Dispatch from the Walk across Oregon


September 5, 2008

Dispatch from the Walk Across Oregon: Ashland to Phoenix, September 1, 2008. I will call her the Mother. She has to remain anonymous. The Mother wanted to do something to stop child sex abuse and support survivors. Her children were abused. They came forward after age thirty -- too late to file criminal charges for abuse. They were too frightened by their abuser twenty years after the abuse ended to file a civil lawsuit. There was no justice, no recourse, no support from an indifferent society.

The mother saw the documentary, “Run Granny, Run,” about Granny D walking across a state when she ran for political office.”

The mother thought, I should do that and tell people that the statute of limitations has to be eliminated on criminal prosecution of abuse. Her children were still too terrified of their abuser for her to come forward. She asked me for help. She wanted me to speak to the media for her. The Mother knew me through my organization, Compassionate Gathering ( She shared her own story and listened to the stories of others wounded by abuse at several of our Gatherings.

My own family has been scarred by abuse for generations. I understood her fear. I understood the lack of support survivors often experience. I told my mother about the teenage boys who abused me when I was six.

“That’s where babies come from,” she said.

That was all she did or said. Another 40 years passed before I came to terms with the abuse I suffered. when I was four.

So, on August 31, 2008, I went to Mass at my aprish in Portland, Oregon, and then drove three hundred miles through the rain to Ashland, Oregon.

Fortunately, September 1, the weather was mild and sunny. We started at 8 AM by Albertson’s on Ashland Street. While a television reporter from KRDV TV in Medford filmed me in my bright yellow t-shirt with “Stop Child Sex Abuse on the Front” and “Walk Across Oregon” on the back, a gray haired man in shorts and white walking shoes came up and stood by us.

“Are you interested in joining us?” I asked.

“I’m walking with you,” he said.

As we walked, his story came out bit by bit.

I’ll call him Andy. He was abused as a teenager by his minister in his church.

It took him 40 years to realize had had been harmed by the abuse.

Andy walked with us from Ashland to Talent, Oregon and hopes to join us elsewhere.

Along the way, Andy, the Mother and I felt as though the four people behind us, two men and two women, were following us. We turned around and asked them if they were walking with us.

“No” they said, “But we really support what you are doing.”

The Mother explained her children were still still terrified of their abuser and unable to do anything about it because the statute of limitations had run out when they came forward.

The older, gray haired woman interjected, “There is no statute of limitations on bad behavior.”

The older woman and an older gentleman continued on their way after a few minutes, but a slender, young woman with long, streaked haired and a young man lingered. The man did all the talking. The woman was silent, but her eyes glistened with tears.

I embraced her and whispered into her ear, “Are you a survivor?”

“Yes,” she whispered.

And she turned and walked away. The man followed.

We had to pause and collect ourselves before moving forward.

The next television news reporter from Medford KOBI-5 caught up with us at Triangle park in Ashland. She had a piece of paper she kept referring too. It was an internet printout a copy of the September 1, Medford Mail Tribune article on the Walk Across Oregon -- “Spreading the word about child sex abuse, a step at a time.” After the interview was over we continued down Siskiyou Boulevard until we reached the most touristy section of Ashland.

Outside Starbucks a slightly dirty white man wearing a beret emblazoned with a peace sign over his dreadlocks approached me.

“I really support what you are doing,” he said.

“Did you read the Mail Tribune article?“ I asked.

“No, I read your T-shirt,” he replied.

We chatted. He told me that his sister and some of his nieces and nephews where abused. He told me that when he and his wife separated, he was terrified that his daughter would be abused without him there to protect her. My companions chatted with other Starbuks customers and left.

I have to go, “I said as I hugged the man.

“I am just trying to spread some peace and love in the world,” the man said as he hugged me back.“Me too, “I said.

As the day progessed, the weather grew warm, but not hot. We left Ashland and walked along Highway 99 towards Medford.

A Medford based KTVL television reporter called me and met us along the way, interviewing and filming us too. Then we continued on our way.

Before we got to Talent, Oregon, we had to go to the bathroom and stopped by a restaurant.

A man holding a copy of the Medford Mail Tribune under his arm approached us with his quiet, gray haired wife.

“We really support what you are doing,” the man said.

His wife leaned away from us, her eyes wide and staring.

“Hi, I’m Virginia Jones,” I said as I shook the man’s hand, “Healing from sex abuse is a lifelong process that takes one step at a time.”

While the man chatted with Andy and the Mother, his wife stayed silent by his side.

Andy’s wife picked him up in Talent, and the mother and I continued to our next stop at Annie’s cafe in Phoenix, Oregon. Annie’s closes at 3 PM so we sat outside Annie's waiting in case someone decided to come before 4 PM.

A scrawny woman in paint splattered blue jeans shorts and blue tank top approached us.

“What do those shirts say?” she asked.

“Stop Child Sex Abuse, “ we answered.

“I really support you, “ she said.

“Did sex abuse touch your family?” we asked.

She didn’t need much prodding to tell her story. Her fourteen year old daughter was raped during a home invasion. That night the family left that house and never went back. The daughter identified the rapist, but he was let go when someone gave him a sworn and signed alibi. The mother, was too poor and too uneducated to seek other avenues to justice, so she took a baseball bat and set out to physically castrate her daughter’s rapist. The man didn’t press charges against her. She talked for thirty minutes.

“I’ll shut my yappy mouth and let you two go,” she said.

“You don’t have a yappy mouth,” I said. “You are a hero mother who will do anything to protect your children.”

I can’t support anyone attacking anyone else with a baseball bat, but I understand the mother’s pain over her helplessness to keep her own children and other children safe.

There are others out there. All over. Two out of ten people you meet every day will have been sexually abused as a child. Many are too terrified to ever come forward. Others come forward but have no support emotionally or legally for what they have gone through. I know that as we Walk Across Oregon we will enounter many more people, many more stories.


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