rap.

Finally after a year in this church, the pastor and the predator had a falling out, and the predator was prepared to take with him a large portion of the congregation. In anger, the pastor went to those leaving and told them of my perpetrator's sexual relationship with one of the single women. It took about 2 seconds for people to figure out it was me, so once again my trust was betrayed and my secret exposed. I learned of this after a Wednesday night meeting when in the midst of mingling about, I was approached with the news. It seems he did not mean to break my confidence...........

So what did my perpetrator do in the face of everyone knowing? He lied. He placed the blame on me. His story was of my pursuing him and his weakness and inability to fight me off. Once again I was betrayed. I was shunned and branded while those told rallied to his side.

He was a coward. Unwilling to face the truth and have the balls to come clean, he lived the remainder of his life without ever accepting his responsibility. He died 2 years ago after suffering from some type of neurological disease.

I never denied my involvement. I didn't blame him any more than myself. I thought it was equally my fault. I accepted the part of it that was mine plus a whole lot more. No one understood the dynamics of power relationships back then. I knew this had happened to me, and never to anyone else, so there must be some terrible flaw in my soul.

Thirty five years later the past, at times, still controls me. Transference walks with me today. Tonight it is heavily consuming me and I continue to run and hide. Why should Tom be any different? How do I know he is different? When will he too betray me?

Di

Monday, October 1, 2007

Letter to the General Minister


I sent an email to the minister hired at the national level in the denomination to do the same job that Reg does at the state level. She is a she! She replied today, and asked if she could forward my email to the national level chair.

It was a nice feel to hear back so quickly and feel appreciated.

I told my basic story and of my desire to help fashion the way a response is made to a report.

Below is the reply I received:

Dear Diane,Thank you for trusting me with your story. I praise God that you have been able to begin a journey toward healing. I think it is time to review our policies with a particular view toward how we walk along side people who have experienced clergy sexual misconduct. I would like, with your permission, to forward your letter (or another one if you prefer) to the chair of the General Ministry. Again thanks - and God bless you.

It especially felt nice to hear from a woman!

Di




Sunday, September 30, 2007

Today's Revelations


After spending the past few days a little under the weather and very depressed emotionally, I found a large volume of anger inside. I am in the process of acknowledging the anger and releasing it out of me.

I certainly have reason to be angry at the church government. I have reason to not trust them. Anger, however seems to do nothing to bring about change, but instead it ravages me. I am miserable when I am very angry. Once I recognize the anger and can find waves to vent it - usually emailing or talking to someone I trust - the emotional effect lessens.

After meeting with Bob and talking with him on two occassions on the phone, I realized that the past regional minister had been duped. Bob was upset but upset does not equal repentant. Neither is he flagrantly declaring he was not wrong. Instead he seems incapable of focussing his mind on any of it. He seemed to mentally dance around it all, and, when confronted with his own denial, appeared confused. To see himself clearly as God sees him is evidently beyond his capability. To me this is a sad existence. It is only in seeing truth that we experience God's grace. God's grace makes seeing truth worth it every time.

Sharing my desire to see mandatory psychological testing done with all reported cases of misconduct was far from embraced by Reg, the present regional minister. His further aluding to the fact that he disagrees with a fair amount of what I wrote him has me wondering what kind of Christian he is. And I am angry.

I am angry that he is not willing to take a stronger stand, that he seems to be aligning himself with Bob. "If you are not with me then you are with Bob," is not a very rational statement but I think it is reasonable for me to feel. It also frustrates me that Reg's lack of full response to my verbal appeal and my written letter has not occured. The first time he alluded to an answer but did not state it clearly. The second time he did not refer to my questions at all. Was that intentional? Surely it must be.

I am angry at Reg and the past top dog. I feel an attempt by both men to silence me and not stir things up for Bob's family. I am angry about Bob's silencing me for so many years. I am angry that society silenced me all those years.

I am angry that Tom seemed to want to silence my complaints, as well, in defending Reg to me. I am angry that the chair of the regional minsterial committee hasn't gotten back with me after he said he would. I hear, "Ignore her and she will eventually get quiet."

I feel as if too many men are patting me on the head and saying, "Now, now, don't be so upset," when in reality there is much to be upset about.

Don't worry, I know that I can't remain in this angry state. I know that it is good to find resolution and a place of release and forgiveness. I also know that stuffing it down isnt' the way to get there, at least for me it never works that way. I always seem doomed to experience the anger fully, face the damage and pain inflicted by others, and only then can I find resolution and the ability to release the other from my unforgiveness.

Di


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Closure After Abuse


As I was defending my need to write a 2 1/2 page letter to the regional minister and expecting a reply to all the issues I discussed, I discovered why I am less driven to get online and post my thoughts.

Closure. This summer when I confronted Bob, I found my voice and I used it. I spoke truth. I spoke of my own pain. I confronted a man in denial with the reality he cannot see. In finding my voice, I found closure in my experience with my perpetrator.

While I have wanted to add to my story and fill in the blanks between the abuse and my present, I find it difficult to find the words. When I began the blog, I found it difficult to wait a few hours to post what I was feeling and the words filled the page easily.

Closure is evidently a real experience. Now to find that same closure with the church.

Di

Friday, September 28, 2007

Revision of Clergy Misconduct Policy

It seems that the church is going to review the misconduct policy. I received an email from the regional minister two days ago and the ministry commission followed his counsel to appoint a task force to review the misconduct policy. He tells me that I will be invited to share with this task force once it is functioning.

Emotions are strange things. I wish I could tell you that I am jumping up and down with joy. It would seem I have a reason to rejoice. Instead, I have felt sad and numb for the past two days. Too sad and too numb to write the post.

Reg's response was brief. He left several questions unanswered and several revelations unresponded to.

I talked with Tom about the reply and expressed my ambivalence. I think he is frustrated with me. He wants to defend Reg and does so, until I argue with him a while. He seems to trust Reg but I do not. God spoke to my heart that I could trust Tom. Before I ever talked with him, I knew he was part of my healing. I do not trust Reg. That doesn't mean he is not trustworthy but while I have faith that God has placed Tom in my life for good, I am not in the least bit sure of that with Reg.

Here is Reg's reply:

I wanted to just quickly respond that I got your letter. Even as you wrote it I suspect you knew that I would not agree with everything in it. Thankfully, I believe that agreeing with a person is not the criteria for care concern and compassion towards another person. We are called to love each other regardless of agreement so I want to extend to you my expression again of my concern and care for you.
This past weekend, the Regional board acted upon the recommendation I made that a task force be appointed to work on reviewing and updating our procedures for response to Sexual Misconduct by clergy. Because the Ministry Commission has such an incredible workload, we felt it would get things accomplished quicker if we appointed a separate panel. That panel is being appointed and as soon as they begin meeting we will find an opportunity for your input to them.
I can’t predict the time line right now, but wanted to let you know that we are serious about responding to the issues you have raised and want to do so in a timely fashion.

May God continue to bless you

Reg


I have no clue what he disagrees with. Perhaps I will ask him.

Di

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Power of a Golf Ball


Amazing thing, recreation is. I have taken up golf again and found it to be just what I need to get my mind and focus off of the stresses and anxieties of pastoral abuse and work as well. Nothing is quite like hitting that golf ball to release the tension and to give me a sense of accomplishment - when it goes somewhere near to where I intend. Oh heck, even when it lands in the creek, I enjoy it.

Teaching is hard. People think that teachers get this lovely 2 months or more off every summer. Well, in reality, teachers work those hours during the other 10 months. I still haven't gotten everything caught up from the start of school. Getting there but not there yet. Stress builds.

I have been reasonably at peace waiting these two weeks for Reg's reply to my letter. I talked to Tom this morning and he is expecting a positive reply and thinks, but is not sure, I will receive more than I am expecting. He has obviously been on the phone with Reg, but I did not ask too many details. Of course that makes my mind leap off in all sort of directions. My hope is to be asked to participate in a task force to strengthen the pastoral misconduct policy. Even better, I hope to hear that Tom himself is going to chair it. Now that would be a slice of heaven.

I went out to the driving range this afternoon and hit 75 golf balls and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening grading 600 papers to keep my mind off of it. Obviously the 75 golf balls did me the most good.

My talk with Tom this morning was just a casual one. I had requested it after I mailed the letter and this is the first time we could arrange our schedules. I have been ok so I didn't have much to talk about, but I didn't want to throw away the opportunity to just relate. Each time I talk with Tom, I come away with more healing. Piece by piece and bit by bit I find it. I also find an inner strength inside that I did not have when I began this blog. I am growing through this adventure and learning how to stand up for what is right. My view of myself is more secure and confident. My trust of my abilities grows.

In all of this I honor God's work. How appropriate and miraculous that the healing I am now receiving is coming through the heart of another pastor in the same denomination. It isn't just Tom though, it is the church. The church as a whole knows nothing of my past journey and I plan to keep it that way. They however have given me much of what I need, unconditional love and acceptance and a place to grow.

I will let all of you know when I hear from Reg. In the meantime I ask for your prayers. A less than positive response will not be easy to receive.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Reply Ready to Fly


My reply to Reg is finally written and will soon be in the mail. I have been waiting on my pastor, Tom's, input and he was out of town. When I saw him at church yesterday, he gave his go, said I did not need a letter from him to accompany mine because he had already done some behind the scenes work. He expects my letter to be received well.

As to what behind the scenes work Tom has done, I am trusting him and his heart. He seemed hesitant to fill me in on the details and I didn't push. If Tom won't tell me, it is usually because he is protecting someone else's confidence as I would want him to protect mine.

My husband wrote a letter to accompany mine, advocating for my voice to be heard. I will include it in a later post.

The highlights of my letter include a response to his "acceptance" of the differences in mine and Bob's story:

You are right that we both probably believe our own statement is true and that this should lead to a great deal of discomfort on the part of the hearer. However only one rendition is true and your statement that this must simply be accepted is completely unacceptable to me.

Much of my proposal is based on the premise that the discrepancies in our testimonies are reason for many red flags. It is a fact that few victims lie. It is also a fact, actually stated in the Church’s present policy, that many accused do lie. What is not stated and is even more disturbing is the fact that perpetrators exist who can so compartmentalize their memories that they display complete denial of the truth. With a denial of truth comes an inability to find repentance or internal change. Looking toward the future, this type of discrepancy must be dealt with, and the many ways I proposed dealing with it need to be heard, wrestled with, and done so by the whole commission.

In another paragraph I address the shocking revelation that the current file contains my agreement to the monitoring of Bob that was to occur:

Your statement that the file contains my approval of the monitoring process was shocking and grievous. I was unaware that I had held any voice or right to agree or disagree with this setup. I was unaware that my reticent and weak “ok” was being viewed as an official statement of agreement with the decision. No one sat down with me, as I now know the policy states, and I was not informed in the conversation that my agreement was being sought. Instead in an unannounced phone conversation from Tom Neal, I was informed that some type of monitoring would occur but was denied further information as to the form or extent of the monitoring. I remember Tom Neal repeating his statement and my feeling a sense of pressure from him to give some statement of agreement. I reluctantly and half heartedly gave an “ok”. I believe the exact words to his question of my agreement was “I guess,” not exactly a resounding agreement. Tom’s pressure now seems one more use of a pastor’s power to get what they need at my expense. This realization that my approval was sought in a less than forthright way is disturbing.

I also wrote a heartfelt appeal to Reg's evident decision that my voice not be heard by the state ministerial committee.

In the first and last paragraph, you state: “I assure you that your concerns will be presented to the Ministry Commission when they get going on revising the documents for ministry,” and “Again I assure you that I will make sure your input is received.” These statements appear to be a response to my request to present my own suggestions to the ministry commission. I am not content with your response. I have the unique ability to explain the needs of the victim from an experiential perspective. Though I appreciate your willingness to try, you, nor anyone else, can share with the passion or illumination that originates in my experience.

I have decided that in some way, my voice will be heard by the leadership of the Church. My desire is that this would happen in a similar setting and atmosphere as my conversation with you occurred. I desire to sit down and work with the Commission on Ministry as an invited individual with important experiences and strategies to suggest. I would like to be involved with a task force that is looking at and forming a newly revised policy. I am offering to give rather than to take.

If you remember, I asked (the previous state minister), via email, to be allowed to speak to the commission members, but my request never received a reply and the ministry commission met without me. I felt dishonored and silenced by this lack of acknowledgement. I need the present commission to offer me an opportunity to speak, as evidence of their good faith. I am requesting that you reconsider this decision and that you talk further with (the chair of the ministerial group) and other leaders on the commission before providing me with a clear answer to my request.

While other points are discussed, such as the role of an advocate, these 3 areas are the main thrust of my letter. Tom seems to think the road is paved for my reception. I remain in doubt, and by keeping my hopes at bay, prepare myself for the next step if I my request to speak is rejected.

I have to wonder if the state realizes that I probably have a valid law suit over the policy not being followed as it was written. While I have no desire to hold this over their head, it seems evident to me that I am offering a win-win scenario here. They have nothing to lose by accepting my input and a lot to lose if they do not. Out of my request, they gain important input and I gain the hearing of my voice by the region in which I was abused. They gain a strong and protective policy while I see powerfully positive results proceding from my pain. I believe God truly desires to turn the darkness into His light for all of us and I believe my chosen path is the path of God's desire for all. Pray that they will see this.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Dream

There was a special rock thats existence was told to me. I longed to go see it, but when my friends went they left me behind. I was so upset that 3 of them chose to accompany me on the voyage though it was a strange and magical one.

This voyage occured largely in the mind.

Though the rock was only a short distance away, to be reached a land that could not be traversed had to be crossed. The only way to reach the stone was to go underground and follow the paths and tunnels that first dove deep into the land then climbed steeply upward to the rock.

The four of us began our decent, sneaking into the tunnel while others looked for us in the wrong places. Down we went into the stifling tunnels that caused my fear of being crushed wanted to scream. We stopped and the Presence drew us a map on the wall and my fear quieted as I saw where I needed to go. Down we inched with the Presence. Then we swooped and swooshed around corners and bends at a rapid rate as our feet were swept out from under us. The heat became unbearable and I longed to be free.

The bottom was reached and we began the long climb up. My muscles ached and we came to a ledge where my friends told me that they had been before and not to fear because in the end we would be fine. The inhabitants of this strange land took us and staked us out on the cliffs but as we spoke the stakes came apart, our bodies were freed, and we taught of our God and fed the people spiritual food as they shared their physical food with us.

Onward we needed to climb, leaving friends behind who had begun as enemies. We stepped and moved upward and each aching step seemed fruitless and small but carried hope for I knew the journey had been completed before. We became exhausted and fell asleep on yet another ledge , only to awaken and find ourselves in a battle for our lives. In the end there stood two sets of swords rising up from the ground, in honor of two of my fallen friends. What grief! This was not how this journey was to unfold. How could this happen? How could this magical world really exist and cause such pain? And then I knew!

I reentered the tube of tunnels and there they were waiting for us, the two that had fallen, alive and well and smiling. They said we were almost there and so we reached up and commanded our feet to move upward one more small step after another - wondering how we would have the strength to return.
Then suddenly there it stood, that rock so large and full of pebbles. So unique. So different from all the rock surrounding it. Soft and sedimentary, formed as pebbles landed on the bottom of some stream to be gathered together and solidified into one large stone. Around it was all fine grained and strained metamorphic rock that had undergone the stresses of time and the heat and pressure of immense strain. All of the rock had been changed. All of the rock had faced this horrible pressing and pushing and forcing into some other type of rock, and yet, miraculously stood this large lens of stone in the midst and it was unchanged.

And I knew that this stone resided in my heart, one piece protected by God, unchanged from his original purpose and still soft, waiting.....

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Emotions and a Response


The past several days have been busy with 7th graders and labs. The evenings have been emotional. Though I tried to sit and compose my reply to Reg, I found I could not. I could not write a post either. Finally last night, I let all the anger come to the surface. I thought I was going to explode. Then with the anger readily available, I worked on what was my stuff and what was Reg's.

Interestingly, earlier in the day, I had spoken to one of my students who had received the brunt of some bullying in my homeroom class. He was in tears. As I comforted him, I heard myself teaching: Greg, I want you to think about this. When someone treats you like that, it is not a statement about who you are, but rather a very loud statement about who they are. What the other boys did does not define you Greg, but rather it says a lot about Tom and Jack. I could see his wheels turning.

And so also did mine last night. I had to unload the gun. I was ready to fire. When I am that angry, it is usually because I am letting someone else have more power in my life than they deserve. I arose from bed this morning able to write for the first time in days. Rather than calling Reg the names I wanted to call him last night, I was able to compose a first draft that is clear if not concise.
I reiterated my feelings on sharing with the ministerial leaders of the state.

"I have decided that in some way, my voice will be heard by the leadership of the Church. My desire is that this would happen in a similar setting and atmosphere as my conversation with you occurred. I desire to sit down and work with the (leaders of the state) as an invited individual with important experiences and strategies to suggest. I would love to be involved with a task force that is looking at and forming a newly revised policy. I am offering to give rather than to take. This is something few victims can do or would offer to do."
As you can see, I added a little more umph to my appeal.

In Reg's response to me, he informed me that it was in the file that I had agreed to the monitoring being set up on Bob. This was news to me, but as I thought about it, I did remember the previous minister pressing me as to my verbal response to his informing me that some type of monitoring would occur. I was not happy that he was unwilling to inform me of the details but in the moment of a phone call, I simply replied "ok". My tone was hesitant. I only gave the ok as I was pushed to do so.

I told Reg of this memory and shock that something so informal and of which I was totally unaware of it being viewed official was in the file. I feel as if I was tricked into something I was unaware of.

"I remember being told that some type of monitoring would occur. I was not given any detail, even though I questioned it, nor was it suggested that I had the right to disagree with the decision. I was unaware that my “ok” was being interpreted as giving my approval. I do remember some intensity on TN’s part, over the phone, to get me to give some sense of agreement, though at the time I was reticent and in the present this seems one more use of a pastor’s power to get what they need at my expense. Let me just reiterate that I was unaware that my opinion carried any weight or purpose. I feel now that I was coerced into giving a weak statement of agreement that was then recorded as something I did not even know I had given."

As you can see this is not something I want to see in the denomination I attend. Pure out and out deceit on their part or at least on the part of one man who attempted to run the whole show. Now, I am beginning to expect it. Shut the victims up and get through this as quickly and painlessly as possible seems to be the "justice" of the church.

I am hearing it once again from another regional minister. "No, you may not speak," is being spoken again. It will only require one more "no" for them to discover my "yes" is much louder.

I repeat - sadly but determined. I will not be silenced. Truth will prevail. Truth will be heard. It will be their decision as to whether they choose to embrace it but they will hear it. Let them face their God with their fingers in their ears, if they choose. However, they cannot defeat truth as long as our God lives.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Pain of Sexual Abuse Continues


It doesn't stop. It still inflicts its pain. I guess it will until heads are out of the sand and shame is destroyed along with the lies people choose to believe.



Tonight as I told my mom that I was sharing the children's sermon in two weeks, she challenged, "Why don't you both join the church?" I am not even sure how I answered her. I remember telling her that it might not ever happen. Talk about timing?! It wasn't her intent to hurt me and to answer her honestly would have hurt her. I do not want to hurt her.



So, on other hard questions. What do I want my reply to Reg to say?




  1. I want it to be forthright and not murky as his reply to me was. I am not a murky person. I prefer to speak the truth in love. I believe God honors that.


  2. I want to be honest in letting him know that I do not intend to remain silent in this. I do not want that to sound like a threat though.


  3. I want to open his eyes to the fact that those he is trying to protect from the embarrassment of this issue are going to be hurt more if I am shut out.


  4. I want to impress upon him that this is a passionate issue and the passion cannot be removed from it.


  5. I want to say that though his intent might be to share my points, since he seemed to not agree with them, he cannot do them the same justice I can.


  6. I want to challenge his statement on accepting the differences in mine and Bob's story. This is very dangerous and I want to point that out to him.


  7. I want to make it clear that I was never given the opportunity to give my opinion of the monitoring of Bob. I was TOLD that some would occur but not given any details and lead to believe I was not welcome to them. That is very different from saying I supported the direction it was going.


  8. I also want to make it clear that I requested to talk with the previous state minister about an advocate after having originally been unsure of that desire. And I asked to speak directly to the state ministerial committee. My email was never answered.


  9. He states there was some form of a response team but they never contacted me. I would like to know if there names are listed and if it was noted as to why I was not contacted by them.


I also intend to send the letter to the chair of the state ministerial commission.


I do not expect to be heard or to be allowed to speak. Yet, I have to try before I can take other roads to being heard. I forwarded Reg's email to David Clohessy yesterday and heard back from him today. He is the national leader of SNAP. I replied to his reply asking if he would help me if I decide to go public with this. He said he would be honored to help me. I hope it never comes to that. God, please open their eyes! This cannot be avoided. It has to be faced no matter how uncomfortable.


I am reminded of Trey Morgan's blog (http://www.treymorgan.net/2007/03/sexual-misconduct-among-church-leaders.html) and this quote:


"There are more questions that need to be answered. And this is a subject that we "as Christians and as a church" have ignored. "


I thank you Trey for not sticking your head in the sand! I wish you had the power to pull a few out for me right now. I wish all ministers were like you. Once again the church has hurt me. But men like Trey and Tom stand in righteousness and in the heart of Christ. I thank God for them.


Di


Di

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The State Minister Avoids Truth


Is it possible to accept both my statement and Bob's as truth?



No. One of us is not being truthful. Either I am lying. Bob is lying. I have deceived myself and believe I am telling the truth but am not. Or Bob has deceived himself and believes he is telling the truth but is not. (And yes, I know those are not complete sentences but it reads easier that way, fellow educators and writers.)



I have no reason to lie if Bob's truth is the truth. So be it. It was still abuse. He was still my youth pastor. There is no more shame in it for me that way. If it was true I would simply say it was true. He however has much to lose. It is the difference between his being a pedophile and predator or making a one time mistake. Big difference. Big difference in how many victims still exist out there hurting like me.



Reg, emailed me his reply today. He chooses to believe both of us, which essentially says he believes some weird kind of lie. Let me quote him:



"I believe honestly that your story is true. I also believe Bob’s recounting is true as well. Even though the statements may indeed differ, I believe both can be true statements of what each person believes. That difference, though it is uncomfortable, cannot be eliminated. It must simply be accepted."



No it cannot be accepted! This goes against my whole push for testing of perpetrators. It needs to make us uncomfortable enough to do something to stop the Bob's ever abusing again. We cannot simply say, oh my this makes me uncomfortable but I must accept it!!! That is not what God says. He says His word discerns the truth and rightly divides the truth from lies. Let him divide it. I stand before him willing to have that truth divided. Why, because I speak the truth. Anything I have been gray on I have avoided sharing.


As one of my books said earlier this week: "You will see the truth and after it has caused you to flinch a few times it will set you free." I can handle Bob's inability to see the truth - he is a sick sociopath and as such isn't supposed to be able to see the truth. Reg however is not supposed to be sociopathic but he sure has his head in the sand.



I am in shock. Reg says HE will share with the state ministers my desires. This is in direct opposition to what I requested. I choose to share it myself. It will cost me to do what I may need to do but it will cost me more to remain silent.



I called Tom, who read the email reply and called me back this evening to talk more. His statement was to remain calm and know this is not the end of it. I hope the rest of the ministerial commission is more like Tom than Reg. Our plan is to pray for a few days and contemplate on our reply to Reg. We (Tom is using the "We".) need to work at getting from point A (me not sharing in person) to point B (me sharing in person). I explained to Tom why Reg could not do this for me. He didn't even support my suggestions. He did not want the mandatory testing. There is no way he can present that in a convincing way. I can though.



Tom is very aware that I will not stop if not allowed to speak at the state ministers leadership committee. I have told him that I can easily send a letter to every church in this state and the two other states that Bob pastored in. I can explain my mission and tell my story. I can make phone calls. I can even talk to the national group working on this same issue.


This is very hard my friends. I thank God for my husband who has come to me and hugged and held me many times tonight and my pastor who unconditionally believes every word I have spoken.



Di


Friday, August 10, 2007

Faith


Have you ever stepped out in faith and then realized that you left your faith somewhere back behind you. That is what I realized a few moments ago.
I have contacted the state minister and now the chair of the state ministerial team, both out of a sense of God's purpose. Suddenly I realize that I have little faith that either will respond in such a way as to accomplish much. My expectation is that they will sound good but offer little.


I was wondering if this was just my own transference from past experiences, when I realized that it is not simply a matter of trusting them but also of trusting God. I know that when we trust God, it does not always mean that we are trusting him to work it out the way we want. Instead, I know that trusting God means that I believe He will work it out with his arms around me and with nothing for naught. In the least, my heart will be changed and I will grow. Whatever happens, His arms of grace and healing and strength will surround me. If I cannot look into the eyes of men and believe they will come through for me and other victims, I can look into the eyes of God and believe He will stand with me, proud of me, never tiring of working His will, His love, His mercy, His strength, and His grace into my life.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Victim to Survivor: Women Recovering from Clergy Sexual Abuse


The title of my post is the title of a new book I just received in the mail yesterday. The book is composed of 6 women's journeys through similar situations that I have experienced. I have only read the foreward by Marie Fortune and felt a need to share parts of it with you.


"The miracle of these stories (and the hundreds more like them) is that these women are the church, the broken body of Christ seeking to be made whole through the courage to demand justice. In their pain, these women call upon the church to be the church, and they really expect those of us in the institutional church to rise to the occasion. Tragically, all too often we have failed them. We have sent them away with a stone instead of the bread they deserved. Yet often, like the persistent widow in Luke's Gospel (18:2-7), they have gone back again and again to the unjust judge, demanding to be vindicated." (p. ix)


"Only occasionally (and I write this with a profound heaviness in my own heart) have such women found a just and compassionate response from their church. All too often they have been blamed, rejected, stigmatized, persecuted, and revictimized. Many have left the church in order to survive. But we must remember that they did not leave voluntarily; they were driven away by an institution that failed in its responsibility to protect its people from the unethical and exploitative practices of its leaders. Those who have left represent a huge loss for us all. Their skills, energy, and faith are no longer available to us for the ministry fo the church. A few have stayed, buoyed by a just and reasonable response. Many of these who have stayed now work from the inside to change the practices that they know are so harmful to congregants." (p. x)


"When these women brought complaints, they met with varying degrees of success. A wide range of responses are possible, from the tragic and outrageous to the good and solid. In my experience, the church is more likely to disappoint than to satisfy the needs of the survivor. But don't let this necessarily discourage you from trying. If and when you are ready, are feeling stong enough to sustain an effort, and have some system of support around you, you may choose to bring a complaint as part of your own healing process. Lower your expectations below what you deserve, and you may be surprised by getting more than you expected. " (p. xiii)


"For those of us who remain in the church and are committed to making it as safe a place as possible for those who turn to it, we must recognize that the stories we read here (along with many others) are a gift to us. They are the gift of the truth about who we are as church and what we need to do to be faithful to our call to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. These women speak truth to power in the hope that they will be heard and that things will be changed. It is a painful truth. As a colleague of mine says (in paraphrasing John 8:32), 'You will know the truth, and the truth will make you flinch before it sets you free.'" (p. xvi)


I think there is little I can add except to say it is good to not be alone.


Di

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Hurry Up and Wait


I was talking with one of my team members at school today. She commented that her weaknesses were impatience and a need to be in control. I told her that we were destined to either kill each other or be good friends because we understood each other well.


Today was the first with students and I am exhausted but haven't posted in a while and thought it would be good to add a brief update.


I have not yet heard any response from Reg. I am expecting some kind of reply in the next week. I also emailed an old friend of my brother's who it turns out is the chair of the state ministerial association. He however is waiting at the bedside of his mother who is not expected to live much longer.


Thus the title of my post. I have no choice but to wait, yet with each day I become more frustrated and more determined that I will not be silenced this time. My email to Jay, my brother's friend was out of both of those emotions. If the ball is not picked up and run with, I will give it a swift boot, hopefully with God's blessing.


It remains my heart to make positive differences in the lives of others. Too many times the church however chooses to white wash over abuse out of denial or their own pastoral softness. As I talked with Reg, it was obvious that the concepts of Bob's mental/emotional condition being as bad as I described them was not something he wanted to believe. Three or four times he tried to pad the worst and suggest some other remote option.


We are all that way, not wanting to wrap our minds around the worst especially if we know the worst is about a person we care about. Once again it all boils down to truth and our willingness to face it. Truth is a hard thing to face but with it comes the move of God's Spirit.


Please pray that the truth will prevail and this denomination will care for its sheep by coming down firmly and decisively against pastoral sexual misconduct. Pray they can't sweep it under the rug. And please pray that I have the ability to continue to hear God's leading and the stamina to do this. I know I will be both crushed and angered if my thoughts and requests are shrugged off.


Yet, I am determined that good will come from the pain I suffered, that my journey will not be for naught, that others will be handled better, and that I can see one good consequence of my pain.


Di

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Recovering the Lost Self by Elisabeth A. Horst


I found a wonderful source of encouragement and healing in a little booklet entitled Recovering the Lost Self: Shame-Healing for Victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse by Elisabeth A. Horst. Packed into 54 pages is much of what I learned over the past 7 years.

Horst is a psycholgist on the board of the Interfaith Sexual Trauma Institute, the organization birthed by Marie Fortune. Much of the book expounds on the story in Mark 5 of the woman with the hemorrhage and her determination to obtain healing.

Some powerful excerpts from the book follow:

"Any relationship founded in the exploitation of power will produce shame, whether or not the participants are aware of it at the time." (p. 26)

"Any time one person treats another as an extension of the self, as a thing to be used to gratify needs rather than as a self-directed, separate self with its own needs and interests the user shames the one used. Sexual abuse is a primary example of a shaming interaction, since the abuser meets his or her own needs at the expense of the needs of the victim. The actions of the abuser in effect say to the victim, 'You deserve to be treated like something less than human.' It is poignantly easy for a victim to accept and internalize this terrible message." (p. 22)

"It is hard to believe anyone can survive such intense pain as shame, met undefended, can produce." (p. 45)

"Sometimes strategies that produce more shame in the moment lead to gradual healing over time. This is often true of telling one's story to a sympathetic listener. Sometimes activities that temporarily soothe shame will actually increase it over time." (p. 31)

"Any time a victim takes action on her own behalf, she is healing a bit of her shame." pg 36
"For most of us, the experience of healing comes not in one dramatic incident but in many small experiences." (p. 37)

"In order to heal shame, a victim must take the unfamiliar, even revolutionary, step of choosing to act solely out of her own interest." (p. 38)

"Shame is an internal experience and trasforming it requires a healthy focus on oneself and one's own needs." (p. 39)

"If shame is about not being worthy, not being smart, not being pretty, not being good, not being sane, or simply not deserving to be at all, then its greatest antidote is simply to be oneself." (p. 39)

"The single most effective cure for shame is the experience of being seen and understood exactly as you are by someone who has no need or wish for you to be anything different. This means that the most basic form of healing 'touch' for shame is compasssionate talk." (p. 40)

Di

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Teacher Returns

Today was actually sort of refreshing as I returned to school to prepare for the coming year. At the end of the long day (8:00 - 6:30) some of my former students came rushing in for hugs and hello's. They were there for the 8th grade orientation and greeting their new teachers. It was so good to see them come running with arms wide.

As I gave big smiles and hugs to them, I wondered at the power of my own position. I wondered how someone could even consider hurting one of them. Why would someone want control and power so much that they would destroy those smiles and joy at seeing you? I cannot comprehend it.

However I can comprehend crossing boundaries with a pastor. How scary it is at times when I see my own heart open to Tom. I thank God for my own healthy boundaries. It took many years to find the pieces and build them. I thank God for his boundaries. Yet, at the same time, I feel all the human emotions when I experience the acceptance and gentle care in his eyes, or we clasp hands in prayer, or I get a hug on the way out the door. Those are very intimate expressions and God's love is intimate.

I hope you don't judge me for admitting what I imagine most of us feel at times in similar situations. That is why it is abuse, because we do feel it. Pastors carry the power to give us hope, the power to manifest the love of God, the power to offer forgiveness and encouragement, the power of counsel, the power in a hand held and are around the shoulder, the power to call us to repentance, the power to pray for our healing, the power to bestow God's blessing.

I praise God for healthy boundaries. I pray for Tom's protection and I think I am going to add a new prayer. I think all pastors need this. I am going to pray special blessings on his relationship with his wife. The scripture says that a cord of three strands is not easily broken. That scripture was used in our wedding ceremony 27 years ago. May that third cord, God's Spirit, hold tight my pastor and his wife.

Pastors with integrity - God bless them.

Di

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Monitoring the Perpetrator

Yesterday I learned that Bob had been monitored by a congregant after my report of his abuse. What Reg could not tell me was why Bob was unaware there had been any monitoring. My questions to Reg seemed to cause a lot of squirming on his part. Had this person reported back to the state board of ministers? Had anyone followed up as the years passed? Did this person stay a member of the church? Did they have any training to know what to look for? Are they still alive?

Reg, knew his answers were not satisfactory.

Today I talked with my pastor, Tom who is convinced Reg will follow up. Tom says Reg will do his best to meet my needs and to give him time to deal with the emotional bomb that has gone off in his lap. Not that I am a bomb but what happened to me is. Tom described how the shock of it affected him, how wrapping one's mind around the reality of what all I told him was difficult.

When Tom said that if nothing happened over a few months time to cause changes to be made to the policy, he would make sure something happened, I cried. I believe him. I trust him. When I shared my concern that Reg did not believe my evaluation of the three conversations with Bob, Tom agreed to call him and tell him his rendition as a support of mine.

I trust a pastor. Radical.

I miss my brother who was a pastor in the state, in this denomination and once the head of the state ministerial committee. Why didn't tell him? Oh how I wished I had. Yesterday my sister-in -law assured me that he would have supported me and helped me find resolution. Oh how good it was to hear that. And today I told Tom that though I had lost my brother as an advocate, I had gained his support - and it means a lot.

I wrote an email to Reg. I reminded him of the scripture of the 99 sheep that were left to seek out the one lost. Will this church choose to seek victims out when it is known they probably exist? I do not think I will be able to quit until I see that in writing.

Di

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

An Advocate for Tougher Policies


The advocate today was me. For the first time I filled the dual role of advocate and victim. Though I would be more politically correct to call myself a survivor, there are times like today that the victim status gets in my face and seems appropriate. At two points in the meeting, Reg, apologized and talked of my pain and during those two periods tears filled my eyes and pain clinched my throat. I felt the victim. I felt vulnerable.


Sandwiched in the middle of those times, I stood my ground and argued my case and there were periods during which I was very determined in my argument. I was glad to see I had the ability to stand firmly for my beliefs. The advocate came out loud and clear.


One of those arguments (as in a lawyer arguing her case) is my belief that mandatory psychological testing should be required of any pastor accused of misconduct. Reg, wondered aloud if the testing should be a part of the investigation process or if it would be better to reserve it for a later period. The concept of mandatory testing seemed to make him uncomfortable. I insisted it was necessary as part of the investigation. Frequently, during the hour and a half, I had an opportunity to point out this fact. I argued my case well.


Reg seemed willing to agree with me that there seemed little to be accomplished by keeping findings, discipline, or future monitoring methods from the victim. They were kept from me and resulted in a lack of closure. I read this paragraph to Reg:


"It is recognized that justice, as referred to on pg. 3, as a desired goal of implementation of the policy, can only be served to the victim(s) as they are allowed open access to the results of their report. In reporting abuse, a victim seeks to achieve justice, regain power and control, and to prevent further abuse. Control has been taken from the victim in the form of the sexual exploitation or abuse. The (leadership of the) Church should take all steps possible to return control to the victim and honor their purposes in coming forward. This includes open disclosure of the investigation’s findings, disciplinary measures enacted, and any future monitoring of the accused. Without open disclosure the victim cannot be assured that the accused will not abuse
again and a sense of closure cannot be obtained."


I like that paragraph. It sounds strong and powerful.


The third primary issue is my desire to always allow the victim the opportunity to plead his/her case at the Disciplinary Hearing. Ray admits the policy describing a disciplinary hearing is lacking - it does not exist, so one could not have occured in my case.


The positives of the meeting are:



  • I was heard.

  • Reg agreed to review all I had written.

  • Reg will get back with me as to what he agrees with or disagrees with.

  • Reg agreed to consider my requests.

  • Reg will look into my folder and tell me the answers he feels he can offer me. If he cannot give me an answer for a reason he is unaware of in the present, he will tell me why he cannot give me the answer.

  • Reg promised that the region would address some changes to the policy.

  • Reg seemed disturbed that I never obtained a sense of closure due to the way the original report was handled.

  • Reg winced noticeably at my statement that Bob was read my full statement but I was not allowed to know his statement, and this led me to a further sense of victimization.

  • Reg apologized and tears filled his eyes over my pain on two occasions. In this he showed far more remorse than Bob.


The negatives of the meeting are:



  • Reg seemed to have a hard time embracing the thought of mandatory psychological testing of all misconduct perpetrators.

  • Reg seemed to have a difficult time believing my assessment of Bob and on several occasions verbalized his attempts to mentally come to grips with the concept of Bob being a true sociopath.

Tomorrow and the following days, I will try to give some further details of my own thoughts and feelings as well as details of the meeting. Overall, I would rate it a 7 on a scale of 10. My hope is that my rating will fall low in reality of what comes from the meeting.


I feel a hodge-podge of emotion. Relief. Gratitude. Anger. Frustration. Pain. Sadness. Hope.


Hope is the scariest of all because "Hope deferred makes the heart sick." That is somewhere in Proverbs and I am too tired to look it up.


Thanks for your prayers.


Di

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Mirror Mirror on the Wall Who is the Best Pastor of them All


Well, a few of you pastors out there that read my posts may disagree, but today Tom gets my vote.

I must be the most insecure parishoner that exists. I always expect the worst.

I called yesterday just to touch base before he went out of town again and he offered to meet with me today even when I didn't ask. He just came back from out of town and is leaving again and he made time to spend with me - gave me an hour of his time. And then he offered to make a spot for me to come by on the 1st. Seems he wants to hear all about my time with Reg. I'm not just a number, he cares.

Without my asking Tom immediately voiced his support of my endeavor with Reg and helped me organize my agenda into 4 or 5 points to discuss with him on the 31st. He gave me a good idea of what Reg is like and what to expect. I could go ahead with my meeting without it but I wanted Tom's support and I have it 100%, as well as his opinions, thoughts, words, and smile.

So what is the point of this rambling about what a great guy Tom is? Power. Power is the point. Tom has a role in life as my pastor. With that role comes power he does not ask for, and I, honestly, would rather not give away. Yet, the power differential exists simply because the relationship exists, and as long as the relationship remains, so will the power differential.

Power.

Power to heal. Power to build up. Power to encourage.

Power, neither good nor bad, is what we choose to make it.