In our work of education for sexual abuse prevention, the CCP would like to give priority to the voice of those who have been abused by taking a victims-first approach. Recently we were in touch with Teresa Pitt Green, an author, workshop leader, video producer and advocate for persons who have been abused. We asked her to tell us a little about herself, her work and inspiration.
Teresa, could you share with us a little about yourself?
I’m a daughter of the Most High God, offering my arduous story of improbable survival after having endured sexual and emotional abuse by a series of predator priests from when I was about seven until I was 19 years old. All that I am now lives in praise to glorify the Lord Who saved me.
The Lord has placed a call on my heart to use my professional training and skills to facilitate a safe dialogue within our Church among all the wounded through trauma-informed spiritual skills, insights, and language.
Besides running a small business, I serve as Chair of Communications and Operations for the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force. For example, I recently organized and facilitated a human-trafficking survivor panel for law enforcement to review do’s and don’ts when dealing with victims “still in the life.” The survivors and attendees told me it was healing for them.
We at the CCP recently watched a video you made detailing the progress that has been made in the United States on the topic of clerical sexual abuse, “Catholic Amends: 5 Things 2 Know”. Great video! Can you share with us what inspired you to create it?
As I speak and offer workshops, it astounds me how few Catholics know the progress of their own Church. When I speak to mostly lay Catholic groups – or to other Christian groups – I cover these points, too. I do so without denying there is much progress to be made, but there is so much progress for us to work together to build upon. We can’t build together until we know all the facts, so I made the video to distribute on social media and also to offer as a refresher to audiences.
It is not your only video! Looking at your YouTube channel, you have made quite a few educational videos, a webinar in fact, on “how adult survivors of child sexual abuse (and other child abuse and trauma) can be helped to integrate their Christian faith into what is sometimes an arduous recovery process.”
The YouTube channel is the full series of short videos which the Vice Chancellor asked me to make and post. He wanted me to put one of my workshops online for priests, deacons, religious and other ministries to view in privacy and on their own schedules, but he thought having it in short segments would work best for their schedules and prayerful consideration. Some videos have almost 8,000 views. My heart is soothed to know this. Truly, the Lord works all things for good, even abuse in one’s life, for those who love Him and seek His purpose.
It is important to note you are not only a “YouTuber”; your voice on YouTube grew out of your different ministries to abused persons. You are a published author, founder of the online resource “The Healing Voices Magazine” and also of “Spirit Fire Ministries”. Could you share with us about these?
The Healing Voices Magazine was co-founded with other Catholic survivors, most in the Chicago area (I am in Virginia). We were introduced by Chicago’s Director of Survivor Ministry, Thomas Tharayil. While the Founders continue to write and pursue individual efforts to bring healing, two of us share all the responsibility for editing, myself and fellow Catholic survivor Michael Hoffman. The publication and all our related activities have evolved into a mediated dialogue among survivors, loved ones, priests, scholars, sisters, victim assistance coordinators, child protection professionals, deacons, etc. It is a virtual experience of Christian fellowship and restorative justice, and we help all our contributors and readers to consider how they have been wounded with us.
We also host online discussions, events and prayer services for survivors and loved ones. A copy of our prayer service and its “Litany of Love” will clarify whom our magazine serves. The demand for more of these events and workshops runs high, but Mike and I do this on the side while working our day jobs. Due to technology, we also are able to reach survivors and loved ones who have despaired or suffer mental illness or isolated in unrelieved anguish; it’s staggering to us the impact on their lives when they find in our work prayer and the love of the Lord to them. Mike and I are in a constant outreach mode, but after first contact I am the primary peer-to-peer minister in this regard.
In March 2017, we produced a compilation of articles for Child Protection Professionals and Survivor Ministers who met in Savannah. Our full archive is on the site. Anyone may subscribe to our weekly emails. Our readers are in the US, Europe, Guam, Philippines and South Africa. Working with survivors in our fellowship, Mike and I have just completed a survivor compilation of feedback for the Pontifical Commission about survivor ministry – what works, what doesn’t. We have spent the last year reviewing books, workshops, retreats and other services for survivors of abuse.
With Luis (surname not public yet), my fellow Catholic survivor out of Brooklyn (New York), I founded the Spirit Fire Ministries to promote Christian restorative justice in faith settings where abuse or trauma has occurred. We work from time to time as invited to speak in a spirit of collaborative friendship with the Secretariat for the Protection of Children and Young People, and my work reaches fellow Christian churches and friends to offer assistance and encouragement on the road to healing after abuse.
Besides the extensive amount of content on the two websites, you have also published some resources, including a book, which serves as a guide to ministering to persons who have been abused and are seeking help.
To both inspire priests and help ministries to survivors, I co-authored a big workbook with Fr. Lewis S. Fiorelli, OSFS, based on our workshops. It is Veronica’s Veil: Companionship for Adult Survivors of Child Abuse – A Christ-Centered Approach. Priests and deacons seem really to love this book and how it helps them minister more fully to the abused and traumatized in our world. Fr. Fiorelli and I started working together to help inspire a trauma-informed ministry for survivors of abuse, but what we have found is how giving priests trauma-informed insights and language to help survivors of abuse heals something in them, too, for they too have been wounded, differently, but wounded nevertheless. I’m humbled to note that one US diocese just gave a copy to each of its priests. I believe survivors and priests and their corner of the Church will heal because of that.
• About 40 of my published works are here. Most are free and are printer-friendly.
• Priests and deacons like this checklist the most: Do’s and Don’ts Checklist
• The most reprinted article is the one which survivors and nuns tell me they prefer above all the others: Making Distinctions
• Two of many articles serving survivors, who tell me about how traditional talk therapy has limited benefit, are: On curing the muscle memory of abuse and How caring for abused pets has helped many survivors. (Of course, trauma-informed ministry is my primary focus, because it is my belief that God is the main component for all other approaches to healing being effective.)
It’s interesting to note that you devote considerable care to treating not only the wounds of those who have been abused but also to those who are entrusted with their care!
“Loved ones” is such an important issue! Secondary victims are those who, due to proximity and/or connections with the survivor of child sexual abuse, then also suffer psychological, emotional, spiritual and/or relational wounds that reflect those of the victim. Currently, secondary trauma/victimization is studied in terms of “compassion fatigue” and burnout in professional health care, or in terms of care providers in trauma settings like a hospital emergency ward or school shooting settings. It is common in services to human trafficking victims, with whom I also work.
Isolated as we were, and isolated as we may feel and be now, nevertheless, we were not wounded alone. We do not suffer alone. For my own ministry, Carl Jung’s statement has a direct bearing: “In relationships, we are wounded. In relationships, we heal.”
My approach with Loved Ones also applies to the whole Church, and especially to her priests. My focus here in the States is to encourage trauma-informed therapy and a trauma-informed ministry. Working with priests I am sure of the wounds they bear from the abuse I suffered. They too deserve care and also encouragement that they are more relevant, not marginalized, because of the abuse scandal. This, in full circle, is a fundamental wound and critical healing is needed.
Yet, the evidence is there in clear view about the devastating impact of shared trauma. We all see family members suffering as someone whom they love suffers illness. Nine out of ten marriages (in the US) where a child dies end in divorce. This “ripple effect” is very real with abuse. Some studies show siblings who were not abused still present psychological harm where a child has been sexually abused in a home. More Loved Ones than survivors approach me via social media – seeking help for the victim but also needing care spiritually themselves.
Our Blessed Mother has already shown our Lord’s closeness in this secondary wounding, as she offers both the image of secondary suffering and deliverance from evil.
Thank you Teresa for sharing with us. All the best in your ministries!
Teresa Pitt Green can be followed on Twitter @SpiritFireLive