Legislative Update

I’ve taken Faith Action Network’s Report and boiled down the items that are of particular consequence for the incarcerated:
 
• I don’t see anything on LFO’s. That bill (legal financial obligations) was stuck in budgeting. We will have to see the budget to know if it made it all the way through.
 
• Mental Health Funding (about $40M) – Washington’s mental health system got funding for more staff, particularly at our state’s largest mental health hospital, to help provide better care and reduce the boarding of mentally ill people.
 
• Housing and Homelessness (about $13M, particularly to address youth homelessness)
 
• Post-Secondary Education in Prisons – Sen. Mike Hewitt was ‘bound and determined’ to see that, even though his bill (SB 6260, concerning post-secondary education in prisons) was stalled in the Senate, a proviso (amendment) that captured the essence of his bill got into the final budget that was adopted Tuesday night.
 
Please send him a thank you message for this effort: mike.hewitt@leg.wa.gov.
 
This proviso will only be in effect for the remaining year of this biennium.
 
• HB 1553 – Walkinshaw: known as the Certificates of Restoration of Opportunity (CROP) bill, will establish a program that will reduce the chance of someone coming out of our prison system to recidivate.
 
• HB 1682 – Fey: known as the Homeless Student Stability Act, will begin a voucher system in our public schools to give homeless students and their households more stability, therefore allowing them a better chance to succeed in school.
 
• SB 5342 – Hasegawa: known as the Human Trafficking Definition bill, will expand how our state legally understands human trafficking in terms of enforcement. Particularly, this defines human trafficking taking place not only in the sex industry but also in the labor industry. The state attorney general’s office will be a key focus for the implementation of this.
 
Please send a thank you email to the prime sponsors for any one or more of these bills.

Child Sex Abuse

One More Time
By Sue Magrath

Child sexual abuse is a silent and insidious cancer that eats away at the lives of its victims. It is conducted in silence and perpetuated in silence. Victims are often admonished never to speak about what is happening to them, and these warnings are often accompanied by threats of violence against the victim, their families, or their pets if they ever dare to tell someone about the abuse. Unfortunately, this silence comes at a cost. It is said that what is unspoken becomes unspeakable. In other words, the enormity of what a victim has suffered and the impact of the abuse on their lives grows and thrives in silence and secrecy. When abuse is not spoken about, healing is not possible.

A pastor acquaintance of mine recently told me a touching story of healing that speaks to this issue of silence. Years ago, Claire was conducting a movie theology group in her congregation. During one gathering, a film that portrayed an abusive marital relationship was being viewed by the group. Gradually, Claire began to notice that the behavior of one of the young woman in attendance was becoming more and more agitated. Her discomfort was evident. During a break, the pastor drew the young woman, Debra, aside and asked her if she was okay. After much hesitation, Debra finally shared that she had been raped by her grandfather when she was a young girl. Claire listened and validated her discomfort with the movie, then invited her to come by the church office the next day to talk more about this traumatic event.

Debra did come to Claire’s office as she had been asked and told her story for the first of many times. She shared with Claire that she was the first person to hear her narrative of abuse. Debra had kept this secret for many years until the impact of a movie’s portrayal of abuse unleashed her own painful story. This began a ritual that went on for several years. Debra would stop by Claire’s office and ask her if she had time to hear the story again. Claire would always respond with, “One more time.” Ultimately, it took forty times before Debra had purged herself of the cancer of abuse and received the gift of listening that led to healing. She eventually got married and had children and was able to live a normal and happy life.

Unfortunately, there are many, many stories about child sexual abuse that do not have happy endings. Statistics report that somewhere between thirty and fifty percent of incarcerated women experienced sexual abuse as children. Sixty percent of men and women in drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities likewise report episodes of childhood sexual abuse. This is corroborated by the seventy to eighty percent of adult survivors who acknowledge excessive use of drugs and alcohol as a means to cope with the aftermath of their abuse. In addition, a full seventy-five percent of prostitutes were victims of child sexual abuse. I have to wonder what would have been different for these hundreds of thousands of survivors had they had someone like Claire to tell their story to, someone who would listen without judgment and be a compassionate and loving presence in their lives.

The fact that it took Debra forty times of breaking the silence before she was done strikes me as a vital part of her healing. The number forty figures prominently in biblical narratives. The Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years, and Jesus fasted and prayed in the wilderness for forty days and nights before beginning his earthly ministry. Certainly, the wilderness experience is an apt metaphor for the bleak and barren aftermath of child sexual abuse. It takes a lot of wandering to find your way after the trauma of abuse. It takes time. The experience may feel like fasting, where there is no sustenance or nourishment for body or soul. And the desert is a lonely place, often with no signposts to tell you where you are or where you’re headed. You can take a lot of wrong turns in the wilderness. And often, something that looks like it might be an oasis turns out to be a mirage. This makes it hard for survivors to trust anything that looks like hope. They might turn away from people who offer help, fearing that it will just be more of the same disappointment or abandonment they’ve suffered in the past. But Debra’s experience with Claire offers hope for something new, something that opens the floodgates of suppressed emotions that hold one back from healing and restoration. And in the sharing of the story, the breaking of the silence, healing can happen.

So, if you are a survivor of child sexual abuse, find someone to tell your story to. Tell it again and again, until you don’t need to tell it any more. Let their caring and nurturing spirit help you heal. And if you are someone whose vocation leads you to walk with those who have painful stories to tell, listen! Listen with compassion. Hold their story gently, offering no advice or platitudes, only your deep sorrow over their suffering and the assurance that they didn’t deserve what happened to them. Be patient, for it might indeed take forty times. And remember that sometimes, when you think you can’t listen any more, you’ll find, with the help of God, that you can do it one more time.

Sue Magrath is author of the recently released book, Healing the Ravaged Soul: Tending the Spiritual Wounds of Child Sexual Abuse. She is a native of Washington State and currently lives in Leavenworth. Her many years of working with survivors of child sexual abuse as a pastoral counselor and spiritual director led her to write this book, sharing a side of abuse that is rarely recognized or discussed. The book is available through Amazon or Cokesbury.

Photo attribution:

U.S. Fotografie, https://www.flickr.com/photos/usfotografie/8345962959/

Legislative Update

Bill No. Description Thoughts
SHB 2746 Concerning mental health and chemical dependency treatment for juvenile offenders Passed Human Services, Mental Health & Housing

Passed Ways & Means

To Rules Committee where they will decide whether to place this on the calendar for a full vote.

SB 6524 Addressing factors to be considered when sentencing youth in adult criminal court for crimes committed as minors Senate rules “X” files: meaning it will not be considered. This bill is dead.

 

SHB 2906 Strengthening opportunities for the rehabilitation and reintegration of juvenile offenders 

Note: This is nearly the same as SSB 6529. The main difference is it originates in the House.

Passed Human Services, Mental Health & Housing

Passed Ways & Means

To Rules Committee where they will decide whether to place this on the calendar for a full vote.

SSB 6529 Strengthening opportunities for the rehabilitation and reintegration of juvenile offenders 

Note: This is nearly the same as SHB 2906. The main difference is it originates in the Senate.

Passed Human Services, Mental Health & Housing

Passed House Committee on Early Learning & Human Services

Referred to Transportation. Passed Transportation.

To Rules Committee where they will decide whether to place this on the calendar for a full vote.

SB 6365 Establishing a lower age limit for discretionary decline hearings in juvenile court Appears to have never gotten out of committee.