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In the middle of the night, He calls.

I still have nightmares.
I still wake up in the middle of the night and need a couple of hours by myself just to know nobody is going to steal my safe place and impose something that leaves anxiety and panic attacks into my spirit.
I still want to ask young women if it has happened to them—ask little girls if it is happening to them.

Last night, the dream was different. Someone asked me what I must talk about if given a platform. I thought. All the things I have ever given talks about came to mind. And there was still a blank space to fill in, like an answer on a test.

This, and this, and … oh, something more.

What is it, I wondered.

And then I knew. I need to help them heal. I need to take all of this MeToo-ness and gather it up.

And carry it to the Cross.
“Mary, these little ones were denied a chance to give a Fiat, or hold it close and say no.”
“Suffering Savior, these little ones have suffered by the powerful and those who have control.”

That was what I needed to say. That was what I needed to do.

And then I woke up.

#MeToo and the Dignity of the Human Person

The #MeToo movement should be aware that a similar movement in Argentina and Latin America is linked to the Women’s March in Washington (A.K.A. Pro-abortion March).

I have seen this coming. Something that is very good must not link itself with something that promotes a serious moral evil like abortion and hatred for men.

The most obvious thing about this social evil is that it violates the dignity of the human person.

It is wrong to violate the dignity of the unborn and innocent men/women in order to advance awareness for the dignity of women.

Catholic teaching can save us from the tendency to sacrifice one person’s dignity in order to elevate another person’s dignity.

#MeToo must also be pro-Life and pro-marriage and pro-respect for all.

Pride vs Potential-Awareness

I have two grandsons who are pretty amazing at football. One is in first grade and the other in second grade.

 

#24 is the big brother. #48 is long and lanky. They are practically the same height.

They love each other, as you can tell, but they are extremely competitive. Well, actually, #24 is competitive. He challenges his younger brother to physical duels all of the time.

This has been going on for a while. The older brother is beginning to suspect that his younger brother is just as fast, just as tough.

But #48 hasn’t quite figured it out yet.

The good news is that #48 isn’t proud or arrogant. He has no cockiness in him. When I said I would come and watch him when he is on the high school football team, he looked down and admitted that he didn’t know if he would be playing then. “I don’t like running and that other stuff.”

“You probably will like it when you are older.” I assured him. I didn’t tell him that something is going to click soon. He is going to realize his potential. He will no longer be trapped in a mindset that tells him that he isn’t quite as fast or competitively matched as his brother.

So many lessons here, not only for #48, but also for me.

While pride is an enemy, a pretty big one, in this spiritual life, self-doubt is also debilitating.

We each have untapped potential for the Kingdom of God. We must work at it. Sure, there is comparison going on. And we can appreciate the gifts in others. But it must not hold us back from reaching our own potential.

This is a team. We are on a team.

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We challenge each other to do more, run this race better, become tougher when the hits come.

Forget pride vs. potential.

We are fighting a good fight and need one another.

#48 told me the other day that their team is undefeated. “We are unstoppable,” he said.

And we are.

A Country Eclipse

I was a kid when the last solar eclipse occurred.

Now, I am a grandmother.

 

 

 

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I will take this experience over the last one. Grandbabies make everything better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And a Midwest backyard eclipse with the grandsons is tops. Just tops.IMG_4103

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So here is some of our fun.

One grandson rediscovers his shadow after the eclipse.

Another grandson takes one last look before Eclipse 2017 is gone forever.

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Called: There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, Rough-hew them how we will.

Yesterday, I was in a training seminar. A woman raised her hand and wished to add substantive thoughts about child abuse. She began with the disclosure that she had been abused.

I don’t know her story. She was a little emotional, blinking back a few tears, her voice a bit shaky.

But she went on. She added her thoughts and maintained her composure.

The training is not meant to be open ended; there is no room for adults of trauma to add their stories to the curriculum. The curriculum is meant to stand alone. It is tried and true. Effective.

But my heart went out to this woman who was also there for training.

She will probably make a very effective teacher. She has the requisite empathy…insight…and professionalism to stick with the curriculum while letting the heart lead.

Here is the thing. She left early. She stepped out of the room. I didn’t see her return. I don’t even think she took her binder with her, but maybe she did.

What I do know, what her shaky voice revealed and her teary eyes said, is that she represents the one in four adult women who has been traumatized.

She needed something yesterday.

Perhaps that wasn’t the venue for her healing. Yesterday was a training seminar for others…those who haven’t even been rescued from the trauma, let alone begun to heal from it.

But it underscores something I know.

Something that resonates with me and will not be set aside even if I will it.

Someone needs to speak to and for Dinah. I don’t know the woman’s real name. I will simply call her Dinah.

I was talking to John about it this morning over brunch. When I said I wish I could just let it go, let the concern for others be buried and just get on with whatever comes next, he quoted Shakespeare. I love that we are two former English majors who met in graduate school. While he has gone on to get the Ph.D. in Public Policy, we are still like a Venn Diagram, with overlapping educational foundations.

There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, Rough-hew them how we will. (Hamlet, Act V, Scene II)

That is to say, God has a plan for how to use my platform, which I have grown less and less attached to, how to use my voice and words, which resonate with so many and surprises me each time it does, and where to use my memory, healing, strength, adherence to the faith, love for the Eucharist, confidence in the Church Jesus Christ began, and all the rest.

There is a divinity that shapes my end, even though, left to my own devices, I would pick up my own life and whittle out something that is barely recognizable as the thing for which it was intended.

But God…ah, He can do the impossible.

Dinah. I am praying for you. I am working for you. And, God willing, I will be able to help you walk a little further down the path to complete victory.

Victim to victor.

God willing.

Five Things to Never Say to Someone Who Was Molested or Raped

It can feel like being victimized all over again. It can be devastating if those you expected to support you really screw this part up.

Thankfully, my husband has been stellar. But some others? Not so much. My husband reminds me that there are some people who routinely make the wrong choice in an otherwise clear cut situation. In short, if you know someone who was sexually molested as a child or raped and they finally speak out as an adult about their trauma, you always, always, always, always support them.

You always say, “I believe you, and I am so sorry this happened to you. Is there anything I can do to help?”

It seems like one would never have to say what you don’t do. But I have lived through those dashed expectations. So, here they are.

  1. Don’t tell the victim you didn’t think they needed you to verbalize support when they went public with what happened, because, after all, you knew about what happened and thought that would suffice, especially since it happened so long ago.
  2. Don’t suggest that it happened years ago so PTSD or any other life-altering ramifications simply had an expiration date. Don’t tell them you think it is time to get over it. Don’t consider yourself the judge-and-jury and ask questions like, were you forced? Did he/she have a weapon? Did you tell anyone? Might you be remembering it differently than it actually happened? Why didn’t you tell me?
  3. Don’t tell a grown victim that you had a similar experience when no two experiences are the same–and you are really trying to get them to realize that what happened to them is small potatoes.
  4. Don’t tell them you have a different memory of that period of life, different data points…yes, that is pretty insensitive, especially if you didn’t live in the house where the events occurred or you were about 24 months old when the victim was molested while visiting a friend’s house.
  5. Don’t form a gossiping posse in the family. You will make the victim feel more marginalized. Good luck trying to pull that relationship out of the ditch.

In short, believe the family member or friend. Realize that the aftermath of trauma doesn’t have an expiration date. This person needs love, the real, I-will-not-gossip-or-judge-whether-your-experience-merits-this-response kind of love. Realize that, statistically, one in four girls is sexually molested in childhood and one in six boys is sexually molested in childhood. For that matter, one in five women is raped…classic, Hollywood movie type rape, date rape, somebody-you-know rape, or even a spousal rape. Your friend or family member, based on the statistics, is probably being totally honest. Oh, and 80% of victims experience PTSD or delayed onset PTSD. It is real. If life intruded at the time and they were busy raising a family or just trying to keep moving forward, it might take them decades to face the trauma.

Don’t ask them why they write a blog about the trauma if the whole thing has traumatized them so much and they aren’t interested in fielding your call so you can pepper them with the above questions.. Here is the answer to the public blog question… the blog routinely gets 500 hits by people who have probably experienced molestation/rape or know someone who has. Perhaps there might be some healing for another who stumbles upon this blog. And that makes it worth it. No kidding, 500 people every day coming to the blog. Worth. It.

Read the Department of Justice definition of sexual assault and rape. It no longer is centered solely on force. It takes into account consent and the ability to give consent.

No child and no adult who is sleeping, has been drinking, or is otherwise incapacitated is able to give consent.

Don’t be a misinformed jerk.

A bruised reed He will not break.

Can you guess who said that?

 

The Silence and the Ache

I broke my foot twenty-nine years ago.

Tonight, on my way to Adoration, I felt the wounded foot, exactly in the spot where I had broken it so many years ago.

It’s crazy how much it throbs tonight. Right where it was broken.

I had a cast. The bone mended. Years passed.

Tonight, before the Blessed Sacrament, I asked Our Lord again why I have struggled so this last year with the memories of child sexual molestation and rape as an adult.

Why do I feel anything at all? Shouldn’t it all just be a memory in a pile of memories?

Couldn’t I just leave it in the pile of memories and pick out a few that are better for my spirit? Happier. Far more normal? Less traumatic?

The Lord reminded me tonight that wounds ache when they want to ache. Even a foot with a bone broken long ago.

Whose fault is it that the bone hurts tonight?

It just does. And I regret wearing my Toms shoes, without the arch support.

Sometimes, you need a little help. Life is long, and nobody makes it through without a few old wounds and painful memories.

I don’t think I have ever told anyone that this old Adoration Chapel has the same architectural floorplan as the little Protestant country church where a young man once abused me. The second time he did it.

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There was a stairwell in about the same room where we keep the candles and other supplies for Mass. It was the back entrance for the church of my childhood. I wouldn’t remember it at all, except for what happened that day.

He sat on the stairs and tried to convince me to go with him into the classroom. This time, he didn’t pull out a pocket knife and threaten me. He was nicer. Maybe it was because we were inside the church.

Nobody came. Everyone was at our house having fellowship and food. The parsonage where the preacher and his family lived–that was where the small congregation met for meals and celebrations.

Nobody knew I was missing, even when he pulled me into the classroom–the one that is in the same spot in this Adoration Chapel where Father dresses for Mass.

Same layout.

Oh, My Jesus, present in the Monstrance, why has all this come back and demanded my attention? Why does it ache?

Wounds are like that, He reminds me.

They help us turn to those who have fresh wounds and ache to help them through the night that unfolds this night.

No need for more understanding beyond that.

When PTSD tries to derail my day…

It is not the right time of the year to plant seeds.

I had two farming grandfathers. I know this. I have also lived in the Midwest most of my life. The farmers are getting ready to pull out the combines, not the plows or planters.

But I have found that planting seeds in potting soil and seeing the seeds germinate has a healing quality to it. Tonight, after we wrapped up our evening meal at Olive Garden, I told my husband I needed some more seeds.

That is code for I need a distraction.

I have no reason for PTSD to surface today. But, it does that sometimes.

We stopped by Rural King, and I scanned the low stock of seeds. Even the rack had a label on it that said, “Do not inventory.” Basically, there is no need to reorder this product until 2018.

Nobody wants seeds right now — except me.

John suggested jalapeños. What the heck. Jalapeños it is.

I have a counselor who is a specialist in sexual trauma and delayed onset PTSD. I see her every other week. She asks me frequently what I do for fun.

Sometimes, you don’t need something that is fun.

Sometimes, you just need something that is different. Out-of-step with everyone else. Something that grows and doesn’t know that bad stuff happens to children. Something that isn’t going to control you. It will just shrivel up if the soil isn’t right or it gets too much sun.

Sometimes, you just need to watch things that have a cycle. Something that grows for you. It gives. That is what it was created to do.

As night falls and it is almost time to go to bed, I wish I had more daylight–especially when I have a new packet of seeds.

Jalapeños.

It doesn’t matter very much that I won’t be eating them. It is just a positive action. Planting. It heals something that died, something I am trying to resurrect.

Seeds are good.

And sometimes, they grow and defy the odds–especially when they have a little pot indoors where they are protected and nourished.

I suppose that is how my counselor feels when I dig in my heels and determine to get better and stronger.

There is a difference between me and my plants. I am not growing for her.

I am growing for me.

 

 

Wounded, but put me in coach

This has been a rough year.

I was at the top of my game. Syndication going well. Published author. Travel writer. Catholic Liaison for Israel. Yes, Israel.

Traveling Catholic speaker. Keynotes and everything.

And wham. PTSD. Quit my job. I had stopped writing the year before–all but the blog. I still traveled to Israel, but on my own, a kind of personal and mostly quiet retreat.

The speaking engagements kept coming. And the Holy Spirit always showed up.

But in between, I was dry. No. That’s not quite right. I was broken. Hurt. Wounded.

I didn’t faint and collapse in the middle of the fifth inning, but it sure seemed like it. It seemed like they whisked me off the field and I found myself on the bench, disoriented, a little incoherent, but wanting to brush aside their arms and say, put me in. Come on. I’m okay. Just put me back in.

Only I wasn’t okay.

I wrote about this in my book. One day, I would be out of the Catholic hustle and bustle. God would call me to “higher elevations,” I wrote, “where the crowds don’t gather but the view is amazing.”

Only the view didn’t seem so amazing.

I just wanted to go back to what I knew. The familiar. And being busy made me feel like God liked me at least a little. He took joy in using me.

“Just sit there for a while. I’m taking you out of the game. Cheer on your teammates all you want. But there is no way you are going back out there for a while.”

That’s what it is like when you are a writer and you have absolutely nothing to write. You love the Eucharist, but you can’t seem to get yourself to be around people.

You go to Mass on Sunday and Adoration because there is nobody there but you and the Lord. The rest has become practically impossible.

You aren’t depressed.

At least you don’t think that’s it.

Only God knows. So He is telling you to sit there on that bench. It’s like you have the “Mysterious Malady” that some baseball players get. You suddenly can’t do all the things you once did. You don’t have the it-factor anymore.

Just fix me and put me back in. But that’s no good. That won’t work.

In the spiritual realm, God needs to spend some time on you, and you need to let Him do it. It isn’t that you are suddenly ill, you were a little screwed up the whole time. The Mysterious Malady is not so mysterious.

Once it gets quiet, once you are pulled out of the game for a bit, you begin to see the wounds. You remember the day a young man had a knife and sexually molested you. You realize it made you fear anyone who could overpower you.

You remember the nights your husband in the non-Sacramental marriage waited for you to fall asleep so he could take you without asking. You think of the night he did it on purpose because he knew you were in the middle of your cycle and you would get pregnant. He did it to control and manipulate fate – and you. You became angry when anyone did things behind your back that seemed to take advantage of you or sabotage your life in any way.

You have trust issues.

Yet you say, Jesus, I trust in You.

Let’s get to that. Let’s analyze it for a while.

And the only way to do that is to take away everything that keeps you busy — until you see.

Practice setting good boundaries on everyone you need to, except Jesus Christ. Learn that He can be trusted…even in the quiet. Even when writer’s block shows up for a whole year. Even when you aren’t sure about anything except Jesus and His Church.

You get back to your motel room, shut the door, and cry. Still wearing the team uniform, you stumble to the mirror.

I have a few wounds.

But the good news is that the coach is also the ultimate healer. He knows how to heal these wounds, and He also wants to put you back in more than you want to get back into the game.

You sit on a chair. Alone.

And then someone knocks on the door. The healer wants to come in. And you realize you desperately want that, too.

Can the Catholic Church Have the Best Response to Sexual Trauma

Not that Church. Not the one with all the scandal.

Yes, that Church.

She could have the best response to sexual trauma. The secular world is addressing it, even though rape, molestation and incest have found a way into every corner of the secular world.

Fatherhood is still good, even if some fathers have not been good.

Coaching is still laudable, even though some coaches have been disastrous.

Teaching is still a wonderful profession, in spite of the fact that some teachers have misused their positions of authority.

When each of these is at its best, it is quite beautiful.

So, while the secular counselors and coalitions have done a tremendous job of helping to heal the wounds of sexual trauma, the Church could (and should) be the home for the greatest healing of all.

What we have going for us.

  1. We believe in the power of a fiat. A yes. God, being omnipotent, didn’t demand anything of the Blessed Mother. While He could have, being her creator, He didn’t. He was the perfect gentleman. He asked for Mary’s permission. And she said yes. She gave her consent. A few years ago, the Department of Justice changed the law. Assault and rape are no longer defined solely by force. The legal definition now includes the issue of consent. One must be able to give a yes. Children aren’t old enough to be able to do that. Sleeping wives, exhausted by raising children, aren’t able to do that. A young person who has had too much to drink… not able to give consent. In most places, spouses and intimate partners must have freely-given consent. We call that Free Will. It must be respected. It cannot be coerced. Not even in marriage.
  2. We believe in the Theology of the Body. It all has to make sense. It has to be rooted in dialogue between husband and wife. Sexual intimacy requires the highest degree of respect. Let me be clear. It requires marital love.
  3. We believe in redemption and healing. Our whole faith is centered upon the Person of Jesus Christ. He came so that we might experience the ultimate healing. He came to heal us from Original Sin and liberate us from Personal Sin. We are taught a new way. A Way of the Cross. An offering up of ourselves for another. Embedded in the whole Gospel message is the teaching that no damage or trauma is so great that God’s love cannot overcome it. Obliterate it. We don’t believe in the possibility of transforming from a victim to a survivor. We believe in the reality of transforming from a victim to a victor. Through His stripes, we are healed. He can redeem anything. Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more.

Freedom. Love. Healing.

These have become part of my journey. I am learning to set boundaries, that I possess a freedom to set boundaries and to firmly stand my ground. I am learning to love and sort through what love is and what love is not. How love acts, how love does not act. And I am learning how to heal. Up to 80% of those who have experienced sexual trauma have some form of PTSD. For some, it is a delayed-onset PTSD. Nightmares. Difficulty with relationships and boundaries. Addictions. Social anxiety. Generalized anxiety. Struggles in the workplace.

This brings me to the final reason why the Church has the potential to be the best response to sexual trauma.

4. We believe in Confession and spiritual direction. When these two come together, the soul experiences something miraculous. It is Easter morning kind of stuff. You see things more clearly than you have ever seen them before. You have strength to sweep away the hurt and those who have hurt you and receive the greatest love of the universe. You begin the amazing journey where every experience past, present and future is connected organically to the One who made you and has called you into His glorious Life. You are no longer feeling like you are being swallowed up by memories and hurts and horrific experiences and people who assert control and power and are masters at gaslighting and secrecy. You are able to walk into the Light and bring all of it with you. There, in the Light, the darkness flees.

5. We believe in new beginnings. You take baby steps at first. You keep going back to the Sacraments, especially Eucharist, Confession with spiritual direction and perhaps even Anointing of the Sick. You find that Truth has set you free, is setting you free, will set you free. What is Truth? Jesus Christ is Truth. And His Church has the best response to the wounds you carry.

Our wounds are offered up and placed in the Wounds of Christ, and talk about power! This power has overcome the world.

Get creative. Turn to the Stations of the Cross and make your own booklet. Include the fifteenth Station. (Or I will come to your group and share the Stations of the Cross that I developed for my own healing.) His Resurrection has made a way for your redemption. He redeems all things.

Go to Adoration. Write down what happened to you, the wounds you have, write them down and lay that paper on the Altar.

Light a candle, and burn the paper. Say this prayer:

Jesus, I give it to You. Now is the time. Change my wounds into scars that are healed and redeemed. Let me walk in Paschal Power. Let me know joy once more. Amen.

Denise Bossert is a nationally-recognized Catholic speaker, author, syndicated columnist and convert. She is a survivor/victor over sexual molestation as a child and rape in marriage. She is the mother of four children. One of her children was conceived in rape. That child was also a victim of sexual molestation. Use the contact form in the menu to reach Denise and invite her to speak about the Catholic faith and how true healing is there.