Speaking OUT to end clergy sexual misconduct.

Posts tagged ‘Irene McCormack Jackson’

Irene McCormack Jackson: Strong Survivor

Remember Irene McCormack Jackson? Last summer, she was the first of 19 women to publicly accuse then-Mayor Bob Filner of sexual harassment. Ultimately she won: the mayor resigned, and she received enough money to cover therapy and lost salary. But she also had to give up the job she loved, step away from her career, and heal.

A year after her public ordeal, she is back as a strong survivor. I was thrilled to hear Irene sharing her wisdom with KPBS reporter Peggy Pico this morning. Here’s some of that wisdom:

1. Reporting is hard…
When Irene realized the mayor had other victims too, “I had to do something that made an impact, but I had to do it wisely. I couldn’t come out and talk about… the mayor of the 8th largest city in the country and just make an allegation and expect it to go someplace. His power was amazing. He could do anything. I fully expected him to [ruin my career] if I did something. [I couldn’t go to Human Resources because] the Mayor of San Diego manages HR… There’s really no safe sanctuary when you’re working for the Mayor of San Diego.”

2. … but we do it anyway, to protect other victims.
“I did this for the other women that I thought it was happening to. A lot of it had to do with watching young women come into the office to give a presentation to the mayor and then suddenly being pulled into his private office, and then them coming out two or three minutes later, looking a little bit shocked.”

3. We pay a high price, even when the facts vindicate us.
“It was very difficult, having [my] career interrupted like it was. I had this whole plan, I was going to work for the mayor of San Diego, work for the city I loved. Oh my gosh, I was so happy going into that job. Then all of a sudden it was like the train fell right off the track.”

4. To survive, we need LOTS of support.
“You have to have a really good set of friends, or family, or a group or pack of people who will support you the whole way. It’s not an easy thing to do, and you have to do it wisely. You have to understand that if you poke at somebody who has a lot of power, they tend to slap back.”

5. In the end, we have no regrets.
“There’s been a couple of times [I’ve regretted it.] It was very difficult. But in the long run I have not regretted it. I did it for the other men and women who have issues with people who are very abusive of their power.”

I’m so proud of this brave woman from my city, and so happy to see how strong and whole she is today. May her journey give hope to all of us.

Vindication for Irene

Marie Fortune lists the seven things that a victim of clergy sexual abuse needs: truth-telling, acknowledging the violation, compassion, protecting the vulnerable, accountability, restitution, and vindication.

Vindication is the final key to freedom. Along my journey I’ve been vindicated in small ways: A former colleague asking my forgiveness for her part in my shunning. Marie herself, in my presence, telling my church leaders that secrecy is harmful and wrong. Sojourners accepting my story for their series on sexual violence.

But I’m still looking for the big vindication. I should be able to walk into my old church without seeing a sneer of disgust from a beloved pastor emeritus (this actually happened last fall, and at a memorial service no less.) I know I acted with integrity and courage; I know my pastor took shameful advantage of my trust. If justice prevailed, everyone in the congregation would know it too. But the church’s secrecy makes this impossible.

I can’t have justice for myself, but I can seek it for other victims. So I do this work, and I look for signs of progress. This month, three stories give me hope.

* Over 1400 people have signed the G.R.A.C.E. petition calling on Christian leaders to stand on the side of CSM victims. “When we choose willful ignorance, inaction or neutrality in the face of evil, we participate in the survival of that evil. When clergy… have been silent or have covered up abuse, they have joined with those who perpetrate crimes against the ‘little ones.’ ” I hope you will sign it, too.

* Churches are beginning to listen to survivors. From the UK arm of The Hope Of Survivors: “[Our volunteer] Anthony met with the safeguarding officer of the Baptist Union recently and she took away one of the THOS brochures. She has read it through and found it very helpful. The Baptist Union, which oversees 2000+ churches in England, have pulled their safeguarding policies from their website in order to re-write them. This, I understand, is as a direct result of our experience. The BU safeguarding officer has asked us to give them advice on what needs to be in their new policy.” The new Baptist Union policy will protect thousands of vulnerable women and men.

* The experience of Irene McCormack Jackson, the first victim to publicly accuse Mayor Bob Filner. I have utmost compassion for what Irene is suffering now, and I wouldn’t change places with her for anything — but in a way she is living my dream. She came forward under the protection of one of the nation’s most respected attorneys. City, state, and national leaders immediately and very publicly denounced her offender. By the end of the week, six more women, prominent leaders all, had come forward with similar charges. (The total is now eight). We still don’t know whether Filner will leave office, whether he’ll face criminal charges, or whether Irene will get the financial settlement she deserves. But even with all that uncertainty, Irene has already won. The world stands on her side. Her offender is publicly (very publicly ) shamed.

I plan to follow this story closely. “Plan” might not be the right word; the truth is I’m obsessed with it. I want Irene to win. But regardless of how the story plays out, I’ve already claimed some vindication. Justice for Irene, even just in the court of public opinion, is justice for all of us.

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