Update on My #MeToo Post (or how I am coping)

Back in 2018, after years of suppressing and not wanting to acknowledge what occurred, I finally decided to write what happened to me. Now, it may come as a shock, but not everything that occurred has been told. Some of it I probably won’t tell for a while (because legalities and all that), but some of it I can elaborate on.

When I had a neighbor/babysitter parade me around naked, telling her son that he would someday marry me, what I did not mention is that his sister, who was a teenager at that time, would then take me to her bedroom, molest and sexually assault me. Now, remember, I was 8 and she was a teenager. So, it is no wonder that I often still have issues regarding my sexual identity. Because, on the one hand, I do find myself attracted to women, I also wonder if it stems from what occurred then. Now, I sometimes will state that I am bisexual, and sometimes I don’t because, quite frankly, I don’t know. I don’t know if I will ever truly know. It should come as no surprise to anyone that anything of a sexual nature is something I struggle with and will probably always struggle with. Now, currently, I have been dating a wonderful man for over a year and while he doesn’t know of everything that has gone on in my past, he does now that I have been hurt. So he’s never pushed me and he’s let me just be comfortable with just being together (often, we fall asleep watching a film but then, we are both 40 and up). And you know what? That’s also perfectly fine. Sometimes it’s nice to cuddle, talk, and just be able to be comfortable with another person because that certainly feels more intimate than anything else. Now, the babysitter in question is dead. I have not shed one tear for her death and expect that I never will. Her daughter is still alive, but I don’t think she lives in the state and I hope I never see her again. Occasionally her brother, because he is still around, will send me friend requests on Facebook. I just delete and move on. And the reason I am so willing to move on from this part of my past, is because it’s the one I have worked through the most and I truly can state that it no longer bothers me. But if I ever met the son in person? I’d probably slap him.

As to the academic advisor, Helene Siebrits is still teaching. She is currently at Ohio State and she is the main reason that when I was applying to PhD programs, I just stopped. I found out when I was applying to schools I was interested in and I just couldn’t finish my application anymore. She has connections to many schools from people she has worked with through academia or professionally, plus students she has treated well. It would be impossible for me to be involved in any PhD program without coming into contact with her at some point. I had excellent letters of recommendation and the department at Ohio State was keen to meet me. But I couldn’t. And I don’t know if I will ever go on for a PhD. Because she was scarring. She inflicted injuries that are soul crushing. On a weekly basis, she would have me in her office, in Urbana-Champaign, and politely tell me that my existence was a mistake. People like me had no right to exist. People with depression had no place in Theatre or Academia. These were the weekly mantras I was forced to endure as Helene would drum into my head how utterly pointless my continuing existence was. Then the Costume Shop manager and the other Costume Professor, would do the same thing to me every other week, couched in terms of gentility (the other professor) and flat out disgust (the manager). It was a constant stream of being pointed out how ugly I was. How wrong I was. How I did not fit in. They spread a rumor that I was Autistic, but I apparently also slept with a professor for good grades/to get into the school. I purposefully sabotaged my grade in a class I was getting an A in to end up with a C JUST to dispel this rumor and I shouldn’t have. This professor that I supposedly slept with was Peter Davis. I never slept with him. I liked him, as a professor. I thought he was a pretty nice guy. But he also has a tendency to flirt with attractive students who are undergrads, which always made me uncomfortable as a student. I told him, in the Fall of 2009 what was going on-he didn’t care. He acted like he did, but he really didn’t. It took me years to figure out he is a narcissistic asshole and because I didn’t flatter him enough, I wasn’t worth his time (nor worthy of being moved from Costume Design to Theatre History because I did try to switch and while the Graduate School was all for it, it just wasn’t to be).

I was told to not socialize with any of the other Costume students. If I was seen socializing with them, or they found out, they would punish me. And I was punished. I was punished for hanging out with the Theatre History students. While the other Design grads avoided me like I had the plague, the Theatre History grads were the only ones in that entire department that didn’t give two fucks what Helene thought and have supported me and continue to support me. So, my loyalty always is to them FIRST because they kept me from killing myself. But my punishment was probably illegal. I had to work in the shop, but unable to log hours. So while the others worked 15-20 hrs a week in the shop, I was made to work twice that. Doing everything from cleaning the area, to cleaning the bathroom, to being loaned out to other departments. I’m fairly certain the other departments had no idea that I was doing all of that work without compensation. But any and every attempt I made to tell anyone in a position of authority within that department was met with silence. The only Design Head who gave a fuck was the Sound Guy. And he was going to put a stop to it. Then he died. And it was unexpected. And the abuse continued.

I routinely was called into “meetings” with the costume heads (Helene and the other two ladies) and yelled at. It was a constant stream of abuse. Helene would call me up and tell me that there had been a change of plans for homeroom on Fridays and to not bring my watercolors. Only for me to show up to class and have no watercolors when everyone else was going to paint. She did that all the time. She did it in order to verbally abuse me in front of the others. When we had projects and she did one on one evaluations, she would destroy my work and I would have to start over. So, when others got 2 weeks to work on a drawing for her, I had 4 days. Only once did I outsmart her. I never showed up when we were doing a project that required us to fill in shadows with dots. It was the only time I purposefully didn’t show up because I knew she would have destroyed my work and I just couldn’t. I just couldn’t keep seeing work I had done be torn up and told to start again, but given so much less time to complete it. Because, of course, I would have to work those extra hours without anyone knowing and would have even less time to finish. I had no life. I was depressed. And even the psychiatrist I was able to see on campus confronted Helene and she told him, in person, that it would be better for everyone in the Theatre Department if I would just kill myself. He came to her office and in front of me, she admitted to him what she thought of me. Just think about that. The head of the Costume Program openly admits she wants a student to kill themselves because it would be better for the entire department.

I don’t know why she wanted me dead. I still don’t understand. But I do know Helene is a racist. She is white and from South Africa. She was equally cruel to other Asians in the Theatre Design program. And I mean awful. One was gradating the year I arrived, but Helene would berate her for no reason. In front of the others, and often in front of me. She would do this in front of other professors and not one told her to stop it. The other was a girl in the Scenic program. Helene hated her as well. And yes, this is something I have longed to write and tell because it’s a problem that needs to be addressed in Academia. No supervisor has the right to treat students as if they don’t matter. Now, I loved designing Costumes. I still dream about fabrics and styles and they way fabric drapes or sounds when it moves. I have always loved dressing up. Next to Austen (and Kermit the Frog and David Bowie), costumes have been a huge part of my life for years and years. But my interests in History, English, and Theatre don’t end because I no longer do any costuming. Because I am a writer, I tend to do costume character sheets first when creating a character (so, the knowledge I gained has still worked out well). I focus on how they dress to figure out how they moved. And from that, how they act, speak, and everything else falls into place. And instead of an MFA, I got an MA in Costume Design. And, you know what, that’s just fine.

At the end of that first year, I was stripped of all financial aid and my graduate assistantship. The reason given was my grades. I petitioned the Gradate School for clarification. I was told that having and maintaining a GPA above 3.0 (mine was 3.4) was not grounds for being removed from any graduate program. I should mention I was put on probation the first semester for crying. An undergrad slapped me because I told her she had to show up for her duty on Wardrobe Crew on time instead of whenever she felt like it. She slapped me, threw me up against a wall, and threatened to kill me. I was put on probation. She was never punished. To this day, I have no interaction with her on Facebook and refuse to applaud anything she’s done when it comes up on my news feed from mutual friends. Oh, and per the Graduate School, the academic probation was also illegal. The probation and removal of financial assistance were both in violation of the Graduate School at UIUC. So, for clarification, Helen Siebrits illegally placed me on academic probation, then illegally removed me from my assistantship and barred me from the program per the Graduate School at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Crying is not an acceptable reason to place someone on academic probation. Crying is not an acceptable reason to remove someone from their assitanstship and bar them from the program. And yes, I did fight to stay. The Graduate School was behind me 200%. Everything was in my favor. I had the grades. The probation was not an acceptable reason, and when Helene tried to change it to me having depression, that was also deemed as an invalid excuse. The final thing I had over Helene is that I refused to sign away my rights to my assistantship and sign an agreement to be removed from the program. I never signed these forms which are a requirement by the Department and the Graduate Student BEFORE funding can be taken away. I never signed it. I still had funding taken away. Because, unfortunately, the final say was with the Department Head. He was leaving and didn’t care. He was moving to Texas and a different school. His replacement? He also didn’t care. They gave the excuse that I was physically unable to sign the forms and everything was taken away. I could have appealed and I probably would have won. But I just couldn’t handle it all anymore. Instead, in an act that can only be described as petty, Helene Siebrits destroyed my file, containing my letters of recommendation to the program. While the Graduate School has a record that they were received and they did exist, my file is gone. And I mean everything as in all hard copies. They cannot find my transcripts. They cannot find anything related to me and the Theatre Department. The last person to have the file was Helene Siebrits before it all was gone. And while I will be found to have attended the school and was in the program of MFA Costume Design (and I can and do have a copy of my official transcript), any and all mention of my name and the shows I worked on were removed from the department’s website. I am, for all purposes, erased from ever having existed at that school.

I stayed another year, taking classes I wanted to take. History classes, Ballet, Art. I worked 20 hrs a week in the Music and Performing Arts Library, and also did tutoring on the side for extra income. I was put on food stamps and went to a food pantry twice a month. I survived. I left that school with a 4.0 GPA and went to Kansas State, where I maintained a GPA above 3.2 and ended up with a 3.7 GPA (other schools, it would be considered Cum Laude, but for some stupid reason, the Theatre Department there doesn’t allow such honors to be bestowed on their grad students, only the undergrads). But you know what, I’m ok. I have taken more history classes than the average non-history major (if I could ever transfer those credit to another school, I’d have enough for an MA in History, which is scary). I had fun working at the library (I always do, to be perfectly honest). I enjoyed Kansas State. Didn’t particularly like the costume teacher nor her shop manager, but then they focused on the grad who got the assistantship while I was just the backup. Whatever. At the time I was hurt but now, I could care less.

No matter the abuse I suffered BEFORE grad school, being abused by your professor (and head of the program) IS soul crushing. Because it is. You cannot imagine how many similar stories of abuse I have read and heard from others, in all fields of study, that have traumatized generations of academics. I know people, who like me, just couldn’t continue anymore. Because the abuse, the lack of understanding of mental health issues, is an ongoing problem we need to talk about. Googling “abuse by a professor” brings up pages of examples. And how sad is that? What I experienced is not unique nor is it uncommon. There are so many examples of other grad and undergrad students being abused by professors and academic advisors. This is a culture of abuse that goes back centuries and needs to have it’s #MeToo moment too. And while the treatment I got at Kansas State was better, being ignored and forgotten that you even exist in the program is just as harmful (Thankfully, I was able to retain the Drama Therapy professor as my advisor and Sally Bailey is the best and sweetest advisor anyone could hope to have).

Academia has long needed people to stand up and talk about the abuse. It’s time we really push this narrative forward and start holding those accountable. And yes, just because Helene Seibrits has worked for people of color (and worked with them), doesn’t mean she still isn’t racist. She told me, on a weekly basis, to kill myself. She called me a Kaffir to my face, every week. Kaffir is, well, it’s a very derogatory and racist word meaning I am not white. She referred to me as the Kaffir, on speakerphone, to my psychiatrist AND a person from the Graduate School in my presence. She yelled that I was better off dead because I didn’t deserve to live. Was she ever aware she said this to not one, but 2 people? Probably not. But she was never punished by the Department and I know, because I was told, the Graduate School did issue a complaint against her on my behalf. They found her actions to be racist. But remember, no matter what the Gradate School dictated, it was up to the Theatre Department itself to rectify this issue And they never did. And in case you are wondering why I am focused on Siebrits, it’s because she is still probably abusing other students. She moves around every few years and my concern is that there are others like me who she has abused in the past and will abuse the future. She should not be teaching. She should not be a member of United Scenic Artists Union Local 829. She should not be allowed to hurt others. Because I was very close to killing myself when I was there. I almost didn’t live to see the end of that first year. That’s how much abuse I suffered under her. She is toxic.

How close is too close? My mom was on the verge of coming down, packing everything up, and taking me to a mental hospital for suicide watch. She lived over 3 hours away. Instead, I allowed my psychiatrist to check me into the Pavillion Foundation over Spring Break in 2010. He did this because he felt the Suicide Prevention Team at UIUC would not be adequate. I was there 5 days. I got help. I completed their outpatient program and continued to see my psychiatrist at UIUC the rest of that year, staying over the summer to continue treatment and the next year as well. THAT is the result of non stop emotional abuse.

Its’ important that I write about this because I, at least, had some help. I had the vet grads in my building who knew something was wrong. I had my theatre history friends who could tell that all was not well with me. I had a doctor that fought for the right to call Helene in front of a representative of the Graduate School because he wanted her hatred of me heard by someone in a position of authority. If I didn’t get the help, I would not be here. And that is a fact. I would have not been here to finish my novel. I would have not seen my brother get married. I would have not had the joy of seeing my niece grow up and seeing my nephew. Everything from Spring 2010 to now has been a gift because it was so easily lost. But mine is not the only tale. How many did not make it because of the abuse? They believe 50% of PhD students end up dropping out. Around 20-30% of Master’s do the same. They know, only because some come forward to talk about it, that around 8% think about suicide. And those are the ones that talk about it. And how much is from abuse? Probably a lot of it.

As for John Ortberg, it’s complicated. I have been lucky to talk and find support from Daniel Lavery, Ortberg’s son. I have had people who initially did not believe me in 2018, now believe me because they have realized that there is abuse at Menlo & Willow Creek Church. Friday, I make a statement to the South Barrington Police Department. And I am scared. I am terrified. Because last time I spoke to a cop about sexual abuse, I was 11 and the guy did zero time. But this isn’t about abuse and sexual assault has no statute of limitations. Will anything happen? I don’t know. Would I like something to happen? Sure. I want to know why. I want to know why those who knew this was happening helped. I want to know why Orberg did this to me. I want to know why Ortberg III was allowed to do what he did (and why his dad is ok with it). So, yeah, it’s a lot to deal with. I can’t tell you why anyone sexually abuses or sexually assaults a child. I can tell you that it’s extremely hard to come to terms with and I don’t know if it will ever be ok. Because you lose something when it happens.

Basically, I want answers. I want to know why Helene Siebrits is allowed to teach when she should not have the opportunity to abuse another student emotionally. I want to know why Willow Creek allowed abuse to happen from so many people in charge, for years. I want to know why Menlo reinstated Ortberg in 2020 when it’s clear he should not be in position of power. I want to know why the Theatre Department at UIUC allowed the abuse to happen, when there was evidence happening in front of their eyes. And yes, it’s a lot of questions that I have, but these are questions I need answered to be able to move on. I had some trolling recently, on another post (well, several) that have caused me to not sleep very well these past few days. I spent 40 minutes in the shower crying today because sometimes the memory of what happened at Willow Creek is still painful. And there are things that happened that I have never told my mom because I can’t. I can’t burden her with my pain.

So, I am coping. I am doing better than I thought I would be, but not here I want to be. Is this an issue I will revisit again in he future? Probably. Besides Ortberg, I still on occasion, have flashbacks to the abuse Siebrtis did and because it is fairly recent (still) it’s also a bit too close to the surface. Those are my main two scars and the ones that haunt me the most because there has been no closure for me. The abusive babysitter is dead. She can’t touch me. The neighbor who sexually molested me is dead. I have no issue being in my front yard anymore. Because I have closure on those parts of my past, I have healed from them. But Ortberg? I don’t know how long it will take, but I do want closure. And for Helene? I definitely want answers there. Because I was not the only person being abused by her at that time. And all of us deserve answers from her and from UIUC.

A Mary Anning Appreciation Post

WIN tickets to new movie Ammonite | The Senior | 2259
A Film loosely based on the life of Mary Anning released 2020.

When Ammonite was being talked about, I was excited. I am someone who has a yen for Dinosaurs (well, anything Paleontological to be perfectly honest), so a biopic on Mary Anning, the first [well-known] female Paleontologist, was excellent news! Then the premise was released and my heart sank in disappointment. Now, I have nothing against promoting Queer History and having it represented in the media (Gentleman Jack is a great example of Queer History done right), but I also feel it hurts the progress the LGTBQ+ Community when it is added for no other reason than to cause debates and it focuses the attention of the person on their genitalia (and what they did sexually or not) instead of their accomplishments. For example, Bohemian Rhapsody was touted as a Freddie Mercury & Queen biopic but shied away from any outwardly depiction of Freddie Mercury’s sexual preferences that weren’t heterosexual (notice the focus was more about his relationship with Mary Austin, with his band-mates taking second place, but very little mention was made over his male lovers or his partner, Jim Hutton). It would have been better, considering how much Freddie Mercury continues to influence the LGBTQ+ Community to show his same-sex relationships (both good & bad). Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Bohemian Rhapsody. I was thrilled that they got Rami Malek to play Freddie because it matters that a person of color play a person of color. And while I was happy he was nominated, and then won, it wasn’t as groundbreaking as I had hoped it would be. I wanted to know what parts of his personal journey helped shape him and his music. I mean, we know this happened but I would have liked to have been shown it. However, Rocket Man showed Elton John’s sexual preference as being part of who he is and how no one who truly loved him, cared who he slept with. We saw that he had relationships that were good and ones that were bad. And how they shaped him to be the man we see at the end of the film. Plus, we saw how the choices he made, both good and bad, influenced his music and his future relationships along the way. It was a biopic done right (especially the way they handle the incorporation of the music because it just worked so well).

Elton John Compares 'Rocketman' With 'Bohemian Rhapsody' - Variety
Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocket Man (2019). Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018). Courtesy of Variety.com

Mary Anning did not have a sexual relationship with Charlotte Murchinson. They meet, briefly, in Lyme Regis and corresponded over the years. This film, instead, tries to depict these two as star cross lovers torn apart by Society. Unless we want to infer that Mary was a female rake who could easily seduce a woman, make her fall in love, and then break her heart in a mere matter of weeks, we have problems with this film. Instead of celebrating the awesome story of a woman who contributed greatly to the field of Paleontology (Anning) and woman ho also contributed to the field of Geology (Murchinson), Director Frances Lee decides to focus on a “what if” sexual relationship. Thus boiling down any contributions these women made to science down to their sexuality. It is a form of erasure, in a way. Instead of looking at these women as intelligent scientists, Lee equates them as sexual creatures FIRST with some inclination towards scientific thought. Anning found the first intact Plesiosaur skeleton (think Loch Ness Monster). In 1811, when Mary was 12, she and her brother found a skull, which was roughly 4 foot long. She went on and found the rest of the skeleton a few months later. This ended up being an Ichthyosaur. The Anning family were known to sell fossils to collectors and to museums, so for the children to have found a specimen would not have been unusual. But what is most unusual is by 1820-1825, it was only Mary who was finding and selling the fossils, her brother having been apprenticed out (the father passed in 1812). She uncovered a Pterosaur in 1828 in the cliffs of Lyme Regis and this was first Pterosaur found outside of Germany at this time (Pterodacytylus macroynx). Mary excavated a transitionary fossil between sharks and rays/fish called Squaloraja in 1829. Anning was a self taught Paleontologist, Geologist, scientific illustrator, and Anatomist. Her discoveries have been long thought to have inspired Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Mary Anning was recognized as one of the 10 most influential women scientists in Britain in 2010. Yet his film does nothing but consider all of these accomplishments as being less than important than who she may have slept with.

Portrait of a woman in bonnet and long dress holding rock hammer, pointing at fossil next to a spaniel dog lying on ground.
Mary Anning & Her Dog (Circa 1830s-1840s) attributed to Mr. Grey. Courtesy of National History Museum
Mary Anning (1799-1847)
One of the many scientific drawings done by Mary Anning. Courtesy of UCMP.Berkely.EDU

Of course, the reason Francis Lee has decided to portray Mary Anning as a lesbian is solely based on the fact she remained unmarried and there is no evidence she had any relationships (heterosexual or homosexual), which must mean she was hiding something. By tying her scientific contributions to her sexuality, Lee has, perhaps unintentionally, equated any woman’s contributions to Society as being sexually motivated. It may come as a shock, but contributions to Art, Science, History, etc are not necessarily tied to what we do in the privacy of our own home. Now, if her sexuality had been an influenced, say, her scientific interests then yes, I would have applauded it being shown if done right.

Mary was born in 1799 in Lyme Regis, and if the location sounds familiar, it was featured in Jane Austen’s Persuasion as the location of The Cobb where poor Miss Musgrove hurt herself. Lyme Regis (located in Dorset) is known for it’s plentiful shale deposits, which often contain fossils. Many tend to be small (like ammonites and other creatures), but sea creatures have been routinely found in the cliff facings as well. It was a popular (but waning) seaside resort town (Brighton having taken it’s place as the primary go-to area, with Bath being secondary). But, if you recall from any previous posts regarding Austen herself, in 1799 England was at war with the US. Her life, like that of Austen, was a life revolving around War coupled with the restrictions placed upon her by Society due to her sex. Because there is no writings (family or otherwise) to indicate she was ever in love, the conclusion must be she was a lesbian. The truth was she was one of 2 children (out of 10) who survived into adulthood. Her father died when she was fairly young and she and her brother, Joseph, took up the fossil hunting trade to generate an income. Odd how any man who was not married during this same period is not automatically labeled as being a homosexual (the hypocrisy of it all and yes, I am LOOKING at you Horace Walpole).

drawing of side view of a long thin skull with needle like teeth and a large eye socket
An 1814 drawing by Everard Home for the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society depicting a Temnodontosaurus (originally Ichthyosaurus) skull found by Joseph & Mary Anning in 1811

Gera Lerner in her 1975 article in Feminist Studies asked how do notable women in history get written about, stressing the emphasis on how historians (in the 1970s) disregarded contributions of women overall: “Women of different classes have different historical experiences (5)”. Lerner also points out how women were viewed in the 19th Century were based on extensions of their normal duties. Education of the poor was seen as an extension of teaching children in the home. Which is still an issue we continue to face today. They “conducted their lives (5)” according to the male-dominated accepted role for them. Austen, being a writer, was acceptable because there were other women who were writing, and being published. Women writing primarily for women is fine because it doesn’t change the dominance of men in Society (especially since Austen’s brother Henry made the publishing deals, so while she wrote the books, he controlled hat happened to them). And yes, Mary Anning did fit into this role in her own way. She worked in a family run business started by her parents for extra income. Continuing this work as a means of generating an income after he death of her father would have been deemed as an acceptable position for a young girl and her brother because they had such a large family. Continuing to go this route when her brother was apprenticed elsewhere would have also been socially normal considering they were not part of the middle class, but were the working poor. Not being married, I have to state, was not an unusual occurrence for women at this time. Mary was one of 10 children. Her mother not only buried her husband, but eight of her children. Compare to the Austen Family, who had all he children survive into Adulthood (being middle class and having better access to food and medicine). Mary may have decided it would be better for her to continue to support her mother with fossil hunting than trying to find a husband and slip into extreme poverty (which was always the threat of any working woman, including Austen herself). On top of that, she had much less education than Austen and everything she did was primarily self-taught, whereas Austen had the support of a large family, that included members of the Aristocracy. Plus, I must point out that since this was a time of war, women outnumbered men so it would have been perfectly normal for there to be unmarried women over the age of 30 at this time (The Civil War in America produced a similar effect).

Sketch of house with two large front windows on either side of a front door and next to the steps leading up from the street to the door are two partially open cellar doors
June 1842 sketch of Mary Anning’s home in Lyme Regis by W. H. Prideaux and Edward Liddon. Courtesy of the BBC

When a generation of men have been killed, there will be a generation of women who will end up living alone. Mary died of Breast cancer in 1847 at the age of 47. She had not been welcomed into the Scientific community because she was a woman, but later generations have remembered and thought fondly of her. It is surprising that when she died, the Geological Society at that time spoke about her contributions, which is good, but also a bit sad it took her passing to get a bunch of men to acknowledge her importance to Science.But we must also remember is she had no male advocates who had the wealth, and influence, to see she was acknowledged better and more widely.

print of the Ladies of Llangollen
Sarah Ponsonby (left) and Lady Eleanor Butler, known as the Ladies of Llangollen, who were in a “Boston Marriage.” Lithograph by J.H. Lynch, 1830s. Public Domain

Mary and Charlotte meet briefly in 1825 ( a few weeks) and Mary meet her again in London in 1829. They corresponded as late as 1833, possibly up until Mary’s death in 1847. The relationship in the film Ammonite seems to be inspired by the relationship Mary Anning had with Frances Bell, who really did exist. But when Frances came to Lyme Regis to learn how to find and clean fossils from Mary, she was 14 and Mary 24. I highly doubt Mary saw Frances as a lover (unless we want to label her as a pedophile, which we don’t). Frances died young, at age 15 and Mary was, understandably, upset. Mary considered Frances one of her truest friends (possibly because they had a love of fossils). She may have considered Frances as her own personal protegee, seeing herself in a younger person. Instead, the film moves the actual time of the mid 1820s to 1840, but also makes Charlotte younger, naive, and incredibly stupid. It’s a slap in the face to any woman with a working mind.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2014-07-05-at-11.01.45-580x384.png
‘The Light of Science’ a satirical cartoon by Henry T De la Beche (1832) featuring Charlotte Murchison. Courtesy of Trowel Blazers

Charlotte Murchinson was born a full 11 years before Mary Anning in 1788 (but is portrayed much much younger in the film). Her father was a general and her mother was an amateur botanist. Charlotte married at the age of 27, which was considered fairly late in life, to a solider .They traveled Europe, where she made observations of the different geological features and botany. She had amassed a fossil collection of her own that was so diverse, leading men in the field of Geology would often use her specimens in their publications. While her husband focused on Geology (and became a member of the Royal Geological Society), Charlotte seemed to be more interested in minerals. She persisted and won the right to attend geological lectures at King’s College in 1831, which had been closed to women at that point. Charlotte was well traveled and her insights no doubt helped her husband in the field of geology She was no idiot as and was not the simpering weakling that she is being portrayed as. For any woman to demand to sit in on Geological lectures that are closed, and to have won the right to sit in on them, was no weak woman. She is also shown in the film to be incredibly stupid, bordering on extreme naivete, which is really gross.

Anne Lister - Wikipedia
Anne Lister by Joshua Horner, circa 1830. Public Domain

Besides Charlotte, Mary did have other friendship with women who were scientists as well. Mary Buckland being one such woman and Elizabeth Philpot the other. Instead of showing that Mary Anning had been surrounded by likewise minded women, Lee combines all these female friendships into one, but adds sex. I would have been much happier of the film was more about Mary befriending an unknown woman (a fictional character, if you will) and teaching her how she did what she did, or explaining how she hunts fossils, and develop that into a relationship (and possible Boston Marriage). It would have been more interesting, for me at any rate. Instead, we get a rough and not very feminine Mary, pissing in full view of the public, wiping her hands on her skirt, then handing a Cornish Pasty to Charlotte. So, Mary is being portrayed as “Butch” to counter the femininity of Charlotte (which is a sad troupe). She would ever have relieved herself in that way-she would have gone off a bit for privacy as any of us would do. Plus, there is an ocean, consisting of water, right there, to wash her hands off. Literally a body of water. And since she lived in Dorset, a Cornish Pasty IS NOT appropriate. Hand held eat pies did exist, but do be so specific as to a Cornish Pasty-just no. And let us also address that for a seaside town that was known to have a population of Black people, nary a one is ever seen. Lyme Regis was a popular seaside resort that was replaced by Bath (then Brighton), which means people from all classes (and yes, this includes Black people) lived there year round since before 1800. Especially since it was tied to Sailors and the Navy, which employed many Black people at this time. But, I must not forget that the director of this film is a man, who views the women in the film with the gaze of men. And if we want to portray her as a lesbian, then I would have no issue with it IF it were done with a little more finesse. Mary spent more time with Elizabeth Philpot and Mary Buckland than Charlotte. If a relationship would have occurred, I would have found it much more believable to have been either of these women than Charlotte because they were there longer, and also were the stronger relationships in Mary’s life. They even could have, because Mary really was found of Frances in real life, aged Frances up to be in her twenties and used that as a passionate, real-life relationship which ended in Frances’ death at a young age from something like pneumonia. Because that feels more true to the person who was Mary Anning, but also more true historically. And I would have had the guts to not only show Lyme Regis as being diverse, but would have made Frances not white. But then, I am wanting to make the film for women, and women of color, and not for the male gaze.

Out of the deep | Oxford University Museum of Natural History
A Plesiosaur hunting. Courtesy of Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Christobel Hasting stated “Note the wide eyes, the tumbling ringlets, the peaches-and-cream complexions of the protagonists. Then look at the narratives that posit same-gender sexuality as a source of inevitable pain and struggle” as a reoccurring theme in all Lesbian period dramas. Hastings, in this article (and it’s well-written, I highly recommend it) also discusses the erasure of POC from these pieces, which also erases them from the narrative overall. Now, when I first wrote and published this blog, I did not include any commentary on this and it is clearly a mistake on my part and I fully take on this blame. I truly wanted to focus on just how awful they portrayed Mary Anning (and Charlotte) that I neglected to think how it might be perceived to use a piece discussing the erasure of people of color and not address it. And yes, I should have and that is why I am editing this to include this discussion. Because, Dear Reader, I am not perfect and I want to own up when a mistake has been made (I also had to delete a comment and my response because the a troll trying to imitate another person then sent some truly awful email to me via this blog and that’s just vile and caused some serious metal health issues for me).

While I praise Gentleman Jack for its honesty, it IS one of these white period dramas written. But here Gentleman Jack succeeds it’s (dramatized) the real life story of Anne Lister and her relationship with her wife. Now, of course, the series could diversify the cast (and I would love it) because there was diversity in England at that time. It would be an easy thing to start to include and I think many of us would be thrilled by this. Now, previously, I had not included any commentary on that in this originally, but that was clearly a fault of mine because we should also address the erasure of any person of color in this narrative of period drama. As I am also aware that it’s an area that makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Its perhaps easier to make Queer History more palatable when the primary target audience are white conservatives (and possibly male). And hey, I get it. It’s easier to drum up sympathy for two white women in early Victorian England, then, say, two women in India or Africa or South America. Because it doesn’t seem to matter, which is really sad. Plus, setting it in the mid 19th C is all too easy. It’s a bit lazy, to be perfectly honest. Most view the 19th C as being an era of sexual repression to begin with, so tossing in any aspect of LGBTQ+ references makes an easy sell. So, yes, this film also lacks basic diversity. And I mean basic. Most period dramas showcasing the 19th century seem to leave out any person of color unless it revolves around the Civil War. Now, Hasting’s article went onto state that this way of filming period Lesbian dramas is done for a reason. That reason being filmmakers are pandering “to the male gaze, and preserve the patriarchal status quo.” Which is something I was probably aware of, but hadn’t really considered that this one way of pandering had to dominate everything at this point in time. Maybe because I had thought with more diverse filmmakers, things would get better (they are, but doesn’t it seem to take forever?). Because the 19th C lesbians are always white. There are always pretty ringlets, big petticoats, soft pale skin. And that seems to be a setting for the male porn gaze than anything else (because, let’s face it, minority representation in LGBTQ+ films is extremely rare to non-existent). After all, we are still dealing with dick jokes in the MCU (so, perhaps filmmakers are catering to teenage boys?)

COVID-19: Lyme Regis Fossil Festival is postponed | Lyme Regis Town Council
Ammnites on Lye Regis Coast. Courtesy of Lyme Regis Town Council

Now, for some reason (well, I know WHY but it’s still irksome) a person, using the name of someone who commented, then decided to send me emails that were truly vile. And I mean downright nasty that it made me cry and not sleep for the past three days. Right now, after spending 40 minutes crying in the shower, I am very close to losing it. And yes, that is scary. Friday is going to be an extremely hard day for me. I am gong to make a police report because of a post I made last year regarding John Ortberg. And yes, I am stressed out about it. There are things in the blog I did NOT make public because some of it is just too painful. When I made the decision to have the knowledge go public earlier this year, I knew there would be a backlash. I knew it. I had dealt with some of it last year, and even some the year before. But now, it’s not something anyone can be prepared for. I’ve gotten emails stating that I am a liar. I’ve had weird comments made on blog posts from when I first started (like 2 years ago) show recently. And the emails-they are the hardest. Now, wisely, if someone emails me off of this blog, it goes to a inbox on this site and sends a copy to my personal account. o, unless I respond from my personal account, you don’t have access to my email address (it’s worth paying the $100 yearly fee for this feature). But the emails range from sending me porn links, to accusing me of being a Qanon conspiracy theorist, to commenting on my whiteness (and not being a person of color), to things that are really not meant to see the light of day. Ever. And it’s currently hard for me to function. I have panic attacks. I am severely depressed. I cannot get my antidepressants because the doctor won’t write a new prescription unless she sees me AND she cannot see me for 3-4 months. I cannot work BECAUSE of the PTSD and Panic Attacks. So, fair warning, if you comment on this post, or email me, do not be shocked if it takes a long time for me to approve the comments. And this is me, the writer removing her mask, saying hey, right now I am really not OK. But I am trying.

2.3 million project for the Cobb at Lyme Regis- or it could face collapse |  Bridport and Lyme Regis News
The Cobb at Lyme Regis. Courtesy of Bridportnews.co.uk

“And sometimes, I have kept my feelings to myself, because I could find no language to describe them in”

Jane Austen (Sense & Sensibility)



Unicversity of CAlifornia-Berkely (Paleontology Department)

Placing Women in History by G. Lerner. Feminist Studies, VOl 3 Issue 1/2 (Autumn 1975)

Introduction to Sociology, Chapter 12 (Gender, Sex, and Sexuality). Available on Opentextbc.ca

Feminist Perspectives on Sex and Gender by Mari Mikkola (2008 & 2017). Available on Plato.Standford.edu

Vanity Fair review of Ammonite (09/2020)

True History of Ammonite (Smithsonian Magazine August 2020)

LGTBQ+ Films: “It’s time for Lesbian love stories that aren’t white period dramas” by Christobel Hastings for Stylist.co.uk

Oxford University Museum of Natural History




My #MeToo Tale & An Apology


so that one day

a hundred years from now

another sister will not have to

dry her tears wondering

where in history

she lost her voice”~Jasmin Kaur

Evangelical (adjective): a person who claims to be a Christian but whose actions are the complete opposite of Christ; a hypocrite; a person full of false piety. See also John Ortberg, Franklin Graham, the RNC, Ted Haggerty, Joel Olsteen. Tweeted by @austenlied on 4/19/2018 (I am @austenlied and that is my definition).

I must first and foremost apologize for my absence from my blog. While I do wish to focus on historical and writing issues, the #MeToo movement (and Trump overall) brought up many memories that I for so long repressed. Memories that I never wanted to deal with but have come to realize that as a person, I needed to excise them-sanitize them by thrusting them into the light and let the chips fall where they may. One particular tale that I was truly reluctant to share until the utter hypocrisy that is John Ortberg and Nancy Beach passing judgment on Bill Hybels (because it clearly says to judge your fellow man in the Bible even though I do recall “Judge Not least Ye Be Judged” & “Let He who is WITHOUT sin cast the first Stone” being very prominent in the Bible). I know that my time has come to tell my tale.

My first true memory is that of my father breaking glass in a china cabinet because my mother, who was pregnant with my brother at the time, had asked my father’s brother to move out so she could prepare a room for the baby. I was 2 at the time and it was 1983. I next recall seeing my brother in the hospital after he was born and receiving a toy spaceship made of metal. I also threw down his picture when my father showed it to me. I still have this toy and I had just turned three. Now, you may wonder, why is this significant? Firstly, because these memories can be verified by my mother, my father and I can produce the toy spaceship, which means these memories are not false, but true memories. Secondly, it shows that I have a pretty damn good memory and this will become an issue when certain names and situations are mentioned.

My first experience with abuse came at the hands of the mother of my brother’s friend, “Bert.” Bert, as I am calling him, does have some metal deficiencies and did at the time. This does not in any way excuse the behavior of him nor of his family. My brother is still in contact with Bert and considers him a friend. I was invited, along with my brother, to spend the night. My mother had to work a night shift and my stepfather (or soon to be stepfather) had to work an overnight at the Armory (he was in the National Guard), so it was a good thing for them that I was invited. While my brother was outside being entertained by Bert’s older brother (I believe small explosives or fireworks were involved which for a small child are always fascinating), Bert’s mother forced me to strip and stand still while Bert was allowed to run his hands all over me. For clarification, I was 8-9 years old. Bert was a year or two older and my brother was 4-5. His mother then informed Bert and myself that we were now engaged and Bert now “owned” me. Bert was told that I was to be his-always. Implying that I would marry him when I was older. I was then forced to take a bath with his sister, who I believe was in Middle School or High School, and then decided it would be fun to “bond” with me by fondling me in the tub. I was slapped by the mother because she stood there watching us as did her husband. I still get sick to the stomach and still cannot take baths because of them (even though I used to love them). I cannot shake this image of Bert’s dad jerking off while his daughter made me stand up and was washing me. Everytime I looked away from her husband, she spanked me. I was then forced to sleep naked in a bed with both of the other siblings who were also nude. I barely slept that night and I never told my mother. I only told my therapist and one other person. My brother has never understood why I hate Bert so much. Why I despise his family. Bert’s mother died and I couldn’t give two fucks. My brother expects me to feel sorry and I can’t. Who knows how many other girls they did that to? I was sick to my stomach everytime Bert came over. I hated it every fucking time my brother had Bert stay the night because that asshole would always, some time in the night, sneak into my bed and molest me. And I kept telling my brother that he needed to keep his friends in his room. Period. When I got my dog, Julian, Bert couldn’t do that anymore. Julian always slept on the bed with me. The one time Bert tried to come into my room, Julian growled at him. Julian never growled at anyone. He was the sweetest, most laid back dog-ever. But there were two people he did not like-Bert and “Mike.” Mike was another of my brother’s friends (and also Bert’s). Mike I also hated. My brother refuses to believe that a few times, in High School, they both followed me into the girl’s bathroom. Mike also tried coming into the Girl’s Locker room a few times as well. My brother, since his teen years, has decided that I am a liar even though throughout my college & graduate academic career, I have often been isolated from my peers because they have found me to be too honest and I cannot lie to save my own life. But this is a digression.

The next instance of abuse occurred with I was 11-12 years old. I was molested by my next door neighbor. In this instance, I did tell my mom, my stepdad, and the police were called. It did go to court and the man was found guilty, He did very little (practically nothing) in terms of jail time and was on probation. Basically a slap on the wrist because I was the only one that came forward and the other girls didn’t want to testify (mainly because their parents didn’t want them to). This man admitted that his fantasy was to be in a locked room full of underage girls. And he never had to register as a sex offender. Underage girls were still seen going in and out of his house. The cops did nothing because he wasn’t on a list. My depression and anxiety developed because of him. I had severe paranoia and I couldn’t be outside on my own unless someone was with me. I was afraid of people looking at me-literally afraid. I started pulling my hair out of my head. I gained weight. I tried my best to just disappear. I covered my windows so my room was just dark all the time. Because he was literally next door, I changed in my closet, or under the covers, in the bathroom. Sometimes I was so paranoid of him looking at me, I would sleep in the hallway because there were no windows. I couldn’t garden (which I loved) unless my mom was outside. I couldn’t be in the backyard without someone present. He died about 5-6 years ago and I felt relieved. I finally was able to mow the front yard by myself. I could pull weeds by myself. I could plant flowers by myself. Yet all I hear from my neighbors is that I am a cruel, mean, bitch because I don’t feel sorry that he died. Yes, I am the bitch because I don’t feel sorry that a man who molested me is no longer breathing on this planet.

Roughly around the same time (about the same age), my mom was getting a divorce from my stepfather. Marriages don’t always work out. We were attending this small community church in Barrington. I was in Middle School and an older kid, by about a year or two, Dan (actual name), always corned me in empty rooms at the Church, pressing himself against me. I didn’t understand what he was doing at the time, but later on I figured out (by reading online because I didn’t know) that he was dry humping me. That still makes it a violation of my person. I didn’t give him permission and I didn’t want this attention from him. I didn’t like him at all. He pursued me all the time. He would constantly grab my wrist and tell me that I was his girlfriend and that there was nothing I could do about it. Dan would always try to kiss me by force and would end up slobbering on my cheek or neck. Not pleasant things to remember. He’d pinch me hard enough to leave bruises and my breasts were full of them. His parents didn’t want to hear about it. They told me that he was just being playful. His friends, well, the other kids that were around the same age group that attended the church, saw me as the outsider and offered no help. After all, I was the colored girl in their all-white ensemble. I didn’t belong nor did they wish me to. The pastor only got involved after another adult informed him that Dan was trying to force me into his sleeping bag and trying to remove my pajamas on a mission trip we were all on in Chicago. The pastor talked to me alone about the incident and told me, in no uncertain terms, that this was clearly all my fault. It was all my fault because my mother had married outside her faith. Because she had birthed two unnatural creatures with a Muslim (my father), and not to mention she was getting yet another divorce (which the pastor said was clear indication that my mother was a whore), meant I was sinful from the moment of conception and because of my sinful nature, men couldn’t but be tempted by my mere presence. In other words, I was a whore because I wasn’t born white and Christian like the others in the Church and men like Dan were allowed to treat me the way they did because I deserved it. He said I was born to be a temptress and that’s why he encouraged his son and the others to not associate with me because I would taint them with my very essence. He said people like me should either be aborted or become prostitutes because that was God’s plan. I was not to associated with his son or his friends. He already informed me that he spoke to the Theatre teacher (Jon Lynn) at the High School and that man promised that he would never put me on stage with his son-no matter how talented I was because I was a whore. I never told my mother because the pastor informed me if I did, he’d tell the police that I was lying and just trying to get attention since I clearly came from a broken home and my mom was such an awful parent who was raising heathens. I know from talking to my mom, the pastor offered no support for her regarding her divorce, thus making her feel wholly unwelcomed in that church.  I am still in contact with the pastor’s son. He’s actually a nice person, but I’ve never told him the damage his father caused me. I hope he reads this only to understand that I bear him no ill will. But his father did do great harm to me and I don’t understand why a grown man would do that to a child.

Now I come to the part that involves Willow Creek Church. My mother, now divorced, joined Single Parents Ministry. I was about 15-16 at this time and most children of these parents were 8 or younger, so meetings were quite dull for me and I ended up drawing or reading. I was approached by Nancy Beach and after speaking to her, she was able to glean that I had suffered sexual abuse and she really thought some counseling with one of the pastors would be really beneficial for me since I was at that age when most girls were dating, not hanging out with their parents and children. I could see her point-I really could. I had friends who were guys and while friendly with them, I had no feelings other than friendship towards them. While most girls my age talked about boys, makeup, upcoming school dances, etc, I was rereading Lord of the Rings, The Tempest, John Donne, The Odyssey, etc for fun. Nothing screams lonely and pathetic like Nancy Beach walking up to you as you’re reading the Homeric Hymns (English translation in case you are wondering). She then scheduled a one-on-one meeting with John Ortberg that would take place at the same time as the next Single Parent’s meeting so I could come with my mom, but not be stuck in the room with all the children.

That first “Session” started off pretty normal. I told John everything. About Bert and his abusive family. the neighbor, Dan and the pastor who told me I was a whore. About boys who teased me in school by leaving me fake love notes in my locker, which made me uncomfortable. He promised me that he could help me get over my fears of intimacy but I had to trust him. This trust consisted of him sitting behind me and running his hands over my breasts and hips because per John, I needed to get over my “fear” of being touched if I was ever to learn how to please a man. It didn’t feel right. It felt wrong. It felt like my neighbor all over again. I told Nancy right away. She told me that I needed to trust John because he was a “Godly” man. That his methods had worked with other girls just like me and they had gone on to have boyfriends. Some even were dating fellow Creekers. I then asked if I could speak to Bill Hybels. Nancy informed me that Hybels would only direct me back to John because Bill was too busy to do counseling. I did not tell my mother.

The second “session” included similar touching. But now on my actual skin and in my pants (though my underwear was still on). I vividly remember crying and feeling very dirty. John was moaning behind me and I could feel him. He was grinding into my backside. I don’t know how long it lasted because every second feels like an eternity. I didn’t cry out because John told me if I cried out, I was going to Hell.  All I recall is that when he was done, he was still very visibly aroused. John told me that I was “very blessed” by his touches and doing “God’s Will” by participating to these “sessions.” I remember scrambling to get my clothes on and straightened and just rushing as quickly as possible into the hall outside his office before crying. I remember just crumbling, crying as I struggles to put shoes on and tie laces, trying my best to straighten my clothes and wiping the tears away when a woman, heading towards me, going into John’s office, told me to “Shut up.” I later found out, when I saw her again and pointed her out to someone, that the lady in question was Betty Schmidt. Did Betty know what John had just done with me? Did she know there were possibly others as Nancy clearly indicated? I don’t know. But one does question why the longest serving elder, and a woman, seeing a child crying and clearly upset outside of John Ortberg’s office, clothes clearly is disarray, and showing no compassion towards the child. Instead, tells the child to “shut up” and heads into the office when it’s obvious that’s where the child emerged from. Now, I’ve never dealt with Betty Schmidt personally and that was the only time I’ve ever encountered her. I have just always wanted to know if she knew. And if she did, why didn’t she stop it?

The third “session” was the worst and the last one I attended. I don’t know if one would consider it rape, but it felt like it to me. He had me remove all clothing. And I didn’t want to. He called Nancy in and she forcibly removed the clothes from me before leaving. My socks she allowed to stay on as a kindness. That’s when I knew she was fully aware of what John was doing to me and didn’t care. John was again behind me. Again, I could feel him. He used his fingers on me. It was painful and it hurt. I cried a lot and he covered me mouth with his other hand. He rubbed himself against me. He kept going until he was done. At one point he had bitten down on my shoulder, but there is no bite mark now and I never took a picture. I was bruised, sore and I felt like I was a fault because the pastor at the community church had instilled in me the belief that I was a temptress and  my lot in life was to be a whore. I remember not even fully getting dressed before running into the nearest bathroom and vomiting. Nancy Beach came in because it was obvious John had called her as I had not grabbed all my clothes when I fled. She then proceeded to slap me and yell at me as I continued to dress. She told me I was an ungrateful colored whore. that I should be thankful that a man as holy and as pure as John Ortberg was willing to sully himself, was willing to demean himself to try to cleanse me of my sins for tempting good Christian men with my body. She then forced my face in a sink basin she filled with cold water because my eyes were red from crying and red from her slapping me. Nancy then made me eat a brownie. Which I guess she thought since I was young, I needed to be bribed. I also think she thought by giving me a sweet, she could then bribe me into attending another “session” with John. I let her set it up. I just stayed home whenever my mom went to a single parent’s meeting. If a meeting was held at someone’s house, I went because I didn’t mind watching the kids. But if it was at Church, I never left the house. I fully believed the next “session” would have involved physical sex. Because Nancy had known what was going on and I think Betty Schmidt did too, I never told my mother. And why would I? My only experience in telling the authorities ended up with a man who got off on probation. There was no justice for me with what happened.

Also, telling people in charge, people in positions of power, up to that point hadn’t helped either. Dan’s parents thought he was just “playing” with me even though he was still pinching my breasts in High School, cornered me a few times and then forcibly dry humped me in High School while he was dating my best friend at the time. The pastor of the small church knew and told me it was my fault. Nancy Beach not only knew, she procured me for John Ortberg. I wonder how many others she procured for him during his tenure at Willow Creek and who does his procuring now at Menlo Church?

The hypocrisy is that the pastor who was the first to inform me that I was a whore for being molested and having a mother who was divorced is now himself a divorced man. Dan bullied me throughout High School and on Facebook. He reveled in it. He sent me suggestive messages all the time. Even sent me pictures of his “junk” because he is that sick. He then pursued my then best friend to spite me and slept with her. She is his obsession because I refused him (which he informed me at her wedding). He crashed her wedding too. He married a woman who looks more like me than anyone else. Brunette, not thin, artsy. I ended up not being friends anymore with my best friend because she decided that Dan was more important than me. Plus I found out that she helped him bully me. She was his lookout when he was abusing me (according to him). Apparently she knew and thought it was funny. I don’t necessarily mourn the loss. I mourn her family more as I was closer to them than I was to her.

Bert & Mike are still friends with my brother. He has a daughter who is almost a year old. I wake up terrified and crying with the thought of them being anywhere near her. And I have no idea how to make my brother believe me.

Before leaving Willow Creek Church, John Ortberg tried on quite a few occasions to get me to resume our “sessions.” When I was 19, he flat out asked me to be his mistress because he informed me that he was sexually unsatisfied with his wife, Nancy Ortberg, and knew from our previous encounters that I pleased him. I declined because he disgusted me. He was the reason that in 1995-1996, I started plucking out my hair below my waist. That’s how much I hated what he did to me. And it took me years-years to stop that. He asked two more times before he left in 2003. Ortberg has conveniently also rejected the non-denominational teachings he so fervently clung to at Willow Creek as he now has whole heartedly thrown his lot in with the Evangelicals such as Franklin Graham, Ted Haggerty and their Holy Trinity-The White Father, The White Savior, and the Holy Bankroll.

Nancy L. Beach has always hated Bill Hybels. She told me so. Nancy has lusted enviously after the position of Senior Pastor for over 20 years. She wants to be worshiped as a God, which is the height of hypocrisy since she considers herself a “Christian.” And while she enjoyed procuring me like a piece of meat for John Ortberg to use because I was worthless in her eyes (because Nancy, my dear, you might want to make sure the bathrooms are empty when you go on a tirade about how much you hate people of color to your white evangelical spies at Willow Creek). She has single handily has gone out of her way time and again to get her friends to accuse Hybels of misconduct. And they are always her friends or friends of her friends. Nancy is an Evangelical disease that has no place in Willow Creek. She and other like her have infected that Church for over 20 years and should be thrown out. Clearly, any person that knowingly puts a child in the hands of a molester should not be in a position of power. And should not be believed when it comes to accusing others. Nancy Beach has no empathy and no compassion. What kind of monster knowingly undresses a child in the office of a man and then slaps her later on because she is broken and bruised? After 9/11, Nancy, in front of a few witnesses, slapped me and pushed me to the ground and started kicking me because I was wearing a Salwaar over my jeans. She called me a terrorist. She said I was “un-American” and was “disrespectful”. Now, I don’t know if she recognized me as the child she brought to John Ortberg a few years back. Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t. Whose to say. All I know is that she attacked me and the only people that made her stop were other people of color. Three Black men and two Black Ladies defended me. The handful of other witnesses, all of whom were white, didn’t do anything. The two white people who were closest where the Dyers-Vonda was actually cheering Nancy on.

As for the Dyers, anything they say should be taken with a heavy grain of salt. For the two and a half years I attended Harper College, I was in the choir for a good share of it. But when I wished to audition and participate for Willow Creek, I was told by the Dyers that I was “unfuckable.” Vonda and her husband, Steve, told me that if the men in the audience didn’t wish to fuck me, then I couldn’t be on stage. And clearly, I wasn’t good looking enough according to them.  For them, having a decent voice wasn’t top priority. Women on stage should inspire Lust in the men in the audience. If the men in the audience didn’t want to fuck you, then you weren’t worth putting on stage. Though Vonda should be aware that her husband, Steve, offered me a way via a “casting couch”, of which I refused. In June 2002, the choir sang at Carnegie Hall. I took the program and showed it to the Dyers. My intent being that since I was clearly good enough for Carnegie Hall, that should be good enough for Willow Creek. Nancy Beach was present and she agreed with the Dyers that I simply was “unfuckable”. But Nancy went even further. She took down my name and ensured that I could never volunteer or audition for anything at Willow Creek. So, a person with a background in Theatre & Costume Design has been unofficially blacklisted from volunteering at a church simply because of one woman’s vengeance. Or because she wants to make sure I am silenced and am never in contact with those that need to hear my tale. Or Willow Creek is just really, really bad at getting back to people who wish to volunteer. Which is the most logical explanation? Considering that they are always seeking volunteers for the the entertainment side of Willow Creek, I’m going to make a scientific guess that it’s because my name is on some sort of list.

As for Bill Hybels, I’ve been alone with him only a few times. I was 19 and I sought some reassurance that I was evil nor sinful because of the molestation. I told him some of what occurred, but not all. I regret that I never told him about John Ortberg. I felt ashamed about it. Bill was everything John was not. He listened, he never judged, he offered kleenex, water, always silent, always patient, always kind. He asked permission to touch my shoulder. Asked. Let me stress the importance of this. He asked my permission to touch my shoulder to offer me comfort. He asked my permission to hold my hand. Again. This man asked my permission knowing how vital it was that I feel comfortable. We were alone in his office and I felt completely safe. This man asked permission to pray aloud for me. Every single step of the way, Bill was nothing but courteous. He never, ever did anything to make me feel uncomfortable. He reassured me that not only was that other pastor completely wrong, but it was those me who were the sinners, not me. So please forgive me if I don’t believe it when the likes of Vonda Dyer, who stated that I was unfuckable, claims Bill touched her 20 years ago when the man asks permission to hold my hand before saying a prayer.

My second encounter with Bill is pretty pleasant. He baptized me on stage. There are thousands of witnesses. He did recognize me, as he called me “kiddo”. We’d sometimes run into each other passing into Michigan-a extremely rare occasion that happened maybe four times in all.  Sometimes after those Michigan sightings, he’d wave if he saw me in the Church audience. It was more of a “Hey, you” kind of thing. The sort of things like when you run into your teacher at the grocery store. When he was done on stage, I did ask him for something he dreads-a hug. It is a well known fact that Bill Hybels does not like hugging people nor does he like receiving them. There are thousands of witnesses that can attest that he patted me on the head and his hands were in plain sight. Nothing inappropriate every occurred.

The third time should not be that much of a surprise, but may surprise the Dyers. After their refusal in June 2002 (and yet another “casting couch” offer from Steve), I went and complained to Bill Hybels. Now, at this time, Vonda was pregnant with her daughter, who was born in December 2002. Vonda claims Bill fired her right after her daughter was born. I remember them leaving the church sometime Fall/Winter 2003. Sure doesn’t sound like it happened right away. Unless by right away, you mean practically a year. Vonda also claims that this firing occurred due to numerous complaints Bill received regarding her behavior. Well, I can attest she and Steve received at least one-mine. And if how they treated me was any indication, I’m sure there were many complaints. Per a September 1, 2008 article in the Church Executive, the Dyers both state that they were both wanting to leave Willow Creek for years and were just looking for the right opportunity. So, either they were fired by Bill Hybels per Vonda circa 2018, or they parted ways per Vonda circa 2008. Considering both of the Dyers are full of themselves, they probably wanted to leave because they weren’t being treated like Rockstars and all the complaints, eventually, just caught up.

This doesn’t mean that the abuse magically ended. When I attended University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, my Advisor & Head of the Costume Program, Helene, told me on a weekly basis to kill myself. She escalated from a weekly to a daily basis at some point during that first semester and actually boasted to my psychiatrist (on campus) that she could do whatever she wanted. Helene, I should point out, is a White South African and was raised during Apartheid. Helene would call me a Paki, a whore, a colored slut, shit for brains, and other such descriptions. She’d call me before Friday classes to tell me that things had changed and to not bring certain art supplies to class just so I would arrive and not have them. She’d them berate me in front of all the other students. After class, we’d go to her office. She’d call in Kathy (from the Costume Shop) and they’d both take turns telling me what a waste of space I was. How ugly I was and that I didn’t deserve to exist. Helene spread rumors among the faculty that I slept with a member of faculty or someone higher up to gain admittance to the program. She insinuated to the other grads that I was sleeping with the Theatre History professor and that’s why I was doing so well in that class (and not because I almost triple majored for my BA degree in English, Theatre & History). Helene told people I was Autistic, which I don’t know why she’d do that. I had an undergrad threaten to kill me with a knife. She had a knife pressed up against my jugular because she was on wardrobe crew and I wanted her to just show up on time. She didn’t get punished. I was forced to clean Helene’s office on my hands and knees one weekend using a toothbrush. Because I cried and crying was a sign of weakness. When we first met, she liked one of my designs and photocopied it. She used it as the basis of her design that she got paid for that year in Chicago. She stole my design and passed it off as her own.  Helene got my file from the Theatre Department and destroyed my letters of recommendation. The Graduate School says they received them. They have it on record that they arrived. But the Theatre Department doesn’t have them. And yes, she told me that she did that. She had my name removed from the website from all the productions I worked on because she is that petty. Helene drove me almost to the point of suicide. Almost. It was very close. The Graduate School refused to removed me from the program and they fought to get me reinstated. The Theatre Head didn’t give a shit. I tried to get into the Theatre History program instead, since I clearly enjoyed it. The program head at that time, told me that I wasn’t the right kind of Asian. She also didn’t trust me because Helene told her that I was sleeping with PD, the other teacher and that’s why he liked me. It couldn’t possibly be because I enjoyed his class and took it seriously? And I wasn’t sleeping with him. I wasn’t sleeping with anyone except my two cats. As for PD, I told him what Helene was doing. I, in tears after class, told him and the TA what was going on. I was almost at that breaking point. The TA was horrified and hugged me and didn’t let go. I think he thought I would break if he did. PD did nothing. He never spoke to the Department Head. He never spoke to anyone at the Graduate College. He never confronted Helene. It’s like he just didn’t care and I lost quite a bit of respect for him that day. I still think he’s a good teacher and I still took 2 more classes with him. But I realized that he didn’t care what happened to me because it had no effect on his person. I told another person-another teacher. He was head of the Lighting Program. He was very angry. And he was going to do something about it. He caught me trying to kill myself one night in Krannert. He died unexpectedly the following week. So, PD did nothing. Guy that was going to do something, died. But he stopped me from ending it all.  Considering my experience with me, does it seem feasible I would be comfortable with men sexually? Any man who likes me in that fashion is going to have to be extremely patient, kind and compassionate and I’ve yet to met such a man. The head of the Theatre History program also didn’t want me in her program because she said I didn’t seem the kind that took it seriously because I received a “C” in the basic class. I received that grade because of Helene. I explained to her that at the time I was dealing with an advisor who was telling me on a daily basis to kill myself, that the other grads in the program hated me because I was doing better in this class than they did and they were extremely jealous and if I wanted them to like me, I needed to drop the “A+” I was getting to a “C” or Helene would have no choice but to kick me out of the program since the other grads hated me and kept telling her that they wanted me gone. And this wasn’t the first time I purposefully got lower grades so other students would feel better about themselves. I’ve done it all my life and have been told to do so by almost every teacher I’ve had. And I’ve hated it. So that grade kept me from the Theatre History program and I still ended up losing my assistantship and being isolated from practically everyone in the Theatre Dept. The only ones who didn’t leave me were the Dancers, the Musicians, the Theatre History students, and the people at MPAL.

So I left and went to Kansas State University. At that point, I decided to not hide my intelligence anymore. Because it was stupid and it was unfair to me. My advisor & head of the program, Dana, was pleasant but didn’t give two shits about me. Her costume shop manager, Melissa, hated me. She’d constantly tell me that I was too old, too fat, too blind. I wasn’t blind, I couldn’t afford the nice thin Nikon lenses, so had to live with the thick, cheaper ones. They were thick because I have astigmatism in both eyes. Not because I’m blind. But I survived, I thrived and made friends. Doesn’t mean there still wasn’t abuse. Melissa and Dana were abusive in their own ways. Since I didn’t have an assistantship, I needed to work and was promised 20 hrs a week. I barely got 5. So I got 2 off campus jobs. One was with a company that does graduation announcements. Another was bartending around Ft Riley. I also did some sewing on the side since there were a lot of military folk living in the apt complex I lived in. Dana’s abuse was subtle. She often compared me to others and complained that I wasn’t good enough at everything. I was there for Costume Design yet she didn’t want me designing. She flat out stole one of my designs for Hamlet. Which I couldn’t believe she’d be that blatant about it. But it was little things like me making a hat for the Music man, but not giving me the fabric for it until dress rehearsal and then yelling at me for not having it done in under 2 hours. Or same hat, and not being allowed by Melissa to work on it during class time (using the machines or the iron), but have to come in after hours, but also can’t come in after hours because she didn’t want me there while she was working on stuff for the Music Man. Basically, setting me up to fail. So I used the machine at home. It worked better anyways. As to sewing, Melissa found fault with everything. Though the jokes on her because half of the petticoat ruffles for Music Man were done by me. As a teaching lesson to the undergrads there, when the other grad, Melissa, Dana, and this one undergrad who was a bit of a snitch were out for 30-45 minutes, I sewed the ruffles on 6 petticoats. I was taking a break from being on my hands and knees scraping gunk off the floor with a razor blade (which Melissa deemed to be the most suitable job for me). I then handed them to the girls to remove the pins. They all passed muster with Melissa. But when I tried to get her to approve of a test ruffle earlier-she said it was shit. In front of everyone. Life lesson was learned by those girls. Stuff sewn by me but passed off as being by them was considered perfection. Stuff sewn by me and knowing it’s by me was never good enough. And to me, that was abusive behavior. I had to come in, after hours, for another student’s show, undo all the hand sewing the one tattletale undergrad did (because she really couldn’t sew to be honest with you) and do it all by hand. I did it, without pay (Melissa refused to pay me 90% of the time so most of the time, my paychecks were for 5-6 hours, when they should have been for 18-20 and she claimed it was because they had to stick to their budget even though I got approved for Work Study as a Graduate-let that sink in). And the undergrad got all the credit and all the praise. Which hurt, I won’t lie. I would have liked to be praised for the work I did. They didn’t even praise me for the one show I did design.

At Kansas I believe I had my first real crush, which surprised me. Yet I don’t think it was the normal, physically attractive kind of thing because I don’t think I’m like that. I was drawn to his intelligence. Truly, that is what I found most attractive about “Kyle.” He was very smart, artistic, and someone I really thought I could talk to about things like Shakespeare, or photography, or even costuming and he’d reciprocate. I know it sounds truly pathetic and boring, but Kyle clearly didn’t feel that way about me. The one and only time we were at a party together, and really the only time I was even at a Theatre Party (normally I was bartending, which I never told them; and I, being dull, was only drinking water), Kyle was very, very drunk. He must have thought I was someone else because he was hitting on me. And then Kyle began to confide in me that there was this girl he knew that really confused him because she was “so freakin’ smart” and he was attracted to her because of it, and he didn’t like that. He didn’t like that because, in his personal opinion, she’d have to wear 3-4 bags over her head before he could fuck her since she was so ugly. And no one could pay him enough money to spend 20 minutes alone with her. Then he told me her name-it was me. Of course it was. How utterly devastating to find out from the man you think would be amazing to have an intellectual conversation with, thinks intellectually, you’re attractive, but physically, you’re so ugly and repulsive he can’t stand to look at you.  He hit on me for a few more minutes before leaving to grab another drink. I took that opportunity to leave. A few years back, I wrote him, telling him how much that hurt me (even though I stated that I heard it from his friend. I guess I didn’t want to humiliate him by informing him that he told me himself because I wanted to be kinder to him than he ever was to me). I also wanted to know why, when he saw the abusive behavior of Dana & Melissa, he did nothing. He could have called them out on it. He could have talked to me. He could have asked me if I was OK. He did nothing. The irony is that his drunk statement about no amount of money could induce him to spend time with me ended up backfiring on him.

Kyle takes headshots. I paid him to take mine. I believe it took about an hour to an hour and a half. So, you see, he could be induced to take money to spend time with me alone. And I forced him to. I was angry at him for what he said at that party. I was angry because I had respected him as a person, as an fellow Costume Designer, and as an intellectual. And to find out he thought me that repulsive, I thought no finer punishment in the world could there be than for him to be forced to look upon my face for an hour. The soldiers in the apt complex all said I looked like a lady. They were always kind. Kyle accepted the money and took the headshots. I even received a hug, which was unexpected. Did I ever receive the headshots? No. And I expect that they have never existed. Kyle is very vainglorious when it comes to his photography and every headshot he has taken, he has posted on his website. He never posted mine. That’s why I knew they never existed. You might say the joke is on me, but I never expected headshots to begin with. I wanted to teach him a lesson. I wanted him to look at me. I wanted him to see me. I wanted Kyle to look in my eyes and see the pain in my soul. And then to walk away and never look back at him or for him. I am well aware that it still hurts to know that I am not pretty enough to be acknowledged on his website. But then, it shows who he really is as a person. He claims to be a photographer but doesn’t see any beauty in me. Then he isn’t much of a photographer if all he focuses on is the outer shell. And what kind of man decides that looks are more important than intellect. His attraction to my intellect scared him. Frankly, I don’t care anymore. I proved my point. I paid him to spend time with me and made his drunken boast a lie.

This has been my tale. These have been the darkest moments of my life. They have not been pleasant. They have been filled with pain, tears, fear, and regret. They have made me fear intimacy. I have no confidence when it comes being attractive or even the possibility of dating. Even though I thought I’d be a mother myself at this point and married, I’ve yet to go on an actual date and I’m 37.  Because I’m terrified. My brother’s friends, I’m scared at every little party he has that they are going to be there. My 20 year High School Reunion is coming up and Mike will be there and I’m frightened. I want to go and I don’t want to go alone. I’m also scared because what if Dan shows up? I’m scared because I know Nancy Beach and John Ortberg will say I am lying. Because they will use their White Privilege to say I am a whore. It’s pretty hard to be a whore when one is still a Virgin. I’m sick to my stomach because I didn’t change all the names because I’m tired to hiding. I’m exhausted of having to cry out silently and having no one understand. I’m sickened of people like Ortberg and Beach trying to act like Christians when they are abusers. The only reason I have any faith, any trust in men whatsoever is because of men like my Uncle Joe and good male friends.

Update: August 14, 2018

I has commented on a post regarding the most recent scandal to hit Willow Creek Church (it seems they have yet more women coming forward and people abusing disabled children). I cannot say that I am surprised nor shocked. I was approached by a woman named Brandy McLysaght via Facebook who stated she was working with Manya Brachear of the Chicago Tribune and had been in contact with a few of John Ortberg victims and wanted to know if I was willing to connect on messenger. I am a trusting sort and naive. I said yes and we connected. I disclosed more information that I have given here on this post. I did give names of other people at the Church who were well aware of the abuse that I did not name in this post. She then accused me of being in “love” with Bill Hybels because my blog post sounded so enthusiastically in support of him. I guess it does come across that way. In hindsight, I was livid that those that were accusing Hybels were, in fact, abusers themselves and I found it to be hypocritical. I only used my encounters with Hybels to point out that the one man the Tribune focused on was the one man who didn’t do anything to me. Though I must confess on an error I made in my encounters with Bill Hybels.

The first took place in High School, so I was probably around 16 or 17 and had not yet graduated. It was only a twenty minute meeting and this was a fluke meeting. I had not been meant to meet with him. I had been meant to meet with another teaching pastor and I cannot recall his name as it has been a long time. I believe the only reason I met with Hybels was no one else was available and the person I was to meet was ill. The door to the office was left half open. So I, in fact, was never alone with him. I was also a child. Regardless of what he has done, which I cannot excuse and personally find repugnant, I do not think Hybels would have touched a child in full view of everyone.

Regarding Vonda and her behavior towards me, that meeting was meant to be with a team leader. Instead, I was routed to Bill’s office where I stated my purpose in coming. Notes were taken and I was there approximately five minutes. There were also 2 others in attendance, possibly the team leader I was set to meet. It was a very brief encounter and I was treated politely. Again, I used the encounter to show that I was one who reported on the Dyer’s behavior, which promoted their removal from the Church. Vonda has always held to the lie that Bill fired her when she was pregnant when I have clearly shown she was dismissed months later after her child was born because of the behavior of both her and her husband at that point in time.

I was also contacted by Bryna Schmidt Williamson at the same time. I was then informed by Brandy that Bryna was Betty Schmidt’s daughter. That’s when my heckles went up on my neck. It seemed unusual for two ladies who are friends on Facebook to be contacting the same person. Also weird that while I sent Brandy a link to my blog, Bryna then sent me a message that she read it and I needed to take it down as it was all lies. I never sent Bryna the link to my blog. My Facebook profile is private. She didn’t know my Twitter profile. How then did she get access to my blog post? Through Brandy, of course. It’s clear these two women are conspiring to contact women who’ve been abused by John Ortberg and then telling them that they are liars. Brandy sent me a link to a website telling me that I had false memories. Basically, that I made this entire thing up. She said my timing is all too coincidental and I purposefully picked on those who were smearing Hybels. No. I purposefully showed how those pointing fingers should first examine their own past. In terms of this being all a lie, that’s just on par with an Alex Jones conspiracy theory. Extremely hard to do as there is an actual paper trail regarding the molestation of the next door neighbor. And other people at the community church can back up Dan’s behavior towards girls at Church and High School. And clearly, Willow Creek has an issue with sexual abuse. For example, AXIS at Willow Creek was basically a dating pool. As was Single Parent’s. Both programs were rife with sex and abuse. We were warned at Bible Study to never, ever be alone with Dr. B under any circumstances by the adults running it. No explanation ever given. So it’s not like I’m only picking on the select chosen few here. I’m only pointing out the ones I’ve dealt with, and I haven’t mentioned one or two because of threats.

Why would I lie? In all honesty, why? No one would ever want to admit to any of this. Ever. I wish none of it happened to me or to anyone. What kind of sick person decides that they need to tell victims that they are lying? Apparently women who need to protect the reputations of Vonda, Nancy, and Betty. Bryna is Betty Schmidt’s daughter. She informed me that John Ortberg never counseled anyone. Except per Brandy, John counseled many other women and she has heard similar tales of encounters such as mine. So, which is it ladies? Either I am lying about this, or you are trying to hurt actual victims. I’ve contacted both Manya Brachear and the Tribune regarding this because if these women are getting names this way, hurting victims, they can be brought to court. I refuse to be silenced.

I acknowledge that people who know Vonda state she isn’t like this. She may not be like this NOW, but she was like that THEN. It’s been close to twenty years. People do change and I do hope she has changed her attitude. That doesn’t excuse her behavior at that time  nor her husband’s. Instead of smearing me and attacking me on Facebook, and Twitter like her friends have been doing, all she had to do is apologize. I would freely accept an apology Vonda. And I would freely forgive you in return. As with Nancy, I would just like to know why. Was she pressured into it by Ortberg? How many times did she do it before she said no? Why go after Hybels but keep quite on Ortberg? As a woman, I want to know why another woman would do such things. That’s all. Same with Betty Schmidt. Why? Why did you turn a blind eye to abuse from certain people for so long? And why only reveal it from one or two but hide the rest? I think we can all agree women like Betty and Nancy should explain themselves in this instance.

And as for my commentary regarding Nancy and her hatred of Bill Hybels, that was clearly meant to show her utter hypocrisy of being a White Feminist (Faux Feminist) and Christian. She would bash him, openly and privately, but would knowingly help Ortberg molest me? Bryana states that Ortberg never counseled anyone and only teaching pastors did. Bryna, back in 1994, when he was hired, he WAS a teaching pastor. That’s when this was taking place. Nancy was also a teaching pastor at this time.

When I posted this in May, I did receive a call from Willow Creek. The woman did not give her name. She, instead, informed me that I needed to keep this abuse private and she highly recommend that I take this post down. Basically, delete it. She said I had to do it for the good of the Church. Oddly enough, she stated that I was not the first to be abused by John Ortberg, but was one of the earliest that they are aware of at Willow Creek. And they knew of the others and did not want us finding each other. I do wonder if Brandy or Bryna were that woman. Or if they know her. If so, Willow Creek, that is a breach of privacy. And I refuse to delete this.