Coral Anika Theill
Author, Advocate, Speaker & Reporter
FIGHT FOR LIFE - by Christine Pahl, MS, LPC, Oregon
"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. What happened to Coral is pure evil and a testimony to the vulnerability we all have. Whose side are we on?"
- Christine Pahl, MS, LPC
"The beautiful words below could be written for and to any mother who has lost her babies and children through court sanctioned kidnapping. Forcibly taking a mother's children, and then controlling her emotionally by withholding contact must be publicly recognized as one of the greatest forms of 'mis-use' of the American justice system and one of the greatest hidden vehicles for wide-spread socially approved physical and emotional abuse and control. Taking a woman’s children is the last great punishment an abuser can scar them with. To be publicly and permanently branded ‘unfit’ is a new scarlet letter. It can and will scar an entire family for life. Nothing justifies the minimization or removal of a fit and loving parent from a child’s life. NOTHING." - Coral Anika Theill
Sadly Christine Pahl, MS, LPC passed away June 10, 2017 in Mill City, Oregon. Chris was my best friend, adopted sister, and confidant. She was a lifelong activist in service of the voiceless; as a post-trauma recovery specialist. Each day she stood up for the helpless, the disenfranchised and the vulnerable. She was one of those few people in life who "gets it."
I am thankful I was able to spend a week with her last Sept. 2016 in Oregon She made a huge difference in my life. She will be greatly missed.
Excerpt of her last letter to me a few days before she passed away: "I'm realizing that life is really not a very nice place for the vast majority of people. I think about the abandoned people and adults who had no family growing up and how they have survived life....essentially like yourself. You folks who are extremely intelligent fair the best with massive abandonment but it is just so wrong. I'm also finding myself feeling death closer to my door and needing to make the most of every minute I have these days. Seeing 70 [her birthday] shortly and cannot believe I am there already. Seems only yesterday I was 35 and thinking I was old!!! How things change with perspective!!! Life is a strange thing....clock seems to go slow when we are little and then it just speeds up." - Christine Pahl, MS, LPC, June 2017
Excerpt - BONSHEA Making Light of the Dark
Since we first met, I felt this incredible sense of helplessness in changing the outcome of Coral’s tortured life—I say “I” felt a sense of helplessness. Coral, however, has been indomitable. Despite insurmountable odds, lack of a safe place to live and security, lack of any family, legal or emotional support, and a system that exercised traumatic control of her life, she has continued to relentlessly fight back. Her acute intelligence and drive and ability to network are inspirational to all who know her. She thinks deeply and feels intensely.
The fervor and passion with which Coral fights back against the injustices that have rained upon her over her lifespan, come from the same deep place from which mothers love and protect their children.
Coral Theill is a mother who has modeled for all what love and commitment looks like! 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 seventeen years 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.
“The ordinary response to atrocities is to banish them from consciousness” writes Judith Herman in the opening statement to her book Trauma and Recovery. “To study psychological trauma is to come face to face both with human vulnerability in the natural world and with the capacity for evil in human nature. To study psychological trauma means bearing witness to horrible events . . . when the traumatic events are of human design, those who bear witness are caught in the conflict between victim and perpetrator. It is morally impossible to remain neutral in this conflict. The bystander is forced to take sides.” (Herman)
Having known Coral for approximately nine years and recently having spent a week with her, she is legitimate!!! I am continually amazed that she functions at all given what she has been through in her lifetime. What I know of Coral is she is a woman with a huge heart, capable of compassion for others, who is thoughtful, resourceful and resilient, but who has endured poverty, homelessness, abandonment and ridicule beyond imagination. Still she keeps on fighting back seeking the validation she has never received from those closest to her!!!
How she has kept functioning all these years in the face of repeated invalidation by people and systems is beyond my comprehension and a testimony to her determination and drive. It is what keeps her alive as so many people would have crumbled long ago and retreated to a world of self-destruction. (We see it every day in mental health systems and homeless shelters.) Luckily, Coral is articulate and extremely intelligent, both assets which I have found present in trauma survivors I’ve worked with over the years who had survived enormous abuse and still functioned in society.
The question remains whose side are we on—the victim’s or the perpetrators? I think in Coral’s documentation of what has happened to her, it is quite evident whose side the system and people of power are on. What frightens me is the absolute vulnerability we all have to people in power and the values and beliefs that these individuals hold which could impact every single one of us should we become prey to the system or as Judith Herman wrote “to come face to face with human vulnerability in the natural world and with the capacity for evil in human nature.”
What happened to Coral is pure evil and a testimony to the vulnerability we all have. Whose side are we on?
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.
Order copy of Coral Theill's 2021 published memoir, BONSHEA Making Light of the Dark