A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Church apologies are getting old. It’s wise to be cynical about church abuse-awareness programs.

Don’t get too excited if a church apologises to abuse victims and runs an ‘awareness program’ about abuse.

This post is a head’s up to those who might be getting hopeful about the churches that are running ‘abuse awareness programs’ these days.

It is a re-working of an old post of mine. First I’m going to show how the rhetoric of church apologies to abuse victims has not changed. Then I’m giving a case study of a church ‘abuse awareness program’ that happened more than a decade ago… and how little good fruit it has brought.

A church apology to victims of domestic abuse, delivered from an Australian pulpit in 2008

As you read this church apology, you may notice how the words are virtually identical to the apologies delivered by today’s Churches / “churches”.

We have listened to and heard those who have been abused in family violence by members of their own households and we believe that it is the responsibility of the Church to respond to all victims of abuse with compassion and unconditional support.

We acknowledge that the experience of many women in the past is that they have not always been responded to with such compassion and support. Instead they have felt invalidated, disbelieved, pressured and unsupported.

We confess that this is not the spirit of Christ, and we express our deep sorrow that many women and children and some men and teenagers, who have desperately needed the understanding, love and protection of the Church, have instead felt rejected, neglected, disenfranchised and devalued.

We cannot promise that we will always get it right in the future, but today we commit ourselves to seeking to be well informed about and pro-active towards family violence; equipping ourselves so we can provide support, care and counseling; willing to access appropriate resources in the community, and to be continually engaged in building sensitive, safe, just and loving communities of faith.

We humbly look forward together to the time when all those who are wounded by family violence and who come to the Church for healing will find Christ as their healer and the Church as their safe, accepting and loving family.

Doesn’t that sound great?

It may have brought tears to some victims’ eyes when they heard it read out from the pulpit.

How many current “churches” spout off a similar (almost identical, word-for-word) apology, then throw everyone under the bus except the abuser and the upper echelons of the “church”? The recent media is LOADED with similar kinds of shenanigans.

How many current “churches” actually DO (back up) what they say in their apology?

How little the times / apology words / etc. have actually changed…

Background on the domestic abuse program run more than a decade ago by four churches in Australia.

It began with a pastors’ network in the municipality of Casey, an outer suburb of Melbourne, Australia. Together with their local council and community health centre they obtained a federal grant for a multi-congregation family violence education and prevention project. The pilot project then expanded to 16 congregations.

The project involved —

  • training of leaders in the churches
  • a 28 day focus on awareness and capacity building for the congregation

The churches obtained secular DV training for key leaders, developed policies, then ran a four week program on domestic abuse across each church. This involved weekly sermons and small group studies tailored to suit the age and sex of participants. Everyone was involved – small groups, Sunday school classes for kids, youth groups, women’s groups, etc. They also adapted the program to the ethnic backgrounds found in each church’s particular demographic.

Their ‘Apology to Victims of Family Violence’ which I quoted above was delivered at a combined service held by four churches in the City of Casey.

The final report of the project (which is no longer online) said that:

  • The project reached about 4,500 people, 16 faith communities and 300 leaders.
  • The project resulted in 84 disclosures by victims and 30 perpetrators came forward.
  • The level of disclosures appeared to be a result of the leaders taking measures to ensure they provided a safe place for help to be provided.
  • The project led to the formation of a recovery group for Christian victim/survivors which adapted a program from the secular health service by giving it a Christian component.

Here is a short excerpt which I copied from the project’s Model Package before it was scrubbed from the internet:

During the implementation of the four week campaign on family violence a woman reached out to a neighbour who was experiencing family violence and invited her to church. The neighbour attended the Sunday morning service, and while it was in progress her husband stormed into church yelling abuse, demanding his wife return home.

A few of the men of the church quietly rose, surrounded the man and ushered him outside while some of the congregational women gathered around the woman who was being abused. The men spoke to the husband about his inappropriate behaviour and inquired whether they could help by escorting him home and talking further.

A few of the men spoke with the husband for several hours offering referral information and follow up if required. Another woman from the community had a house, that was not rented, and offered this to the neighbour as a refuge in the interim if she wanted to leave the abusive situation. The neighbour took her up on the offer and was able to escape the abusive relationship.

Now for the Big Question —
Did the project make much difference in those churches in the long term?

I have been told by an insider who was part of the project that the vast majority of church leaders who were trained during the project are no longer championing the prevention of family violence in those churches. Their attitude is “We did that; now we can move on and focus on other things.”

The apology which I quoted above was delivered to the four churches in the pilot program. I’m now highlighting the words from the apology which referenced women, children, men and teenagers:

We acknowledge that the experience of many women in the past is that they have not always been responded to with such compassion and support. Instead they have felt invalidated, disbelieved, pressured and unsupported.

We confess that this is not the spirit of Christ, and we express our deep sorrow that many women and children and some men and teenagers, who have desperately needed the understanding, love and protection of the Church, have instead felt rejected, neglected, disenfranchised and devalued.

I attended the event where they presented the Final Evaluation Of The Project. The project had been run with government funding, so the government (bean counters that they are) required a formal evaluation of the project.

By the time the project had been run out to the whole 16 congregations and formally evaluated, this emphasis on women and children was very much watered down.

The training that the secular experts had provided to the church leaders would have focused on the most common type of family violence which is men abusing their female partners and children. (I can say this with confidence because I myself have attended training programs run by secular family violence experts in Melbourne, Australia.)

But the formal evaluation of the Casey Churches Project talked a whole lot about less common types of family violence — adolescent violence against parents, wife abuse of husbands, same-sex relationship abuse.

I got the impression that the issue of husbands abusing their wives and kids was faded out into the background in the cause of political correctness. I wondered how much abusive men in those 16 congregations had influenced this.

Anyone who has not been living under a rock will know that abuse by leaders in churches is not uncommon. And most pastors are male. So it stands to reason that some of the male leaders in those 16 congregations would have been abusers.

The guy who presented the Evaluation – with a fancy slide show and a long boring talk – was wishy washy.  He seemed to have no Christian worldview, no Christian morality, and no indignation about the evil of abuse. It was clear that he ran or worked for a business which did private consultancy. He was a hired man. He had no skin in the game. He was just making money out of doing this evaluation. And I got the distinct impression this man was a homosexual.

I also got the impression that all the church leaders and civic leaders and social workers and counselors who attended the event only came because the organisation they worked for had told them to attend. That is necessary image management for organisations. It’s virtue signalling. They send their rep to an event to show that the organisation ‘cares’. No one seemed concerned about the lack of heart and substance, except me. I left that event feeling my loneliness acutely. Where are the real Christians?

The moral of this story. If your church runs an awareness program about domestic abuse (or sexual abuse) don’t get too excited.

The chances are, the church is running an awareness program about abuse because it is virtue signalling, or is doing preemptive damage control.

The abusers and their witting/unwitting allies will somehow manage to make it all wash away.

When rain falls on sandy soil, there is so little organic matter in the soil that the rain just runs straight through. Sandy soil cannot hold moisture. It must be built up gradually with regular additions of organic matter if it is to hold moisture so plants can thrive. Gardeners tell me it takes about five years to rejuvenate sandy, infertile soil. One has to give it regular applications of organic matter (e.g. aged manure) and mulch, and keep doing that at least once a year for five years, to get the soil healthy and productive. After that it still needs an annual thick application of mulch to keep it fertile and healthy.

 

 

16 Comments

  1. Finding Answers

    From the original post

    “…….One has to give it regular applications of organic matter (e.g. aged manure) and mulch, and keep doing that at least once a year for five years, to get the soil healthy and productive…..”

    “As you read this church apology, you may notice how the words are virtually identical to the apologies delivered by today’s Churches / “churches”.”

    “The chances are, the church is running an awareness program about abuse because it is virtue signalling, or is doing preemptive damage control.”

    “…….After that it still needs an annual thick application of mulch to keep it fertile and healthy.”

    For me, ^That series of statements, when COMPLETELY reworded and reworked, can be applied to me.

    I needed a safe haven (living by myself in a physical residence of my own) for five years before I could even BEGIN to experience even a MODICUM of safety.

    My communications started to sound virtually identical to other victims and survivors of abuse, and eventually my communications started to sound like other victims and survivors of some REALLY extreme forms of abuse, although my own (personal) experiences were NOT as extreme. (Omitting details for my protection.)

    I could preempt the previous false picture in my mind for God, and BEGIN to replace it with the true (Biblical) picture of God.

    I need regular interactions with the Triune God (and some godly Christians, not “christians”) to be healthy.

    I have COMPLETELY overhauled parts of Barb’s post Church apologies are getting old. It’s wise to be cynical about church abuse-awareness programs.

    Perhaps the individuals Barb discusses in her post would do well to follow my analogy in overhauling their (the individuals) apologies or when creating church abuse-awareness programs.

  2. Finding Answers

    I am adding on a comment NOW that was my INITIAL (and unwritten) response to Barb’s post, and my response NOW may be similar to MANY other individuals who (currently) have no voice (for any number of reasons).

    From the original post “Now for the Big Question — Did the project make much difference in those churches in the long term?”

    Based on ALL my research on the internet over the last two years, I would answer “Church apologies are getting old. It’s wise to be cynical about church abuse-awareness programs.”

    ^That was my INITIAL (polite) response to Barb’s question, which could ALSO be communicated (politely translated from the picture in my mind) same organic material, different pile.

  3. Helovesme

    When I saw the title of this post I recognized it right away, and figured it had been updated—excellent work as always.

    Mind if I ask what you meant by: “And I got the distinct impression this man was a homosexual.” I mean no disrespect in asking, not trying to bait or distract from the main and most vital points of this post. I just wasn’t sure why that line was included—-was that to validate that he was likely not a Christian? His lack of interest and passion for the subject matter, not his sexual orientation, stood out the most to me and validated your insights. And very much validated your impression of a lack of Christ’s love in him.

    Your point about most pastors being male (and the resulting lack of calling one another out as potential abusers) is almost a “taboo” topic, but I am SO glad you did. No, it’s not being a “man hater” or overly suspicious of males in general. Your observations in the post are valid.

    It matters that most pastors are males, and there is a strong possibility that some of those pastors are abusers. It’s a valid hypothesis to wonder if pastors are covering for one another either as pastors OR as males in general.

    Those that are in a certain occupation do tend to group together, almost like a club mentality. It is like a world within a world. Pastors are no different. I think they know a lot about each other, maybe more than we imagine. It’s not crazy to imagine that they feel compelled or coerced to cover for one another. There may be an unwritten but mutual understanding that in order to remain and/or succeed as pastors, they need to stick together.

    Not only that, but “ratting out” on one another is generally seen as a big deal. This may or may not apply to just pastors—-males in general might feel pressured to stick up for one another. Turning on “one of your own” will likely come with serious consequences. And being excluded is no small thing—-it is a big risk to take.

    This doesn’t even have to apply to mutual abusers! Even IF a pastor or a male is not abusive himself, he may “understand” the so-called male tendency and temptation to abuse; he has felt the same way, even if he chose not to engage in it. But boy, the impulse is real and powerful; how can he “fault” anyone for giving into this “weakness?” In fact, it may be hypocritical of him to look down on this male—-who is to say that he himself will not someday “give into” temptation and choose to abuse?

    I recently read a post by Pastor Sam Powell that called out a horrible post—it straight up said that females should act in superficial, shallow ways in order to be attractive to so-called godly men. Dumb down your intelligence, accomplishments and overall dignity. I honestly thought it was a joke; it reeked of misogyny and oppression.

    After I caught my breath after feeling a lot of knives thrust into me, I tried to take a more humble and hurtful approach to try put my horror into words.

    Humanity in general wants to socialize with humanity in general. Regardless if you are more extroverted or introverted—-relationships MATTER to each of us, in some way or shape or form. We all long to have some form of connection with one another.

    I am a female, and I know how hard it is to fit in with your own gender as well as the opposite sex. Many times I have found myself trying so hard to fit in, I found myself putting on more of an act versus putting myself out there as I really was.

    That awful post was encouraging females to deceive in order to be received (romantically, at least) And pretty much saying that males WANT to be deceived—-they want to see what they want to see, so cater to that in order to not be alone. Not be excluded. And again—to not be alone, left alone or left out—- which is a most terrifying prospect.

    Being alone also means you are without support. Now, never mind if that support was only given if you played along and put on an act—-it’s still hard to forgo even fake-based support! Ask those who are either estranged or excluded from family or church family or whatever group dynamic—-you refused to play along, but you paid a price for it as well.

    Back to the notion about males, and specifically pastors. Apply that sort of “understanding” that pastors need one another, lean on one another and so must stick together. Barb’s apt observations shine a harsh light onto a harsh reality. Club loyalty is a real deal thing, with real deal consequences. And it doesn’t JUST apply to males and/or pastors.

    • Finding Answers

      Helovesme commented (26TH NOVEMBER 2019 – 1:11 PM) “……Club loyalty is a real deal thing, with real deal consequences. And it doesn’t JUST apply to males and/or pastors.”

      ^That.

      In the same comment, Helovesme commented “…..It is like a world within a world…..”

      ^That.

      In the same comment, Helovesme commented “…..There may be an unwritten but mutual understanding that in order to remain and/or succeed as pastors, they need to stick together.”

      (Strikethrough added by me.)

      ^That.

      In the same comment, Helovesme commented “Not only that, but “ratting out” on one another is generally seen as a big deal…..” AND “…..Turning on “one of your own” will likely come with serious consequences. And being excluded is no small thing—-it is a big risk to take.”

      ^That.

      In the same comment, Helovesme commented “Humanity in general wants to socialize with humanity in general. Regardless if you are more extroverted or introverted—-relationships MATTER to each of us, in some way or shape or form. We all long to have some form of connection with one another.”

      ^THAT!

      In the same comment, Helovesme commented “…….Ask those who are either estranged or excluded from family or church family or whatever group dynamic—-you refused to play along, but you paid a price for it as well.”

      ^That.

      • Helovesme commented “Humanity in general wants to socialize with humanity in general. Regardless if you are more extroverted or introverted—-relationships MATTER to each of us, in some way or shape or form. We all long to have some form of connection with one another.”

        YES! God created us as social beings. We are designed to be social beings.

    • Hi Helovesme, thanks for your comment. You said:

      Mind if I ask what you meant by: “And I got the distinct impression this man was a homosexual.” I mean no disrespect in asking, not trying to bait or distract from the main and most vital points of this post. I just wasn’t sure why that line was included—-was that to validate that he was likely not a Christian?

      My reasoning was as follows…and of course I could be wrong and maybe that man was not homosexual. First question: Who was responsible for choosing the person or company to do the final evaluation of the program? The leaders of the 15 churches that participated in the program. Second question: If those church leaders picked (or were happy to go along with having) a homosexual man to do the final evaluation, what does that say about those church leaders? To my mind, it means they lack discernment. It means they lack appreciation for the optics… the between the lines message that they would be conveying to Christians who attended the presentation of the Final Evaluation.

      Presumably those 15 churches held the standard Christian view that homosexual practices are wrong because they are not in conformity with God’s design. But those 15 churches did not (apparently) think it mattered all that much to have a homosexual evaluating the program. The contradiction is what bothered me.

      • Helovesme

        Oh, thanks for the clarification, Barb. And for seeing my heart and intent in asking. And your answer makes total sense.

  4. Helovesme

    One of the reasons Barb is such an excellent writer is that she doesn’t tell us what to think. Even when she is sharing her own thoughts, she expresses them in a way that is not demanding us to conform, but encourages us to use those thoughts to think for ourselves.

    That is not as easy as it sounds. I once listened to a college professor be interviewed and she was encouraging a variety of ideas and viewpoints to be expressed, allowing the students to listen and choose what to think and believe—-otherwise, her fear was that colleges would be encouraging indoctrination. Students would not choose to learn, they would be brainwashed (that is my word, not hers). But you see what I mean.

    And that is not the intent of education in general, and certainly not for people who are seeking higher education. So hats off to Barb for working so hard and working even harder to let the Lord lead her.

    When I was a young teenager, a show called “21 Jump Street” was very popular. It was about undercover cops (on the younger side) who could infiltrate high schools or colleges and investigate possible crimes.

    One of the male cops infiltrated a potential cult full of young people. Now his character was a trained professional and knew he was only posing as a wanna be member. But he ended up getting sucked into the cult itself, and his co-workers had to get him out of there.

    That was the first time I’d ever heard of being brainwashed by a cult, and then the need to be deprogrammed should you escape. This fictional male had a hard time of it. He was almost zombie-like, detached from reality.

    The episode came to my mind because of this post, but also from reading testimonies of those who have escaped abuse and are dealing with the aftermath. Sometimes I almost hear a pleading in their words as they struggle to explain how they were targeted, abused and (if applicable) why it took so long to realize they were being abused, and perhaps even longer before they could escape.

    It resembled the notion of being “brainwashed,” and then the need to be “deprogrammed” once that need is even realized.

    To connect this to the post—churches, even with the best of intentions in mind (let’s just say the apology that Barb quoted was sincere)—-don’t mess with something as serious as abuse unless you are willing to admit you brutalized a lot of innocent sheep and in a sense—you “brainwashed” those same sheep into thinking it was their fault somehow, and THEN claim to want to “deprogram” that brainwashing, and aim to set them free from whatever the original brainwashing did to them.

    Otherwise you are simply brainwashing them all over again. Barb used excellent phrases like “virtue signalling, or is doing preemptive damage control.” A lot of former or current victims likely felt hopeful—–only to be told something like “We did that; now we can move on and focus on other things” (from the original post)

    The fictional male I mentioned—-he got sucked into the cult because he had real deal family problems and they were able to use his pain to indoctrinate him into the cult. It’s about as low as you can go, exploiting real pain in order to achieve personal gain.

    I don’t live in Australia, so this is a very limited perception. It DID sound more like damage control by the time Barb wrapped up the post, but pretty heavy duty damage control. Barb spoke of how widespread and intense it was. It really did seem impressive, not to mention seriously undertaken—-the effort and organization alone must have been exhaustive. You don’t just do that sort of thing if it’s all talk, time and money are two valuable resources that cannot be mismanaged.

    BUT, it sounded like a “shooting star” occurrence. Everyone got really excited and involved at first, but the spark died out rather quickly. It MAY have started well with the intention to finish well, but without the Holy Spirit keeping that flame alive, it can and will and (in this case) did fizzle out. By the time Barb described that conference, it was all lip service, if that, even.

    This wouldn’t be such a big deal if lives weren’t at stake. If souls weren’t at the bottom line. You can’t treat people like fashion fads that come and go with the blink of an eye.

    • Finding Answers

      Helovesme commented (26TH NOVEMBER 2019 – 9:29 PM) “…..a college professor be interviewed and she was encouraging a variety of ideas and viewpoints to be expressed, allowing the students to listen and choose what to think and believe—-otherwise, her fear was that colleges would be encouraging indoctrination. Students would not choose to learn, they would be brainwashed (that is my word, not hers)……..”

      (Bold added by me.)

      ^That.

      In the same comment, Helovesme commented “One of the male cops infiltrated a potential cult full of young people. Now his character was a trained professional and knew he was only posing as a wanna be member. But he ended up getting sucked into the cult itself, and his co-workers had to get him out of there.”

      In reality, ^THAT is common and documented in a variety of different media. I am omitting MANY details for the safety and protection of ACFJ blog readers who MAY be (re)traumatized by some of the information contained in these sources.

      In the same comment, Helovesme commented “……from reading testimonies of those who have escaped abuse and are dealing with the aftermath. Sometimes I almost hear a pleading in their words as they struggle to explain how they were targeted, abused and (if applicable) why it took so long to realize they were being abused, and perhaps even longer before they could escape.”

      ^THAT!

      In the same comment, Helovesme commented “To connect this to the post—churches, even with the best of intentions in mind (let’s just say the apology that Barb quoted was sincere)—-don’t mess with something as serious as abuse unless you are willing to admit you brutalized a lot of innocent sheep and in a sense—you “brainwashed” those same sheep into thinking it was their fault somehow, and THEN claim to want to “deprogram” that brainwashing, and aim to set them free from whatever the original brainwashing did to them.”

      ^THAT applies to MANY other professions / “professions”. (Omitting details for my protection.)

      In the same comment, Helovesme commented “This wouldn’t be such a big deal if lives weren’t at stake. If souls weren’t at the bottom line. You can’t treat people like fashion fads that come and go with the blink of an eye.”

      ^That.

  5. Helovesme

    There’s one more thing that Barb said that I really, really appreciated.

    I think Barb was being very generous when she said: “I got the impression that the issue of husbands abusing their wives and kids was faded out into the background in the cause of political correctness.”

    I had recently read another post that admonished us as believers to be respectful, loving and sober minded when discussing or arguing about hot button issues—politics, for example.

    It was a great reminder. However, I found myself wondering: how you can find a way to call someone out for being, say, sexist—-in a way that doesn’t offend? Or, in a way that doesn’t mean to offend, but likely WILL offend, because well—-being sexist IS an offense, and it offends others, too.

    Bring in the Word of God as described in Hebrews 4:12 are: “Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

    Since Jesus IS the Word in human form, when He spoke, it was 100% accurate, truthful and righteous. His description of the Pharisees, calling them whitewashed tombs, for example—could not have been said in any other way (i.e. a more “politically correct” way) because well, that would watered down the brutal reality. When He called them “whitewashed tombs,” that is exactly how they were in His eyes—-no more and no less.

    And none of that was meant to indicate that He hated them. In fact, He loved them just as much as He loved and loves all of us. In FACT, the fact that He was so straightforward with them indicated that He loved them like no one else. Who else would be so bold and daring to directly point out that you not only block others from Heaven, but you aren’t going there yourselves?

    I don’t recommend we as believers throw away any notion of kindness and courtesy, truly. Speaking the truth in love as we are commanded means that every truth we utter, even if it is brutal to say and even harder to hear, must come from a heart of His love.

    When I have had difficult conversations with people, the hardest thing ever is finding direct ways to tell them the negative things I see in them, without tearing down their dignity.

    If you’ve been bullied, you know that a bully loves to pick you apart, tear you down and ridicule you as much as possible. They want to hurt you, because they find you to be weak and contemptible. When I was being bullied, I felt like they were out to get me.

    The Bible is not “out to get us.” It’s not there to bully us and hurt our feelings and make us cry and want to die. It is there to rescue us because we are weak and our sins are contemptible. But it does not aim to ridicule us for being sinful. It is there to give us BACK the dignity that sin stole from us. It is not there to define us as “losers” and then move onto the next target. It is not there to shame us. It is there to rescue us FROM the evil one, not continue his awful deeds.

    When I met the Lord, a false sense of inferiority was crushing me and nearly killed me. Oh, I was inferior all right (I couldn’t save myself, and seeing God as superior as He really is made me sit up straight). BUT, that previous sense of inferiority constantly told me that I was worthless and always would be. With Him, there was no denying that I was minuscule, but not meaningless—-certainly not to Him.

    So when Barb brought up “political correctness,” I could understand how things may have gone south. It’s just too dang offensive to call out abuse, abusers and their enablers—-there is no “politically correct” way to call it out and call it as it is and not back down from it. When I think of it that way, I’m surprised the “apology” and the resulting “fervor” of activity lasted as long as it did—-but I am not surprised that it didn’t work out in the short or long term.

    • Finding Answers

      Helovesme commented (26TH NOVEMBER 2019 – 9:54 PM) “If you’ve been bullied, you know that a bully loves to pick you apart, tear you down and ridicule you as much as possible. They want to hurt you, because they find you to be weak and contemptible…..”

      ^That.

      In the same comment, Helovesme commented “The Bible is not “out to get us.” It’s not there to bully us and hurt our feelings and make us cry and want to die. It is there to rescue us because we are weak and our sins are contemptible. But it does not aim to ridicule us for being sinful. It is there to give us BACK the dignity that sin stole from us. It is not there to define us as “losers” and then move onto the next target. It is not there to shame us. It is there to rescue us FROM the evil one, not continue his awful deeds.”

      ^That.

      In the same comment, Helovesme commented “When I met the Lord, a false sense of inferiority was crushing me and nearly killed me. Oh, I was inferior all right (I couldn’t save myself, and seeing God as superior as He really is made me sit up straight). BUT, that previous sense of inferiority constantly told me that I was worthless and always would be. With Him, there was no denying that I was minuscule, but not meaningless—-certainly not to Him.”

      ^That.

      In the same comment, Helovesme commented “Bring in the Word of God as described in Hebrews 4:12 are: “Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

      ^That.

  6. Helovesme

    From the original post:

    “The moral of this story. If your church runs an awareness program about domestic abuse (or sexual abuse) don’t get too excited.”

    We should be careful about such programs for another reason, too, I think:

    Programs and resources to help victims escape the abuse and do whatever needs to be done from there are desperately needed. The other day I was looking for toiletries and I was reminded of how many basic things a person needs. Imagine fleeing abuse and realizing you had no time to grab even a toothbrush. Where do you go?

    But in trying to help, it’s vital to make sure that any helpers do not attempt to control or dictate the victim’s choices. In that case, they are only continuing the behaviors of the abuser—-dominating and intimidating the victim, all the in name of “we know what’s best for you and you don’t.”

    Bear in mind that an abuser will likely justify his abuse in similar ways—-the victim is so inferior that she needs to be brought in line with a heavy, harsh hand.

    So let’s say a program IS helpful. It DOES understand and take victims seriously. But even there, maybe it’s a good idea to dig a little further to make sure they not only aim to help victims get back on their feet, but also get back their ability to think for themselves.

    I’ve seen this website be keenly aware of that. I’ve noticed that they balk at trying to command or control or coerce. They know that victims need to think for themselves and take ownership of their decisions.

    This is a lot harder than it sounds. One cannot “force” a victim to flee until she is ready to, if ever. I understand the situation is different when children may be in danger and intervention is needed. But for the adults, we can’t make their decisions for them.

    I recall being and becoming almost “robotic” in the seasons of the actual abuse AND In the aftermath. My mind would automatically assume the worst about my decision making. I felt foolish and insecure should I dare to say or do nearly anything. Fear gripped me constantly. I had barely any confidence. Very little ability to think independently.

    Abuse has a way of “saturating” you to where you can see a grown woman in the mirror, but in reality you are a scared little girl who just wants someone to protect and keep her safe.

    That’s okay to admit, I think. But oh, how that opens you up to be exploited, even by persons or programs that CLAIM to want to help or promote healing. This may or may not even be intentional—-they may sincerely think that you need them to do your thinking for you, at least for now, while you are in such a vulnerable state. I personally think, however, that that is not quite right, not quite healthy.

    It’s okay to lean on people who can give you sound advice and food for thought and offer nuggets of wisdom. A fresh set of eyes and ears is a breath of fresh air to someone who is still nearly lost in the “fog” of abuse.

    But that’s your fog to deal with, not theirs. They can offer a guiding hand to guide you through and out of that fog, but you take those steps to be guided, and the goal is to get OUT of that fog, not remain in perpetual need of guidance.

    I love Ezekiel 16:49: “Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.”

    When it comes to the body of Christ, this is where it gets tricky. So often we rightly claim that He is our all in all (He is), and I don’t need anyone but Him (true), but that doesn’t mean we don’t need each other AT ALL. If so, then why did He set up the body of Christ to use us in order to represent His strengthening, helping, comforting, encouraging?

    In my very tiny corner of the world, I’ve often found that while programs and ministries can and really do help others, it is actually individuals helping individuals, apart from an organized ministry, that I mostly see. It doesn’t have to be someone you know who you help, or vice versa. Sometimes, sadly so, the relationships you thought would sustain you in your time of need were not as solid as you thought—–so it may be strangers that end up filling the gap.

    But the goal is always the same: never keep those that need help in a place of perpetually needing help.

    I’ve seen this in my life—I’ve had non Christians, strangers and the Lord Himself step into the gap when my needs were so desperate I could not sustain them on my own. I didn’t need practical help (I have in the past), but believe me, you can suffer immensely from a lack of love as much as a lack of food.

    So Barb’s words, again, are a wonderful cautionary tale. Look closely at these programs or organizations—at what they do or don’t do, but also how they help or don’t help.

    • Finding Answers

      I second ALL of Helovesme’s comment (28TH NOVEMBER 2019 – 11:41 AM) on domestic abuse or sexual abuse awareness programs, AND I would add many other types of awareness programs could be included in the list.

      Rather than hijack ALL the words, I will cherry-pick some phrases that REALLY stood out for me.

      “….Imagine fleeing abuse and realizing you had no time to grab even a toothbrush…..”

      “But in trying to help, it’s vital to make sure that any helpers do not attempt to control or dictate the victim’s choices…..”

      “Bear in mind that an abuser will likely justify his abuse in similar ways—-the victim is so inferior that she needs to be brought in line…..”

      “……My mind would automatically assume the worst about my decision making. I felt foolish and insecure should I dare to say or do nearly anything. Fear gripped me constantly. I had barely any confidence……”

      “It’s okay to lean on people who can give you sound advice and food for thought and offer nuggets of wisdom. A fresh set of eyes and ears is a breath of fresh air to someone who is still nearly lost in the “fog” of abuse.”

      “….Sometimes, sadly so, the relationships you thought would sustain you in your time of need were not as solid as you thought—–so it may be strangers that end up filling the gap…..”

      “….you can suffer immensely from a lack of love as much as a lack of food.”

      ^Those statements are why the Holy Spirit led me though His specialized awareness program.

  7. Helovesme

    Just a last minute comment that was rolling around in my mind, but I wasn’t able to sit and unroll it onto this page.

    Barb’s comments about how male pastors and leaders in the church either potentially being abusers or covering for abusers really stayed with me.

    Apart from the topic of abuse, I know for myself that it is particularly hard to call someone out on something I too struggle with (and I know it; possibly the other person does, too). You wonder if you are being too hard on that person, and perhaps not hard enough on yourself. What gives you the right to hold someone else to a standard that you know for a fact is a tough standard to be held to—-one that you are still struggling to successfully overcome as well?

    I get a bit embarrassed bringing up fictional examples—-this is from an episode from a cop show that I barely remember, but I remember the ending well. The male detective (who was also a father) had investigated and arrested a father who had killed his child.

    At the end of the episode, he told his colleague that he himself could have been that father they had just arrested. He and his wife had bought carpeting (I believe) they couldn’t afford and their young child had spilled something on it. He lost his temper with her and at one point he saw what he was doing to her and stopped himself.

    He was conscience stricken by the fictional case they had just been through. He couldn’t believe how he had behaved, over carpeting—-he could have seriously injured or even killed his own child.

    Now, in ALL of this, he never suggested that they go and let the guilty father out of jail. The pain of realizing his own depths of depravity was NOT meant to deny the need to hold others accountable for their own depraved acts.

    I know it’s a tough balance for a pastor or a leader—-never declaring yourself to be sinless but mandated to call out sin in those you are shepherding over. Holding yourself to the same standards you hold others to, but never claiming that you have perfectly achieved those standards.

    I remember thinking at one point that if we become (or already are) too fearful to call anyone out for anything, ever—-apparently no one is guilty of anything, ever—-and in that case, there is no such thing as sin or consequences. You can only be called out for transgressions should you transgress—-and you can only cross a line if one exists to be crossed!

    And in THAT case—Christ died for nothing. He did not shed His blood as a mere gesture of His love for us (although it certainly was that). But it was far more purposeful than that. It was to cover and take away our sins.

    If pastors and leaders and believers in general “empty” the cross of its power and purpose, then really and truly—-then no sin is “bad enough” to bring to the cross. I guess we can all stand at a safe distance from Him, and never get any closer in order to see our sins (and the sins of others) as they really are.

    • Finding Answers

      Helovesme commented (1ST DECEMBER 2019 – 11:48 AM) “…..this is from an episode from a cop show….”

      MANY TV shows / documentaries / etc. are based on real life examples, although some adapt the truth, while others “adapt” the truth.

      In the same comment, Helovesme commented “He was conscience stricken by the fictional case they had just been through…..”

      He learned from the “analogy”.

      In the same comment, Helovesme commented “……The pain of realizing his own depths of depravity was NOT meant to deny the need to hold others accountable for their own depraved acts.”

      By “analogy”, he (the cop) needed Him (Christ).

      • Helovesme

        Yes, absolutely—I forgot to mention that TV shows are often inspired by real life events, even attempting to mirror those experiences as best as possible.

        Your addendum: “although some adapt the truth, while others “adapt” the truth” could not be better written.

        The truth can often be too brutal to describe or convey in even fictional methods.

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