THE DEEPEST WOUND:
How a Journey to El Salvador Led to Healing from Mother-Daughter Incest
(author Linda Crockett)
Of course a story like Linda's, where the primary perpetrator of sexual abuse is the mother, is going to shock a lot in the general public. Just like it still shocks many when they hear someone say that abuse by clergy happens in non-Catholic circles yet just hasn't gotten the same attention.
The public wants to believe that mothers, just like Protestant ministers, aren't on the list of possible abusers. As Linda shows through this powerfully-written, well-organized book, victims who do not fit the stereotypes of victimization get shot twice--once, like all who have the courage to blow the whistle and again by the bystanders who idolize virtually all people who hold a special place in their hearts for those who are expected to be care-givers. Because of the threat that a report brings to our collective belief systems, survivors and advocates are perceived not just to be out to expose the individual perpetrator, but also "out to get" all in the group. (mothers, ministers, teachers) This misconception is what gives these "special" perpetrators even more power than the average ones. It is what isolates victims and makes us even more vulnerable when we speak out.
The precious china of simply being male, in the general population, got shattered a quarter of a century ago, making it much easier for their victims to be heard, at least outside of the family. It was shattered, to some extent (and much more so now in this year, 2002) for Catholic priests and those who protect them. The general public is starting to understand that the Catholic church is very much like a huge, dysfunctional family, even if they still believe the abuse is primarily a celibacy issue. There is hope that they are on a path to learning that it is not.
Linda's mother, like so many other mothers, wasn't qualified to be a mother just because she passed the test of surviving pregnancy and childbirth. Linda's father wasn't much qualified for parenthood either, as he was complicit over and over again.
The most striking contribution, to me, in this book is the concept of accompaniment, which was exactly what Linda was doing in a far different and very courageous undertaking when she got in touch with her distant past. You see, her past was impacting her present so badly that she could hardly function. Powerful flashbacks, as she listened to the stories of Salvadorans who had been tortured and raped, came as her own wake-up call. Unlike most, she listened to those internal voices and heeded their beckoning to deal with the past.
In her own willingness to stand beside and journey with people who were being traumatized, Linda illustrates, by example, what accompaniment is all about. She minces no words, reminding us of how we, as American taxpayers, joined our leaders in funding the bloodbath of atrocities. As a Christian, I see what Linda was doing in El Salvador as a witness and a work of prophecy. Now, through her boldness in The Deepest Wound she's doing it again!
This writer gives the most thorough, graphic, and self-revealing account of her journey through the consequences of the abuse, her successful and also her self-destructive attempts to cope, and her long, arduous path to integrating all of this so that she can teach the rest of us. That's what makes this book phenomenal.
Linda's struggle with faith issues lines the pages of this book. How I could identify! So will many of you. This woman who had risked her own life for others, in the name of Jesus, writes:
"I no longer prayed to the God of my parents, who demanded obedience and meted out punishment, nor attended church with them. I had no use for organized religion or for the church of my childhood where the seating was silently predicated upon social class. I wanted nothing to do with the all-powerful God these people worshipped. Yet I secretly held a place in my heart for the one they called Jesus." (p. 297)
Something else struck me, as I read. Fortunately, Linda was able to find people who were able to accompany her for long distances in her journey toward wholeness. Some of them couldn't do the whole distance, but some did. This aspect of her story stands as a shining example of something exceptional. It encourages all of us to continue to reach out, telling our stories, in the hopes of finding such people outside of the survivor population itself.
Imagine how different the outcome would have been, though, if Linda had turned to a pastoral counselor or other member of the clergy who did not have the impeccable boundaries of her counselor! This is exactly what happens to many survivors. They assume, and rightly so, that a member of the clergy should be competent and trustworthy. Before long, they find themselves used and abused again, wondering where on earth they can turn!
While I've known a few survivors of clergy who have found some support from non-survivors within the community of faith, the majority of us have found nobody to be there for the long-haul. Yet I want to believe that our voices collectively will eventually wake up the general public, breaking the precious china of the institutional church. Ironically, that's exactly what the leaders of the churches are afraid will happen!!
Therefore, The Deepest Wound is a book that should be read by anyone who has hopes of accompanying any survivor. It shows the value of this process for the spiritual well-being of us all, especially when it is done by people who are still associated with the community of faith.
The Deepest Wound reminds us that abuse has many faces. There is no typical story. Whenever we stereotype individuals who have been violated, whenever we stereotype stories or circumstances, results or the challenges created by abuse, we do a great disservice to anyone who doesn't fit into those stereotypes.
2015 Update from Linda Crockett herself: "This is where The Deepest Wound has led me -- to become a leader in an emerging national social movement to end child sexual abuse through a program out of Samaritan Counseling Center in Lancaster, PA that has gone from local to regional to a national training platform so fast my head spins sometimes! For the past 5 years I have been working with about 20 organizations across the country which were initially organized and funded by the Ms. Foundation for Women in their groundbreaking strategic initiative to end child sexual abuse. Samaritan SafeChurch represents what is a growing, vibrant, ecumenical stream of Christians who are stepping up to protect children from sexual harm by shifting culture in their congregations so that all adults become educated about child sexual abuse and how to prevent it - not only in their churches but in the community. I travel to various communities across the country to provide a 3 day SafeChurch facilitator training; we have our SafeChurch model running in various places, including Harlem, Harrisburg VA, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and of course here in Lancaster PA. I also write a blog about this work."
Dee Ann Miller is the
author of Enlarging Boston's Spotlight: A Call for Courage, Integrity, and Institutional Transformation (2017) How Little We Knew: Collusion and Confusion with Sexual Misconduct (1993)
The Truth about Malarkey (2000)