While it is no secret that I am a survivor of clergy abuse, it is the journey of integration, transformation and application that is most telling about my accomplishments and the life that I celebrate.
Growing up in Northeast Los Angeles meant living in a rough neighborhood and contending with all manners of violence and abuse, but despite my neighborhood – or perhaps because of it, I am at heart a survivor who has become a thriver.
Attending Loyola High School led to college, and in 1981 earned a degree in history from Stanford. After three years preparing for ordination at St. John’s Theologate, I took what I thought would be a one year leave of absence before returning to seminary studies. I landed at St. Bernard’s High School teaching Social Studies and Ethics instead.
A job with the Los Angeles Unified School District as an ESL / Bilingual Social Studies teacher came next as I completed my teaching credential at Mount St. Mary’s College and then my Master’s degree in education with an administrative services credential from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1988.
Now married, my wife and I moved to San Diego County, where I continued to teach in middle school and then went on to work as an administrator in the Sweetwater Union High School District, later moving to the Vista Unified School District. During that time I began my doctoral studies at UCLA, which I completed in 1998 at the University of San Diego in Educational Leadership, while teaching at National University in the Teacher Education Department.
I continued to build upon my multilingual, multicultural and spiritual background in the Department of Learning and Teaching at the University of San Diego, where I prepared outstanding teachers for service in the complex international, global, San Diego-Tijuana region.
As a professor, I participated in a week long summer program for Catholic University faculty. At this time, the Boston scandal was in the news daily. My flashbacks began around that time. More abuse memories were triggered by seeing my sons sleeping shirtless; they were about the age I was when I was abused.
My personal involvement with healing, education, and writing related to abuse in schools, churches and values-driven organization grew from my work to integrate my personal, professional, and spiritual experiences and expertise. My personal journey has made me the subject of numerous radio and newspaper interviews, magazine articles, and even one of the subjects in the book Crosses: Portraits of Clergy Abuse, by Carmine Galasso.
While I list some of my academic publications that illustrate the specialized research skills I bring related to understanding individual and organizational change, one article explicitly deals particularly with a discussion of abuse as it relates to understanding students in a K-12 setting. However, a new workbook I have written probably speaks most directly to the integration of my various experiences, research abilities, and values: Healing the Sexually Abused Heart: A Workbook for Survivors, Thrivers, and Supporters. From this book, this course has emerged.
I am currently an active member and leader at Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, California, which has become known nationally for its active work in building and a safe church environment. As a Commissioned Minister related to Healing and Healthy Church Environments, I lead trainings for parents, volunteers and employees to promote healing and help end abuse. Husband, father, educator, and survivor, I am privileged to help others through the healing process while simultaneously working to ensure the safety of children in all environments.