I’d like to take a moment to inform my readers that this particular interview is very unique for Author Interview Corner. Thus far, I’ve only interviewed fiction authors on this blog, but the true story of Beth Taylor caught my attention. Today we will discuss her non-fiction book, Bless Them Father, for They Have Sinned. The subject matter might be uncomfortable for some readers, but I greatly admire Beth for having the courage to speak out about it. Her book is a very personal account of the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of the Catholic Clergy and how this has affected her life.
Hi, Beth. Welcome to Author Interview Corner. I’m so pleased you could join us. My first question is: What made you decide to write Bless Them Father, for They Have Sinned?
I decided to write Bless Them Father, for They Have Sinned, because I believe that not enough is known from the survivor point of view regarding the clergy sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. And what the world has heard is mostly from the point of view of male survivors. I found, far too many times, that when people hear about my story they would say, “I never knew there were little girls abused.” Unfortunately, there are many, many females among the thousands of children abused by members of the Catholic clergy.
I also decided to write the book so that the world – and the Catholic faithful in particular – can get a first-hand report on how the Catholic Church dealt with survivors when we came forward. I can tell you that every branch of the Catholic Church where I turned for help, treated me in an unbelievably horrible manner. From the U.S. Conference of Bishops, to the Archdiocese of New Orleans, the Dominican Order in both the Central and Southern Provinces, to the church where the abuse took place; I was called a liar, told they wanted to “be done with” me, told me that only boys were abused, and told me they didn’t owe me answers from the church. At one point I was told the church didn’t have insurance to cover such allegation in the 1950s and 1960s when my abuse took place.
Additionally, I wanted the church faithful to also see how these so-called “men of God,” treated my mother who was in her late 70s. The reason I wanted that known is because my mother attends the Catholic Mass every morning of her life. She is a member of a local Catholic Church, supports her church financially, volunteers at her church, is at the church for every special event. And they treated my mother terribly. They may dislike me for coming forward, but they also took out their anger with me, onto one of their devout members. Besides, she was a grieving mother who was suddenly having to deal with the reality that her only daughter – her little daughter who was only 5-years-old when the abuse began – lost her sexual innocence as a little girl, and at the hands of a member of the Catholic clergy.
The abuse happened at very young age, and your mind suppressed the memories until adulthood. When did your suppressed memories start to surface? Do you have any idea why, or what may have triggered this?
The memories began flooding back in the form of terrible dreams that would cause me to scream out and awaken myself. My heart would be pounding and I would have a hard time catching my breath. I didn’t like the dreams, but it meant nothing to me. Then I started to have the nightmares while I was awake. At the time I owned a video production, marketing and advertising agency. I would be sitting at my desk when these horrible pictures began flashing in my head. It was like watching short movies in my mind. The flashback would start, and I would lose time. It could be as short as 5-10 minutes or even a few hours. Why it happened, how it happened, I have no idea. Sometimes I wished it hadn’t happened. But now, after roughly 10 years, I’m glad it did, glad I faced my demons, and glad to mostly have it behind me.
As for what triggered it, again, I’m not sure. I was going through a hard time. My best friends were married to each other. He had been my friend before they married, and she became my friend after the marriage. I had a different relationship with each of them, and a joint friendship with them and their children. She was fighting breast cancer and I was doing everything possible to help her be strong and fight. Then I was spending time with him to help keep him together, and talking with their kids, and her parents. It was a difficult time. Then I was in my car, stopped at a signal light, when I was rear-ended by a truck. The damage to the car was minimal, my injuries weren’t too bad, but it sent me into a tizzy. And there were the flashbacks.
At that time, I truly believe I was having a mental breakdown. I had once worked at a psych hospital, called a friend, and began seeing a therapist. Those therapy sessions lasted years with what I call a “journey of discovery.” During that time we deciphered the flashbacks, put a face and name to my abuser, saw the locations of the abuse, and remembered specifics of the abuse. As it turned out, my best friend lost her battle with breast cancer and her husband killed himself two years later. I’m still in contact with their children – and now grandchildren – along with her parents who are now in their early 90s. We had some rough years back then. I am grateful the 1990s came to an end.
Were there moments when you thought you might change your mind about writing and releasing this book? It’s such a personal story to tell, almost like baring your soul. I imagine it must have been hard to write.
Once I began writing the book, stopping was not an option. I wanted the story to be told. The Catholic Church tells me I am the only person to claim sexual abuse by this one particular man. I don’t believe the church. Those men have lied too many times for me to believe them. But … say they are correct and no other survivors have come forward, or if other victims are deceased; statistics show a pedophile almost never has just one – single – victim. So, in case there is another of his victims out there, I want that person to have access to the book. There may be another survivor who can relate to my story and maybe get something from my words.
There were times when I was writing parts of the book when I questioned if I was being too graphic, or whether I was being too revealing. I took out some things, but nothing that changed the story or the process of discovery. I asked six friends to read the book and to give me their thoughts. Some were Catholic, some were not. Some were from New Orleans, others were not. I got really good feedback. They told me things I wanted to hear, and things I didn’t necessarily want to hear. In the end, I took all the suggestions, did my rewrites, and sent it to the publishing house. The editor there sent a review that thrilled me, stating no corrections were recommended.
While I always knew I wanted to have the book published, I’ll admit I let it sit on the shelf for a year, once I thought it was complete. I had closed my business and took a job with a local university. I decided I needed to direct all of my attention toward the new job and the book was put away. Then, when my position was eliminated, I took the book out and began rewriting. I decided to self-publish when my query letters got no results. I kept hearing it was a “tough” topic, or “we can’t take a chance on an unknown author.” That’s when I became the author/publisher.
Have you always had an interest in writing?
Yes, I have always had an interest in writing. In fact, I am a journalist. I graduated with a journalism degree from LSU. I spent 15-years as a working journalist in both newspaper and television. Believe it or not, I was the first female television sportscaster in Mississippi when I was hired in 1977. Then I went into marketing and public relations. I have written breaking news pieces, feature stories, sports pieces, 30-minute television scripts, magazine features, documentary scripts, and speeches. I’ve always enjoyed “playing” with words. This book is the longest – most in-depth – piece I have ever written.
What kind of responses have you received from this book?
The response from the book was much more than I would have ever expected. People have been nice and understanding … and I am appreciative. However, what has been the best response, is that I have heard from survivors and family members of survivors. Their reactions have been positive, stating it has given them insight and understanding. Helping others through the book was not on my “To Do” list, but it certainly is an unexpected blessing.
What advice do you have for others who might have personal accounts of terrible things in their past–whether it be molestation, rape, domestic violence, depression, addiction, etc? How might they find the bravery to speak out? How did you overcome your “stage fright”, so to speak, and find the courage to tell your story in public?
For others who have been through life-changing events and traumas, my first suggestion is to seek professional help. I had an incredible therapist, and there are lots of great therapists available. I would strongly suggest seeking out a therapist. Find one who is honest with you, one that makes you feel safe, and one to whom you can tell things you wouldn’t dream of ever saying to another person. This is a very special relationship. This is someone with whom you are going to spend a lot of time. This is someone who will see you when you’re strong, defiant, crying, angry, falling apart, ready to kill, and at the end of your rope. This person is going to walk with you to the brink of Hell, then walk with you on the road back where you are – once again – in control of your feelings and your life.
Don’t worry about the cost of therapy. Yes, it can be expensive. I would love to have all that money back in my bank account. But I’m the best investment I’ve ever made. That money spent on therapy – what I call my investment in myself – was very well spent. Without the therapy I would still be fighting my demons, and still be “stuck” with living everyday with the remnants of the abuse. Now when I have a flashback – and they still come occasionally – I’m able to tell myself, “it’s just a flashback, I survived the original events,” let the flashback end, and move on. That is so much better than before therapy.
As for my “stage fright?” Being a former television news anchor and sports anchor sort of makes stage fright a moot point. I’ve also done a lot of speaking before groups, taught some classes, and made presentations to clients. However, even with all of that, there is the very personal descriptions of my body and my life.
I had to deal with so many people connected to the Catholic Church on so many occasions and each time I had to tell the story. Once you tell the story over and over, and over again, you get to where the sharp edges have been worn off your soul. And remember, I had been through all the events in therapy, where it was safe to explore and express my feelings. I knew when I got in a room with representatives of the Catholic Church I wanted to be in control of my emotions, state my story with little expression, let my lawyer do her part, and me do mine. After all of that, it was easy to talk about the book.
On a lighter note, what sort of books to you like to read for enjoyment?
What do I read for enjoyment? You may find this hard to believe, but I’m dyslexic and reading is very difficult and not very enjoyable. I read a lot of news and feature articles on the web. I’m a “news junkie” … always have been, and always will be. When I was 10 and 12 years old and my friends were reading comic books or getting books from the library, I was reading three newspapers a day, plus LIFE, Time and Newsweek magazines. My father played a current affairs game at the breakfast table. Each correct answer was worth 25¢. His questions came from those publications plus the local and national television newscasts. I was raking in money. That’s pretty much when I began thinking I would become a journalist. I’ll admit I changed majors twice, going between pre-law and political science, but journalism was the perfect fit.
Today I still read three daily newspapers on the web, plus watch local and national evening newscasts. My cell phone rings with news alerts from all the local media plus the Associated Press. It’s just like being in a news room … without the stress.
Do you have any plans to write another book?
I do have plans for other books. Right now I’m doing a blog entitled “Parenting A Parent,” which can be followed at parentingaparent.com. I’m just about finished writing a book about dealing with our maturing family members. I’m also working on a crime novel, which is based on events I covered during my news career. It’s fiction, but based on real cases. The crime is shown through the eyes of – guess who – the journalist. I’ve also written The Super Sensational Silver Sneakers™, which is a series of young children’s adventure books. I have yet to find a publisher, but I’m not giving up. Related to the kids books, I have also started writing a script for a feature-length animated movie. Additionally, I have two “treatments” written for television shows. Those are still sitting in my computer. I need some direction on how to make these things go from my head to reality. Please wish me luck with those ventures!
What has Bless This Father, for They Have Sinned accomplished for you? Has speaking out helped to alleviate some of your pain?
Bless Them Father, for They Have Sinned has been helpful in many ways. First, it was helpful in removing some pain. I went from not understanding what happened to me, to talking about in in therapy, talking about it with some family and friends, then to putting it on paper. Everything that was bottled up was finally out. For 40 years I kept the secrets of my abuser, and now I was finally free from his secret, his ropes, his filthy acts, and I was FINALLY allowed to be Beth, and I had a chance – through therapy – to reshape Beth without the threats, and shame of the abuse. Once the book was written it was sort of like erasing it from my brain. I no longer have to remember all of that “stuff.” I’m finally free.
Is there anything you’d like to discuss that I haven’t mentioned in this interview?
I think you have hit all the questions. I’m impressed, since you said you don’t usually interview non-fiction writers. You asked some insightful and probing questions. As for any additions … just one: if someone is going through something tough or something similar, my suggestion is to be kind to yourself. Please remember it wasn’t your fault. You didn’t cause the events. You couldn’t prevent the events. You were not in control. You could not control what took place, BUT; you can control how you deal with, and react to, the events. You owe it to yourself to seek help.
Where can we find you on the web?
On the web you can find more about the book, more about me, and links to purchase the book. Please go to either blessthemfather.com or bethtaylorbooks.com. Both links go to the same site and from that site there are links to other sites about me.
Thank you, Lindsey, for this opportunity. I appreciate and admire what you do. Maybe we can do it again when the next book comes out. Take care!