A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground. Then it is done, no matter how brave its warriors nor how strong their weapons. - Cheyenne Proverb
BONSHEÁ Making Light of the Dark shares my search for freedom and light in a society based on patriarchal religion and laws. It openly speaks about the ideas and beliefs in our society which foster sexism, racism, the denigration of human rights and the intolerance of difference. My documentation exposes the dark side of human nature when all people are not valued. A healthy society must have the courage to address these issues, speak about them, examine them and bring them to light. Indifference encourages, "silent violence"-the type of violence I experienced in my home, in the community, religious circles and judicial system. Nobel laureate, Elie Wiesel states, "The indifference to suffering makes the human inhumane."
There are not always two sides to every story. Our determination to pursue truth by setting up a fight between two sides leads us to assume that every issue has two sides--no more, no less. But if you always assume there must be an 'other side' you may end up scouring the margins of science or the fringes of lunacy to find it. This explains, in part, the bizarre phenomenon of Holocaust denial, among other denials, and that river flows through lots of courtrooms.
Cruel & Unusual Punishment - Hate Crimes with a Gender Bias
What I experienced during my childhood, in my marriage, in the churches and the court system amounts to nothing less than hate crimes with a gender bias. Two years before I finally escaped from my husband, I suffered a breakdown—a partial stroke and post partum depression—after the birth of my seventh child. While nearly catatonic, my husband, Marty Warner, forced me to have sex—his ‘right’ in the marriage, but rape to me—and I became pregnant again. His brutal treatment pushed my health further to the edge. While completely broken down I was ridiculed, exorcised for demons, told I was a ‘witch’ and cursed by God by my husband, his friends and family, and ‘Christian’ cult leaders and counselors. (Spiritual Abuse) After the birth of my eighth child I recovered physically and mentally and divorced my husband.
This is my story:
After surviving years of childhood and marital abuse and neglect, a woman suffers a physical collapse, partial stoke and mental/nervous breakdown. While in a near catatonic state, the woman is physically assaulted and raped. She becomes pregnant. Toward the final stages of her pregnancy, she fully recovers from her breakdown. She births her baby, and mother and baby enjoy bonding and breastfeeding. The mother cherishes her newborn son. After undergoing several psychiatric tests and evaluations, her physicians state that she is well.
Her abuser, the father of the child, manipulates the judicial system and seeks custody of the baby. With intervention from the religious community and testimony about the mother's prior mental history, the father is awarded custody of the nursing infant. The mother is ordered to pay her rapist/abuser exorbitant child support while suffering from homelessness and disabilities. She is no longer allowed contact with her child. When the baby is abruptly taken away, the mother goes into shock. The 'father of the child' has committed crimes against the mother according to Oregon statutes and laws (Chapter 743, Oregon Laws 1971, 163.375), but is embraced and rewarded in our judicial and religious system. The victim becomes the criminal. I am this woman; this baby is my child; and the father of this child is my ex-husband.
Dallas, Oregon - (Polk County) I have a personal story to tell of twenty years of marital abuse, mental and physical, condoned within some of the fundamental, evangelical Christian movements (cults) that thrive today. My story is also about injustice, the failings of the Oregon court system, and the stigma associated with depression and post traumatic stress. What I experienced during my childhood, in my marriage, in the churches and the court system amounts to nothing less than hate crimes with a gender bias.
THE HANDMAIDEN'S TALE: I was required to be a "helpmeet" in a world like the one from Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel "The Handmaiden’s Tale." and the Duggar cult.
For nearly twenty years, I was married to a man who ruled his household with absolute authority. His personal justification for his behavior came from Biblical scripture. During the course of our marriage, I bore him eight children. My firstborn children were identical twin girls. I also suffered three miscarriages. I home schooled the oldest children for several years, renovated three houses, baked, canned, gardened, etc. I was treated as a possession (slave). In the course of my marriage I was drawn, against my will, into several extreme fundamental churches and cults which emphasized patriarchal authority and the obedience of women. I was a nurturing and loving mother during the years of our marriage.
My married life continued the pattern of my childhood. After surviving 20 years of multiple pregnancies, sleep deprivation, ritual, emotional, and mental abuse, coercive control, torture, rapes and physical assaults within my marriage, I had finally suffered a severe physical/emotional breakdown due to the constant ongoing violence. While in this near catatonic state, I was again physically assaulted and raped by my husband, causing my eighth pregnancy despite the warnings of my doctors.
Despite all this, I was able to recover, birth my baby and cherish bonding and breastfeeding. After undergoing several tests and psychiatric evaluations, my physicians stated I was completely recovered. In 1995, my OB/GYN physician, Dr. Charles D. South, recommended I divorce my abusive husband.
At this point, after experiencing forty years of violence and abuse in my personal life, I had had enough. I intuitively knew that continuing this way of life would eventually kill me. I went to Oregon's courts for help and protection for myself and my children. Nothing had prepared me for the horrors that I would experience in what we call 'Oregon's justice and legal system.'
Battered women may lose their babies and children, their homes, their friends and their livelihood. Survivors of childhood abuse will often even lose their families. Rarely does society recognize the dimensions and long lasting effects of this reality for the victim. After over a decade of personally seeking assistance from advocacy groups on a local, state and national level, the advocacy system, as is, has offered me nothing.
Exposing individuals who aid, support, enable and condone the criminal and violent behavior of abusers and predators is just as important as exposing the men who abuse women and children.
Everyone was shocked by Jaycee Dugard’s life and story, Stolen Years. She was kidnapped, raped and kept enslaved for years. I am thankful she was found and that she and her daughters are safe. I identify with her ordeal, but see one difference in our stories. Oregon Circuit Court Judge Albin Norblad removed my children and nursing infant and awarded custody to my abuser after I sought safety. Oregon Circuit Court judges ordered me, a disabled woman, to pay my abuser/rapist/kidnapper child support. I eventually lost all contact with my eight children.
My ex-husband, Mr. Marty Warner, also abused several women in the workplace. See Affidavit by Debbie Custis.
At my temporary custody hearing, my attorney, Mr. David Gearing, in his opening statements to the Court, February 28, 1996, said, “Her, (Mrs. Kathy Warner), custody is being challenged now, willfully, intentionally, with full knowledge and with acknowledgment of her husband as to her qualities for 20 years. She has been fit, proper and capable of doing that for twenty years. And, now, we are calling into question her emotional stability and mental health and ability to raise these children. She has been given that role. It is a distraction. We have three doctors who are ready, willing and able to testify, on rebuttal, if necessary. They give her a clean bill of health.” (I had passed six psychiatric exams to prove my mental health and well-being for the court. My ex-husband, Mr. Marty Warner, Independence, Oregon, failed his court ordered psychiatric exam).
The treatment I received in Oregon’s courts was more abuse and humiliation. Sexual crimes I endured as a child, my breakdown, my fertility and the ‘rape’ by my husband all became subjects for ridicule in court. Oregon Circuit Court Judge Albin Norblad laughed when he heard I became pregnant when my husband raped me. My husband got custody of all eight children, including my nursing infant, and I was ordered to pay child support! When I complained, I received a letter from the Oregon State Bar informing me that I deserved this treatment because I had a previous breakdown.
Removing a mother’s children from her, when she has committed no crime, is cruel and unusual punishment. The physical, mental, and emotional toll of surviving the negligence, abuse and trauma from the individuals who are part of my story will last forever. Although I risked everything to escape from my ex-husband, and in some ways I lost everything, I have never been more sane or more sure that the choices I made were the only choices I could make and survive.
A judge’s signature on a white sheet of paper can be a shattering experience for an individual. I believe judges in America will continue to use their absolute power until people wake up from their “huddled fear”. A non-custodial mother remarks: “to lose one’s children in such a way would unmake any woman.” And it is true. 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.
As long as society, victim advocate groups and the judicial system, chooses to turn a blind eye whenever control and manipulation tactics are practiced by a custodial parent through courtroom litigation in order to separate child from mother (or father); and refuses to act against this lowest and most hateful form of spousal revenge, justice cannot be served. As long as those who hold the power fail to acknowledge and support the rights of non-custodial parents, justice cannot be achieved.
LIFE Magazine, USA Today and many other magazines have featured articles on women in prison in America. They report that women prisoners are allowed to keep their babies with them for eighteen months while serving their sentences, (Florida Statute 944.24). I am haunted by this single question. Why was I treated lower than a criminal by Oregon's judicial law system? I was a faithful wife and mother for almost twenty years. Presently, I have fewer rights than a criminal in America and I have no criminal record and have no history of alcohol, drug or child abuse.
Loving non-custodial mothers face a stigma in society that is reprehensible and unjust. People assume these mothers do not have custody because they are drug addicts, alcoholics, child abusers, or they just didn't want their children. While there certainly are cases of abusive mothers who give up their children, and walked away, in more and more cases today, fit and loving mothers are losing custody of their children against their will.
Losing permanent custody and visitation of your children feels like being doused in oil and set on fire. Healing is slow and difficult. The pain never goes away. One doctor describes removing a nursing infant from a mother similar to castrating a man. I still wake up with night terrors. The memory of being forced to give up my children is a continual torment to my body, mind and soul. Time has helped me find peace in the pain. I have learned that “perfect peace is when pain is as welcome as lack of pain.”
My friend, a U.S. Marine, commented on my story in 2007 from the front lines in Iraq, “We receive so many comments from people back in the states ‘Thanking us for their freedom.’ Well, the thought of some of those people being the ones who put Ms. Coral Theill through what she has been through makes me ask the question; “What the h-ll are we over here fighting for, so the American man will have the freedom to do what? Abuse, rape, torture not only strangers but their own wives! We give people from other countries the benefit of the doubt, more respect and better treatment than our own women, and did I fail to mention those other people are trying to KILL us! I will go on patrol tomorrow here in Iraq and risk my life and the lives of my fellow Marines so Coral Theill's ex-husband, Mr. Marty Warner, and all those supporting him can continue to do what they do! Only in America.”
I need someone to tell this story to the world so that other women who are trapped and oppressed can hear that there is a way out. This story must be told so that the society that aids and abets the men and the religions that seek to treat women as slaves might change and my suffering will not have been totally in vain.
Domestic violence is a crime. It is a complex problem with roots in
CORAL ANIKA THEILL