Speaking OUT to end clergy sexual misconduct.

Posts tagged ‘revictimization’

The Shelf of Shame: A Book to Avoid

Here’s one for the Shelf of Shame: John Thoburn and Rob Baker’s Clergy Sexual Misconduct: A Systems Approach to Prevention, Intervention, and Oversight (Gentle Path Press, 2011). I’m always interested in finding new materials for the Survivor’s Bookshelf, so I bought this title last month. Unfortunately, the editors focus on the needs of clergy and their families to the exclusion of victims. Worse, with sentences like this one, they seem to hold victims responsible for their own pain: “Both pastors and dioceses may find themselves sued civilly because of a pastor’s sexual conduct toward parishioners, even if that sexual behavior is between consenting adults.” (Emphasis mine. Withering scorn also mine.)
You can read my review here. I had fun writing it; I hope you enjoy reading it. If you find it helpful, please vote! I want Amazon to keep my review up as a warning to survivors who might otherwise see this book as a potential resource in healing.

Easy Prey

The first summer at my new church, “Ray” filled in as guest preacher during our pastor’s vacation. Because of PTSD, I was still hyper-alert to any possible danger. I had chosen a church with a gay pastor for this reason. So when straight, married Ray stepped into the pulpit, I vowed to keep my distance. But how could Ray know this? He approached me after the service to say hello, and his friendly, respectful greeting triggered a state of near-panic. It was days before I could even talk about it to my therapist.

Now we learn that Mayor Bob Filner apparently sought an invitation to a meeting of the National Women’s Veterans Association of America (NWVAA) in San Diego, most of whose members are military sexual assault survivors. At that meeting, or perhaps at several meetings, he groped or made verbal advances to at least eight women. According to a CNN report, NWVAA president Tara Jones said, “He went to dinners, asked women out to dinners, grabbed breasts, buttocks, the full gamut.”

What I survived was nothing like rape, and I was thrown off-balance by a simple friendly greeting. Bob Filner knew these women had survived sexual assault by men in power, and he — a man with immense power — forced much more than a friendly greeting on them. He left a voicemail for three-time military rape survivor Eldonna Fernandez, telling her he was in love with her and asking her to dinner. He asked Army veteran Gerri Tindley to talk about her rape, rubbing her back and moving so close to her that she “nearly fell off the couch” trying to avoid him. If an innocent greeting could retraumatize me, what did Filner’s groping and sexual language do to these women?

Bob Filner built his political career partly on his service to military veterans. He surely knows the statistics on sexual assault in the military. He must know that victims of sexual assault can lose their ability to resist unwanted advances. (Survivor “Louise” explains why revictimization happens.) Did Filner advantage of this knowledge to meet his own needs, without regard for how it would harm these brave women?

The good news: NWVAA has rescinded the lifetime achievement award they were to have given to Mayor Filner, and has disinvited him as keynote speaker for their August gathering. Exposed and publicly rebuked, he is unlikely to cause further harm to these women.

The other good news: Guest preacher Ray and his wife have become trusted friends and colleagues. If Ray noticed my earlier distress, he responded with pastoral grace. For that, I am thankful.

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