This week, we continue our series exploring the impact that ongoing abuse within the church has on one’s capacity to remain hopeful.
As I once read somewhere,
A religious upbringing can bring comfort.
It can also turn a child’s life into a living hell.
Barbara Blaine understood this as much as any of us who experienced sexual abuse at the hands of the church while we were children.
I learned of the passing of Barbara Blaine, as I am sure many of you did, with the message from her family. But it has taken me a few days to be able to talk about her and the impact she had. I believe I can best express my gratitude for Barbara by using an example of one of our normal interactions.
A typical phone call from Barbara would go something like this, “Dave, can you meet me in Tampa Saturday for a press conference in front of the Diocese there? We just learned of a priest who had…”
This call would of course, come on Friday, the day before the request. And I could rarely say anything other than, “what time do you need me there?”
You see, Barbara had a way of being persuasive that no one could deny! And that’s part of why we loved her!
One of the other reasons we loved her, and maybe the most important, is because she had not only lived our same pain, but was one of the first we could tell. Before I could tell my family, what had happened to me, there was only one group of people I trusted with that information. Barbara Blaine, David Clohessy and Barb Dorris with SNAP.
You see, SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) was founded by Barbara Blaine. And when you’ve been betrayed by the church, any church, and your faith has been shaken or even lost, you find it difficult to trust people. Barbara was one of the very first people I felt like I could trust again, and I wasn’t the only one.
Thankfully, Barbara helped quite literally, MILLIONS of survivors of sexual abuse understand that they weren’t alone. I can remember the day I first called SNAP, and it was the first time I heard someone tell me these words…“you’re not alone David, we are here for you and with you.”
Thank you, Barbara, for being there for me. Thank you for allowing me that first opportunity to help fellow survivors through and with SNAP.
Thank you for being the original “voice for the voiceless” when it comes to clergy who have stolen the innocence of childhood. Thank you for never wavering when it came to exposing the cover-up of this abuse within the church. And thank you for showing us all how to tenaciously demand their accountability, while at the same time, providing comfort for those they harmed.
We are all now working on what you began Barbara…and I hope we will continue to make you proud.
Below is the letter from her family.
“This world is dangerous not because of those who do harm, but because of those who look at it without doing anything.”
Mr. Einstein was of course talking about people, both within Germany and around the world, who knew of the atrocities being committed by the Nazi’s, but were saying and doing nothing.
Tragically, this can too easily be applied to childhood sexual abuse within the Church.
Of all the places children SHOULD feel most protected, we would think a place of worship and faith would be one. Instead, children can be just as likely to find sexual predators with a culture that protects the offenders and blames the victims.
With that in mind, let me ask some questions:
How much money would you spend to keep your children safe?
How much time is enough to learn what is necessary about abuse and those who would harm children?
How much effort/energy would you exert to save a child’s life?
The answers that come to all “normal”, rational people’s minds are easy, right? Any amount of money it takes! Whatever amount of time is needed! I would give anything and everything to save a child’s life!
But would you? Really??
I once met with a group of people, all who were people of faith, who seemingly spent more time asking me questions about how to get around protecting children. They asked what is “really” needed to protect children? What were the basics rather than all the details? They thought the statistics were exaggerated to get people to react. Thought that many on predator databases were made out to be worse than the crimes actually were.
Think your community is different? Think your church is different? Think you are?
Let me ask you this…what is your “price”?
We all have our price. You know, that imaginary line we cross when what is “costs” becomes greater than what we are willing to give…of dollars, time or energy. To say different is to be lying to yourself, or not very self-aware. We all have our price. I have mine.
Until I was about to drop dead from drug addiction, I was unwilling to say a word about the sexual abuse that I and others endured. Finally, I decided I wasn’t willing to pay that price for my silence any longer.
When I did come forward about the sexual abuse that occurred within the church, what I needed to hear was…we believe you, what can we do to keep this from happening again?
What I got was, “shut up, get over it, go away” and a perpetrator that wasn’t just allowed to assault more little boys, he was practically encouraged and definitely emboldened to do so by the church’s lack of action and silence.
With sexual abuse now coming to the forefront of society’s attention, I am scared…no I’m terrified, that churches run the risk of going off the tracks. Either by bunkering down in a CYA “we did all we could” mode with watered-down, so-called Christian checklists, that supposedly make a “ministry safe” for children. That churches will say, “Look, for a couple hundred dollars, we can make our church free of sexual predators by taking an online course.”
Or that they become numb and calloused from information overload, or misinformation by clerical surrogates. These things can happen without us even realizing it. Let me give you an example. Do you remember how you felt the day after terrorists attacked on 9-11? Do you remember how terrified you were?
What about now? Still just as terrified? Most would say no. That’s what happens. Its human nature.
Today, because there are so many cases of sexual abuse being made public, and just as many people trying to nullify their impact, we can forget WHY we need to learn more and do more…because there are children who have been harmed beyond what most can imagine.
Sometimes I post information of an event or resource I think is helpful. Sometimes I post about something I’ve learned and want to share.
Sometimes it’s simply something that’s on my heart…this is one of those times.
Please don’t assume your faith community has done all it needs to protect the children under its care. Ask questions, demand they do more. Lead by example and be willing to do more, give more and pay ANY price to protect your children and help those who’ve been harmed.
Monday, November 28th 2016. That date will go down in Baptist history as the beginning of the end. Not of the end of baptists; but something more tragic, and much more sinister. It’s the end of women being safe on Liberty University’s campus.
It was on Monday that Liberty University gave the middle finger to all victims of sexual abuse and sexual assault and told “whoever has ears to hear” that THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT THE SAFETY OF WOMEN ON CAMPUS.
On Monday, Liberty University and Jerry Falwell, Jr., joyfully welcomed Ian McCaw as its new Athletic Director.
Falwell, Jr. said of McCaw, “He’s a Godly man of excellent character and I could not be more excited about this announcement!”
Just in case you don’t know Mr. McCaw, let me catch you up to speed.
He was up until recently the Athletic Director for Baylor University. Yes, the Baylor that bears the same Baptist support as Liberty. And yes, it’s the same Baylor who fired its President, Ken Starr; Head Football Coach, Art Briles, and depending on which media outlet you believe, the aforementioned Athletic Director, Ian McCaw.
So why did this “Godly man of excellent character” leave Baylor?
Here are the football totals.
While McCaw was AD, Baylor football went from averaging 3 wins a season, to 9 wins a year. This is what Liberty wants everyone to focus.
But these are the human totals of a McCaw administration.
Reporter Jake New of Inside Higher Ed reported on Tuesday:
“McCaw resigned as athletics director at Baylor in May. His resignation came days after Baylor’s Board of Regents fired the university’s head football coach and forced out its president following allegations that the world’s largest Baptist university mishandled — and sought to suppress public discourse about — reports of sexual assaults committed by its football players and other students.
Baylor officials said earlier this month that, in total, 17 women reported 19 sexual or physical assaults involving football players since 2011, and that four of the reports involved gang rapes.”
Tragically it gets worse…
New’s report went on to say, and folks this is the crux of the issue…
“Baylor said McCaw was told about at least one of those gang rapes, which involved five football players, but he did not report the allegations to the university’s judicial affairs office or anyone else outside the athletic department, as required by federal law.”
So now you know the truth about Ian McCaw. Well, at least as much as we know for now. Pending litigation and the unknown number of silenced victims will probably prevent us from ever knowing the TRUE number of victims. But this is how they operate.
This is the organizational strategy of the Baptist Convention, its Churches and now we can see, it’s Colleges and Universities. They manipulate, they silence and they cover-up anything having to do with sexual abuse and sexual assaults within its walls or by those in power.
I know this to be true because they tried to silence my voice also.
Mark my words, starting on Monday, you will begin to see an increase of sexual abuses and assaults and the ensuing organizational coverup of them that Baptist have become so adept. Or so they believe. Lives will be ruined if not worse. And certainly souls will be tarnished, if not lost.
Monday, November 28th 2016. The day where mothers and fathers can no longer send a daughter to Liberty University with the belief she will be safe.
Welcome to the pursuit of FBS football Liberty. How pathetic that you traded your soul for it.
As a dear friend said to me recently…
“Sadly, None of this resembles Jesus.”
Copyright © 2016 Together We Heal
The title of this post is the story of a woman named Ashley Easter. I had the privilege of meeting her last week and I wanted to make sure our readers had the opportunity to hear her story.
As I read one of the first lines she had written, I completely related to her words and was taken back in time to the betrayal I felt within my own faith community as a 12-year-old little boy. Ashley wrote, “I used to believe that going to church and spending the majority of my time with church people ensured my safety.”
Our faith communities should be a place of safety. But it’s up to us to make them that way.
Please read and share her story with others. The point of doing this is not just about saying “oh look what a bad guy Rick Boyer Sr. is”, it’s about allowing another victim to read it and understand, “her story sounds like mine”. When this happens, it gives one more victim the ability to become a survivor. And that’s why we do what we do.
After reading her story, please also take a look at their upcoming event called “The Courage Conference”. They have some AMAZING speakers and it’s going to be a wealth of information. Rather than my feeble attempt to describe it, I’ll just relay it in their own words.
The Courage Conference is a non-denominational event that will offer a judgement-free place for survivors of abuse (and those who love them) to gather and hear inspiring stories from other survivors, as well as how they are finding healing and moving forward in boldness. It will also educate pastors and church leaders on how to prevent abuse, and how to respond when it happens. We will offer a unique opportunity to hear from trained professionals and to connect with free local resources, so your church doesn’t have to do this alone. Additionally, separate pastor-specific and survivor-specific breakout sessions will be a voluntary part of the program.
As y’all know, I don’t just post events, books, etc., willy-nilly on this website. We aren’t a mouthpiece for anyone nor are we a promotional site. When we share something with you, there’s a reason for it. That reason has been and will always be to help survivors. There’s no exception here with Ashley’s story and The Courage Conference.
Bless you Ashley for your courage in coming forward and for allowing others the opportunity to hear their story in yours.
Impotent Georgia Act Protects Sexual Predators, Baptist & Catholic Churches and the Insurance companies that underwrite their policies.
Usually when my wife and I travel to Atlanta it’s for visiting friends and family. Atlanta is where we grew up, were high-school sweethearts and eventually where we wed. (Even if it did take me over 25 years to muster the courage to ask her to marry me!)
But this week my wife and I will be in Atlanta with an additional purpose. Actually it will be a two-fold mission.
As with almost every Together We Heal event/conference/etc., we will be teaching parents, guardians, and adults of various leadership and authority positions over children, on how to talk with kids about childhood sexual abuse and better identify the grooming methods of sexual predators.
In addition to this, we’re going to have the opportunity to lobby local representatives and their constituents about making a change that would have permanent, positive benefits for all of the children of our home state. We want to help them see how imperative it is that they pass a law eliminating the statute of limitations on all sex crimes against children.
I know, sounds like a no-brainer, right? Tragically, you’d be wrong. When myself and my wife were sexually abused as children, not one single state had such a law on the books. And it’s only been in last few years that states started passing said laws. Sadly, the pressure from “higher powers” had a greater hold on state assemblies than did the courage to do the right thing.
Based on Together We Heal’s non-profit designation, Federal law limits the amount of time we are able to spend lobbying for laws to protect children and assist victims in attaining any measure of justice. Therefore, we quite literally must make the MOST of every second of time we put forth on this type of effort.
So this week, we will be making one such effort at a DeKalb Women’s Meeting with 2 legislators in attendance. It’s our hope, that since we will be speaking to people who live where our abuse occurred, it will resonate with them on a more personal level.
That being said, here is the reason why Georgia needs to eliminate statute of limitation laws regarding sex crimes against children. And by the way, my personal example is just one in millions that have happened. I’m telling you my story so you can know that this happens all too often.
When I FINALLY gathered enough strength to come forward, name the man who sexually abused me as a child; I did what I was told to do, I went to the police because everyone said that’s what you do and certainly they would help me.
I went to DeKalb County Police Headquarters, the original one on Memorial Drive, and spoke with a detective in the Major Felony division (now called Special Victims Unit). After over 2 hours of excruciatingly painful memories being drawn out, vile detail by vile detail, it finally came to an end.
And that’s when she asked me the question she should’ve started off by asking, ”when did this crime take place?”
I told her from 1981-1984. That’s when she said the words that ripped my heart and stomach COMPLETELY out of my body and threw them in the sewer.
Her reply, “Sorry, but we can’t help you. You waited too long to report this crime.”
WHAT!? I WAITED TOO LONG?! How could I have done anything WRONG here?!?!
She said, “it’s not that you did anything wrong, you just didn’t know. There’s a law called statute of limitations. And in Georgia, since you didn’t come forward by the age of 18, the time limit is up and he can no longer be criminally prosecuted for the offense. No matter what he did to you. No matter how many times or for how many years. You’re just too late.”
Tragically the police, even when they genuinely want to help, have no way of doing so because of the laws OUR legislators keep on the books.
Ask yourself this simple question and let logic dictate the answer.
Why would OUR representatives allow such laws to protect the perpetrator and further victimize the abused???
Recently a piece of legislation was passed in Georgia called the Hidden Predator Act (HPA). It was spoken of as some amazing Act, enabling any and all previous victims to come forward and get the justice they were for so long denied.
Turns out it was smoke and mirrors to make one Georgia representative appear good, but the bill is toothless and practically worthless. Although literally a couple of survivors have been able to utilize this bill, in a state of over 10 million, the VAST MAJORITY of Georgia victims will receive no such justice. Meanwhile, their perpetrators, and the ones protecting them, will remain happy all the live long day.
Why? Because the Southern Baptist Convention, Georgia Baptist Convention, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Roman Catholic Church and the Georgia Lobby for Insurance made it so. They “persuaded” YOUR representatives to remove all language that would give victims the ability to go after the churches, institutions, schools or companies that had any role in enabling, hiding or protecting the predators. By doing this it eliminated the possibility for almost any survivor to get representation. And with no attorney, no justice. Just all of the predators free and clear, to continue abusing, molesting, raping children and murdering their innocence and souls.
Most victims don’t have the strength to come forward, if they ever do, until their 30’s or 40’s, and by then it’s “too late” with the existing laws.
Sexual predators, Baptist & Catholic leaders, the Chamber and Insurance companies know this statistic, so their bean counters and leaders “convinced” legislators to orchestrate the law to read as it does. With the current language, it protects THEIR INTEREST.
And what, might you ask is their interest.
M-O-N-E-Y, NOT Y-O-U.
If these leaders actually cared about their constituents, parishioners, etc., this would not be the case. So to these “so-called” groups of faith and elected officials I say this…
“For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light.”
If we work together to do what’s right, protect potential future victims and enable justice for past ones, then we must pass a LAW, not a temporary bill like the one that expires in a little over a year, that does what should’ve been done already.
That’s right, the current HPA expires July 1st 2017, and at that time Georgia goes back to being one of the WORST states in the union for protecting child victims of sexual abuse.
So pass a law that ELIMINATES the statute of limitations on ALL sex crimes against children. And include language that allows for another 2-year window, only this time enable the revival against organizations & institutions and cap the claims at victims aged 53 (18 + 35). Georgia’s current bill allows victims to pursue litigation against the perpetrator only, not the people or organizations that covered it up or assisted them in any way. This is the only way to truly begin to stop this epidemic of abuse, to punish their enablers. If these predators had no protection, they most likely would’ve been caught.
Some very smart folks, who could explain the math about capping the age at 53 much better than I, have set that age for the reasons of how long it takes for most victims to be able to come forward and the age at which the perpetrators would be at that time. This gives the best chance for as many victims as possible to get the Justice that’s been denied them.
And maybe just as important, to expose the predators so that they can’t harm another child. Litigation shines the light and truth on them and that’s what they fear the most. And contrary to what certain church leaders and media members would have you believe, Pedophiles do not “age out” of abusing children. Fr. John Geoghan in Boston was abusing children in his 80s. The only 2 things that stop them are incarceration and death.
And to the people who inaccurately claim that enabling this 2-year window would inundate the court system with copious amounts of claims. I refer you to Marci A. Hamilton’s website for the facts – If you look at the “Relative Success” document and especially at the chart at the bottom, http://sol-reform.com/data/
you can see (1) the civil revival windows that have been opened against individuals AND institutions have not resulted in an avalanche of claims; (2) there are no false claims that have made it through the system; and (3) Georgia’s window has been relatively ineffective so far because it is only capable of being brought against individual perpetrators and aiders and abettors.
Want to know how many victims in Georgia have been able to file litigation against their abusers?
That’s 9 in a state of 10 million with AT LEAST 2 million victims. So far the Baptist & Catholic churches, Georgia Chamber of Commerce and Georgia Insurance lobby is winning. And Georgians are losing.
Going back to the question I had you ask yourself, what is the logic in these representative not already passing a law like this. What do THEY have to hide or be afraid of? If nothing, then it should pass unanimously, if not, then please give SERIOUS consideration to replacing your current legislator. Unfortunately, that’s the only language most lawmakers understand. Only when told they won’t be reelected will they actually listen to THEIR constituents.
I wish I could expose my abuser through the courts, but it’s too late for me. And because of this, he has gone on to molest, abuse and rape AT LEAST 7 others. Those are just the ones I know of. God and Frankie Wiley are the only 2 who know how many little boys’ childhood’s he’s murdered.
It’s too late for me, but there are approximately 2 million of your fellow Georgians who need your help. The only way this will happen is if YOU, make a stand, demand your representative pass this law or you vote in someone who will. It’s up to you. What will you do? Please don’t wait until it’s happened to one of your children or grandchildren. I beg of you.
Because I promise you, if you don’t, it WILL happen. The facts are the facts. 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys WILL BE sexually abused by the age of 18. The only way this changes is with the ability to prosecute predators. The only way that happens is for the laws to be changed. And the only way that happens is when it matters to you. Will it be before or after it happens to someone you know; someone you love.
Don’t let this be another example of putting up a traffic light AFTER a tragedy has happened. You have the ability to do something now. Will you?
Copyright © 2016 Together We Heal, Inc.
One of my favorite quotes is by Frederick Douglass who said,
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
Please keep these two things in mind when you begin to think, “it’s just too hard to talk with my kids about sexual abuse”.
Here in the USA, 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be victims of childhood sexual abuse before they turn 18…don’t let your child be another statistic, don’t let them become another David, or Linda, or or or…
They need your strength and guidance…you CAN talk with them and they will be grateful you did!!
If you’re finding it challenging to talk with your kids, please read this post for some guidance:
You are NOT your abuse.
You are NOT what they did to you.
You are NOT your trauma.
You ARE the cleverness that survived.
You ARE the courage that escaped.
You ARE the power that hid & protected a tiny spark of your light.
You will fan that spark into a bonfire of righteous rage and love,
and with it you will burn all their lies to ash!
Copyright © 2015 Together We Heal, Inc.