Wednesday, March 02, 2016


Some around here realize that I was in the ministry for ten years.  No one in my training and no one in any congregation I served ever talked about sexual abuse, either as a present situation needing to be addressed or as a social problem.  I heard more about sexual problems when I was working earlier as an animal control officer.  Sexual abuse is about power and control which get distorted when dealing with the vulnerable, whether it’s a puppy or a child.  The American Humane Association has two formal branches, one that deals with humans and one that deals with other animals.

When all the scandal about Roman Catholic priests became public, I joked that UU ministers don’t impose themselves on children — they just seduce rich women.  There is one man who calls himself the Emerson Avenger and rails against the Sexual Revolution that dumped the rules about sexual propriety but his real gripe is about a vision he had that his minister wouldn’t support.

This is not me -- I have no tatts.

When a short list of laymen occasionally proposed that I hook up with them, my joke was “I charge a lot more to be the temple whore.”  Bitterness came from knowing that they had no idea who I was — they were after the power and control they thought I had because of being a minister.  Which shows that they knew nothing at all about being a female minister, or even a male one.  But why was I joking so much?

And why was there no formal inclusion of such matters in our training?  But wait — in my Clinical Pastoral Education group (interning in a major hospital as a chaplain) there was a small blonde man studying to be a priest who finally had the courage to tell us (the experience is in-the-wards service balanced with group consideration of what happened) about his first night at seminary after an emotional leave-taking with his girl friend, whom he truly loved.  A senior priest seduced him.  On the spectrum between flirtation to rape, it was towards the rape end.  Our colleague was consumed with guilt.  The group had to work hard to get him past that.  I don’t know that we really did.

Occasionally around here a woman will tell me she was molested in childhood, often by her biological relatives.  I hardly registered such incidents until I realized I was sequestering understanding in my own mind.  I just didn’t know what to do with it, so I denied it.  My family strategy.  

As far as I know for sure, only one male in my family — young and beautiful — had been stalked.  Assigned by the court to a dry-out residential treatment program, he had soon learned to sleep in the daytime and sit up with a book all night.  Did the court know?  Probably.

The statistics say one in six men is molested at some point and one in four women as well, though they’re a little dodgy about which demographic they mean — usually they exclude reservations from their statistics as atypical — and who would interview hardcore ghetto drug users?  Which of those would have motivation to report anything accurately?  Why investigate sexual abuse when there is no will to investigate even the murders of indigenous women?

If the incident rate of abuse is this high, it seems reasonable to assume that more than one of my nearly one hundred cousins have had to deal with sexual invasions.  I’ve never met a lot of these younger people, can’t even remember their names.  When dealing with one young step-relative, I found it almost impossible to figure out what was abuse and what was contemporary youth culture behavior.  They entwined sex, booze, and driving fast on back roads in a horrifyingly high-risk complex.  

One boy’s MOTHER bragged that her son had impregnated a dozen young women, which she considered a sign of proud virility.  He accomplished this by getting the girls drunk to the point of passing out.  Didn’t even need the extra expense of “roofies.”

Through the years my own behavior has become more and more guarded.  Since I’ve been approached by lesbians (who quickly backed off when they saw they had misunderstood), I think of this society as being one where people ache for intimacy and relationship.  And I become more determined to channel all that into words and images.  Not that I don’t have “skin hunger,” but that’s what the cats are for.

I do have a cousin involved in owning “titty bars.”  They crossed me off their list long ago.  That’s the family pattern:  exclusion and denial.  They’re very prosperous.  But in contradiction, my father offered to take me to a strip club when I turned eighteen.  My mother flattened that idea.  What was he thinking? 

The bus route to town went past the Portland skid row where I was intrigued by the burlesque houses and the gypsies, who sat on chairs in doorways.  Where is the line between exotic dancing, burlesque routines (I love that movie about the woman who taught students to develop their talents — can’t remember the name but Netflix’ algorithm took note, so I'm offered many less playful and positive films.), and just outright prostitution?  There’s no use in asking cops or anthropologists.  They don't know.

When the girl I finally had to take for two abortions (there was no one else she could ask for help and the first one was tubal, a medical emergency) turned eighteen, I asked what she would like for a gift.  She wanted to go see “Supervixens.”  So we did.  I came close to throwing up.   I think she saw it as reality -- not what she expected -- but there was no chance we could discuss it.  She was very quiet afterwards.  

In adulthood and “authorized” or at least emboldened by being ordained, I’ve looked at and read incredibly troubling stuff, looking for boundaries, but there aren’t any.  Before one gets to the boundaries of sex, one is already in the territory of torture.

When the boy got comatose girls pregnant, “my” girl was among them.  The two of them came to my office at Animal Control to announce they were getting married.  Instead, having understood what happened, I took my biology autopsy scissors out of the desk and offered to castrate him.  (I used blunt language.)  The end.  

Why didn’t I, sitting there in a uniform with a deputy sheriff badge, follow up with formal prosecution?  Why didn’t I let Social Services know what was happening?  But no, that was the second abortion.  Try to return to the past, deny and forget.  There was a third.  Then she died in a car accident.  It was many decades ago.

It could have been worse.  AIDS didn’t exist yet.


Over the years, various counselors and co-workers have suggested that I have the symptoms of someone who was sexually abused as a child, maybe a toddler, but I don’t remember anything.  On the other hand, one of our early babysitters (male), hung himself in Macleay Park, which I didn’t know until I asked my mother about what bonded the mothers on the street so tightly.  It was to support that boy’s mother.  I asked her whether I’d been “interfered with” and she said absolutely not.

But there was a strange unspoken awareness of such a possibility in our household.  Not least was an unaccountable yearning for something I couldn’t describe, that wasn’t satisfied until adult marriage.  I thought it was about love.  I'm very hard to shame.  But I carry a lot of guilt.

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