Cold

cold

cold, cold, hard, damp tiles

bare feet

they didn’t care

with their thick shoes and heavy clothes

pale legs above bloodless toes

the cold hurts

before it numbs

but fear is hot

insides shaking

lips trembling

don’t cry, she warns

don’t whimper or weep

it will be worse for you

stand strong, little mona

stand and stare

see what they point to

see it and know

there is no safety

for little girls

who don’t do what they are told

tears fall silently

on downy cheeks

please don’t notice

i promise i’ll be good

i won’t make a sound

i’ll be daddy’s good girl

you’ll see

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From Hurt to Healing now available on Amazon ebooks

The second edition is the same except for a few additional paragraphs that include information I have gathered from family members since the initial publication of my book in 2004. These paragraphs are set apart as NOTES at the end of certain sections.

The second edition also contains a preview of my next book: From Faith, To Doubt, To … Hope? … Searching for Grace in the Brokenness. A story about the experience of Loss and the continued pursuit of Meaning and Hope.

Click  HERE  for more information about the ebook.

To a fellow survivor


Last week I participated in a local SNAP press event. The first in a number of years.  A survivor had come back to town because of a law suit being heard in the federal court of appeal. It was the least I could do to be present for him. I know how much courage and emotional energy such action takes and how debilitating the emotional after-effects can be. Over the weekend I began working on a poem that I will share with SNAP and ask them to forward to him.

Charles Bishop, fellow survivor

I did not know him; I had never heard his name.
Yet I knew we had shared tears and nightmares
And 2am walks on city streets
Feeling safer among the shadows
Than in our own churches or homes.

He is my brother, my father, my friend,
Joined in a fellowship of body and blood,
Not Christ’s, but our own.
Child sacrifices on the altar of secrecy
To the gods of power and lust.

I did not know him, but now I heard his name.
And I saw, from behind his numb, dark-eyed stare
His wounded child-self looking out to my own.
For just a moment they held each other’s gaze,
And then he whispered, “Thank you.”

Mona Villarrubia, (c) June 16, 2011

Murder, Suicide and God’s Plan

Someone posted a letter on-line today with news of the death of a Benedictine monk – his abuser. The death may have brought “closure” for his abuser, he reflected, but not for him.  Over the years he had planned then rejected both murder and suicide, but now he expressed sadness — for victims, but also for his abuser who, he realizes, must have been a troubled and twisted individual. The writer ended the letter with a blessing for his abuser!  I was shocked. To have moved from considering murder, not so many years ago, to offering a blessing was incredible, I hesitate to use the word but — miraculous.

In his words:

“Today I visited Montserrat Abbey, the oldest Benedictine monastery in existence. I went into the Church. I don’t know God’s plan for me, I don’t know God’s plan for Fr. Roger, but in my own simple way, I said – And May God bless him.            
                                                      C Michael Coode (SNAP  Tennessee)

Here was a victim who had retained his faith in God and was now dedicated to advocating for and supporting other victims through the National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC) and through leadership in his local branch of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and religious (SNAP).  He had maintained his faith in God despite the overwhelming proof of negligence, deceit, and denial by the Catholic Bishops. He could still enter a monastery and not run out shaking and crying. He could still pray to a God he believes has a Plan.

I know one thing with absolute certainty: If there is a God and if there is a Plan it doesn’t involve abuse of children. What makes most sense to me is that God’s plan — call it “the best of all possible worlds” — is thwarted every time someone chooses to reject God in favor of doing evil. And so God has to adjust the plan. My heart tells me that in responding to evil with a blessing Michael has more than lived up to what God would hope for. There is NOTHING more powerful and more loving and healing in the world than responding to evil with goodness, offering a blessing instead of creating more suffering — by hurting oneself or others. 

So, I responded to his post and offered Michael a blessing:

May you be blessed and comforted, may the light of Goodness shine upon you and bring you peace, and may you be filled with the healing power of Grace. You are my hero today.

To read the letter in its entirety you can go here:

 http://nationalsurvivoradvocatescoalition.wordpress.com/___-8/

Dear Pontiff — Letter #3

September 10, 2010

I just wanted to drop a note and thank you for the invitation, but I really can’t make it.  I hope you have a good visit with the other victims, though.  Mona 

Happy Rosh Hashanah,

What if the Pope really had invited me to one of his face-to-face meetings? Would I have gone? I gave this some serious thought and realized that in order for me to experience such a meeting as safe and positive I would need my own “people” with me to help me survive and remain emotionally healthy. This may seem ridiculous to you, but as a victim of profound and prolonged sexual abuse as a child, by more than one priest, I want you to know that I write this in all seriousness. I want you to understand the scenario as it would impact me and I imagine many other victims like me. 

How can I summon up some of the feelings for you?  Imagine a nightmare in which you are being chased. It is nighttime. Someone is trying to hurt you, to kill you, to rape you. You are running but you can’t escape. You enter a room but the door doesn’t lock. You keep running, keep running. Now imagine that this awful nightmare was actually based on the real fears and real danger that you experienced on a regular basis as a child — bad men who were always trying to get you alone to hurt you, and then threatening you if you told. Imagine the nightmare haunting your sleep for years during your childhood and then imagine it returning in times of stress for decades long into adulthood. Now imagine that you are going to a meeting in which the players in your nightmare drama were going to be in the room with you, in the flesh. And imagine all the fears of being chased, hurt, raped and killed, that haunted your nightmares rising up in your guts and into your throat and swirling around in your mind as you walk into this room, sweating, shaking, clammy, nauseated. Now you have a sense of what it would feel like for me. 

What would I need?
 ~  I would need my therapist because I would need “handling.” Someone talking me through the preparations and keeping me grounded in the present. “They cannot hurt you. You are safe. You are no longer a child, you are an adult. They can’t keep you here against your will. You are going to leave with us and go home. You are not doing anything wrong; you are allowed to tell.” Advocacy and compassion.

~  I would need my husband next to me so I could hold his hand or just lean on him and know he was there and that I would be leaving with him. Safe, male touch.

~  I would need a  group of strong, religious women in the room to balance all the men in clerical garb. Preferably these women would be American Dominicans from the Dominican Alliance. Feminine, Catholic, strength, wisdom and spirituality.

~  I would request that the Pope not wear a medieval costume but the simple, white cassock and zucchetto (cap). I have really bad memories involving a priest in a black cassock and a black biretta (three-ridged, square hat). But I know that would be pushing it.  

As it would not be possible to have all the above people with me when I met with the Pope and all his “people,” it would not be a good experience — at all. It would very likely lead to a serious mental health episode. I worry about those victims who do meet him and the conflicted feelings they must experience. And I worry that they don’t get to bring their “people” with them.  I hope they can process the visit and remain safe and that it gives them what they are looking for.

Jesus was a victim too

I am very angry with my church. I have been angry with my church in different ways since 2002. Sadly, this Easter season I was given new reasons for my anger. Yet this Easter I have also received a gift of grace; I met Jesus again on the road to his cross and I found in him a victim, too.

Jesus was made an object of public scorn. Catholic victims and their advocates, while championing the rights of children and petitioning for the release of documents that would provide clear evidence of the presence of serial child abusers in the clergy and serial conspirators in the hierarchy, have likewise been made the objects of public scorn. The comparison continues:

  • Jesus spoke up against injustice in his faith community.
  • Jesus recognized children, spoke to them, and condemned anyone who would harm a child.
  • Jesus was rejected by the leaders of his faith community. He no longer “belonged” because he had dared to speak the truth and challenge their hypocrisy and immorality.
  • Jesus was innocent of a crime but was judged responsible for his arrest and execution because he had incited the crowds by telling the Truth.
  • Jesus was mocked, vilified, humiliated, and ultimately abandoned by his community.
  • Jesus knew the pain of injustice and abandonment. But unlike many abuse victims Jesus did have a mother and a friend who stayed faithful and continued to believe in him despite what the authorities and community members had accused him of. At least in that way Jesus was blessed. Many victims have lost even those last vestiges of support. But we do not have to carry our crosses on our own.

I believe Jesus would willingly wash the feet of abuse victims, weep over them, and anoint them with oil, in abject sorrow over the sins perpetrated by those exercising authority in his name.  I believe that Jesus would willingly take up our crosses and walk in our shoes in an attempt to express his love, in an attempt to convince us we had not been abandoned. I believe that Jesus already has.

 What would Jesus say to the Catholic Church today? What message of hope would he share? There is nothing he could say to defend the indefensible behavior of the Catholic leaders, from local bishops to Vatican officials. I think he would speak to the victims and their families and to the ordinary, faithful and disillusioned Catholics. I think he would tell us to support each other, to reach out to each other, to share our pain, to create a community of faith, to continue seeking justice against oppressive and corrupt organizations. To really be “ekklesia” a people gathered with a common purpose and a common faith and commitment to God, Truth, Justice, and the marginalized. And I think he might remind us that we don’t need a certain building or a certain form of religious government to do this.

This resurrection season may victims and their advocates continue to rediscover the message and person of Jesus of Nazareth in hopeful and healing ways. And may the voices of truth and reason continue to be heard above the voices of hatred and anger.

by Mona Villarrubia