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Coral Anika Theill's Letter to U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley & Document: Church & Court Sanc

July 8, 2014

Re: Domestic Violence and Injustices in the Polk, Marion and Wasco County Courts Polk County Case No. 95P-20693

Dear Oregon Senator Merkley and Staff,

During the past year I have communicated with your assistant, Mr. Joel Corcoran, Director of Constituent Services, by email and phone in regards to my 2013 published memoir, BONSHEA Making Light of the Dark, and my Polk County Oregon court case history from 1995 - 2014. After reviewing my story, he recommended that I submit a detailed report to you in regards to the injustices I have suffered in Oregon courts these past two decades and the failings of the Oregon judicial system regarding my case history. I believe it is imperative that laws be modified to promote safety and wellness for women, children and families affected by domestic violence and sexual violence.

I have a personal story to tell of a lifetime of abuse: childhood abuse and molestation, marital abuse, mental and physical abuse, sexual abuse, ritual abuse and now finally “legal stalking” and judicial abuse, condoned first within some of the fundamental, evangelical Christian movements (cults) that thrive today, and now within the very court system of my own country. My story is about the overwhelming stigma that comes with abuse, survival and overcoming, truly “Making Light of the Dark.”

My case speaks loudly of the insidious crimes that are legally permitted and condoned under the guise of church and state-sanctioned domination of males in marriage. The message that the current judicial system gives to many domestic violence and rape victims is that they are not worthy, and that no one cares. This needs to change.

My case history in Oregon courts has been documented by several physicians and advocates, including my counselor and mentor of 17 years, Barbara A. May, PhD, RN PMHP, Professor Emerita of Nursing, Linfield College, Portland, Oregon, as one of Oregon's most violent and obscene domestic violence cases. I have lived under a “state address protection program” from my ex-husband since 1999. In May 2014, my interview and story was chosen for the Pixel Project Survivor Stories Interviews to help raise monies for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

I believe it is important for you to read my memoir and the information I am sharing with you so you can be informed of the plight of domestic violence and sexual assault victims in Oregon and throughout the USA. My memoir tells what happened and is written from the perspective of simply who I am - spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. I have lived and breathed this document. The quotes I have included are words that sustained me and urged me to survive.

The judicial system acts as the conscience of this country but we know, in most cases, that is not what happens. I have attached a document detailing my court case history (1995-2014), the trauma I survived due to escaping my abusive ex-husband, Mr. Marty Warner, in Oregon and recommendations to end court-sanctioned domestic violence and child abuse.

If you really want to know about our justice system in America, you do not question the judges, police, attorneys and lawmakers, you go to the victims, the unprotected, the vulnerable; those who need the laws protection the most and listen to their stories.

I ask you to imagine yourself, or your own daughter, sister or mother in this story.

Battered wives and mothers in Oregon and throughout the USA have read my horror story. Many believe it is “safer” to stay in an abusive marriage than risk seeking help through the courts. They do not want to end up like me, i.e., losing custody of their children and babies, being sued for twice they earn, being legally stalked for the rest of their lives, living out of their car, destitute and homeless.

LIFE Magazine, USA Today and many other organizations 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 these questions. Why was I treated lower than a criminal in America and I have no criminal record and have no history of alcohol, drug or child abuse? Why did I lose all contact with my children when I was a VICTIM of numerous crimes? Why was custody of these children given to the PERPETRATOR of these crimes with no questions asked?

I have concluded that I am nothing more than a brood mare and egg donor for the church and state, I have no rights as a disabled person and nurturing mother, and that seeking safety from abuse and violence led to the abrupt removal of my nursing infant and children, being sued by my ex-husband, legally stalked, homelessness and poverty.

What I experienced during my childhood, in my marriage, in the churches and the court system amounts to nothing less than hate crimes on a gender basis. Two years before I finally escaped from my husband, I suffered a breakdown—a partial stroke and severe depression—after the home birth of my seventh child. While nearly catatonic, my husband 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, pastors and ‘Christian’ cult leaders and counselors. After the birth of my eighth child in 1995, I recovered physically and mentally and divorced my husband.

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. 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 years earlier.

After the traumas of childhood, twenty years of subjugation to Mr. Warner and his extreme religious views, a breakdown and rapes by my husband, the treatment by the courts was a final outrage. Marital and ritual abuse evolved into legal abuse.

The price for my own safety and freedom in 1996 was an imposed, unnatural and unwanted separation from my eight children. The injustice committed against me is not just the physical separation from my children, but the willful desecration of the mother-child relationship and bond, a sacred spiritual and emotional entity.

On March 10, 1996, I was forced, by an Order of the Court, and by my ex-husband, Marty Warner, his attorney, his family and religious supporters, to do something that raged against my good conscience, my common sense and against all my motherly instincts. After a temporary custody hearing, a Court Order signed by Judge Albin Norblad forcibly removed my nursing baby and two youngest children from me. I obeyed the Court Order and gave my children over to my ex-husband. I drove to the hospital, rented a breast-pump and later collapsed and went into shock. I could not understand what had happened and why. I have not yet recovered from the shock; perhaps I never will....

Coral pictured with her eighth baby, Zachary David Warner, Independence, Oregon, July 1995, before she sought safety for her children and herself.

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.

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. 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.

When a court orders the removal of a child from a parent it can have the same emotional wounding effect on the deprived mother (or father) as if that child has been kidnapped or murdered. When the deprived parent has been the protective parent, and the court gives custody and decision-making power to the abusive parent under the guise of "Best Interests of the Child" statutes, the loss to the severed parent is deeply damaging.

In addition to trying to recover from the abuse of a spouse and the profound grief at being separated from your children, there is an overwhelming guilt at not having fought successfully to protect your children. The fact is that sometimes the courts get it wrong. Prolonged custody fights require a tremendous amount of stamina and money for lawyers. A domineering and abusive spouse with access to funds can easily manipulate the court system to his (or her) advantage and drag the fight out for years. One day you wake up to discover that the children you love and cherish and have been aching for have grown up, been told for years that you abandoned them and taught to hate you.

What happened to me in Oregon’s courts can’t be undone, but I don’t deserve to be hounded, stalked and penalized for the rest of my life.

For recovery to begin, abuse victims must create a safe environment. Without freedom, there is no safety or recovery. Safety for many survivors is often at a great cost. 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. Nothing justifies the minimization or removal of a fit and loving parent from a child’s life. NOTHING.

While many people focus their outrage on the judicial system alone, it’s easy to lose sight of broader problems that assist in the culture of abuse—like churches, pastors, family members and the local community. These elements, too, played a role in the corruption and silence that has allowed a man like my ex-husband, Marty Warner, of Independence, Oregon, and others like him, to operate untouched for so long.

The advocacy system, as is, can offer no help or assistance in cases like mine. I have not received any help with my case from local, state, or from any person or domestic violence advocacy group on a national level.

I have written hundreds of letters throughout the years to Oregon state legislators, to the media, lawyers and legal advocates, to the Governor of Oregon’s Council on Domestic Violence and the former Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force in an effort to seek help and promote awareness for the need for better laws for women and children escaping domestic violence and abusive situations. There is often no response. Domestic violence organizations and programs are failing victims.

I want to be emancipated from my ex-husband and the Oregon court system. I want the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” I want justice, vindication and restitution. I want to see an end to court-sanctioned domestic violence and child abuse.

Domestic violence is a crime. It is a complex problem with roots in an oppressively hierarchical, patriarchal violence-accepting society. 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.

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.

As long as we continue to condone those in power who harm and victimize innocent people, then we will continue to witness injustices against those who are vulnerable and unable to protect and defend themselves. I believe my own life and experiences these past years reveal a moral dilemma for the religious organizations and judicial systems that exists today.

I am proud to be an American, but I am ashamed of the laws being abused and the courts that follow them which continue to destroy protective mothers and children’s lives every day.

Benton County District Attorney John Haroldson has written of my story, “'BONSHEA' 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.”

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.

It is said that Lady Justice is blind, but she should not be mocked.

I ask you, Senator Merkley, who will advocate on the behalf of the abused and oppressed?

Thank you for listening. I am available to assist you and your staff with needed reforms in our court system. I am also willing to testify concerning my case history, if needed. I look forward to hearing from you.


Coral Anika Theill

Author, Advocate, Speaker & Reporter

Memoir: BONSHEA Making Light of the Dark

“A victim’s first scream is for help; a victim’s second scream is for justice.”

Coral Theill’s Domestic Violence Court Case History in

Polk County Oregon 1995-2014

A startling account of one woman escaping an abusive marriage and oppressive religious cults and trying to find "justice" in a failed system.

Church and Court-Sanctioned Domestic Violence and Child Abuse

by Coral Anika Theill

I was 'groomed' to accept abuse and violence since I was a young girl. I had no other reference in life. As a young child I learned that abusers were embraced and protected. There was no help, nowhere to go and no one to tell. When my great uncle was allowed, by my own parents, to continually molest me for years, nothing I said or did could make it stop.

Sadly, as an adult, I have discovered the rules of this game have not changed much. My abusers, still, have been repeatedly embraced and protected.

I have spent long hours trying to make some sense of my life and have come to the conclusion that when horror overcomes us the only response possible is to remember what happened and tell the 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.

A few years ago, I believed by sharing my truth and breaking my silence, my very life would be threatened. Breaking the silence and 'telling secrets' takes courage. But I have discovered there is more danger in keeping secrets. If violence cannot be talked about, it cannot be stopped. I truly believe more victims would be willing to share their pain, fear and shame if they could expect to be believed, respected and vindicated.

My memoir, 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."

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, 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.'

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.

Most individuals prefer not to hear the story of how a cultured people turned a blind eye to the “court-sanctioned kidnapping of children through America’s family courts” and how the majority of our society, consisting of cultured people, remained silent.

In America there are many victims of childhood molestation and abuse, rape and domestic violence! But guess what: There are relatively few batterers and perpetrators. In their efforts to seek safety, justice and vindication, victims often become further victimized by our judicial system. Why? The batterers and abusers are “innocent” and protected by family, friends, co-workers and church members. Often family and friends turn against the victim in order to protect the abuser and their own reputations.

Victims suffer not only from the abuse they experienced but also from the threat of meaninglessness and powerlessness that comes with it. People who experience the trauma of violence at the hand of someone they know, (i.e., a partner, parent, relative, therapist, teacher, pastor, or priest) - struggle to make meaning, usually in a context of isolation, if not moral condemnation and victim blaming.

Debra Wingfield, Ed.D., LPC, Domestic Violence Expert, writes, “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.”

I have many painful memories and experiences from my 20 years of exposure to legalistic fundamental Christianity and Christian “cults,” I am comforted knowing that my soul was on a journey of remembering who I truly was. I believe we all long for freedom from oppression and bondage – that was what my spirit secretly longed for and hoped to experience. I am grateful for each brand new day and the experience of being.

Spiritual abuse is the use of spiritual knowledge to deprive, torture, degrade, isolate, control, or (in rare and extreme cases) even kill others. It is used by evil-minded church and cult leaders, (like my ex-husband, his pastors and Christian cult leaders) to gain advantage, dominate, or exercise control over others. The type of trauma individuals experience from cults and their leaders is similar to that described by POW’s. The trauma experienced by cult members results from being powerless and abused day after day, year after year, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually – souls are literally emaciated. The Word of God is used like a thrust of a knife, constantly reminding the cult member (victim) of God’s displeasure and eternal damnation.”

"During the period of my breakdown/depression in the spring of 1994, my husband, Marty Warner, and his pastors left me at the "Wing's of Love" half-way house on Killingsworth in Portland, Oregon, to punish and "break me" (their words) to the will of God. "The house was a shelter for ex-cons, street people and prostitutes. It was filthy and infested with rats and lice. My husband’s debt-free estate, at this time, was over a quarter- of- a million dollars. It was a frightening experience during the period of my illness/breakdown for my “abuser” ex-husband, his Christian cult leaders and religious supporters to be in charge of my “recovery program.” Three months earlier, I had a D & C due to my 3rd miscarriage from being raped by my husband. I was helpless and physically and mentally incapacitated during this time due to my breakdown and partial stroke." - Coral Anika Theill, BONSHEA Making Light of the Dark (Picture of half-way house, "Wings of Love" on Killingsworth in Portland, Oregon where Coral lived in 1994. Note: Barbed wire is pointed inward - to keep prisoners from escaping.)

In our society, domestic violence is encouraged and condoned by patriarchal based religious organizations. The fundamental evangelical Christian movements (cults) that thrive today refuse to speak out against domestic violence, rape, incest and abuse because their doctrines are the foundation for conditioning women and children to accept abuse. Women and children are taught shame, fear and guilt and that patriarchal hierarchy must be lived out in the homes. Patriarchal religion has proven to be devastating for women around the world. External oppression of a people leads to internal oppression.

Due to surviving over five decades of tragedy and abuse, I became an advocate for not only for myself, but for trauma victims, spiritual abuse and therapist abuse victims, as well as wounded warriors.

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