When I was a kid, every year at Christmas time I prayed for a bike. I never got one. One year I prayed for ice skates. I never got those either although I did buy my best friend’s old ice skates. She had received new ones. But, my father always had the latest camera equipment and all the film to take thousands of photos (this was before digital cameras). I was a positive believer in prayer. I knew one day I’d get a new bike. I did, when I was 25. Not quite the same thing. My yearning to have a list of the chaplains of all the US prisons was kind of like wanting a bike or a pair of ice skates.
Day after day, week after week, month after month I prowled the Internet looking for lists of chaplains. Some days I thought I’d finally found the right source, another dead end. I had heard that 93% of women in prison who killed their mates had been battered by them and that 67% killed them to protect themselves and their children at the moment of murder. Most domestic violence cases have sexual abuse as their background. 38% of all women in prison were sexually abused as children. While I’m sure you’ve heard these all before, to me these statistics are mind boggling. As a former domestic violence victim who, but for the grace of God, would be in prison myself, I feel compelled to help people in prison who have been sexually abused, especially as children and especially women.
Try to imagine…….you’re married to a man who has become verbally, mentally, physically and sexually abuse. He rapes you several times a day always saying you’re his wife, why should he have to rape you. Try to imagine the horror of being beat up, of being mentally and emotionally torn apart if you didn’t comply with his every wish: what to wear, who to speak with on the phone, what jokes to laugh at, whether you’re allowed out in the front yard on a weekend. Try to imagine living with this year after year, trying so hard to escape but being addicted to a person and trying to get free is like coming down off heroin. This happened to me. I know what these women have gone through. I too tried to free myself from the horror coming down on me by grabbing a large knife from a kitchen drawer and as my husband came near told him if he took one more step I’d kill him. I was out of my mind with fear, beat down by years of abuse. He left. Thank God, or I would be in the California Institute for Women, an inmate for life.
Last week, finally, some kind soul emailed me an Excel spread sheet of the names, addresses etc. of all chaplains in the US women’s prisons. I was stunned. I have received my bike. I have received my ice skates. So now, I’ve been emailing every one of them, begging them to start a Lamplighter chapter in their prison. We already have one, at the California Institute for Women in Chino, CA. I’ve heard that the parole board gives special privileges to women who attend a Lamplighter meeting. And they are working the REPAIR program. My dream, my goal is to have Lamplighter chapters in all the women’s prisons. Next I’m going to contact all the women’s shelters. Most of them were sexually abused as children.
So you see. If you want something, try to imagine…………