Another Perspective (#7 In This Series)

By | October 22, 2015

*Note: These are several of the many private responses/comments I have received based on previous posts about sexual abuse. The writers have agreed to let me share their comments. I have chosen to include this variety of responses all in one post, kind of as an extension to the comments that have already been posted underneath the blog entries of the past two weeks.

I have numbered these in case you want to respond to a specific piece that has been shared here—but other than that, there is no significance to the numbers.

Comment 1

Abuse can happen to anyone, at any age, and to any sex. It can be physical, mental, emotional, sexual, and financial. All of it hurts, and none of it is deserved.

An abused child who hasn’t gotten deep therapy will most likely grow up to be with an abusive significant other without even realizing it. A relationship doesn’t start out in an abusive manner, of course. I don’t imagine a second date would ever happen should he/she lean across the table and hit the other person, or sexually assault them. They’re usually very charming but like any abuser, grooming happens first to the victim.

I married an abuser so I understand this story. My significant other was so charming that even my own family had some serious doubts about why I had to escape, and continued to have a relationship with this person for a number of years. My family also doubted because I hid the fact that I was being abused as it felt so shameful and I had seen many other spouses being ignored or not acknowledged about spousal abuse—both physical and sexual and all the rest.

I believe it was something that nobody knew how to help with, and frustration over seeing the person getting help going back to the abuser over and over again. It’s important that when we know a spouse is being abused we take the risk of exposing shame and offer to help that person find support from qualified people and if we are able to, to offer whatever support we are capable of offering.

Comment 2

I’m glad somebody added their feelings about violence against adults to this thread.

I especially liked the comment, “when someone actually is brave enough to leave an abusive spouse they are more often than not shamed and ignored…” As an “outsider” seeing this happen, for example women telling abuse victims that they should be more forgiving, I was initially enraged. My first instinct was disgust towards persons who were judgmental of abuse victims, and had the audacity to question the integrity of a women’s faith in that situation (or any situation for that matter). The implication of course, is that if a victim seeks prosecution of a perpetrator, they must not have a heart for forgiveness.

But then stopping to think, I see what a powerful motivator fear is. I also grew up in a conservative religion, though not the [name of Church], and went on a faith journey myself. And only in looking back, once you have left a religion of fear, and traded it in for a religion of love….only then can you see why people react how they do.

If your greatest fear in life has been falling off the “straight and narrow” (which in reality turns out to actually be the “wide and crooked”), that fear motivates all. And there seems to be this unspoken sense that “weak faith” is contagious. As if in allowing someone else to have their own opinions, your own moral standing is weakened. Which of course is not true.

I only wish those living in fear would understand this important difference: forgiveness does not preclude accountability. You can fully walk within the boundaries of your self-imposed faith constraints and believe all is forgiven, and still demand that abusers are held accountable for their actions.

Calling the police and allowing the legal system to deal with sexual predators and spouse abusers does not mean you have a forgiveness and therefore a faith deficit. They are two different processes.

As for those of us who are enlightened, we need to exercise our own tolerance for those who are still governed by fear, and not yet enlightened themselves. You simply don’t know what you don’t know.

Comment 3

Evelyn, as you go forth with this, perhaps you would also consider asking for help in what is helpful in overcoming sexual abuse; dealing with PTSD, with the affects of life after abuse… and learning to be empowered.

When the author [of this post] speaks of pain, I would be curious to know what the pain is? Is she seeking therapy and does she have someone to whom she can share her thoughts and emotions?

In my experiences, yoga, writing, walking, creative play, and reading books, and authors who have had experiences similar to what I went through. Also, to share resources in their local areas to help with reporting. It is helpful to share the story; but that is the first step in a long journey.

My blog has books that have been helpful to me.

While I appreciate that the folks can be anonymous, it comes with its own level of secrets that I am not comfortable with. It takes them out of character when they don’t have to be seen. Or perhaps their true character is showing; but we don’t know who they are. I hope you can be the impetus to movement. May this be an opening for healing. ~Beth Jukuri

Comment 4

My favorite website for sex abuse issues:

This site addresses sexual misconduct by adults and children (yes, children can be perpetrators) and gives guidance for deciding when normal behavior (eg: culturally acceptable expressions of affection, age-appropriate sexual curiosity and experimentation) crosses the line into abusive behavior. The conversation on this site points to the usual resources in law enforcement and social work; the goal is sexual safety and healing for all parties concerned: victims, perpetrators, and their families. Not all perpetrators re-offend, and those who can be rehabilitated should be offered resources to help them deal with the factors that caused them to offend in the first place.

Parents need to learn how to keep their children safe from harm; they also must be prepared to deal with a potential perpetrator in their own family. What would you do if your teenager abused a sibling, relative, or friend? (This scenario is often overlooked in discussions, and it is not clear anywhere in society today how this should be handled).

This issue is weighty and the solutions are not black-and-white. Hearing the stories of victims is a first step. Teaching our children how to stay safe is another. The next steps are harder, because they require that we understand the other actor in the story–the offender. And that means we need to try to learn how to teach our children not to BE offenders. (Yes, it could be your child; every offender is someone’s child.)

Comment 5

Here is a useful link:

Comment 6

It is not the job of the church to punish the individuals nor do they have the power to. What is happening comes as a shock to many people, and the families need to contact law enforcement of the criminal behavior. There is no excuse for what happened, and the church in no way supports the illegal behavior. However, they have no legal power to bring the men to justice. That needs to be done in court.

Comment 7

Ev, You’re right to say that even if the institution has no blame they should still embrace making an effort to prevent incidents in the future. An organization I am in now will not admit to being responsible for incidents and that’s ok… As long as when incidents are uncovered the organization has an active body to uncover the facts and situations surrounding those incidents.

I don’t know if any of the leaders of the church would be open to creating such a body but it would be amazing to see if they created such a body and if they were willing to do education of some type at Sunday school or other church events.

Maybe I am crazy to think that is an option but if they were it would be amazing. I would go back and participate in that community if that were to be even a possibility. One new victim is one too many.

Comment 8

I do feel inclined to share a little with you and others if you would be so generous, but if not, no problem. There has been an immanent problem with abuse going back generations. These are not new issues but what is new is the amount of concern and awareness by our generation to help instill change.

I know there are a lot of us who want to know more about how and why it got this bad, and what we can do to help heal now, and prevent it in the future. ~ Josh Torola

Comment 9

One of the hardest parts of surviving abuse was feeling let down by my church family. I thought that once I emerged from the abuse, I would be welcomed, I would be given hugs, love, and support. I thought my fight to be free from pain had ended. I was wrong. Instead of hugs, I got stares and whispered about. I was told horrific things to my face of what others thought. People who were near and dear to me my entire life, ran.

I understand now why. Fear. Most of the negativity I received was from people who also experienced abuse and wanted me to be quiet so they didn’t have to face their own. I also realize now, I needed a good therapist to help me navigate the grief from abuse. I couldn’t expect people who were dealing with the same, help me. How, when they could barely help themselves?

What would help, what action needs to be changed, is support.

Support the person by believing them, listening to them, and helping them get the support (therapy/food/cards/child care/financial) they need.

I will always highly advise seeing a therapist. Someone who has been abused, is very vulnerable. To decisions, to memories, to life and a trained professional can protect them through their grief.

If you would like to share any experiences or thoughts publicly, you can leave a regular blog comment down below, or post on my Facebook link. If you would like to submit an anonymous story, you may do so at this link.

From Ev:

I am looking for resources and suggestions for what people can do—

  • to prevent this from happening
  • to report offenders
  • to talk to their kids
  • to talk to others
  • to heal if this has happened to them

Please comment below or send me your links or contacts so that next week I can compile everything and post an entry specifically around this topic of prevention and how to find/get help.

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2 thoughts on “Another Perspective (#7 In This Series)

  1. Karyn

    I believe this has all brought up good discussion and awareness. However, let’s not forget that clergy are MANDATED reporters. Therefore, if an individual tells his/her pastor about the abuse going on (sexual, physical etc), they are required by LAW to report it — that’s any pastor, any church. Just as doctors, school employees, counselors, etc are mandated reporters. It isn’t our choice to decide whether to report or not, the law is clear: you must report.

  2. E.W.

    Why should we take responsibility as a church for abuse that happened by others? Individuals? It shouldn’t tarnish an entire religion, the mistakes of individuals, should it?

    There are several things that allowed the abuse to happen within the church. If you think you don’t know someone affected, you’re probably wrong. Be careful when talking to others and dismissing the church’s role as they may be hiding a traumatic past and healing. We recently found out that several generations were abused. A grandparent reported it as a child and was told by a minister to forgive the perpetrator- “believe all your sins” and that was it. More and more was uncovered by family and revealed by a number of friends but I’ll spare the details. When spoken honestly in private, many of the stories shared some of these thoughts in common:

    The church is a closed, rather exclusive community, outsiders aren’t embraced. An issue like this is often taken to a minister or another trusted church source for advice and unfortunately, dismissed. Therapists and law enforcement are not included in the conversation.

    We all can be forgiven for our sins. But a law-breaking transgression against a child should not merely be ‘forgiven and forgotten’. This happened numerous times.

    Children were left unattended and unsupervised for rather lengthy periods while ‘visiting’ others homes or in their own homes. Parents trusted that because the fellow churchgoers were of the same faith, they were safe. Even if children felt uncomfortable, they were encouraged to be friendly.

    There is a sense of co-dependency within the church. It’s sometimes difficult to make decisions, ask questions, or trust our instincts if they might conflict with what we’ve been told without considering what the church or others would think is right or wrong. Our decisions are made with ‘what would others think’ in mind. It keeps the harmony. If you’re raised blindly obeying what you’ve been told, why should things be different now?

    Sexuality is a taboo topic. Children are curious creatures and need to know what is a violation and what isn’t. They need open conversation and to know that sexuality isn’t evil, their bodies are designed perfectly, but there are boundaries.

    Shame. Who wants to talk about that? Some are saddled with immense shame, often displaced, often a collection of ‘sins’ that spun from church ideology. Cycles are often repeated when this shame is present. People can repent but aren’t truly free when they carry around that intensity of shame. It eats at them. Sometimes, the shame is what causes an offender to reoffend.

    Generational. When abuse in some cases has been documented four generations back and never dealt with, it’s not shocking that it continues on.

    So, why do we need to attack and address this as a church? Because it happened in our walls, on our watch. It happened by trusted relatives and fellow churchgoers. We chose to close off our simple world and beautiful community– we can’t place the blame on children who were raised in an environment that perpetuated distrust and obedience and did not allow for openness and dialogue. This is the harsh reality. Does this happen other places in society? Of course it does. And in other churches as well. But we don’t go to other churches, our church *is* our community and it’s happened/ is happening here and now. Please consider looking up literature online and educating yourself and your family on prevention and talking about sexual abuse or boundaries. Talk to others about it so it stops being so uncomfortable. And please stop the talk of “it’s not the church”. There are many people recovering from abuse that will tell you how and why the church or it’s ideology/beliefs was ripe ground for the abuse to happen. Ask yourself why their statements trigger you and listen without reaction; don’t minimize their stories. Hundreds of people are healing now that this is out in the open. Let them speak their truths. They were denied that for so long.

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