Live from SnNAP: When a Room Full of Priest Sex Crime Survivors Laugh, the Walls of Jericho Can Fall

By Kay Ebeling
City of Angels
July 12, 2008

I'm in an auditorium full of priest sex crime victims and the wise ones who support us, and our faces are so similar. There’s that expression, it might be a “smirk,” where one side of your mouth squeezes into the form of a smile while the other half of the mouth stays straight. It’s the expression people get on their faces when they're feeling a humor, disgust, resignedness, and anger all at once, the expression the you have before uttering something sarcastic. Look around the room the first night of SNAP 2008 and almost every person has that smirk.

And spontaneous laughter. We even surprised comedian Angela Shelton last night. She was talking about removing the sword of trauma. “You don’t need your perpetrator anymore. He’s gone,” she said and then for this audience added the line, “moved onto the next parish.” Eruption. The shout of laughter was so abrupt it made the comedian on stage step back and say, whoa. . . . It’s like we spend so much time with our heads in horror, when someone cracks a joke that hits our issue right on the head, we let go and laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

I got SO MUCH out of what Angela Shelton said last night. Because the past few weeks I've had this idea germinating, and much like this blog and the idea to cover LA Clergy Cases 2007, as soon as I took the first few steps, a hundred more doors opened and the right thing to do seemed to be keep on going. I even took baby steps first to get here to Chicago. Now I'm going to be here two more weeks doing research.

And more doors are opening. I used to think the area around Bartlett was unique. I was so excited because I thought for sure I’d found it, the root of the pedophile network. It’s in a town called Bartlett 20 miles west of Chicago. But as I talk to people here, I'm finding out this country is a cesspool full of networks of pedophile priests. Almost every region can now claim several predators. And it’s almost always the same. The neglect, the incompetent handling by the church, the altar boys, the confessional used as a venue for sex crimes.

So now I want to take trips to St. Louis, Minnesota, Texas, Wisconsin, Washington DC, and Indiana and that's just from the conversations I had last night. I could travel from one city to the next and write one story after another. No, let me put that thought into a different form now.

I am going to travel from one city to the next and write one story after another.

Last night Angela Shelton convinced me that I can do it, I'm going to go it, I'm already doing it.

It started right from the beginning of her talk. In 2001 during a period of unemployment she took off from LA to do a documentary where she’d interview women around the country with the name Angela Shelton, and it turned our “70 percent of the Angels Shelton's were victims of child sex abuse rape or violence.”

Seven years later advocacy against child sex crimes is a major part of her career.

“I fell into this well of hell really accidentally,” Shelton jokes. “I thought it was going to be funny. It’s not funny.”

I feel the same way. It’s a well of hell and I'm in it now. Last week I took off from LA to start writing my story, and it’s turning out I'm writing about 180,000 stories, because you can’t stop at just one. So my dream is becoming a “visualization” or a “possibility’ or a “mandate” as in how could I do anything else.

By the time Angela Shelton finished her talk last night, I’d made up my mind. I'm just going to do it.

She said, Be a warrior.

Well not as in Onward Christian Soldiers. Shelton projected a cartoon where people were saying words such as STUPID UGLY WORTHLESS to describe themselves. She then asked, “How many of you have said that?” Almost all of us made affirmative sounds, squirms. I spent most of the 1990s and the first half of this decade saying that.

But I also realized I’ve made a lot of progress as Angela Shelton said:

"Experiencing trauma is like being pierced with a sword."

She then talks us through the process of removing the sword of trauma and using it instead as an instrument.

“When you go to remove the sword, guess what's going to happen. Pain. Blood. You have to make a plan, have safe people, a support system.

“You have to remove the sword.

“And it is going to hurt.

“In order to heal it you have to feel it.”

She said after removing her own sword she went through a period of pain and rage at home and

So did I! It just stopped about a week ago in fact.

More from Angela Shelton and then I gotta go.

It’s really cool to come to a conference like this and make these connections.

But it still should be in a less expensive hotel. It even says in the SNAP 2008 program, we should be sure to eat as one of the ways to take care of ourselves, but man, a banana costs two dollars here and it goes up from there.

Shelton says she travels and speaks, plus proceeds from her movie go to donations. “They play it in churches,” she said, “I have a cursing version and a non-cursing version.”

“You don’t get rich and it’s hard to get a date when you're making an incest movie.

“It’s good to wait until your neighbors are gone when you do your primal scream therapy.

“My Speech to them is short," Shelton said. "Stop Raping Children. Go Fuck Yourselves.”

Even the nuns at my table laughed at that one.

Onward. . .


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