Ethics and Redemption – Do Sexual Abusers Deserve a Second Chance?

January 13, 2011

From time to time I open my blog for guests who have unique insights related to ethics and choices.  I am proud to feature an interesting and perhaps controversial entry by a dear friend and colleague – Mary Auda.  Mary helped me in writing my new book “Second Chances.”  She is a skilled writer and pulled from me many emotional ties that made “Second Chances” really connect with readers.  For her help I am truly grateful.  Here, Mary is opening up herself and sharing not only an interesting perspective but a part of herself as well…as Mary has been a victim of child sexual abuse.  I am proud of what she has done to find healing in her life and know that her comments below will open debate around a very sensitive subject.

“Mary, I want to apply as a lay counselor in the counseling ministries,” George said.

I was a bit surprised.  I didn’t know George very well other than he had spent time in prison.  “That is great,” I replied.   I am one who believes we all deserve second chances in life.  I’ve often said when judgment would arise “There by the grace of God go I”.  None of us are perfect.  If you believe in sin, then sin is sin.  There are no degrees of sin.

“You may think differently after I share my story,” George said.  After taking a deep breath he continued “I went to prison because I sexually abused my two daughters.”

I took a moment to breathe to center.  Hearing his words touched my pain deep inside as I had been sexually abused as a child by my father.  I knew it was important for me to hear his story.  I had only just begun dealing with my issues and really had no desire to hear his story.  For some reason unknown to me, I said “Tell me about it.”  I didn’t mean to say those words.  What I wanted to say is “You need to leave and have no right to even speak with me about it.”

He proceeded to tell me about the events leading up to his incarceration.  He shared why he sexually abused his children, how he felt about what he did and the time spent in prison.  He demonstrated a lot of remorse, sadness and shame.

“Are you feeling remorseful because you were caught and had to go to prison or are you feeling remorseful because of the pain you inflicted upon your daughter?” I asked.  I needed to know.

“I loved my daughters and can’t believe that I sexually abused them.  I rationalized it that I was teaching them about sex.  It was my sick mind.  They did nothing wrong.  I was wrong,” he replied.  There were tears in his eyes.

I felt a myriad of things: compassion, anger, hurt, confusion.  For me personally I wanted to appear that I was not affected by my experience of being sexually abused.  Somehow I thought that made me stronger when in reality it was simply a layer of protection. I was quiet.  George alternately looked down at his hands and up at me.  I finally willed myself to speak.

“George,” I said, you served your time.  Because of the nature of your crime, I need the Counseling Center Board approval and the Elder Board approval.”  Although I was the Executive Director of the Counseling Center, certain decisions needed board input.

George said, “I want to help people.  I want this to have some meaning greater than the sexual abuse of my daughters.  I want to help people because I hurt people.”

“I understand,” I replied.  “I will get back with you and let you know.  By the way, thank you for sharing your story.  That took a lot of courage.  I will let you know what the boards say.”

George walked out of my office that day.  I sat for a while staring out the window.  I was feeling a little sick to my stomach because sexual abuse is a major issue for me.  I didn’t share with him my story.  I was angry with him for what he did to his daughters knowing that they had a lifetime of dealing with the effects of having been raped by their father – the one man in their life with whom they should feel safe.  I was also still in a lot of denial about the extent of the effects of my being sexually abused by my father.

I didn’t know if he should be trusted in a counseling situation.  I really believed, and still believe that redemption and mercy are available to everyone regardless of their choices.  I believe that all people are divine expressions of God and that their choices, no matter how heinous, should not define them.  I am not saying there are no consequences, there are certainly consequences and we all must experience the consequences of our choices.

Now I was being challenged in a way that affected me deep within my soul.  Could I accept George as a child of God who sexually abused his children?  Is he not as valuable as anyone else?  After much mulling it in my head and heart, I picked up the phone and initiated the process for review by the board.

There would be much debate by the boards.  Some were clearly on the side of forgiveness and he should be allowed to participate in the counseling ministry of the church in some capacity.  Others were clearly on the side of once a rapist, always a rapist and he can’t be trusted in such a capacity.  Still others were concerned only about how it would be perceived if we allowed a convicted child molester to counsel.  Would we lose credibility and would some people leave the church?  I suggested that perhaps we could limit his ministry to men only and he be subjected to intense supervision by the licensed therapists.

Eventually it was decided that he could not be active in the church counseling ministry, consequences still were active with respect to the choices George had made.  In this case, because he was caught, prosecuted, convicted and open and honest about the nature of his crime, the boards made a decision that he could not participate as a lay counselor.  Had he not had a conviction and been honest, the decision may have been different.

I told George the board decisions.  He was sad.  He had hoped to make a difference in this world and just not leave a legacy of pain.  I told him that there were consequences to every choice we make and this was just part of the consequence.

“I understand the decision.  I served my time,” he said. “Is there ever an opportunity that I might be given a second chance to show the world that I am not a demon?”

It was a fair question.   I shared with him at that moment my story.  We talked about his daughters never being able to get back what they lost physically, emotionally, spiritually and would never have a healthy relationship with their father.  He understood and once again expressed deep remorse.

Many years have passed and George and I are not in contact.  I’ve spent 57 years either being abused or healing from the abuse.    I’ve gone from all sexual abusers ought to be put to death to a better understanding and openness to forgiveness.  I thought about George the other night and the question that arose is – do sexual abusers deserve a second chance or is it unethical, because of the nature of their crime, to give them a second chance?  Does the crime define whether he should be given a second chance?  Perhaps he doesn’t get to work with children but why not be able to work with men?

I know the long term effects of being sexually abused.  I’ve lived them.  I know I can never go back to regain the life I could have had had I not been sexually abused.  I also know through choosing to move out of my prison of victimization, that I get a second chance to have a fulfilling life now.  To live totally free means that I choose to not hold onto bitterness and resentment.  Perhaps by giving this man a second chance it assists in changing his daughter’s experience.  Perhaps by giving this man a second chance it can help other men who are abusers to stop and get help even if it means jail time.  Perhaps his second chance will help heal the world.

I thank Mary for her openness and boldness in sharing this story and posing this interesting question regarding SECOND CHANCES.  As I read this I had an interesting question myself – and that relates to how one’s SECOND CHANCE manifests.  Perhaps George has found his “Second Chance” but not in the manner that he was initially seeking.  Perhaps, we try to define how, where or when we get our “Second Chance” when, in fact, in divine order our “Second Chance” may come in ways we least expect and in manners that provide greater meaning.  What do you think?  Should some people ever be given a “Second Chance”?

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!

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Chuck Gallagher is the author of the new book SECOND CHANCES: Transforming Adversity into Opportunity.  The book – SECOND CHANCES – carries you on a journey that is transformative, inspirational and opens the door to exploring life changing choices that through determination can create the Opportunity you need to enjoy the Success you desire!

This book, called an “Inspirational self-help masterpiece” was written over the scope of many years and through the experience of many hard lessons learned.  I hope that through  this book, you too, may uncover the keys to unlock your prison and find a happier life. You have the power to unlock those chains that bind you and turn adversity into opportunity. You have the power of choice.

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Second Chances? Barack Obama to Michael Vick – Have We become a Compassionless Country?

December 30, 2010

Well, for a guy who believes in Second Chances (hence the title of my new book – Second Chances) I was shocked and saddened at the media storm or fire related to Barack Obama’s comments praising giving folks – namely Michael Vick – a “Second Chance.”  As a nation have we become so full of hate and intolerance that we no longer can tolerate the idea that “Second Chances” are worth aspiring toward?

So this past Monday the following was reported by the Washington Post – quoted here:

On Monday, the buzz was about how the president had weighed in on the redemption of Michael Vick. Obama phoned the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles to praise the team for giving a second chance to the quarterback, who is again a National Football League star 19 months after leaving prison for his role in a horrific dogfighting ring that killed pit bulls by electrocution, hanging and drowning.

The president has not spoken publicly about the call, though aides acknowledged that it took place. But Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie told Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports that during their conversation Obama was passionate about Vick’s comeback.

“He said, ‘So many people who serve time never get a fair second chance,’ ” said Lurie, who did not indicate when the call occurred. “He said, ‘It’s never a level playing field for prisoners when they get out of jail.’ And he was happy that we did something on such a national stage that showed our faith in giving someone a second chance after such a major downfall.”

While I may not agree with a great deal of what the President says – in this case he’s right!  Rarely do those who serve time get a “fair second chance!”  But AND THIS IS IMPORTANT – “Second Chances” are not just about those who have committed crimes and done their time.  Obama’s comment that “we did something on such a national state that showed our faith in giving someone a second chance after such a major downfall” is really at the heart of the matter.

But, with such compassion stated by our President – the firestorm begins.

So what’s the fallout of suggesting that it is good to give folks a “Second Chance” – enter FOX News broadcaster Tucker Carlson, who said: “Michael Vick killed dogs in a heartless and cruel way. I think, firstly, he should have been executed for that. The idea the president of the United States would be getting behind someone who murdered dogs is beyond the pale.”

WOW – TALKING ABOUT FROM LEFT FIELD (oops I should have said “Right” field for FOX)

Stop!  Media extremism is in play here.  Let’s get the ratings and buzz huh Tucker?  Dumbass statement that Vick should be executed is nothing more than an UNETHICAL PLOY to sensationalize a true heart-felt comment by Obama.  Have we come to be so angry and so hard-hearted that we will take the opposite opinion of anyone who does not share our ideological belief.  Wonder if Obama had said that he felt Vick should be banished to a desert island never to return to the US – would Tucker have then found it in his heart to give Vick a “Second Chance”?  Is it about coverage and opposites – winning or losing – black or white?  Have we fallen that low as a country?

What about “Second Chances” in other areas – love, being a father, recovery from cancer – Is the concept of getting a “Second Chance” becoming foreign to Americans?  Or is it the media that finds that NO SECOND CHANCES make for better ratings?  If it were his child that needed a “Second Chance” I think Tucker’s words would ring hypocritical this week!  Tucker what about it?  Care to comment?

BUT TUCKER’S NOT THE ONLY ONE…!

Reported in the LA Times –

But Bill Smith, the founder of Main Line Animal Rescue in the Philadelphia area, bristled at Obama’s characterization that the Eagles’ signing of Vick was motivated by wanting to give a convicted felon a second chance.

“If he couldn’t throw a football, he wouldn’t have had a second chance,” said Smith, who organized a campaign last season to collect food for animal shelters every time Vick was sacked on the field. “This isn’t about giving anyone a second chance; it’s about who can make the Eagles organization more money.”

Now I’m an animal lover, but the jaded view that it is only about money just doesn’t hold water.  Obama’s point was that Vick is a national figure and that showing compassion and providing a “Second Chance” is something worthwhile.  Vick isn’t the only one who’s been giving a “Second Chance” in life, but he is public.  I wonder if Bill Smith’s grandson (just an example) had been imprisoned for selling drugs and released, would he be in favor of him receiving a “Second Chance”?  Seems to me that for Bill it’s about his passion for animals that his view is so jaded?  Maybe I’m wrong.  Perhaps Bill will comment!

By the way, Bill did a great job making Obama’s point.  “If he couldn’t throw a football, he wouldn’t have had a second chance,” is exactly the point, we need someone as a model of what a “Second Chance” could mean and from personal experience, there are far too few people who will stand up and offer a “Second Chance”.  That’s sad!

WHERE FROM HERE?

First, I’ve been to prison for crimes I committed.  I am not proud of that, but it is a very real fact of my life.  It has been nearly 15 years since my release and yes, I have been given a “SECOND CHANCE”!  For that I am deeply grateful each day of my life.  Here’s an excerpt from my new book “Second Chances” that describes the night it became clear that my crimes were discovered and I had to face the truth that I was (at that time) nothing more than a liar and a thief.  It was the darkest night of my soul…

That night was the darkest night of my soul. That call that I shared didn’t make it better. It didn’t eliminate the consequences. It didn’t remove the pain. Rather, it gave me hope, hope that if I could make poor choices that would, most certainly, bring painful consequences, I also possessed the power to make positive choices with positive results.  His comment to me still resounds in my heart today. He said, “You have made a terrible mistake, but YOU are not a mistake! The choices you make moving forward will define your life forever and provide the foundation for your children’s lives. Think carefully as you make this choice!” 

When he said to me, “YOU are not a mistake,” it hit me─while the past cannot be changed, the life we are given and the choices we make moving forward are the only things that count. I felt a burden lifted. I could not change the past; all I could do was face the consequences. It was within my power to make good choices, now and in the future, that would produce a fruitful outcome. That was my destiny!

Do I believe in “SECOND CHANCES” – absolutely otherwise I would not be here and I AM here for a reason!  Perhaps that is the message that Tucker Carlson and others need to get!  We all, at some point in time, need a “Second Chance”!
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!

Anne Bruce, Best Selling Author, recommends SECOND CHANCES – Chuck Gallagher’s new book on Transforming Adversity into Opportunity

November 6, 2010

Chuck Gallagher’s book, Second Chances, offers every reader hardhitting, no-nonsense life tools that each of us can manifest into the power of choice intelligence and its many benefits. This is not another, “Here’s my story and what I’ve learned” book. It’s much more. It’s a book that says “Take what I’ve learned and apply it in your life. You will transform your destiny to a higher level of consciousness through better choices and higher purpose!” It’s a call to action that doesn’t mince words.

Chuck brilliantly demonstrates in this book that life is full of grit that can become imbedded in our soul—just like the grain of sand that embeds itself within the oyster’s shell—the grit of life, its challenges, heartbreak, and pain, also can be transformed into a beautiful pearl within us all.  Second Chances guides the reader through Chuck’s personal story of triumph to finding his or her own rare, one-of-a-kind pearl within. Chuck’s story illustrates how imprisonment of the soul can take place behind bars or outside of them. It’s a choice we can make and then change the trajectory of life when we make it.

As Chuck says so eloquently in this book, “You may make a mistake, but you are not a mistake.” Not to read Second Chances, in my opinion, would be a mistake I strongly recommend avoiding.

Anne Bruce
International speaker and bestselling author of
Discover True North: A 4-Week Approach to Ignite Your Passion
and Activate Your Potential; Be Your Own Mentor;
How to Motivate Every Employee; Speak for A Living; and more.

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter Two of Chuck Gallagher’s new book described as inspirational and groundbreaking!

CHAPTER TWO – Excerpt

I was at a breaking point, feeling that I had no control and no value. In my current state, I was useless to my partners; in fact, I was a severe detriment. Everything my wife and I had worked for was about to vanish; only she didn’t know that. Furthermore, the career that I had worked so hard to craft was going to disintegrate in just a matter of hours. I had no control. I was powerless. The only rational action I could think of was ending my life.

Thank God for that major phobia of mine─fear of pain. The problem with suicide was that everything I thought of involved pain. I even considered jumping off the building, but the distance between the leap forward and the final impact caused me some serious worry. What would I be thinking during those few seconds? More importantly─“Good Lord, that would hurt!”

At 7:11 p.m. that evening, I grabbed the Yellow Pages and began calling clinics─anyone who I thought might help me. Frankly, I don’t recall what I was looking up. I do remember that there were no listings under “suicide”─in fact, that wasn’t a category. So I looked up physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists, anything that started with a “P”. Honestly, I don’t remember who I did call─a proctologist, as far as I knew. The only thing that flooded my mind was I needed help.

“You’ve reached the office of Drs . . . Our office hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Our office is closed. But if you’ll leave your name and number, we’ll be happy to call you first thing in the morning. Have a nice day!” Somehow, when you’re thinking of ending your life, “have a nice day” just doesn’t seem appropriate. And unfortunately, that’s the message I got over and over.

Calling became an obsession. It was the one thing I could do, one action that I felt in life I had some control over. “Just one more dial,” I would say to myself as I pressed the buttons on the phone, listening to the ring, hoping for an answer.

“Dr. Benson’s office.” That was the second time that day I was stunned. After getting recording after recording, I was somewhat unprepared for the possibility that someone would answer. Yet someone did.

“I need to talk with someone. I’m from out of town,” I somehow stammered.

“Actually, our office is closed. I was just walking out the door and thought this was my wife. Give us a call in the morni . . . ”

Before he could finish his sentence, I blurted, “I’m thinking of committing suicide!”

Silence─then the voice said, “Let’s talk.”

For the life of me, I can’t recall what was said between us as I lay on that lonely hotel bed. We could have talked for two minutes, twenty minutes, or two hours. I just don’t remember. What I do recall is that this total stranger, a man who I had never met, took the time to help me see past the grand illusion I had created and uncover the real me inside.

That night was the darkest night of my soul. That call that I shared didn’t make it better. It didn’t eliminate the consequences. It didn’t remove the pain. Rather, it gave me hope, hope that if I could make poor choices that would, most certainly, bring painful consequences, I also possessed the power to make positive choices with positive results.  His comment to me still resounds in my heart today. He said, “You have made a terrible mistake, but YOU are not a mistake! The choices you make moving forward will define your life forever and provide the foundation for your children’s lives. Think carefully as you make this choice!”

When he said to me, “YOU are not a mistake,” it hit me─while the past cannot be changed, the life we are given and the choices we make moving forward are the only things that count. I felt a burden lifted. I could not change the past; all I could do was face the consequences. It was within my power to make good choices, now and in the future, that would produce a fruitful outcome. That was my destiny!

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For more information on Anne Bruce and her many books visit here!


Chuck Gallagher’s new book SECOND CHANCES excerpt… More than White Collar Crime

November 5, 2010

I am pleased to announce that my new book – SECOND CHANCES: Transforming Adversity into Opportunity has been released and is now available for purchase.  Comments like this one have been used to describe SECOND CHANCES

Second Chances shows you how to make better first choices. It is one of those rare books that effectively bridges the gap between personal accountability and business success. Read it. Heed it. Apply its lessons.

Randy G. Pennington
Author of Results Rule! Build a Culture that Blows the Competition Away

For those who would like a sneak preview…here’s an excerpt for your reading pleasure…

CHAPTER ONE – Excerpt One

This book is not about white-collar crime, theft, or lying, though I was guilty of all of them. More important than the crime are the prisons we can find ourselves in, most created by our own actions. The real challenge is how we escape those chains that bind us. How do we move past negative behaviors and create an environment that reflects true success?

When I was forced to admit my crimes, some four years after they began, that started a new and very different chapter in my life─one that I am living today. That chapter didn’t unfold to success immediately.  Rather, the process of change was long and arduous. I was blessed with many teachers, most of whom cut me no slack, but all of whom saw more humanity and value in me than I obviously saw in myself.

One of my first teachers was a businessman in my community who gave me my first job after my career as a CPA had been destroyed by my self-inflicted sabotage. To this day, I am not sure why he took the risk. On a spiritual level, I believe that everything happens for a reason. He accepted the role of mentor, teacher, and earthly angel. He believed in me when few around me would.

There were no handouts. He cut me no slack. Quite the contrary: this angel was tough. In fact, I’d say he was the toughest person for whom I ever worked. Yet he and two other mentors, along with my
family, allowed me to make full restitution to those from whom I had stolen money. The act of honestly admitting what I had done and accepting the consequences of those actions was critical to making any worthwhile changes. While paying people back was significant, it didn’t change what I had done and the pain I had caused. Those scars are permanent.

Time in prison seemed to move in slow motion, as if to allow me all the time necessary to evaluate my actions, my choices, and my behavior─and learn. If I had to be there, surely there should be an
outcome worth the time. While I didn’t know what that outcome would be, one thing I was committed to was remaining open to believing that God’s plan for my life could rise from even this lowly place, if only I were willing to learn, grow, and receive.


The act of honestly admitting what I had done and
accepting the consequences of those actions was critical
to making any worthwhile changes.

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This touching story of real-life circumstances blends the wisdom of experience with a powerful insight for successful living.

Dr. Nido Qubein
President, High Point University Chairman, Great Harvest Bread Co.