Catherine Marie Elder (Portillo), a successful real estate agent for more than twenty years, who lives in Hawaii with her husband recalls her own child sexual abuse in honor of Child Sexual Abuse Awareness, Prevention and Healing Month here, on Love, Life and Relationships: Overcoming Emotional and Child Sexual Abuse.
She recently has removed her eighty year old Step-Father from living with her and is ready to empower others by telling her untold story of spiritual and child sexual abuse at his hands and genitals.
Raised in California, Catherine and her sister experienced ten years of abuse. They were forced to commit sexual acts on their step father when he would come into their room to tuck them in at night for extended periods of time. More interesting were the scriptures used to teach these young children that it is normal for daughters to have sexual desires and perform them on their fathers.
“I understand. I may end up going to jail, but don’t worry about me -whatever you need for your healing.”
Over the years his freedom with nudity in the house (often sitting with his naked body exposed in a chair – robe open), his requests with regard to bestiality and what Catherine describes as “no sexual boundaries,” were often masked by his commitment to ministry and the knowledge of scriptures.
Today, Catherine speaks out because she realizes that thirty years later, he is still manipulating her and possibly molesting other children – yes, that is right, at eighty years old!
He has been a special education teacher for the past ten years in Hawaii, and chose to go out of his way to an impoverished community where their was a presence of neglect with students.
In my blog, The Bible and Child Sexual Abuse, I am clear in sharing statistics which state that child sexual abuse is not tied to any race or class in particular, however what is needed for a predator are signs of neglect and other traits that confirm for them that they can be successful in grooming the child to keep their secrets.
Each time Catherine has spoken out, her voice was silenced by disbelief from non-supportive family and church members. Her grandmother (his mother) blamed them during their confession of his unending abuse, for how they were dressing as teenagers.
She spoke out again and was disbelieved because of her stepfather’s status in the church and community, and finally she spoke out recently at the church that they attended together only to have a woman look her in the face and call her a liar. Keep in mind, this woman knew him through church alone, and did not have a personal relationship (in home life) with him.
Catherine confronted her step-father Tom who fully supported her desire to make a difference in the world by going public and healing from his abuse by saying, “I understand. I may end up going to jail, but don’t worry about me -whatever you need for your healing.”
To others, this sounds like he is supportive and loves her. To those who have been abused, and who are familiar with sexual predators, we understand that this is a sophisticated mind with years of experience with grooming and manipulation.
His “don’t worry about me,” actually made it all about him, and often makes victims question whether it is necessary to heal at all, as if the abuse did not happen. Another way to look at his attempts to allow her to heal was that the manipulation was really an attempt to silence her again so that he could avoid punishment.
Her step-father Tom, is now living with his brother, a minister who worked with Billy Graham during his international evangelical movement. The step-father has lied to everyone who has confronted him saying that he received help and never admitting to all of what he has done.
After Catherine went to start his car one day recently, and found a Ladybug set of earrings still attached to the earring holder she had flashbacks of the grooming that took place in her own childhood.
This is a man who sits on the pulpit in his local body, who was observed teaching bible study to his brother. The bible study teaching was to help his brother to overcome the abuse they received from their uncle. The teaching was to help them gain understanding and healing though he never admitted his sexual immorality with his step daughters and niece.
My definition of Spiritual Abuse is, a form of manipulation used by a person with biblical knowledge in a ministerial or leadership role who bases spiritual practices on personal intention.
Wikipedia provides its own definition:
“Spiritual abuse is a serious form of abuse which occurs when a person in a cult-religious authority or a person with a unique spiritual practice misleads and maltreats another person in the name of a deity(god)or church or in the mystery of any spiritual concept. Spiritual abuse often refers to an abuser using spiritual or cult-religious rank in taking advantage of the victim’s spirituality (mentality and passion on spiritual matters) by putting the victim in a state of unquestioning obedience to an abusive authority. Spiritual abuse refers to the use of spiritual knowledge to deprive, torture, degrade, isolate, control, or even kill others. It is used by evil minded spiritualists, sometimes, including cult-religious leaders to gain advantage or exercise control over others. Being an ‘action of man’, in worst case scenarios, spiritual abuse can otherwise be called ‘spiritual terrorism’.”
Spiritual Abuse includes Sexual Abuse. Grooming is gaining the trust of a child to break down inhibitions to prepare them for child sexual abuse, and to get them to keep the perpetrators secrets of abuse.
In short, Catherine was spiritually and sexually abused by her step father. She subscribed to Scientology for a while and found her way back to her evangelical roots, with a new perspective on the scriptures.
Scientoloy, I share in The Bible and Child Sexual Abuse II, does not believe that sexual abuse is a high crime. In Scientology, like in the Corinthian biblical days, have their own court. The offense of child sexual abuse in the Scientology religion is no different than a member bad-mouthing the religion itself. They are held with the same contempt.
Catherine is brave. She has taken a situation that could have ruined her faith in God, and chosen the path to healing; a path that requires us all to separate our thoughts and expectations the way a man presents himself, and the reality of God.
As for her step father, he says, “I am an eleven-year-old boy trapped in a grown man’s body.” He continues to say that he believes that just as homosexuality is accepted now, so will having sex will children be in the future.
Tom has been a choir member for more than thirty years. He left his two sons, to marry a woman with two daughters to abuse. He has worked as a special education teacher, and in ministry. He has always placed himself around children as predators do.
Catherine called the police to explain the ladybug earrings and what happened to her as a child. She wanted her story to at least be put on record in case a child comes forward. The police say that her child sexual abuse is beyond the statute of limitations.
Catherine hopes to develop a twelve-step-like program for sexual offenders in Hawaii in an effort to prevent them from re-offending. She also wants to bring your relationship mentor, Ressurrection Graves and Ten Ways To Safeguard Your Child From Sexual Abuse to Hawaii to talk to church congregants, civic organizations, and schools in order to begin the healing process at home, and engage conversation about prevention and safeguarding your children from abuse.
Her desire to visit schools and share her story along with ways to prevent abuse are vital to the educational system in Hawaii. Her work will help youth to speak out loud about their experiences and hopefully they within their statutes.
The challenging thing about statutes of limitations is that you never know when someone will be at a place when they can speak out about their abuse. That is why many victors of abuse are presenting legislation that would afford others the ability to report their abuses when they are ready and able mentally and emotionally. For many of us, it took years to acknowledge that we were affected by the abuse, and more years to share what happened.
We the Love, Life and Relationships: Overcoming Emotional and Child Sexual Abuse family support Catherine in her journey to heal Hawaii.
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- Who are Child Sexual Abuse Predators? (ressurrection.wordpress.com)