Published on May 12, 2007 by Salem News
Abuse Under the Watch of Oregon's Justice System
by Tim King
A victim's first scream is for help; a victim's second scream is for justice." - Coral Anika Theil
(SALEM, Ore.) - Just when you thought you knew what was going on in your community, here comes a story that just may shatter the security of your American Dream. This is a story about abuse, survival, false religion and dubious court systems in a state that may be advanced on some levels, but sometimes proves to be a miserable failure in terms of equity and fairness and conventional thinking.
It is the saga of an Oregon woman whose attempt to seek justice for marital rape and physical abuse would not only result in no prosecution, but lead to threats that she would be charged with crimes if her allegations continued.
For me, it is an opportunity to bring to the surface one of the most important subjects I have ever visited in my career; that is domestic violence. I have always held the lowest opinion of men who abuse women, especially those who parade as impeccable members of their communities.
I believe this even more after covering the war in Afghanistan last winter. This is the epitome of a culture that uses religion as an excuse to mistreat females. Life overall is harder for women in Afghanistan in every respect, and their ability to rise up and defend themselves or find answers is greatly diminished by the extensive religion-based abuse.
And the same problem exists in Oregon.
The story of Coral Anika Theill is possibly one of the most flagrant, outrageous examples of small town injustice in America. In her book, she describes herself as a woman who suffered unmentionable abuse at the hands of her churchgoing husband. She is still living in fear to this day, spending the balance of her life in a secret, undisclosed location.
Her ordeal came to light in 1995 when Coral filed for a restraining order against her husband, who she says raped her repeatedly. A hearing for charges of Marital rape and a restraining order hearing was held in January 1996.
The restraining order was overturned by a visiting judge. Coral then lost her children in a 3 day temporary custody hearing in March 1996.
A final divorce hearing was held in October 1996. At that point her money was gone, and she was fighting attorneys with questionable ethics that were paid for with deep pockets. The divorce was final in March 1997. Coral officially lost all of her children to the man she says raped her and abused her.
She filed marital rape charges again in March 1999 both in Polk County and Wasco Counties in Oregon. Charges were dropped by both counties.
She said she was ridiculed about a nervous/mental breakdown she suffered as a result of the abuse. She was told in both counties that prosecutors did not believe a jury would convict a husband of rape. Coral says one D.A. didn't even want to waste the time having my case investigated.
She has written letters to various state officials but says they generally bring little response. Those individuals include District Attorney John Fisher, former Governor Kitzhaber and the office of Attorney General Hardy Meyers.
Just last month, Attorney General Hardy Meyer's office told Coral that any complaint about how things were handled would have to go through the Oregon State Bar, that no one could do anything.
She says she has gone that route before, with the Oregon State Bar, to no avail.
Dark crimes in a small town
It all happened in the town of Independence, Oregon and one of the main people who steered the course of Coral's story is the Polk County District Attorney, John Fisher.
She says that when she initially filed the marital rape charges, she still believed the system was real.
When I first met Coral, I was amazed to discover a published review of her book by the District Attorney of Benton County, Oregon, John Haroldson, who wrote this, "BONSHEA also illustrates the degree to which the legal system can also be used as a vehicle to further perpetuate abuse even after the victim has chosen to take a stand against the abuse." John Haroldson's office is in Corvallis, Oregon, an historic community with a major university and a completely different atmosphere. It also borders Polk County... John Fisher country.
Coral was raised in the same conservative, American traditional sense that has led countless women into unfortunate circumstances. Many of them have suffered similar tragic events throughout their married lives. Marital rape is a seldom discussed subject, but communities that over-program people, particularly women, with the importance of subservient respect can lead them down very long, dark paths. I always think of the Oregon serial killer Jerry Brudos who at least one time, simply "ordered" a young woman to get into his car. She did, and after a horrific kidnapping, torture, and rape she was murdered.
But she was a "good girl" who did what she was told.
I've got news for women, there is no such thing. Any one raised in a household that puts a higher emphasis on mindless obedience than critical thinking, is in a dangerous place, no matter how many Normal Rockwell paintings decorate the walls.
Coral says she was "groomed" to accept abuse and violence from the time she was a young girl, as many life-long victims attest to. In her book, BONSHEA, she reveals how she had no other reference in life. As a young child she saw that abusers were embraced and protected. For Coral, there was no help, nowhere to go and no one to tell.
"I learned at an early age to accept and survive abuse. This was the role I was expected to play. Sadly, as an adult, I have discovered the rules of this game have not changed much. My abusers, still, are embraced and protected. I realize now that I am getting too old and worn out to 'play' this game any longer. Recently, I looked deep inside for the 'tough girl' to help me survive another episode of violence and abuse-but sadly, I could not find her. She was all used up. She was gone. Long-term abuse had left my senses blunted. I felt numb." After experiencing forty years of violence and abuse in her personal life, Coral went to Oregon's courts and asked for protection from her abusive husband.
Speaking out worked against her though, and her inability to endure an abusive marriage any longer was portrayed in a way that damaged her credibility, challenging her mental stability and ability to care for her own children.
"Nothing had prepared me for the horrors that I would experience in what we call Oregon's justice and legal system. On March 10th, 1996, I was forced by an order of the Court, and by my ex-husband, his attorney, his family and religious supporters, to do something that raged against my good conscience, my common sense and against all my motherly instincts."
After the temporary custody hearing, a Court Order signed by Judge Albin Norblad forcibly removed Coral's access to her nursing baby and young children.
"I obeyed the Court Order and gave my baby and children over to my ex-husband. I drove to the hospital, rented a breast-pump and later collapsed in shock. I could not understand what had happened or why. I have not yet recovered from the shock, perhaps I never will."
The rights of abuse victims have evolved in recent decades in most places. The state of Oregon has severe laws against a number of sex crimes. But by this example, in Polk County, enforcing the law by prosecuting marital rape cases is apparently not seen as a worthy pursuit.
Coral says the church is an instrument that her husband used against her. As another Mother's Day passes, she has no contact with her eight children. She says her husband, described by several people involved in her case as a dishonest, overbearing religious zealot, has programmed their children to be resentful toward her, continually casting her as something that she is not.
In Coral's view, her husband's actions are anything but Christian. According to Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D. who is an internationally recognized scholar, "A culture that requires harm to one's soul in order to follow the culture's proscriptions is a very sick culture indeed."
Coral says that was in fact the case for her. "By obeying the Orders of the Court, I betrayed my soul, my children and myself. I was forced to make a choice that no mother should ever be forced to make. The price for my own safety and freedom was an imposed, unnatural and unwanted separation from my eight children."
She says the injustice committed against her is not only the physical separation from her children, but the willful desecration of the mother-child relationship and bond, "A sacred spiritual and emotional entity."
Taking children from their mother is abuse in itself, she says, giving the advantage once again to the abuser.
"Forcibly taking a mother's children, and then controlling her emotionally by withholding contact must be publicly recognized as one of the greatest forms of "mis-use" of the American justice system and one of the greatest hidden vehicles for wide-spread socially approved physical and emotional abuse and control."
In the book "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited" Dr. Sam Vaknin talks about abusers who use their charm and connections to gain
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