“Never, Never, Ever, say these 15 comments to a Victim of Abuse”

Abused young woman holding her hand up to say STOP

By Sue Cass

“There’s a difference between still being a victim of abuse and a survivor of abuse.

A person that still carries the shame, guilt, unforgiveness, has not healed the emotional issues from abuse, or is still being abused is continuing to be a victim.

The person that can stand tall, speak out with no shame, no guilt, and has walked the healing path is a survivor of the abuse that was perpetrated in the past. It isn’t just having ‘lived through the abuse.’ It is a matter of having walked the healing path and by God’s grace has over come the emotional issues and is walking in freedom from the past.

Many people want to be helpful and many think that their questions and statements are innocent and do not affect those that have been abused, be it childhood sexual abuse or spousal rape and abuse, or physical and emotional abuse.

Over the years I have heard many testimonies of the added pain inflicted upon victims and survivors of these types of abuse. I have experienced many of them myself and I can tell you from experience the survivor of abuse may steal herself/himself for the onslaught of ‘innocent’ questions and statements but these questions and/or statements are knives deeply imbedding in the heart of the one who has survived the horrors of abuse.

Never, never, never, ever say these things to a victim/survivor of abuse: 

  1. ‘You could have done something to defend yourself.’

Let me ask you how a small child can defend herself against an adult? Or how can a wife defend herself against a husband that is bigger, stronger and wields some object, including his fist, at her? Or a teen girl or boy defend themselves against an angry father or mother? Children are taught to obey! Obey no matter what the parent says to do! Wives are taught to be ‘submissive’ to their husband.

  1. ‘Why didn’t you just leave?’

In the case of a small child, where would they go? A two-year old cannot support themselves, nor a 5-year-old or 7, 10, or 12-year-old. Teenagers? Some do leave and they end up on the street, homeless, the property of a pimp, or within a gang doing drugs, robbing, stealing, scavenging for food in dumpsters, and the Lord only knows what else. Many do not have relatives that will sympathize and take them in. For the grown woman, some are threatened with death if she ever leaves, she has children to consider, a homeless shelter may be a temporary answer IF they are not full, she may not have ever held a job in her life and has no means of support. The list can go on and on and on. I highly recommend the book, “The Walking Wounded: The Path from Brokenness to Wholeness” by Secret Angel for a better understanding of a wife and mother living with an abusive husband.  Available at: www.amazon.com.

  1. “Why didn’t you tell someone!” 

Many have, most won’t. With young children some have been told to “keep the secret no matter what!” Many were accused of lying, blamed for the assaults, beaten for “telling such lies,” ignored, threatened with family members being killed (and many other guilt-ridden consequences) Most have been subject to mind control from an early age, manipulated and controlled, blamed for the abuse by the abuser. One of the things I was told over and over as a young child, “Just stay away from him!” At two and three years old I was told, “If you wouldn’t sit on your dad’s lap…” We are made to feel it is all our fault! For teenagers some have been actually thrown out of the house at fifteen or sixteen years old or have run away because no-one believed them and the abuse continued. Some married the first guy to come along only to be abused now by a husband. Victims are seldom believed! Males are laughed at. “Men can’t be raped!” If that’s your attitude then read, “Unhelpful Myths About the Sexual Assault and Rape of Men.” Posted on this blog, June 10, 2015.

  1. ‘Well you should have……’ or ‘Why didn’t you…..?’

Unless you have been in our shoes there is no way you can even begin to understand or comprehend the dynamics that are or were going on in an abusive home. To lay this kind of condemnation on a victim is to jab the knife in real deep, smile sweetly, and then twist it!

  1. ‘Did you call the police?’

Young children don’t know to do that.  Some teenagers do and end up in foster care only to be abused again or bounced from one place to another to another to another. Some, when the police arrive the abuser convinces the police the teen “has some mental problems.” Unless there are obvious bruises and cuts the police will file a report and leave.  With adults, many do but out of a false sense of “I love him” or “He loves me” they refuse to press charges once the police have come. Many do not get that opportunity for the control is so great there may not even be a phone available in the home.

  1. ‘Just get over it! It happened a long time ago!’

There is no way that dagger can be shoved any deeper into the heart of the recipient of this remark. It is one of the most devastating, demeaning, accusatory, condemning and hurtful remarks that can be made to a victim of abuse. Particularly sexual abuse or rape. Which by the way, sexual abuse that involves intercourse is rape!

  1. ‘What’s the big deal? It was just sex!’

This shows total ignorance on the part of the speaker. Sexual abuse encompasses the mind, the will, the emotions, and the spirit of the victim. The ramifications and emotional consequences of childhood sexual abuse can last a life time. In spousal abuse, where the wife is raped by the husband (along with beatings, etc.) the same thing applies. The mind, will, and emotions are all involved and emotional damage can be severe as well as possible permanent physical injuries.

  1. ‘I’m sure they (parents) did the best they could.’

In my opinion, there is absolutely no excuse that can be given for a parent to turn his or her back on a child that is being abused emotionally, physically, psychologically, or sexually! There is always something that can be done or someone who is willing to help. We have had police and laws for centuries. By ignoring the abuse happening is emotional abandonment and anyone who knows or even highly suspects abuse is taking place and does nothing is a co-conspirator to the crimes that are being committed. That means by doing “nothing” you are doing “something” – agreeing with, condoning the abuse.

  1. ‘You just need to forgive and move on.’

Oh, this sounds so Christian! And of course this is done in “love.” Again, it shows the ignorance and total disregard for what abuse does to the victim; physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. The emotional pain of the victim is never taken into account with this statement. This statement gives the impression that the horrors the victim has survived are merely minor infractions. “Here’s a band-aid, I’ll kiss it and make it all better.” The knife goes really deep and twisting it hurts even more!

  1. ‘Are you sure it really happened?’

There’s that knife again! Survivors have questioned themselves until they are blue in the face with this very question even though they KNOW it happened. They do not want to believe that someone they trusted and possibly loved would betray them in such a horrific way. It is very difficult to accept the reality of being hurt, betrayed, and used by a loved one. To have this thrown at them turns the knife at least a full turn deep in their heart. Is essence you are calling them a liar and they’ve heard that from many others.

  1. ‘Give it to God and let it go.’

Oh such a simplistic and uncaring statement! Just twist the knife a little more for this is a platitude that many Christians will spew forth when they can’t think of anything intelligent to say. Yes, we seek the Lord, if we are not so angry at Him for not stopping the abuse.  Some beg, plead, and scream to the heavens.  Many victims of abuse carry great anger and through the grace of God we do heal but to tell us to just hand everything; emotional damage, memories, scars, and what we feel to God like we’re handing Him a stick of gum is irrational on many levels. The issues run deep and much emotional damage has been done. Each issue is dealt with in time with God’s help. We can not put an entire childhood or 20 years of an abusive marriage in a box and just cast it off and go about our merry way.

  1. ‘Maybe it was just a bad dream.’

You have not only stuck the knife in but have slapped the victim hard in the face. In my case, that would have been an 18 year nightmare! When victims of sexual abuse begin therapy, or even before, this thought does come to mind. “Maybe I dreamed it up. It isn’t true.” Again, it is that deep need to not want it to have had it happen. The bruises in spousal abuse prove this was not dream. A night mare in reality but not a dream during sleep. No, we didn’t dream it. We wish we had because we would wake up and it would go away after the 2nd cup of coffee.

  1. ‘Just don’t think about it!’

Total disregard for the hurt, betrayal, physical and emotional wounding of victim! Absolutely no compassion is being shown. Victims do not have control over what the Lord will bring to mind that He may deem as time to deal with or the memories popping up “out of nowhere.” Walk away from this person! They do not have a heart for your pain and will only cause more.

  1. ‘Well you must have done something wrong!’

In other words, “It’s all your fault!” We’ve heard this from the first encounter, be it as a child or an adult. Abusers NEVER take the blame! It is ALWAYS placed on someone or something else (usually the victim) and the knife is being twisted around and around as it has been sunk very deep into the heart of the victim. The child victim is NEVER  to blame! With adults, there’s no excuse for a man to hit a woman, ever! Or a woman to hit a man unless in self-defense.

Are you ready? Here is the one that tops all that I have heard over the years! Out of the mouth of a youth pastor that had a seventeen year old victim living with he and his wife to escape the sexual abuse at home came these mighty words of wisdom so confidently spoken to me:

  1. ‘A one time rape is more devastating to the victim than continual sexual molestation, they get used to it.’

I’m still speechless!

Am I saying not to talk to survivors of abuse? NO! I’m saying be sympathetic, compassionate, and caring.  If the person brings up the subject, listen before speaking. Think long and hard what questions you may want to ask. If you are sincere in learning more about what we have to face as the results from the atrocities done to us ask if there are any books we might recommend. Don’t give the platitude or outright lie by saying, “I know just how you feel.” NOT IF YOU HAVEN’T WALKED IN OUR SHOES!

Some survivors, like me, are willing to answer even the questions that you never should have asked. But that’s only because I have had years of therapy and by God’s grace and Christ’s healing I can stand up to the intrusive and inconsiderate questions and remarks. Many survivors will wilt, feel condemned, and damage beyond belief can be done. Words hurt! Words can be that knife in the heart!

Many victims of abuse are sensitive, guilt ridden, filled with shame, low self-esteem, angry, hurt, and  pain so deep only God can bring it into the light. Many continue to feel isolated, unloved, dirty, and unworthy of anything positive.

Love them to life!

Sue Cass is an abuse survivor and Christian author.  She blogs at Cyber Support Group https://cybersupportgroup.org, Elah Ministries Inc. http://www.elahministries.com, and Sue’s Pen2PaperBlog https://suespen2paper.com .  I recommend her books and blogs to you.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

Parents discovered the paintings of their 5-year-old daughter, and realized she was trying to tell them something

Unfortunately, we hear too many stories about priests and other religious and orthodocs prominent figures abusing children. We will never understand that.

In Brazil, the parents of a 5-year-old girl learned the horrifying truth about their priest when their daughter drew some paintings.

The priest, Joao da Silva, 54 years old, admitted to abusing the girl when her parents confronted him.

 

A girl was taken to a meeting with a child psychologist, who suspected that the priest was sexually abusing her and asked the parents to look in her room for signs of this.

That was the moment they found the pictures she had drawn.

According to Karina Maia, a representative of the Delegation for Stopping Crimes Against Women pressure group, who spoke to the local media: “We found six drawings in the girl’s room. One of them that caught our attention shows the face of a naked man with an erect penis.”

 

The paintings leave no room for imagination.

You can see a person leaning over a girl (who is very scared). Da Silva was arrested by the Brazil Police on charges of sexually abusing a girl. Let’s hope he never gets a chance to hurt another boy or girl ever again.

The incident happened in the city of Montes Claros, in Minas Gerais in Brazil, in 2016.

http://veer.li/10772

Dear Abused: You are seen, heard, and known

By Kathleen Patterson, CP Guest Contributor| Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Learn the Warning Signs of a Potential Abuser

Dear Abused,

You are seen, you are heard, and you are known. 

My friend, I am so sorry for what you are experiencing, or have experienced. Your shoes are hard to live in, and you may be fighting just to survive the day to day. I pray for God to move mightily on your behalf, and that you may find your way of escape. I pray for protection over you and that God grants you wisdom in what to say and what to do. I know this is so hard, so wrong.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so I share with you three things as you walk this journey.

First, educate yourself, a lot of people do not realize they are even in an abusive relationship until they begin to unpack what abuse is. See this abuse wheel for how abuse works. Just because it does not involve a physical blow, does not mean it is not severe abuse. You can be abused physically, emotionally, mentally, scripturally, sexually, financially, and/or verbally—and even just one taste of any of these is bitter, wrong, and unjustified. The National Domestic Hotline (1-800-799-7233 – SAFE) (TEXT ‘start’ 88788) (thehotline.org) offers a good deal of information for you including how to identify abuse, as often the subtleties are confusing. The more educated you are the more you will find your power and voice again.

Second, confide in a friend or trusted person. Begin to ally yourself with people who you can rely on their strength, their wisdom, and learn from their Godly perspective. Not everyone you confide in will be there for you, but you will find the one who is ‘at the ready’ to listen and help. Keep in mind you are telling something that is hard to wrap one’s mind around that one person could do this to another person.  Also, keep in mind that it is a beautiful thing to hear ‘I believe you’—and the more you give voice to what is happening, the closer you are to your freedom.

Third, and finally, begin to see yourself in and through the eyes of the Scriptures. Do not believe the lies of the oppressor, the abuser—this is not true. You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), God is for you (Psalm 56:9), and He is a God of justice (Psalm 11:7)—He will strengthen you and keep you. Stay rooted in the word, you will find His strength becoming your own.

God He hears the prayers you cry with your lips, and the prayers whispered in your heart. He sees you, He hears you, and He knows you. And just in case no one has ever told you—you are beautiful, you are loved, and you are worth everything.

Kathleen Patterson, Ph.D. is a professor at the School of Business & Leadership, Regent University, and serves on the board of CareNet.

https://www.christianpost.com/voices/dear-abused-you-are-seen-heard-and-known.html

Tears in Heaven

April 24, 2016

Street art by Nitzan Mintz, Jerusalem, Israel, Source https://www.flickr.com/photos/zeevveez/8765164478/, Author zeevveez https://www.flickr.com/people/29001414@N00 (CC Attribution 2.0 Generic)

I curled up on the couch a few nights ago, expecting to watch a good old-fashioned whodunit on television.

Unfortunately, I discovered too late that the corpse in the story belonged to a child molester. A woman sexually abused as a girl had killed him, in her effort to protect another child from abuse.

Suddenly the program was deadly serious — raising all too familiar issues of credibility, deception, violence, guilt, and justification.

The Lens of Abuse

Though this blog regularly deals with the topic of abuse, victims must strive not to view the world through that lens only.

There are countless good things — and good people — in the world. Victims deserve better than to be robbed of those, in addition to having been battered and violated.

A Happy Face

There is a deep and pervasive sadness associated with abuse.  Our childhoods were stolen from us, our lives shattered.  We cannot pretend our abuse never occurred; cannot just wish our depression or PTSD away, and put on a happy face.

The Apostle Paul encouraged believers this way:

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Php. 4: 8).

So  we have every right to incorporate good people and good things into our lives. They are a reflection of God’s own love.

The problem is that we cannot do this by act of will alone. The victims of sexual abuse  cannot simply choose to “think less about sex” [1]. If our abuse was sexual, everything has become sexualized, whether we want it to be or not [2].

Tears in Heaven

“Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same
If I saw you in heaven?”

– Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton

How will heaven handle these issues?

Will we forget all the painful events in our lives, and the people who caused us that pain?  What if those events were formative, shaped our character and aspirations?  What if the very people who caused our pain were, also, our loved ones?

How can the slate be wiped clean?  Will God arrange it so that we can remember the events, but without the pain formerly associated with them?  Won’t that change who we are?

And what role does forgiveness play? Does it perhaps drain our wounds, allowing them at last to heal?

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21: 4).

Scripture promises us there will be no tears in heaven.  The children whose lives were ended too soon by abuse left their sorrows behind.

For now, our aim as abuse victims should be to live our lives to the fullest; to speak out against the evils of abuse, if we can find the strength; and to remember we were not at fault.

The rest we will have to trust to God.

[1]  More information about sexual abuse can be found at:  Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR), “Common Victim Behaviors of Survivors of Sexual Abuse” by akulikowski, 3/26/13, http://www.pcar.org/blog/common-victim-behaviors-survivors-sexual-abuse; and The National Center for Victims of Crime, “Effects of Child Sexual Abuse on Victims”, http://www.victimsofcrime.org/media/reporting-on-child-sexual-abuse/effects-of-csa-on-the-victim.

[2]  In sexual abuse, children, themselves, are objectified, i.e. treated as objects for the sexual use of others.  Victims learn to see themselves in this limited and highly destructive way.  Objects in everyday use can, also, acquire a suggestive connotation.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

A Monster

JULY 28, 2013 

A monster pled guilty to his despicable acts in open court this week.

To avoid the death penalty, Ariel Castro – the man who held three young women in Cleveland captive for 10 years, who brutally beat, raped, and starved them, killing one of his children in the womb – pled guilty to 977 counts.  Castro was sentenced to life in prison plus 1000 years.  The plea deal spares the women from testifying at trial.

Castro attempted to lay the blame for a decade of voluntary, heinous acts on supposed sexual abuse in his own past and an addiction to pornography.  This was nothing less than slander against the many child abuse survivors who would give their lives rather than harm a child.

According to Childhelp[i], about 30% of child abuse and neglect victims abuse or neglect their children.  This tragic figure tends to mask the fact that 70% of victims do not abuse or neglect their children.

Evil is, in other words, a result of choice.

The Abel study of non-incarcerated sex offenders (those offending against both child and adult victims) found individuals from every walk of life, and all levels of education; 80% between the ages 20 – 49; 53% married, formerly married, or at some point in a partner relationship; and the majority employed[ii].  In some 59% of cases, intense interest in sex with a non-consenting person (child or adult) began in adolescence[iii]  apparently without a trigger.

In studies of juvenile sex offenders, Johnson and Schreir reported prior physical or sexual abuse by 66%; Longo reported prior abuse by 47%[iv].  To the extent these figures are accurate, they suggest 34% – 53% of juvenile sex offenders were never themselves abused.

Admittedly, many factors influence our choices.  But the choices remain in our control.  Monsters make themselves.


[i] Childhelp, National Child Abuse Statistics, http://www.childhelp-usa.com/pages/statistics.

[ii] The Future of Children, Judith V. Becker, PhD, Princeton University http://www.princeton.edu/futureofchildren/publications/docs/04_02_09.pdf.

[iii] As above.

[iv] As above.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

Sexual Assault by Fraud

SEPTEMBER 5, 2021

Informed Consent' and Why it Doesn't Work

Image courtesy of PetaPixel.

New Jersey nurse, Mischele Lewis, fell in love with the wrong man [1][2].  It was a mistake that would propel her into a world of deceit.

Lewis, a divorced mother of two, believed she had found true love.  The object of her affection, William Allen Jordan a/k/a Liam Allen, described himself as an undercover operative for the British Ministry of Defense.

Jordan turned out to be a con man and convicted sex offender, with ex-wives on two continents, and a half dozen children.  After wearing a wire, Lewis managed to secure a conviction of Jordan for scamming her out of funds.

Lewis then sought unsuccessful passage in New Jersey of a controversial rape law which would have criminalized sex by deception [3][4].  A comparable effort is currently underway in New York, supported by victims of former Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein [5].

At issue is the question of informed consent [6].  Though women subjected to the type of fraud Lewis experienced feel profoundly violated, only a small number of states have laws along this line [7].

Rape laws generally focus on the use of force, the threat of physical harm, and mental defect or incapacity (as with use of the “date rape” drug rohypnol).

The concern is that expanding the definition of informed consent to include deception could create a “slippery slope” requiring courts to distinguish between the white lies in which lovers commonly engage and material misrepresentation sufficient to undermine consent [8].

For there is no faithfulness in their mouth;
Their inward part is destruction;
Their throat is an open tomb;
They flatter with their tongue” (Ps. 5: 9).

Scripture tells us that the human heart is deceitful (Jer. 17: 9).  It is little wonder that violence, callousness, and deception characterize even our most intimate relationships.

[1]  NBC News, “’I Wanted Justice’:  Con Victim Turns Focus to Changing Rape Law”, 1/24/15, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/i-wanted-justice-con-victim-turns-focus-changing-rape-law-n291661.

[2]  Dateline, “The Mystery Man”, 2/12/17, https://www.nbcnews.com/dateline/video/full-episode-the-mystery-man-881079875730.

[3]  Wikipedia, “Rape by Deception”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_by_deception.

[4]  NY Times, “Is Sex by Deception a Form of Rape?” by Abby Ellin, 4/23/19, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/23/well/mind/is-sex-by-deception-a-form-of-rape.html.

[5]  ABC News, “New bill that would define ‘consent’ in New York has the support of 2 Weinstein accusers” by Marlene Lenthang, 4/7/21, https://abcnews.go.com/US/bill-define-consent-york-support-weinstein-accusers/story?id=76897871.

[6]  IMDB, “Web of Lies”, The Candyman, Season 3, Episode 10, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5498880/.

[7]  NY Times, “Is Sex by Deception a Form of Rape?” by Abby Ellin, 4/23/19, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/23/well/mind/is-sex-by-deception-a-form-of-rape.html.

[8]  Other situations potentially falling within this umbrella are so called “gender fraud” (disguising one’s biological identity prior to sexual intercourse) and failure to disclose positive HIV status to a partner.

Connecticut may expand the state’s domestic violence laws to cover “coercive and controlling behavior”.  This would include such behavior as isolation, so called “revenge porn”, and financial abuse.

Actress Evan Rachel Wood (who has accused Brian Warner a/k/a Marilyn Manson of abusing her) testified in favor of the proposed expansion.

Seehttps://lawandcrime.com/high-profile/actress-evan-rachel-wood-testifies-she-was-abused-by-a-high-profile-person-in-hearing-connected-to-jennifer-dulos-case/.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

‘Evil,’ ‘Sad,’ ‘Unbelievable’—Survivors and Leaders React to SBC Executive Committee Decision

By Jessica Lea -September 22, 2021

SBC Executive Committee
The Rev. Bruce Frank, lead pastor of Biltmore Baptist Church of Arden, N.C, speaks during a meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021, in Nashville. RNS photo by Bob Smietana

Sexual abuse survivors and church leaders inside and outside the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) are reacting with grief and shock to a Tuesday (Sept. 21) decision from the SBC Executive Committee (EC). The EC decided—in direct opposition to the will of messengers—to delay waiving attorney-client privilege in the investigation into whether or not the EC mishandled allegations of sexual abuse. 

“There were so many things bothersome about these last two days,” said survivor Tiffany Thigpen. “My emotions are switching between anger and sorrow. Waking during the night feeling like I wish I could wash it off, the icky feeling of watching some of these people at work. The lies that drip from tongues.”

Survivor Jennifer Lyell called the meeting a “train wreck” and wrote, “There is much cause for SBCrs to go to bed with aghast hearts tonight. You must. Because you just watched SBC leaders fight against truth. And it’s completely evil. But I also saw some eyes open. I also saw my angst manifest in some who literally couldn’t sit still with it.”

Pastor and EC member Dean Inserra, who spoke out about the importance of waiving attorney-client privilege, tweeted, “Been an emotional two days. I don’t even know how to explain how I feel and what I saw go down. It messed me up.”

SBC Executive Committee Flouts Will of Messengers

At the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, which took place in June, messengers overwhelmingly approved a motion to put an independent task force over an investigation into whether or not the SBC Executive Committee mishandled allegations of sexual abuse. The motion explicitly stated that EC members were to waive attorney-client privilege for this investigation: 

We further move that the task force agree to the accepted best-standards and practices as recommended by the commissioned third-party, including but not limited to the Executive Committee staff and members waiving attorney client privilege in order to ensure full access to information and accuracy in the review.

However, while the EC did agree Tuesday to spend $1.6 million to fund the investigation, members rejected a motion, proposed by Jared Wellman, to waive attorney-client privilege as messengers had directed. The vote against Wellman’s motion was not even close with 55 opposed to it and 20 in favor of it.

Instead members approved a motion that stated, “Resolved that, at this point, attorney-client privilege is not yet being waived but is being flushed out through negotiation.” The motion also requested “the Task Force and EC officers to agree on a contract in 7 days without waiving complete attorney-client privilege at this time.”

One pastor responded to this news on Twitter, saying, “This is a very sad day for us SBC churches. You have ignored the overwhelming will of the messangers [sic]. Watching the proceedings it is clear that many in the EC view the SBC as a Top-Down organization instead of a bottom up convention of churches. I am grieving tonight.”

Some EC members opposed to waiving attorney-client privilege expressed concern that to do so would open the SBC up to lawsuits. In an extended Twitter thread, attorney and victims advocate Rachael Denhollander explained the importance of waiving attorney-client privilege in a situation like this. “You simply cannot accurately diagnose problems without waiving privilege,” she said. “You won’t have access to all the information.” She concluded,

The waiver question is nothing more than this: What is more valuable to you? Insurance proceeds for the bad acting you did? Or people? How much is a little girl (boy, person) worth? That is the only actual question you are answering with waiver of privilege. That’s it. And if anyone tells you otherwise, they are not being honest.

Several EC members, including Wellman, signed a statement condemning the SBC Executive Committee’s decision: 

We grieve yesterday’s vote by the Executive Committee, who in unprecedented fashion prohibited the will of the messengers for an open and transparent investigation into the Executive Committee. It is our opinion that the failed vote only justifies the need for an open investigation. We join with the messengers who desire justice for survivors of sexual abuse, and we feel that this cannot happen so long as the Executive Committee forbids an open and transparent investigation, which must include the waiving of privilege. We will continue to work within the EC to ensure that the will of the messengers is fully honored by the Committee we serve as trustees. That is what we committed to do when we accepted this trust, and it is what we will pursue as a stewardship before God. We invite all Executive Members who share these convictions to join us in this statement.

Attorney and task force member Liz Evan responded to the news in an article where she said that the EC “flagrantly defied the overwhelming will of the Messengers. A few dozen folks in Nashville decided they know better than the 17,000 Messengers appointed by the churches. Waiver of privilege was not something the Messengers delegated to the EC to consider in their discretion; waiver was a direct and specific command from the Messengers, and it was flouted.”

The EC has also opened itself to “massive liability,” said Evan. “In every lawsuit against the SBC thus far, the SBC has been able to argue that we are a bottom-up organization, and therefore the SBC itself has no authority over or liability for what happens at the local church level. That ended today. In every subsequent legal proceeding, plaintiffs can now use this vote to show that we are, in fact, a top-down organization and that the EC is in charge, not the churches.”

There is still the possibility that the SBC Executive Committee could waive attorney-client privilege when officers meet with the Sexual Abuse Task Force on Sept. 28. Some pastors are calling on people to join them in seven days of prayer and fasting to that end.

When Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary president Daniel Akin tweeted Evan’s article, one user responded, “Brother Danny I am sick and never dreamed I would see a convention I have supported and served and loved for so long come to this. Don’t know how I can encourage my people to stay.”

Dr. Russell Moore, who left the SBC this year and whose leaked letters shed light on this very controversy, tweeted, “To those of you who have been bullied and intimidated, had your names and your reputations destroyed by those in ecclesial power because you spoke up about abuse, or stood with those who did: Jesus is far better than this. And he’s watching. Goodbye to all of that.” Beth Moore (no relation), who also left the SBC this year, commented, “I’m so frustrated, I’m sobbing.”

The SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force issued a press release in response to the decision from the SBC Executive Committee. The task force expressed gratitude for the positive steps taken at the meeting, but also voiced disappointment with the committee’s decision to ignore the will of messengers. Said the task force members, “The Task Force will continue exploring best standards practices [sic] and considering investigative methods to ensure the fullest access possible to all relevant information. No entities or individuals, particularly those who claim the name of Christ, should fear truth and transparency.”

Domestic Abuse Surged Under COVID-19. Clergy Need Better Tools To Help Survivors.

May 7, 2021 by Staff

by Donna Kirshbaum

(RNS) “I don’t get it. My husband and I have been in couples counseling for nine years already, but life at home is getting worse,” says a woman to her clergyperson, her fingers fidgeting with her phone.

“First, the constant sarcasm, then the silent treatment and not knowing what’s really going on with our finances. When he was furloughed last spring, he started throwing things, and one time he started to choke me … ” her voice trails off. “He’s been swearing at the children, too, and smacked the dog on its head, hard, the other day, out of the blue. I don’t know what to do,” she whispers. 

Do most clergy know what to tell this woman? Maybe they remember a seminary lecture in which they heard that a couple such as this one shouldn’t be in marriage counseling. Do they suggest the couple stop seeing a therapist together? Maybe they feel the need to hear her partner’s version.

What if the woman’s spouse has recently offered to rig the campus with much-needed technology? What if the congregational leader’s own exhaustion makes them quail at taking on another complicated pastoral situation?

As a congregational rabbi and 12-year member of  Jewish Women International ’s Clergy Task Force to End Domestic Abuse in the Jewish Community, I know I’m not alone in wanting a smarter way to  support families suffering from abuse. The pandemic has spurred greater awareness of risk factors for domestic violence and new thinking about intimate partner violence. Our understanding has become more comprehensive and well-coordinated, more survivor-oriented, more trauma-informed. 

That new thinking is amply evident in a report recently released by Jewish Women International titled ” Domestic Violence in the Jewish Community,” and based on a yearlong needs assessment of services for survivors within the Jewish community. It offers recommendations that do not shoehorn the needs of survivors into systems that have not been serving them well — civil and criminal justice systems, child welfare systems, government benefits systems, and economic and employment systems.

As the report highlights, survivors seeking help turn first to friends or families, then to clergy. Not a single domestic violence service provider interviewed for the report indicated that survivors turn initially to hotlines/help lines, secular domestic violence programs, medical professionals or law enforcement. Instead, most survivors turn to a trusted community in times of crisis.

Ready or not, clergy are likely to be sought out more frequently by those intent on leaving homes beset by quarantine and quarreling. 

While the report addresses questions particularly facing Jewish communities, many of them are relevant to other faith communities.

For instance, if a victim does decide to leave her abuser, can you as clergy help her to stay in the community? What would a trauma-informed response to her suffering look like, such that you do not inadvertently misdirect her into re-traumatizing experiences?

What if she and her children need transitional shelter? Could you recommend, based on firsthand knowledge, where to go? Are you prepared to talk about safety planning? Able to help her name which of the four “stages of change” that those in hurtful or unhealthy situations tend to move through on the way to safety and stability? (The report describes the role of clergy in all four stages: pre-contemplation, contemplation, action, long-term healing and independence.) 

Are there resources at hand to offer immediate spiritual nourishment to someone feeling both trapped and full of self-blame for her entrapment? Come to think of it, ever since you heard from the preschool teacher that this congregant’s daughter recently slapped another student to the ground, you’ve noticed a pronounced tic in the daughter’s eye. If she acts out again, what advice will you give her teacher? 

This report is meant to jump-start discussions that will lead to culturally specific interventions and robust, innovative partnerships — between clergy and local shelters and between seminaries and local clergy on the front lines, as well as collaborations with real estate investors who could provide long-term housing solutions for those fleeing domestic violence. 

Clearly, new thinking about the needs of survivors and new resources to help them are already here. If we clergy are the people with more authority than power, now is the time to lean on that authority to help relocate the very definition of support for the families we serve.

(Rabbi Donna Kirshbaum, who serves Bethlehem Hebrew Congregation in New Hampshire, is chair of the communications committee for Jewish Women International’s Clergy Task Force to End Domestic Abuse in the Jewish Community. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.) 

Caring for Our Wounded Survivors

By Scot McKnight -August 2, 2021

survivors of abuse

Compassion for the needy requires compassion for survivors of sexual and power abuse.

Many have said a society’s measure is how it treats the poor, or the “least of these,” or the marginalized. The prophets measured ancient Israel by how it treated the widows and orphans and foreign residents (often translated as “aliens”’ Exod. 22:21). The emphasis given to justice, or what we today call social justice, in our Old Testament brings to the surface a core biblical value. Israel’s emphasis contrasts, at times dramatically, with other ancient Near Eastern cultures.

Compassion, which translates a Greek term that describes visceral, emotional response to a person in need, characterizes Jesus. Here are examples in Matthew:

Matt. 9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Matt. 14:14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.

Matt. 15:32 Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.”

Matt. 18:27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt.

Matt. 20:34 Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they regained their sight and followed him.

The term describes the following complex: a person in need is seen, the visceral response by Jesus is noticed by those around him, Jesus does something to relieve the person from pain. Feeling their pain is not enough: until the visceral response turns into action it is not compassion.

Compassion for the needy requires compassion for survivors of sexual and power abuse. There are many in our churches today who are wounded survivors. Some are sitting silently in their pain; some are participating without anyone knowing their pain; some are engaged in efforts for other survivors; they are all sensitive to survivors. Some have been wounded because they shared their wounds.

We are called to follow Jesus into care for survivors and to being survivor-sensitive communities of faith that provide safety and healing for survivors. Here are some texts for us to consider today, and these texts from the New Testament can provoke us to deeper concern and care for the survivors in our midst.

I begin with a programmatic statement about the core mission of Jesus:

Matt. 9:36–38 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Here the ones for whom Jesus shows compassion and care are suffering alone, they have been mistreated by the “shepherds of Israel,” and they are described like abandoned sheep who are bloodied, bruised, and broken.

These verses follow the sketch of Jesus’ mission we find in Matthew 4:23–25 and 9:35, which describe the core mission of Jesus: teaching, preaching, and healing. He does the first two in the Sermon on the Mount (chap. 5–7) and healing is found in ten episodes in chapters 8–9. Jesus’ mission shapes itself toward healing the survivors of pastoral abuse. Chapter ten records the mission of the twelve, which is described as extending the very mission of Jesus. Find the “lost sheep” he tells his apostles.

They too are to care for the survivors and wounded. Which is what we find in that magical parable called the Sheep and Goats in Matthew 25:31–46. Sounding like a prophet of Israel, like Amos, Jesus tells his listeners that the final judgment will be based on how they treated the hungry, the thirsty, the strangers, those without sufficient clothing, the sick, and the imprisoned (25:35–36). In other words survivors of various forms of injustices and persecutions and misfortunes. Think about it: the final judgment analyzes how you and I responded to the survivors of our world.

Jesus told a parable that digs its heels into our hearts, the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37). It begins with a variant on what I call the “Jesus Creed.” A canon lawyer (scribe) probes Jesus about the right religion. How do I gain eternal life? Jesus responded by asking what the Torah teaches. The canon lawyer says “love God, love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus says “A plus answer.” Then the canon lawyer opens the door to his corrupted heart because solid theology and good hearts aren’t necessary correlations. He wants to know now but one thing: “Who is my neighbor?” He’s asking about exceptions. (By the way, get someone else to ask your questions of Jesus.)

Jesus answers with the parable. The core idea of the parable is the priests and assistant priests—go ahead and explore your ecclesial offices: popes and cardinals and archbishops and bishops and priests, pastors and deacons and elders and professors … to resume, the core idea is that the knowledgeable crowd knows what the Torah teaches so well they find a reason to walk around and right by a wounded survivor on the path. They legitimated their lack of compassion, their inaction, their non-compassion by their exegetical and canonical expertise.

So Jesus takes a Nobody (in the priests’ eyeballs), a Samaritan—socially excluded, religiously inferior, degraded from the perspective of temple categories—and shows up the priest and assistant priest. The Samaritan did what Jesus did: he showed compassion for the wounded survivor, he tended to him, he cared for him, he absorbed resources for him—that is, he extended the mission of Jesus to the survivors he met along his path. There are always Samaritans around showing up the religious authorities.

Which is why Jesus’ younger brother said,

“If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” —James 1:26–27

Take those words to heart: “religion that is pure and undefiled before God” is the kind that shows compassion for survivors.

Which is why his older brother then said, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).

Even today.

Battery Acid

Car battery, Author Towel401 (PD)

The victims of child abuse often wrestle with the question of forgiveness.  Forgiveness can feel like defeat – another surrender to a predator who has already taken so much from us, including our self-respect.

Strength v. Weakness

But forgiveness is NOT a sign of weakness.  Nor is it a warm and cozy feeling.

Forgiveness is a deliberate decision to put the past behind us [1].  That requires enormous strength on the part of victims.  Most of us cannot accomplish it until we have first mourned our losses (a fact those urging forgiveness upon us must not overlook).

Unforgiveness

Emotionally speaking, unforgiveness is akin to the sulfuric acid used in storage batteries.

Battery acid is a dangerous substance.  It dissolves the skin, causing chemical burns.  Heavy scarring can result.  Contact with the eyes will cause blindness.  Long-term exposure to fumes is toxic.

Like battery acid, unforgiveness eats us up inside, creating scars that further tie us to the past, exacerbating rather than easing our pain.  And the longer our bitterness lasts, the deeper the scars.

Bitterness blinds us to the possibilities before us.  Forgiveness, by contrast, opens our eyes.  It clears our head, and cleanses our heart.  We can once again breathe freely.  The past no longer has power over us.

Release

Forgiveness is NOT salt in the wound, NOT an added stripe from the lash, NOT a final humiliation [2].  Nor is it an argument that predators’ horrendous behavior should be excused away at victims’ expense.

Significantly, forgiveness is not inconsistent with criminal prosecution, should victims choose to pursue that.  Prosecution may prevent others from being victimized.

Instead, forgiveness implies release for the victim…release from bitterness, from anger, from hatred.  From the groundless self-condemnation the abuse to which we were subjected left in its wake [3].

Victims deserve that.

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…” (Matt. 5: 44).

[1]  Prevention, “How to Forgive Someone Who Hurt You – Even When It Feels Impossible” by Cassie Shortsleeve, 12/13/19, https://www.prevention.com/life/a29995725/how-to-forgive-som.eone/

[2]  NPR, “Why Forgiving Someone Else Is Really About You” by Stephanie O’Neill, 7/30/20, https://www.npr.org/2020/07/28/896245305/why-forgiving-someone-else-is-really-about-you.

[3]  This is not to suggest that we were responsible for our abuse.  Children, however, blame themselves for the actions of the adults around them.  Victims carry that misplaced sense of guilt into adulthood.

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