Patterns of Abuse: What we can learn from the death and suicide letter of GOP Senate Aide, Jesse Loskarn?

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Patterns of Abuse:  What we can learn from the death and suicide letter of GOP Senate Aide, Jesse Loskarn?

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PHOTO BY TOM WILLIAMS/CQ ROLL CALL/GETTY

PHOTO BY TOM WILLIAMS/CQ ROLL CALL/GET

Jesse Loskarn, 35, was chief of staff to GOP’s Senator Lamar Alexander from Tennessee.  In mid-December 2013, Loskarn was arrested for possession and distribution of child porn.  Officials found child porn on Loskarn’s hard drive.

Because Loskarn had no prior convictions, he was able to secure a conditional release and remain at the home of his parents, Chuck and Gay Loskarn.  Part of the conditions necessitated the wearing of a GPS monitoring device and he was not allowed to access the internet.

Tragically, on January 23, 2014, Oskarn took his own life in the basement of his parents’ home.

His mother found a suicide letter and posted it publicly.  Here is the introduction she posted:

The last month of Jesse Ryan Loskarn’s life was surrounded by a media frenzy, with what appeared to be the goal of destroying his reputation beyond repair. Newspapers and other media outlets depicted him mostly in a negative light and stole away any good he had done during his short but full life. During this tragic time he had no voice, but in his death he can be heard. Our society is quick to judge especially when the topic surrounding his death is so difficult. This letter written by Jesse Ryan Loskarn was found after he took his own life on January 23, 2014. If his words can help just one person who is suffering in silence it will be his greatest accomplishment.  (Source)

Loskarn was able to be very successful in his business, keeping his secret from everybody. His family, friends, and business acquaintances were shocked when news was released of his arrest. Some abusive pastors do the same thing. We talk a lot about patterns of abuse we see with regard to spiritual abuse – – the need to be in control, the methods used to manipulate and control people, families, and churches, etc,  to the point that some people lose their own identities. How is it that abusive pastors are able to pull the wool over other the eyes of their church members and even church leaders? What is hidden in their lives?

In Loskarn’s case, his suicide note gives more of a glimpse into what he went through as first a sexual abuse survivor who kept his secret hidden, and then as he went on to abuse by possessing and distributing child porn.

I admit it –  I had a difficult time reading his suicide note because I have dear friends and even a family member who have been or currently are married to pedophiles.  Pedophiles are abusers.  Do we ever excuse the behavior of an abuser?  Do we forgive them because of abuse they incurred as a child?  Does their abuse justify their behavior? Why and how do we do forgive when we are in the midst of pain from the abuse they caused?  It is difficult to know how to respond sometimes.

Jesse Loskarn’s suicide letter begins:

On December 11, 2013, I was arrested for possession of child pornography.  Writing those few words took a long time; seeing them in print is agony.  But I owe many, many people an explanation – if that’s even possible – and that’s why I’ve written this letter.

He describes how he was lured into child porn:

I found myself drawn to videos that matched my own childhood abuse.  It’s painful and humiliating to admit to myself, let alone the whole world, but I pictured myself as a child in the image or video.  The more an image mirrored some element of my memories and took me back, the more I felt a connection.

This is my deepest, darkest secret.

The following part intrigued me because survivors can sometimes hide and excel in their work.  They are able to compartmentalize and function very well in the real world with no one suspecting a thing:

Those I worked with on the Hill would likely describe me as a controlled, independent, and rational person who could analyze a situation with little or no emotion.  That’s how I viewed myself.  In retrospect, the qualities that helped me succeed on Capitol Hill were probably developed partly as a result of the abuse and how it shaped me.

And this . . . . the power of keeping secrets.  Here he speaks the time he talked to a counselor in jail after his arrest:

The session ended and I left to be taken to a cell.  Before I’d gone far, the counselor called me back. He said there was something he couldn’t put his finger on and he wanted to talk some more.  And then he just stopped and looked at me, not saying a word.  He was the first person in my life who I think had figured it out.  And he was the first person I ever spoke to in any detail about those memories.

The next few sentences reveal much:

And last, to the children in the images:  I should have known better.  I perpetuated your abuse and that will be a burden on my soul for the rest of my life.

I think Loskarn understood how powerful his abuse and secret was – – – but far too late.

Psalms 9:9 The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.

 

As we study patterns here, I want to show you another article I found related to Loskarn’s tragic case.  I came across a fascinating article in which Loskarn’s suicide statement has been analyzed.

The italicized quote is from Loskarn’s letter and the bold font is the analysis:

This is my deepest, darkest secret. 

As a child I didn’t understand what had happened at the time of the abuse.  I did know that I must not tell anyone, ever.  Later the memories took on new and more troubling meaning when I became a teenager.  They started to appear more often and made me feel increasingly apart from everyone else. In my mind I instigated and enjoyed the abuse – even as a five and nine year old – no matter the age difference.  Discussing what had happened would have meant shame and blame. 

These are indications that he is telling the truth.

1.  Reference to himself, again, as a “child”

2.  Having no “voice”, as the child feels muzzled by the perpetrator

3.  “apart”:  this is the brain’s way of protecting itself:  disassociating from the abuse.  This is often the case in highly intelligent victims and leads to mental illness.  (DID).  The child’s imagination “escapes” the abuse, and the victim will describe ‘almost watching, while floating above’ the abuse take place.

4.  “enjoyed the abuse”:  if the perpetrator did not inflict pain, but the sensations were pleasurable, the victim will sometimes suffer even more from it, as guilt is not added to the powerful equation of hell unleashed in their soul.  

For me, this is an inescapable proof of having been created in the Image of God.  A child is touched, sexually, and not injured physically, but actually touched in a way that brings pleasure, yet the damage, often surfacing in adolescence and then re-emerging in the 30’s, is acute.  The victim suffers for life for what was done in childhood.  Physically, this makes no sense, yet, it is a form of violence done against the Image bearer.   It hurts the victim and everyone that loves the victim.  

WebMD.com defines dissociative identity disorder (DID):

Dissociative identity disorder (previously known as multiple personality disorder) is an effect of severe trauma during early childhood, usually extreme, repetitive physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.

and

Dissociative identity disorder is thought to stem from trauma experienced by the person with the disorder. The dissociative aspect is thought to be a coping mechanism — the person literally dissociates himself from a situation or experience that’s too violent, traumatic, or painful to assimilate with his conscious self.

I encourage you to read both the complete suicide letter and the analysis:
Gay Loskarn posted her son’s suicide letter in its entirety here.  And the statement analysis can be found here.
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15 comments on “Patterns of Abuse: What we can learn from the death and suicide letter of GOP Senate Aide, Jesse Loskarn?

  1. Child molestation/abuse is a life long sentence to deal with. That is why we must take it seriously enough to tell the gurus who support SGM/Mahaney to get out of ministry. They don’t get it and are not wise enough to be gurus.

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  2. Julie Anne,

    If I may, let me add a little more about dissociation, as the source you quote doesn’t go into it very well and dives right into DID. Dissociation need not be DID but is a feature of short term trauma and of chronic trauma disorders like PTSD. I wish that the author had included PTSD as opposed to DID — the most severe and very, very rare form of complex PTSD.

    Dissociation has four degrees, and the first degree of it is normal and adaptive. The second is a response to extreme stress and from there, the degrees of dissociation are increasingly maladaptive.

    Note that people who leave high demand religion or ideological groups have very high dissociation scores because they have to bury their own impulses and aspects of their personality to conform to the demands of their group. I have heard but don’t have a reference for it that the more intelligent a person is, the more they tend to dissociate as a coping mechanism. They are all associated with PTSD.

    1. The first very healthy and protective form of dissociation is derealization. When something happens to you that is disturbing, the psyche protects itself by making it seem distant. Things seem dreamlike — you know something stressful is happening to you, but you don’t feel fully present. You may also feel like things are happening in slow motion. You’re a bit removed from the full flow of reality.

    2. The second level of dissociation is depersonalization. This can range from feeling like what is happening is happening to someone else, or you can experience events from a distance as if you’re watching yourself in a movie. It allows a person to endure a very threatening situation that would otherwise be something that would cause them to fall apart.

    3. The third level is amnesia. Your brain block the memory from your recall to protect you from stress.

    4. The fourth level is Dissociative Identity Disorder — or what was once called multiple personality disorder.

    All of that said, again, Loskarn definitely dealt with PTSD.

    In fact, there is an initiative to advance a new trauma diagnosis for adults who were traumatized as children — Developmental Trauma Disorder — typifying Loskarn. Rather than devoting energy to normal growth and development, children spend that energy coping with terrible trauma which has a profound, lifelong effect on their mental and physical health. Children who suffer trauma have a dramatically increased incidence of complex PTSD as adults, and they have a harder time working through PTSD as compared to an adult who suffers trauma but had no trauma during their childhood. They don’t learn (or are not taught) healthy coping as children and can’t rely on it when they become adults.

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  3. Some many “Christian” teachers (and parents) see obedience as an absolute for their children. Do not question adults, be sweet. Children may be “warned” about stranger danger, but the obedience message overrides the ability for the child to resist anyone they consider in power. It grieves me to think of how many victims were rewarded for obedience by their parents, but not encouraged to actively question others and how to develop boundaries. All that happens is abuse is internalized leaving the child with intense shame.

    It mirrors the southern society I grew up in. Even 45 years later, my mother refuses to see that her daughter was victimized at 8 in a movie theatre, while taking care of and protecting her two younger brothers. It will always grieve me to know that my value is much less than living in a contrived perfect world. Dealing with the rage that comes from the experience is a living hell at times.

    Parents, I beg you do not worship at the shrine of authority and obedience. It can destroy your child’s sense of value and open him/her up to a myriad of boundary abuses.

    JA thank you so much for the balanced article. This young man’s story, as heinous as it is, could become your own child’s story if they are not taught the value of boundaries and the importance of communication. Ann

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  4. If I may, let me add a little more about dissociation, as the source you quote doesn’t go into it very well and dives right into DID.

    You’re right, Cindy – – I wanted to include a quick definition because the author analyzing the suicide letter referenced DID. I appreciate you filling in the gaps because there is indeed a progressive nature and you explained it so well and in a way that is not so clinical.

    This was very interesting:

    Note that people who leave high demand religion or ideological groups have very high dissociation scores because they have to bury their own impulses and aspects of their personality to conform to the demands of their group. I have heard but don’t have a reference for it that the more intelligent a person is, the more they tend to dissociate as a coping mechanism. They are all associated with PTSD.

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  5. Paul Martin was a former member of Geoffrey Botkin’s group, the Great Commission. He exited that group and felt so out of it that he went and had allergy testing. He felt disconnected and fuzzy-headed, and he thought that it may have been from sinus congestion. It turns out that he was experiencing what people in groups and those who have recently left a high demand group experience — dissociation.

    Paul went on to become a top notch psychologist who did a great deal of research on the post-cult experience. (He set up the first accredited inpatient facility for cult recovery, The Wellspring Recovery and Resource Center in Ohio.) He and others have demonstrated through their excellent research that dissociation is a common feature in people who have left spiritual abuse.

    To survive, you have to suppress aspects of your personality to meet the demands of the group to gain acceptance and to avoid punishment. Some call this the pseudo-identity — who you are when you’re in the group. And what distinguishes this from other types of groups that require compliance (think of the military) because spiritually abusive groups demand this of you all the time and in all areas of life, even when you’re away from the group. To get through that, you have to hide your own natural personality, and you create a pseudo-self while you’re in the group. This is so psychologically stressful that it causes people to become clinically dissociative.

    In the study of the Boston Movement of the Church of Christ, people who immediately left the group were given the Myers Briggs Type Inventory. By in large, everyone had the same type — the type of the leader. Over time, their previous types and personality traits re-emerge — after they got away from the group influence.

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  6. Fascinating, Cindy. I had no idea that Paul was once connected with Geoffrey Botkin. Wow – that is very interesting. I have Wellspring linked on my resource page and have had contact with a couple of people who have gone through the program and have greatly benefited from it.

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  7. Cindy K, it is interesting that when Kip McKeen (the founder of Boston Church of Christ) had to step down in 2002 the individual churches claimed they were no longer practicing their extreme discipling. They claimed to be more mainstream. That is a lie! My son was wooed by them in Columbia, S.C. and after 4 months started experiencing their extreme manipulation. I have an 28 year old mentally ill woman I am mentoring. She became involved in the Triangle Church of Christ and they tried to get her to shun her gay friends and she threw away her expensive doll collection. Thank God she is out, but she is furious. Usually they move into a college area and use the city’s name + Church of Christ. They target college students and usually alienate them from their families. These churches all originate from Boston Church of Christ and they are dangerous. They love bomb a person then try to control them. Warn your kids when they leave for college.

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  8. I too have a friend who suffered a lot of abuse from her own father, who was a respected elder in a local Church of Christ. For a long time she would lose herself for days at a time, and people would tell her that she did things she couldn’t remember. I’m afraid her problems have morphed into other areas, causing mysterious physical illnesses that doctors seem unable to identify or treat. Many of her own siblings disowned her and insist that she is fabricating all of this. She has sought help from many sources and found little relief. I don’t know what keeps her in the Church of Christ, except that maybe the group of people in her congregation is pretty safe.

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  9. Cindy K., slightly off topic here, but I’ll have to look up about Paul Martin and Great Commission. That should be interesting. I am a former longtime member of both Great Commission and Sovereign Grace churches. My husband and I moved to Maryland as newlyweds in 1986 to be part of the mothership Great Commission Church in Silver Spring. Geoff Botkin, who was then working as an assistant to BCI head Jim McCotter, was our home group leader for a while. I was a guest in their home more times than I can count, and that’s where his wife Vickie (now called Victoria) taught me to quilt. She seemed like the ultimate earth mama at the time, a very sweet lady who was quite content with the simple life. When I was pregnant with my second child in 1988, I was hired by GCI as a computer programmer working from home. I did that for four years. In 1989, we helped launch the Gaithersburg GCI church plant, which was closer to our home. (It was also very close to Covenant Life, the SGM headquarters church that we visited once or twice. I went to a six decorating class at one of the CLC pastor’s homes.) It was the GCI folks who put it into my mind to have a big family (10 kids) and home school (over 20 years). We stayed there in the GCI church plant until 1993, when we moved back to Orlando. We also spent time in a community church and a Reformed Baptist church here. Then in 2002, we joined an SGM church here and stayed for 8 years before moving on to a mellow little PCA church. I can tell you that the similarities between GCI and SGM were astonishing, even given the fact that SGM was Reformed and charismatic and GCI wasn’t. It was the whole structure and mindset. I used to comment on that favorably. I no longer do, obviously, as you can tell by my articles about SGM and about the patriarchy movement.

    Here are some of them…

    http://watchtheshepherd.blogspot.com/2013/01/abuse-thrives-in-culture-of-shame-and.html

    http://watchtheshepherd.blogspot.com/2013/11/vision-forum-and-friends-turn-your-eyes.html

    http://watchtheshepherd.blogspot.com/2011/07/my-history-in-conservative-quiverfull.html

    http://watchtheshepherd.blogspot.com/2013/05/sovereign-grace-and-saving-face-amended.html

    http://watchtheshepherd.blogspot.com/2011/07/my-thoughts-on-cj-mahaney-and-sovereign.html

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  10. Also note that the Boston Church of Christ is a very cultic off-shoot of the more mainline Church of Christ. There are other groups with the same or similar name, too. Not all who identify as Church of Christ are the same, and even in the main group, there is a lot of variation between congregations. I lived in northern Kentucky for several months, and that is a big area for Church of Christ. The one around the corner from our home was very strict about the a capella singing and everything else, but another one across the river in downtown Cincinnati was so different — very informal.

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  11. Virginia,

    You were in the group when they mounted their big coup to take over the government? What a mess that was. And then McCotter just takes off when it fails… McCotter tended to get bored and would just drop things, moving on, leaving broken people in his wake.

    I’m not surprised at all to hear that there was little difference for you when you went to SGM/People of Destiny. There was so much crossover between and among these shepherding groups back then. As with the Boston Movement, these groups claimed to have abandoned the abusive practices, but they really just dropped the open discussions and changed the terms. I know that in my group (just up 295, not far from BWI), they stopped using the terms like shepherding and just started talking about mentoring which became a popular term in the business world, so it didn’t seem strange. They dropped their formal affiliations, but the did everything the same way as they always had.

    I’m glad that you’re out.

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