Book Therapeutic for Victim

By Chris Jones
Las Vegas Review-Journal (Nevada)
May 5, 1999

While many survivors of sexual abuse struggle with discussing their experiences, one Southeast-area resident wants to share the details of her life with others.

Marian E. Lovelace was one of six women who detailed their accounts of sexual abuse by clergymen in a new book titled 'Victim to Survivor.'

Although she used the pen name 'Et Al' and changed the name of her abuser for the book, the 51-year-old Lovelace is candid about what took place in her life. She feels sharing her experiences with others enables her to better cope with the dark events of her past.

'I needed (to be published) for my own sanity, in terms of telling my truth,' Lovelace said. 'I rarely use the word 'story' to describe my experiences because story is often viewed as a fairy tale or make believe. Avoiding that word is one of my ways of validating that it wasn't false.'

Born in Oklahoma, Lovelace was first sexually abused as a teen-ager by her father. Despite the problem _ which was widely known in the congregation _ Lovelace said she received little support from her church following her mother's death.

As she began to seek out a new religious family during her senior year in high school, Lovelace joined the Catholic Church and went on to college. In school, Lovelace struggled with a variety of personal, financial and academic problems and she began to discuss her problems with a priest named Rev. Daniel Keohane, who is referred to as 'Patrick' in the book. Not long after their initial meeting, their appointments for 'spiritual encouragement' took a turn for the worse.

Lovelace said Keohane used his position of trust to influence her, and a variety of sexual and mental abuses followed.

Years of struggle ensued, which Lovelace chronicles in the book. Following the continued abuse, suicide attempts and psychiatric hospitalizations, Lovelace finally broke contact with Keohane at age 32.

Under the supervision of a therapist, Lovelace gradually realized the significance of the situation with Keohane _ much of which she blocked out of her memory _ and began to take the steps necessary to put her life back together.

The road to publication began when Lovelace met Rev. Marie Fortune, a minister in the United Church of Christ who directs the Seattle-based Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence.

'I met Rev. Fortune in 1995 at a retreat for survivors of clergy abuse,' Lovelace said. 'I had read some of her books, and after meeting with her I became involved with training for the prevention of this kind of abuse.'

Inspired by her meeting with Fortune, Lovelace went on to publish a book of her own titled 'Remembering and Recovering' in 1996. Because it was financed independently, Lovelace was only able to publish a few hundred copies. A few months later, Fortune received word that Nancy Werking Poling, a learning specialist at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, Ill., was preparing a book on women's experiences with clergy abuse and she forwarded Lovelace's name for consideration.

The opportunity to reach a larger audience appealed to Lovelace and she agreed to tell her experiences to Poling. The final product was published by United Church Press of Cleveland earlier this year.

'It's been both a blessing and a sadness to get my experience out,' Lovelace said. 'Often people will have a sense of 'Let's move on with your life,' but for me, reading about five other women with similar struggles and seeing the book in print has really added to my sense of healing.'

'These women, who I've never met, gave me a sense of moving away from feeling isolated,' Lovelace said. 'I realized there was a central way these predators could reach us, and that was through our vulnerability.'

In compiling the book, Poling asked each of the authors to answer questions about what made them vulnerable to clergy abuse, how they were exploited and what aspect of the relationship made their experiences terrible or destructive. The contributors also explained when they began to realize what was happening to them, how their church responded and if they have experienced healing or changes in their relationship with God.

'Not surprisingly to those who know the field of clergy sexual abuse, the responses to these questions were often similar,' Poling said in the book's preface. 'Readers will find abusers who share many characteristics, and survivors whose grit and interpretation bear similarities.'

In one way, however, Lovelace differs from her co-authors. Last December, she learned of Keohane's death, which Lovelace said was a challenge to accept.

'It was a real blow,' Lovelace said. 'Of the six (authors), I'm the only one whose abuser has died. For me it was the end of a false hope that at some point he would own up to what he did and at least apologize. With his death, there's no way I can get an apology from him.

'He skirted earthly justice _ that's what I remind myself,' Lovelace said. 'What allows me to remain active in my faith is knowing that he'll still have to answer to God. I didn't get an apology from him or the Diocese of Oklahoma (where the abuses took place), but I know people are going to be held accountable when they die.'

These days, Lovelace tries to make life easier for others who might have suffered similar trials.

'I feel like I need to make the churches a welcome place for people who have been driven away,' Lovelace said. 'I've chosen to stay with the Catholic Church, although it has been a real struggle. I have to separate the institutions from the spiritual side of the church I choose to associate with.

'When I see that a bishop or a diocese doesn't respond to a case of abuse by helping the survivor, it really gets to me. It really damages faith, but the sad part is it goes on in every denomination.'


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