Dee's Blog
Mon 07/21/2008
The Effect of the Irish
Topic: Power

Among the professionals who gave me much to think about at the SNAP conference, was a writer who is new to me.  Joe Rigert, a retired journalist from Minneapolis.  Joe is a devoted Catholic and father of eight children, seven of them from bi-cultural adoptions. 

From that background, he set out to explore the effect of the Irish on the Catholic crisis of sexual abuse in America.  Wrote a book that brings me up to date on many of the issues since 2002.   A book that illlustrates so well the collusion aspect and how various cultures have an increase in the likelihood or colluding.

He shows how it is all tied together in systems, even taking it to the prolific abuse and sexual boundary violations that are kept secret in the Vatican!  All while exploring why the heavily Catholic culture of Ireland has a higher rate of priest perpetrators (often who were transported to America in many cases, transferring the problems).  Also how the higher rate of abuse due to sexual repression of the culture has contributed to the magnitude of the problem in Ireland, a problem that has spread worldwide. 

Not because of the Irish, but definitely the Irish give us a laboratory to study abuse and collusion in conservative religious circles. 

Joe Rigert is the author of this well-researched 2007 book; and the book is An Irish Tragedy.  It's a must-read for all of us.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 9:41 AM CDT
Sun 07/20/2008
Topic: Making Changes

According to Victor Vieth, a very optimistic attorney with some good plans to virtually eradicate child abuse in the next century, one of the two main obstacles to achieving this are the resistance of professionals to report.  Especially when abusers are their colleagues.  From a survey of teachers that he quoted, only 11% of teachers say they would report a colleague for abuse! 

Even when they do, there's another very frustrating obstacle.  The lack of expertise in determining what cases need to be investigated and how that investigation will proceed.  How often I've run into that in nursing!!

For more information on how training can be increased for various professionals, often with very little cost for the training, contact the National Assoc. to Prevent Sexual Abuse of Children.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Mon 07/21/2008 9:29 AM CDT
Fri 07/18/2008
When Life Begins to End
Topic: spirituality

Elisabeth Bennington reminded participants at this 2008 SNAP conference of the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.  "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

From the enthusiasm of the crowd, including some very upset advocates I met, a lot of people are going to be living some very long lives!  Of course, life isn't measured in the number of days.  It's measured more in the way we approach challenges and sort out what we can chance from the things we cannot.  As we seek to stop beating down locked doors and screaming at the resistant, directing our voices toward the places that welcome well-researched material from voices that speak with authority.

That's what Jason Berry told us.   Sometimes the fewer words we use, the more likely we are to be heard.  For people aren't deaf--not really--we are all just resistant to listening to noise that keeps sounding the same as the last.  What's challenging is finding new ways of looking at the common things that are old news, even if those things have been rejected.  Then finding new ways of addressing them.  Or new ways of telling old stories, always moving on to new audiences, without grieving over the fact that many just don't have the ears nor the maturity to get what we are saying, no matter how we say it.

Like good business people, we don't waste time grieving over lost customers or those who never came in our doors.  We keep reaching out, knowing that there will be reception to the some things we have to say, in some places.  Yet only if we lower our expectations and accept the likelihood of encountering a good percentage of resistance and conflict.

It's just to be expected in this "kitchen" or any "kitchen" that is encouraging social change and paradigm shifts.  For in these kitchens things are very hot--always.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Thu 07/17/2008
Sad Way of Seeing
Topic: Making Decisions

A victim attending SNAP this year said to me:  "I already know everything I need to know.  I don't want to know more."  It was a strong reminder that this attitude isn't just in professionals who are unable to learn from people with more experience in looking at the complex issues.

It's also there with a lot of victims.  One of the ditches.   It's vital that we all continue looking outside the box at EVERY issue in our lives.  To see the shadow and the spots where we need to make improvement.  When we believe we have "all that we need to know" about anything and aren't looking toward sources that challenge us, then we arrive where there truly is no hope.

Learning and growing is a life-long commitment.  One we must renew each day, whatever we are doing.  The absence of this desire is to join the stagnation of the average person.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Wed 07/16/2008
Finding the Courage to Talk about the Spiritual Transformation
Topic: spirituality

It's a well-known fact with those of us who do this work.....victims and wounded messengers who have acted as advocates can become thrivers.  Yet doing so inevitably requires one to have experienced the depths of despair at the inadequacy of their old "faith."  They have come to a new spiritual maturity that transcends the need for institutions in the maintainance of that faith. 

Some choose to stay attached to institutions that show their own immaturity and self-serving traits, while also demonstrating a great capacity for serving others and slowly learning (in some situations) to do a better job at dealing with their own demons.  Or they may choose to stay in order to be a "thorn in the flesh" and to have a voice that can still be heard bouncing off the walls, even if the message isn't discernible to most.

Thomas Doyle captured this phenomenon so well.  He was the speaker with whom I most identified.  Doyle is a priest and canon lawyer who sounded a clarion call in the Catholic Church, just as I did in Southern Baptists, more than 20 years ago.  He's written and spoken volumes about the abuse in Catholic circles.

Some might think he has retained his old faith. Not so!  He has kept important portions of it, however, as he has matured.  Not the old theology, but some of the meaning that can be gleaned from gems that are still ringing truer than ever--like the need to be a follower in speaking truth, the need to have a deep relationship with God as we understand God to be.

He spoke so eloquently and boldly the words that would be heresy to most people of any faith group except for the most liberal.   I spoke to him briefly and later dialogued by e-mail, telling him that it was ironic that he and I had come to the exact same conclusions, from very divergent backgrounds! 

That's the beauty in this work.  That's the community that is built, even though we come to the same place from very different paths.  We meet as voices with clearer visions, working toward developing clearer ones.



Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 9:16 AM CDT
Tue 07/15/2008
Removing the Sword
Topic: coping

The most practical speaker at SNAP this year may have been Angela Shelton, a comedian, model, and filmmaker who is also an incest survivor.  She spoke from her heart, sometimes had us laughing, even as every person in the room somehow identified with the "sword of trauma" that has been inflicted from the shock that abusers and colluders have placed through the very core of so many.  For the majority of people at SNAP, that core would be synonymous with the "soul." 

Angela talked about the process of removing the sword.  How it causes one to experience more pain and suffering the longer it stays and how the sword also causes pain and suffering for others as long as it remains embedded.

She also showed the reality that so many have difficulty even imagining.  The reality that, by confronting the trauma, doing the grief work,  and finding ways to resolve the pain through the internal work of removing the sword, one can be freed from the entanglement with it, find healing for the wound. 

So that the unthinkable can occur.   The illustrations that had been flashed across the large screen, always showing the sword embedded or being pulled out of oneself, were suddenly transformed into a person who was empowered because the sword was now useful.  The sword, in other words, had become a tool.  Not a tool that would be used to destroy others or attack others in anger or offensive behavior, but one that would become proactive at impacting the world in ways that the individual is capable of doing. 

Angela talked of exchanging the sword for tools that do not sabottage one's happiness nor treat others as enemies.   Yet, instead, as a means for transforming ourselves and the world.  Through the arts.  Or perhaps just through healthy conversation as we seek to create communities that are healthier and safer.   Communities that are full of soul.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Mon 07/14/2008
In Chicago
Topic: spirituality

Today, I'm returning from Chicago, where I've spent the weekend with a dear friend who has done a tremendous job of advocacy in a church there a few years ago.  Along with another dear friend who is travelling with me and attending the same conference--the annual international conference of SNAP.

I'll be back with a new vein of writing tomorrow.  For much of this conference is about spirituality in spite of the trauma of abuse and collusion with it, dished out by people of the "faith" community.  That I sometimes refer to as "the fear community."  

As always, conferences like this are more inspirational because of the people I meet who are attending.  Even more than the inspiring speakers.

See you tomorrow.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Mon 07/14/2008 10:48 PM CDT
Sun 07/13/2008
Preferring the Desert
Topic: spirituality

In the early years of my own struggle to get free from ties that bound me, I kept thinking that I'd left but would very much prefer to get out of the "desert" and go back to "Egypt" at times, where things were predictable for me.  Economically, socially, psychologically, and spiritually.  Not stable, but predictable.  There's a big difference. 

Sometimes we think things are stable when they are only predictable.  Having predictability isn't the same as having health and strength. 

Keep moving forward.  Toward the unpredictable.  If that's what you need to do in order to be healthy and strong.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Sat 07/12/2008
Songs that Respond
Topic: music

I guess the mother bird with new babies, in the little house on my porch, wasn't feeling much like singing one afternoon last week.  Suddenly she found a reason!

It came as a surprise to me and to the teenage boy on my piano bench, a student of mine who plays reasonably well now.  So that I really look forward to what he's going to do each week instead of wonder, as with beginning students who come unprepared to lessons, if I can endure the torture!

The piece took him into the upper registry of the keyboard (where sounds of birds or music boxes can easily be achieved by a skilled pianist).  He was delighting me, when I suddenly realized that I wasn't the only one who was jubilant!

Yes, the mother bird seemed to have gathered friends to see her babies.  I glanced out.  Then immediately called attention to Brian, who had finished his first playing of the assigned piece.  We smiled as the mother seemed to be teaching her babies to sing!  Just for a minute or less before their song stopped as quickly as it had started.

Brian began playing again.  Only when he reached the second movement of the piece--up in the higher registry--that the outdoor chirping began and increased in volume until it matched the intensity of music that the fingers on the piano were managing to achieve! 

We had so much fun, repeating the exercise of waiting and stimulating the song several times before deciding to invest our time on another part of the lesson.

Forever, I hope I'll remember the little birds.  They didn't seem to care what the source of the music was.  They recognized it as being something they wanted to join, and found a way to fit right in--inspiring me to remember that sometimes I'd do better to imitate the birds.  


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Fri 07/11/2008
Bird Songs in the Morning
Topic: music

This morning, when I awoke about daybreak, there was only one bird calling in the woods near my window.  A woods that's filled with birds.  That bird called and called, getting no answer for at least a half hour.  Just now, I heard some chattering.  And a few minutes earlier I heard chirping that I deduct came from the little bird house on my front porch, where chickadees have made a home for the babies that will soon move to the trees nearby.

In my way of thinking, these creatures have little to sing about.  Yet they don't need a lot.  That's the key, I'm certain. 

That's why they sing their greatest anthems right after big storms.  For it's just the storms that are large enough to even alarm humans inside of the protection of strong houses, that heighten the fears of self-sufficient birds.  Self-sufficient because they know that they can be content with so little. 

What teachers!  If only I have ears to listen.  To their songs AND to their wisdom.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT

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