The OC WarmLine

Posted by Joelle Casteix on June 26, 2015 in armored child, Healthy Living, Parenting
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namioc-logo

 

I was at the doctor’s office the other day when I saw a card for the OC WarmLine.

Sponsored by the National Alliance of Mental Illness-Orange County, the WarmLine is staffed by “warm, friendly voices” who can provide help with substance abuse or mental health concerns (including depression), provide referrals for mental health services, and (this is the best part) just listen and talk to the person who is lonely and confused.

The service is only available to Orange County, California residents.

The numbers are:

714-991-6412

877-910-9276

Learn more (or live chat with a trained operator) at their website: www.namioc.org

Remember: if you or someone you love is suicidal, call 911.

 

Beyond the Duggars

Posted by Joelle Casteix on June 25, 2015 in armored child, Parenting, Shameless Plugs
1 Comment

My latest piece in the Generation X: Are You There God, It’s Me blog focuses on the Duggars and five things we can all do to prevent and identify child-on-child abuse.

You can read it here.

TEDx PasadenaWomen

Posted by Joelle Casteix on June 15, 2015 in armored child, Parenting, TED
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It’s been two weeks since I was on the TEDx stage. I am still reeling at the amazing day, the supernatural speakers, and the wonderful friends I made. I spoke about the power of responsibility and how—when we take responsibility for our emotions, reactions, and decisions—we can create the future that we WANT.

Other speakers talked about virtual reality, focusing on the WHAT instead of the WHO, space exploration, financial health, cutting men some well-deserved slack, the future of global journalism, roller derby and motherhood, and taking power back during and after cancer. (p.s. buy a Fighter T – even if you don’t have cancer or a recent surgery, it’s a great shirt for any woman. And the WHY? Foundation working to get these T’s in the hands of women with breast cancer who can’t afford them)

Every speaker was a badass and a fighter. All of us had a message. All of us faced odds and won. I am so honored to have shared that stage with those men and women.

My talk is scheduled to be online by the end of June. I will provide a link as soon as I have one.

 

My sister Jennifer and I "grace" the red carpet

My sister Jennifer and I “grace” the red carpet

 

 

The control center

The control center

 

 

Rehearsals

Rehearsals

 

 

My name tag said "speaker." I guess I didn't just imagine this whole thing.

My name tag said “speaker.” I guess I didn’t just imagine this whole thing.

 

 

Jimmy Carter simulcast

Jimmy Carter simulcast

 

 

The momentum audio library - attendees were able to podcast their inspirations, aspirations and movtivations

The momentum audio library – attendees were able to podcast their inspirations, aspirations, and motivations

 

 

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Twin Cities Archbishop resigns—or—Who is shrewd and who is brave?

Posted by Joelle Casteix on June 15, 2015 in Child safety, Clergy Abuse Crisis, Minnesota
1 Comment

My email was flooded this morning with news that St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop John C. Nienstedt and Auxiliary Bishop Lee A. Piché had resigned. If you haven’t been following the news, the archdiocese has been hammered during the past two years as legal disclosures showed that Archdiocese officials knew about child sexual abuse and covered it up for decades.

 

Having a bad week

Having a bad week

 

Less than two weeks ago, prosecutors filed criminal charges against the archdiocese. Although Nienstedt and Piché were not charged, the complaint outlined how both men knew about abuse and did little to nothing to protect children.

This morning, the Vatican announced that they had accepted the men’s resignations.

The resignations a positive moves and show a huge step in the right direction when it comes to punishing church officials who covered up abuse. Following on the heals of the resignation of Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert Finn, these ousters are well-needed, if not very overdue.

But Francis is not a brave reformer.

Before you wag your fingers at me and say, “Gee, Joelle! Why are you always so critical? Francis is doing great things. He’s different,” we need to take note of some very important facts:

1) The Vatican was not the group that exposed the wrongdoing of these bishops.

The ONLY reason we know about Finn is because brave prosecutors did the right thing and charged him with child endangerment. No one in the Vatican was going to do a thing. In fact, none of Finn’s fellow bishops called on law enforcement indict Finn for covering up child pornography. Even after the conviction, Finn’s fellow bishops said nothing in support of the victims.

2) The only reason we know about the scope and scale of crimes in Minnesota is because of their three-year civil window for victims.

Recently Minnesota passed The Child Victims’ Act, a three-year “window” that allows victims of child sex crimes to use the civil court to expose their abusers and get justice, no matter when the abuse occurred.

As more and more victims came forward to file child sex abuse and cover-up lawsuits, their attorneys were able to get access to and expose THOUSANDS of secret internal church documents that outlined how men like Nienstedt and former vicar general Kevin McDonough knew about abuse and abusers and did NOTHING to protect children at risk.

Documents exposed in the civil proceedings—proceedings started by brave VICTIMS using the CIVIL COURTS—are the reason that these bishops were exposed and are resigning. The Vatican did not turn over the documents. Nienstedt did not hand them over voluntarily. It was only because of a victim-friendly civil law and brave survivors.

3) Francis is not the reformer. Survivors who use the civil courts are the true reformers in this story. Francis is only reacting to bad press.

 

Shrewd? Yes. Brave? Nah, not really.

Shrewd? Yes. Brave? Nah, not really.

 

Pope Francis is coming to the US later this year. He and his astute PR team saw the writing on the wall. They realized that if they did nothing, the entire trip would be marred by questions about abuse and cover-up (especially in the case of Finn, who was convicted of child endangerment). Instead of interviewing happy Catholics and gushing US leaders, the press would focus on victims’ groups and advocacy organizations who (rightfully) demand change.

In accepting these bishops’ resignation, the Vatican made the shrewd move.

But remember: Survivors made the BRAVE move.

 

 

La Respuesta Compasiva

Posted by Joelle Casteix on June 13, 2015 in armored child, Child safety, resources
1 Comment

The Compassionate Response: How to help and empower the adult victim of child sexual abuse is now available in Spanish. Paperback and Kindle editions.

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About the book:

One of the hardest things that many adult survivors of child sexual abuse will ever do is come forward and tell someone. Even if the survivor finally discloses decades after the crime, the pain is still fresh and the shame still stings.

But for the person the survivor tells, hearing the news and knowing how to react in a compassionate, safe, and empowering way can be almost as difficult.

This easy-to-use book gives friends, spouses, and loved ones guidelines on compassionate responses and appropriate resources—including services, information on civil and criminal statutes of limitation, and support—that can help adult survivors of child sex begin the path towards healing.

La Respuesta Compasiva: Cómo ayudar y fortalecer a la víctima adulta de abuso sexual infantil

Una de las situaciones más difíciles que pueden experimentar muchos sobrevivientes adultos de abuso sexual es tomar la decisión de contárselo a alguien. Incluso si el sobreviviente finalmente lo revela muchas décadas después de que el abuso sucedió, el dolor todavía se seguirá sintiendo como algo reciente y la vergüenza todavía lastimará.

No obstante, para la persona a quien el sobreviviente le cuenta el suceso, puede ser casi igual de difícil escuchar la noticia y saber cómo reaccionar de manera compasiva, segura y fortalecedora.

Escrito por una sobreviviente que es una experta nacional en el tema, este libro fácil de leer es el punto de partida perfecto para alguien que conoce a un sobreviviente adulto de abuso sexual infantil.

Disponible en edición de bolsillo y para el Kindle

Book Review: How to Start a Fire

Posted by Joelle Casteix on June 7, 2015 in Book Reviews
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Relationships are brutal, honest, naked, and charged—few more so than those between women who are brave enough to trust each other beyond small talk and social niceties. Lisa Lutz (author of The Spellman series) in her latest novel HOW TO START A FIRE, creates a complex and page-turning saga of three women—imperfect and completely human—as they grow from college to almost-middle-age.

 

Lutz

 

What makes this book so readable and intriguing is the compassion and integrity she maintains for her three main characters, who—while quirky—are elevated beyond cookie-cutter stereotypes.

Coupled with a rapid-action storyline, Lutz’ razor-sharp insight draws the reader into a world where nothing is black and white, but where everyone has a capacity for forgiveness and redemption.

Kind of like friendship itself.

A great read.

From the publisher:

From a bestselling writer, a story of unexpected friendship—three women thrown together in college who grow to adulthood united and divided by secrets, lies, and a single night that shaped all of them

When UC Santa Cruz roommates Anna and Kate find passed-out Georgiana Leoni on a lawn one night, they wheel her to their dorm in a shopping cart. Twenty years later, they gather around a campfire on the lawn of a New England mansion. What happens in between—the web of wild adventures, unspoken jealousies, and sudden tragedies that alter the course of their lives—is charted with sharp wit and aching sadness in this meticulously constructed novel.

Ambassador of Peace

Posted by Joelle Casteix on May 13, 2015 in About me, Parenting
2 Comments

Last week, I learned that I have been selected as a 2015 Ambassador of Peace award winner by the Violence Prevention Coalition of Orange County. That’s some pretty cool news!

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I was nominated by my cousin and friend Darcy Fehringer-Mask*, who won the award herself in 2008 for her work in diversity and anti-bias education, including bullying awareness and prevention. I was chosen for my work on behalf of victims of child sexual abuse, prevention and awareness education, and my efforts towards changing civil and criminal statutes of limitations for sex crimes against children.

Looking at the other winners, I’m in awesome company and am very humbled by the honor.

The ceremony is a June 5 luncheon in Costa Mesa. Let me know if you want to come. I’ll save you a seat!

 

*While Darcy still does great work in that field, she focuses most of her time on her photography business. Like my headshots? See more here.

 

The Servites are lying to you. They just don’t do it very well.

Posted by Joelle Casteix on May 3, 2015 in Clergy Abuse Crisis
3 Comments

Friday’s document release from religious orders whose members abused children in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles shines a very bright light on ugly doings at Anaheim’s Servite High School.

I already wrote about the sadomasochist Joe Sharkey. That one was a jaw dropper. Take the time to read it if you haven’t. The Register also covered it here.

But the other Servite file—Brother Gregory Atherton—is uglier. Not because of the graphic nature of the abuse, but because of the cover-up. Not because of the fact that Atherton was sent to treatment for abusing kids at Servite High School, but because the Servites lied then and continue to lie now about his status.

The quotes say it all.

“We’ve put him under a safety plan. He reports to a supervisor. He mostly stays home and does some work like bookkeeping or helping around the house.”

Rev. John Fontana, Provincial Superior of the Servite Order in the United States

Let’s see how the facts pan out.

“It’s a marvelous occasion for us,” said Servite Brother Gregory Atherton, who also attended a national anniversary celebration in June in Chicago. As Brother Atherton spoke after Friday’s Mass, people swarmed around tables nearby to grab slices of vanilla and chocolate cake, decorated with congratulatory words marking the occasion.

– August 22, 2008 edition of the Catholic Sentinel

Three Grotto employees have worked every year: Brother Gregory Atherton, Grounds/Facilities Manager Mark Combelic and Master Puppeteer Celeste Rose. Bonus facts: The three worst years of weather were 1990, 2006 and 2008. Three groups from far-flung locations perform this year: Vancouver BC (St. Charles Borromeo Choir), Anaheim, CA, (Servite High School), and the Philippines (University of the Philippines). emphasis mine

December 2013 Mid-County Memo

So … Atherton is also working with high school choirs?

Around Thanksgiving several of his nieces from the Carolinas visited Damian Kobus for several days. His sister was not able to travel with them nor is Damian able to travel to visit her. The nieces told Gregory Atherton that they were pleased to find Damian doing so well. They were pleasantly surprised with his happy disposition, the 3 quality of his room, the care he is receiving, and the food they and he were served.

December 2013 Servite Newsletter

Brother Gregory Atherton, OSM, has managed to find someone to really care for our aging organ in the Chapel of Mary who can keep it going in spite of occasional glitches. Greg made a recording of his organ solos for the chorale concerts so he can have things a bit easier for himself. The personnel who manage the sound and recording can slip his recording on when needed so Greg can get a break.

– December 2013 Servite Newsletter

Greg needs a break? I thought he was only doing light housework.

The Servites lied. Atherton was not monitored. He is probably not being monitored now.

I repeat: The Servites are lying to you. They just don’t do it very well.

 

 

One Servite High School file is all you need

Posted by Joelle Casteix on May 1, 2015 in Child safety, Clergy Abuse Crisis
1 Comment
Servite: Our traditions include the Crest, the Credo, and Sadomasochism

Servite: Our traditions include the Crest, the Credo, and Sadomasochism

This is probably the most telling document trail from today’s release of clergy sex abuse documents.

From the file of Servite Friar and former Servite HS teacher Joe Sharkey:

Letter from Fr. Steven Ryan to Servite Provincial Fr. Terence O’Connor:

One of the difficulties awaiting my return from Australia was that Joe Sharkey had been guilty of sadism and masochism with at least five students at Servite, four of whom are minor seminarians.

Servite provincial Fr. Terence O’Connor to Fr. Steven Ryan:

I am terribly sorry about the misfortune of [former Servite high school teacher] Joe Sharkey. I really hadn’t the slightest idea that he was a sadomasochist.

 

Makes you want to call your Servite friends and see if they can get a tuition refund.

 

Inside the TEDx speaker’s mind

Posted by Joelle Casteix on April 29, 2015 in armored child, Child safety, Marketing, media, Parenting, TED
2 Comments

What do you do when you get the chance of a lifetime?

Worry. And sweat.

TEDx_PasWm_SM

I was selected to be a speaker for the May 30 TEDx Pasadena Women conference. Being a speaker at TED and TEDx are HUGE goals of mine … so I have to admit: when I received the acceptance, I thought that (perhaps) they had made a mistake and sent the invite to the wrong person. So, I did what I was supposed to do (send in materials, bio, etc), and I waited for the “Oops! Never mind,” email.

When instead, I was given the speaker’s checklist, I knew that I was in.

Between now and May 29 (when we have our dress rehearsal), it’s time to dive into my talk. I already have a first draft, but I know that it’s going to change as the days pass. The folks at TEDx have great coaches who will help be hone my message, and I am sure that my friends will get sick and tired of having to watch me practice. I don’t want to go into this unprepared—TEDx is only the first part of the goal. I want to grace the main TED stage … and soon. And since I am not a household name (yet), I’m going to have to do my best to dazzle the powers that be.

What I am I worried about right now? There are two things: one biological and one mental.

The first is a doozy: I sweat when I am nervous. I sweat a lot. Which is odd, because in every other aspect of my life, I am not a sweaty person. Even when I do press conferences, I don’t sweat. I was never sweaty when I was a performer. But the last thing I want is an HD video of my talk on YouTube with HD focus on my sweaty pits. (“Gee, I think I remember Joelle’s talk. But someone tell that girl to wear antiperspirant!”)

The second? I bet you can guess. Can I pull it off? Is my message powerful enough? Can I deliver it in a way that makes a difference? Will people say: Joelle changed the way I look at the world … ? Will I engage the audience? Will I make people laugh? Am I good enough?

Antiperspirant is the easy part. The rest will take hard work.

Bar date set for St. Paul/Minneapolis abuse victims

Posted by Joelle Casteix on April 27, 2015 in boy scouts, Child safety, Clergy Abuse Crisis, Minnesota, Shattuck-St. Mary's
1 Comment

A federal bankruptcy judge has set an August 3 deadline for victims of child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Having a bad week

Archbishop to public: Let’s just get this over with, okay?

The deadline, called a BAR DATE, is the final day and men and women abused as children can file claims against the Archdiocese to expose their abuser and get justice and accountability.

The Archdiocese filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year, after approximately 140 men and women came forward to file sex abuse and cover-up lawsuits under Minnesota’s civil window. The civil window, enacted in 2013, allows victims of child sexual abuse to use the civil courts for justice, no matter when the abuse occurred.

Since the civil window opened, the Archdiocese has been pounded in the media and by victims for covering up child sex abuse. The pounding was well-justified.

From MPR news:

For decades, leaders of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis have been reassigning, excusing and overlooking sexually abusive priests among their ranks. Some received additional retirement benefits. In August, a top church lawyer, shocked at what she saw, brought the story to MPR News. What happened next is still unfolding.

An important note: The Archdiocese bankruptcy and bar date deadline do NOT affect victims of other entities in Minnesota. So, for example: Victims from Shattuck/St. Mary’s, other dioceses in Minnesota, religious orders, churches, or other private entities have until May 2016 to come forward.

For more information about the bar date, click here or here.

I am not an attorney and do not have the authority to dispense legal advice. But let me say this: if you are considering filing a claim in the bankruptcy, talk to an attorney who is familiar with the process. Be sure that your rights are protected.

 

 

A wake-up call for the Boy Scouts

Posted by Joelle Casteix on April 22, 2015 in armored child, Parenting
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Yesterday, a 17-year-old victim of child sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts filed a sex abuse and cover-up lawsuit against the local Sacramento council and the national Boy Scout organization.

The victim, who waited until after he earned the honor of Eagle Scout to file the lawsuit, was molested by a former Assistant Scout Master who was criminally convicted of lewd and lascivious acts with the victim in this case as well as another boy. The convicted Scout Master is also an Eagle Scout.

eagle_badge_clip_color

The victim held up his end of the bargain. Now it’s time for the Scouts to uphold theirs.

I was honored to be at the press conference and speak with the victim and his father. It’s not often that I get to meet victims who are brave enough to come forward at such a young age.

And there were also some pretty disturbing revelations. The molester in this case was young—20 years old at the time of the abuse. He sexually assaulted the victim when he was 13 and 15.

Why are the Scouts liable? Other scout leaders were inclined to give the predator a “pass.” Even though they saw suspicious and/or criminal behavior, they thought that a former Eagle Scout was beyond reproach. Others may have also considered the 20-year-old predator “one of the boys” and did not understand the severe imbalance of power that existed.

Not only was the victim a child and the predator an adult—but the victim in this case wanted to be an Eagle Scout. The only way to do that? Uphold the Boy Scout Law:

A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly,
courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty,
brave, clean, and reverent.

And when your scoutmaster (who is a fairly recent Eagle Scout) holds your future and dreams in his grip, your options are clear: Obedience, reverence, and loyalty.

The victim was physically, emotionally and psychologically powerless … but he’s not anymore.

The lesson here: No oath or law will protect your child. It’s up to parents and caregivers to protect, inform, and empower.

 

Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn is … OUT!

Posted by Joelle Casteix on April 22, 2015 in Clergy Abuse Crisis
4 Comments
Bishop Robert Finn: Call the cops? Nah. I might miss my tee time.

Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn: Unemployed

It’s the the papal version of the back-handed compliment:

In a one-sentence throw-away line in yesterday’s Vatican press bulletin, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert Finn.

The Holy Father Francis has accepted the resignation from the pastoral government of the diocese of St. Joseph-Kansas City, Mo. (U.S.A.) presented by His Excellency Msgr. Robert W. Finn.

In case you didn’t know: in 2012, Finn was convicted on one count of failure to report child sexual abuse. He covered up for Shawn Ratigan, a Missouri priest who was sentenced to 50 years in prison for producing child pornography.

From National Catholic Reporter:

Because of that incident, Finn served a two-year suspended sentence in Jackson County, Mo., and struck a deal later that year with a Clay County, Mo., judge to avoid a similar charge by entering a diversion compliance agreement that included regular meetings with the county prosecutor for five years.

As I have noted on this blog before, if Finn were to apply for a job at his own diocese, he would not pass the background check.

Removing Finn was low-hanging fruit for Pope Francis, who has called on churches to enforce “zero tolerance” (even though Francis recently appointed a Chilean bishop who is accused of covering up for child sex abuse crimes). It would have been easy for Francis to deliver a strong message and fire Finn. It would have been very easy for the Vatican to make a powerful announcement stating that Finn’s behavior was unacceptable and will not be tolerated in a pastoral Christian environment.

In fact, it would have been amazing if Francis or a high ranking Vatican official came to Kansas City-St. Joseph to address the hurt and pain that Catholics there are suffering.

But no. Francis let Finn quit and “save face.”

And Catholics in Kansas City-St. Joseph are still left with questions. And pain.

So, yes, I am elated that a convicted bishop is no longer leading a Catholic diocese. But since Finn’s “transition” was treated like an afterthought, I can’t help but wonder how much else is treated like an afterthought.

 

Helping the supporters

Posted by Joelle Casteix on April 20, 2015 in armored child, Parenting, resources, Shameless Plugs
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I had the opportunity to work with a very strong and brave group of clergy sex abuse survivors over the weekend.

Two things struck me:

  • Their total bravery and willingness to grow beyond trauma, and
  • Their compassion for friends and family members who want to be loving and helpful, but don’t know what to say or do.

I brought copies of The Compassionate Response with me. The response? Pretty awesome. I had no idea how much of a need there is for this kind of book.

YourEmpoweredResponsekindle

If you know someone who loves a survivor and wants to help, pick him or her up a copy. It’s a short read and worth the time.

 

TEDx PasadenaWomen

Posted by Joelle Casteix on April 15, 2015 in About me, armored child, Parenting, Shameless Plugs
No Comments

 

Katie, bar the door: I have been invited to speak at TEDx PasadenaWomen. To say I am excited would be an understatement. Achieving this kind of goal—speaking in front of engaged and visionary women at a TEDx event—has been mind-blowing.

 

TEDx_PasWm_logo-300x111

 

What will I be talking about? Well, that’s a secret.

What is TEDx PasadenaWomen? Here’s what the organizers have to say about the event:

Here in Pasadena, we are hosting an independently run event that will take place May 30, 2015 and will  be aligned with the May 27, 28, 29 TEDWomen experience taking place in Monterey, California. Our local event will feature at least one recorded talk from the Monterey sessions but will focus primarily on live presentations from those in and around Pasadena. The theme, Momentum, will serve as the umbrella for the whole of our event from the speakers to the setting to the swag bags to the invitations. TEDxPasadenaWomen will transform the local conversation and provide a launch pad for the cross pollination of ideas and expertise between industries, socio-economic groups, ages, and life experiences. Join us.

You can read more about TED here.

 

SNL pushes the line too far—and how to push back

Posted by Joelle Casteix on April 14, 2015 in armored child, Parenting
2 Comments

It’s not 1984 anymore. But Saturday Night Live forgot that this past weekend.

Yesterday, I discussed what we can learn from the awful Barbara Walters/Mary Kay LeTourneau interview aired last Friday.

But ABC is not alone in its total disregard for the damage caused by adult women who sexually abuse children (girls and boys). NBC is right at ABC’s heels.

In a skit in Saturday’s episode, a male child victim of sexual abuse by a teacher is portrayed as lucky and happy about the abuse. The accused teacher, who is very attractive, is let off by the judge who gives the victim a celebratory “fist bump.”

Like I said yesterday, handwringing is not going to save a single boy from abuse. Being upset or feeling “triggered” will not stop this kind of horrific portrayal of the sexual abuse of boys.

Instead, we need to empower ourselves and our children to make sure that the “hot for teacher” stereotype is shut down permanently and that women who abuse boys are punished.

How do we do that?

Talk to your boys (and girls, too) about sexual abuse when it is age appropriate. Tell them that sexual behavior between adults and children/teenagers is a crime. It does not matter whether the adult is a woman or a man. Encourage your children to report abuse or suspected abuse.

Shut down the “teenage fantasy” stereotype. Sure, it may be a “fantasy” for a teenage boy to be with a beautiful woman. But my eight-year-old wishes that he could shoot a cannon. He also wants to have a real gun and drive in NASCAR. But he is neither old nor mature enough to do any of these things. He will hurt himself and be damaged, possibly for life … just like how teenage boy is horribly damaged when he is sexually exploited by a female teacher.

Never perpetuate “the boy came on to me defense.” LeTourneau continually repeats this when she talks about being alone with a thirteen-year-old boy late and night and sexually abusing him. Kids and teens have crushes on teachers. It’s healthy and normal. But good teachers and honorable adults shut these crushes down with grace and dignity, letting the child know that such behavior is not appropriate. If LeTourneau had grace and dignity, she would never have been alone with a sixth grader late at night. And if a sixth grader had tried to kiss her, she would have backed away, told the child gently that it’s never okay for adults to kiss children and that he must not do that again, and then immediately reported what happened (to the parents and school administrators). But we all know she has no grace or dignity. She is a narcissist.

Demand greater legal accountability. Encourage lawmakers to change civil and criminal statutes of limitations so that victims have more time to come forward and use the courts for justice. We also must demand teachers’ unions drop extra job and legal protections for public school teachers accused of sexually abusing children.

The best way to shut down bad stereotypes is education and action. And it starts now.

Guam’s Wadeson reinstated

Posted by Joelle Casteix on April 14, 2015 in Clergy Abuse Crisis, Guam
3 Comments

KUAM announced today that former LA priest John Wadeson has been reinstated in the Archdiocese of Agana (Guam).

I have written about Wadeson in the past. According to the Los Angeles Archdiocese, he was twice accused of sexually abusing children and had been banned from working as a priest there.

According to a statement published in The Tidings (the Archdiocese of LA Newspaper), the LA Archdiocese did a investigation and “concluded that there is no reason to preclude Father Wadeson from serving in priestly ministry.”

This decision was based on the fact there has never been a settlement paid on an abuse case against Wadeson. According to the statement, when the allegations first arose, the Society of the Divine Word (the order to which Wadeson belonged) investigated the claims and found them “unverified.”

Here are my issues:

  • According to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and every other diocese across the US, the payment of a settlement does NOT equate implied guilt on the behalf of the accused. If this were the case, former San Diego Bishop Robert Brom would have been removed years ago. (He paid a former seminarian a confidential $250,000 settlement for allegedly coercing the victim into sex)
  • Why didn’t Wadeson do something immediately when the LA Archdiocese published reports that he was twice accused? If in the same position, I would do everything in my power to clear my name immediately. And I would be public about it to ensure that I was adhering to transparency.
  • What does “unverified” mean? That there was only one victim? There were no witnesses? What is a “verified” allegation?

And probably the most troublesome:

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has concluded that there is no reason to preclude Father Wadeson from serving in priestly ministry showing that all the rumors and alleged calumnies against him were unfounded.

Rumors and calumnies? It was not a rumor that LA had said he was twice-accused, nor was it a rumor that they had banned him. But by making such a bile-infused statement, Apuron is attempting to silence and shame victims and whistleblowers by labeling them sinners and rumor-mongers.

As I have reiterated numerous times, the clergy sex abuse scandal is not about abuse. It’s about cover-up and how bishops handle allegations of abuse, perpetrators and victims.

Whether or not Wadeson is guilty, the most troubling aspect of this case is how Apuron has used it to silence victims, divide the faithful, bully whistleblowers, and shelter secrets.

What we can learn from the LeTourneau interview

Posted by Joelle Casteix on April 13, 2015 in armored child, Parenting
1 Comment

 

Barbara Walters’ interview with convicted child molester Mary Kay LeTourneau and her once-victim-now-husband Vili Fualaau was gut wrenching. The romanticization of the abuse was awful enough. But giving a woman like LeTourneau a platform to justify what she did is reprehensible.

Being outraged or upset about the interview doesn’t help anyone. But talking about her predatory patterns can help keep children safer. The more we understand how she thinks, the more we can see her behavioral patterns in other people who may abuse or try to abuse children.

1) Mary Kay LeTourneau is a narcissist. It’s all about her. LeTourneau wants to get off of the sex offender registry because she feels like she has “served her time” for what she still believes is a “love affair” with a 13-year-old boy. Predators tend to be narcissists, with very limited understanding of boundaries. According to the narcissist, the child “comes on to them” and “the predator is the real victim.” This also traps the victim, who believes that the abuse was his/her fault or that they are “hurting” the predator by reporting or refusing. In my opinion, Fualaau is trapped and blames himself. LeTourneau groomed Fualaau and sexually abused him. Period.

She should and must remain a registered sex offender, just like a man convicted of the same crimes.

2) She got a pass because she is a woman predator. Yes, she was convicted. But Barbara Walters would never have interviewed a predator who married a victim if the predator were male. Walters and ABC have no comprehension of the damage LeTourneau has done. (Speaking of networks perpetuating the “hot for teacher” stereotype, we can look at Saturday Night Live’s skit this weekend where a male victim of child sexual abuse by a woman is portrayed as the luckiest kid around.)

3) She minimized what she did to Vili. LeTourneau called it love. The courts and society call it child sexual abuse. When she was out on parole, the first thing she did was find the boy and sexually abuse him again. Predators often minimize their crimes in order to divert attention, thwart reporting, and manipulate the victim.

From the People Magazine story on the interview:

When asked whether she felt “guilty” or “disgusted” with herself for having an affair with Fualaau, Letourneau replied, “I loved him very much, and I kind of thought, ‘Why can’t it ever just be a kiss?’ “

Hey, Mary Kay: even the kiss was abuse. Why were you ever alone with him late at night in the first place?

4) She isolated Vili from his peers and family. One of the first things that predators do when grooming a child is to isolate the child from his or her peers and family. That way, the victim must rely totally on the abuser for compassion and emotional support. Vili said it himself. From People:

Not having a strong support system when Letourneau became pregnant with his children was the hardest part.

“It was a huge change in my life, for sure. I don’t feel like I had the right support or the right help behind me,” he said. “From my family, from anyone in general. I mean, my friends couldn’t help me because they had no idea what, what it was like to be a parent, I mean, because we were all 14, 15.”

But we all know that the isolation started long before that. Once he was the father of her children, he could never escape her.

5) She does not believe that she damaged him. 

From People:

Fualaau confessed in the 20/20 interview that he struggled with depression during this “dark time” and the years that followed.

“I’m surprised I’m still alive today,” he said. “I went through a really dark time.”

The damage was caused by what LeTourneau did. But she is incapable of understanding that.

So what have we learned? Predators are narcissists. They minimize crimes. They isolate their victims from friends and family (physically and emotionally). And yes, they can be women.

Wringing our hands and being outraged isn’t going to do anything. The interview is finished and the damage is done. But we can take the interview and use it to protect children and educate and empower ourselves. We can also work towards extended civil and criminal statutes of limitations for child sex crimes so that what happened to Vili doesn’t happen to another child.

If you see any of LeTourneau’s behaviors in adults who are spending time with your children, intervene immediately, talk to your children, and report. Don’t know who to call? Start with the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4ACHILD. Trained crisis operators will take your call and help you determine your next steps.

 

 

 

Today’s interview on KFI’s Bill Carroll Show

Posted by Joelle Casteix on April 7, 2015 in abuse-repellent child, media, Parenting
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This morning I spoke with KFI 640 AM’s Bill Carroll about my new book, child sex abuse and cover-up, and why we are seeing more female teachers being arrested for sexually abusing boys.

It was a great conversation—covering everything from internet safety to the importance of civil and criminal laws that protect kids and expose abuse.

 

Oh, how quickly we forget, or: How the OC Register gave Bishop Vann a pass

Posted by Joelle Casteix on April 7, 2015 in Clergy Abuse Crisis
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So printing a brochure is what passes as “help[ing] the healing process.”

This past Sunday, the Orange County Register published a front page story on Orange Bishop Kevin Vann. The focus of the article was a profile of the new-ish bishop and his views on the meaning of Easter. But what the article actually said was far more pernicious.

This is what got me:

‘The bishop also doesn’t shrink away from the molestation scandals. English, Spanish and Vietnamese leaflets sit in the administration building’s lobby detailing the diocese’s pledge, “To do everything possible to help the healing process of the victims of sexual abuse.”’

What? Really? You’ve got to be kidding me.

I can tell you this: a brochure never helped a survivor heal.

As we reach the 10-year anniversary of the 2005 settlement with 97 child sex abuse victims and the subsequent release of documents that outlined the scope and scale of the cover-up, we can argue that Vann’s actions have only exacerbated the pain and frustration of survivors, who want nothing more than for wrong-doers to be punished.

Some examples:

  • In the time that Vann has been Bishop, he has never asked for any kind of formal or informal meetings with survivors. He has also not proactively reached out for any kind of communication.
  • The administrators of Mater Dei High School (Patrick Murphy and Frances Claire) have retained their positions, although it has been shown that they allowed abusers like Jeff Andrade to return to campus (after he admitted to sexually abusing students). 

I anticipate the response of the Register was “Well, this is old news.” But I will tell you this: it is not old news to victims. It is not old news to their families. And it most certainly should not be old news to Vann, who should be using his tenure to push out abusers and their enablers, instead of shrugging his shoulders and depending on media fatigue to give him a cover for doing NOTHING.

The passage of time does not give Vann a “free pass”

And, of course, this has nothing to do with “forgiveness.” The reasons that victims come forward are for accountability and to ensure that children are kept safer from abuse. Vann is not holding up his side of the bargain. It’s criminal that victims are expected to walk away with a pat on the head. That’s not why they have fought so hard.

If a brochure inside of an office (where many victims are afraid to go) is considered proactive, then it’s time for us to reassess what we expect from religious leaders who take millions of tax-free dollars in donations, grants, and municipal bonds (!!) to construct their buildings and fill their coffers.

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