Wednesday, November 3, 2010
I enjoy writing. It's an outlet for me. But it felt odd to inter-mix my parenting/general life stuff with the heavier stuff on here. And I found myself less and less inclined to write about abuse stuff and more inclined to write about work and home life. So I decided to create a separate blog. If you are so inclined to read it, email me or comment with your email and I'll send you a link.
I may be back to post more here, especially as things surface and hit. I will defintely be around to read all my blogging buddies' blogs.
Be safe and take care.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Thursday, October 7, 2010
I have read both of Erin Merryn's books and I must say they are wonderfully written. Erin is a powerful advocate for sexual abuse survivors everywhere. Her latest crusade is passing Erin's Law. In school, children experience fire drills and tornado drills. The "just say no" campaign teaches kids what to do when presented with drugs. But there is no program designed to teach kids what to do if someone attempts to molest the, or what to do if they have been abused. Erin's law is an education campaign to address this missing piece in school.
I was super excited to get a facebook message from Erin saying she was going to appear on Oprah. I watched the show last night. (Read about her appearance here). The show was a must-see.
Oprah's episode was titled "One Mom, 20 Personalities" and featured Kim Noble. There were flashbacks to Truddi Chase, and an update on her story, as well as an interview with her daughter.
I remember watching Truddi on Oprah. The original show aired in 1990. I don't know if i saw the original broadcast or a repeat. But it was in the 90s that I first saw it. I remember "rabbit" one of the personalities. I remember the terror in Truddi's voice and thinking how horrible it must be to have these personalities that just wouldn't forget about the abuse. (you may know Truddi from "when rabbit howls" or from the movie "The Voices within). At that time I thought my own method of "pushing the memories down" was the best way to cope.
There is an interview of two girls on the website discussing the show and they said, "They believed if they confided in their mother they would never have to see their molester again. But instead of going to the police, their mother, Ellen, struck a tragic deal with the man molesting her children. "I took the girls to a counselor. The counselor said, 'You know, really you have two choices,'" Ellen explains. "'You can have him arrested or you can see that he gets counseling,' which I thought I did. He didn't end up going continually to the counseling." Their own father, who knew what happened, remained close with the man, even continuing to bring the girls to the abuser's home." I can well relate to their situation. My mother gave me the two choices instead. Tell and go live with my father, or keep quiet and he (Toilet) would get counseling, which I thought he did, but he did not.
If you get the chance to see this episode online or on a rerun, watch it. It is very healing and very well presented. Also check out Erin's website and how you can support and advocate for Erin's law.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
I hate to burst her bubble but Mommy does not have all the answers.
Bugaboo is learning lots of new vocabulary words and "pop pop" is one of his favorites. Pop Pop can mean his grandpa (Husband's dad) or a lollipop. Munchkin wanted to know why she calls Husband Daddy but Husband calls his father "Pop." Why I call my grandfather "Grandpa" but she calls hers "Pop Pop." It became quite confusing. She asked me what I call my Dad and I said, "I used to call him Dad." She said, "oh yeah. He's the bad guy who is dead, right? We visited where he is in the ground."
I tried to explain that my father is dead and yes we did visit his grave. I explained that I used to see him a lot but things changed and I hadn't seen him in a very long time. I was trying to keep it simple. The last thing I want her asking if her daddy will leave like mine. I told her that he was not nice to be around and so Sister and I had chosen not to be around him. She asked, "is he the bad guy that Grandma lives with?"
I had to explain that Grandma does live with a bad man but that person is not my father. We talked about divorces. Some of her friends have divorced parents so she understood that some children don't have mommies and daddies who live together. I told her that Grandma remarried and her husband makes bad choices.
She wanted to know if that is why we don't go to Grandma's house and I explained yes that was the reason. She had been asking about visiting Grandma a few days prior. I told her that Mommy and Daddy would not let her be around that bad man so we didn't visit there and he was not allowed to come to our house.
Then she asks, "what bad things did he do?" I told her that they were bad things and we didn't need to go into all the details because that was grown-up stuff. I think she's still a little too young to know that.
So far I think I'm doing okay. Then she asks, "why did he do those things mommy?"
That, sweetie, I do not know.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
This year my daughter's class starts out with their cards on green. Green is good. Green means the teacher only has to remind them to stay in their seat once or to raise their hand. Green is what is expected from first-graders. If your behavior is less than green, then you flip your card to yellow which is a warning and small consequence and then blue which means a consequence and parents are called. Any worse is red which means a trip to the principal's office, a parent call and major consequences. Every day the students color the square on their calendar with what color then ended on. A parent has to sign the paper each night.
Last night as we drove home, I asked Munchkin if it was a green day. She said, "yes" (she's always been on green, or purple which is for extraordinary behavior) but then asked me what would happen if she ever came home with yellow, blue or red. I explained that those were not acceptable behaviors and that Daddy and I would have to discuss consequences. Munchkin became very quiet and said that she had been on yellow one time but by the end of day had earned back green. She further explained that the rule was no talking in the halls, but that day they had been told not to use a specific water fountain because it was broken. Her friend started to use that fountain and Munchkin told her not to use that one. The teacher caught her talking and put her on yellow.
I explained to Munchkin that I was glad she had earned back a green card. We all make mistakes or have accidents happen, but what is most important is learning from them. The fact that she re-gained green shows she learned from the incident. I asked her what she might do differently next time and she said tell the teacher the student was using the wrong fountain. Munchkin asked me if she would have gotten in trouble at home and I told her, "no." I explained that I thought she had been trying to help her friend and that her intentions were good. I praised her for thinking of her friend and then told her I thought it was a good idea next time to tell the teacher instead. I told her in that situation having to flip her card to yellow was consequence enough.
Munchkin got quiet and asked me who I would believe. I didn't understand and she said, "what if my teacher said something different. Who would you believe?"
-------- silence ------my thoughts ran wild ---------
Do I tell her I'd always believe her? I know kids stretch the truth sometimes. I know kids lie. I know kids try to cover up when they get in trouble. But I want to let her know I trust her and I believe her. But what if there is a time she tells a ridiculous lie? Remember that time in preschool when she was obviously lying and I knew the teacher's version was correct.
------- deep breath --------
I told Munchkin that I trusted her. I made sure she understood what trust meant. I told her that trust was a very important thing. I promised her that I would always want to find out from her what happened before I made a decision and that I would talk to her about what the teacher said. I told her it was important for her to always tell me the truth. I explained that just because a teacher flips her card to yellow doesn't mean the teacher didn't believe her. I ended by saying, "I love you and I believe in you. You can always tell me anything and I hope that you will always tell me the truth. I will love you no matter what you do and I trust that you will always try to do your best."
We pulled into the driveway then and we stopped talking. But I replayed the conversation over and over in my head. Did I say the right thing? Does she understand? What should I have said.
This parenting thing is not easy. Not at all. And not having had good role models makes it even harder. I'm thankful for good friends and moms of similar aged children (like Kim) who help me navigate through this journey.
What about you? Have any of you been in a similar situation? How have you handled it when you know your child isn't being fully honest about something but your child wants you to believe them over another adult?
Monday, September 20, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Do you ever wonder how you would have ended up had you not been abused? I suspect every abuse survivor has had such fantasies. Imagine if you had a mirror where you could see what "might have been."
My daughter is very much like me. In some ways that is good. In other ways, I am trying to influence her to be different. In her I see my love of books which is a positive. I also see my tendency toward being anxious, for which I am trying to teach her some coping skills.
This past week Munchkin came down with a stomach flu. The only person she wanted was Mommy. It was difficult to even get away from her to go to the bathroom by myself. In some ways the illness had nice results. It's hard to find time to really spend as much time as I would like snuggling with Munchkin. With illness, we couldn't go anywhere or do anything much. We spent all day napping, snuggling, watching TV, reading books and talking.
There was also a lot of time for reflection.
Of course I had the typical childhood stomach bugs, colds, chicken pox and other ailments. I do not remember much coddling or sympathy. When I was really young and sick, my mom would make a poached egg with toast dish. It was the only time she cooked that dish. It is the only concession I remember to being sick. There was no bell to ring. I learned early on how to hold my own hair back and my own trashcan. I learned how to clean myself up. I learned that being sick was not an excuse to interrupt mom's soap opera habit. You certainly never whined. Near death was the only reason an illness would require a trip to the doctor. Being sick simply meant you kept more to yourself.
At 6:30 am on a Sunday morning when I heard the pitter patter of little feet coupled with "Mommy my tummy hurts," I immediately scooted over on my bed, grabbed a trash can and wrapped my arms around Munchkin. I held her hair back and tucked it up in a ponytail when she was vomiting. I changed sheets, wiped her nose and mouth, and held her shoulders. I cleaned her up. I held her when she was sick and after. I made sure she had Gatorade, 7-up and everything else she needed. On the few times I did leave her sight, I was ready to run back in at a moment's notice if she called. I sat with her and watched hours of TV, let her nap on my shoulder and read her chapters and chapters of her favorite book.
I don't say this to toot my own horn. I can't say how I know to do this stuff. Some of it comes naturally. Some comes from what I've seen others do. Some comes from what I wish I had experienced.
I see much of myself in my daughter. It's interesting to see "myself" in a totally different environment from my childhood. In her I can catch small glimpses of what I might have been. I'm not sure yet what to do with the glimpses I'm seeing, but for right now I'm storing the information away to be sorted later.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
So the good news is that he was released and his home, albeit with a heart monitor. Bad news is no answers. My sister is getting him in with a different practice that has a team approach - psychiatrist, cardiologist and neurologist.
Thanks for everyone's prayers and thoughts.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
One trend we are seeing here in my area is a huge increase in the number of children forced into prostitution. There have been large sting operations in the newspaper documenting a few successful attempts to infiltrate these groups and arrest the ring-leaders. However, for every success, we know there are large numbers that go undetected. We have learned of large groups of middle school girls that leave after school on Friday and are shipped through 3 states, forced to have sex with large numbers of men or to pose for pornographic pictures, only to return home Sunday night or Monday morning, in time for school. Families of these young girls are told they have no choice - either they let these girls go or risk being killed. With one gang, their focus were on families here illegally. The family feared being deported and this fear was further used to force cooperation
When people think of human trafficking, they think of immigrants, usually here illegally, being forced across state lines. That is sometimes the case, but not always. The biggest misconception about human trafficking is that it only involves the poverty stricken and immigrants. The truth is that human trafficking doesn't discriminate. It targets males and females, old and young, poor and rich. The Polaris Project is one organization combating human trafficking. It is named after the north star that guided slaves along the underground railroad toward freedom. It's website features testimonials from some survivors.
How many of us can relate to Dawn, from Canada, who says:
My name is Dawn and I am a daughter, sister, mother and contributing member of society. I am also an abused and molested child, former drug addict and prostitute. My life started out fairly normally up until my parents divorced when I was six years old..............................I have often heard men say that I had a choice, and I did, it was either work as a prostitute or starve to death because it is illegal in Canada to work at 12, not to mention that no one will hire you if you have no address and are only 13 or 14............................I got into prostitution at 16 when my girlfriend told me she could help me make enough money for a hotel room and living money. She had an older friend who liked to have 'parties' with several young girls and I could come if I wanted to. I would make a few bucks. The 'parties' involved several older men looking for sex with young girls…. at the first one I slept with 4 men and made $400.00 but I felt ashamed and remember crying while these men had sex with me. These “parties” continued for a long time....................The road back has been long and hard for me. I have had many defeats and some pretty nice victories as well. It has taken me close to 11 years to really feel as though I have come through the majority of the fire. And on the really hard days I miss my former friend...cocaine. But I know that is not the way. I have so much to lose, a wonderful family, good job, academic career and so many other thing. For the first time in my life the good out weighs the bad. I feel proud and lucky that I am still alive today to tell you my story. So the next time you see a woman on the street try to think of where she has come from before you judge.
With the increase in "sexting" how many young teens will be able to relate to Theresa, another survivor of human trafficking who says:
The late-night calls began when Theresa Flores was 15. In 1980, before everyone had a cell phone, the private phone that Flores' parents had installed in her bedroom was a luxury. But it nearly proved her undoing. Minutes after getting a call, Flores would silently slip out of the house, cut through the backyard and get in a car waiting at the curb. She would then be whisked away from her home in an affluent Detroit suburb to homes and hotels, anonymous places where she was forced to have sex for hours with strangers. "I can't describe to you the feeling of terror. No child should ever have to know that kind of fear. I didn't know what I was going to have to endure that night, for how long, or if I was going to come back home." What started innocently with Flores' infatuation with an older male classmate turned to date rape caught on film by some of the rapist's friends. They used the photos to blackmail the girl into sexual slavery that lasted two years and involved hundreds of men.
For more survivor testimonies, see here.
After reading these accounts, especially Dawn's, I realize perhaps how close I came to meeting a similar fate. How many abuse survivors did whatever they had to in order to escape the abuse, only to fall into worse situations? When I read accounts like these, I realize that I am fortunate in many respects to have survived with my life, even as difficult as that life is sometimes.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
On my kitchen wall hangs a huge calendar. It is the desk top calendar type with big blocks, which I fill with writing. Each family member is assigned a color. At a glance I can see who is going where and who has what going on. If the calendar is filled with "orange" (husband's color) then I know I need to fill in with some "purple" (my color). And there definitely needs to be a good emphasis of red (family color).
When I was a little child, I learned that blending all the colors together made a big brown mess. Bugaboo loves to "cow-ar" (color) lately and most of his paintings end up looking like a big brown blob.
My life feels a bit like a big brown blob right now.
School starts soon. My life feels a bit on hold as we await the all-important notice to find out who will be Munchkin's teacher this year. She's also signed up to play soccer. We find out teams and practice nights at the end of this week. So my already rainbow colored calendar is going to be even more filled when I add in all those items. Hunting season starts soon and lots of orange is going to be creeping into the calendar soon. Because Husband is still working second shift (and that won't be changing any time in the near future) his hunting all day Saturday will really be cutting into family time. All of this puts more stress on me who already has all the stress of the children after work/school in the evenings. Juggling the calendar and making sure we aren't overbooked is my responsibility, and I typically do it well.
Perhaps all of these impending changes explain the rising anxiety I feel. The jittery feeling that won't go away. The tightness in my chest and inability to catch a full breath. Perhaps it has to do with the doctor's appointment reminder call telling me about Bugaboo's doctor's appointment which I had completely forgot and which is not at all on the calendar. (how did that happen?)
In the past I would have some sense of security in church. I knew that on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings I would be seeing much of my support network. People that I could just walk by and get a pat on the shoulder or a hug. People that can joke with me about school starting and the school supply rush. Those encounters two times a week kept me going. I don't go to that church anymore. Several of the people I considered friends have "unfriended" me on facebook. I miss my twice daily dose of cheer and pick-me-ups.
I don't do well with chaos and uncertainty. I have found myself redecorating and reorganizing my house. We disassembled the crib and reorganized furniture between the kids' rooms this weekend. I have purged old documents and all the dollar-store crappy toys that seem to accumulate. All of this is an attempt to find some sense of normalcy and organization, at least in my physical surroundings.
But there is something else out there. I can't put my finger on it. I know a lot of this "Thing" is the uncertainty that has resulted from leaving my church. But that doesn't explain the increase in panic attacks and intrusive pictures/memories that keep popping into my head lately. I don't know what that comes from.
I figure if things are much better next week after I have learned and planned for the school routine and schedules, then it is probably just back-to-school stress. If not, then I need to dig a little deeper. There is this nagging voice in my head that says there are some undealt with issues/memories trying to surface - but I keep beating that voice back into submission.
Monday, August 16, 2010
accountable for the prevention of domestic and sexual violence. They often team up with women's organizations like Rape Crisis centers. On their website, they have a list of 10 Things Men Can Do In Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention. I thought it was great so I wanted to share it here.
10 Things Men Can Do
1. Acknowledge and understand how male dominance and aspects of unhealthy
manhood are at the foundation domestic and sexual violence.
2. Examine and challenge our individual beliefs and the role that we play in
supporting men who are abusive.
3. Recognize and stop colluding with other men by getting out of our socially defined roles, and take a stance to prevent domestic and sexual violence.
4. Remember that our silence is affirming. When we choose not to speak out against domestic and sexual violence, we are supporting it.
5. Educate and re-educate our sons and other young men about our responsibility in preventing domestic and sexual violence.
6."Break out of the man box"- Challenge traditional images of manhood that stop us from actively taking a stand in domestic and sexual violence prevention.
7. Accept and own our responsibility that domestic and sexual violence will not end until men become part of the solution to end it. We must take an active role in creating a cultural and social shift that no longer tolerates violence and discrimination against women and girls.
8. Stop supporting the notion that domestic and sexual violence is due to mental illness, lack of anger management skills, chemical dependency, stress, etc… Domestic and sexual violence is rooted in male dominance and the socialization of men.
9. Take responsibility for creating appropriate and effective ways to educate and
raise awareness about domestic and sexual violence prevention.
10. Create responsible and accountable men's initiatives in your community to support domestic and sexual violence prevention.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
I'm working on preparing orders from last week's court hearing. I just typed this sentence and it jumped off the screen at me -
That the parental rights of the Mother be and are herewith irrevocably terminated in and to the minor child Jane Ann Smith; those being all the rights and obligations of the Mother to the minor child and of the said minor child to the Mother arising from the parental relationship hereby being fully and irrevocably terminated.
What a powerful statement to this child. Jane Smith (not her real name obviously) is not yet three years old. She doesn't understand what is going on. She knows that she was hurt as a baby. She knows that her mother left for "work" over one year ago, leaving Jane in the home of her purported grandmother. The mother never returned. After some time had passed, the Grandmother needed to take Jane to the doctor and so she called Social Services. Genetic testing revealed that the person that is the Grandmother's son is not the biological father of little Jane. No one knows who Jane's father is. The Grandmother decided blood wasn't any thicker than water in this case and she was going to keep Jane. The termination of Mom and (now unknown) Dad's parental rights were necessary so Grandmother can adopt Jane.
It was a simple hearing. The Grandmother showed up. No one else was there. No one objected or contested. I presented enough facts for the court to find there were grounds to terminate rights and that it was in Jane's best interest that it be done. After I finished, the Grandmother filed her petition to adopt.
Such a simple court process. I came back to the office and was typing the Order. What powerful words.
All the rights and obligations of the Mother to the child arising from the parental relationship are fully and irrevocably terminated
If you are a survivor of parent (or parental figure) abuse, then you know that your parents abused the parental rights they were given. They didn't deserve them. Through their own actions they terminated their rights. They refused to undertake any of the obligations parents should, especially the obligation to love their child and keep them safe.
As a child you don't know understand all the rights, responsibilities and obligations a parent should have. You just know your parents aren't keeping you safe. They are hurting you. They just aren't acting right. Even young children have an understanding of right and wrong. It takes a long time for children to understand consequences, and even when they do, it is mostly other people imposing consequences on them.
I remember wondering when my parents were going to suffer consequences. Here I was trying to grow up and do right. I was constantly reminded that bad actions (and even sometimes not-so-bad actions) had consequences. When was someone, anyone, going to impose some consequences on my parents? On my abuser?
I didn't have a grandmother-figure that came in to save me. My relatives all took the "blood is thicker than water" mantra to heart. They kept quiet, circled the wagons, and told me to keep quiet and respect my parents. They sure weren't taking any actions to protect me or to see that consequences were appropriately meted out to my parents.
When I typed that paragraph above, it was powerful. I don't take joy in drawing the big red line between Jane and her parents. But I do take a sense of satisfaction in imposing some consequences on her parents. And I did take great joy in helping hand up the adoption petition.
I'm wondering how many of us would find satisfaction in writing our own termination order. You could you know. I previously drafted my own divorce decree. It was really powerful. If you think you'd find it helpful, feel free to borrow mine and adapt it accordingly. Take a try at drafting your own Termination Order too, if you want. Words can be a powerful thing. I felt that today. And sometimes taking words and using them for your own healing is a great and powerful thing too.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
I've been doing a bit of work in the abuse/neglect arena of social services. I swore up and down I wanted no part of this area of law when I started in this job. But then I began to miss the courtroom and trial work. I missed the excitement of trials. I started attending juvenile court and helped out with some research and such. I became more and more involved. Fast forward to today when, in the interest of "cross-training," I am handling the child welfare docket once per month.
I am enjoying this work immensely. I know that there is no way I could have handled these cases even one year ago - definitely not in the midst of those three years of intense healing. Now, however, I am working to achieve a balance between legal objectivity and panic-induced over-awareness. It hasn't been a perfect balance, and it continues to be a struggle, but one worth fighting.
Recently I observed a case. I watched a stone-faced mother sit in court and tell the judge that yes, she was still living with the man that the court found to have sexually assaulted her ten year old daughter. I kept staring at this mother. The social workers hoped that hearing all the facts at trial would get through to this woman. But it did not. Getting the mother involved in a non-offending parent therapy program has not helped. The mother showed up in court this time proud that she had completed all the items on her check-list - substance abuse assessment, psychological evaluation, non-offending parent therapy. The Judge point-blank told the mother that it didn't matter how many boxes she checked - until the Judge could be assured that this child would be safe in the mother's home, the child was not going home. Not just this child (the victim) but all the children (the two siblings too). I wanted to stand up and cheer, "Go Your Honor!"
In another case where the boyfriend is accused of molesting a young girl, the father was brought to trial from jail, where he is serving time. He sat next to the father of this girl's brother. Both men are serving time. I saw the men whispering. I saw the looks they were shooting to the mother and her boyfriend. I needed to discuss some matters with these men and ask them if they wished to be transported in for further hearings. They adamantly said, "yes." My surprise must have showed on my face. These men have no chance of being reunited with their children or of playing any meaningful role in their lives - both are serving long-term sentences. One of the men remarked, "I'm gonna be here to listen to the trial. If I find out that man hurt that child.......well I have friends on the outside. And I'm already serving one life sentence for murder. Another won't matter." The man speaking wasn't even the girl's father, but rather the father of the brother. The daughter's dad said, "Let him [boyfriend] get in here. He'll be taken care of." I couldn't help it. I smiled. I nodded. That man stood a notch higher in my eye.
Today was my first hearing where I requested a child come into foster care. The mother isn't an overly terrible person. She is just clueless. She lacks all motivation. Even the filing of this action against her didn't spur action. Perhaps the child coming out of her care will help. I heard her wailing behind me, "Don't take my baby......" It wasn't as hard to hear as I thought it might. This child deserves a better chance. He deserves to go to school the entire year and not miss half the school days because his mother can't get up on time. He deserves to learn to read and write, and have a parent who does more than sit him in front of computer tutoring programs.
I'm expecting some tough times as I take on more in this area of work. I have made it clear that I do not want to handle any serious sexual assault cases or any cases where children are testifying. That wouldn't be good for me - or the case.
This isn't what I pictured myself doing. But I'm feeling good about it. I feel like I'm making a difference.
At our staff meetings, awards are given out to nominated employees for going "above and beyond." One of the social workers was nominated based on a letter sent from a former foster child. The child wrote, "Ten years ago I told you that a bad man hurt me. You believed me. It made all the difference in the world. Thank you."
I don't want thanks. But I do want to make a difference. Fighting through the healing process is letting me do that.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
What I do know is true is that there was a horrific church split from which my church (now old church) was formed. The pastor was accused of manipulation and being overly controlling. We now know that those accusations are probably true. However, the way in which the split took place was not appropriate. I was not there. However, some of those in my group were. The church called a meeting and invited all members, even those who hadn't attended church in years. There was a public meeting with the pastor and his family present. He was voted out - a close vote with a margin of less than 10. He and his family were then escorted out.
There were tape recorded conversations and even rumors of bugged offices. It was a horrible situation.
It's common knowledge that the pastor is paranoid. Everyone knows it. The pastor admits it. I always assumed it was from the church split. However, his family and those that grew up with him, say the pastor has always been that way. So I'm really not sure what caused it. I know that he is delusional because of his paranoia. He will do things out of his paranoia in attempts to take control. He makes up stories and lies. What is astounding is that he then believes the lies - so he can look you in the eyes and lie straight to your face. I truly believe he could pass a lie detector test.
I realize that my faith has been intertwined with my church. To some extent that is not a bad thing. However, it becomes a major problem when your church leader is not a godly person.
A friend sent me an article entitled "Is your Pastor a Cult Leader?" At first I laughed. But then I read on -
While many of today's evangelical pastors don't reject the foundational Christian doctrines such as the virgin birth, the trinity, the resurrection and salvation through Jesus Christ alone; they do however exhibit some of the following characteristics that are common to cult leaders.
1. Specially appointed by God (our pastor claims to be "called" by God. Not unusual for a pastor to claim. However, he sometimes says it happened at age 12, sometimes at age 15, and sometimes other ages. He can not give details of his calling and has never talked about his own faith profession).
2. The cult's adherents often expound the virtues of the leader and seek to cover the leader's sins and wickedness.
Some of the 'virtues' espoused by the defenders of today's cult-celebrity pastors include:
1. Attendance has increased under his leadership
2. Giving has increased under his leadership
3. He is a very gifted speaker and communicator
4. He is attracting and appealing to a younger audience that has been missing from our church
5. He is so personable
6. He is a strong leader (numbers 1, and 2 are definitely claimed by the pastor. He is seen as "attractive" although in a used-car salesman type way. He married a woman who inherited a LOT of money. So he wears very expensive suits and drives very expensive cars. He has the air of someone who is important).
3. Entangling Organization Structure: The less truth a movement represents, the more highly it seems to have to organize itself; the absence of truth seems to make necessary the application of the bonds of fear. Cults often demand total commitment by their converts to an organizational involvement that entangles them in a complicated set of human restrictions, giving the impression of passionate and often irrational devotion to a cause.
Many of today's cult-celebrity pastors rule with an iron fist of threats and intimidation. Some of these pastors don't like to be involved in the intimidation themselves so they leave it up to some of their deacons, elders, associate pastors, or ministry representatives. (absolutely. The pastor has no respect for organizational structure or rules. He completely ignores bylaws and rules that the congregation has established. If you dare question him, he reverts to rule 1 - he is called by God or accuses you of breaking confidence. But he does not take action himself. He hides himself in his home and calls himself "above" such worldly things. Instead his minions are the ones calling meetings and taking action for him.)
Biblically-minded Christians are often completely astounded by how committed the sheep will be to their cult-celebrity pastor. Even in the face of irresponsible, immature, unethical and even illegal activities by the pastor or ministry leader, the flock will passionately defend them with arguments and excuses that are completely irrational as they disregard the truth that stares them squarely in the face.
Those that question the pastor or ministry leader are guaranteed to be admonished by him and his leadership team to cease their criticism or find another church or ministry organization. (this is where we find ourselves now) Indeed this is kind of control and manipulation on the part of the leadership entangles many of the church-goers or followers because they don't desire to give up their freedom of speech, conscience or convictions. Neither, do they desire to leave the church in which many of them were raised, married, dedicated their children and even held funeral services for their parents and/or grandparents. The church members indeed find themselves entangled by fear that the truth with banish them from what they have come to love dearly ' the church.
This fear of banishment is what I've struggled with. I've come to realize that I'm "doing" church wrong. I've been so caught up in church that I've forgotten that I'm called to a relationship with God - not a church. And I'm not finding God in this church, and haven't in awhile. So for me and my family it is time to leave.
This week every member of my small group is resigning all positions of authority. We are seeking new churches. We have also committed to trying to meet for a Bible study, realizing that that our lives have been wrapped up in church. Just for my family, Husband often taught a Sunday school. He was also a deacon. I oversaw many of the children's ministries and was in charge of the toddler nursery. I was also a trustee. I taught a Bible study this past year. We've both attended a Bible study each year. So one weeknight a week was individual study. Wednesdays were fellowship and church. Munchkin's friends are church friends. Our babysitter is a church member.
I'm struggling now to keep myself in my faith because of the anger and sadness with church. And struggling with whether I need to get that issue figured out and resolved before I find a new church -- or whether finding a new church is the key to those issues.
Monday, August 2, 2010
Dealing with the church drama came at the same time I weaned off all depression medication. I still have a prescription for xanax but committed to not taking it for anxiety more than 2x a week (I sometimes take a half at night to sleep).
So here I am, med-free, with emotions all over the place. I've never cried so often or so much. I've punched pillows in anger, thrown a whole Sunday newspaper of wadded up paper, and yelled into pillows. I've also laughed uproariously with this group of 11.
This Pastor has been like a father-figure to me. Aren't pastors supposed to be? When I finally allowed myself to see the impropriety of the meeting with the pastor (here) I was upset. My emotions and feelings were totally validated by seeing the concern, and even anger, of those around me. I was angry that the children's policies committee was supposedly voted out. I was angry at how the situation with Mitch was handled. I knew the pastor's take was that I was being "too sensitive." It helped that those in my group didn't see me as over-reacting. It felt good to be part of a group that was supporting each other. It was so healing to see these strong men lead their families in making decisions. To see these men meet together and then go confront the pastor. To feel protected by this group. To be a part of Godly women who met to pray while our men were out fighting for us. It was a great feeling of safety.
Through it all, the group stayed together and refused to engage in any gossiping or rumor-mongering. If someone contacted us, we kept to a very brief version of the facts. The pastor's defense is that his actions in deciding who should be deacon (ignoring the will of the congregation) was made in confidence with only the deacon leadership. Instead of admitting wrong, he claimed some pastoral privilege and shifted the focus to the deacon chair in breaking confidence by telling others. He called this chairperson (my friend) a "Judas" and a "liar" and a "master manipulator." Instead of dealing with the issue of Mitch and the policies, he was intent on keeping things quiet so no one got uncomfortable and left.
A church member, sensing a huge church split, suggested mediation. So one of our couples met with the pastor and a mediator. I expected the couple to contact all of us after and update us on what happened. After an entire day went by, we got an email from this couple that there had been an impasse and that it was time to move on and put the past behind us.
My emotions were again in turmoil. I was being told to cover things up, exposing things were wrong, and to put the past behind and move forward. All of these messages are ones I heard throughout my childhood. I'm trying to sort through all of these messages and determine what fits where.
I wonder if every crisis and big event in my life will step on my toes like this and get twisted up in the emotions of my childhood? If all of life's emotions will be filtered through events of the past?
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Eleven of us met to talk and pray. We started the meeting with prayer and with a piece of paper. On the paper we were asked to list the top 3 issues we thought existed. Each of us listed honesty, manipulation, and deceit. Obviously not qualities you want in a church leader.
As we discussed specifics, we became more concerned. We realized just how few people who had helped found this church less than 15 years prior were still members. This group committed to make sure we focused on facts and not rumors. We decided to spend time making sure we had the truth in front of us. We would then decide what to do with it. So we called people, read church documents and got back together. What we learned was outstanding. Bylaws were ignored. Financial policies were violated or just ignored. Deacon elections were manipulated so that strong-willed people were not permitted to serve. Then there were the outright lies to cover all of these issues up.
We researched the Bible and determined we would act in accordance with Biblical standards. Since the deacon chair had already tried to discuss the issues with the pastor, we decided two additional men would go with him. It resulted in the pastor storming out of his office and yelling at these men in the parking lot.
The pastor then refused to take calls, return emails or even make an appearance in his office. He claimed that the "parking lot debacle" had "gotten physical" forgetting that he was the only one yelling. He organized a meeting of all deacons, except the chair, my husband and another one he suspected of being in cahoots with us. The purpose was to "vote out" the deacon chair for daring to discuss any church business with us. Our phones rang off the hook.
In all of this, two interesting things happened. When describing a meeting I had with the pastor of the Mitch incident, I mentioned how the pastor acted odd. He asked to speak with me and we went to his office. When drafting church policies, he told me he never, ever met with females alone in his office. I had never met with him alone in his office. On this day, he took me in his office and shut the door. In my profession I have met with many male clients in offices. So I was fine with this. Until he walked over to the window that faced the parking lot and shut the blinds. He said, "I don't want people to see us meeting." Then instead of sitting in the chair behind his desk or in the two armchairs facing the couch I was sitting on, he sat next to me on this 2 person couch. That struck me as odd. He was sitting back, relaxed. I immediately scootched forward and turned sidways.
Alarms went off in my head but I kept pushing them aside because I became so focused and mad about what was being said. I didn't think much of it later because I was still so mad about what was said. It was only when mentioning this off the cuff, that it struck me just how inappropriate this was. My husband and the other men in our group were really mad. My husband wanted to go give the pastor "what for."
Our group also chose to tell the others in our group about Mitch. The same gentleman who had gone after that sex-abuse couple, who is the same man who was blackballed as a deacon, is a hot tempered man. He was furious. Everyone else was trying to calm him down. I didn't want to see anyone get hurt. But I did like seeing him get mad. It was healing for me to see a man get mad about something like this.
The pastor refuses to admit he did anything wrong. He, and some of the church members, believe he should run the business of the church as he sees fit. Our group disagrees and think that a church who organizes itself as a "priesthood of believers" with bylaws and policies, ought to follow them.
I never thought leaving a church would be so emotional. But it sure has been.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
My husband and I had belonged to this Church just a short while when I saw a scary sight from the choir loft where I was singing. Just that week before a client had come into my office and told me that his children had revealed that their mother and her new boyfriend had sexually abused them. I helped the client file for immediate custody and we made a report to Social Services. As I began to sing the choir anthem, my vision focused on a couple I had not seen in church before. It was my client's ex-wife and her boyfriend.
I sat there trying to decide how to react. This woman hated me. I had taken her children and got her fired from her job running a home daycare. I don't know why this couple stayed. But they did. And kept coming back.
I told the pastor and church officials they needed to go down and read a certain court file. I then got permission from my client to tell the church what they needed to know.
The pastor did not take the position that these folks were "innocent until proven guilty." He acted immediately. He and the Deacon Chairperson were wonderful. At one point there was a meeting and the male threatened the Deacon Chair saying "well anyone can make allegations and there might be some about you and your daughter this afternoon. See how you like DSS in your life." The Pastor and Deacon chair didn't act so Sunday-school-like at that moment.
This situation and how it was handled furthered my bond with my church. I was awestruck to see these men take a stand to protect those around them. I began to see the pastor as a fatherly figure. To see a pastor so committed to keeping children safe was reassuring.
Soon thereafter, I was asked to assist in drafting a set of policies which would govern activities with our children. The three-fold purpose was to protect children, volunteers and the staff. A committee and I set to work and I think, we did a great job. We have a comprehensive protections policy.
Fast forward a year or so and my father decided to make a brief reappearance in my life. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do. This was pre-therapy and so my husband and I met with the pastor. He was really good. I didn't go into details of my childhood but I know he got the general theme. The pastor gave me the analogy of a healing wound. You need to be really careful before you rip the scab off a wound and expose it to the world again. The pastor told me I was not required to meet my father. I felt validated.
Fast forward to two years ago when my father died. Friends of ours, not knowing the funeral was out-of-state, offered to attend the service with me. Just to support me.
This church has supported my family. When Husband had knee surgery when Munchkin was just 8 months old, the church hired someone to take care of our yard work that summer. With each child we have had meals for weeks. Both of my children have been dedicated there. We went through a building campaign, and after much prayer, we gifted a large sum of money in furtherance of having a true sanctuary. We were a part of the building plans and were there the first Sunday in the beautiful new sanctuary. My Husband and I were both baptized as part of the first baptismal in the new sanctuary.
There are a lot of memories tied up in this church and in the people involved. Church is my family. When I'm happy, I share it with these people. When I'm sad, I call upon these people. When I need something, it is this group I call. My family is in this church every Wednesday and Sunday. Holidays are marked with special services at church. Our friends are from this church. My daughter doesn't know how to celebrate Halloween without the church fall festival, or Easter without the church egg hunt. She looks forward to vacation Bible school and the back-to-school bear hunt every year.
All of that is now changed.
Friday, July 30, 2010
So you thought you had to keep this up
All the work that you do
So we think that you're good
And you can't believe it's not enough
All the walls you built up
Are just glass on the outside
So let 'em fall down
There's freedom waiting in the sound
When you let your walls fall to the ground
We're here now
This is where the healing begins, oh
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you're broken within
The light meets the dark
The light meets the dark
Afraid to let your secrets out
Everything that you hide
Can come crashing through the door now
But too scared to face all your fear
So you hide but you find
That the shame won't disappear
So let it fall down
There's freedom waiting in the sound
When you let your walls fall to the ground
We're here now
We're here now, oh
This is where the healing begins, oh
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you're broken within
The light meets the dark
The light meets the dark
Sparks will fly as grace collides
With the dark inside of us
So please don't fight
This coming light
Let this blood come cover us
His blood can cover us
This is where the healing begins, oh
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you're broken within
The light meets the dark
The light meets the dark
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
I have written about how I survived the abuse. Or at least I've tried to write about it and describe it. The hide-n-seek games I played within myself. It is hard to put a lack of feeling into words.
I stumbled across a blog last evening. The first post I read is called "Numb" and it is on the blog called The Difficult Things.
Have you ever read something and instantly felt a connection? Wanted to stand up and shout "YES!" Found yourself nodding in agreement and crying? That is how I felt when I read this post. It put into words so well what I tried for so long to explain. Read it. You just might relate. I hope you won't - because I wouldn't wish it on anyone. But if you can relate, then I think you will see just well it is explained.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
I didn't grow up going to church. My interactions with organized religion started in high school when I went with a friend to a very strict orthodox church. I found myself strangely attracted to the concept of religion and the beliefs, but I did not like that particular religion. It was led by a very male-dominate minister. He taught that women should stay home, not work, home-school, and above all follow the man of the house. Women could teach children but never adults. Surprisingly I didn't totally run the other way entirely.
In college I started attending an on-campus Christian organization. It was non-denominational and we actually attended different types of churches almost every week. I began to see what type of worship styles I liked and what I did not.
My husband grew up in a very small methodist church. It was family run with one or two families controlling everything. Since the pastor rotated through every three to five years, the same families stayed in control and became further entrenched.
When Husband and I started visiting churches, we liked the structure of the Baptist churches. There seemed a good balance between pastoral control and congregational control. When we moved to our present location, we noticed a church fairly close to our house and decided to visit. We felt a fit and never visited elsewhere.
Fast-forward ten years and we are still in that church. I became a trustee which is the board that handles the legal affairs - signs documents, contracts, loans, holds the title of the property. My husband is a deacon which is a spiritual leader of the church. We've both taught Sunday school and are active with the children's programs. Most of our local friends are members of the church. We go to church on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. Most of our holiday activities are built around church. Our children look forward to Easter egg hunts, fall festivals and summer camps.
If you've read this blog for any length of time, you'll understand why I have issues with male authority figures. Over the past ten years, my pastor has broken through some of my self-erected walls and I trusted him. In the last two months, more has happened to break that trust than ever before.
This past week I resigned from all positions of leadership in church. We attended a different church this past week and are looking for a new church. I used to think people who talked about nasty church splits were overly dramatic but now I see what a struggle it really is. I'm also seeing how issues raised now are intertwining and stepping on my toes which are already sensitive from abuse. Now the question becomes how to process all this and deal with it? This is where writing comes in. I hope to sort things out and go forward from here with some clarity.
Monday, July 26, 2010
I chose a new background and layout. I like the picture of the dandelion because I often feel tossed about by the wind. I don't like the narrow columns and would prefer they were a bit wider but can't figure out how to change that.
There have been a lot of changes in my life recently. Husband took yet another new job. He had taken one but it was second shift, seven days a week and we never saw him. However, since his unemployment ran out and we weren't sure if there would be an extension, he had to take something. Luckily, within a month he found this present job. It is still second shift but only Monday to Friday. The pay is average - less than what he was earning before but a tiny bit more than he was getting on unemployment. However, the benefits are awesome, especially their health insurance.
It has been an adjustment, having both kids at home with me all alone. I get up and leave and Husband gets the kids up and off to daycare/summer camp. Then I have to do the evening rush. Get them home about 5:30, find something for supper, feed them, bathe them, homework during the school year, any activites, bedtime and then do my stuff. I'm exhausted come Friday.
On weekends we try to cram in family time. Which doesn't leave us a lot of time together. But the advantages are no before-school for Munchkin. And Bugaboo gets to hang out with Daddy sometimes until he goes into work. When the kids are sick, there is only a 2 1/2 hour gap where we don't have child care. Much easier for one of us to miss a few hours of work than a whole day.
I'm completely off all medications for depression and just taking xanax as needed - which isn't often for panic. But I do take 1/2 pill fairly frequently to help with sleep. I still can't convince my busy brain to shut down at night. So the xanax helps with that. I think I might would do better with an anti-depressant but I hate the side effects so it's a catch-22 at the moment.
I am going to try to get back to blogging in hopes that sorting out my feelings here will help me sleep better at night without the xanax. We shall see.....
Sunday, June 20, 2010
I survived Munchkin's first year of school. She did amazingly well. She was promoted to first grade, and is already reading on a third-grade level. She has lost both er front teeth which I think is adorable.Bugaboo is an active toddler. He sure has figured out this walking bit. We are getting into the terrible 2 stage rapidly and he definitely has a mind of his own. Husband got a job - a new, new one. The first new one only lasted a few weeks because they wanted him to work 7 days a week. Now he works Mon - Fri, but it is second shift. For the summer that is not so bad - he gets to be home with the kids some before Munchkin goes to summer camp and Bugaboo to daycare.
Our church is experiencing major problems. Aside from the issue I posted about recently, there are other issues which causing turmoil and people are leaving left and right.
Work is great. I am doing more child welfare cases and really enjoying it. Even if it does step on toes. I could not have done this even one year ago but now I am ready to kick me some deadbeat parents' butts.
So if you've not updated in awhile leave a note saying how you are. What's new with you?
Monday, May 31, 2010
I haven't been writing much. Computer problems at home (keyboard issues) and less time in the office (more court) means I'm behind in posting. I've also been up to my eyeballs in church issues.
About a year ago, a few church members began asking me if Mitch (not real name) was "approved," meaning background checked, met the minimum length of membership and all the other requirements. I'm head of the group that oversees approving volunteers at church. Mitch was approved, but the number of inquiries peaked my curiosity. Then my friend told me what had been going on.
Mitch is a 60-something year old man, with two almost-grown sons and a wife. He takes no interest in his family. Rather, he attaches himself to a family with young (pre-teen) girls. He invites them to his farm where they can fish in his pond. He be-friends them on facebook. He plays online games with them. He likes to ride roller coasters with them. He is fun to be around -- until he is always around. Calling, texting, emailing up to 8x a day. "where are you?" "when will you be home?" "How do I know that is where you really are - send me a picture." When the calls aren't returned or the girls want to be with their friends, he cries, calls himself an "old pitiful man" or says he ought to go "jump in his pond."
I called the pastor who confronted him. My friend cut off all contact between he and her daughter. The pastor said not to worry - he had talked to Mitch. It was fine. There was just a misunderstanding. I didn't buy it. And Mitch didn't stop...he just moved on to a new family and a new girl.
That was almost 1 year ago. This past week the newest family called me. Mitch had become so clingy the girl told her parents that he was "creepy" and she "didn't want to be around him." After a few days went by with no contact, Mitch lost it. He wrote a letter and gave it to this girl's friend to give to her. The friend's father opened it.
The letter was over the top. "I am just an old man. You probably don't like me because of my balding head and I'm overweight." On and on. He talks about wanting a hug from her more than anything. He includes a DVD with pictures of this girl and tells her to listen to the words closely. The song is Uncle Kracker's "Smile." It is a song a boyfriend would send a girlfriend.
Three fathers of pre-teen girls, one of them the girl that the letter was written to, and the pastor were present with Mitch when the letter was found and read. None of them killed Mitch. They didn't even lay a hand on him or threaten to kill him. Instead they called a meeting. Later that night, I got a call from the mother about assisting with a restraining order or other legal action.
Now let me clarify that no one involved thinks Mitch has inappropriately touched any child....yet. I think he will. However, he has definitely crossed boundaries. He acts like a ten-year old himself.
The pastor was ready to blow things off again. We were told not to discuss the matter at all, so as not to scare people away. He thought the involved fathers should take Mitch out to lunch and talk to him. I said "not good enough." I set up some rules - Mitch can come to church, attend an adult Sunday school of his choice and worship with his family in service, by sitting with them. He was not to attend children's activities, was to resign as teacher and would not be allowed to chaperone children's camps this summer. I called the children's committee together. And we acted.
The pastor is mad that things were not kept silent. Nevermind that he has a degree in counseling and should know predators thrive on silence. He is more concerned about people leaving the church. The family of the young girl is upset because they "like Mitch" and now "Mitch is sad" and "threatening to leave the church." They understand needing rules at church but why shouldn't they take their daughters over to Mitch's house to fish. They don't understand that Mitch can never be around young girls until he has years of mental health help and firm boundaries in place. Another father is mad that Mitch can't play ball with the guys anymore because kids are present. Forget about the fact that Mitch doesn't play - just hangs on the bench with the kids.
I'm really disappointed by the men of my church involved in this. And by the mother who had the gall to write "We love you Mitch" on his facebook page after her daughter just told her she finds Mitch "creepy." I can't believe Mitch is still standing after fathers read that letter when he was just arms-reach away. I'm pissed the pastor is more concerned about his reputation than the children.
So if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that tact is not my strong-point..........and making people mad is something I do well without many worries.......
I recruited my husband and 2 other couples and we took charge. We contacted each family with pre-teen girls and informed them of the rules Mitch was to follow and why it was important for them to help in keeping boundaries consistent. We discussed the consequences of not following the rules. Two of us ladies met with Mitch's wife. The one that Mitch says is a real witch and wants nothing to do with him. But in real life, the woman who is hurt beyond belief that her husband prefers young girls over she and their boys. We encouraged her to help Mitch get therapy. We put the rules for Mitch in writing. We encouraged the fathers who were insistent on helping Mitch to invite him to adult-only activities like the men's Bible study.
The result - the pastor is pissed. The one family is "sad" that we "ran Mitch off." But the kids are safe. Mitch was not at church on Sunday, but facebook pictures show he and his whole family spent the day together, which is a first.
I'm really disappointed by these particular men and fathers. But pleased that at least a few stepped up and took charge. Including my husband who really wanted to kill Mitch. And the one other guy whose hands twitch with anger when he sees Mitch.