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To Forgive But Not Forget.
on December 10, 2004
As a sixteen year old victim of rape, torture, and attempted murder by Robert Willie in Louisiana, Debbie Ceuvas survived the brutality this killer used to subdue her during the kidnapping. After fifteen years of remembering the nightmarish ordeal, she was able to overcome the trauma and start speaking out.
Her appearance on the t.v. show, 'Frontline,' to tell what really happened to her as opposed to Hollywood's version of 'Dead Man Walking' proved a pivotal point in her recovery. It served as a turning point whereby she was invited to speak at conferences where other participants had endured their own form of confinement and torture.
At the Cleveland, Ohio, conference in 1997, titled "Forgiveness in a Violent Society,' she shared the platform with Beirut hostage Terry Anderson. At seminars directed by Terry Hargrave, a therapist and psychology professor from Amarillo, Texas, she learned the steps to inner healing through forgiveness: insight, understanding, remorse, compensation for past hurts, through two areas, salvage and restoration.
Though she was never mentioned in the film, her testimony led to Willie's conviction. In FORGIVE AND FORGET by Lewis Smedes, she found the section, "Forgiving Monsters" relevant to her experience. Refusing to forgive meant submerging the pain, shame, and self-pity.
Forgiveness seems so hard and you wonder, "Is it really worth it?" She learned that by forgiving that human monster, she was able to trust again -- to experience the giving and receiving of love. She married Conner Morris and is now a mother.
She writes, "People often ask how I feel about the death penalty now?" Her response: "Justice didn't do a thing to heal me. Forgiveness did." I've always been opposed to the death penalty due to the fact that so many 'criminals' on death row are there through revenge and lies.
This is the previously untold other half of "Dead Man Walking,' the movie starring Sean Penn, which depicted the death row relationship he had with spiritual advisor, Helen Prejean, author of the book, DEAD MAN WALKING. Sister Helen, though she tried to save the life of a killer, admires Debbie's refreshing honesty as she dealt with the 'traumatic aftershock and the long, painful road to become whole again.' This true story of the young woman whose testimony sent Willie to the electric chair is one of courage, faith, and forgiveness.
This book is Debbie's "walk" on an incredible journey which was life-changing. THE DAILY VARIETY describes her as 'a woman who is Prejean's equal in strength and virtue.' We are asked to contemplate, "Is there any crime, any hurt, any person beyond the power of forgiveness."