06-24-2018  11:26 pm      •     
The Skanner Report
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NEWS BRIEFS

AG Rosenblum Seeks Info from Oregonians

Oregon Attorney General seeks information on children separated from families at border ...

Community Forum: How Does Law Enforcement Interact With Vulnerable Populations?

Forum will focus on public safety and examine mental health and addiction issues ...

King County Council Recognizes Juneteenth

The Metropolitan King County Council recognizes a true 'freedom day' in the United States ...

Unite Oregon Hosts ‘Mourn Pray Love, and Take Action’ June 20

Community is invited to gather at Terry Schrunk Plaza at 6 p.m. on World Refugee Day ...

MRG Foundation Announces Spring 2018 Grantees

Recipients include Oregon DACA Coalition, Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe, Komemma Cultural Protection Association ...

Teen uses sign language to help blind and deaf man on flight

BOSTON (AP) — A teenager is being credited with coming to the aid of a blind and deaf man during a flight from Boston to Portland, Oregon.Clara Daly, of Calabasas, California, says she and her mother were traveling last week when the flight attendants asked if anyone knew American Sign...

18-year-old driver dies after colliding with log truck

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon State Police say an 18-year-old girl has died after colliding with a log truck on Highway 101 near Beaver.Law enforcement officials say Mikayla Michelle Howard was driving a 2003 Saab when it crossed into the other lane for an unknown reason on Friday morning....

New Mexico residents to testify on atomic bomb fallout

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Residents of a New Mexico Hispanic village near the site of the world's first atomic bomb test say they were long ignored about the lingering health effects and were expected to share their stories with Congress.The Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium plans to...

Small plane hits car after missing runway near Snohomish

SNOHOMISH, Wash. (AP) — A small plane hit a car after overshooting the runway at an airfield near Snohomish.The Seattle Times reports that three people, including a child, were in a single-engine plane when it was approaching the Harvey Air Field on Saturday.Lt. Rick Hawkins of the Snohomish...

OPINION

How Washington’s 'School Achievement Index' Became School Spending Index

New assessment categorizes schools not by quality of education, but level of funding officials believe they should receive ...

Black Mamas Are Dying. We Can Stop It.

Congresswoman Robin Kelly plans to improve access to culturally-competent care with the MOMMA Act ...

Hey, Elected Officials: No More Chicken Dinners...We Need Policy

Jeffrey Boney says many elected officials who visit the Black community only during the election season get a pass for doing nothing ...

Juneteenth: Freedom's Promise Still Denied

Juneteenth is a celebration of the de facto end of slavery, but the proliferation of incarceration keeps liberation unfulfilled ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

The Latest: Meek Mill debuts 'Stay Woke' song at BET Awards

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Latest on the 2018 BET Awards, which are being presented Sunday at the Microsoft Theater (all times local):7:45 p.m.Rapper Meek Mill has performed a new song, "Stay Woke," on the BET Awards with a striking performance that touched on police violence against black youth...

Anita Baker, H.E.R., Meek Mill shine at BET Awards

The 2018 BET Awards barely handed out any trophies with big stars like Cardi B, Drake and Kendrick Lamar absent, but the show included superior performances by rising singer H.E.R, rapper Meek Mill and gospel artist Yolanda Adams, who paid tribute to Anita Baker and nearly brought her to...

Complete list of winners at Sunday night's 2018 BET Awards

The complete list of winners of the 2018 BET Awards, presented Sunday at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles:— Video of the year: Drake— Best male R&B/pop artist: Bruno Mars— Best female R&B/pop Artist: Beyonce— Best male hip hop artist: Kendrick Lamar—...

ENTERTAINMENT

The Latest: Prosecutors cancel Stormy Daniels meeting

The Latest on the investigation into the business interests of Trump's longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen (all times local):8:30 p.m.Stormy Daniels' lawyer says the porn actress' meeting with federal prosecutors in New York who are investigating President Donald Trump's longtime lawyer has...

Complete list of winners at Sunday night's 2018 BET Awards

The complete list of winners of the 2018 BET Awards, presented Sunday at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles:— Video of the year: Drake— Best male R&B/pop artist: Bruno Mars— Best female R&B/pop Artist: Beyonce— Best male hip hop artist: Kendrick Lamar—...

US prosecutors cancel Stormy Daniels meeting in Cohen probe

Porn actress Stormy Daniels was scheduled to meet with federal prosecutors in New York on Monday as part of their investigation into President Donald Trump's longtime personal attorney, but the meeting was abruptly cancelled late Sunday after it was reported by news organizations, her attorney...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

Anita Baker, H.E.R., Meek Mill shine at BET Awards

The 2018 BET Awards barely handed out any trophies with big stars like Cardi B, Drake and Kendrick Lamar absent,...

US prosecutors cancel Stormy Daniels meeting in Cohen probe

Porn actress Stormy Daniels was scheduled to meet with federal prosecutors in New York on Monday as part of their...

Thousands flee as flames race across dry rural California

CLEARLAKE OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Wind-driven wildfires destroyed buildings and threatened hundreds of others...

Nigeria: 'Deeply unfortunate killings' as 86 reported dead

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria's presidency late Sunday announced a "deeply unfortunate killings across a...

Saudi women in driver's seat as longstanding ban is lifted

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi women steered their way through busy city streets on Sunday, driving to...

Australia and Vanuatu to negotiate security treaty

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia said on Monday it would negotiate a security treaty with Vanuatu,...

Houston, Texas teen Jada with #IAmJada sign
By Jazelle Hunt, NNPA Washington Correspondent

Houston teen Jada, victimized in 2014 by a gang rape after being drugged then publicly humiliated when her attackers tweeted images of her unconcious body after the assault, fought back with her own Twitter campaign, #IAmJada. Photo from Twitter

THIRD IN A SERIES

 WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Simone Oliver had always been called, as they say in the religious community. She was active in the Baptist church throughout her youth, playing piano for the youth choir and even ghostwriting sermons for several pastors as a teen. She loved scripture, loved preaching, and loved God. For her, church was heaven on earth.

But it was also hell. At 15 years old, Oliver’s then-pastor called her into his church office, grabbed her, put his tongue in her mouth, and fondled her until she broke away. It was the third time in her life she had been sexually assaulted, already a rape survivor at 12 years old at the hands of her sister’s first husband, and again at 13 by a family friend staying in her home.

Still, her faith did not waver. In fact, it grew stronger as Oliver transitioned from being a public school teacher to a minister.

In the mid-2000s, she took on an associate pastor’s role at a non-denominational church in New Jersey. The founding pastor tried to court her for years until she finally acquiesced and the two began a secret relationship. However, a year later, he decided to marry someone else. Still, the affair continued.

“I couldn’t get out. It was almost like sinking into an abyss,” she remembered. “I had gone to someone in the church to let them know this was going on. And they pretty much turned on me.”

And no group leans on the church more than Blacks.

“While the U.S. is generally considered a highly religious nation, African-Americans are markedly more religious on a variety of measures than the U.S. population as a whole, including level of affiliation with religion, attendance at religious services, frequency of prayer and religion’s importance in life,” according to a report titled, “A Religious Portrait of African-Americans” by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
Black Women are the Most Religious

And among the most religiously committed, no segment is more committed than African-American women. The report found that 84 percent of Black women say religion is very important to them and 59 percent say they attend religious services at least once a week.

As committed as she was, Oliver eventually left that church, broke off the affair with the pastor, began dating the man who would become her husband, and was accepted into Princeton Theological Seminary. As her life got better, her former co-pastor’s behavior grew worse. He sent threats to her regularly, and began stalking her and her then-fiancé.

She recalled, “He said to me – not of himself – but he said, ‘A man can commit murder, do his time, put on a suit, and still be a man. But when a woman’s reputation is ruined, she is ruined.’ Those were his threats to me.”

In 2011, five days before her wedding, the pastor’s behavior moved beyond idle threats.

“It’s a miracle story I’m here and alive, because this man stabbed me 30 times. I was paralyzed from the waist down,” Oliver recounted. Years later, she still remembers his final threat, prior to the day of the attack: “‘When I’m finished with you, you will not get married, you will not have a ministry, and Princeton will never have you.’ That was the last thing he said to me.”

Oliver was stabbed mostly in her abdomen and back, damaging her spinal cord and liver. Her former co-pastor was arrested walking down the street covered in her blood, still holding his hunting knife.

Sharon Ellis Davis, a former criminalist in the Chicago Police Department and retired pastor, knows a bit about crime from more than one perspective.

She said, “I was married to a police officer, and there was a domestic abuse issue and sexual abuse. It was dismissed all the time. It was a matter of, ‘You all stop,’ or ‘Don’t be so bad,’ or ‘It’ll be okay.’ But never ‘I hear you, I understand you, I believe you.’ Even if [the department] knew the abuser was guilty, there was that code where you don’t rat on other police officers.”

So Davis channeled her frustration into something useful. She successfully lobbied for an internal domestic violence advocate, a civilian who would support and speak for domestic violence victims in police officers’ homes and became a full-time police chaplain.

But in Davis’ own church experience – first in the Pentecostal church as a child, then in the United Church of Christ as an adult – she saw parallels to the way she was treated by the police department.

“The church was nice to me, but they didn’t know what to do with me,” she said. “I need more than prayer, I need more than a hug. In fact, sometimes [survivors] don’t even want to be touched. I need more than a deliverance service, I need more than a Band-Aid on what forgiveness might look like.

“The two very important institutions that I was involved with – the church and the criminal justice system – both in the time that I needed them, failed me. Now they didn’t know they did, because they were not conscious of it.”

Davis feels that lack of consciousness grew from the problematic messages about women coming from the pulpit. For example she points out the Biblical stories that are emphasized, such as the false rape accusation of Joseph, and the ones that are largely ignored, such as the actual rapes of Dinah and Tamar as well as David’s coercion of Bathsheba.

To her, they all sent the message that the burden of sexual trauma is not welcome in the sanctuary.

“The church has not become the safe place it needs to be that would give some women in church permission to disclose,” Davis said. “The consequences of not having church as a safe place…you can kill the souls of the people that are there. People can lose their faith.”

Sex and sexuality remain taboo in many faith communities.

“How is it that the church is going to really be advocates for victims of rape in the Black church when even having normal conversations of sexuality can’t happen? How can we talk about patho-sexuality if we haven’t talked about normal sexuality?” she asked. “We’re still stuck in many ways on the thou-shalt-nots. We spend more time judging the behavior than helping someone understand this was not their fault.”

Even worse than a lack of knowledge among leadership is that perpetrators often exist within the church, their violence and damage unchecked and even covered up.

Oliver said, “I had a woman call me – I thought she was calling to check on me and see how I was – but she called to tell me her own story, about a pastor. Someone [else] told me a story. She was invited out to another church to preach, and was raped by the pastor who had invited her. When the third person, and fourth person, and the fifth time you hear these stories…. I’m like okay. Something is going on here.”

After more than three months of physical rehab, Oliver overcame her paralysis and learned to walk again. She testified in court against her attacker, who was sentenced to 21 years in prison.

For all their silences and inadequacies, many Black faith centers are adept at serving their communities and fostering communal solutions and cooperation. Both Davis and Oliver assert that Black faith centers have also made great strides toward addressing domestic violence, with permanent ministries and pastor trainings becoming more common.

“We’re better in the Black church at caring for people,” Davis explained. “But we’re not as good at having a model of pastoral care for people who have been sexually abused. We’re not having clergy exposed to the education that they need to understand these dynamics.”

Some outside the faith community recognize this as well, including Sherelle Hessell-Gordon, executive director of the D.C. Rape Crisis Center.

“The Word says faith without works is dead,” she says. “There has to be fruit, there has to be action, there has to be community…there has to be active justice,” she said. “The rhetoric of ‘It’ll get better by and by’ – nah. That’s just spirituals to move our souls. When you leave that room, you’re still carrying that cross.”

Oliver, now a full-time seminary student, said, “I’m a rape survivor, but I’m also a gender-based violence survivor, and it took the violence for me to really reckon with the rape,” she acknowledged. “In telling my story…I started to realize how many horror stories are in church.”

NEXT WEEK: Breaking the silence.
(The project was made possible by a grant from the National Health Journalism Fellowship, a program of the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.)

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