Lynne Maner's adult life had been devoted to healing. Well-known in wellness circles, she was teaching stress management, energy therapy and spiritual philosophy.
But the central truth of her own life was fundamentally a figment of her imagination. And she remembers the exact moment when she understood what she had to do to change that.
On a pier waiting to board a cruise ship in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 2000, where she was slated to teach "life skills," a buddy called her emotional bluff.
Maner had referred to two of her former junior high teachers as "my lovers."
Her friend corrected her. You mean "your molesters."
No, "they were my lovers, they were, they cared about me."
Her friend asked if she would call them that if they were her 8-year-old son's "lovers."
And the scales fell from her eyes.
The teachers who long ago had pretended to be her substitute family, asked her to keep their secrets, feigned love and exchanged attention for sex were uncovered for what they really were: predatory pedophiles.
Mothers don't allow that.
The revelation would be the start for Maner of an almost decade-long personal journey that in 2008 saw a jury award her $3.9 million from the Fayette County school system for ignoring allegations of the abuse. And, last week, her testimony was key to the criminal conviction of Jack Russell Hubbard and the impending conviction of Roberta Blackwell Walter for the crimes they committed against her.
30 years to justice
Maner, now 46, had been sexually abused from 1978 to 1982 by a succession of four teachers, a guidance counselor and an assistant principal while in Fayette County schools, according to testimony in the 2008 civil trial.
The first to come in contact were Walter, who was 32 and Roberta Blackwell then, and Hubbard, then 31. Blackwell likened herself to a mother figure and continued their relationship through Maner's high school years. Hubbard bragged repeatedly about "taking her virginity."
Last week, Blackwell testified against Hubbard in his criminal trial. For her testimony, she will receive a reduced sentence for misdemeanor sexual misconduct.
Hubbard was found guilty of one count of third-degree rape involving Maner and four counts of third-degree sodomy involving another student. Hubbard awaits sentencing.
In recent weeks, the civil verdict against the school district and the large financial judgment were upheld by the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
No others implicated by Maner will be criminally charged. The school district has asked the appellate court for a rehearing.
Telling her story
Lynne Maner, who in the last six years has sold her businesses, worked sporadically and otherwise lived these cases, starts by explaining how her 17-year-old son, Jade, has a 3.6 GPA, is an organic gardener and a really terrific songwriter. First things first, she says.
Now we can talk about her.
The truth about Maner's life is that the bad stuff about yourself is the most believable thing going. The victory is in getting up every morning and tamping it down. The compartmentalization she employed when she was being molested is a handy skill.
It works, she says, to "make me appear to be higher functioning than I really am."
On her best days, she finds the peace she has worked to find. On her worst, she stays in bed in physical pain, not sure where it hurts and not sure whom to complain to about exactly what. She has no health insurance and hasn't for most of her adult life.
She still figures, deep down, whatever bad that happened was somehow her fault. Then she remembers it isn't.
She lives in a small house outside of Fayette County. Since she had a child, she has never lived in Lexington, because she would never allow her son to go to Fayette County schools. Her home is cozy, worn, simple. Her favorite things are prominent: a colored chalk portrait of her as a small child, her tiny hand print outlined on the back in pencil; numerous pictures of her son; an authentic native American dream catcher; a Tibetan quartz singing bowl; a magic wand; guitars and song lyrics.
"Jade and I write songs because we can't afford therapy," she says, smiling.
Nearby are five cats. Charlie, the dog that owes Maner his life (and never seems to forget it) is plastered by her side. She found him, lying emaciated and belly-up, on a New Mexico highway with his mama, a pit bull, nearby. His paws had been scorched by the searing pavement. She thought she'd bury him. Instead, she put both dogs in her car, found the mama a good home and nursed Charlie to his 120-pound hulking happy self.
"What she does for a living," says pal Meriah Kruse, "is take care of others. You can't be in a really needy place to do that every day. That isn't her. She's highly intuitive, generous, bright, exceptional."
She is, by Jade's estimation, a terrific mom.
She had wanted to be a doctor.
Maner tells people she has an eighth-grade education. She's not talking about the sex. She's talking about her education.
Eighth grade, when the abuse started, is when she lost focus. More important, she says, it's when she lost her ability to sit down in a room and disappear inside a book or into science or into art or into any topic without something else creeping in to crowd out the joy.
At 19, she went to South Florida and met a man on a beach. He was in his 60s. He turned out to be a former fighter pilot, Col. Stephen David, and she told him most of her story. He didn't judge her, didn't ask questions. He was kind. She hardly knew how to behave.
They met again and he gave her a copy of A Course in Miracles, from the Foundation for Inner Peace. The philosophy iterated in the book takes ideas from Christianity, Eastern religions, mysticism and psychology.
"He taught me I had a purpose. If I could get in touch with it and manifest it, I could find peace and gratification."
They kept in touch. He mentored her, and this time she actually found out what mentoring meant.
She found that when she was doing something in synch with her nature, she says, "I would not think of myself as bad or sexualized."
But, she learned, staying on the path would be the trick. She spent six years at the University of Kentucky but never quite finished anything. She'd get part way through a semester and withdraw.
"I was overly optimistic about my abilities," she says, so she pieced together an informal education, one centered on the holistic healing arts.
Her first real job was courtesy of David, who had connections with an immunological research center in the Bahamas where she was soon doing guided imagery for cancer patients.
It fit, she says, her true nature.
Covenants and chains
She married a martial arts instructor, a wise man, she says, whom she found easy to be with.
"I'm sure I told him about my past, but he didn't make a big deal out of it," she says. Still, the marriage didn't last because her experience was that vows were worthless. "Roberta had been married, and there was always a back door in that marriage. I always thought there were back doors to everything, institutions, covenants, everything. I just stopped believing sanctity existed."
She effectively stopped eating. Still doesn't eat much, subsisting on a diet of sweet tea, yogurt and soup.
In 1992, she got married again and became pregnant. She became associated with the Lexington Healing Arts Academy and Lexington Complementary Integrative Therapies. She learned energy and craniosacral therapy. And she became addicted to prescription painkillers "to flatline the emotional."
She separated from her husband, though amicably. (He lives just around the corner, and she and her son see him every day.)
As always, pills or no pills, she was spending a third of her days in bed, crippled by pain, "where everything I owned hurt. I can't function. It's like my taped-together life comes untaped."
Then she decided, by herself, that "I never wanted to be captive. No one wants to wear chains, so I had to get off the drugs."
And during the withdrawal she had the first stirrings of what would happen that day in 2000 on the Fort Lauderdale pier. She said to herself: "Oh, no. I'm going to have to drag this stuff out into the light of day sometime, or I'm going to have to find a way to bury it again."
Why it needed doing
In 2003, she owned Lexington Wellness Center and New Day Complementary Care Clinic. At the top of her game, a leader in alternative medicine in the Bluegrass, she wondered: "If I call this what it is, will it mend?"
She told her friends about the abuse. And how she needed to do it save children, like her own, from anything remotely similar.
Throughout the six-year ordeal, says Kruse, "she has never needed reminding why it needs to be done. We just tell her that we believe in her, that we love her."
If Maner had known the price of trading her youthful compliance for false safety, she would not have paid it. To this day, she does not know how to play games. She doesn't know how to pleasure shop, which most teen-age girls learn to do at 15. She's been in a state of fight or flight, she says, "like a constant cortisol drip" for as long as she can remember.
There's a Hopi Indian story she is trying to live by daily.
In a quiet voice at her kitchen table, her gaze steady, she tells it:
"A granddaughter asks her grandfather about the two wolves inside her. One, she says, is kind and sees the beauty in everything and speaks only of peace. The other is afraid, jealous, ugly and hungry all the time. I need to know, she asked him: which one wins?"
That is simple, my child, he told her.
"It is the one you feed."