Heroes: Harold A Maio

We no longer talk about ‘the’ Jews. So why do we talk about ‘the’ mentally ill?

Here is an excerpt from  Harold A Maio’s article:

“English is not a complicated language. The rules for prejudice are rigid and clear, regularly practised against a “this” or a “that”, which changes with time. The techniques do not change; the target does.

“The” Jews. One has no difficulty pinpointing where that metaphor rose, or fell to its lowest. The industrialised murder of “the” Jews is taught in about every culture, we are aware of the effect of reducing a group to a “the”, and how far someone can take it. I address the form not the incidence.

Presently popular worldwide is “the” mentally ill, a replica of “the” Jews. It is seldom recognised. In 2008 all nine US supreme court justices agreed “the” mentally ill existed. I shuddered; the US went silent. The entire country went dark and did not notice. An alley expression had reached the height of the US supreme court and journalism fell silent, neither seeing it, nor wanting to. Not just in the US, but worldwide. It is one of the prejudices I track worldwide on the net. I respond to each example.”

I was a victim, and I’m proud.

Seeing what we were victims of can liberate us from the past. Seeing what we were victims of … that sounds so simple, doesn’t it? 

More than 20 years ago I discovered that it isn’t. I came out of the victim closet in the 1980s, and took responsibility for having betrayed and suppressed my own inner child, who said: “Yes, I have survived. And I know what I want you to do for me: Listen to me. Believe what I say. Do something about it. Show me that I can trust you.”

I made this choice, and became “a difficult case” in the health services. Eventually I was diagnosed as a borderline psychotic when I rejected the psychotherapeutic reality that I had been seduced by a priest and had a sexual relationship with him in childhood.  

The health services insisted on stuffing me into a “mental disorder” closet and throwing away the key, but luckily I had a chance to stay away from them and the experts who insisted on defining reality for me. In other areas of my life I made a wonderful discovery: Once I was out of the closet, it ceased to exist. 

At the time I was a vocal and active member of a Support Centre Against Incest, and we were adamant about rejecting the V word and calling ourselves survivors. That has not helped much. Now, almost 30 years later, there seems to be even more stigma and shame, even more ignorance and misconceptions, attached to the situation of having been used by adults when we were children, sexually or otherwise.

Normal and almost universally accepted psychotherapeutic interpretations of reality are a huge part of the problem, as I see it. Instead of asking “What has happened to you?” the experts have been asking “What’s wrong with you?” – or even worse “What’s wrong with the patient?”

That has created a culture that sees personality disorders and chemical imbalances in the brain instead of seeing strong, gutsy people who get on with living in spite of unhealed wounds and heavy burdens caused by harm done to them when they were children.  

As I see it, a child who has been used by adults can be compared to a child that has been run over by a car. A traffic victim. There is no shame attached to that, and maybe admiration of the guts and bravery that keeps traffic victims alive and can get them back on their feet.

I have decided to retake the V word. I was run over by adults. I was a victim of adult use. 

There are so many ways in which adults use children, and I’ll lump them all under one umbrella: adults use children as objects of addiction. Instead of using drugs or alcohol, adults, often unconsciously, use the power they have over vulnerable, helpless kids in an attempt to make themselves feel better, stronger, more in control. And in doing so, they are invisibly ramming into children and running over them.
And here my analogy fails. No one has been run over by the same car or cars day after day, year in and year out, all their formative years. The whole idea is preposterous.

Yet children are used by adults in this way. They are mentally and physically run into and over and crushed and smashed, day after day, year in and year out. And very often, nobody sees this, nobody hears this, nobody speaks out against this.

I was one of these children.
I was a victim of adult abuse of power.
I was a victim of adult power of definition.
And now I’m getting old.
And I’m alive.
And I´m proud.

And I’m thinking: Maybe we, who have and have had visible symptoms of childhood wounds and burdens, need our own civil rights movement, need to give ourselves the right to our own life story, our own definitions of reality. 

And sometimes, when I’m alone, I play a James Brown video and sing along with my own words:

Do you want to join me? 

Say it loud: “I was a victim, and I’m proud!”  

"We stand by the the victims"

I apologize in advance for a clumsy translation into English. 

I don’t have time to fix it, but I want to keep 
readers in Poland, Latvia, Germany, France  and other countries
updated on this correspondence.
On October 25th the Norwegian newspaper Klassekampen (KK) published a slightly rewritten version of this open letter that my sister and I  had also sent directly to bishop Bernt Eidsvig of the Catholic diocese in Oslo. In the newspaper, the title was toned down to “Where are the victims?”
Soon the bishops reply to us was published in KK under the heading “We stand by the the victims”.
Today, October 31st, our response is in KK. And because I am going to refer to this correspondence in things I will be writing later, I’m inserting both these open letters here:
From bishop Bernt Eidsvig to KK, 26.10:
Kari-Anne Pedersen and Ingrid Johanne Vaalund, who some decades ago were molested by a Catholic priest, ask some  questions in  Klassekampen on October 25th. The questions are about a meeting that was held in Katolsk Akademi[i]  in Oslo on October 18th.
First I wish to express my sincere sympathy with Pedersen and Vaalund. Their and others’ experience of abuse are shameful stains on the Church, which should stand in the forefront when it comes to protecting children.
Vaalund has sent me a link to her blog. Here she herself informs publicly that the violations they were subjected to were committed by a priest in India, and by the same priest on private visits to the family in Norway. When the Catholic  Professional Ethics Council in Oslo was informed of the violations, it informed the priest’s superiors, but the reply was that the priest in question had been dead for almost 20 years.[ii] Judicially we could not do more about this case, but the responsibility for spiritual guidance[iii] is ours. The sisters offered to meet The Professional Ethics Council to contribute with their experiences, and that should immediately have been followed through.
And it is correct that neither  Pedersen, Vaalund or other victims were specially invited to the meeting that was arranged by Katolsk Akademi. The academy has no information about the victims, so they could not be invited. Katolsk Akademi is independent of me, and I can only answer for myself.
My experience has been that everyone I know wishes to be anonymous, and an invitation like this would make them feel uncomfortable. Yet the meeting – which was open  to all  – has been announced on katolsk.no since June, and in the August issue of the magazine  St. Olav, which goes to all the Catholic households in the country.
The theme of the meeting was abuse cases in the Catholic diocese of Oslo and in Trondheim. As of now, none of the involved here have wished to come forward with their story. Yet David’s (pseudonym) book «Ingen vei utenom»[iv] gives a quite detailed description of a Norwegian victim’s experience, both of the effects of the abuse and the Church’s handling of his case.
My manuscript from Katolsk Akademi is published on katolsk.no, along with conversations with  Tormod Kleven and Jon Magne Lund. This meeting was not meant to be the only and definitive conclusion around this theme, and it is quite certain that  this will not be the last time the abuse cases will be discussed in our fora.
Our ongoing work on improving the diocese’s readiness plan and proactive work is implemented in cooperation with external specialists.  And as I also stated explicitly in my lecture, the experiences of the abused must have the greatest priority.
Therefore: my offer of a conversation – and the opportunity to apologize for the  omission  that the sisters have pointed out  – still stands.
Our response:
In bishop Eidsvigs open reply to our open letter in  KK 25th October, he expresses his sincere sympathy for us and others who have been violated. This we appreciate.
And we appreciate his writing: ” The sisters offered to meet The Professional Ethics Council to contribute with their experiences, and that should immediately have been followed through.”           
Our offer still stands, but not in a private meeting.
We would like an open dialogue, preferably in writing, and as we see it, bishop Eidsvigs foreword to the book he mentions: ”INGEN VEI UTENOM – om oppgjøret med en katolsk bishop”[v]  is a very good staring point. It contains classic examples of what we consider to be Church  ignorance about violations.
Is the bishop interested in joining us in an open dialogue of this kind?
It was clarifying to read that “the meeting was about abuse cases in Oslo Catholic Diocese and Trondheim.” That is completely different from the original wording: “A review, summation and analysis of the abuse cases in The Catholic Church”.
We find parts of the bishop’s answer to be quite confusing. In our correspondence with The Professional Ethics Council, which can be found in freudfri.blogspot.no, we have not expressed any desire for spiritual guidance, so we do not see how  ”responsibility for spiritual guidance” comes into this.  
And what are The Vatican’s new guidelines when a priest’s superiors are informed of violations? Does one lose all interest if the person in question is dead?  Seen from our position of  powerlessness, completely outside the Catholic hierarchy, it would have been natural to check if others also had informed of violations and let the informers know … that would make their accusation more believable.
Do we have to read ”St Olav” and katolsk.no if we wish to contribute to any hypothetical future meetings on abuse that are arranged by Katolsk Akademi?
Does the bishop think that the external expertise of the church does not need information from The Support Centre Against Incest? 
And how is the bishop going to let the experiences of the abused have the greatest priority?
Bishop Eidsvig says something very relevant in an interview in Aftenposten on October 20th : ”What troubles me is that we know nothing about abuse in the past 20 years. One can of course hope that there has been no abuse, but that would probably be naive.”
Violations of children’s integrity must be talked to death. We have chosen to go public because we hope that it might be easier for others to inform of violations when they see that it is possible to come out of the victim closet.
And we think that the Church can contribute to opening this closet door by gathering the voices of the variety of victims who already have informed the church.
Maybe bishop Eidsvig could publicly invite those who wish it to contribute with their story, each in their own unique way, with their own unique voice, from their own unique starting point?
                                                Kari-Anne Pedersen, Oslo
Ingrid Johanne Vaalund, Tinn i Telemark

[i] Catholic Academy
[iii] a direct translation of the Norwegian word ”sjelesorg” would be ”soul care”
[iv] “No Other Option”, maybe? Directly: “No way around”
[v] “NO OTHER OPTION – about the confrontation with a Catholic bishop”