Mother of 8 Battered & Raped in the Name of 'God': Open Letter to Oregon Governor Brown
This Letter is Dedicated to Mothers of Lost Children & the Children
Who Were Alienated from their Protective Moms
Dear Governor Brown, Lawmakers, Advocates & Clergy,
My name is Coral Anika Theill. I lived in Oregon from 1976 through 1999. I am an author, advocate, speaker, blogger and reporter. I am a survivor of five decades of abuse---childhood sex trafficking by my own family, domestic violence, marital rape, ritual & spiritual abuse, coercive control, therapist exploitation, maternal alienation, domestic violence by proxy and nearly twenty years of “legal stalking” and judicial injustice - 45 court related hearings to date. While I was married to my abusive ex-husband, Marty Warner, Independence, Oregon, I survived 20 years of domestic violence and torture. I was a nurturing and loving mother during the years of our marriage. My married life continued the pattern of my childhood.
I believe I have been harmed by the same rigid and perverse social construct where money means power and power makes right.
The man who had repeatedly abused our children, assaulted me, raped me, and threatened my life stood just a few feet away from me in court. No protection measures in place - nothing. My ex-husband used Oregon's family courts to continue his campaign of terror against me.
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. Our culture of shaming and victim blaming needs to stop.
I have the greatest respect for women who stand up to tyranny and oppression and fight for freedom and justice. Often they battle alone, with children in tow, and with the enemy entrenched in their home, in their minds, and sleeping in their beds. These are the extreme and painful conditions under which I, and women all over the world, set out to make their escapes from domestic violence and terror. And even so, right up until today, the bravery of women's struggles for freedom is still too often met with the cruelty of questions like "Why don't you just get up and leave," instead of being given the admiration their struggles deserve.
I am sharing my story with you to give my life a voice, and to intellectually and emotionally create change. I hope after reading this document, no one will ever tell a domestic violence victim to "just leave."
During my childhood and marriage, I was voiceless and surrounded by super predators --- my family, my ex-husband, Marty Warner, his pastors and counselors, Bill Heard, Bill Gothard Institute, Dr. Charles Kuttner, and numerous Christian cult leaders.
A summary of the decades of abuse I suffered in Oregon and twenty years of legal stalking and court abuse is summarized in my "media treatment" - Maternal Alienation is the Ultimate Hate Crime: WALL OF SHAME: Marty Warner and the Pastors, Christians and Ministries Who Support Him
I have extensive documentation including affidavits from physicians, witnesses, co-workers and neighbors, court transcripts of 45 court related hearings and depositions, court audio tapes and videos, medical and mental reports to substantiate my story.
Once on the other side of our crisis, one must look back and throw down a footbridge for followers to use. When you have "jumped outside of the given" there is an obligation to share with others what you learned. You must not only tell how you got there, but the process of survival as well.
This document shares my journey of survival as a child who was repeatedly raped and abused for years in Washington state and as a married woman surviving two decades of domestic violence, torture and rape while living in Oregon [1976-1996] and finally the brutal consequences I survived from Oregon's courts---1996 to present---when I found my voice and the courage to seek safety for myself and my children.
Last year, the movie Spotlight, stirred deep emotions in me as I reflected on the abuse I suffered silently as a child, in my marriage, churches and now in Oregon's family court system. The message of "Spotlight" is simple---survivors will see their perpetrators and enabling institutions (whether family, school, sport, court or religious) unmasked for what they are. The truth has that effect.
I hope my story of survival will encourage and empower women worldwide.
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.
Most victims have to recover without the conscience of their communities, cultures, and countries validating their story, without justice, and without restitution. I truly believe, though, that we are victimized twice if we do not seek justice.
For the past several years I have been a guest speaker at colleges, public meetings, libraries, radio and TV shows to help raise awareness about domestic violence, rape, child abuse/molestation, judicial injustice, maternal alienation and court sanctioned kidnapping.
Coral Anika Theill at The George Washington University Law School
Battered Mother's Custody Conference 2013, Washington D.C.
I believe the traumatized person who accomplishes the work of recovery and healing has the potential of becoming more integrated and more aware and conscious than the person who has endured no blatant trauma and has never had to piece together a shattered psyche.
I choose to not participate in the silence that protects perpetrators and isolates survivors.
Battered wives and mothers in Oregon and throughout the USA (as well as internationally) 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, sued for twice they earn, being legally stalked for the rest of their lives, living out of their car, destitute and homeless.
Part I: History - Battered & Raped in the Name of "God"
Obedience and Submission 1976-1996: I was required to be a "helpmeet" in a world like the one from Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel "The Handmaiden’s Tale."
For nearly twenty years, I was married to a man who ruled his household with absolute authority. 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.
Photo: Coral Anika Theill's eight children with their
father, Marty Warner (my abusive ex-husband),
From L to R Zachary Warner, Hannah [Warner] Hart, Rebekah Warner, Joshua Warner, Marty Warner, Theresa [Warner] Arnold, Aaron Warner, Rachel [Warner] White, Sarah [Warner] Bobeda
His personal justification for his behavior came from Biblical scripture and was akin to terrorism and hostage-taking: sexual coercion, financial restrictions, verbal and physical abuse, isolation from friends and family, denigration, controlling my decisions, whereabouts, education, and prohibiting me from working outside the home. He took away my right to my own spiritual beliefs and practice, forced me to work long hours within the home (often without sleep), forbid the use of contraceptives, invaded my privacy (he read all my incoming and outgoing mail), forbid me to see my own physician and denied me medical care. In 1987 he forced me to have sex while I was blind and impregnated me against the recommendations of my physicians (See medical records: Casey Eye Institute, Dr. Larry Rich). My husband raped and impregnated in 1994, while I was suffering a post-partum depression and breakdown. I became pregnant with our eighth child while I was nearly catatonic and unable to shower, dress or feed myself.
Besides his engineering career with CH2M Hill, Hewlett Packard, Clair Company, Corvallis, Oregon and now with Public Works, City of Monmouth, my former husband was a graduate of Washington State University and Oregon State University, active in the Republican Party, chairman for Oregon "Right to Life" and a leader in the home school movement, During the years of our marriage he was an avid follower of Rush Limbaugh, Phyllis Schlafly, Mary Pride, Bill Gothard and the Patriarchal Quiverfull movement. He professed to be a born again, "spirited filled" Christian. My husband's Christian beliefs defined my role as his wife the same way Martin Luther did in the 16th century, "Even though they [wives] grow weary and wear themselves out with child-bearing, it does not matter; let them go on bearing children TILL THEY DIE, that is what they are there for."
In Patriarchal Christian Movements (i.e., Dominionist, Quiverfull), women and girls are treated as property; they are NOT valued in the same way males are valued. The Duggars and the Bill Gothard cult followers use the language of Christianity but push a warped, distorted world-view that supports their own preferred power structures. They tolerate no discussion or dissent and disregard (and/or shun) anything that contradicts their point of view. Christian Dominionists, as well a many Christian politicians believe that the United States is 'one nation under "God," with the Bible and their beliefs trumping existing law and the Constitution--American's version of the Taliban.
The biggest danger in this Christian fundamental/legalistic thinking arises when sexual crimes and abuse occur. They worry about "settling the matter" with God alone (crimes become a family and church secret). Human victims are not a concern and their needs are not met. Many of these human victims are female or children and are not considered valuable or important in their paternalistic world, i.e, domestic violence and rape is socially acceptable in many church settings. Victims are blamed and shamed.
Sadly, my older children followed their father's example and were also violent and hostile toward me.
Just as the Christian fundamentalists keep crimes private [a family matter], the courts also shelter abusers in a 'family court' system where serious crimes are "mediated" or ignored and too often women and children are blamed for reporting abuse.
In 1986, ten years before I divorced my abusive husband, I attempted to leave him, but I had no where to go and no support. During the years of our marriage, my husband threatened me that he would take my children from me if I should ever try to leave him. I suffered ten more years of cruelty, torture and ritual abuse before seeking safety in 1996.
I discovered in the long years of court proceedings that the family court system has a patriarchal bias and seldom wields its immense power in liberating women from violence. It is a system that has supported the view of male superiority and condoned a rape culture."
The goal of the patriarchal culture is to silence and destroy women [and the earth]. This silencing has been made effective by raping, beating and killing ENOUGH women to silence ALL women.
Predator In Chief: President Trump And The Glorification Of Sexual Violence
This past election we watched over a quarter of the population of this country vote a misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, clinically narcissistic demagogue into the office of the President. Victims of sexism, racism, violence, bigotry and xenophobia reacted with shock and grief because this nation instantly became less safe for so many. For advocates who fight against abuse, misogyny, and sexual assault, we understand that our job will be even more difficult under a Trump Presidency. Donald Trump has the same abusive traits that many abuse victims have survived in domestic violence relationships: covert control, pathological lying, sexual assault, gaslighting and bullying. As one of many advocates in the USA, I will continue to expose the Trump regime's plan to diminish and/or destroy our lives - especially those who are disenfranchised, vulnerable, poor and/or disabled.
To give a sexual predator the Presidency of the United States, with all the associated power around the world, is the ultimate way of showing women how little they are valued. Since the election, many people are living in "fear." Fear is an alarm bell not to be ignored. The people targeted by Donald Trump's campaign and his supporters---people of color, women, victims of sexual assault and violence, the LBGT community, Muslims, refugees in America, first and second generation immigrants, and our allies---must now fight even harder and be ever more vigilant in defense of liberty and justice. I believe Donald Trump supporters need to own this - the impact of a Trump presidency - and recognize the harm that is being committed against innocent citizens in the name of TRUMP.
Mona Eltahawy, Egyptian feminist and author writes, “NEVER again can the U.S. lecture us on extremism or misogyny or on how we should treat women. This election sends a message to women in Egypt and across the world that powerful men can sexually assault you and worse and still be elected president."
We must never forget: "You need to treat women like sh-t. When you're a star, you can do anything. Grab them by the p---y. You can do anything." - President Donald J. Trump
Donald Trump’s victory represents the justification of sexism and institutionalized rape culture by millions of Americans. I am encouraged by the words of Clarissa Estes, Ph.D., "We Were Made for These Times."
During my senior year in high school, I attended ground school and flight training at Pearson Airport, Vancouver, WA, and earned my solo flight certificate and passed my FAA exams. I was President of Honor Society and involved with volunteer work in the community, was a straight A student, co-valedictorian and voted "most academic and most likely to succeed." After court reporter training, I worked as a juvenile court reporter and secretary for two Superior Court Judges in Longview, Washington when I was 19 - 21 years old. At this time, I met my abusive ex-husband, Marty Warner. I did not know how to escape the clutches of super predators and sociopaths in my personal or home life.
Coral Theill, aka Kathryn Y. Hall, high school graduation
Columbia River H.S., Vancouver, Washington
I am one mother, among millions, who sought safety from domestic violence and lost what was most precious to me - my children. I went to Oregon's judicial system for help and was not prepared for the horrors I experienced within our legal system. I found a system which treated me as deplorably as my former husband and his religious supporters.
The price for my own safety and freedom in 1996 was an imposed, unnatural and unwanted separation from my eight children, including my nursing infant. 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.
Losing one’s children via family court causes inconsolable grief and a lifetime of psychic shock. Understanding the correlation between our patriarchal society and patriarchal court system has assisted me in my survival.
“Fathers who battered the mother are twice as likely to seek sole custody of their children as are non-violent fathers.”—American Psychological Association
Primal Wound - Children Separated from their Mothers
When I sought safety for my children and myself in January 1996, the Court allowed me to live in hiding with my young children prior to the court hearings, due to the testimony and affidavits of numerous witnesses. Belts, fists, logs, fraternity boards, threats, coercive control, gaslighting, cults and bullying were my ex-husband's favorite weapons of choice. My ex-husband also abused numerous women in the workplace.
My abusive husband used coercive control, isolation and intimidation tactics to strip me of my personhood, safety and freedoms as a United States citizen.
"Coercive control shares general elements with other capture or course-of-conduct crimes such as kidnapping, stalking, and harassment, including the facts that it is ongoing and its perpetrators use various means to hurt, humiliate, intimidate, exploit, isolate, and dominate their victims. Like hostages, victims of coercive control are frequently deprived of money, food, access to communication or transportation, and other survival resources even as they are cut off from family, friends, and other supports through the process of “isolation.” But unlike other capture crimes, coercive control is personalized, extends through social space as well as over time, and is gendered in that it relies for its impact on women’s vulnerability as women due to sexual inequality. Another difference is its aim. Men deploy coercive control to secure privileges that involve the use of time, control over material resources, access to sex, and personal service. A main means men use to establish control is the microregulation of everyday behaviors associated with stereotypic female roles, such as how women dress, cook, clean, socialize, care for their children, or perform sexually. These dynamics give coercive control a role in sexual politics that distinguishes it from all other crimes." - Dr. Evan Stark, Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life
Leaving a family system that condones domestic violence, rape, the molestation and rape of children, psychological murder, coercive control, spiritual and ritual abuse [cults] was my only safe and sane choice.
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, [a convicted murderer and sex offender] was allowed, by my own parents, to continually rape me for years, nothing I said or did could make it stop. His parole officer was missing in action.
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."
Judith Herman, M.D. maintains that the function of domestic violence is to preserve male supremacy. “Perpetrators understand intuitively that the purpose of their behavior is to put women in their place and that their behavior will be condoned by other men [women] as long as the victim is a legitimate target. Thus, women live with a fear of men which pervades all of life and which convinces women that their weakness is innate and unchangeable. The legal system is designed to protect men from the superior power of the state but not to protect women or children from the superior power of men. It therefore provides strong guarantees for the rights of the accused but essentially no guarantees for the rights of the victim. If one set out by design to devise a system for provoking intrusive post-traumatic symptoms, one could not do better than a court of law."
Most people recovering from trauma have experienced the dynamic of those around them "taking the side of the perpetrator." Without understanding why they are doing so only compounds the suffering the survivor experiences, and intensifies the feeling that one is tainted, bad, or defective for having been traumatized in the first place.
In her book, Trauma & Recovery, Dr. Judith Herman explores the cultural dynamics of collective repression and denial and why people tend to shun and try to silence trauma survivors.
How our culture regards trauma and traumatized people is very important to those trying to become reintegrated into society after massive psychic shock.
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 my divorce it was difficult to find employment due being a homemaker for twenty years with no work history. While married, my ex-husband prohibited me from working outside the home due to his fundamental Christian ideology. In 1996, I was hired as a receiver and worked at the Target Warehouse. I had to leave after six months due to disabilities. I also worked in sales, created my own art business and worked part-time as a professional model for a few years.
While homeless in 2003, I wrote and published my memoir in an effort to reclaim dignity, equality and honor, not only for myself but for everyone. My story exposes the dark side of human nature when all people are not valued. Here is a complimentary copy of my revised 2013 published memoir, BONSHEÁ Making Light of the Dark.
I ask you to imagine yourself, or your own daughter, sister or mother in this story.
My case history in Oregon courts [1995 to date] has been documented by several physicians and advocates, including my counselor and mentor of 19 years, Barbara A. May, PhD, RN PMHP, Professor Emerita of Nursing, Linfield College, Portland, Oregon, as one of Oregon's most violent and obscene rape and domestic violence cases.
"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
BONSHEÁ has been used as a college text for nursing students at Linfield College, Portland, Oregon and is available in numerous libraries throughout Oregon as well
as the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation Religious Freedom Room. To help raise the consciousness about the mistreatment of mothers in America's courtrooms, I participated in a Silent Vigil for Mother's Day at the White House in 2010. In honor of Mother's Day 2014, the Pixel Project Survivor Stories Interviews featured my story to help raise monies for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. In 2014 I submitted a request for a hearing with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and on August 1, 2015, and August 1, 2016, my Oregon case history was filed with the Claim Submitted to the United Nations on Modern Day Human Rights Crisis. I was assigned a USA case number. In October 2016, On January 5, 2016, my Polk County Oregon case history was submitted to the United States Supreme Court as a 'Declaration of Support' in Adkins v Adkins #15-754 addressing the due process violations in family courts across the United States. I also participated in YOKO ONO'S ARISING PROJECT in Iceland, October 2016.
I have lived under a “state address protection program” from my ex-husband since 1999. 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 bias.
Three years before I finally escaped from my abusive husband, I suffered a breakdown, partial stroke—a collapse and severe post-partum depression—after the home birth of my seventh child. While nearly catatonic in 1994, my husband forced me to have sex and raped me. At this time I was living with my brother, could not shower, feed or dress myself. I became pregnant with my eighth child. Hundreds of family members and friends witnessed me in this condition. They had no concern for me. I had no medical care due to my ex-husband's extreme fundamental Christians beliefs. His brutal treatment pushed my health further to the edge. While completely broken down, I was beaten, raped, threatened, 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. I did not believe I would live.
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.
Battered wives who seek help or advice from clergy members are often told that they bring abuse on themselves by refusing to submit to their husband.
The fear of reprisals and repercussions from husbands, pastors, the religious community and the judicial system prevents many women from seeking safety and wholeness. They are experienced with the ways abuse and trauma operates in their home. To seek safety would often mean subjecting themselves to further abuse in our judicial system as well. The choice to stay in domestic violence is not a choice at all. It is just the lesser of two evils. A battered woman weighs what kind of abuse she is most familiar with and can possibly survive.
My ex-husband's friend and supporter, former Oregon State Senator Betsy Close, testified at my divorce trial that no Christian woman has a right to divorce her husband except in cases of desertion or fornication outside the marriage. She sided publicly with the man who had abused me and my children physically and psychologically for 18 years! From 1993-1994, former Oregon State District 8 Senator Close phoned me, during the time of my illness and told me God had cursed me. She sent me letters exhorting me to repent. She does not believe an abused and battered woman has a “right to divorce.” Under Betsy Close’s fundamental ideology, a battered wife should just call “911.” (LISTEN to former STATE SENATOR BETSY CLOSE’S SWORN TESTIMONY. and dangerous views about domestic violence.)
Fear of the unknown is often a crushing deterrent. Many women choose to stay in violent relationships due to the corruption in our family court system [as well as the church].
"And just as there is a special beauty and importance to relationships between mothers and their children, there is a special and extraordinary cruelty in the abusive man who attempts to break or weaken the mother-child bond, whether by turning children against their mother, by harming the children physically, sexually or psychologically, or by attempting to take custody of the children away from her.
"Our society is currently giving mothers a powerful and crazy-making mixed message. First, it says to mothers, “If your children’s father is violent or abusive to you or to your children, you should leave him in order to keep your children from being exposed to his behavior.” But then, if the mother does leave, the society many times appears to do an abrupt about-face, and say, “Now that you are split up from your abusive partner, you must expose your children to him. Only now you must send them alone with him, without you even being around anymore to keep an eye on whether they are okay. What do we want? Do we want mothers to protect their children from abusers, or don’t we?” - Lundy Bancroft, The Batterer as Parent
Picture of half-way house, "Wings of Love" on Killingsworth in Portland, Oregon where I lived in 1994. Note: Barbed wire is pointed inward - to keep prisoners from escaping. During this period of time my ex-husband was following the advice of his unlicensed counselor, Pastor Bill Heard, Roseburg, Oregon and advisors from the Bill Gothard Institute (and cult) in Chicago, Illinois.
"During the period of my breakdown/depression in the spring of 1994, my husband, Marty Warner, and his pastors kidnapped me and 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.
When my attorney, Mr. David Gearing, questioned my brother, Don Hall, on witness stand [March 1996] about visiting me in the spring of 1994 at the "Wings of Love" half-way house, my brother broke down and wept at he explained the dangerous and filthy living situation in which I was left while too ill to take care of myself." - Coral Anika Theill, "BONSHEA Making Light of the Dark "
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.”
By January 1995 I had recovered emotionally and mentally from my previous post-partum depression/breakdown. While pregnant with my eighth child, my trusted physician and OBGyn, Dr. Charles South, Albany, Oregon, recommended I seek safety and a divorce before I became a "statistic."
After the birth of my eighth child in July 1995, I followed my doctor's advice, retained an attorney, reported crimes committed in our home and filed for a divorce.
I initially retained an attorney in October 1995 to report crimes committed in our home against my children and to seek safety. My husband, Pastor Bill Heard, Roseburg, Oregon and Pastor Ron Sutter, Monmouth, Oregon were aware of the crimes - in their minds the crimes were to remain a "family and church secret." I was threatened not to report the crimes to the authorities. I reported the crimes to the Polk County Sheriff, took my younger daughters to their physician and a counselor. Several months later, I lost custody and finally all contact with my children. The convicted Oregon Sex Offender, who raped my daughters can see them any time - I cannot, per Court Order.. My ex-husband and the pastors who covered up the crimes suffered no consequences.
In 1996, in preparation for the child custody court hearings, I passed six psychological exams. Several of the exams were three and four hour interviews from top physicians in Oregon. My ex-husband failed his court ordered psychological exam.
Part II: Maternal Alienation, Maternal Deprivation and Domestic Violence by Proxy
Oprah Winfrey often states on her program, “America is the safest place in the world for women.” Tens of thousands of mothers in America would be quick to disagree with Oprah’s words. We bear invisible, but permanent battle wounds from years of abuse in America’s family court system. Our mental scars and years of court documentation prove that seeking safety in America often costs more than money. The price of safety in America has been too high for all of us – it cost us our children and our right to be a mother.
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.
NEVER FORGET: U.S. history: Terrorism Against Women & Children
Two hundred years ago a system of legal slavery allowed for the ownership of human beings as if they were livestock. Children were ripped away from their mothers with as little consideration as separating a calf from a cow.
Display at the National Museum of African American History & Culture, Washington D.C.
In this country today, extreme forms of paternalistic religion promote an institutional form of slavery where a woman must be totally obedient to a husband who has absolute control of her life. The wife’s lot is to obey and bear children. If she rebels and chooses to save herself by escaping from this life, the father—supported by the church community and often by the court system, can forcibly strip a child away from the mother.
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 Theill and her infant son, Zachary David Warner, July 1995, Independence, Oregon - Court Sanctioned Kidnapping via Oregon's Family Court
Dr. Clarissa Estes writes, "A culture that requires harm to one’s soul in order to follow the culture’s proscriptions is a very sick culture indeed." I think this is true. By obeying the Order of the Court, I betrayed my soul, my children and myself. I was forced to make a choice that no mother should ever be forced to make.
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.
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.
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). 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.
The treatment I received in Oregon’s courts was more abuse and humiliation. Sexual crimes I endured as a child, my breakdown, my physical shortcomings, my fertility and the ‘rape’ by my husband all became subjects for ridicule in court while I was on the witness stand. 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/depression years earlier.
In March 1996, I met my physician, Dr. Charles South, in his office. I had no children and was using a breast pump due to my nursing infant being abruptly removed from me per court order. He was shocked and phoned Margie Boule, a columnist for the Oregonian - to no avail.
As the court abuse intensified through the years, I contacted the media and those I felt might be interested in my story. I received kind letters from Gloria Allred, Margie Boule and U.S. Attorney Karin Immergut. Sadly, I was dismissed, abused, disrespected, shamed and/or betrayed by such news organizations as the Albany Democrat Herald, The Gazette Times, The Corvallis Advocate, The Statesman Journal and Salem-News.com.
Due to the physical, emotional and financial strain of ongoing court hearings and being sued for twice of what I earned for child support, I ended up living out of my car for several years. In 1996, my court and attorney fees amounted to over $150,000. After twenty years of being legally stalked, the cost of my divorce has exceeded $200,000.
While I was homeless in 2004, I enrolled in college to improve my life, but was forced to drop out after a couple terms due to my ex-husband and his attorney, Mr. J. Michael Alexander, appealing our case to the Oregon State of Appeals in 2004. I was destitute, so I had no monies for an attorney. Instead of college, I wrote my own "legal brief" in response to their appeal for $50,000 more in child support. I also received contempt orders, was sued and threatened with jail time and received a court order, signed by Judge Paula Brownhill, prohibiting me from my writing or sending with my children gifts in 2003. My crime - my 16 year old son, Joshua Warner, hugged and talked to me at his football game at Santiam Christian School.
My ex-husband, his pastors, family, friends and school teachers alienated my children from me - telling my children and the community various lies - that I abandoned them, was living in a mental hospital, joined a biker gang and/or committed suicide. Sadly, my children have supported my ex-husband's further abuse of me personally and in the courtroom. Several of them have sent me hate mail.
The men who would destroy women are not necessarily destroying only the mothers, their intent is to destroy the child. The mother is but a tool in this quest. He must destroy her to break the connection and reeducate the child into a likeness of himself, or destroy the child trying. I am an erased mother.
Many children who have no contact with their protective parent have clear functional amnesia. They have no memories other than those created and re-created by the controlling parent. These children successfully re-program who and what they are outside as well as within. Traumatic bonding occurs in abused children.
Photo: Coral Anika Theill with her three youngest children, Zachary, Hannah and Rebekah Warner, Corvallis, Oregon, 1998, on a visitation weekend.
Gabor Mate teaches that we have two basic survival needs: attachment (since we cannot take care of ourselves at birth so must have a caregiver) and authenticity (the ability to be in touch with and trust our own innate gut knowing- so we can perceive and deal with or leave dangerous situations.) Often children discover that following their authentic gut knowing and instincts threatens attachment with their caregiver (who may be embarrassed or angry and insist the child do what they are told.) Children often learn to sacrifice their authentic connection to their own inner knowing to preserve the attachment upon which their life depends.
After surviving decades of abuse and torture, I became an advocate --- not only for myself, but for trauma victims, as well as wounded warriors.
In July 2011 I received the Lester Granger Award from the National Montford Point Marine Association for my writings and advocacy for the Montford Point Marines. I have also worked as a contributing writer for Leatherneck Magazine and Short Rations for Marines. All proceeds for Short Rations for Marines are donated to the Semper Fi Fund, Fisher House and wounded warriors. My October 2011 Leatherneck Magazine article, "Invisible Battle Scars: Confronting the Stigma Associated with PTS & TBI," is cited in the U.S. Army War College "Psychological Health Notes."
In an effort to promote improved laws for battered women and children, I met U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley at his office in Washington D.C. in July 2014, per the recommendation of his assistant Mr. Joel Corcoran. Mr. Corcoran read my website and numerous articles that detailed my horrific experiences in Oregon's family courts. He suggested I submit a document to U.S. Senator Merkley detailing the decades of legal stalking (45 court hearings) I had been subjected to since seeking safety in 1995.
Coral Theill and U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley July 2014
To harass and exhaust a victim through repeated, frivolous court action aimed at punishing and controlling her, beyond the point where a victim is physically, mentally, or financially able to defend herself, is a form of legal stalking. The family court system, as it is, does not recognize this, and the advocacy system is literally not financially able to help these survivors spend tens of thousands of dollars defending themselves year after year in court.
My letter and document to U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley: "Court and Church Sanctioned Domestic Violence and Child Abuse," outlines what I hope to accomplish by publicly sharing my story.
In May 2013, Sergeant Major Brian K. Jackson, USMC (Ret) wrote a letter on my behalf to Mr. Joel Corcoran:
Excerpt: "As I watch the news today, I see all sorts of other cases pretty similar to Coral Theill's. The thing that I just do not understand about our "system" is why or how can we allow what happened to Coral (and is still happening) to happen. Some are held against their will, raped, battered, abused and then glorified as are the three ladies from Ohio. Guys are considered "heroes" as a result of being the person to make a phone call to the authorities about it.
"Then we have those in the same situation (and maybe even worse) who are blamed, ostracized from society, stripped not only of their children but of their dignity, ridiculed, and even forced into hiding and receive absolutely no support from anyone in the justice system who by the way are supposed to be by the people, of the people and for the people."
To heal and recover from violent crimes, survivors need the community (and the courts) to create the conditions for an experience of justice. Without justice, there is no healing. Unless we speak out against the injustices in our society, we become accomplices to the individuals and institutions that are an obstacle to women and children’s wholeness, safety and wellness.
Part III: Advocacy
Thankfully there are many advocates and survivors who are giving voice to the violence and demanding change: Mothers on Trial, by Phylliss Chesler, Crisis In The Family Courts: Batterer Manipulation and Retaliation Denial and Complicity In the Family Courts by Joan Zorza, Esq., What is Fair for Children of Abusive Men? by Jack C. Straton, Ph.D, Portland State University, Justice Denied by Marci A. Hamilton, Child Custody Justice by Lundy Bancroft, Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody: Legal Strategies and Policy Issues edited by Mo Therese Hannah, Ph.D. and Barry Goldstein, J.D., The Motherless Project by Robin Karr and Janie McQueen, No Way Out but One by Garland Waller, Prosecuted but not Silenced by Maralee McLean Vengeful Father Syndrome by Melissa Barnett, The Story of Naming Maternal Alienation by Anne Morris, Beware Family Court: What Victims and Advocates Should Know Cracking the Code of the Family Court Cult: ADA Remedies for Women Accused of “PAS” by Karin Wolf and Why Doesn't She Leave? by Marie De Santis. (See additional recommended articles, books, and films.)
Through the combined efforts of advocates and social media, we are exposing abusive judges and asking for accountability, i.,e. Oakland County Judge Lisa Gorcyca, Impeach Judge John McKeon, Florida County Judge Jerri Collins, Remove Judge Aaron Persky from the Bench For Decision in Brock Turner rape case.
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. Sadly my in-laws have joined my ex-husband to further abuse me.
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.
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.
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.
The letters received from the Oregon State Bar, the Oregon Medical Board, the Judicial Ethics Committee and the Governor’s Council on Domestic Violence were shocking. Legal aid cannot and will not help and U.S. Staff Attorney for Domestic Violence, Poverty and Homelessness, Naomi Sterns, in Washington DC, was of no help either.
Here is a list of advocacy groups and individuals I have contacted about my case since seeking safety - all to no avail.
I have suffered 20 years of Oregon court trauma and abuse – there was no justice.
I believe I have fallen through the cracks of America’s judicial system.
I was molested, beaten and emotionally abused for years as a child – there was no justice.
I suffered twenty years of domestic violence, rapes, beatings and ritual and spiritual abuse while married to my ex-husband, Mr. Marty Warner, of Independence, Oregon – there was no justice.
I suffered unethical and client confidential disclosure against my will, and unethical counseling practices by my trusted physician, Dr. Charles Kuttner, Portland, Oregon, which also led to his mentor and friend, George Amiotte, threatening, stalking, robbing, then beating and strangling me in 2000 – there was no justice.
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 full custody of these children given to the PERPETRATOR of these crimes with no questions asked?
Why was I subjected to verbal public harassment and humiliation during these court proceedings?
Why was I not appointed an advocate or guardian to support my needs, (physically, emotionally and mentally)?
Why was I mandated to pay monthly child support (twice of what I earned)?
Why was I not treated with deference and compassion?
Coral Theill with her daughter Rebekah age 6, and her baby Zachary Warner
June 1996 on a visitation weekend
Why was “judge shopping” allowed in my case?
Why was there no child guardian/advocate appointed for my nursing infant?
Why was an registered Oregon sex offender allowed to see my minor younger daughters, and I (the mother who reported the crimes of sex abuse) not allowed to visit or write them, per Judge Paula Brownhill's 2013 court orders?
Why was the court allowed to violate my rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, compelling me, the victim, to interact with my attacker despite a PTSD medical diagnosis?
My ex-husband, Marty Warner, and pastors, Bill Heard and Ron Sutter, did not report the crimes of childhood rape. Why did they suffer no repurcussions for 'non-reporting?"
Why did I receive an email and letter from my presiding judge. Judge Paula Brownhill complained that my physician and counselor, Dr. Barbara May, and I reported her abuse to the Oregon Court Administrator in Salem, Oregon, and asked me via a personal email message, "what my problem was." I did not respond to her and find it inappropriate for her to have contacted me.
And, finally, I asked myself, why my nursing infant removed from me, his mother?
Presently, I am at a loss, and it is difficult to continue to have faith in a legal system that is based on similar authoritarian, patriarchal and paternalistic models as my marriage.
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.
I believe the courts and churches that are so adamant in punishing women who seek safety have not yet realized the long term ramifications for the victim. As a child, I could not have imagined that Court Orders, due to my ex-husband’s wrath, would prevent me from adequately grieving for the loss of my only sibling, Donald Hall.
PHOTO: Upper L to R: My youngest son of eight children, Zachary David Warner, 2013, Coral Theill and Zachary 1995, Independence, Oregon
Lower L to R: Judge Paula Brownhill, Astoria, Oregon, Judge Albin Norblad, Coral Theill's memoir cover, BONSHEA Making Light of the Dark
I was not allowed to attend my brother’s funeral in 2009. The court order sought by my ex-husband and abuser, denying me visitation privileges also created complications in July 2009. I was not permitted to attend my own brother’s funeral. My brother’s pastor reported that my ex-husband was attending the funeral, as well as my younger children. According to the Oregon Court Order, I could be arrested for attending the funeral due to being in the same vicinity of my younger children—a violation of Judge Paula Brownhill’s court orders. I emailed the pastor my eulogy for my brother’s service.
Part IV: Conclusion - U.S History and Terrorism Against Mothers and Children
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.
The kind of violence, abuse and suppression perpetrated by so many of our organized religions and government agencies is truly shocking and can only continue by our refusal to look AT IT rather than the OTHER WAY.
"Thus far, women have been the mere echoes of men. Our laws and constitutions our creeds and codes, and the customs of social life are all of masculine origin. The true woman is as yet a dream of the future." - Elizabeth Cady Stanton
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.
Many mothers who seek safety from abuse are routinely prohibited from having even the most basic contact with their own children, not because they were unfit parents, but because they were outspent, out represented, and out-maneuvered in a court atmosphere that seems to favor those who inflict domestic violence.
"When courts blame victims and fail to hold abusers accountable, they reinforce abuser behavior, subvert justice, disempower the victims, teach children that abusive behavior is permissible and may even be rewarded, and reinforce the cycle of violence."
- Joan Zora, Esq.
The judicial system acts as the conscience of this country but we know, in most cases, that is not what happens. Those with money and power control the narrative, silence the truth and thwart justice.
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. Mothers and children are NOT safe in the court system.
The judicial and religious organizations and people who have aided my former husband, Marty Warner, all embrace the same views regarding women and children. They believe male power is absolute over women and great harm will come to those who question and/or defy that power. I believe this is the mentality that causes and perpetuates abuse.
Until patriarchy is upended, nothing will change.
The extremely patriarchal view of the roles of men and women in our society harm everyone and hinder our human evolution and ability to live fulfilling and mentally healthy lives. Patriarchy is practiced in our courtrooms.
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.
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.
To this day, I remember the terrifying fear I felt for years as a child and also during my marriage that had me lying awake shaking some nights. Every form of abuse has a long lasting effect on each one of us. Individuals who escape abuse and torture deserve the utmost respect and support. These people have risked it all to heal and stand up for the truth. They are heroes and role models who hold a horrific reality for everyone else. They have suffered and escaped, and for that, we should bow our head in reverence and listen to their stories.
I am grateful I was able to escape my abuser and survive the decades of court trauma and abuse. I will NEVER forget, though, how it felt for years---like digging out of a grave with my fingernails and often the dirt caving back in on me. I didn't stop, I didn't give up hope that 'this could be.'
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.
What I learned through these past few decades is that domestic violence, rape, child abuse and child sexual molestation is socially acceptable in our society and often in many church settings. This needs to change!
Christine Pahl, MS, LPC, Oregon, summed up my story in her "forward" for my memoir, "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.”