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Patriarchal Religion, Battered Wives & Divorce: Imprisoned in the Name of GodCoral Anika Theill Salem-News.com
Divorce is not the scandal; it is the cover-up and condoning of abusive behavior in the Christian community. Part 6 of 6
(SALEM) - Escaping an abusive marriage is no easy task for many evangelical women, many of whom have pastors that say physical and mental abuse is no reason for divorce. The fear of reprisals and repercussions from husbands, pastors, the religious community and the judicial system prevents many women from seeking safety and wholeness. They are experienced with the ways abuse and trauma operates in their home. To seek safety would often mean subjecting themselves to further abuse in our judicial system as well. The choice to stay in domestic violence is not a choice at all. It is just the lesser of two evils. A battered woman weighs what kind of abuse she is most familiar with and can possibly survive. Fear of the unknown is often a crushing deterrent.
"Despite the documentation of the breadth of this problem [domestic violence] it remains a "myth" to many pastors. Although 40 percent of battered women report that they first went to their pastors for help, most pastors deny the existence of violence among members of their congregation. The "absence" of the problem represents the failure of the minister to acknowledge its existence and his or her willingness to address it." - Judith Herman, M.D.
Domestic violence is a crime. It is a complex problem with roots in an oppressively hierarchical, patriarchal violence-accepting society.
My case speaks loudly of the insidious crimes that are legally permitted and condoned under the guise of church and state-sanctioned domination of males in marriage. Laws must be changed to protect vulnerable people who cannot protect themselves. (When Those Who Are Supposed to Help You Get Out - Don't) http://abusesanctuary.
Punishment: Breakdown & Post-Partum Depression
Mr. Marty Warner, my ex-husband, assumed the role of teacher, doctor and mentor in our home. He also believed he was the "priest" of our family and dragged me through eight religious cults. I had no right to think and make decisions for myself. I was not allowed to express my emotions, feelings or beliefs. But, even though he considered himself the absolute master of home and family, he was an absentee husband and father, due to his personal retreats and religious activities, i.e., Right to Life home school and cult meetings.
In March 1994, my physician dismissed me as his patient because my husband was not bringing me in for appointments and was leaving me with unqualified people. Mr. Warner enlisted the help of Mr. Bill Heard, an unlicensed Christian counselor and ordained pastor in Roseburg, Oregon. He was oppressive. He also told me I was a “selfish woman” had a “sin” problem and that I needed to repent of my disobedience to my husband, etc. Mr. Heard believed I was “God’s living example of cursed women.” At this time my husband and his pastor left me at the “Wings of Love” Half-Way house for God to punish me and break me to the “will of God” they said.
In September, 1994, my husband and I boarded a plane to Chicago, Illinois. I was left at Bill Gothard’s Institute in Indianapolis, Indiana during the time I was physically and mentally incapacitated. I was exorcised daily for “witchcraft.” Again, they told me I was in “sin,” and needed to learn how to obey my husband and the authorities God placed over me. I scrubbed toilets, washed floors, peeled potatoes, made beds in the hotel, etc. I ran away after several weeks and flew back to Portland, Oregon. My brother, Don Hall, picked me up and I lived with him, in Dallesport, Washington, off and on for the next several months.
In October 1994, Mr. Warner called my brother, told him to help me get dressed up. Mr. Warner picked me up, while I was in a nearly catatonic condition, took me to a nearby motel and used me sexually throughout the night. He returned me to my brother’s house in the morning. No contraceptives were used. I was again pregnant with my eighth child. Due to my breakdown, I still was unable to care for myself. My husband’s actions are defined in Oregon as RAPE COUNT I.
One of the most life changing moments I had up to then was Stephanie taking my face in her hands and telling me, “Kathy [Coral], when you begin to call the way you have been treated by Mr. Warner “abuse,” then you will be on the road to recovery. I had “Stockholm Syndrome,” was unwell at that time, and continued to explain to her that my husband was kind because, “he let me plant flowers in our gardens.”2 It would take me several months to be able to verbalize and articulate what was so obvious to the people around me. I began to have hope for the first time in my life. The brainwashing and conditioning that had left me numb was replaced with words of truth and empowerment.
In January 1995, a friend, Therese Vasquez, drove me to my OB/Gyn, Dr. Charles South in Albany, Oregon. He was aware of my frail health. Dr. South confirmed my 8th pregnancy and tells me in strong language to go get the best divorce attorney I can find and divorce the “son of a b---ch.” He knew this way of life would soon kill me.
My husband picked me up from Stephanie’s and I returned to my home January 20, 1995, and resumed my expected duties.
I took care of the children, cooked meals, cleaned the home and did the laundry and grocery shopping during this time. The four eldest children were attending a Christian school in Philomath, Oregon. I came down with severe toxemia and had difficulty sleeping because of the pain. Several weeks before my eighth child was born, all seven children came down with the chicken pox. One of my oldest daughters was also ill and had surgery.
I followed the advice of my trusted physician, Dr. Charles South, soon after my baby was born. None of us could foresee the horrors of the Oregon court system.
Escaping an Abusive Marriage is No Easy Task
I have twenty years of mental scars to prove what I am saying is true. I was severely abused by Mr. Marty Warner and his religious leaders and counselors during my illness in 1993-1995. After questioning Mr. Bill Heard, one of the religious counselors my husband had taken me to during my breakdown, my attorney, Mr. David Gearing, Portland, Oregon, commented that I could have died under the "care" of these unqualified counselors. He spoke the truth.
Mr. Bill Heard testified in Court that Mr. Warner was the more qualified and competent parent.
Mr. Heard based his opinion from being involved in our lives for one year. I had been the primary care giver of our children for seventeen years.
Although I confided about the severe abuse and rapes I suffered from Mr. Warner to Pastor Ron Sutter, Brian King, Betsy Close and Bill Heard, they all dismissed me and have fully supported Mr. Warner. When an elder, Mr. Brian King, Bridgeport Community Chapel, found out I was seeking a legal separation, he said, “Kathy [Coral] are you aware of the sexual temptation you will put your husband through if you go through with this?” His question traumatized me as I reflected on my role as Mr. Warner’s wife for the past twenty years. It also aroused my fears for my daughters. Brian & Kathy King supported Mr. Warner during the period I had a restraining order and charged their legal fees on my attorney’s bill. They never compensated me for their bill.
Dr. Raquel Bergen writes, “In a study of battered women, Bowker (1983) found that they ranked clergy members as the least helpful of those to whom they had turned for assistance.
Marijo Sutter, supporter of Mr. Warner and wife of Pastor Ron Sutter, Monmouth, Oregon, was questioned by custody evaluators for court in 1996. She stated, “Mr. Marty Warner is a great father.” She knew me for a period of one month. Mr. Warner stayed with Pastor Ron and Marijo Sutter, during the two week period I had a restraining order. He told them he was impoverished, even though his estate at that time was worth ½ million dollars.
Escaping an abusive marriage is no easy task for many evangelical women, many of whom have pastors that say physical and mental abuse is no reason for divorce.
In February 1996, I visited both Dr. Michael May and Dr. Roger Jacobson in Corvallis, Oregon, for psychological exams to be used in court as evidence of my mental health and well-being. They were relieved to hear I had survived my breakdown and were supportive of my decision to divorce my husband. Dr. Michael May commented that he believed my previous breakdown would have only been a three month episode, instead of nearly two years, with the proper help and the absence of ritual, mental, physical abuse, rape and two pregnancies.
I went through a three-day temporary custody hearing, February 28 - March 1, 1996. Judge Albin Norblad heard the testimony of my psychiatrists. Their testimony validated my recovery from my breakdown. Their recommendation, to the Court, was that the younger children remain in my custody.
In court, Judge Norblad stated his intent was to leave the younger children with me. My physician and friends were present and heard Judge Norblad make this statement. However, the following week Judge Norblad signed a court order abruptly removing my younger children, including my nursing infant, Zachary, from me. In the letter from the Court, dated March 5, 1996, Judge Norblad states, "her experts (psychiatrists) testified that she is now well." Judge Norblad, contrary to what he told me and my attorneys in court, nevertheless, awarded all eight of our children to my former husband, including my nursing infant. My physician was shocked at the judge’s decision and said, “removing a nursing infant from a mother is equivalent to castrating a man.”
I was allowed to visit my baby and younger children in the family home two weekends a month.
In 1998, I could no longer sustain the abuse and sexual assaults that I suffered from Mr. Marty Warner that were a result of my “court ordered visitation” of my children. I went under a state address protection program per the recommendations of my physicians and mentors. Mr. Warner physically abused my young children due to the fact that they loved me and wanted to run away to live with me.
My own attorney, Mr. David Gearing, of Portland, Oregon, made me promise him in Court that I would never make any disparaging comments to my children about their father. I have tried to teach my children to respect everyone's right to their religious belief. However, when someone uses their religious beliefs to harm, hurt or abuse another human being, then I believe we should teach our children to protect themselves from that person. Through Gag Orders by the Court, society and my attorney set my children up for abuse.
Respect My Religion
How can one respect a religion with ideas that harm other human
On December 5, 2000, I received a letter from my ex-husband, Mr. Marty Warner of Independence, Oregon:
“You have shared with me both in our conversations and in your letters, and have demonstrated, that you currently do not share the same values or spiritual perspective as those of our family. That certainly is your prerogative. However, due to our present significant differences in values and faith, it is understandably difficult for you to be supportive of our family’s goals, values and vision. Consequently, your interaction with the children tends to bring about considerable confusion, disharmony and, though you certainly do not intend it, is quite disruptive and counter-productive. Rather, I am trying to answer your question and practice discernment and judgment concerning the effectiveness and fruitfulness of your calling or visiting with the children at this time.”
Since 1999, no contact, calls, letters, gifts or visits with my children have been allowed per my ex-husband and his attorney’s demands through the court. In America, a parent can be banned from seeing their own children because they do not attend a cult or condone cult behavior. (Author’s Note: Brainwashing is only effective as long as there is no outside interference.)
The fact that I do not agree with Mr. Warner’s misogynist, patriarchal and cult mentality does not make me unspiritual or a bad role model for my children. I believe that teaching my children healthy thinking patterns regarding abuse issues is disruptive and inconvenient for Mr. Warner and his cult leaders, NOT THE CHILDREN!
I thought after my divorce in 1997, the courtroom trauma would be finally over. I was naïve. My court and legal trauma had only begun. Mr. Warner does not believe in losing, and even though he had full custody of all eight children, my divorcing him was a great loss of face (and free labor). He and his attorney would attempt to teach me who was in control. There would be no relationship with my children unless I was under my ex-husband’s total control and submitting to his abuse. Dr. Barbara May, my mentor since 1997, said my ex-husband, Mr. Marty Warner, had not only mastered abuse, he appeared, from his actions, to have the “Ph.D. in power, control and abuse issues.”3
Although my children have erased me from their life, I am not dead, I am very much alive, and I have a face, and a name.
I have been and will always be very involved in their life, even if it is only through prayer. I am praying that someday my children will choose to become "aware, awake and conscious" concerning details of their past and present. Their lack of awareness regarding their own life will greatly affect those around them. I pray my children will find good role models and mentors. I also pray that someday my children will find the courage to walk through the unpleasant details of their past.
Many of the pastors and Christians my children have chosen to socialize and worship with, embrace and support their father, Mr. Marty Warner, a man who has committed criminal acts against his former wife and children. This does not support my children's well-being, only their delusion of themselves and their family. 4
You will never know where you are going unless you truly understand where you came from. It is important to take care of the "contamination of the past."
Gloria Steinem spoke about domestic violence at the 40th Anniversary of Ms. Magazine on October 11, 2012. She stated that since 9/11 there have been more women killed by their husbands and boyfriends than all the Americans killed in Iraq & Afghanistan and the 9/11 attack combined. You can hear her speech at: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/
Anyone can Endure Tyranny but it takes True Courage to Embrace Freedom
To this day, I remember the terrifying fear I felt for years as a child and also during my marriage that had me lying awake shaking some nights. Every form of abuse has a long lasting effect on each one of us. Revictimization 2009 Pandora’s Project by Louise 6 http://abusesanctuary.
I no longer embrace the ideological rigidity and doctrines of patriarchal religions and fundamental “Christianity,” but wish to help those who are being abused “in the name of God.” My script for my life involves wholeness, dignity, honor and self-respect. I am at peace with my life and my past and have learned that as I honor myself, I honor God.
I remind those around me to not forget the millions of women and children who are veterans of intimate wars and private anguish and for whom terror at home is business as usual. One in four women will experience violence at the hands of their partner at some time in their lives and one in three women will be the victim of sexual assault.
The shame of my abuse lies upon the community who refuses to help or stop it. Domestic violence and abuse begins in the minds of a community that allows and accepts it.
The kind of violence, abuse and suppression perpetrated by so many of our organized religions and government agencies is truly shocking and can only continue by our refusal to look AT IT rather than the OTHER WAY.
A victim's first scream is for help, a victim’s second scream is for justice.
Documentation & Letters: http://coralanikatheill.blogspot.com
1 "When Those Who Are Supposed to Help You Get Out - Don't"
2 Why Do You Stay: Traumatic Bonding and Stockholm Syndrome http://abusesanctuary.
3 Narcissists & Psychopaths Cause PTSD for their Victims http://abusesanctuary.
4 What the Bible Says About Rape by Valerie Tarico http://www.alternet.org/
5 Sex and World Peace by Valerie Hudson http://www.foreignpolicy.com/
Sex and World Peace: Or, What Little Girls Have to Do with Our Wars by Soraya Chemaly http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
6 Revictimization 2009 Pandora’s Project by Louise http://abusesanctuary.
Radio Program: Listen to Coral Theill’s guest appearance on the “Abuse Freedom Live” Radio Program, August 19, 2012 http://www.youtube.com/watch?
Jan. 11, 2012 Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Calls on Congress to Reauthorize Violence Against Women Act http://www.salem-news.com/
Coral Theill’s Military Articles at Salem-News.com: link
Coral Anika Theill, reporter and advocate, is author of "BONSHEA: Making Light of the Dark." Her published works address abuse, trauma recovery and healing from post-traumatic stress and most recently, wounded Marines, the Warrior Games and Montford Point Marines. Her writings have encouraged and inspired numerous trauma victims and wounded Marines/soldiers recovering from PTS and TBI. Coral's positive insights as a survivor have also earned the respect of clinical therapists, advocates, attorneys, professors and authors. BONSHEA has been used as a college text for nursing students at Linfield College, Portland, Oregon and can be ordered at: http://amazon.com, http://barnesandnoble.com or http://iUniverse.com
"Those who serve may already know the toll of having to kill or be killed, but civilian society should also recognize that those who go into battle defending our way of life pay a price. I feel a deep gratitude to our servicemen and women and believe our society needs to do more to respect, understand and support those returning from deployment in conflict zones.” – Coral Anika Theill, Contributing Writer for Leatherneck Magazine
The Commandant of the Marine Corps on Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury and Invisible Battle Scars: Confronting the Stigma of PTS and TBI http://www.
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