Category Archives: Sexual abuse

The Lenten Writings: strong in the wind.

The Observer
by Rainer Maria Rilke


I can tell a storm by the way the trees are whipping, compared to when quiet, against my trembling windows, and
I hear from afar things whispering
I couldn’t bear hearing without a friend or love without a sister close by.

There moves the storm, the transforming one,
and runs through the woods and through the age, changing it all to look ageless and young:
the landscape appears like the verse of a psalm, so earnest, eternal, and strong.

How small is what we contend with and fight;
how great what contends with us;
if only we mirrored the moves of the things and acquiesced to the force of the storm, we, too, could be ageless and strong.

For what we can conquer is only the small, and winning itself turns us into dwarfs;
but the everlasting and truly important will never be conquered by us.
It is the angel who made himself known
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
for whenever he saw his opponents propose to test their iron-clad muscle strength,
he touched them like strings of an instrument and played their low-sounding chords.

Whoever submits to this angel, whoever refuses to fight the fight,
comes out walking straight and great and upright, and the hand once rigid and hard
shapes around as a gently curved guard.
No longer is winning a tempting bait.
One’s progress is to be conquered, instead, by the ever mightier one.

Source: “The Observer” from Pictures of God; Rilke’s Religious Poetry, translated by Annemarie Kidder.   Livonia, MI: First Page Publications, 2005. I am standing. I am feeling the movement of the wind of the spirit of God. I am standing. I am listening for the voice underneath. I am standing. I am speaking voiced truth.I am standing. I am keeping my eyes open, and asking for courage to see.I am standing.

The Lenten Writings: a time to speak

“You can tell the people that if they proceed in killing me, that I forgive and bless those who do it. Hopefully , they will realize that they are wasting their time. A bishop will die, but the church of God, which is the people, will never perish.

The church would betray its own love for Good and its fidelity to the gospel if it stopped being a defender of the rights of the poor, or a humanizer of every legitimate struggle to achieve a more just society … that prepares the way for the true reign of God in history.

When the church hears the cry of the oppressed it cannot but denounce the social structures that give rise to and perpetuate the misery from which the cry arises.” (The Church is the people by Oscar Romero).

There comes a time when to be silent is to participate in the violence, the hiddenness.

The wise man of old said the now famous words, “there is a time to be silent, and a time to speak.”

There is a movement taking place.

We watched the #MeToo campaign sweep our news feeds last fall. It gave voice to women, and men, who had experienced sexual abuse. It was a conversation starter, naming sexual harassment and sexual verbal abuse for what it is; sexual abuse.

Someone started a #ChurchToo hashtag; and slowly, the silence is beginning to break. What about the Church and sexual abuse? The Catholics led the way, perhaps not by choice. But the Protestants, known historically for protesting injustice from within, have largely been silent.

And so now we see a movement sweeping the country #SilenceIsNotSpiritual. It started with a statement. It is continuing with story. #LentenLament gives voice to the grief, which is right and good.

When girls are not safe in their homes, when boys are not safe in their churches, when women think workplace abuse is “the way it is”, when men perpetrate rape culture….

It is time to lament.

How are you breaking the silence?

How might you be invited to share your story?

What codes of silence are still being kept in your circles?

In your faith community?

It is time to speak.

This is my story. In my home. In my faith community.

I am speaking out.

How about you?

For tonight. 

So many nights right now hold more questions than answers. Sleep beckons, then eluded capture. Thoughts and feelings tumble over each other for center stage. 

So what is true?  What is true for tonight is the Presence. It is both not enough and more than enough. 

I remember early in my recovery process in 1998 night times were terrifying. Memories often came back at night, and there was no way to know what new truth might come into full knowing. The brain works that way, processing trauma as it heals. I often would fall asleep to Fernando Ortega: Jesus King of Angels. The words washed over me, allowing me to surrender and sleep. 

So for tonight a bedtime prayer:

🌛the peace of God be over me to shelter me, 🌜under me to uphold me, 🌙about me to protect me, ⭐️behind me to direct me, 🌟ever with me to save me. 💫The peace of all peace be mine this night. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Pregnant with story

I am a keeper of story…her-story. Today I have bathed in words; hard words. Pulled my shirt off, made me get into bed, cut, no food, so tired, so thirsty, told I had to, pulled my legs open, no choices, wouldn’t listen to my no. 

What horror is being described here? Let your mind connect the dots, your imagination fill in the blank. 

It sounds like sexual violence. One in three children in America. It must stop! When do we say “no more”? 

I fight for this. 

But these words frame stories of obstetric violence. “Birth rape”, some call it. One in three women in America; cut. Countless more stripped of their dignity. Her story packed in a box and tied with a bow, with a tag that reads “at least you have a healthy baby”. Maybe. This hospital bag may take a lifetime to unpack. 

I say “no more”!

As a midwife, I fight for this. 

And it starts by daring to listen…to her-story. 

Good girls grow up

Good girls don’t…

How did the gender roles of your childhood fill in that blank?

In the circles of my childhood, girls were to be sweet and nice and silent.  


There was a little girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead.  And when she was good she was very, very good. And when she was bad she was horrid. 

My dad would trace an imaginary curl on my forehead as he quoted that. It always have me chills. 

The good girl of those years was not safe to speak up. But good girls grow up. Some stay sweet and nice and silent. They fill church pews and PTA groups. 

But some girls find their voice. 

There is a time to be silent and a time  to speak. (Ecclesiastes 3:7)

A woman who has found her voice is beautiful and strong. She knows how to speak for those who have no voice. She calls out injustice. She cries out on behalf of the poor, the disenfranchised, the child without a home. 

This week, truth has asked me to stand up against embezzlement. It has asked me to name sexual harassment for what it is. It has caused me to fight for midwives being treated with respect by hospital colleagues. 

Wisdom cries out in the streets, she raises her voice in the public squares. (Proverbs 1:20)

No poem can silence that voice. 

…a time to speak. 

Changing light

The light pools, pouring into the street below like rain. Blue white Mercury, chilling all in its path. Memories stir, drawn by the eerie light to surface. 

It was pink, warm, comforting; as much as a city light can be. He changed it, the neighbor, cherry picker in his electric truck just right for the work. 

Now the light pulls me back into the past. Another bluish light, another window, a tiny girl. The icy glow frozen in time, terror illuminated in its broad circle. 

The warmth of the rosy  light resonates within now, impenetrable by a streetlight. The memories are mine, no longer lurking in the shadows. Released from their shroud, they lose their bite of power. 

Call it like it is…

When do we begin to name what is?  So many places in our culture have a different set of rules. Let the phrases trickle through your mind that you have heard over the years:  that’s just how it is in medicine, that’s the job of the church, that’s how people talk in sports.

When do we begin to name what is? There are words for this: sexual harassment, spiritual abuse, bullying. It takes courage to use the names. It takes courage to call what I see in me what it is: Control, contempt, manipulation. I learned to call it by nicer names. Those names do not recognize the violence for what it is. Even when there are no words:  Silence can be violence as well.

It takes courage to name what is. Courage comes each day like Grace. It is not something that I have to drum up; it is given. 

Dare. Begin. Name. 



“connect the dots…”
Have you seen it? 

The movie “spotlight” is a powerful voice in the long overdue work of giving voice to victims of sexual abuse.  It addresses the issue with respect, with courage, and with relentless curiosity.  What came out at the end of the day  was far bigger than anyone ever expected.

This is not a movie about the evils of the Catholic church.  It could be any church.  It could be any school.  It could be any city.  

It is a movie about silence.  And it is a movie about the systems that uphold that silence.  

Because the reality is:  it is my church, my school, my city.  It is, in fact, my story.

Where does the path lead? And who will have the courage to connect the dots?

Will you?  Will I?