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Voices From Prison 9 .pdf

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I was in prison and you visited me. Matthew 25:36

Spring 2011, Vol. 4, No.2
What’s love got to do with it? Tina Turner

Black-eyed Girl
by Tamar

Can prison ministry offer a window toward understanding in the crisis over sexual abuse
in the Catholic Church? The Catholic priesthood? Sexual abuse and sexual violence are
related. One person’s story is offered here, a “woman’s voice from prison.” We hope to put
a face on the depth of this problem of victimizing in our families, our Church, and our
world. “Tamar’s” story, told in an interview with her chaplain while she was waiting to
receive a sentence for murder, follows. Please read it through with the eyes of Christ, and
hold her and the others mentioned here in prayer. To go through these agonies with
someone is a way to come out into the breath of understanding, life and hope on the other
side. Of course, this may just be Tamar’s side of the story…please listen anyway.

My mother gave birth to me when she was fifteen years old. Now she is forty. I am twentyfour. She abused me constantly, blaming me for her lost youth. She threw me down the stairs
and gave me my first black eye. I hid this abuse because my mother told me I would be worse
off; I wouldn’t get new sneakers if I went to foster care through DHS.
When I was twelve, my mother gave me to the man she claimed was my father. She told me
that she would wind up killing me if I stayed with her. I didn’t always do right. I stole from
her, etc. This man, who had a two year old daughter who slept in the room with me, raped me.
I can’t have children now because of the damage he did to me. I always thought that people
love you by abusing you.
I became a dancer at a strip club, but I didn’t do the sexual things that some people do. I did
do drugs though, and sometimes had relationships with married men—adultery. I met a man
who took me in. He was sweet and loving during the day, but came home at night drugged. He
beat me at these times. All these years, I often tried to take my life. I began cutting my wrists at
nine years of age.
One day, despairing of ever being free of this man, I tried to hang myself in the hallway
outside our apartment. A neighbor’s cats sensed something was wrong and came to the door.
The neighbor came out and saw me hanging and cut me down.

That night the man came home and began striking me again. Suddenly I picked up a knife
and stabbed him. He died in my arms. I was traumatized. Never had I done anything like that
before. I am the type that wouldn’t harm anything, even a bug. I was arrested and charged
with murder. The man’s family has tried to have my charges reduced. I plan to read a letter of
apology in court in two days.
My mother, “Sharon,” has begun to see me in prison. She shows me a gentleness I don’t know
if I can trust. I always wanted only that my mother would love me, and now she is. I am so
afraid that if I get sent upstate for my sentence that she will stop. After a few months in jail, I
met a woman, another inmate with children, who is incredible to me. She loves me
unconditionally. I now realize that God loves me this way. All the time I was growing up, I felt
like God had forgotten me. (Tears came occasionally to her during all this testimony).
“Tamar” feels she can help other people from her experience. She wants to do so when she
gets released. As her chaplain, we prayed hand in hand at the end of the visit, she with head
bowed and her hands holding mine in silence for three or four minutes. I asked her if I
could hug her as we parted. She gave me a bright smile and I did so.
To me, Tamar is a representative of so many people, especially women, who are victims of
abuse in our society. It makes me wonder when and how people change from victims to
victimizers—and why our compassion vanishes when they do.
Fr. Paul Morrissey, OSA
Reflection Questions
1) What, if any, is the saving grace in this story?
2) What were your feelings when you read the words, “I always thought that people
love you by abusing you”?
3) What about the cats? Is there any hope that they represent?
4) Is Christ’s death on a cross an easy symbol for abuse victims to misunderstand?
5) Short of murder, how can Christians resist being victims? How might
understanding this help the Church to heal at this time in its history?
We distribute to 13 parishes, and this year to universities in the Greater Philadelphia area.
If you wish to distribute this in any way, please let s know.
Any donation would greatly help this mission.
P.O. Box 40815, Philadelphia, Pa 19107
Father Paul Morrissey O.S.A., George Munyan, co-editors
Join us any Wednesday evening (7:30 – 9 P.M.) at St. Rita of Cascia rectory at 1166
S. Broad Street (at Federal) Philadelphia, PA for fellowship and support.

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