In Reply to: Jim LaMattery posted by Jules (reposted) on April 14, 2005 at 18:34:08:
from Jules - Thursday, April 14, 2005
accessed 360 times
One of the greatest strengths that those of us raised in the Family have in regards to seeking justice is that there is no ďwe.Ē Despite the Family's attempts to identify "leaders" among us who are inciting the rest of us to speak out about our experiences, the fact is that people do what they do because they personally feel it is right.
There has recently been an ongoing discussion on this web site and others about Jim LaMattery and his seemingly self-proclaimed leadership role in current media and criminal investigations of the Family. He has recently issued a press release as the spokesperson and representative of our case against child abusers. http://releases.usnewswire.com/GetRelease.asp?id=45410
I have mostly stayed out of the debate because I didn't know Jim or his track record well enough to comment in an informed manner on the issue. In addition, while I fully support the bringing of abusers to justice, I am focusing my limited energy and resources to providing support, specifically through Safe Passage Foundation.
However, I feel obliged to express some of my thoughts on this issue, mainly in my role of owner of this web site. This web site has developed beyond anything I ever expected and I am honoured to have played a part in this. A core principle that has guided me in administering it is that I strongly believe that participants own their own story. Each person has the right to choose the level of participation in any given situation by what he or she feels is personally safe and healthy. They have the right to talk about what they want, when they want, and in a way that is safe and appropriate for them individually. I feel responsible in some way for ensuring that this remains a safe environment and that participants are not exploited or harmed here. I take this responsibility seriously and this is why I am speaking out.
My comments here about Jimís conduct are in no way a reflection on his nephews, nieces, or children. I know only too well that one's parents or relatives may hold very different views and values from one's own. Jim alone is responsible for his own actions. I fully support what I know about the Will to Life Foundation and the people that I have met or interacted with, Kristi, Windy and John LaMattery Jr., are kind, caring, and wonderful people, as is Porceleindoll. We all know how much support is needed for our demographic and I applaud their efforts.
I have written to Jim privately on a number of occasions now and explained my thoughts, opinions and concerns to him. I also recently had the opportunity to meet him face to face. He is obviously passionate, intelligent and articulate. When so many of our parent's generation are content to live in denial and sit on the side lines, it is heartening to see such commitment and activism from someone of his age and background.
I also understand his apparent frustration with inaction and hesitation. It is extremely tiring to have to explain oneself on every front sometimes. It costs a great deal personally to commit to an issue that is so personal and as time goes on, it can take a great toll. I have been extremely frustrated myself with a number of the ex-member FGAs who have sat around for years talking online about abuse and how "we are all victims," but are not willing to take any ownership or action to rectify the harm that they have done. Yet I do believe that a person who chooses the path of advocacy is responsible to those he or she claims to advocate for. An advocate must be available and accountable and not take offence at criticism, but be willing to honestly and straightforwardly address and resolve issues with the constituents as they arise.
Jim's dismissal of key questions asked by SGA abuse survivors as frivolous and his refusal to answer them publicly concerns me greatly. This goes against everything I believe in. In my opinion, if we are to get anywhere, transparency is essential. We are all too familiar with the side-steps and weasely, evasive answers and can spot them a mile away. Refusal to answer questions openly smacks of arrogance and disdain and makes some people think that there is something to hide.
Over the past few years the landscape for us as children born into the Family has changed considerably. We are not isolated and alone anymore. There are not just one or two people speaking out alone, who can easily be targeted by the Family media teams. For the first time we as the survivors ourselves own our own stories and own this issue. There is no centralized organization that is speaking on our behalf, but we are able to speak for ourselves. For the first time our own voices are being heard.
I believe that a core principle behind seeking justice at all is that people are accountable and responsible for their own behaviour. For our efforts to have any integrity, we must also apply this value to ourselves and our own actions. It's not enough to passively say "mistakes were made" when people are hurt as a result of what we do and say. I believe strongly that we must take ownership of our own behaviour. We must be accountable and responsible for our own behaviour.
Over these last few months, Jim LaMattery has done a number of things that I believe to be ethically questionable. There are now six specific incidents I know of where he has deeply hurt those he claims to be advocating for. Jim is very new at all of this and I did try to give him the benefit of the doubt in initial instances. However there is now a track record emerging what appears to be behavioural patterns and not just ignorance.
One of the primary issues I have with Jimís tactics has been the bullying of abuse survivors. There have been a number of people now, many of whom who have already put themselves in harms way to speak out, whom Jim has pressured, bullied and attempted to manipulate. If you feel uncomfortable, trust your instincts. No one has the right to pressure you into anything you do not want to do. You are the expert on you and you alone know what is safe and appropriate for you to do and not do. We have all been bullied more than enough in our lives and you have the absolute right to tell someone to back off if they are pressuring you into something that you do not feel okay about. You had no choice about being born into the Family and you do not owe anyone anything as a result of where you happened to be born. Our only responsibility is to ourselves, to be safe, healthy and happy. Anyone who says differently is wrong and is trying to manipulate you.
Another concern I have is regarding confidentiality. Jim has not answered any questions about the confidentiality of the affidavits he has collected. He has already named people publicly without their consent and displayed a continued lack of respect for the victims. Anyone who is sharing their personal story, whether it is online anonymously, or in an affidavit where you sign your name, should know who the person who controls that information is. What will they do with it? Where will it go? Who else will read it? What control do you have over what you have written? Get this in writing before you send it. If you have already sent an affidavit to Jim, I recommend that you contact him and specifically state in writing what you have given permission for your story to be used for and what you will not allow him to do with it.
Another topic is Jimís broad and sweeping statements insinuating that anyone who criticises or questions him personally or his methods does not care about victims of abuse. He has attempted to set himself up as THE advocate and/or representative of this issue, but that does not make it the case. In addition, some of the information he has relayed or spun is misleading and inaccurate. I suggest that whenever possible, it is always a good idea for people to confirm information directly or at least to ensure that it is from a few sources. If people make offers or promises, get it clearly stated in writing from them. A generalised verbal assurance is worth nothing. Ask for the specifics of anything relating directly to yourself.
I think it is important for people to know that Jim did not initiate the current FBI or IRS investigations. Jim only became aware of these proceedings himself in the past few months. The media attention on the issue of abusers in the Family following Ricky's death as well as the number of people who directly contacted the FBI and IRS have been the pivotal factors in stepping up the investigations. Law enforcement will investigate crimes themselves and investigations are not dependent on a private citizen coordinating efforts.
Obviously we are all free to work with whomever we choose to. I personally do appreciate Jim's efforts in many areas and understand the challenges and work involved in seeing justice through. But these concerns are real. For anyone who may share them and wish to assist the FBI in their investigation, I suggest that you consider working with them directly.
The direct mailing address is:
9797 Aero Drive
San Diego, CA 92123
Attn: RE: The Family International
For more direct information, please contact Exister, who can be emailed through this site.
The bottom line in all of this is that the process is many times as important as the result. If we have a noble cause, but are willing to sacrifice the rights, feelings, and dignity of others and compromise our own integrity to achieve our goal, how do we differ from The Family? A crusade is never greater than the sum of the rights of the individuals involved. The minute we are willing to overlook unethical behaviour because we believe that a greater good is served through it all, we travel a very dangerous road. We have all suffered because people have done just that.
I wish for accountability and resolution and justice more than anything. But I also believe that we do not have to compromise our integrity to achieve these goals. What we hope and strive for is right and true. It will not fall out of the sky and it does take work and commitment to see justice done. Yet we do not have to sacrifice our self-worth, our values, or what our instincts tell us is safe and healthy for this to happen. We can do this the right way.