What do Axl Rose, Sinead O’Connor, Prince, and Madonna have in common? As their fans know, these acclaimed artists have all experienced abuse of one kind or another.
“I feel that child abuse and sexual abuse…is kind of the key to why there are so many problems in the world today. The more books I read on it, and the more work I do on trying to overcome the problems that I had in my childhood that I accepted…I knew it was crazy, but I accepted it as normal behavior for my life, and I realize now that it wasn’t normal behavior, and it’s caused me to act in many ways because it’s what I was trained, it’s what I was taught, it’s what I saw. My formative years were very ugly.”
-Axl Rose 
William Bruce Rose, Jr. a/k/a Axl Rose – frontman for the band Guns N’ Roses – had a troubled childhood . Sexually abused at the age of two by his biological father, Rose was later physically abused by his stepfather.
Understandably, Rose developed difficulties with authority, becoming a delinquent in his teens. He was often self-destructive, intentionally overdosing on painkillers in 1986. His personal relationships have been tumultuous.
Musically, Rose sometimes exercised suffocating control over the bands with whom he sang. For a time abandoning his career, he spent years in near isolation.
Despite all this, Rose was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. Guns N’ Roses have sold more than 90 million albums worldwide.
“Whenever she beats me, which is daily, she makes me take my clothes off. I have to lie on the floor. I have to open my arms and legs. I have to let her attack my abdomen. She wants to burst my womb. She wants to stop me from being a female.”
-Sinead O’Connor, speaking of her mother [4A]
Sinead O’Connor n/k/a Magda Davitt suffered years of physical and sexual abuse by her mother [4B]. She was beaten, locked in her room, deprived of food and clothes.
O’Connor has characterized her mother either as a sadist and pedophile or demon possessed. “She used to make me say over and over ‘I am nothing. I am nothing’ or else she’d beat me”, O’Connor says of her mother. When confronted, her mother denied the abuse, further fueling O’Connor’s anger.
The Grammy award winning singer, also, acknowledged on the Dr. Phil Show that she was raped by several strangers between the ages of 3 and 12, eventually adopting a masculine look because “it was dangerous to be pretty”.
O’Connor attempted suicide 8 times in a single year, following a hysterectomy.
“As artists I believe our function is to express the feelings of the human race — to always speak the truth and never keep it hidden even though we are operating in a world which does not like the sound of the truth.”
-Sinead O’Connor, Letter to the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences 
When O’Connor tore apart a photo of the pope during an appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1992, the backlash was brutal. But the gesture was meant as a protest against the Catholic Church sex scandal. A photo of the pope had, also, stood beside her abusive mother’s bed.
Sinead O’Connor finds release from pain through her music. O’Connor has generated 10 albums, but believes that her strength is in performing live. She uses music to tell her story, as in the song “Troy”.
It’s easy to throw stones at all the things that aren’t so good about the internet and social media, but we don’t nearly as often hear about the wonderful things that also come from using technology to connect with others.
Like, for example, being able to connect with some terrific people you otherwise would never meet!
Just recently, one of those terrific people I’ve recently met through social media reached out to me about the topic of why church leaders abuse people. This fellow is a devoted Christian, a sharp guy who has seen abuse happen by church leaders, and is concerned about it. He leads a ministry that has a popular website, and wanted to talk about why leaders abuse others and see how his website might be able to do something on the topic.
I pointed out to my friend that, like any other problem, it’s important to identify the root cause(s) of a problem in order to effectively address or resolve it. First, we started with this premise: When God calls a godly man, who meets His biblical standard, and follows the biblical model for church and ministry, then the fruit of that will not be someone who purposely hurts others. So our discussion turned to the question of why church leaders abuse other people, and here are seven key reasons we discussed:
1. The practice of sin; the presence of evil. Where there are patterns of abuse, there is the practice of sin.
2. Wrong people in the ministry. More than 1,700 pastors quit each month. We tend to automatically think it’s because these ministers have burned out, etc., but several of the pastors who quit should never have been ordained and in vocational ministry in the first place. That’s because some of them do not meet the biblical qualifications to be pastors; for others who do, many go into ministry inadequately equipped, some who even have never been personally discipled. New attention needs to be given to churches and denominations about their examination process for those they are ordaining into ministry.
3. Wrong method of how we structure a church. Many churches today are structured in such a way as to place all “power” into the hands of a single individual, usually a senior pastor. Instead of structuring a church by biblical example, with a plurality of elders, many churches are structured as if they are a pastor’s personal fiefdom. Instead of elders or deacons, we have “management teams” who serve at the whim of a charismatic or controlling pastor, with little to no accountability to others. This kind of power position is a breeding ground for abuse.
4. Corruption from a broad-based addiction to leadership. Leadership, leadership, leadership. That’s almost all you hear about in church leadership circles. What leadership books are you reading? What leadership conferences are you attending? How many new leaders are you developing? And sadly, much (most?) of what is written about leadership, and taught at church conferences as leadership, are business leadership models and principles, NOT biblical teaching about servant leadership. One outcome is many church leaders would rather spend their time with other church leaders than with the flock they’re supposed to be shepherding. When you adopt a worldly model, you’ll be working from the flesh, not walking, led, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. That’s why many of today’s leadership structures in the church are based on the pastor as CEO and leading an “organization,” not a structure of an under-shepherd serving the family of God. This corruption of leadership is also a breeding ground for abuse, as CEO pastors see church members as volunteers there to accomplish their vision. To get them to do that, manipulation, control, and other abuse can occur.
5. Pride. So many who “mentor” ministers teach church leaders to create their own platforms and promote it broadly and constantly. That makes “being a leader” about pursuing and achieving “success.” Using people to achieve that often results in abuse.
6. Sin. This isn’t the practice of sin, which was the first item mentioned, this is that occasional fall that any and all of us can have in our lives. A pastor can become so over-worked, under-rested, and under-appreciated he could snap at someone or otherwise exercise poor decision-making. This can be rectified quickly with confession and repentance, and usually isn’t an ongoing problem unless the minister fails to fix the things in his life that led him to this momentarily lapse in sin.
7. Mental health issues. Just like the general population, many ministers struggle with mental health issues, from things as simple as temperament weaknesses and dealing with stress, to working from patterns of irrational thinking or developing habits of cognitive distortions. These can lead to conflict and, if not handled properly, may lead to abuse. Also like the general population, a sizable percentage of ministers say they do suffer, or have suffered, from a diagnosed mental illness. These can include anything from narcissistic tendencies, depression, and chronic anxiety, to bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. If a minister doesn’t receive appropriate treatment for a mental illness, his illness could contribute to inappropriate treatment of others.
There are other reasons why church leaders abuse people, these are some of the primary reasons. When you identify a root cause to a problem, you can then identify some of the ways to fix a problem. For the issues shared above, some things to do to fix some of these issues include:
The personal holiness of those who claim to be called to church leadership of any kind. Have they been discipled, trained, and equipped? Is their covenant relationship with Jesus Christ authentic and mature enough to move into ministry?
So the assessment process for licensure or ordination of ministerial candidates must be explored and addressed.
How churches are structured must be explored and addressed.
How to address falls (not a practice) of sin must be learned.
The plight of leadership addiction must be addressed in the church. We must change what it means to be a leader in the church.
Whether there are mental health issues or illness needs to be identified and treated.
Just as there are other causes for church leaders abusing people, there is more to be done to resolve such issues as well. Abuse of any kind, by anyone, anywhere is not acceptable, but it certainly must never be tolerated in the church among church leaders. We need to look closely at why some church leaders abuse people, and take every necessary action to stop the abuse, see to healing of the abused, aim for restoration and discipleship of the leader, and be proactive in preventing any opportunity for abuse to occur in the church by its leaders.
Dr. James Scott, Jr., is a minister, former church planter, Christian clinical therapist, certified Personal Trainer, and author. He currently serves as Founder and President of Scott Free Clinic, an international parachurch ministry. Follow him at ScottFreeClinic.org.
We live in an incredibly anxious and depressed culture here in America, and the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest, and divisive politics have further exacerbated this issue. According to a 2020 report from Mental Health America, more than 47 million adults in our nation are experiencing some form of mental illness. My home state of Texas is one of the lowest ranking in the nation for quality of mental health and treatment for mental illness in adults.
We have an established mental health crisis on our hands. Sadly, the Christian church has often neglected to respond in a loving and supportive way to those who are struggling with mental health issues. I’m heartbroken to say many people who have sought help and hope within the church have been turned away, shamed, or told — sometimes by well-meaning pastors or lay counselors — they just need to “pray harder” or “have more faith.”
2021 is a new year, and it’s time for the Christian church to respond to this crisis in a new way.
In 2019, Lifeway Research surveyed pastors, congregants, and their families about mental illness and the church. The survey revealed nearly half of pastors (49%) “rarely or never speak to their church in sermons or large group settings about acute mental illness.” Additionally, close to one in four individuals surveyed indicated they had either “stopped attending church, had not found a church to attend or had changed churches based on the church’s response to mental health issues.”
I believe the church’s failure lies not in ill intention but largely in misinformation and lack of proper training. While there is a spiritual aspect to mental health that churches and pastors can and should address, we often have missed the clinical reality of mental health.
Complicating the matter is the fact that in my generation (Baby Boomers) mental health has often been viewed as a taboo subject to be discussed only at home, if at all. We were raised to believe that if you are a follower of Jesus, you’re not supposed to struggle with mental health, depression or anxiety. I remember thinking this way when I was a young Christian, and it took several painful experiences over the course of my life for me to grasp what it’s like to struggle with mental health.
My father was brutally murdered by a shoplifter at his store when I was 20 years old. Losing him in such a violent way launched me into one of the darkest valleys I’ve ever had to walk through. At one of my lowest points, I seriously doubted God’s existence.
Then, 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The treatment and recovery periods were grueling and left me exhausted both physically and emotionally. Anxiety and depression took hold. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t enjoy the things I once loved. I felt like a dead man walking, and I wondered if I was ever going to make it. Some Sundays I had to drag myself to the pulpit.
It took me more than a year to come out of that darkness. I sought the help of professional counselors who recommended different forms of treatment that were effective in my battle with depression. The church also played an indispensable role, caring, loving, and encouraging me during my hardest days. This is what the apostle Paul exhorted us to do in Galatians 6:20, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the love of Christ” (ESV).
If we are followers of Jesus, we are tasked with not only caring deeply about the spiritual health of others, but their mental, emotional and physical health as well, for they are all tied together.
The good news is the church is uniquely equipped to care for people struggling with mental illness. As a local community of faith called to love one another, it acts as a crucial support system for all who are in need. Many of the Bible’s teachings — such as forgiving those who have wronged us, recognizing the inherent value of every human life, and giving thanks for the blessings we have — are used by professional counselors to help people cope with and overcome depression and anxiety.
The church has the potential to change the tide of the mental illness epidemic rising in our nation, but for this to happen we need to start talking about the issues. We need to equip ourselves so we can offer effective, practical care for people who need healing. This is why Prestonwood has started Life Recovery Ministry, a program to help people cope and heal from emotional, physical, relational, and spiritual wounds caused by illness, addiction, and abuse. Life Recovery Ministry will host The River Conference on March 19 and 20, to address mental health stigma, domestic abuse, sexual healing, and more. This event will feature experts in psychology and religion and is open for in-person and online attendance.
We the church can no longer stand on the sidelines while people are suffering and hurting. We must step up and step in to end this critical cycle before it’s too late.
We wholeheartedly concur with Dr Jack Graham and call on all churches to address mental health stigma, domestic abuse, sexual healing, and more
Building a house without a plumb bob is like using a compass without a North. Many of our leaders have adopted values without a plumb bob and a compass without a North, leading from behind those rushing to dive off the cliff.
We live in a broken world. Our experiences here are a mixed bag of good and bad, joy and pain—a reality that Solomon expressed when he wrote, “Even in laughter the heart may sorrow, and the end of mirth may be grief” (Prov. 14:13). The merry heart often does grieve, for that is what this life sometimes demands.
I am pretty sure you have heard of the controversy surrounding Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson. Simply put Phil Robertson expressed his personal opinion stating his personal beliefs during an interview for a magazine article and was suspended from his show for speaking what he thought. It was clear he was not acting as a spokesman for A & E, any church, or group. Agree with him or not you should agree that he has a Right to expresses his personal views, just as you and I have that Right. One of the foundations of our Constitutional Republic is the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances
Sadly a group called “GLAAD” felt that bullying and intimidation was going to persuade people that their view was correct and that no one could express an opposing view. Bullying by anyone at anytime is not acceptable.
It has been well said that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.
I am a firm believer that even the worst of bullies can have a change of heart and cease being a bully to become a kind and gentle soul.
Bullies only succeed when good people enable the bully by not saying – “that behavior is not acceptable”. Bullies rule by fear – fear of physical, emotional, and/or financial consequences. A bully can be a family member, a “friend”, co-worker, or government employee.
Calling someone a bully does not seem to carry the same stigma as calling someone abusive. It is fairly easy to get a Court Order to keep an abusive person away from you. I don’t know of any bullies who have Court Orders restraining them. There is no difference, other than the name, in the bully’s and abusive person’s actions, intent, and methods.
The Bully/Abusive person causes the same fear, anxiety and consternation to the victim. Many victims need to move, change jobs and expend many hours and spend a lot of money trying to escape the bully/abuser while trying to repair the damage the bully/abuser caused. Often professional assistance is needed for the victim to recover and remain safe. The Bully/Abusive person does not consider the mental health issues they cause their victims while they spew their venomous rants and actions.
The new year will hit us with the reality of the many unwelcomed new regulations and taxes which have been heaped upon us. Some might call it oppressive. You can call it a government being a bully or abusive toward the people they are supposed to be serving. Where do we go to get a Court Order to stop them from abusing us? They’ll be right there if we move or change jobs.
What bully/abusers have in common is that they don’t have a plumb bob of principles and their moral compass has no North. They are like a ship without a rudder wandering aimlessly. They are like the house built on sand that gets washed away by the rain. They go whichever way feels good at the moment to satisfy themselves, yes selfish. This is certainly by no means a permanent impediment in their lives. People who want to can change and receive the peace in their hearts that so desperately seek. They are just looking in all the wrong places.
Phil Robertson was answering the questions with his plumb bob in place and a compass that points North. For far too many the plumb bob and compass were thrown out when the Courts kicked God out of schools. It does not have to remain like this. Each person makes a choice in their personal lives, even if the government does not change, as to whether they will be use a plumb bob and a compass that points North.
We were made to have a plumb bob and a compass that points North in our lives. Let’s tell all Bully/Abusers to: “Get back to where you once belonged”, to quote the Beatles.
A young woman’s boyfriend beat her to a bloody pulp. The attack cost her eyesight. In response, the girl’s father released this picture of the boyfriend to the world and put this bounty on his head.
Chelsea Simmons was brutally beaten in Missouri by her boyfriend, Cedric Powe, causing her to permanently lose vision in her left eye. In response, the young woman’s father offered a $500 reward to anyone who could provide information on the whereabouts of the suspect.
Chelsea was nearly killed during the altercation with her boyfriend. She had filed a restraining order against Powe, but this did little to protect the young woman against her attacker, who has a history of violating an order of protection.
Doctors say that Chelsea Simmons was just minutes away from death and will likely endure pain stemming from the incident for the rest of her life. “Apparently he choked her until she passed out, brought her back, then choked her again and continually stomped on her head,” explained Chelsea’s stepmother, Melissa Zack. “She’s scared and she probably will be forever.” Meanwhile, Cedric Powe, who is known to his friends as Moe, fled to the south side of St. Louis after dishing out the brutal beating.
Chelsea’s father, Mark Zack, offered $500 to anyone who could provide police with information that would help them track down his daughter’s attacker. “He needs to be caught so that this doesn’t happen to anyone else, and I don’t have to worry about it happening to her ever again,” said Melissa Zack.
Cedric Powe has a lengthy criminal history, including a 2008 arrest for domestic battery and an obstruction of justice charge. The suspect pleaded guilty to the obstruction of justice charge and was sentenced to one year in prison, but because of his guilty plea, the domestic battery charge against him was dismissed. He then went on to beat Chelsea Simmons to a bloody pulp.
Mark Zack’s reward appears to have done the trick. Police caught up with Cedric Powe in St. Louis and arrested him. He was subsequently charged with attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery and aggravated domestic battery in connection with the beating of Chelsea Simmons. Bond was set at a half-million dollars.
According to Mt. Vernon Network News, the charges contained in the warrant accuse Powe of taking a substantial step towards first-degree murder or causing great bodily harm by strangling Chelsea. The aggravated domestic battery charge is also based on the attempt to strangle Chelsea. The aggravated battery charge accuses Powe of punching and kicking Chelsea.
The information contained in an order of protection received by Chelsea Simmons the day after the attack accuses Cedric Powe of beating her nearly to the point of death, leaving her with permanent blindness in her left eye. The order of protection also details other alleged acts of violence, including a prior beating and kidnapping where Powe allegedly called Chelsea’s family, demanding money in exchange for her return.
Powe was extradited back to Illinois to face these charges, and he was ultimately sentenced to 14 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Powe pleaded guilty to the Class 2 aggravated domestic battery including strangling, in exchange for charges of Class 3 aggravated battery resulting in great bodily harm and Class X attempted murder being dismissed.
In addition to his 14-year prison sentence, Powe must also serve 4-years mandatory supervised release, otherwise known as parole, and pay $1,352.60 in restitution. It would seem to be a small price to pay for the severity of his crime.
“Blue on blue, heartache on heartache Blue on blue now that we are through… Now the trees are bare There’s sadness in the air And I’m as blue as I can be”
– “Blue on Blue”, Bobby Vinton
Neglect to change the water in a fish tank, and it will soon cloud over. Depression clouds the judgment of abuse victims, in much the same way.
Causes of Depression
Depression is a serious illness characterized by changes in brain chemistry.Genetics, stress, major traumas such as war and child abuse, and medical conditions including AIDS, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and lupus can all play a role.
Grief at the loss of a loved one is generally distinguished from depression. The first can, however, lead to the second .
Shift Toward Blue
With depression, we see the world through “blue colored” glasses, no longer capable of assessing ourselves or our situation accurately.
All our failings – failings we have in common with the rest of humanity – are magnified. Our defeats are remembered; our good qualities and genuine accomplishments, diminished in our eyes or forgotten entirely.
Because depression is a mood disorder, we are unaware of this shift toward blue. The world looks bleak. Our situation – whatever it may be – appears hopeless to us. Our lives feel meaningless. In effect, the water in our fish tank is cloudy, and we cannot see past the glass.
Only if we take a step back, and become mindful of our dark and sorrowful mood, are we likely to recognize that our judgment has been skewed.
Our actions are reflections of an inner reality. Psychiatrists and psychologists attempt to gauge the state of that inner reality by asking such questions as how frequently we have cried, and whether we have contemplated harming ourselves or others.
We, too, can make a conscious effort to monitor our mood. This is not a substitute for psychotherapy or psychiatric medication. It is rather akin to a diabetic patient monitoring his/her blood glucose.
“I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me, And heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock…” (Ps. 40: 1-2).
For some, depression is temporary. For others, it is a lifelong challenge. Depression is not, however, sinful. Nor is it a sign of insufficient faith. God does not abandon those of His children suffering from depression, any more than He abandons those suffering from cancer.
 As an illustration, a woman tenderly cares for her terminally ill husband. On his death, she grieves the loss. Her grief does not, however, lift. Gradually, she becomes more and more despondent – imagining that she should have done more.
ANYONE WITH THOUGHTS OF VIOLENCE OR SELF-HARM SHOULD SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION
The spiritual counter-part of depression will be addressed next week in Part 2
Sometimes you can’t see the forest through the trees. Sometimes you feel like you are knee deep in alligators.
Have you become a boiled frog?
I’m referring, to the proverbial frog that, placed in a pot of cold water that is gradually heated, never realizes the danger it’s in and is boiled alive. The hypothetical boiled frog is a useful metaphor for a very real problem: the difficulty of responding to abusive situations that creep up on you a bit at a time.
Most of us become so comfortable or used to our current situation that we don’t really know how to escape from it? (the heat) Don’t put up with rising temperatures!
Let’s not be a boiled frog!
Are you in a job which doesn’t suit you, your skills, your values, your personality or in abusive situation? Have you become so comfortable or used to your current situation or in a situation in which you don’t know how to escape?
According to the Dictionary Abuse is defined as wrongly or improperly using one’s authority. This could mean between a husband and wife, siblings, co-workers, people in your church, boss and employees. There are different types of abuse with a common thread; an abuser’s control over another person, imposing their will upon someone else, to force them to do something against their will or prevent them from activities.
Signs that you’re in an abusive relationship
There are many signs of an abusive relationship. The most telling sign is fear of your partner. If you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around your partner—constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blow-up—chances are your relationship is unhealthy and abusive. Other signs that you may be in an abusive relationship include a partner who belittles you or tries to control you, and imparts on you feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, and desperation.
To determine whether your relationship is abusive, answer the questions at the link below. The more “yes” answers, the more likely it is that you’re in an abusive relationship.
There are different types of abuse with a common thread; an abuser’s control over another person, imposing their will upon someone else, to force them to do something against their will or prevent them from activities.
Domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone, yet the problem is often overlooked, excused, or denied. This is especially true when the abuse is psychological, rather than physical. Noticing and acknowledging the signs of an abusive relationship is the first step to ending it. No one should live in fear of the person they love. If you recognize yourself or someone you know in the following warning signs and descriptions of abuse, reach out. There is help available.
Unfortunately people have misused words in the Bible to impose their will upon someone else. It is not news, God Hates Abuse. One example is often repeated phrase that God Hates Divorce.
“God hates divorce!” (Read the rest of the verse…)
Christian wives frequently hear this first part of Malachi 2:16 as though the institution of marriage trumps the lives wrapped up in it. Rarely quoted is the second part of the verse which says:
“along with the one who conceals his violence by outward appearances.”
Christian wives often think they have only two options: endure abuse or face condemnation by God for not obeying the Bible. As a result, guilt, despair, internal conflict and heartache cloak every moment as they cling to survival, trying to please both God and their husband.
The future looks hopeless, and their identity and value obscured. Children grow up as secondary victims of domestic abuse, desensitized to God’s ways and primed to continue the cycle of abuse as adults. Read more at https://godhatesabuse.com/god-hates-abuse I highly recommend reading and keeping the book handy titled God Hates Abuse.
Victims of abuse often experience and exhibit various degrees of PTSD, the same PTSD suffered by combat veterans, police officers, fire fighters, and other first responders. They also experience and exhibit anxiety, stress and distrust issues. Help is available. Just like any a clock which is too tightly wound, the unwinding must be carefully done.
Abusers oftentimes have self-worth issues and feel empowered and mighty when they abuse someone.
Here are some real examples from one family of controlling abuse:
Father beats a third grader because the third grader had a friend come over to the house…the father did not want anyone to know what was said or done in the house. This is a real example of controlling abusive behavior.
A son was called to come to the house to pick up a script for the Mom who was sick and could not get off the couch. The father, her husband, told the Mom to get up and get it yourself. They later divorced. This is a real example of controlling abusive behavior with an escape.
Years later, another son from the same family as above learns he can control the family by withholding medical updates of a hospitalized loved one.
An unrelated example is a woman Mary, not her real name, was looking for bruises on another woman, Jane, not her real name, who had her boyfriend present. Mary asked Jane if that man was her boyfriend, Jane said yes. Mary said she was looking for bruises because in her mind that is how men showed their ‘love’ for women by beating them.
No one deserves to be abused. Help is available for the Abuser, the Abused, and those affected by the abuse, just not all in the same setting.
Do your part to stop abuse today. Learn what you can do to recognize and prevent abuse.
Below is a violent, firsthand account of child abuse — most particularly physical abuse.
Distressing accounts can be found for every category of abuse, whether physical, emotional, sexual, or neglect. Thousands of children are murdered worldwide before they can ever tell their harrowing stories.
The victims of child abuse prefer not to read such accounts. We have scars enough to attest to the reality of abuse.
But those who still think child abuse is an insignificant issue — a subject exaggerated by the press — should make a point of reading this account. Two things will stand out: the enormous courage of these children; and the enormous compassion of the author (“Melissa”), now an adult.
While “Melissa” did her very best to protect herself and her brothers against their father’s neglect and their mother’s rage, I cannot agree with her conclusion that abuse is simply a matter of mental illness.
Mental illness is real. Evil is, also, however, real. The distinction rests in the capacity to tell right from wrong. Mental illness involves a compromised understanding of the world and/or a compromised ability to control one’s actions.
Evil involves a deliberate choice.
“The way that the shadows played under the door, I could see that my favorite tree was gracefully dancing in the wind. The sunlight shot like a laser beam into the closet. ‘Hey, lets play shadow puppets.’ I whispered to my little brother. ‘Okay,’ he said.
This time, his lips only turned a small shade of blue. My brother faced his head towards me and I made myself look into his eyes, holding my own grief so I could contain his. I remember looking at my mother and wondering if this time was it, would she kill him? She would always stop -before she would suffocate him.
Mom had bad days. Her children were the face of every single person that day that had hurt her, that had let her down, a family member, an argument with my Dad. My brother and I never knew when our turn was going to be for mom to release her anger. I always wondered when it would begin. Would we be able to have the comfort of the closet, would we be able to see the closet this time around? That was always my hope. Mom would always begin with me. I would lay down on the sofa and she would put a pillow over my face. She would then sit on top of me and she proceeded to suffocate me. I always turned my head to the wall facing away because I knew that my little brother was there in the hallway. I never wanted him to see my face. I never wanted him to see the fear and sometimes even the hope – that maybe I would die…”
“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:
‘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.
‘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, “TheWalking 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.
“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 Aboutthe Sexual Assault and Rape of Men.” Posted on this blog, June 10, 2015.
‘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!
‘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.
‘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!
‘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.
‘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.
‘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!
‘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.
‘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.
‘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.
‘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.
‘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:
‘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.
The young man was enthusiastic, energetic, and highly motivated. He was determined to stand true to his leader regardless of the cost. Confident in his own ability, he boasted, “Even if all the others desert you, I will never!”
Yet, only a few hours later, this young man hung his head in shame when he heard a cock crow. He had not only deserted his leader, but he had denied three times that he even knew him. What Peter thought would never happen became reality.
We raised our two daughters to love the Lord and I was sure if they married young, active, Christian men, they would surely live happily ever after. My children would never experience divorce. However, as time went on, their marriages encountered major problems and both my daughters went through the heartbreaking devastation of a divorce. My emotions recoiled in protest. What I had believed would never happen, became reality.
How many of us have said a particular situation or event would never happen to us or to those we love: addiction to alcohol, pornography or drugs, sexual abuse, divorce, an incurable disease, criminal behavior, missing in action or an affair? The list is long of those things which we hope will not and somehow refuse to accept could happen to us personally or to members of our family, and yet, they happen.
I realize many factors contribute to the above scenarios, but I do want to draw our attention to one in particular. We are involved in a serious, spiritual war. This is not a fantasy or the imagination of fanatics. It is reality.
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12 KJV)
Our enemy Satan with his angels, though created beings, are more cunning and powerful than we are and have one plan in mind — destruction. Satan is out to destroy testimonies, marriages, families, churches, and lives. To accomplish his plan, he cunningly lays traps, waits for the perfect opportunity and preys on our weaknesses and blind spots.
It is easy for us to become busy and preoccupied with life — to become confident in ourselves. However, when this happens, we let down our guard, and our enemy has an open door to attack. As a result, life can take an unexpected turn and we experience like Peter, “never” becoming reality. In our selves, we are no match for our enemy.
The good news is we don’t have to rely on ourselves. We have Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to help us (James 4:6-8). Our Lord provides the spiritual armor we need and gives us the weapon that can defeat anything our enemy throws our way. This weapon is the Word of God and we need to have it in our hearts and minds, sharp and ready for action (Ephesians 6:13-17).
Although our enemy is ruthless, we do not need to be afraid. It is needful for us to take the battle seriously, never to forget we have an enemy and learn to daily put on our spiritual armor. As the rapture draws closer, our enemy grows stronger. May we heed Peter’s warning to us:
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith …” (1 Peter 5:8-9 KJV)
May we claim the victory that is ours.
“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Romans 8:37 KJV)
How could a loving God let abuse happen in every destructive form imaginable? Couldn’t God stop this madness? This undeserving and unfortunate part of life digs deep within the lives of those who are victims. This special video with Dr. Josh McDowell provides a riveting answer that will alleviate your perception by memorably explaining why a loving God could let such awful events transpire.