About Me

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Douglas, Alaska, United States
I have lived in Alaska since 1978, having come to Juneau as a Jesuit Volunteer. I fell in love with Alaska and now live on Douglas Island with my husband and two dogs.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

I Don't Know What To Think

Normally, I would be posting the beautiful pictures I took of the Douglas Fourth of July Parade, or the photos I took of the lovely flowers around the Cathedral, or the pictures I took of the Gospel Choir concert last night.

But I am distracted right now.

Today is the feast of Maria Goretti.  She was a little eleven year old girl in Italy who died in 1902.  The way she died was hideous.  The son of her father's business partner  attempted to rape her and threatened her with death if she disclosed his attack.  Finally, one day, he found her alone in the house and armed with a dagger, bound her, gagged her and attempted to rape her.  She resisted and he stabbed her.  She was rushed to the hospital, and despite the efforts of the doctors, she died of her wounds.

Before she died, she forgave her murderer, who was imprisoned.  He was unrepentant and defiant, but over the years, some say through the intercession of his victim in Heaven, repented of his sin.

There are many sugar coated versions of this story.  Some accounts tell of her "purity" and her concern for her attacker's soul if he committed the sin of rape.  Some accounts, such as the one I read this morning, assure us that even if she had "consented" to the rape, her "purity" would have remained intact.  I couldn't believe what I was reading.  It made me want to vomit.

I am also a victim of child sexual assault.  I was molested as an eleven year old by a trusted friend of our family.  At no point was I given an opportunity to consent or not.  There is no such thing as "consent" when a child is sexually molested.  I carried this secret with me until I was 29 years old.  I thought it was my fault.  I thought I had done something wrong, because I neither resisted nor warned my molester of the danger to his immortal soul.

In school, Maria Goretti was presented to us as an example.  The lesson we were supposed to learn was that it was better to resist and be killed than to lose our purity.

I taught my children that if anyone threatened them with molestation, to resist - to fight - to yell - to scream, and then to find a trusted adult to tell.  I taught my children that this "secret" is never a good secret.  It was too late for me. But I could instruct my children to protect themselves as best they could.

Children who are sexually assaulted are never in any danger of losing their "purity".  Child molesters will go to any lengths to find and victimize children.

Tell your children to fight.  Tell your children to resist.  Tell your children that it is never their fault.
St. Maria Goretti, pray for us.


  1. Paula, I am so glad you have shared this story and your own sad story too.
    My sister was sexually abused as a child also and is still suffering in her 40's and in counseling to this day. She also felt she couldn't tell all but also her brain blanked things out and it had to be brought out through the counseling.
    Your advice in this post is so wise and important, thank you for bringing this up.

    Much love to you. xxoo

    1. Thanks Sherri. I will keep your sister in my prayers for complete healing.

  2. Thank you for being so open. You make an excellent point about purity and victim's strengths. It's so sad that there are people who are victimized over and over by feelings of guilt and responsibility. And it is a strong soul (of any age) to forgive someone who is unrepentant.

    1. Thanks Clare. We miss your family at the Cathedral!

  3. I counselled many adults who had been sexually abused as children and carried the 'secret' for years! One lady was 80 when she eventually 'confessed' (her word) These people had all been affected so badly that their lives were only a shadow of what they could have been. I told them over and over it was NOT their fault....a child should be able to live safely and with trust in those who look after it. It really makes me fizz when I hear pious people try to pass off the distortion of life experienced by those who have been abused....boys as well as girls! How brave to share your story...you must have a lot of inner strength! Take care of yourself for you are precious!! Joan

  4. Paula, I admire your courage in writing this. It's hard to talk/write about the things in life that are painful and difficult. Sending you hugs across the miles.

  5. Love to you and thank you for your candor.


  6. Oh Paula, I am so sorry for your abuse. Your courage in posting about this is an inspiration. Thank you!

  7. Inspirational courage here. Glad to meet you in Douglas.

  8. Paula- thank you for your courage and perseverance. Your sharing will help many


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