Dee's Blog
Fri 08/22/2008
Making a New Story
Topic: Making Decisions

Jason Berry, an author who specialized very early in the issues of abusive clergy, was one speaker at SNAP that I didn't want to miss.   Especially since I'd heard him before and respect his wisdom and experience.

He talked about the need to have a new approach in trying to engage the press in covering the on-going saga, in light of the fact that the press is interested in what is really news, of course.  As a writer, I'm always looking for what is different in a story myself.  Have heard the "same old story" many times.  Survivors often do not understand that this is what moves writers and journalists and what makes the general public interested in hearing stories, as well.  Just as it moves us to see movies--we all want to learn something or be entertained in a different way, one or the other.  In this case, the subject matter doesn't tend to be entertaining, but it can be very interesting and instructive.

So Berry's suggestion is that we look for parallel trends to help the press expose the news.  To pique interest in the large percentage of diocese that have cases of embezzlement and to compare the way this is handled or not handled, covered up or exposed.  To show that this often happens in the same diocese where there have been grossly abusive priests.  That's a new way to approach it.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Sun 08/17/2008
So Much for Average
Topic: Making Decisions

The day I brought home my first C, my father looked like he'd been hit in the face with a wet dishrag soaked in buttermilk!  I'd been telling him that I was struggling in math that year. Only when he saw the C did it register, I suppose.

I was rather happy to have the C, considering with how hard I'd been struggling.   And I told him so.  

Dad didn't punish me--at least not visibly.  Yet the look on his face was plenty of punishment.  I'd never seen him so devastated about anything I'd ever done. 

Perhaps he was revisiting his own youth.  After all, he'd been a high school dropout, having quit school to join the service.  Then, following World War II, he redeemed himself by getting into college on probation and managing to make the honor roll at times before graduating and going on to seminary.  I'm sure he was thinking that he didn't want his daughter to struggle as he'd done.  Like many parents, he and my mother had an inflated opinion about their firstborn daughter in those formative years.  I'd just burst my father's bubble, no doubt, and brought him down to reality. 

It wasn't my last C, but Dad learned to accept others when they occasionally made a dent in my otherwise above-average grades. 

In addition to his look, I remember his words more than any words I ever heard him speak!  That's just how big an impact that experience made on me.  So large that I'm certain I've internalized the feelings of that moment; and they continue to work in me, sometimes for good and sometimes not so good.

"Average!!  Don't ever be content with being average," he said.  "Average doesn't usually get much done that's important."

While I am definitely content to be average in many things, and even below average in some, if it's something that I think really matters, I do my best to remember my father's challenge.  The world is full of people who don't try to be above average in much of anything, and that keeps the world revolving.  It all depends on whether we want to revolve or evolve, as I see it.  I prefer the latter.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Wed 08/20/2008 7:45 PM 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
Tue 03/25/2008
Being Reflective Rather than Reactive
Topic: Making Decisions

It is SO difficult for me to wait for a truth to be revealed, as I listen with empathy to the struggles of others.  I so much want to see things fixed, to see the student learn, to see the sick person find health and well-being, to help achieve a fast cure of an ill in society.  To see our institutions be something that the institution just can't possibly produce without a massive amount of work.  Because the problems that I see as so simple at times are really incredibly complex.

How I want to believe that my only speaking or writing the right words is going to produce something magical.  We are told that we can move mountains if we only have faith.  I really believe this is true--provided our faith is a mature faith, rather than one that sees a life and a theology that is constantly moving forward without regression. 

Our societies and out institutions, just as we as individuals, change very slowly at best.  Sometimes not at all.

So here we are again:  Praying for the wisdom to know the difference between what we can realistically change and what we cannot.  And being content to stand in the "tragic gap," even as we are in the process of sorting it out.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Fri 03/07/2008
The Hippo
Topic: Making Decisions

One of my long-term male survivor friends (pseudonym Bob) is a chaplain who happens to also be a musician and a poet.  While we have even stronger connections than those, I cannot say more without breaking his need to maintain a great deal of confidentiality.  Bob is one of the strongest guys, with one of the most tender hearts I know.  Maybe he sees the latter in himself.  I'm doubtful on the first.   I can unload on Bob anytime I feel the need, and his work has ministered to more people than he probably will ever know.  Perhaps more to me than to anyone.

Years ago, not long after he'd revealed his own childhood sexual abuse to some co-workers and family members,  he handed me a copy of a long poem without a title, Let's just call it "The Hippo."  It so eloquently described the fear and courage that it takes to confront what many call "the elephant" --the primal emotions some of us encountered years ago.  While some of you reading this may have just started on the journey of attempting "wake the dead" while keeping your own sanity about abuse, collusion, or a myriad of other issues that trouble you.

"Use this or anything else that I write if you think it will be helpful to others," Bob frequently tells me, true to his generous self.  So here you are:

There’s a hippo in the corner of my room.

Strange, I hadn’t seen it there before.

But once I had bumped into it, I swear

I find it quite impossible to ignore.

I’ve noticed others manage to avoid it,

But now aware,

It’s like a magnet to my mind;

I’ve a penchant just to stare.

How strange, but now I know it,

It’s enormity is clear;

And I can’t deny the mess it’s made

Or how long it has been there.

There’s a hippo that is growing in my room.

But, when I try to speak of it I find

That everyone just stares at me so funny

And treats me as if I had lost my mind….

And though maintaining some concern about my mental health,

My family and friends conspire to save me from myself.

How dare I be so selfish, so inconsiderate, as to bring it up.

Hippos are so inconvenient.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Fri 03/07/2008 7:58 AM CST
Thu 03/06/2008
Thoughts on Gender Issues
Topic: Making Decisions

While the majority of my readers are female, I probably learn as much from the limited number of male survivors and advocates who come my way as I do from the majority.  This is not a reflection on any supposition that these guys are smarter than my own gender.  Please do not misunderstand me there. 

It has everything to do with the differences I see in the responses to abuse that I see between the two genders.  Those responses are not entirely gender specific, just like a lot of other issues.  At this moment, I'm not inclined to write in depth on this topic, though I may assign it to myself at a later date.

Long ago, I would have assumed that it is so much easier for male survivors to speak because society makes it easier for men to be heard on most issues.   I really thought they had an advantage.  I no longer believe that.

To admit to sexual or domestic abuse or to talk about the betrayal one has experienced as a spouse, father, or even as a professional advocate is to risk being emasculated by one's own gender.  For to be the underdog is considered by the traditional male, who has internalized the myths of tradition, to be a loser.  Or it's equivalent (ie. a woman). 

By staying "safe," men are able to preserve the personal advantage of having a place of privilege.  Every time they speak out, it seems there is a double battle to be fought.  In the same way that gay men have experienced.  One must overcome the inertia created by blowing the minds of people who don't want their minds blown.  So the struggles are even more likely to be turned inward. 

Even if one HAS confronted the myth and integrated it well into his psyche, the risk is still there.  Male survivors sometimes are able to overcome a good deal of this fear of being emasculated.  I don't think it ever goes away entirely.

No matter what precipitates their speaking, men who speak up on issues that so many prefer to see as "women's issues," no matter how personal those issues may be, are going to experience the attitude:  "Whose side are you on, anyway?"

After all, Muslim men may be the only group that voices it so clearly, but I'm convinced that Christian men are just as likely to say to themselves and one another:  "Thank God I wasn't born a woman!"

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:12 AM CST
Wed 02/06/2008
It's Never OK
Topic: Making Decisions

It is vitally important that all of us live by rules that are based on good judgment.   Judgment for the greater good. 

I'm frequently surprised at how survivors of clergy sexual abuse sometimes are prone to discard rules of civility, apparently reasoning that since "God's representative" broke the rules, then it's okay to do some rule-breaking in order to bring attention to the problems of abuse.  Not that this is a universal or even a common way of thinking.  It just amazes me whenever I see someone manipulating statistics, for example, in order to make a point.  I see this as counter-productive, for no scientific mind or professional is going to fail to see through such manipulation. 

It may surprise you to know that the same occurs with breast cancer.   You've seen the 1 in 8 figures?  Nobody bothers to tell you that this statistic is based on a life expectancy of 93.  Yes, if every woman lived to be 93, there would be a 1 in 8 chance of getting the disease.  That number was thrown around over a decade ago, just as it is today.  Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the life expectancy for women in 1995 was about 78.  These scare tactics have been successful in raising money and alarm, but undue alarm.  Breast cancer is a problem, I can certainly tell you as a victim of the horrific disease.  I want attention called to the problem as much as anyone.  Yet does this justify the misrepresentation of facts? 

As an author, I've had some instances of copyright violation committed by people who were either survivors or professionals in the role of advocacy.  The LAST place I'd expect to find such a boundary violation is in the survivor population.  Yet it's there.

Perhaps some would think I should not care.  After all, the reasoning goes, you should be glad your work is being used.  That's not the point!   Boundary crossing is cheating, no matter how it's done.  One can be cheated of time, money, reputation, or just an ability to make decisions that should be at the discretion of the one who was cheated.

May we never cease to monitor our own behavior and conscience.  It's never okay to cross boundaries, especially legal ones.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Thu 01/17/2008
Rules vs. Principles
Topic: Making Decisions

The rules have changed, some people say. When it comes to what constitutes abuse, that is. The rules have changed. Just as the rules about slavery have changed.

The principles have NOT changed. As Malcolm X reminds us. “Wrong is wrong no matter who does it or says it.”

Slavery was wrong, no matter what the manmade rules were regarding slavery. Even in New Testament days when the writers made it appear to not be wrong. It was. Check it out. Does Jesus give us any teachings that would condone slavery? Correct me if I’m wrong. I don’t believe he did.

You may recall that people very quickly began twisting and reorganizing Jesus’ teachings to fit them into something acceptable for the culture. Rules change. Principles do not. 

If we stop at the law, Jesus taught, we do not measure up to Kingdom standards.  We have to use standards that are higher.  It's not about "what we can get by with."  It's about what is right because it comes from a very pure heart, something none of us ever can claim, try as we might.

George Washington was a slave master. He was also a gambler who was deeply in debt because of his gambling. Most likely a mental health professional, after an in-depth interview, would probably declare him to be a compulsive gambler, based on documents now uncovered by historians.

In spite of this he managed to do some remarkable things. He showed courage as a general. He sacrificed greatly. Most of all, he spoke out against the institution of slavery at times while holding those back who wanted to take action to abolish it. And just speaking, in that day, was an act of courage that could have cost him his life!!

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Mon 01/14/2008
No Exceptions
Topic: Making Decisions

In keeping with what I've recently written about oppression and the Jewish community comes a strong reminder from Malcolm X:

"Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it." 

No exemptions.

In the days to come, I'll be going deeper into this line of thought.  Taking off with a man we've all been taught to adore.  A man who appears to have fully embraced the concept of freedom from oppression.

In this examination, George Washington will teach us lessons that our history books never did.  Showing how one's choices can continue to reverberate long after death.   Demonstrating how these results are multiplied with power, depending upon how the power is exercised.

I think you'll be surprised.  Some of the surprises may not be so welcome.  Yet they may lead you to formulate some personal insights as revolutionary as the American Revolution itself.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 1:49 PM CST

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