Monthly Archives: June 2017

Of Ogres and Onions, Part 1

“The Cat Facing the Ogre”, illustration from Puss in Boots, based on a drawing by Walter Crane (PD-Art l Old-100)

“Ogres are like onions…Onions have layers.  Ogres have layers.”

Shrek, DreamWorks

Almost any American parent will recognize the quote (above).  It is from a conversation between the main character and his donkey sidekick in the children’s film Shrek.  The statement is meant to convey the complexity of ogres.

Change

I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.  Instead, I do what I hate” (Rom. 7: 15 NLT).

Change – especially change for the better – is difficult for human beings.  Even the Apostle Paul complained of this.

The problem is not weakness of character.  It is our flawed nature, and the very complexity with which God made us (Ps. 139: 14) [1].  Nearly all our actions have multiple layers of causation and meaning (many of these unconscious).

What this implies for abuse victims is that a single psychological insight on our part is not likely to be support an overnight transformation.

That is not to say insights are insignificant.  Even when painful, they give us better understanding of (and better control over) our lives.  As important, insights are cumulative.  If we are patient and persistent, change will come.

Expectations

Our expectations for ourselves must, however, be realistic.  Even those who were never abused encounter challenges in life, and problems achieving their goals.  It is the human condition in a flawed world.  Weight loss programs and gyms have made millions off that fact.

We must not measure ourselves against a behavioral ideal that may be impossible for anyone to attain, abused or not. Continue reading

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Discarded

Celtic cross, Inisheer, Aran Islands, Ireland, Author Mith (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory” (1 Cor. 15: 43).

A mass grave has come to light in picturesque Galway, Ireland.  This grave was not, however, left by Bronze Age warriors or Celtic chieftains.

Containing the skeletal remains of over 750 children, this grave was left by a group of Catholic nuns who operated a home for unwed mothers in the town of Tuam from 1925 – 1961 [1].

The children buried here are thought to have ranged in age from 35 fetal weeks to 2-3 years.  They had been in the care of the Bon Secours (French for “good help”).  If the little ones perished, their bodies were placed in an abandoned sewer system to save on the cost of a coffin.  No solemnities.  No markers.

The story was not entirely unknown.  In the 1970s, some children playing where the home had stood were shocked to find human bones inside an old septic tank.  The presence of these bones was reported to the local church.

A priest advised that the site was likely a mass grave dating from the 19th Century potato famine.  Prayers were said.  The septic tank – and the truth – were covered up again.  Residents on their own erected a small shrine.

It was an amateur historian, Catherine Corless, who discovered that only two of the children who died at the unwed mothers home were ever buried in consecrated ground.  Those two were orphans.  The rest were illegitimate, born out of wedlock.

Clearly, both church and lay authorities had to be aware of the practice of discarding the remains of illegitimate children.  Death certificates were filed.  Yet no undertaker buried the child of an unwed mother in over 30 years’ time.  The bodies of hundreds of children simply vanished.

Corless repeatedly met obstacles in her search for the truth.  However, she persevered.  The Irish government has launched an investigation.

Thus far, there has been no assertion of infanticide by the Bon Secours.  One can only hope.

[1]  Daily Beast, “The Amateur Historian Who Uncovered Ireland’s Mass Grave of Babies” by Tom Sykes, 3/4/17, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/03/04/the-amateur-historian-who-uncovered-ireland-s-mass-grave-of-babies.html.

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Filed under Abuse of Power, Christianity, Religion

Rescuing Ourselves

“The Rescue” by John Everett Millais (1855), National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia (PD-Art l Old-100)

There was finally a point in my teens when I realized that I would never be rescued from sexual molestation [1].

The shock of that revelation was overwhelming…as if all my trauma had been condensed into a single instant.  It felt, at that moment, as if I had been struck in the chest by a sledge hammer.

Trauma Beliefs

Traumatic childhood events (especially those involving a parent) can give rise to false core beliefs [2].  Often, such trauma beliefs are not articulated.  They may never be identified and consciously brought to mind.

But trauma beliefs can be enormously destructive – not only damaging our self-image, but crippling us.

Here are a few versions of such beliefs:  I am stupid; I am ugly; I am unlovable; I do not deserve to be cared for; I must do everything perfectly, or I will be rejected; I should be punished; I will be abandoned by everyone I ever love.

Self-Hatred

Deep inside, I concluded that I was unworthy of rescue, because I would never be the woman my mother was.  I would never be as kind, gentle, or generous as she was.  Most especially, I would never be as vulnerable or petite.  This translated into self-hatred.

That I developed weight issues in high school seemed “proof” of my deficiency.  Clearly, I had an innate flaw that went through to the bone.  So it appeared to me.  I became a perfectionist to offset this.

Acting Out Trauma Beliefs

Weight problems can be a source of torment and discouragement, especially in our culture.

Those of us with problems involving our weight try diets, weight loss programs, and gyms.  We buy expensive exercise equipment, and gadgets guaranteed to change our dimensions.  Some of us even have surgery, and still the weight comes back.

Weight issues are the symptom, not the disease.  Weight issues are a constant source of shame which is why, with some part of ourselves, we cling to them.  They reinforce our trauma beliefs.  That these false core beliefs were laid down so early in our lives gives them added strength.

Perfectionism is likewise a harsh taskmaster.  Perfectionism (another way of acting out trauma beliefs) insures a sense of inadequacy which is the reason it is so tenacious.  The bar is constantly out of reach.

What these two have in common is that they preserve the feelings we had as children.  Those feelings have simply found a new focus. Continue reading

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Trafficked, Part 2

Lithograph of Vincent van Gogh's

Lithograph of Vincent van Gogh’s “Sorrow”, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Photographer/Source pic (PD Art-old-100)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Four unnamed women who allege they were forced into prostitution at a Maryland hotel have brought separate suits against the hotel where events took place [1][2].  The plaintiffs maintain that the staff of America’s Best Value Inn either knew or should have known that human trafficking was occurring on the premises.

Money Damages

This is among the first suits where money damages for human trafficking are being sought by victims from a “deep pocket” third party not directly involved with the trafficking.

The suit alleges the hotel failed to keep its premises safe.

The owner disputes this, saying that staff noticed nothing suspicious.  After the prostitution ring was uncovered, hotel procedure was though changed.  Rooms are now cleaned after three days, whether there is a “Do Not Disturb” sign in place or not.

Kidnapped

The women’s story is chilling.  As they describe it, the four were kidnapped; injected with heroin; then forced to engage in sex for money with men brought to the hotel.  All proceeds went to Cornelius Briddell, the head of the trafficking operation.

The women were rescued after one of the victims managed to message her boyfriend on Facebook.  Briddell was convicted in 2015, and sentenced to 145 years in prison.   The judge characterized his actions as barbaric.

Claiming to be a man of God, Briddell actually made a show of “forgiving” his victims. Continue reading

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Filed under Christianity, Justice, Law, Prostitution, Religion, Slavery, Violence Against Women