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Portia Nelson, in There’s a Hole in my Sidewalk, describes her life in five segments. In chapter one, she describes walking down a street and falling into a deep hole in the sidewalk. She’s lost and help­less, and it takes forever to find a way out. In chapter two, she walks down the same street with the same deep hole in the sidewalk. She pretends she doesn’t see it and falls in again. She is somehow surprised that she is in the same place. Again, she thinks it isn’t her fault and again it takes her a long time to get out.

In chapter three, she walks down the same street, sees the hole, and falls in anyway because it is a habit. She takes responsibility for herself and gets out immediately. In chapter four, she walks down the same street and walks around the hole in the sidewalk. In chapter five, she walks down another street.

I can imagine how I came to write this workbook in five segments. Stage one: A deep hole. I was sexually abused by my pastor as a teenager, memories of which lay buried for nearly 30 years. From the time I left seminary in 1984, I worked to bring social justice and the incarnation of God into the world through education.

Stage two: Buried alive. As a professor, I participated in a week long summer program for Catholic University faculty. At this time, the Boston scandal was in the news daily. My flashbacks began around that time.  More abuse memories were triggered by seeing my sons sleeping shirtless; they were about the age I was when I was abused.

I called the L.A. Archdiocese to report what I thought others must want to know in order to help others. During the next year, I contacted an attorney, filed a police report and got in touch with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. In support meetings, I heard my own story in graphic detail through many others’ and I became a spokesman.

Stage three: Letting go. During the fall 2005, when I could no longer conceal that I could not read or effectively remember lectures and material, I dragged myself to a psychiatrist.  I was on emotional edge, working and conflicting with tenured colleagues who reminded me of church hierarchy. My PTSD leave of absence in 2006, before I began meditation, became my cocoon from my life of being a victim and survivor. When a registered sex offender came to my new church to worship there, I became a spiritual support team member, and met with this person weekly.  That experience was re- traumatizing as well as life changing towards my transformation.

Stage 4: Transformation. Shortly after the 2006-2007 academic year ended, I received notification that I would not be reappointed, which circumvented my bid for tenure.  My appeal to the Provost was denied. I participated in a Chopra Center program about healing and began my path of meditation, transformation, and writing.

Stage 5: Publication. I have written Healing the Sexually Abused Heart: A Workbook for Survivors, Thrivers, and Supporters, to help others. 39 million people in the United States have experienced sexual abuse in some form. Sadly, most victims live among us with near-invisibility. Survivors and supporters say that this book is a valuable resource for victims of sexual abuse, their support groups, and others impacted by abuse and neglect.  That it is useful, inspirational and hopeful, and will literally help save lives. Even if I didn’t write it, I think it should be in every church’s library.

Victims of abuse and betrayal carry similar toxic experiences that can continue to impact mind and spirit long after the original physical abuse occurred. This workbook guides the reader through a self-questioning process that gently leads her or him through stages of recovery. Every chapter includes exercises to help readers recognize how their hearts and minds work together with respect to self-talk, responses to authority, boundaries, roles, and action-steps. This resource helps readers examine the past and understand present actions and ways of thinking that maintain self-victimization. Practical exercises teach readers to take responsibility for the present. Chapter 5 is particularly geared for those who aspire to be effective supporters or change agents in their particular religious environment.

Healing is possible; transformation is necessary.  See chapter samples on line at www.jaimeromo.com/workbook

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