Reflections on Emily Yoffe’s article: Why I keep perseverating on the abuse, and why forgiving the abusers may be unneeded

Emily Yoffe recently wrote in The Debt: When terrible, abusive parents come crawling back, what do their grown children owe them?:

Bruce Springsteen’s frustrated, depressive father took out much of his rage on his son.

In a New Yorker profile, David Remnick writes that long after Springsteen’s family had left his unhappy childhood home, he would obsessively drive by the old house.

A therapist said to him, “Something went wrong, and you keep going back to see if you can fix it or somehow make it right.”

Springsteen finally came to accept he couldn’t. When he became successful he did give his parents the money to buy their dream house.

But Springsteen says of this seeming reconciliation, “Of course, all the deeper things go unsaid, that it all could have been a little different.”

I get this.  This explains everything.  He kept driving past the old house because he wanted to fix it somehow.

This explains why my mind has had so much trouble closing the door on Richard and Tracy: Not only did their constant presence on my blog keep me mired in the past and their hard-heartedness, seeing all the proof I put up that they were abusive, but refusing to apologize and make it right–

–but I kept going back to the situation because I wanted to fix it somehow, make it right.

Figure out what happened.

Figure out if I had it pegged correctly or was way off.

Figure out if I could post just the right thing which would get Tracy to realize how badly she had treated and misjudged me.

More importantly, figure out if I could post just the right thing to get Richard to realize how badly he had treated a loyal and devoted friend who would have done anything for him.

Yoffe also writes:

In a 2008 essay in the journal In Character, history professor Wilfred McClay writes that as a society we have twisted the meaning of forgiveness into a therapeutic act for the victim:

“[F]orgiveness is in danger of being debased into a kind of cheap grace, a waiving of standards of justice without which such transactions have no meaning.”

Jean Bethke Elshtain, a professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School, writes that,

“There is a watered-down but widespread form of ‘forgiveness’ best tagged preemptory or exculpatory forgiveness. That is, without any indication of regret or remorse from perpetrators of even the most heinous crimes, we are enjoined by many not to harden our hearts but rather to ‘forgive.’

I agree with these more bracing views about what forgiveness should entail. Choosing not to forgive does not doom someone to being mired in the past forever. Accepting what happened and moving on is a good general principle.

But it can be comforting for those being browbeaten to absolve their parents to recognize that forgiveness works best as a mutual endeavor.

After all, many adult children of abusers have never heard a word of regret from their parent or parents. People who have the capacity to ruthlessly maltreat their children tend toward self-justification, not shame…..

It’s wonderful when there can be true reconciliation and healing, when all parties can feel the past has been somehow redeemed. But I don’t think Rochelle, Beatrice, and others like them should be hammered with lectures about the benefits of—here comes that dread word—closure.

Sometimes the best thing to do is just close the door.

How can I forgive someone who refuses to repent? who would continue to violate my boundaries of being left alone, if I hadn’t switched to self-hosted Wordpress and blocked them at the server level?

Even though my old blog is no longer maintained, and even though they are blocked from the new one, my abusers/stalkers continue to check my old blog at least every other day.  They know about the new blog, so I am quite certain they have tried to come here, but can’t get in.

The biblical passages on forgiveness seem to refer to, forgiving someone who has repented.  If my abuser refuses to admit to abusing me, how can I absolve her of it, treat her as if she never abused me?

Even a simple “hello” if I see her at church, would feel like soul murder.  How can I possibly do that?

I can, however, accept that she abused me, accept that she refuses to admit to it, and treat her as I would a rattlesnake. 

You don’t need to forgive the rattlesnake if it bites you; it’s doing what comes naturally, and would not be sorry for it.  You don’t say hello to a rattlesnake; you give it a wide berth and then run the heck away from it.


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Seeing Phil in a Play, Seance Makes Contact, Car Accident–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–November 1993, Part 1

College Fun

Pearl once told me, “If you ever break down and use a cuss word, I think everyone in the cafeteria will stop what they’re doing and stare at you!”

The Muskie Inn now had slushies, so I often had a cherry one with my Sunday dinners.  Also, probably after mid-November, my friends often sat in the cafeteria around the same time I got my Muskie dinners.

Either junior or senior year, the cafeteria began serving soup and sandwiches on Sunday nights, and they would have this.  Junior year fall semester, and spring semester as often as possible, I liked to go sit with them and eat my Muskie burger and fries.

Mike S. often showed up as well, so I had all my best friends, including Clarissa, at a cafeteria table with me.

The cafeteria was usually deserted, so this was our time to do and say whatever we wanted.  I used to like to be alone when eating my Muskie burger–it was “me” time–but I discovered how much fun it was to sit with all my best friends as well.

Mike liked to play a game with us in which he would ask, “What goes behind the Green Glass Door?”  I sent him an e-mail in 1999 asking for more specifics about how the game was played (I think he’d give hints or ask questions), since I’d forgotten much of it.  He replied,

I wish I could just tell you what was behind the green glass door, but that is not allowed.  It is one of the rules of the game.  If you don’t know what is behind the green glass door I can’t tell you.  If I tell you what is behind the green glass door I would have to kill you.  You would know too much information.

The truth is that I don’t remember how the game worked.  I asked a friend how it worked and they got all upset with me.  They told me that if I don’t know what is behind the green glass door they could not tell me.  It is classified information.  I wish I could help you.  Sorry.

Whenever someone had to leave, the other members of the Group would say over and over, “Bye!  Bye! Don’t forget to write!”

One day, my friends wondered about their bad luck with men.  I had enough trouble finding dates; most of my friends had it even worse, not dating anyone for all or most of their time in college.

Tara said, “My man’s probably under a bus somewhere.”  This is funny because–well, you’ll find out later.

Starting in November, our floor in Krueger did Secret Santa.  I was Secret Santa for Carol.  One day, I gave her a key chain which InterVarsity was selling.  Each chain was made of discarded PC boards.  (A PC board is this green thing with computer chips on it.)  I also got one for myself.  I had no idea that Carol collected key chains.  Pearl told me my gift was a huge hit.

The Secret Santa for me was a girl named Jennifer (not my friend Jennifer).  When she gave me French perfume, I thought she was Catherine, who had gone to Europe with Glen over Thanksgiving Break.

My door open as usual, I told Clarissa who my Secret Pal must be; laughter came from another room.  Carol and a few others had overheard; they knew the true identity of my Secret Pal.

Catherine brought me some German or Swiss chocolate in a cute, child’s box with a line of cartoon figures in folk costume and panels so you could switch around who was wearing what costume.  She would go to Europe again for her honeymoon–Czechoslovakia, probably, since Glen’s family came from there.

Every Friday night at 11:00, Clarissa and I watched Mystery Science Theater 3000 on Comedy Central.  In those days, the robots watched mostly old science fiction movies, biker movies, Italian Hercules movies, strange movies about planets needing men and being run by Zsa Zsa Gabor–fun movies like that.

Catherine’s roommate, Carrie, had a best friend named Elaine.  Elaine’s mom used to be a nun, and I believe her dad used to be a priest.  Now, they loved each other so much they couldn’t keep their hands off each other.  I thought it was cute, but she, of course, considered it annoying.

Sometime that year, The Rocky Horror Picture Show came to network TV.  I had never seen it, but knew a little about it because two kids in high school English used to talk about it and sing the songs.

I accidentally missed half of it, so I didn’t know what in the world was going on, or why the heck they kept cutting away from the movie to show a theater full of people watching it.

It was so annoying and distracting to hear and see the audience, and it made no sense to show them there.  Like, for example, why would we want to see audience members dressing up like the characters in the drag-dance scene at the end of the movie, and dancing around to it?

I had never heard of the running “dialogue” used by audiences around the country, or the throwing of Scott toilet paper at the line “Great Scott,” or people dressing up like the characters, or any of that stuff.

All I knew was that it was a movie with a cult following, and that sophomore year I had heard an advertisement for it being played at midnight in some theater.

I hated the disgusting tablecloth scene, but I liked the rest of the movie, as much of it as I could understand.

I finally saw the whole thing in 1995, when hubby Cugan showed it to me–and recited the audience dialogue, line by line, having gone to the showings often enough to know it by heart.

Taped to his little TV, he even had a certificate of “non-virginity” (as in, from his first time going to a showing).

Smoking was now banned in many places, even in Jubilee, to Counselor Dude’s dismay.  He thought pipe smoking should be a professor’s right.  I think, in the end, teachers were allowed to smoke in their own offices with the door closed.

Seeing Phil in a Play

On one of the nightly performances from November 4 to 6, Pearl and I went to see the campus production of the play “The Lucky Spot” by Beth Henley.  It was hilarious, and Phil O’Hara impressed Pearl and me with his talents playing the main character.

The language was rich, however.  Since this was Family Night at Roanoke, and many parents didn’t know about the language, there were a lot of kids in the audience.

The parents were understandably upset, and wrote letters to the editor of the school paper.  A guy named Chad, who worked for the paper, countered that kids could not be sheltered forever.

He seemed sensitive about criticism of college plays.  But the parents had a right to be warned, to decide how to raise their own kids.

But back to the play itself.  Phil’s character and his love interest “Sue Jack” were very volatile.  In one scene, they fought and hit and then collapsed unconscious on the floor of the Lucky Spot tavern.  The song “Love Hurts” began to play.

Afterwards, Pearl and I went to see Phil.  The actors and actresses would always come out into the lobby so the audience members could congratulate them, so we found him there.  We both told him how well he did.

To my dismay, he seemed to look and smile at Pearl the most.  He later said he did this because Pearl did most of the talking, but I saw affection in his eyes when he looked at her.  Still, he looked at me the same way.

On November 12, InterVarsity members and anyone else who wanted to come went to the Phi-Delt suite to watch a “mystery” movie.  To my shock, this turned out to be Years of the Beast!

I did not know a movie had been made from this book, a copy of which my dad owned.  I read it several years before.  The movie was much different from the book, however, and in some ways cheesy.

Long before Left Behind hit it big in evangelical circles, before The Omega Code hit the screen, there were books such as Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey and Years of the Beast by Leon Chambers; there were also movies such as A Thief in the Night and its sequels A Distant Thunder, Image of the Beast and The Prodigal Planet.

I already knew the Thief movies were cheesy.  I don’t know what I’d think of the book Years of the Beast if I read it now, since I’m now an amillennialist, but I loved it at the time.

Seance Makes Contact

A copy of a letter written November 13 to the couple who used to run the S– Nazarene Church:

Things here are changing for the better.  InterVarsity is a recognized group on campus now, and even though we’re a tiny group, we’re doing well and growing little by little.  The spiritual warfare here is getting more evident. …

A German class held a seance in Old Main, not only the main classroom building but the main building with ghost legends.  Of all the legends for the rest of the campus, the ones for Old Main were most likely to have some truth to them.

But now we know why the stories conflict on who the ghost is and what he does.  The German class contacted four ghosts on their Ouija board!  Now the question is what those ghosts really are.

One possibility was that the class made it all up without realizing it.  Another possibility was that they really were ghosts.  Another, far more disturbing, possibility was that they weren’t ghosts at all, but evil spirits playing with them.

They justified it as a class thing by saying they wanted to find a German ghost.  One was mean, but the others were “good.”

One was a German-speaking little girl, 143 years old now.  She was older than the college, and she froze to death, I believe on the site of Old Main.

One of them knew the teacher, Ruth, and spelled out her name when asked if they knew any of the living people there doing the seance.

…Peter’s dropped out of school because of money problems, but he might not need to come back if his computer business is a success.

I’ve also found a good church in S–.  It’s the Evangelical Free Church, which is so alive and big that they need two morning services to fit everybody in.  They even have a class for college-age singles.

The people are friendly and the pastor (or associate pastor or whoever he is) personally greets my friends and me when we come.

I asked for information about the denomination and listen closely to what the speakers and Sunday-School teachers say, and so far it’s compatible with the Nazarenes.

So I thought at the time….

Car Accident

I wrote this in my diary on November 12: “Odd news tonight.  Jennifer and [her] Mike saw the aftermath of an accident ‘worse than in the driver’s ed movies.’  There was a van and I think a car.  A state senator, Chuck Chvala, was in it.

Also there: Georgina’s ex-boyfriend and Jennifer’s brother, named Gary; and his new girlfriend, Clarissa’s friend Diana.

“Gary was helping pull people out.  The senator is very grateful, and wants to fund Roanoke or its band or something.  Jennifer and, I hear, Diana are very shook up.  Jennifer was crying.”

Chvala was put in a S– hospital.  It misted or rained that night too, so they were soaked.  Which didn’t help Jennifer any, with her mysterious illness that she’d had for at least a month.

So some Roanoke students were heroes.  InterVarsity knew about it right away because we were sitting in the Phi-Delt suite lounge, having just finished watching Years of the Beast, when Jennifer and Mike got back.

Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:



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A proud parenting moment today–proving that screaming and beating children is unnecessary

Our son copped an attitude during dinnertime.  We didn’t give in, just spoke in firm tones, laying down the law but without yelling, screaming, beating, spanking, hitting, or even the need to punish.  Not getting what he wanted, was enough.

Some people think you need to do all that physically/verbally violent stuff to get your kids to listen to you, but that’s wrong.  He cried, but he backed down.  His behavior after that was greatly improved.  Then an hour later–completely without prompting–he apologized.

I got a lump in my throat as I realized what just happened.  Two things to be proud of: 1) It does indeed work to use gentle but firm parenting, despite the naysayers.  And, especially, 2) After being a Dennis the Menace as a toddler, that boy is turning out to be a good kid at 9.  🙂

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Another Example of Abuser Playing the Victim: Man Blows Up at Judge for Sentence

[Update 11/28/14: The victim of Sease found this blog post and thanked me for it.]

[Update 4/30/15: His previous case has been dismissed.  It is now being retried, case file here.]

[Update 8/21/15: He has gone through a jury trial today, and was found guilty of two counts of Strangulation/Suffocation, and Battery.  He was found not guilty of 2nd Degree Sexual Assault/Use of Force, and two counts of Kidnapping.] 

[Update 10/21/15: His re-sentencing is complete: 15.5 years in prison.  See here.]

From the article:

A 36-year-old Fond du Lac man convicted in the 2011 assault of a Menasha woman was sentenced Wednesday morning to 23 years in prison and 8 years of extended supervision.

Daniel Sease was also sentenced to 30 additional days in prison for shouting obscenities at Fond du Lac County Circuit Court Judge Robert Wirtz and the victim after Wirtz handed down the sentence.

“Twenty-three years!” Sease shouted at Wirtz. “(expletive deleted)! You gave me 23 years? (expletive deleted) you (expletive deleted)!”

Sease also shouted at the victim, who attended the hearing. “You see what you did?”

How about blaming yourself for doing the behavior that got you arrested/sentenced?  How is that the fault of the victim?

See how delusional abusers can be?  This outburst proves to us how truthful the following was:

The outburst by Sease occurred just minutes after Sease explained to Wirtz he had “found God” and was a “changed man” due to his time in jail. He said he is now “on the right path.”

Sease also said he hoped for a minimal sentence so he could be around for his six children, who are “suffering” because they do not have a positive male role model in their lives.

“I am in constant fear of passing the torch of abandonment down to my kids,” Sease said before he sat down.

Yeah, I see what that was: an attempt for sympathy from the court, not his true heart.  Go by behavior when it contradicts the words.

Here’s what he did:

According to the criminal complaint, Sease punched a Menasha woman multiple times while driving from her home to Fond du Lac on the night of Oct. 29, 2011.

He continued to punch and choke the woman at his home on Second Street and told her she was going to die, the complaint stated.

Sease took her to another Fond du Lac home before driving to a local motel, where he physically and sexually assaulted the woman, according to the complaint.

A manager at the motel came to the room after the assaults, but did not call police, according to the complaint. The woman went to St. Agnes Hospital on Oct. 31, 2011, and hospital staff called police.

Wirtz called the attack one of the most “savage” assaults he has seen. The Menasha woman was present at the hearing, along with her family and friends. The woman, her mother, father, sister and best friend spoke at the sentencing.

Sease’s mother also spoke at the hearing. She told the court the Menasha woman should have driven to the police station during the time Sease was in the car allegedly brutually assaulting her.

Wait–Say what?  His mom is blaming the victim, too??!!

The woman said she feels “very good” about the sentence handed down by Wirtz.

“This was a savage, savage beating,” Wirtz said. “I’ve seen a lot of bad pictures. I’ve seen a lot of cases of people who’ve been beat up, strangled. But these pictures, along with the description of what happened, were monster-like. It was one of the more savage acts of behavior that I’ve seen.”

Fond du Lac man blows up at judge during sentencing for “savage” assault


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