Monday, October 5, 2015

Mitigating the trauma of clergy sex abuse

"A life of wholeness does not depend on what we experience. Wholeness depends on how we experience our lives."
--  Desmond Tutu

I felt so honored when retired judge Sheila Murphy invited me to contribute a chapter for a book on restorative justice that Archbishop Desmond Tutu was supporting and writing an introduction for. I had never met Sheila before, but after my speech at the 2013 SNAP convention for clergy sex abuse survivors, Sheila introduced herself and pressed into my palm a yellow post-it note with these words: "Yoga as Restorative Justice." That was the topic she wanted me to write about. I looked at my palm, looked at her, and then said, "Huh?"

Fortunately, Sheila wasn't deterred by my monosyllabic response. "You may not have used the language of restorative justice," she said, "but I think it's what you were really talking about just now in your speech."

"It was?" Again, any pretense of wit or wisdom eluded me.

But ultimately, the more we talked, the more I decided that Sheila was right. It's funny how communication is a two-way street like that. Sometimes, what gets communicated depends as much on what's in the mind of the listener as it does on what comes out the mouth of the speaker. Sheila had heard more in my speech than what even I had realized I was saying.

So, I wrote the chapter, and the book has recently been released. You can read my chapter here: "Yoga as a Practice of Restorative Justice."

I'm happy that I could bring this discussion of clergy sex abuse and of yoga's therapeutic benefits into a perhaps unexpected context -- i.e., a law book. Below is a short excerpt:

"In so many clergy molestation cases, we have seen that, in the churches and communities in which such abuse occurs, little care or thought seems to be given to the needs of the victims. It is as though the crime itself, if spoken of, renders the victims into untouchables. We are left bleeding out in the sands of a spiritual desert while others ride their donkeys right past us. This is the typical pattern. When such grievous wounds are inflicted from within a faith community, then the faith community does not care to look too closely, and so it does not try to bind the wounds.

"I yearn for the day when we will see more cases that defy this pattern, but I know that we cannot idly wait for that day to come. The bleeding must be staunched, and so we ourselves must do the job of binding up our own wounds. To accomplish that, we can extend peach and wholeness, compassion and care to our own most inner selves. And though no other form of justice may be possible, we ourselves can engage in a form of self-restorative justice."

Read the rest of it here: "Yoga as a Practice of Restorative Justice." It's in the book Restorative Justice in Practice: A Holistic Approach.