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Where is a Samaritan When You Need One? Let's Review

Jun 13, 2013 — Categories: ,

Carie Charlesworth taught school at Holy Trinity Catholic school in San Diego for the past 14 years. Because she is a battered woman with four children, she has been fired. Clearly the problem here is Mr. Charlesworth who has a history of violence, restraining orders and is currently incarcerated. But the consequences of his violence have now been exacerbated for his victim by her employer, a faith-based school.



Watch this story on video
. Then I will break it down for you.

Carie Charlesworth taught school at Holy Trinity Catholic school in San Diego for the past 14 years. Because she is a battered woman with four children, she has been fired. Clearly the problem here is Mr. Charlesworth who has a history of violence, restraining orders and is currently incarcerated. But the consequences of his violence have now been exacerbated for his victim by her employer, a faith-based school.

The letters from the school to Carie and to parents outline their concerns that she is a liability or, to more accurately describe her, she is a victim.

I understand the school’s and the parents’ concerns for the threat that Mr. Charlesworth represents to the school. The danger he represents is real. But he is the problem, not Carie.  Focusing on her and penalizing her for being a victim does nothing but embolden men like Charlesworth and communicate that they can continue to use violence to try to control their partners and children with impunity. And it communicates to battered women to not come forward and ask for help because they will likely lose their jobs.

Our task as a community is to find ways to protect her and her kids, to prevent him from harming anyone else, and to insure that she is safe in her workplace and in her home.

It would be bad enough if Carie had been fired from a public school or a bank or a restaurant for being a battered woman. But the fact that a faith-based school would cast her aside and feel no responsibility for standing by her in this crisis is unconscionable. In their letter, they assured her that “we will continue to pray for you and your family.” Please. Prayer is not enough her. Just when she needed the support of her employer and her faith community the most, they have pulled the rug from under her. They took the easy way out because of fear. It isn’t easy to stand by someone; it takes effort and resources. But courage is what helps us to act even when we are afraid.

Which brings me to the need for a Samaritan. You may recall the parable that Jesus told in Luke 10:29-37. A victim of violence lying by the side of the road; the priest and Levite, community leaders, see him and pass by probably because they were afraid that the assailant might still be around and a danger to them; he was a “liability” in their eyes; a Samaritan, a marginalized person, came upon the victim and “had compassion.” He stopped, attended to the victim’s wounds, took him to a safe place, and paid the bill. “Which of these three was a neighbor to the victim?” “The one who showed him mercy.”

Why is this lesson so difficult? It seems abundantly clear what the right thing is. Yet I regularly hear stories of churches abandoning and/or punishing victims of sexual or domestic violence, playing the priest and Levite over and over.

What could have happened if the church and school had been faithful to their own teachings and played the Samaritan? When Carie went to the principal and disclosed her situation, warning the principal that her husband might show up at school, the principal could have first, reassured her of the school’s support of her as a valued staff member and second, organized a meeting with law enforcement and staff to make a safety plan to insure that the school would be secure and to find out what law enforcement was doing to protect Carie and her kids. San Diego has an abundance of resources for battered women and their kids. They could do this.

Until communities pull together, make hard choices, stand in solidarity with battered women and their kids and hold abusers accountable, abusers will continue to threaten and coerce family members, friends, employers, neighbors, etc. Holy Trinity School has not addressed this problem; they have only made it worse and passed it along. They had a choice and they made the wrong one.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute 
www.faithtrustinstitute.org

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Carie

Posted by Judy Sandeen at Jun 14, 2013 06:17 PM
Is there a way we can contact the school to protest?

Battered and Teaching

Posted by Shirley Fessel at Jun 14, 2013 06:17 PM
As someone who has been a battered wife and teaching at the same time, I am grateful my public high school did not remove me, nor my dean at the college where I was an adjunct when my ex husband (a minister) came on campus to cause a scene. His intent was as you said, to remove any financial foundation I may have had. He had already taken the car and I relied on a neighbor for transportation. As usual, the church continues to operate in the dark ages mentality. I once heard that when too many church members don't want to do something, they "pray about it." Or if they don't want to make a decision, they say "It must be God's will". These are part of the denial mentality that preserves social appearances rather than follow Christ's teachings, which are the real foundation of faith, not the social or political club that some church institutions uphold.

responding as Samaritans, ourselves

Posted by Debra Michels at Jun 14, 2013 07:24 PM
Dear Dr. Fortune,
Hey - your article arouses feelings of empathy and outrage, and I don't want to miss an opportunity to use my energy for good - so...
1) How can we help Carie financially and/or in other ways?
2) How can we write to the school?
3) Other political activism, since this is an area in which our country is deficient - responding to potential homicidal people before they get the chance to kill people?

I know your job isn't to mobilize people - I guess it isn't - but oh, how I wish I could do something with regard to this - this situation that repeats itself over and over again, where the whole community knows that someone is dangerous, yet no one does anything and the person goes on to commit atrocities!

Debra S. Michels

Support

Posted by Sonja at Jun 17, 2013 04:21 PM
I also was an abused woman teaching at a Christian School during the abuse and subsequent break-up of the marriage. I taught 4 days after I called the police and then a decision by both the board, principal, and myself decided I was not safe teaching there anymore. The staff was wonderful and although it was horrible, the staff and board did support me in my decision to stay safe and to keep harm from the kids I was teaching. I would love to write a letter to the school in San Diego that is mentioned and encourage them to re-think their decision.

Wise words

Posted by Wanderlust at Jun 17, 2013 08:57 PM
Thank you for this well-reasoned and compassionate response to Ms. Charlesworth's firing. I read the original news story in disbelief. I myself have been in a DV situation and was supported by both my employer and my children's school. To have lost either of those supports would have made a difficult situation even worse. And what a message that sends to the abuser? He now knows that he can make her suffer by threatening her employers. I heard she received an offer from a private school in the area. So happy to see someone else stepping up in the role of good Samaritan.