Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘abuse’

Whatever Works

41nM1xKgcaLLetting Go into Perfect Love: Discovering the Extraordinary After Abuse by Gwendolyn M. Plano. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

When you’ve been emotionally and physically abused in a 25-year marriage, it takes not only courage to get out, let alone heal, but also an array of support and resources. Ms. Plano provides not only the details of her childhood, adult life and abuse, but also explores what helped, and what didn’t. Adding insult to injury, she later discovers that her daughter was abused by a Catholic sister and several priests. 

The first part of this story is anything but “perfect love”, but its important to provide context and depth to the despair, isolation, and shame that was experienced. The support and realizations that come to the author are as varied and individual as was the abuse. From the instruction’s of a zen teacher, theological inquiries into Christianity and the bible, feeling the presence of an “angel”, and getting psychological support, to the love and care of a Franciscan priest, and a center for abuse survivors. Whatever worked for insight, growth, and healing, is what Ms. Plano reached for.

Two quotes really stood out. “Rather than seeing the controlling behavior for what it was, I focused on what must be wrong with me.” This is such a common, and understandable, feeling that many abuse survivors have echoed. The other was, “It was a delusion to imagine that I was alone, just as it was to imagine that I was unworthy of love.” Self-loathing, self-doubt, and internalizing abuse as one’s “fault”, is one of the most horrendous effects for survivors. The other is feeling isolation and having nowhere to turn.

Another insightful passage, which is seldom spoken of, is about why some people never get out of an abusive relationship. “Domestic violence is usually not reported, and this fact is often misunderstood. Certainly, victims do not report the violence because of the real possibility of retaliation, but there is a deeper reason for their silence. To report partner violence is to betray the partner, it is to forsake the dream of a happily-ever-after marriage, it is to contend with the real and imaginary voices of condemnation, and it is to destroy the family unit.”

Letting Go Into Perfect Love is a blow to the heart, that leaves the reader with a sense that it is possible to survive the unsurvivable. It is possible to acknowledge, confront, and walk away from perpetrators of violence. It is possible to find support – sometimes in the most unexpected places. There are no cliches in this memoir (thank Goddess). There is an honest look at what has, and is happening, to thousands of women across the globe, and how each can find their way to not only survive, but perhaps learn to love again.




Nothing But the Best

SecondBestSecond Best by Charmaine Pauls
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

The story is a beautiful work of art that alternates between the first person account of Molly von Aswegen as a teen, and her later life in Johannesburg, South Africa, as told in the third person. The tale takes place between 1981 and 1984 with 17-year-old Molly fighting for her life in an industrial school (similar to reform school), and the foster homes, jobs, and people she encounters once she gets out. The pacing, and timing, between her past, and present, are done seamlessly and to great effect.

Having most every horrible thing possible happen to her before she turns twenty-one, it is not surprising that Molly has little trust in others, and no self regard for herself. There are only two people that stay with her, and whom she trusts. Malcolm (Mal) meets her at school just before he goes off into the army and to fight in Angola. Neill Mckenzie, who owns the Opera Bakery, is the second person who sees something more in Molly than her life circumstances and reputation. Neill sees potential and a passion for baking. The story is reminiscent of the 2015 film Dough (without the comedic elements), which has an old Jewish baker struggling to keep his business alive in London, and the teenage Muslim boy he hires, who is “nothing but trouble”.

All of the character’s in Second Best are played well. Molly and Neill’s families are from different sides of town, and each member comes to life. Molly’s friend and foes at school, Berta, Mr. de Jonge, and Jessica, are like people you may know, or have known. The Opera Bakery’s obnoxious and self-centered patron, Judge William Brooks, who has power, prestige, and a sense of entitlement, can also be found in cities across the world. Realism, with dialogue, character, and action, run rampant throughout the story.

Second Best is a well crafted, insightful, and entertaining story, that takes you into the heart and soul of a young woman finding her way through a hellish childhood, and discovering if anything reminiscent of self-love, respect, and love, is remotely possible.

The Truth of Fiction

If you read the story, Loving Annalise, without any knowledge of where the characters or events came from, it would appear to be an intriguing and loving romance that was complete fiction. In fact, it is taken from real life experiences of a friend from Austria, who married two brothers (not at the same time).

The old adage that truth is stranger than fiction, is so often true, that it is no longer a cliche. Anything one can think of happening in someone’s life, probably has, is, or will take place. When they all come together, with some perspective and distance, these experiences can also make a great story.

When I first heard a few of the details from my friend’s life, about growing up on a farm in Austria, going to nursing school in Vienna, falling for an abusive man, then later realizing she was in love with his brother, it sounded like a movie. When I asked if she would sit with me for a few afternoons and tell me the entire story, and she said yes, I was surprised and delighted.

The result of her sharing her life resulted in Loving Annalise. It is more than a simple, or even complicated romance, and includes childhood mishaps, coming-of-age, family drama, first loves, big city expectations, erotic encounters, suspense, blackmail, and redemption. The majority of the story takes place in Austria, and Western Europe, with the climax coming home to The States.

If there was ever an example of a life that reads as fiction, Loving Annalise fits the bill, and goes straight to the heart.


Review of Teaching the Cat to Sit

9781451697292‘Teaching the Cat to Sit’ by Michelle Theall
Reviewed by Sara Rauch
21 May, 2014 Lambda Literary

Michelle Theall’s new memoir, Teaching the Cat to Sit, brings some big topics—God, sexuality, abuse, loneliness, love, family—to the page. It’s a rocky ride, full of contentious conversations, frank disclosures, and plenty of struggle.

Teaching the Cat to Sit presents two interwoven narratives: first, adult Michelle’s struggle to get her adopted son baptized in the Catholic Church, her decision to pull him from the Catholic school he attends, and the ongoing battle to win her mother and father’s acceptance. The second narrative begins with Michelle’s youth—a journey that leads her through abuse, her grasping to understand her sexuality, a brush with a pedophile priest, her first relationship with another woman in college, her attempts to “turn straight,” her coming out, her leaving her home state, and the healing process that eventually leads her to her life partner. A lot happens in this book—and Theall moves through the circumstances of her life with remarkable dexterity.

Theall writes with compelling honesty about loneliness—in fact, the title of the book comes from a line she overhears her father say to her mother on that topic—and the feeling she so plainly articulates has real resonance. And while her loneliness hobbles and confuses her as a young adult, her ability to be alone is ultimately what heals her.

God plays a big role in Teaching the Cat to Sit. And this isn’t just any God; this is the Catholic God—not exactly touchy-feely, not exactly a paragon of acceptance. And those with major chips on their shoulder in regards to the Catholic Church and its treatment of gays may balk at some of what Theall says. But ultimately, Theall’s grappling with the God of her youth deconstructs a very real barrier between public and private. God is, on one hand, such a personal choice, and worship, while often done in public, is arguably one of the most private acts we humans do. For Theall, having been forced to keep secrets for most of her life—to protect herself, to gain her family’s love—privacy has too long meant silence. And the breaking of a silence she is no longer willing to bear becomes the ultimate act of bravery, one that threatens to crack the delicate acceptance she’s gained from her family.

There are moments when I wanted Theall to slow down, to let me in and show me a little more of her internal struggle—but a book of this scope, covering as much ground as it does, can make that sustained interiority difficult. Some of the moments Theall presents, especially her encounters with wildlife, allow us a telling window into her state of mind—those moments of understanding, of transformation and acceptance, are very powerful.

Read entire review and more at: LAMBDA LITERARY

Films That Transform

Films That Transform

Kathy Barbini and Simon Weinberg at Big Boy Pictures have produced two films that are a must see for those who desire personal and communal peace and healing.
Boys and Men Healing is a documentary about the impact the sexual abuse of boys has on both the individual and society, and the importance of healing and speaking out for male survivors to end the devastating effects.

The Healing Years, broke ground in the field of women’s issues and child sexual abuse prevention. The film has been broadcast on PBS stations nationwide, screened in international film festivals and leading conferences worldwide, and has become an acclaimed film in the field of child sexual abuse prevention for training and education.


BIG VOICE PICTURES produces social issue documentaries that give voice to emerging and cutting-edge issues, with the intention of motivating discussion, creating change, and offering new insights and hope for individuals, families, and communities through strategic national outreach campaigns and collaboration with communities and organizations. Their films have received worldwide distribution and recognition.

Domestic Slavery

Dear Activist,

Did you know that in the Philippines, more women leave their homes to work as maids or nannies than in any other country? But on their first day of “work”, many learn they’ve been deceived. Locked inside strangers’ homes, their passports taken away, many suffer beatings and sexual abuse. Filipino women are the face of domestic work around the world – and sadly, the face of domestic slavery.

But this summer, we can help change that. The Philippines Senate is voting on a law to protect domestic workers from falling into slavery.

43,000 people have already signed our petition asking the Senate to pass the law. Our partners in the Philippines tell us this wave of international attention is having a tremendous impact! We want to reach 50,000 signatures by the time the Senate comes back in session in three weeks. Please sign and tell your friends today:

Stop Millions of Women and Girls from Being Deceived and Sold Into Slavery

Recently, our partners in the Philippines organized a Walk for Freedom to demand government action. Thousands of people marched in the streets of Manila asking their government to protect millions of women and girls from falling into domestic slavery. Survivors shared their horror stories of leaving their homes to find a job as a maid – only to end up as a slave.

And Walk Free members were there with them in spirit! 43,000 people from 156 countries have already signed our petition calling on the Philippines to sign the law. The world is watching – if the Philippines becomes the 2nd country to ratify the law, under the International Labour Organization’s provisions, it comes into effect.

We need to keep the momentum going – help us reach our goal of 50,000 signatures by signing and telling your friends today! Walk Free will deliver the petition to the Philippines Senate to send a strong message to senators to pass this law as soon as they come back in session.

Stop Millions of Women and Girls from Being Deceived and Sold Into Slavery

Thank you for your support,
Tim, Debra, Lauren, Galit, Martine, David, Josh and the rest of the Walk Free team

Patrick’s Story

Excerpt from Amakuru! – News from the Rwandan Orphans Project.

Patrick’s Story

Sadly young Patrick has had to endure very difficult times at a very young age. Patrick was born in the town of Gitarama to two poor teenage parents. Unable to make any money in Gitarama Patrick’s father left for Kigali in hopes of finding a job. Despite the fact that he promised to send money back to the family, Patrick’s mother felt abandoned and remarried shortly after he left. The new stepfather didn’t like Patrick simply because he was another man’s son, so he began verbally abusing him and making him perform labor no three year old should do. This abuse forced young Patrick to the streets, where he felt safer than in his own home. Occasionally he would try sneaking into his home late at night when his stepfather was asleep and running away early in the morning before he woke up. Patrick lived like this for two years, begging for food and shelter on the streets near his own home.

One day he decided to go to Kigali to look for his father. A neighbour of his mother brought him there but they could not find him. He decided to stay in Kigali anyway, where he thought it would be easier to survive on the streets. Only seven years old, Patrick begged and slept in between buildings in an area called Kanombe for about two years before a local woman found him and brought him home to stay with her family. He stayed there for a short time before her husband tired of having another child to support that wasn’t his own and chased Patrick out. Alone again for the second time in his life, Patrick went back to the streets. A few weeks later he was found by the ROP supervisor, Jean de Dieu, who offered to bring him to the ROP Center.

Today little Patrick is going to school for the first time in life, and he’s settled in with the other young boys who live at the ROP. His role model is the ROP’s head teacher, Sandrine, and because of her influence he says that someday he wants to teach children who lived on the streets. He says that when he grows up he wants to have a big family and he will love them and protect them, unlike his mother who he feels abandoned him when he needed her most.

If you can help out a wee bit, please support Patrick and other children at The Rwandan Orphan’s Project.

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