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Lord, how long shall the wicked triumph?....

How long shall they utter and speak harsh things?....
They break into pieces thy people....
Yet they say: "The Lord shall not see!"
(Psalm 94:3-7)

 

 

Mission Statement

A source of enlightenment, since 1997, dispelling the darkness so often cruelly created when victims or advocates dare to speak truth about sexual and domestic violence, especially to "people of faith." It's unique in primarily offering insights into collusion, rather than the primary abuses of perpetrators. The message is timeless. For, sadly, the tendency to collude for the protection of evil seems to be ingrained in society in every institution. Yet...

"SILENCE IN THE FACE OF EVIL IS ITSELF EVIL: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act." Bonhoeffer

While our inspiration to stand against evil may come from our faith traditions and role models, courage is born from personal resilience developed in spite of our past adverse childhood experiences.

NEW! Guest Blog about Advocacy in Regard to Abuse of 90-year-old Mother

Starting insights:

Most people assume that long-term abuse is about the worst thing a person could ever endure. "No Way!" say most survivors and advocates. You would certainly agree had you been among the many who encountered one of the vicious attempts to cover up clergy sexual abuse years before these stories had come to the attention of most journalists.

Such was the fate of my husband Ron and I almost thirty years ago. Yet we weren't laity like most. Neither were we Catholic. Ron is an ordained minister. His seminary education did nothing to prepare him for what we stumbled across in 1986 as the two of us served in one of the most remote locations in the world, 10,000 miles from home. Yet the organization we served had been handling such problems for years, though some of the most experienced claimed to be novices!

When the two of us refused to join our colleagues, all willing to stand by passively, giving the leaders of the largest evangelical mission board in the world (Southern Baptist Convention) permission to provide "benevolent restoration" to a sexual predator, we became "the problem". When we refused to overlook the dysfunctional behavior at every tier of the organization, we soon found ourselves on probation. Shortly thereafter, we resigned in disillusionment.

Our abusive colleague and his wife were allowed to resign, as well. They had been in Africa longer than anyone else in the group--25 years to be exact. Sadly, nobody ever got around to asking his latest victim, a teenage national, what she thought. Her injuries included physical ones, landing her in the emergency room where she was too scared and ashamed to say what had occurred.

Of course, today the whole world is virtually shock proof after all the cases around the globe, especially involving the Catholic Church. How hard it is to imagine that such nonsense has gone on and been excused for centuries--same as in families, where perpetrators often receive solace instead of being held accountable by "faith" leaders! How do we make sense of it? Those were the questions Ron and I were still asking in 1993, By then, he was serving as senior pastor of First (American) Baptist Church of Council Bluffs, Iowa. Meanwhile, I was working intensely with traumatized children and their families in psychiatric nursing and anxiously awaiting the release of How Little We Knew: Collusion and Confusion with Sexual Misconduct. Suddenly, as I put finishing touches on the final manuscript, a clergywoman told me about the work of Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune of the United Church of Christ, including a survey that blew my mind: 48% of clergywomen in the UCC in 1986 had "experienced sexual harassment by male clergy in the church workplace! " What's more Richard Allen Blackman, a doctoral student at Fuller Theological Seminary had surveyed ministers in 1984, finding that 38.6% admitted to having sexual contact with a church member! I had no idea how many adult women from every denomination were suffering from betrayal by "their shepherds." Obviously, sexual abuse wasn't just a Catholic problem. It ran across the gamut of Protestants--from very conservative to the most liberal of denominations, the UCC.

Over the next few years, as survivors increasingly woke up to the realization they were far from alone, leaders in every denomination were suddenly forced to spend more time doing " damage control " on all of this than on any other issue. Insurance companies demanded they get policies together and learn enough to keep from getting in trouble, even though the basics would not prevent them from continuing to cause serious spiritual damage to survivors. Sometimes it only served to increase the brutality as unscrupulous lawyers for churches became adept at scare tactics, only alienating survivors from any source of spiritual comfort they might otherwise have hoped for. All while bishops were forced to deal with the shame of public exposure and backlog of cases that had been successfully swept under the rug, thus far.

Ron and I watched with amazement as we humbly joined hands with a small minority of clergy working for real change and transparency. We stood beside other men and women going into spiritual (and sometimes professional) free-fall, either as survivors, advocates, or both. By 1995, we had been embraced by a large group of Catholic survivors, even finding ourselves in leadership roles in an international organization called Linkup. There we met Catholics like Joan Chittister, Richard Sipe, Tom Economus, Thomas Doyle, William and Joan Bates, and many other spiritual giants--all illustrating that sometimes the most powerful spiritual experiences happen in spite of and outside the walls of the Church!!!

As we began comparing notes with newfound friends from every corner of the faith community, we saw common themes. Catholics had used the same weapons as Southern Baptists! Survivors had been repeatedly condemned and blamed for not forgiving or for being complicit in their abuse because they had not come with their stories earlier--as if that would have made any difference. Sadly, this had been going on for centuries. In reality, there IS a forgiveness problem. Yet the REAL forgiveness problem isn't being owned by the right people. It's time for the press to spell this out.

Ron and I were not the only missionaries forced to leave the mission field in disillusionment over this issue. Within weeks of resigning, we found that out. By 1998, we knew of many other cases spread across multiple mission agencies where MK's (missionaries' children) were sexually abused. In every case, without exception, there had been great efforts made to sweep things under the rug. In fact, I have in my possession thank you letters from administrators of two other mission boards than ours--each thanking me for speaking to the issues, thereby forcing an awareness and encouraging change.

Abuse thrives in isolation, of course--we know that now. Yet few fully understood this during the 1980's when our family was grieving as intensely as if we were at a funeral of a close relative. Oh, how we loved Africa! It was home to our children, most certainly. Yet even worse, we were grieving over the loss of faith in others, grieving over our relationship with our own belief system, questioning everything. Nothing close to what victims of childhood abuse that's been buried for many years, though, when the perpetrator is a member of the clergy. Our losses were intense--just not to be compared to what many who come to this site have endured. Ron and I were determined to be a part of the solution, whether we stayed in the church and worked to change things from within OR left and worked from outside the system.

Back in Africa, I'd worked with a very corrupt national government and frequently visited with officials, even challenging them to join me to help bring justice to the suffering people around us. I pushed for permission to provide literacy, an irrigation system, and help for refugees they denied even existed, though clearly visible! I also took on fulfilling writing assignments. Both the writing and small projects, accomplished in spite of the corruption, I later saw as good preparation for taking on "organized religion".

With a daughter already in college and a son in high school, the whole family was merely in survivor mode for two years after the trauma of our resignation. Of course, in 1988, it was unfathomable to imagine anything like the Worldwide Web being available within a decade or how it would level the playing field in all of this, connecting people around the world within seconds. Keeping secrets was about to become very hard for anyone! And that would change everything. We were still in terrible isolation, not knowing where to even find good counsel, as we wrestled with decisions about what to do with this powerful story. Yet, I know it's quite possible you are feeling very isolated today if you are just starting to sort things out--in spite of the resources now available. I trust you will find comfort and validation on these pages.

Advice to Advocates:

Newscasters often failed to show just how personal the collusion can be. Powerful people have a lot to lose--a lot of power, that is. So they intimidate through fear, surrounding themselves with other powerful people. Strangely, spiritual leaders deny their power--that's what makes everything so convoluted. Just understanding this has a way of lessening the blow to survivors. "Not all wisdom resides in rank," Joan Chittister reminds us. People of rank, those in powerful positions in the church, often shame the prophetic voice in order to cope with their own discomfort. Knowing this goes a long way to minimize the brutal condescension that every advocate recognizes for what it is--insecurity and fear. Rhinoceros hides can be penetrated still, but not destroyed. In fact, over time, some learn to laugh at the learning opportunities collusion can provide for the next leg of action an activist chooses. It's all about choice, however, when it comes to advocacy. There are no requirements. Advocacy is optional, a role that can be abandoned at any time. Survival is not. Survival is first priority.

Never forget: People who cannot hear and respond wisely to the truth are not acting as people of faith at all. This will apply to the majority. Collusion happens because of fear and self-protection in people of the cloth, especially. For people devoted to a corrupt system, facing the truth often seems too high a price to pay for maintaining integrity.

Yet those who have the courage can move from the darkness into knowledge and enlightenment that provides power to speak the unspeakable, even when the outcome is a poor reception. That is the opportunity and the challenge for all of us, whether survivors, advocates, leaders, or members of the community. Courage is possible, and so is peace.

Only those who have this courage can make wiser choices that lead to a fuller and more meaningful life, no matter what others decide to do about waking up. True character and spiritual maturity doesn't look to others for approval and validation.

This third-edition website was made possible by one of the strongest women I've ever met. Renae is a mother of two and a shining example of this process. Now as a therapist herself, she often works with victims of abuse, understanding what hard work it is because of her own experience as a survivor of clergy sexual abuse as an adolescent and young adult. She is definitely a thriver, a person of evolving faith and hope.



About the Visitors

Visitors to the site include:

  • victims of sexual or domestic violence. Many of the sexual abuse victims were abused by clergy or church leaders. Some of the perpetrators, of course, were their fathers, who may have had the dual role of also being a church leader or pastor. Yet there are many who were abused by perpetrators in the general population. Almost all visitors have experienced collusion when they turned to their church communities to report or to ask for support. The higher the status of the perpetrator in the church community, the higher the degree of collusion and secondary injury as leaders attempted to keep the victim and her/his family silent.

    Some of the victims experienced the primary abuse as children or adolescents. Many were young adults or older. The older the victim, the more likely the victim was to experience collusion and secondary injury.

  • MK's (as children of missionaries) abused on foreign mission fields, either by missionary co-workers. nationals, parents, or by boarding school personnel
  • advocates--either church leaders or family members, including pastors who have lost career positions in the process. Some of these clergy members have experienced a devastation of faith, as strong as any I've seen in survivors! Some have left the ministry.
  • therapists who are struggling with knowing how to counsel people, especially those of fundamentalist faiths who are wanting very concrete guidance "based on the Bible."
  • "after-pastors"--ministers who have followed a perpetrator, a ministry which is almost always stormy
  • Members of the press, students seeking insight for a thesis, other writers

Read Visitor Comments




About the Author

Originally nursing was my career of choice, though two teachers tried hard to change that. One advised I pursue a career in journalism, especially after I won a state contest and scholarship for my writing. The other encouraged me to follow my interest in psychology and sociology. I stuck with nursing, having announced back in fifth grade that I felt a call to missionary nursing. By the time that dream eventually came true, most of my life experience came from cross-cultural nursing, starting in the Irish Channel of New Orleans. I thought I was set when we jumped through all the challenging hoops, allowing our family to plant our lives on the foreign mission field. When my world crumbled almost a decade later with our forced resignation, it seemed like there could never be anything as rewarding as the life we had lived in Africa. How could I ever find such fulfillment again?

Well, I did. Life does go on if we put one foot in front of the other and step into the darkness, even embracing it.

Never did I realize, however, that I would someday have an international ministry, using my nursing and writing skills together in a new "mission" that reaches out across the globe from this now-common gadget we call a computer. What a fun, effective way to cross borders! What a power leveler, too!

In 1995, three years before I ever saw the Worldwide Web, I was welcoming several new survivors and advocates almost every week by snail mail due to my writing. Overwhelmed and with an ever-growing passion, I left nursing, hoping to write full-time. Eventually, I picked up another passion from back in college days--teaching piano. Not only did it help pay the bills. It provided a joyous diversion from the heavy subject matter with which I might otherwise have become totally obsessed.

If you choose to read my first-person story How Little We Knew: Collusion and Confusion with Sexual Misconduct, please keep in mind that a much younger woman wrote that story, a woman still in considerable denial about the extent of denial we were facing. I was still filled with a lot of "magical thinking." Oh, how naive I was! So were most people in that day. Yet today, almost thirty years later, I believe we see through a "glass less darkly" with much greater awareness.

I'm amazed at that young woman in her 40's, who survived with the grace of God. I'm very proud of her and of my husband who had to courage to stand and often speak for me when the fearful system found a way to silence me. I embrace the spiritual evolution our souls have gone through, bringing changes, thanks to our increased insights--changes so difficult to explain to most people. It all makes perfect sense to me. That's all that matters.

All the work has paid off a thousand times over because of the many friends who have come my way and stayed connected, giving me opportunity to witness miracles in the lives of some spiritual giants in the process. They include a multitude who will never darken the doors of a church again, and many seem to get along quite well that way. My support system is immense. I hope most who have come my way share this advantage to some extent. With the Web so easily available worldwide, finding support is not nearly as difficult--even from thousands of miles away. It's a totally different world!

The nature of the collusion we encountered in Africa was no different than many people find in their families, in schools, the military, and especially on our college campuses today. Having a position that commands respect is an automatic benefit to those who wish to suppress the truth, whether in a religious institution, a school, the military, or a health care facility.

I constantly see the problems of collusion with sexual and domestic violence, through the spectrum of community mental health nursing. In 1990, I obtained certification as a generalist in psychiatric nursing from the American Nurses Association and began working toward a B.S. in Behavioral Science with Community Mental Health Emphasis from New York Institute of Technology, finishing that program in 1992. All of this has equipped me to walk as a team member with social workers and psychologists, able to read and decipher complicated mental health processes and systems dysfunction--all necessary for the insight required to write as I do.

Though a published writer since 1970, I was unprepared for the degree of collusion and fear, even in the publishing industry, on subjects that create a tremendous amount of cognitive dissonance. For a long time, I thought that the resistance to seeing my work in print on this topic was somehow because of my failure as a writer. In a state of denial about the degree of denial itself, I failed to realize what a small percentage of people were able and willing to read something as threatening as what I now write.

In fact, only in recent years have I been able to comfortably introduce myself to librarians as a "dissident writer." Writing about topics that people want to read pays a lot more, but I've never found it half as rewarding.

The greatest hero in my life is the one who insisted in the very beginning that money in this work cannot be my primary concern. I'm quite a frugal person, by nature. While I know how to get a lot done with few monetary resources, without my husband Ron Miller, who often stands in the shadows in this work, I know that the impact of what I do would have been greatly diminished.

We are blessed with two wonderful adult children and a daughter-in-law plus five wonderful grandchildren. The happiest days of our lives are spent with them. They also energize and encourage both of us on some of our darkest days.

In 2011, I went into semi-retirement after relocating. I planned only to pick up a few piano students, continue with my blog, just settle down with no plans for writing much. Less than two years later, I suddenly discovered a piece of suppressed history and was instantly inspired to turn it into a young adult novel, naturally sharing themes of violence, religious extremism, and power abuse. The title: Just Following Orders: Escape from Guerrilla Warfare in 1863.

I still enjoy teaching. Yet, for the first time in my life I have time to write to my heart's content.

When I'm not out somewhere talking to people about history, I'm likely to be working on my third book about the problems caused by collusion with abuse in the faith community--this one for a much broader audience. It will include lessons I've learned and the positive things I see in today's youth. My hope is to have it finished sometime in 2017.

In April, 2013, the same month I began working on Just Following Orders, part of my work on collusion--work found on this site--was chosen for reprint by the World Council of Churches as the 5th chapter of When Pastors Prey, a book about the sexual abuse by clergy of adult women. While abuse of adult women is only one of many populations of survivors I've called attention to for over twenty years, it is often the least acknowledged. Having this book available internationally and being privileged to be a part of it is a real milestone on our collective journey as activists. Being referred to as "a veteran in the field" made me smile. Yet I laughed out loud when I saw the prologue, written by Jimmy Carter, the most well-known SBC refugee in the world. Nice to be in such good company!