Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Author Interview: Carolee Horning

Carolee Horning is an inspirational and now-fearless woman who broke decades of silence about how her Catholic priest seduced and sexually molested her when she was an immature teenager. When she was 40, she came forward to bring a claim against the Portland Archdiocese and tell the world about her experience.

The Journal of my Broken Life is Carolee's first-person account of her abuse, her lawsuit, and her path from victim to survivor. It is an honest, straight-from-the-heart, and ultimately uplifting story that deserves a wide audience.

Carolee recently answered questions for Rose City Reader:

How did you come to write The Journal of My Broken Life?

I was preparing for my deposition in my case against the Archdiocese of Portland and was struggling with memories, dates, and sequences of events. I had always kept a journal, and my therapist recommended writing and going through my past entries to help me center myself and anticipate questions and answers for my part of the deposition. Once I completed the deposition, I found myself still writing and journaling. My therapist commented that it could be very healing for not only myself but for others if I made it into a book. And so, I did!

Your memoir is an intensely personal account of being abused by your Catholic priest. Was it difficult to tell such an intimate story?

In some ways it was difficult, but in other ways it was freeing. It was healing. As the words hit the page, the burden of carrying all that pain for so long seemed to ease. I had been keeping secrets my entire life up to that point, so it felt liberating to share it all - the light and the dark, the painful and the intimate.

Who is your intended audience and what do you hope your readers will gain from your book?

My intended audience is fellow survivors of childhood sexual abuse, as well as parents and the general public. One out of three girls and one out of five boys will suffer from childhood sexual abuse. I’m hoping that my book will help shed light on this epidemic, enlighten people regarding prevention measures, and that fellow victims and survivors will learn and understand what happened to them was not their fault, and that they are not alone. Parents will be aware of the grooming techniques that predators use, and learn to NEVER leave their child alone with another adult, even if it is one they think they can trust.

You were one of the cast in the play Telling. Explain a little about that project and what it was like to be involved in it.

Telling is a play written by Margie Boule. Over several months time she interviewed seven survivors of childhood sexual abuse, me included. She then took our true accounts and wove them into a beautiful tapestry, along with personal images, songs, and other artistic pieces that resulted in the play, Telling, Adult Survivors Step Into The Light.

Being in this play changed my life. It inspired me to change my profession and I am now in graduate school to become a licensed therapist. The cast mates are more than my friends -- they are my brothers and sisters. The unconditional love I have received and given to them feels like what heaven must be like. We completely understand one another, love each other, comfort one another, and make each other stronger. And we have been able to reach out to other victims and survivors to inspire them and show them that they are not alone. Our play also helped to educate the audience on what the face of a survivor looks like, what a predator looks like, and how this epidemic persists. We shine light into the dark places of abuse! I can only hope that we are able to present Telling to more and more audiences because I think it’s a wonderful tool of love, encouragement, and education.

Can you recommend any other books about healing after child sexual abuse? Are any of them personal account like yours?

I was in Telling with Digene Farrar and she has written her personal account of sexual abuse entitled, Not My Secret To Keep.  She is a real survivor, and an inspiration!

What can friends and family of abuse victims do to support them?

I would not be as healed as I am today without the loving support of my family. They have been unconditional when it has come to my journey, letting me heal the way I needed to heal. I’m sure parts of my book were hurtful for them, but they did nothing but encourage me. They are proud of me. When I first told my family, they were accepting. We’ve always been close, but I had put up walls. Now, all that made sense to them. I would say the most important thing you can do for your loved one when they tell you they’ve been abused is to listen to them with an open mind and an open heart, look deep inside yourself and you will know you are hearing the truth, love them unconditionally, and do whatever it is THEY need to heal. It’s not about you, at that point. It’s about the victim. It’s not about pride or shame or guilt. It’s just about healing.

What’s next? What are you working on now?

As I mentioned earlier, I changed my entire world around and am now in the Mental Health Counseling Graduate Program at Northwest Christian University in Eugene, Oregon. When performing in Telling, I learned how much good therapists are needed. Unfortunately, there are a lot of “technicians,” out there, and they are not necessarily “healers.” I want to be a healer, like my therapist was for me. I want to work with other adults that suffered abuse as a child. I want to give purpose and meaning to my own story by helping someone else along their healing journey.




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