My Abuser is Like Lord Voldemort

He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named

You-Know-Who

The Dark Lord…

I must confess. I’ve never read the Harry Potter books. (I watched the movies, though! Surely, that must count for something?)

With my greatest apologies to J.K. Rowling, I have to admit that I never understood the reluctance of the characters in the Potter movie franchise to say the name of Lord Voldemort.

What’s the big deal? Why won’t anyone say his name?

For the Death Eaters, maybe it’s a form of reverence, like how my Jewish friends won’t say or write “God” in full.

But for everyone else? What gives?

As Professor Minerva McGonagall points out in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2, “…his name is Voldemort, so you might as well use it. He’s going to try to kill you, either way.”

It’s unreasonable that a name would have so much power.

Except… It’s not. It’s not really unreasonable that a single name can hold the power of destruction.

My abuser has “code names,” too, and I didn’t really think about it until tonight.

My abuser, for starters.

The man who hurt me.

HIM. (As in, “I had a nightmare about HIM last night.”)

That #*^!?*% ?%^~*#! (Mr. Wright’s name for him.)

Not saying his name doesn’t change what he did.

Keeping silent about who he is (although many have contacted me to say they know exactly who he is, based upon details — some are fellow victims, some are community members who “knew, even back then,” and some are people who associate with him now) doesn’t change my struggles and fears.

Protecting his name, when it seems “everyone” already knows, and there are public documents affirming that he sexually abused children… What purpose does it serve?

We live in a world gone wild for sensationalism. Why not just have it out? Why not plaster his name across social media, and the interwebs?

On Tuesday, I will say it.

I will say it out loud, and I will say it to a group of people who need to hear it. I will say it to people who can — if so inclined, literally walk across the street, pull out a file, and verify the truth.

“His name is _____ _______, so you might as well use it. He’s going to haunt you, either way.”

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30 Years Later, I Told… And They LISTENED

Many of you know my story. You know that 30 years ago, I was sexually abused by a man who abused not only me, but dozens of other children. You also know that several years later, during the investigation, I was too fearful to tell my story. I shrugged my experience off, too weary to retell what I had told before; too angry and cynical to bare myself and chance not being believed again.

Tonight, I told.

Tonight, after I became the victim of sexual battery, I told. I told LOUDLY. I announced, in my big girl, outside voice, exactly what that man did to me. I proclaimed it in front of his associates. In front of all the guests at the nice business party. I nearly shouted it.

Then, I left the party. I collapsed in the hallway, and contemplated leaving the hotel. Mr. Wright followed me into the hallway, and demanded I tell him exactly what happened. He insisted I walk back into that party, and show him who the man was.

I described the assailant, but refused to re-enter the party.

Then, something incredible happened. People from inside the party started coming out to the hallway. People who had seen what he did. People who had heard what he did. People who cared what he did, and people who were not going to let him get away with it.

Someone called hotel security, and as the party wrapped up and everyone filed out, several partygoers formed a protective barrier around me, and waited. They waited for him to walk out the door, and they confronted him when he did.

He admitted to touching my hand. He denied, however, placing my hand on his clothed genitals. Then, he changed his statement to, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” and he ran.

He ran down the hall. He ran around the corner. He ran for the stairwell, and started running down the stairs. We were on the 31st floor.

Security arrived, and assured me they would have his face on camera somewhere. They took my statement, and I told. Again, I told. The young blonde security woman listened, and she believed me. She told me the police had been called.

As she interviewed me, she listened in her earpiece, and updated me: He was seen running out of the hotel and into the street. What is my address? How about my phone number? Another update: Someone had caught up to him and detained him. The police were in contact with him. They’d like me to meet them outside and give a statement. Did I feel up to that?

She took me downstairs and walked me into the courtyard. There were at least four officers there, and more across the street. And, across the street, there he was, waiting to be positively identified by me, the victim. The police asked me for a statement, and I told. I told them, without tears, what he did. I told them with the confidence I wish I’d had decades ago. I told them in my big girl, outside voice.

Witnesses gave their statements, and that… that’s when I cried.

I cried because I’m not a child. I cried because the party was a group of adults at a business function, and it would have been so much easier and more comfortable for them not to tell. I cried because they cared enough to say, “That’s not okay, and we won’t stand for it.” I cried because my God, we need more people like them in the world.

I cried because these people YAWPed for me. For me!

I cried because… I’ve spent 30 years watching and learning that most people don’t do the hard thing when it comes to sexual abuse and assault. These people did.

In fact, it was one of those people who chased my assailant down and made sure police could grab him. It was another of those people who took the initiative to call security, and said he would make sure the police were called. Yet another saw it happen, and she gave a statement to the police.

Any one of these people could have turned the other way, and carried on with their night, but they didn’t.

I had to get into the back of a police cruiser. They drove me down the block, circled back, and lit up the “suspect” with a spotlight, assuring me he couldn’t see into the cruiser. They asked me to make a positive identification. Was it him? Was I sure? Was I positive?

Yes… Yes, I was, and I told.

Sexual battery is what he is being charged with, they said, which is a misdemeanor in the state of California (where I am at the moment). Normally, taking him into custody wouldn’t be required, but tonight… Tonight they took him into custody due to “proximity of the victim.”

They took him into custody to keep me safe. And they called me a “victim,” which didn’t make me feel weak. To the contrary, it made me feel strong and validated, because it meant they were listening, and they believed me.

They asked me if I will be willing to testify, should I need to? Yes. Yes, I will, and I will do so as many times as needed.

I’ve read a lot about bystander apathy, which occurs when a group of people fail to intervene, help or otherwise aid a victim. A number of things contribute to this phenomenon, including ambiguity (not clearly knowing if the victim really needs help) and diffusion of responsibility (assuming someone else will provide assistance).

What happened tonight defied the societal research. Tonight, people determined I needed help — even though my inclination was to leave the scene, and pretend like it didn’t happen after I told and got myself to physical safety — and took it upon themselves to ensure help arrived.

Don’t give up, readers… Some things in the world are just as they should be, and good people are out there, ready to listen and advocate.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one with a YAWP for the world, and I am grateful.

What We Can’t Unsee

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Back in November, Mr. Wright and I traveled to New Orleans for a conference related to his business. Although we were there in a professional capacity, we still made time for a little bit of fun and sightseeing, along with meeting up with a fabulous friend from my college.

Let me tell you about Bourbon Street…

If you love live music, you’ll enjoy taking in the local bands at various venues. If you love loud crowds and people watching, and are amused by the antics of the intoxicated, Bourbon Street was made for you. If you enjoy the freedom of carrying an adult beverage down the street while you stroll, you can’t go wrong on Bourbon Street.

However, Bourbon Street offers more.

It offers no shortage of “gentlemen’s” clubs, boasting everything from “live love acts” to dancers who are “barely legal.”

I defy you to walk the full length of the strip without either being solicited for “company” or witnessing someone being solicited for the same.

As a side note, the first time I visited New Orleans with Mr. Wright, we accidentally got off the main road — something we’d been advised by locals not to do, for safety reasons — and got a little bit turned around. Teetering on my not-sensible stilettos about five paces behind my husband on some weird alley-like side street, I listened with intrigue as a curvy woman in a Spandex dress murmured, “There’s comfort inside, Darlin'” to Mr. Wright from her doorway, illuminated by a red light. (Yes, really, a red light.)

“No thanks,” he said, and kept walking. I slowed as I passed the doorway, and my husband had to turn around and drag me away by the arm.

“She said COMFORT,” I insisted. “Maybe she meant a foot massage? These shoes are killing me!”

All joking aside, there is no denying the sex trade is alive and well in New Orleans. I watched, saddened, as business colleagues of my husband wandered into strip clubs or walked down the street with confident arms around the waists of women who clearly were not their wives.

It’s the same “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” mentality that rolls off the tongues of those behaving badly while traveling. And, by “badly,” I mean in ways that don’t edify their relationships, their hearts, or their spirits.

What happens in Vegas, or New Orleans, or anywhere else, does not stay there. It remains in the hearts and minds of the convicted, and it does not stay hidden from God.

Anyway, back to my point (and I do have one)…

Once we have recognized our own wounds, and given ourselves permission to process our history, and denounced the power of our abuse by breaking our silences, we see things differently.

We see others who are suffering, and we see them in a much different way than the general population sees them.

We see a special type of pain and coping that the “untrained” heart does not see.

We truly see the victims of bondage and abuse, and we cannot unsee them.

What’s more, many of them know we see them, and those victims will react in one of two ways. They may retreat, due to hopeless resignation, bitterness, or a misguided belief in “deserving” the abuse. They will look away, walk away, or otherwise remove themselves from our empathy. Others will silently acknowledge what they know we know with a pleading look that says, “Help me.”

As we passed the club advertising “love acts,” two women in skimpy lingerie lingering in the doorway caught my eye. One was animatedly engaged with a small group of men crowded around the entrance, while the other stood nearby, completely silent. I made eye contact with her briefly, and saw her suffering. I locked gazes with her for a moment longer than was necessary or comfortable, and offered her a smile.

She responded by looking down in shame and silence.

How I wish I’d taken the time to turn around, go back, and pray with her. I still regret not doing so.

It was getting later, and clubs were starting to wind down for the evening. A woman in a tank top and athletic pants, who we’d seen approach several different men during the course of the evening, talked to yet another, asking in thinly-veiled desperation, “Are you feeling lonely tonight, Sugar? Could you use some company?” When he declined, she said, “Alright… you have a good night, Honey,” and attempted a smile.

That’s when I saw the bruising her makeup didn’t full hide.

It was the end of the night, and she was probably going to have to tell a pimp that she hadn’t met her “quota” for the day.

We can’t unsee them, as heart-wrenching as it is.

Sometimes, I think, “Lord, haven’t I seen enough? I can’t save them all, so WHY? Why unveil my eyes in THIS way, to THIS issue, to THIS pain?”

I can look away, but I can’t unsee.

I stumbled across this verse, and it didn’t seem profoundly relevant to me, at first:

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (Hebrews 13:3, New International Version)

But something in it made me want to dig deeper, looking at different versions of the same verse…

New Living Translation:

Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.

New English Translation (a.k.a. the NET Bible):

Remember those in prison as though you were in prison with them, and those ill-treated as though you too felt their torment.

King James:

Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

Aha! These different versions, together, formed a cohesive picture for me. I can’t unsee the bondage, lest I forget it. I can’t unsee the suffering, lest I become indifferent to it.

Maybe I can’t SAVE them all, but I can be a VOICE for them all. God has given me the gift of true sight when it comes to these special daughters and sons of His… and He has given me a YAWP to speak for them.

Small Victories, Take TWO

Remember back in December of 2013, when I became aware that the full, un-redacted Findings of Fact and Order on Revocation of my abuser’s teaching certificate had been posted online, containing full names of the victims?

Remember how I had to call the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and demand that they take it down, and leave it down, until it was properly redacted?

Remember my outrage at how his victims were re-victimized by being publicly and digitally linked to him through a short Google search?

Remember my celebration at the small victory when it was taken down?

Imagine my surprise when, on December 4th of 2014 — almost an entire year later — it came to my attention that the document was back online, and only PARTIALLY redacted. Unbelievably, it still contained the full names of a handful of minor victims.

So, I contacted OSPI… AGAIN.

Here’s how it all went down, in a nutshell:

1. In 1985-86, at least two classmates and I were molested by our teacher in the Manson School District.

2. In 1991, we — along with several other victims — were a part of an investigation by OSPI. As it turns out, the first reported sexual abuse dated back to 1977 with this particular teacher, and there were dozens of victims. No one seems to know why he was allowed to continue to teach for all those years, since he was counseled by the administration on several occasions about his actions, but… I digress.

3. After lengthy appeals, he finally had his certificate revoked in 2001.

4. Media reports indicate that Chelan County Sheriff’s Office looked into at least some of the incidents, but prosecutors declined to — ahem — prosecute, which is what I think they’re supposed to do? Anyway, this former teacher doesn’t have to register as a sex offender.

5. In December of 2013, I learned that the final order on this teacher’s revocation was posted — and had been for years — on the OSPI website. It was un-redacted, and contained the full names of minor victims. NOT COOL.

6. I (along with a sister survivor) contacted OSPI and demanded that the document be removed, as it did not follow protocol for protecting the identities of minor victims.

7. After a brief and condescending objection from the OSPI employee I spoke with (She wanted to know exactly WHO I was, and WHAT my interest was in the case — I told her I was a victim, and a blogger, and she demanded to know my name, which is already in their file from my Public Records Request, and my blog address. I told her I’m Google-able, since I’m an author, and I’m sure she’d be able to locate the blog without my help. She wasn’t pleased.), I was assured it would be removed. It eventually was.

8. Almost a full year later to the day, in December of 2014, I learned the document had returned to the website, and was only partially redacted, so several of the minor victims’ names remained. OUTRAGE!

9. I called OSPI — again — and spoke with a man who wanted to challenge whether or not the victims — described as fifth-, sixth-, and eighth-graders — were “ACTUALLY MINORS” at the time. Ummmm… Yeah. I’m pretty sure they were. After a heated discussion (and me saying, “Are you kidding me?!” more than once), he left me a voicemail stating it would be taken down again. It was.

10. Then, I contacted both Congressman Dave Reichert’s office, and state Representative Cary Condotta’s, to ask them both to look into what federal and state statutes are in place to prevent the publication of minor victims. Their respective legislative assistants are awesome, by the way.

11. On December 10, 2014, I got a call from Representative Condotta’s assistant, telling me he’d been in contact with the lead for Professional Standards at OSPI, and not only are they making darn sure this time the document would be properly taken care of, but they are ALSO hiring a legal assistant specifically for the purpose of reviewing all the existing documents which also may be effected by the clearly lame oversight at OSPI.
I’ve held onto this post for a while, to ensure that when the document was reposted, it was done so with the proper redactions. I see that it has been, so…

Please join me in celebrating a small victory for the privacy of minor victims of sex abuse in Washington state, for the second — and I hope LAST — time.

So Far to Go…

Sometimes, things reach right up out of nowhere, and knock the breath out of you.

I didn’t plan to see my childhood abuser last night.

I didn’t think — during an evening of trick-or-treating with Curlytop and Snugglebug — to put my guard up.

Nonetheless, there he was.

I had a plan. It was a good one. This year, on Halloween night, like last year and the year before, we’d take the kids to the Harvest Festival at our church, where they’d receive ample amounts of love and uplifting, and be shielded from the commercial nuances of the “holiday.” Oh, and they’d get to dress up and bring home loads of Red Dye-free candy, because they’re notoriously allergic, and our church family knows it.

So, I was helping the kids into their costumes when Mr. Wright announced, “Oh, yeah… My band has a gig tonight, so I’ll be leaving in about 30 minutes with the car.”

We have one car. Our church is not within walking distance. Argh.

I love my husband, but when it comes to scheduling, he is much more “fluid” than I, and it causes no small amount of distress to me, the “planner.”

“No problem,” he said. “The gig is in (my hometown), so you can take the kids trick-or-treating at the businesses downtown while the band is playing, then come pick me up when it’s over.”

The prospect of returning “home” always makes me uneasy since seeing my abuser in the grocery store last summer, but I tried to cheer myself with the thought that I might see some old friends out and about with their kiddos. Besides, he doesn’t have kids, so the chances of running into him seemed mighty slim.

I was wrong.

There he was, set up on a street corner with a canopy, handing out candy to kids. Kids of all ages. When I spotted him, he was talking to a girl about the age I was he molested me.

My first response was terror.

I steered Curlytop and Snugglebug in the opposite direction, and looked back over my shoulder, as if he would follow us.

Of course, he didn’t.

But the fear was real.

Then, there was anger. And outrage. Didn’t the downtown association know WHO HE WAS?!

Had the community forgotten WHAT HE DID?!

And I realized how different things are today. How — because he was never prosecuted — there is a large new local population who DON’T KNOW.

There are mamas living within that community that don’t have that protective, gripping compulsion to steer their kids in the opposite direction. There are fathers who may pal around with him, bring the kids over for a barbecue, and not be afraid to leave their kids outside a line of sight for 30 seconds.

Then… I was angry at myself.

Angry because I haven’t forgiven him. Angry because I haven’t reached the point where I’ve asked God to release the burden of hatred and resentment. Angry because that very burden lords over my life in so many ways.

It affects my friendships, my relationships with my children, and my marriage.

Angry because that man who today, almost 30 years later, looks more like a regular old citizen than a monster, stole a piece of me a long time ago, and every time I think I’ve got it back, I’m knocked on my butt and reminded that without God, I’m just spinning my wheels.

Angry because I’m stingy with God. I say, “Here, take my life and my sorrows and my burdens… But not THIS. I need to keep this a bit longer, because it’s so much of who I am, and without it, I’m afraid I won’t exist.”

Angry because I AM the victim mentality I loathe in others.

If there is a prayer for me within you today, friends, please let it be for COURAGE to let go, FAITH that God sees me as more than that man’s victim, and STRENGTH to accomplish God’s plan for me.

I know he has bigger plans than fear for me, and I’m stalling the process.

He has bigger plans for you, too… Can we support one another, and lift each other up?

When People Use Your Abuse to Hurt You

There is a bitter woman in my life. There’s no way to dress it up. She’s angry, and resentful.

Recently, during one of her many text-rages to my husband, she accused him of moving three hours away “so your wife can be near her pedophile.”

Wow. Deep breath… Wow.

I must confess, the woman knows how to bring me to my knees.

Surely, she must know how difficult it is to be within “hollering distance” of my abuser. A logical, rational mind can’t help but know. I’m left with no choice but to believe her words were sheer malice, the very fruit of bitterness.

What does the bible say about bitterness? Well, here are a few verses:

“Therefore I will not keep silent;
I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit,
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” (Job 7:11, NIV)

“I loathe my very life;
therefore I will give free rein to my complaint
and speak out in the bitterness of my soul.” (Job 10:1, NIV)

Each heart knows its own bitterness,
and no one else can share its joy. (Proverbs 14:10, NIV)

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. (Ephesians 4:31, NIV)

But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. (James 3:14, NIV)

Clearly, God wants us to rid ourselves of bitterness, but Job said — more than once — in essence, “My life sucks and I’ve had incredible trials and hardships, so I’m bitter.”

I was about to fire off a spiteful, incredulous text back to the woman whose singular goal was to hurt me, but… I stopped.

The phone was literally in my hand.

What pain, what torment, has taken root in her heart so deeply that the only way to soothe it — even for a moment — is to attack me with the most painful thing I’ve lived through? I thought.

My eyes were opened, and I saw her as a wounded animal, writhing in pain as she struggled with the weight of a burden she couldn’t release, lashing out with claws at anyone who came near.

Isn’t that what we do, when we’re hurt, defeated, overwhelmed, and without hope?

I’ve chosen to pronounce my pain in a very open forum, perhaps giving her an endless supply of stones to cast at me in her hatred.

She… has not chosen a public revelation of her trials.

I don’t need to know what they are. It is enough to know they exist. If they didn’t, she wouldn’t live in the bondage of bitterness.

In so many ways, we are sisters. We share love for the same children, we sometimes get angry with the same man (ha!), and we’ve both suffered. Greatly so, it seems.

It is unproductive for me to harbor hatred and withhold forgiveness. It is unproductive to try to have a conversation with her. I’ve tried. The most productive thing I can do is pray for her, and love her. (Lord, help me with that one, will you?!)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-45, NIV)

…pray for those that persecute you…

May the rain wash away your bitterness, and may God’s love soothe your pain. May you find the gift of forgiveness, and find yourself healed in His glorious light.

Here are some words from my favorite poet, Rumi:

We are the mirror as well as the face in it.
We are tasting the taste this minute of eternity.

We are pain and what cures pain both.
We are the sweet cold water and the jar that pours.

I want to hold you close like a lute so we can cry out with loving.

You would rather throw stones at a mirror?
I am your mirror, and here are the stones.

Please, take all the stones you need. I’m giving them to you.

I’ve already been broken, shattered into a brilliant, reflective masterpiece of glory. A mirror intact reflects one image, and one only. A mirror shattered glistens with light from every angle.

When Your Abuser is Popular

In an October 1976 issue of People, Woody Allen stated:

‘I’m open-minded about sex. I’m not above reproach; if anything, I’m below reproach. I mean, if I was caught in a love nest with 15 12-year-old girls tomorrow, people would think, yeah, I always knew that about him.’ Allen pauses. ‘Nothing I could come up with would surprise anyone,’ he ventures helplessly. ‘I admit to it all.’

While admirers and fans may have dismissed the quip as just one more neurotic rambling from the quirky genius, for his daughter, Dylan Farrow, reading those words — spoken by her father, well before she was born — must be gut-wrenching.

The story Dylan tells of what happened when she was seven years old is chilling. What haunts me about her story is how the world turned a blind eye to her claims, because her father was — well — Woody Allen. He’s been praised and revered by Hollywood, by journalists, critics and fans, and almost no one gives a second thought to the little girl who knows him to be a monster.

I understand what Dylan is feeling, when she writes:

So imagine your seven-year-old daughter being led into an attic by (her abuser). Imagine she spends a lifetime stricken with nausea at the mention of his name. Imagine a world that celebrates her tormenter.

You see, my abuser is popular.

He may not be the proud owner of a shiny teaching certificate any longer, but he is relatively successful. He owns various rental properties, including vacation rentals which rent out at $4,100 to $4,300 per week. He mingles with folks who matter. He is an accomplished athlete, and has won numerous races and awards for his skill.

He fosters dogs awaiting adoptive homes, and has signed up to train service dogs.

I can see, from browsing his Facebook profile, that we have five mutual friends — four of which I met through my original home church, and the last who I met through the resort I worked at the summer I was 18. I’d already started my job when I learned my abuser also worked there, in the same department. I had to go to my supervisor, tearfully explain the history, and ask to be put on a different shift, so I wouldn’t have to see him.

I also see photos, visible to the public, on his profile. Photos of him with a little girl on his lap, and his arm around another little girl, the top of his thumb just below her still-developing nipple. Photos of him and four pre-pubescent girls in bikinis. Photos of him rafting with a girl who went to high school with my daughter.

He is a popular man. Maybe he’s not Woody Allen-popular, but he is popular in a tiny town, where the graduating class of 1992 was 24 students.

And, I must admit, I get it. He’s smart. Brilliant, actually. He’s funny, and resourceful, and he likes to cook and bake (he took me and a couple of my girlfriends to his house to make cookies one day, as a “workshop”).

He is the reason I know the difference between “Can I…” and “May I…” (“I’m sure you can, but no, you may not.”) He is the reason I qualify as a “grammar Nazi,” and am fiercely protective of proper use of our language.

I learned some of the best (clean) jokes I know from him, as well as some of my most effective mnemonic devices. My obsession with certain books, DOS-based computer games, television programs, newspapers… those are all influenced by him.

I am the brilliant, unconventional, genius-caliber bundle of chaos I am today, in part, thanks to him.

What’s my point? I’ve been thinking about this, for days. What am I trying to say?

It means nothing, without repentance.

Woody Allen may be celebrated, honored, revered, even worshipped… but it means nothing, without repentance, if he is guilty of Dylan’s abuse.

My abuser may be talented, brilliant, even likable… but it means nothing, without repentance. He is guilty of abusing many children.

And, when the world holds our abusers on a pedestal, it makes us feel that much smaller — that much more insignificant.

Know this, though… To God, we are not insignificant. We are not small. We are not meant to live in the shadows of our popular abusers.

To the contrary, we are meant to outshine those who have hurt us. In our boldness, our tenacity, our strength, we mean something. We mean more to others who are crying out, locked into their own shame and pain. We mean more to those who will be saved because we choose to speak. We mean more to a world that is quickly tiring of silence and conspiracy… Our voices matter. They matter to so many lost, and they matter to God.

There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. (Luke 12:2-3, NIV)

Our stories will be amplified. The truth will not be hidden forever. Again, I go back to Whitman’s Song of Myself, and his line — I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world. — for which this blog is named.

And, the words of Marianne Williamson, author of Return to Loveseem especially on-point, here. (Please note: This quote is often erroneously attributed to Nelson Mandela, but was penned by Williamson.)

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

A certain amount of “celebrity” comes with going public. It’s not the sort of fame we wish upon anyone, but it holds more sincerity and merit than pop culture.

We are… creating a new culture — one in which silence no longer wins, and victims no longer suffer alone.

Are you ready to break your silence? LISTENconspiracy wants to help. Find them at LISTENconspiracy.com, or on Facebook.

It’s time for your barbaric YAWP to sound, over the rooftops of the world.

How can I pray for you, today?

A Letter to My Abuser

You’re an educated man. Have you read much Longfellow?

How about his poem, “Retribution?” I’m rather partial to it:

Though the mills of God grind slowly;
Yet they grind exceeding small;
Though with patience he stands waiting,
With exactness grinds he all.

I’m pretty much over the common belief that “justice delayed is justice denied.” I know God will deliver His justice, in His time.

I’ve done my homework.

I know that between 1975 and 1991, you abused many children.

I know the laws in our state, and I’m aware that, for many of your victims, the statute of limitations (SOL) has expired.

I also know that, in 2013, the SOL in our state was lengthened.

I’m pretty sure you must know that, too. I imagine you, tracking the house bills, wondering if they’ll clear the session; wondering if the senate will pass them, as well…

It can’t be easy for you.

I don’t want it to be easy. In fact, I want you looking over your shoulder, wondering if this year — this one — will be the year our state does away with the SOL on sex crimes against children.

I also know the recidivism rate for reoffense by child molesters is based upon those who have been caught, prosecuted, and convicted. Even that number is fairly scary, especially considering many of them receive treatment in custody.

But people like you… People whose crimes are dealt with administratively, saving a school district embarrassment, people whose crimes are reported to law enforcement (at least twice), but are never charged… What is the recidivism rate for you?

I’m going to guess it’s higher. Much higher. You’ve been getting away with it for decades. Literally, decades. Longer than many of your victims have been alive.

So, I’m banking on the fact that there is another girl (or boy) out there, in more recent years, that you’ve touched, shamed, and tried to destroy.

It only takes one.

One story to open up the door to prosecution.

I’ve told my story, now. I’ve joined forces with a couple of powerful, beautiful warriors, and founded the LISTENconspiracy.

We’re stripping away your protection. We’re telling the stories which have too long been kept silent. We’re uniting survivors, and we are rallying for justice.

God’s justice.

Telling my story once was difficult. Telling it again, and again, and again, and again has become quite easy. I have the truth on my side, and God is storming the fortresses of silence before me.

It’s a small town. Someone is going to talk. I know that one story is out there, and it will come out.

When it does, you can bank on seeing my face in that courtroom. You can plan to hear me speak out for that ten-year-old girl you preyed upon.

She’s found her voice.

And a megaphone.

I’m not going to go away, and neither will the truth.

I just thought you should know.

I’m reminded of a story from the Bible… The story of DAVID.

David was tapped to do some pretty awesome things as a young man, and ended up in a position that required him to give wisdom and leadership. (Not unlike many who are called to be teachers.)

As king, he sort of lost his focus. Big time. See, when he should have been out leading his troops, he was hanging around the palace, instead, and that’s when he saw Bathsheba.

Unwilling to quell his own lust, he made time with the beautiful lady, and she became pregnant.

This was a major faux pas — not only because God had given David all the concubines he could ever want, but also because Bathsheba also happened to be married to one of David’s most loyal and fierce warriors, Uriah.

So, David devised a plan to hide his sin, and had Uriah brought home from the battlefield, thinking the battle-weary warrior would celebrate his homecoming by making love to his wife.

Unfortunately for David, the plan didn’t work out so well, as Uriah was a dedicated soldier, and refused to do anything but hang out at the servants’ quarters, and request to go back into battle with his brethren troops.

So, David directed his leaders to push Uriah to the front line, and abandon him like a lamb left for slaughter.

It was no great surprise (in fact, it was rather a relief) when David received word that Uriah had died in battle.

In short order, he moved in his pregnant mistress, and attempted to get on with the business of playing house with her.

But, God was displeased. He’d stood by David, even blessed him with great power and riches, only to have David rebel with his lust. So, God struck Bathsheba’s child ill after it was born.

David was distraught. He pleaded with God to spare the child, to no avail. After a very public, very prolonged, period of repentance, God once again blessed David with a son.

I relate this story not because I think you don’t know it, but rather because it illustrates a very basic, very necessary principle:

Repentance.

Do I think it’s too late for you? No. I don’t. However, I must emphasize that you have not yet gained God’s forgiveness, because you have not repented.

I’ve been speaking with some of your victims. They still — decades later — live in terror of you. We have seen no indications of remorse, regret, or repentance.

It is also of note that God delivered the sentence for David’s betrayal, and in addition to taking the child Bathsheba carried, He also determined that a man would — years later — sleep with David’s concubines in broad daylight.

It happened, just as God said it would.

David’s repentance spared his life, but his sentence took years to complete.

I beg you, repent; confess. Accept your sentence, though it may take years to carry out. Do it, so that God may spare your soul.

Though the mills of God grind slowly;
Yet they grind exceeding small;
Though with patience he stands waiting,
With exactness grinds he all.

Crawling INTO the Dark

Sure, I talk a good game — storming into the light, dragging my victorious truth with me, and all that.

It’s only half the story, though.

Actually, it’s not even half. Most of the story is about being blinded by false lights for most of my life. We’ve all seen them — the colorful, flashing, attractive distractions; a veritable carnival of demi-healing.

There are a lot of people offering “light” of some sort, and I’ve met them all, including — but not limited to — those I told, those who were in a position to protect me, and my abuser(s).

I even became one of those faulty light-bearers.

First, there were the soothing, progressive blues of denial, lit up by everyone around me:

“You must have misunderstood.”

“He’s not that bad; just ask him to stop.”

“I’m just showing you how special you are, and how much I appreciate you.”

“Maybe you’re exaggerating, Honey.”

“I just don’t think he’s capable of that.”

These blues continued into my adulthood, when I was told by a doctor to:

“Think of it not as childhood sexual abuse, but instead as being introduced to sex in a different way than the norm.”

I wanted the blues to last forever. They were cooling, and numbing to the pain. They were easier to believe than the truth.

The reds were violent; accusatory. They flashed with all the brilliance of a piercing strobe, accentuating every move, thought and decision I’d ever had or made.

“You’re sucking up the teacher so you don’t have to do your work.”

“You know you like this.”

“Look at how you dress — you’re practically begging for it.”

“What did you expect, hanging out with older boys?”

“How could you be so stupid?”

“No one will believe you.”

“He’s a nice guy… He’s not really like that. Why are you trying to get him in trouble?”

“You’re a slut, and everyone knows it.”

“You’re delusional.”

“You’re mentally ill.”

The reds hurt. Not only were they piercing, but they put the blame squarely on me… Where it “should” have been.

Over time, I created my own light shows. They were mostly purple, and a blend of the blues and reds I’d been retreating to.

“It wasn’t that bad, and other people have real problems.”

“Maybe I did send the wrong signal.”

“How could I have been so stupid?”

“Maybe I’m remembering it wrong.”

“I don’t deserve the ‘good’ thing. I know this isn’t healthy, but it’s what I’m worthy of.”

“It’s my fault, because I didn’t speak up.”

“It was terrible, and my body responded in a confusing way… I must be a deviant.”

“I’ll never be healed. I’ll always be messed up.”

“I’m a bad wife. The Bible tells me sex is a gift. There must be something wrong with me, if I can’t feel good about it.”

I developed lush green lights, too, which gave the appearance of growth, healing and power:

“If men are just going to use my body, I’ll show them… I’ll get what I need from them in exchange.”

“I’m liberated because I can see sex as a physical act, and not get emotionally caught up in it.”

“There is no one — no one — that is ‘safe.’ By not giving my heart, I’m protecting myself.”

“I can just pretend it never happened, and everything will be okay.”

The greens worked for a while. At least, I thought they did. In reality, they blended with the blues, reds and purples, and created a murky, suffocating brown.

Color is a funny thing… Did you know, if you could blend every color of paint together, the result would be black? We often think of black being absent of color, but in reality, it is all the world’s colors, combined.

Light is different, though.

If you combine light of every color, it actually produces WHITE light.

For me, that white light was very attractive. It meant freedom from darkness. However, what I failed to realize at the time was that the white light I was following was a blend of all the colored “light” lies I’d come to believe.

It wasn’t until I was able to scoot away from all those “pretty” lights — the distractions — that I was able to see the value of the dark.

Yes, I said the value of the dark.

In the dark, in the quiet stillness, there is clarity. In the darkest of places, it is easiest to see the light that fights to invade it.

Did the blue light-burners come for me? No. What about the red light-bearers? Nope… They were happy to see me retreat. Even the self-ignited purples and greens were swallowed by the darkness.

The only light that seeped in through the cracks was white — PURE white, not a combination of all those others. It stood alone, its own beautiful creation, and it didn’t subside.

I won’t deny it… It hurt, at first. Just as my eyes had begun to acclimate to the darkness, that tiny sliver of light was invasive, and threatened to blind me. I tried to turn away from it.

Still, the light persisted, even when I closed my eyes to it. It provided warmth when I moved toward it, and proof that something else existed, beyond my darkness.

As time passed, I grew to appreciate the constance of the illumination. It never ebbed, and didn’t abandon me. Eventually, I trusted it.

I trusted it enough to move forward, to claw my way out of the darkness, to scramble over every action and every event that I’d lived through, and to fight my way out.

I learned to ignore the flashing neon signs — in those old colors — that popped up along the way, threatening to stop me in my tracks.

I picked up speed, pressing onward, and the light grew.

With a thundering, mighty YAWP, I sprinted over the edge of the shadowy past, and into pure, brilliant, loving LIGHT.

I was safe and warm. My eyes were finally opened fully, and I didn’t go blind.

When I looked back, the dark was gone. The remnants of my past were still there, but illuminated, with glints of beauty marking each time I survived, each time I chose to live, instead of giving up.

God was my pure light. He came looking for me, when I huddled in the dark, and kept me warm, even when I closed my eyes to Him.

He remained constant, and His steadfast love allowed me to trust that there was more than the darkness.

For me, I had to crawl into the dark… Even if only to find the most beautiful of lights.

Small Victories and the Battle Ahead

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I recently shared my story, with the intent to give others hope, and to give a voice to those who also suffered at the hands of my abuser, only to not be heard in the ways it mattered.

While some thought I should have “called out” the man who abused me, and others, I was protective in writing my story… Not to protect him, but to protect other victims.

You see, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) of Washington state made a grave error, twelve years ago.

When a teacher loses the legal right to teach in my state, that information is posted on the Disciplinary Actions page of OSPI’s website. That is a good practice, as far as I’m concerned, because it establishes, for the public, a record of that action.

Normally, as far as I can tell from looking at other disciplinary records, the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law are redacted to remove the names of minor victims before being attached to the Order of Revocation and posted to the website.

In my teacher’s case, the “normal” procedure wasn’t followed.

Instead, the full Findings and Conclusions were attached to the Order — including the FULL NAMES OF THE MINOR VICTIMS.

A Google search for my teacher’s name turned up, as the first result, that document, exposing the names of many (not all; just a select few, plucked from the investigative file) of his victims.

Dear Readers, I could not risk exposing these precious individuals to re-victimization or further pain by dragging their names into a public forum, for anyone who had access to the internet.

So, I played it vague, and contacted as many named victims as I could, letting them know my story had gone public, asking their forgiveness for not being strong enough to stand with them when I was asked to testify, and alerting them to the fact that their full names were out there, on the internet, associated with their victimization at this man’s hands.

One individual told me she was aware. She had, over the years, done internet searches for our abuser, trying to “keep tabs” on him, to learn whether he was still alive, whether he’d faced any consequences, whether he still had access to children… I understood her curiosity all too well. I, too, had attempted to learn as much as possible about him.

She’d seen the document, and shared more of her story with me, over the phone. I cried with her, and prayed with her.

Another individual was completely blindsided. Learning her name was on the internet as part of the Order of Revocation stirred up in her panic, alarm, fear, and a deep sense of betrayal.

She’d been promised by investigators that her testimony and name would never be made public, and it was a condition of her testifying.

Again, she had been failed by the very people who were supposed to protect her.

This woman was failed by her teacher (we all were), by fellow teachers who stood by and allowed — even enabled — his cruel behavior, and by the school administrators, who were — apparently — complicit in her abuse.

And then, OSPI — the “good guys” who swooped in to make sure he would never teach again — they failed her, too. They posted her name and story, in direct opposition to the promises she’d been made in exchange for her testimony.

I was outraged, with her, and for her.

I knew the fear associated with speaking out. In fact, my fear was so great that I had failed to do so.

So… She and I got on the phone with OSPI. We demanded the document be removed. We refused to listen to excuses about how it got there, how it was overlooked for twelve years, and how it remained unredacted, after all these years.

We didn’t play into the fishing expedition performed by the OSPI rep to find out how deep their liability might run. We dug our heels in, and demanded it be removed.

Finally, it came down.

If nothing else was gained by my story going public, I will take this small victory. No longer will the innocent risk re-victimization through being “advertised” as his victims.

Praise The Lord for this small — but necessary — battle victory!

So… I’m sure the question I will face next will be, “Will you name him, now?”

I don’t know. I can’t promise that I will. What I can promise is to pray about it.

I don’t want to confuse speaking out for the sake of the voiceless with my own personal revenge, or a misled crusade for justice.

I don’t want to lose the focus on the larger problem of sexual exploitation by targeting one man.

When, and if, I decide to name him, y’all will be among the first to know. My suspicion is that he has already read my story. If that is the case, I hope he becomes convicted before The Lord, and repents with sincerity.

I fight each day to not let resentment and hatred overrun my life. I’m not yet strong enough to forgive, though I know it’s critical to my healing.

Perhaps the largest battle — for me — lies ahead, as I fight my own heart to find the strength to forgive.