There’s a line from a Bob Sieger song, Against The Wind, that speaks to me. “I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then” the song says. It’s powerful to me. I sometimes wish that I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then. I sometimes long for the return of innocence. But you can’t un-know and you can’t un-see.
I wish that getting a new pastor wouldn’t be an anxious time for me. I was raped by my pastor as a teenager. He was a new pastor, newly assigned by the Bishop. I know things as about pastors…things that I can’t un-know. Wishing I could un-know doesn’t help. I’ve tried. I mentioned my wish to un-know to a sexual abuse counselor once and she told me honestly, I will probably always experience some level of anxiety whenever I change churches, or my church changes pastors because I know things that other people don’t know. However, I can also use this knowledge to be an advocate for safe sanctuary, abuse prevention and healing. Jackie and I recently decided to pursue a shared dream of creating a website and workshops to promote healing and speak out against injustice and violence. We did this in part because, once you see it, you can’t un-see it. Once you know, you can’t un-know.
If you are a survivor of abuse, there are no doubt triggers you will encounter the rest of your life that remind you of what you know about a parent, a family member, a teacher, a priest, or a neighbor. You can’t un-know what you know, but you can use it to help make the world a safer place for all of us. A few years ago, when my church adopted safe sanctuary and required all the youth leaders and Sunday School teachers to take training, the staff relations committee seemed very confident that they had made the church a safe place for kids. I thought it fell short. But then, I knew things they didn’t know. Things I can’t un-know. I know that abuse can happen in less than ten minutes by a janitor, or bus driver, or some other person that also has contact with kids. I asked why these people hadn’t been included in the background screenings or training. They said they had never thought of that.
Once I saw how inadequate it is for society to train our women and girls how not to be raped and ignore training our men and boys not to rape, I couldn’t un-see this either. Now it seems obvious to me that the most effective way to end rape is to stop raping. What is is it that you see? What is it that you know? Let your knowledge and your vision guide you and then you will know how to bring hope to the world.