BONSHEÁ Making Light of the Dark
Book Reviews & BEARING WITNESS
Coral Theill's BONSHEÁ is intense in its effort to "open the doors" behind which many domestic violence perpetrators have stood for so long in the name of "privacy." She dispels painful secrets about the abuse and the violence in her life and the lives of her children, which is chilling to read about because of its pervasiveness, its limitlessness and its consequences. At every level-family and friends, key people in her community, the health care system, the legal and judicial system, and the culture which socializes us all-she met with adversity and re-victimization. In the telling of her recovery, which is truly remarkable given her circumstances, the reader gets a vivid sense of the indominability of her spirit and light. The strategies she shares with the reader can make a difference between being a victim and being a survivor. Her story is compelling reading for anyone living or surviving this experience.
I recommend this book for health care providers, those in the criminal justice system, and volunteers or helpers of any kind to get insights and clarity about the complex dynamics of domestic violence and its toxic effects to individuals and society-and what needs to be done to eradicate this pandemic problem." – Barbara A. May, PhD, RN PMHP, Professor of Nursing, Linfield College, Portland, Oregon
"I think she is very brave to write this book. Some of the abuse was so terrible it was painful to read, but it is important to hear it. There are people out there who use their religion as a way to abuse and control women. I'll be honest, I found this book through searching for news articles about the President's possible pick for a Supreme Court Nominee and found out she is a member of an extremist religious cult called 'People of Praise.' I believe this author's description of how abusive and controlling the cult is. Extremely scary." - Kayla Jones
Powerful and Courageous Expose of Spiritual Abuse - January 22, 2014
BONSHEÁ is an extraordinary account of the horrendous injustice to the Warner children and their mother. Coral Theill shares the overwhelming account of how the fundamentalist Church aided and abetted her ex-husband to do the unthinkable, remove her nursing infant from her along with her other children because she refused to submit to her ex-husband’s abuse and control her life. Coral recounts in detail how the insidious spiritual and ritual abuse was compounded with a multitude of other abuses. These coercive control tactics were perpetrated in the home, the church, and the community by a power-hungry, greed-filled cast. People who Coral Theill sought for help out of her abusive marriage used her cries against her to perpetrate one of the most heinous cases of abuse and coercive control I have come across in my work with survivors of domestic violence and coercive controlling abuse.
A must-read for anyone impacted by abuse, marriage, divorce/family court to prepare to fight for your children’s lives in the current family court system. Advocates, attorneys, judges, and other professionals working in family court must read this account to understand the lengths abusers will go to continue to control and torture their abuse victims. I applaud Coral Theill for the courage she shows making light of the dark secrets within the fundamental churches and the collusion of the family court system. - Debra Wingfield, Trainer, Author, and Case Consultant, Pueblo West, CO, Five Star Review
Casting religion in a negative light, can often invite a strong reaction mixed with accusations of heresy and un-Godliness. Such reactions can have a chilling effect on those who might wish to express a negative human experience, namely domestic abuse, where religion has been used as a vehicle to enable the abuse. In BONSHEÁ, Coral Theill confronts this troublesome dynamic in an anecdotal account, which underscores the degree to which religion, and the legal system, can be used to enable systematic domestic abuse. In doing so, Coral Theill has ventured into relatively uncharted territory in a manner which may well draw detractors, but at the same time offers great validation for those who find themselves entangled in an abusive relationship buttressed with religious justification.
In addition to broaching this form of religious distortion, BONSHEÁ also illustrates the degree to which the legal system can also be used as a vehicle to further perpetuate abuse even after the victim has chosen to take a stand against the abuse. In BONSHEÁ, Coral Theill has clearly chosen to take a courageous stand. It is a stand that comes with a cost, but whose dividends are measured in the strength of the soul." – John Haroldson, District Attorney, Benton County District Attorney's Office, Corvallis, Oregon, Five Star Review
BONSHEÁ pierces through the darkness that hides the legal system's routine abuse of mothers and children.
BONSHEÁ is a work of immense courage, a true tale of heartbreak and salvation. By exposing what was done to her by the court system, by the religious authorities and by their enabling cronies as she took the moral high ground by leaving an abusive husband, the author gives readers the tremendous gift of her hard-won insight and spiritual awakening. As shocking as it may be, Coral's story resonates with the truth. I hear pleas for help from protective mothers like Coral every day, week after week, year after year--all of them pleading for their very birthright, their greatest right, which is to be a mother. She pinpoints, with heart-piercing accuracy, the historical hatred of females and of the feminine that has permeated societies, including our present one, for eons.
Her personal story of living with and divorcing an abusive "religious" man who was cheered on by the community's religious, governmental, and legal authorities mirrors the persecution of all women who, like Coral, choose to say "no" to male dominance and power. These include Middle Age "witches," midwives, mothers who protect their children from a father's abuse, mothers who dare to have careers and mothers who elect to stay home with their children. Coral also calls out for the only true cure for the dark side of human nature, and that is to live in the light.
Coral's work is a special blessing for me and for my sisters throughout this country. Not a single particle of the wisdom Coral shares misses the mark. - Maureen T. Hannah, Ph.D. Chair, Battered Mother's Custody Conference, Albany, New York, 2013 Five Star Review
"You stand TALL amongst many. We're all wounded but some choose to heal so that they can heal others. Continue your incredible work. It shines the light across the seas....Even here in Africa, we tell your story....I am equally touched and indignant at the same time. Your story, because it's written from the heart, is so painful but very, very empowering, because you saw the light. God bless you for this gift to all womenfolk. Look at what it's doing for all of us in the world. It's reaching beyond the sea and cultural divides. I'm at a loss for words. Thank you, Coral, for your light." - Nana Ngobese-Nxumala, Director, Woman Forward Political Party, South Africa
"Every so often a book is written that touches the heart. This is such a book. BONSHEÁ is an unforgettable story that will leave an indelible mark on your psyche." – Adaline Archer, Court reporter, (Ret.) Washington
Common Abuse in the Culture, Courts and Churches
I would love to discover that every judge, every minister, every person who seeks justice, would read this book! I have consulted thousands of abused women and know that the injustice Coral suffered, the loss of her children, is an all to common experience of abused women seeking to protect their children and to save themselves. Recently, a woman called me from the silicon valley in California. Her husband had beaten her while she was holding her 2 year old child. She could take no more. She filed for divorce. The child had nightmares. She took the child to the pediatrician and holding the child she asked the pediatrician for help for the child who had nightmares from witnessing the beating. The court date arrived and the husband's attorney called in the pediatrician. Did she tell you that he beat her? The pediatrician said, "yes." The attorney asked, "Was the child present?" the pediatrician said "Yes, she was holding him." The attorney turned to the judge and said, "That's parental alienation." The woman, shaken and too afraid to give me her name, had just received the judge's decision. It was: "You may not see or speak to your child for one year!" --The child was given to the batterer, to the man who gave the child nightmares. The mother's pain was unbearable must yet be endured. - Patricia Evans, Author, The Verbally Abusive Relationship, Five Star Review, October 26, 2013, California *(Patricia Evans is the bestselling author of five books, including The Verbally Abusive Relationship, Verbal Abuse Survivors Speak Out, Controlling People, The Verbally Abusive Man: Can He Change? and Victory Over Verbal Abuse. She has appeared on Oprah, CNN, national radio, and in Newsweek and O, The Oprah Magazine)
"It’s good to hear from you; but not good to hear how you were treated during the court appearance. That was so wrong. No one should be treated that way in a court of law, a hall of justice; no one should have to experience a court process the way you have. My few words of acknowledgment feel so insignificant against the mountain of experience you have had; but know that even though my words can’t solve anything, you and your experience and feelings are acknowledged and validated here." - Rhonda Martinson, J.D. U.S. Department of Justice Documentaries, 2018
"I had a hard time reading parts of this book as our stories have strong similarities. I also know the pain it takes to relive our pain in our writing. Our society does not protect women and children as they should. Power and gender rule more than most want to acknowledge. Family court is supposed to be a place of justice but in too many cases it is far from that ideal.
"Coral went through hell and still suffers from the effects of unfair and misogynistic rulings. However, her writing shows that it has not beaten her soul.
"This book is a profound reading. Her story reflects the 'dirty secret' of family courts and is a definite must read." - Donna Buiso, Advocate for Battered Mothers & Abused Children, Amazon, Five Star Review, July 28, 2017
"As usual, those who don’t have the resources to defend themselves are the ones who pay: the children, the poor, the shunned—all the abused. We put or leave them out there as human sacrifices, and instead sing the praises of the rich, the famous, and the well-connected. Can’t we have a heart and justice for those without a means of defense? Is it a form of Stockholm Syndrome that we so often want to identify with the powerful and the abusers?" —Susan West, Virginia
BONSHEÁ provides incredibility disconcerting insights into the labyrinth of self-proclaimed morally self-righteous communities within our society. No article about Coral's crusade to correct the injustices she has suffered can truly capture the personal strengths which Coral demonstrates on every page of her book. It is very difficult to feel Ms. Theill's pain without actually reading her story, although many of us can empathize with people in abusive relationships. Very little occurs which does not provide insights into other conflicts. Gang violence, the death and destruction Sunnis and Shiites perpetrate upon each other daily around the world, the hate between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, are all variations on the "cultism" which has caused Coral so much pain. Without this understanding, some could say Coral is the victim of isolated acts of violence by one person. That is not the case. She is the victim of a morally tainted community within an uncaring broader society. Regardless of the future, nothing will allow Coral to recapture the past. Yes, she can pray for having some of the burden taken from her shoulders, and indeed, she has lost much, but clearly Coral is not saying "stop my suffering" because stopping the pain is something only she alone can do. Ms. Theill is asking for others to understand how she has suffered, and the truth of why she has suffered.
The power of her life is not that she escaped from a "cult", but that she continues to serve as an agent of change. This is not a "she said/he said" tale of abuse, but rather a self-damning expose of her struggle to survive. She is not a martyr. She is a victim of the too frequent chasm between a blind adherence to an interpretation of laws and a true understanding of justice. You may find BONSHEA's an extremely difficult book to find in your public libraries, although it is available for "purchase" or within the halls of academe. When I was first introduced to Ms. Theill's' tome, I found it almost impossible to obtain a copy in the libraries of the "enlightened" politically sensitive communities surrounding our Nation's capital, a condition which has not improved. The question which may be too painful for us to answer.Is religiously justified domestic violence the reality which our society cannot face? Making truths inaccessible does not change the truth.- Bruce McLelland, Washington D.C., - Five Star Review
Fight for Life
This battle for justice wasn't what was keeping Coral from "healing" or "getting on with her life" as trauma survivors are so often told to do--it was her life, and to give it up would mean giving up life itself. The need to tell people to "get over it" is born out of our own need to escape the reality of the evil that actually exists in this world. Most trauma writers talk about "blame the victim" mentality and we do that well in this culture.What people fail to understand is Coral's inability to re frame her experiences in a way that allows her to begin some healing is born out of the incomprehensible nature of what happened to her--and if it could happen to her, it could happen to anyone. People don't like feeling vulnerable or hearing about trauma because they come face to face with man's capacity for evil and the lack of safety in the world.How do you make sense out of losing eight children? How do you make sense out of a childhood of constant emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Coral never had the chance to have a solid foundation of love, security, trust and safety in her life. Due to nearly two decades of ongoing court trauma and abuse since escaping from her abusive husband, his cult leaders, family and friends, there is no security, comfort, relief, reframing, making meaning---all those things that need to happen to recover from trauma.I realized, for the first time, that she could not give up her fight and she would not give up as long as there was a breath left in her.
The culmination and proof of my understanding of Coral Theill's fight for life was when I saw her pictures with her children and baby. I felt my own twinge of internal pain at the very thought of what she had experienced emotionally losing her children, that the pain of such an experience would be so unbearable one could only fight back to stay alive. Coral, you really are amazing, resilient, determined, inspirational and worthy of enormous recognition for your efforts, and some semblance of justice in the midst of a world of insanity, cruelty and violence and paradoxically a world of love, compassion and understanding. Let's hope that you finally get the love, compassion, understanding and support that is long overdue. Hats off to you, Coral, and know that you are an inspiration to many. - Christine Pahl, MS, LPC, Oregon
I must say, Coral that if Stevie Wonder read your story, he could clearly see that there is gross injustice in your case. In other words, a blind person can see that you have been, and continue to be wronged. For you to not have a criminal record (of any kind), and to be kept from your children, forced into poverty and in essence forced into hiding (state address protection program) it is plain to see that our system is severely flawed. I have heard stories similar to this in Utah. Their laws are totally different than the laws of other states. For the authorities to basically turn a blind eye is sickening to say the least. How can clergy persons, law enforcement, judges and other women for that matter put another person (man or woman) through something like this? There is neither rhyme nor reason for this to have happened and for it to continue to happen. You gave birth to your children. They are more yours than they are your husbands if you ask me. Men play their one part in causing pregnancy, but the woman does the rest. Again, absolutely nothing criminally causing them to have made such a drastic move in removing your children from you and preventing you from all contact with them, but they have found a way to separate you physically from them. Bringing your personal story, your life to the forefront will hopefully put fire under someone’s butt to look at this from a different perspective than those who in the past have, reopen the cases and bring justice and closure to this matter. Although you don’t know the magnitude of those you have touched, know that your story has been an inspiration to many.—Sergeant Major Brian Jackson, USMC (Ret)
This manuscript represents an incredible personal journey for Coral. Just writing one's life story is more than most people can accomplish. To write a story that examines so much personal trauma is even more difficult. In the end, the words---Coral's own words---flowed like a river that has broken through a dam. I hope this tale of survival helps others who read it to find strength and compassion. I also hope that someday this story will help all of Coral's children understand that their mother loves them very much. The reason this book exists at all is because she was driven to document her life---for the sake of her children and adults they will grow to be.The most important lesson learned from BONSHEÁ Making Light of the Dark is that it is urgent and imperative that we teach our daughters (and our sons) a different reality than the one Coral lived. Our daughters must be strong and hold up their heads---they must look themselves, as well as husbands, bosses, judges and even God in the eye and know their own worth and the strength of their own Spirit. This book is not joyful because it recounts real tragedy–but the fact the story is told by the one who survived makes it a very hopeful book. – Judy Bennett, Editor, Graphic Designer, Oregon
BONSHEÁ—coming out of the darkness and into the light is a lifelong journey as Coral illustrates in her own journey that she has so courageously shared with all mankind. She is among the deep and profound minds of our time; her story will provide you with enlightenment . . . or at the very least questions to ponder on your own journey. Rebecca Leslie Weathers MS, Counselor, Hamilton, New Zealand
"I am often angered by the so called religious who are very quick to minister to offenders but pay no attention to the victims the perpetrators leave in their wake. Anyone who does not get involved with helping victims and stopping offenders from committing acts of violence or manipulation perpetuate the problem. Unfortunately government and the legal system in this country have bent over backward to protect offenders for fear of punishing someone who is innocent rather than focusing on the innocent who have been injured by offenders. An awakening of mega proportion is needed for everyone to stand up and demand that violence be stopped.—Ray Ramirez, Crime Victim Advocate, Texas
"BONSHEÁ engaged my attention immediately, and then enraged me. The author has endured huge suffering at the hands of brutalists hiding behind the masks of pseudo Christianity and “justice for all.” The author continues to stride toward the light in her own life-at huge personal cost-and to bring her story forward for all to consider and act upon." —Karen Goldammer, South Dakota
An incredible honest, intimate, and shocking look at one woman's arduous journey towards safety and freedom from an abusive husband and his religious-cult mentality. Coral's story, BONSHEÁ: Making Light of the Dark is an amazing account of sacrifice, betrayal, and a woman's desperate attempt to extract justice from the American legal system for the safety of her children. BONSHEÁ is a wake-up call and a tribute to the "spirit of women." – Tashi Gremar, Teacher, Oregon, Five Star Review
Coral Theill's BONSHEÁ Making Light of the Dark is a "must read" for all interested in women, women's health, children, and our court systems. I find myself going back, again and again, to re-read parts that strike so close to my heart. Coral is such an utterly honest voice telling of a deeply caring person that has traveled an unforgettable journey in life. This story reaches out to anyone that reads it. It touches lives in a remarkable way that is most profound. It deeply saddened me to realize that in this day and age, violence in the shelter of one's home, under the guise of religion is condoned and sanctioned. it is unbelievable that our local court would sanction the removal of a nursing infant from the mother. Domestic violence is tolerated by our society and in the courtrooms. It continues as a "silent violence." Coral has told a sad, truthful story to her children and the world to enable them to make this a better place for everyone to live. – Jean Weisensee, R.N., Oregon, Five Star Review
Coral's book, BONSHEÁ, is the most unbelievable document I've ever read. It's mind blowing to realize that women are still being treated as chattels in the 21st century in today's modem America. As long as we buy into religions, governments, and judicial systems that are patriarchal, and treat men as demigods, this will continue. I felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest when I read about Coral's children being taken away, especially her breast-fed baby. This is a mother's worst nightmare. I don't know how Coral managed to live through this and have the wherewithal to write this book. She is an amazing lady, that has earned my respect and admiration." – Marti Barnard, R.N., Anchorage, Alaska