Catherine Darnell

Catherine Darnell has been a tireless advocate for PBI abuse survivors.

Hopes Tapestry

About Bene Diction

Have courage for the great sorrows, And patience for the small ones. And when you have laboriously accomplished your tasks, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.
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9 Responses to Catherine Darnell

  1. Catherine Darnell says:

    Wow! Thanks so much for sharing my TEDx message with your readers Bene. I am completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of support I have received today!

    I was recently invited to share my message at TEDx conference. A two hour interview was recorded with the TEDx team, and a ten minute video was edited for the live event. A new website, blog and supporting social sites are currently being developed for “Hopes Tapestry.” The full interview will be released on the website once it is completed.

    Hope’s Tapestry will document the amazing life stories I’ve been privileged to witness and share in. Individual, broken life threads are being woven together, creating a tapestry of love, hope and healing. The site will also provide a safe haven where survivors can gather to find support, encouragement and resources for their journey.

    If you could take a moment to view the video, and show your support by clicking on the YouTube “like” button I would be most grateful. This will help raise awareness for the cause through the TEDx network, and will ensure the message gets as much exposure as possible.

    Thank to everyone for supporting my work raise awareness about the global epidemic of childhood sexual abuse and child trafficking. It’s an honor to stand alongside all the survivors in their healing journey.

  2. Catherine Darnell says:

    For those of you who may not be familiar with my background or story I would like to share my impact statement.

    Impact Statement:

    I was born in ’55 at Prairie Bible School. My Father joined the staff a few years before I was born and we remained there for 11 years. My entire life has been impacted by what took place during those ten formative years. My father has always said that he was lead by God to PBI. This has always been so painful, as it’s difficult to reconcile a loving Heavenly Father leading his lambs into harms way. Being abused within a controlling, God fearing environment destroyed my ability to relate to God for most of my life.

    On leaving Prairie just before my 10th birthday I thought everything would be left behind. I managed to suppress almost all memories of those first nine years of my life. Yet, my entire life has been forever imprinted by events that took place during those years. The memories that I did retain were a number of recurring blurry images and nightmares. More memories have continued to surface over the last few years.

    My Mother described having complete faith, and blind trust in everything and everyone at PBI! My father was part of the admin staff, so we had close contact with many of the staff families.  Students and staff moved freely in and out of our doors without question. I was allowed to enter other staff homes without supervision to “play.” It is during these “visits” that things were not right.

    The idea that abuse only took place at PBI behind family walls is absurd! The Prairie “family” was inclusive and included all members of staff from admin to teachers, house parents for MK’s, and campus support staff. All had access and held positions of power and authority over children. Yes, innocent children were indeed abused by MK house parents, dorm monitors, teachers and support staff!

    It’s so important to understand that seemingly insignificant comments may connect survivors stories. I was thinking about this as I read Angelyn Ray’s account of her abuse. I was just 5 years old at the time she refers to experiencing her abuse at the hands of the
    Lester Summach. I remember being in that boiler room where this man worked on many occasions! How many other victims did he have? The statistics tell us to expect there were more!  

    It wouldn’t be until entering pre-adolescents that I became aware that something just wasn’t right. I spent a lot of time asking myself “what on earth is wrong with me?” In the end, everything takes me back to those nine painful years. My teen years proved turbulent…running away from anyone who showed kindness or genuine love. A deep sense of not deserving it..or being able to trust. It was incredibly confusing, as I couldn’t understand what was driving the behaviour.

    As I got older I found myself constantly turning to those who would use me and take advantage. Many were in leadership positions within the church. That is what I felt I deserved…that is what I expected from Christian people. I knew I wasn’t worthy of being truly loved. I’ve suffered from PTSS, disassociation or splitting off, had a breakdown, experienced severe panick attacks, eating disorders and vomiting. I have used prescription drugs to deal with depression, and have abused alcohol in order to manage the anxiety around intimacy.

    I wasn’t sure that I would ever find the answers to my life questions re PBI this side of Heaven. I had long given up on ever figuring this whole thing out. Six years ago I asked God what the purpose was in of all this. Through an online social networking site I contacted a family friend who was an Missionary Kid and had lived in our home at Prairie. Through emails we discovered we also shared this sad mutual experience while at Prairie.

    I joined a Prairie alumni group on line, and was contacted by Linda Fossen who was trying to locate a classmate. We began chatting, and soon discovered that we too shared the experience of abuse while at Prairie! Over the past six years we have seen a staggering number of people from Prairie come forward after reading her story.

    I began to realise how difficult it was to connect with others who have shared this painful past, as many online groups are very public. I created a private support group where women from Prairie could share with one another. I never saw this as an opportunity to readdress my own experience….just identified with these women and thought connecting would help each of us feel less isolated. Through the help of members who lived at Prairie I have now been able to finally put many of those shattered puzzle pieces in place.

    So, what is the cost of childhood sexual abuse? The abuse forever marks and scars every aspect of the mind, body heart and soul! The abuse impacts relationships with those who try to love us. The cost to my husband, family members, my children and friends has been enormous! Relationships with family and friends were kept guarded and safely distant. I never allowed anyone to get to close for fear they would discover who I really was.

    My dear husband has paid a huge price as we have shared a very rocky road. My children? Yes, it has impacted them as well. Though I did everything possible to give them a healthy, safe childhood, they didn’t have a truly healthy Mom. My fear and lack of trust caused me to be over protective. My inability to trust them with people in church settings resulted in keeping them from becoming involved. I also had no way of measuring how to communicate love and affection to them in an appropriate way. I was so afraid of hurting them in any way. As a result I stopped tucking them into bed and giving them hugs and kisses when they were very little. Couldn’t even bathe them when they were toddlers without feeling major anxiety.

    I am constantly amazed by the complete ignorance and insensitivity of those who have not experienced this. The assumption that this is simply a sad event that needs to be “gotten over” is absurd! So many face rejection and revictimisation when they disclose their painful past. Many Mother’s reject their daughters because of their own unwillingness to come to terms with what their partners have done. As a result, the child was not only victimised, but is then abandoned by those who she relied on the most.

    What a powerful evil weapon Satan has used! Who better to prey on than the youngest and most innocent little lambs? The little ones who have no voice or power over those they are completely dependant upon or those in positions of power and authority over them. I am so enraged when yet another young person steps forward and discloses abuse within a faith based community! Victimised by a Father who sits religiously in an evengalical pew or stands in a pulpit every Sunday.

    After 50 years I have found my voice, and I will never be silenced again. Yes, there is room for forgiveness and healing, but I assure you the scars remain, and my brain has been forever hardwired by this. The slightest shift, an unexpected touch or sound can trigger a response and can transport me to that frightened, sobbing little child.

    Today I have the hope that He has never left me or forsaken me, and that He waited patiently for me to find in Him the loving Heavenly Father I have longed for. I thank you for your willingness to look at the damage that has been done to so many lives during their time at Prairie.

    There are so many who are still unable to speak, and I will continue to be a voice for those who suffer in silent torment. Given the numbers that have come forward it is very difficult to believe that those at the administration level were not aware of what was going on in their midst.


    Catherine Thompson-Darnell

  3. Bene D says:

    Hi Catherine:

    It’s an honour to share your video – and the like button has been clicked.:^)

  4. Wanda Janz says:

    Catherine: My heart is with yours in your story.

  5. Cathie, I still have not found that friend that I was looking for but God certainly had other ideas for me contacting you. It has been quite the journey being your sister and friend. I am immensely proud of you and all you have accomplished in these six years. Little did we know what God had in store for us – I am so thankful to have you in my life. Thank you for all that you have done to nurture and care for some of the most broken people I have ever met. They came to me and when I was overwhelmed with the response, I handed them to you and you stood in the trenches and nursed them back to wholeness. I am utterly amazed at what has happened to some of these that I thought were “impossible” cases. You don’t know the meaning of the word.

    I love you with all my heart and soul…you are the sister and friend that God picked for me. Keep using your voice, until every voice is heard!

  6. highrpm says:

    another’s experience of this kind of hell, “the legacy of abandonment in borderline personality disorder”, by a.j. mahari.

  7. fjc says:

    It is brave people like you Catherine who come forward and show up the PBI leadership for want they are….I am too polite to finish the sentence.

    I urge PBI supporters, alumni, and prospective student to withhold financial support and enrollment dollars until such time as there is a change in leadership direction or, better yet, a change in leadership.

  8. fjc says:

    Somehow Catherine I do not think that PBI will be showing, or playing, this video any time soon in any of their meetings or radio programs.

    But think of the possibilities…perhaps Mr. Maxwell could introduce it and say a few words of encouragement to the victims/survivors.

  9. Sheryl Brown says:

    Well said, Catherine. Thank you for your courage and clarity in sharing your experience. You are a model to every survivor in finding her voice and using it. Much love to you..!

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