*Please note – This is a copy of posts from my old blog. The old blog was redesigned to point to this one, but not before I got all the old posts transferred. What is here and the next few posts to the “Posts from The Old Blog” are copies of what I did thanks to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine and many thanks to Tracie Nall at FromTracie for telling me about this. The links probably do not work and the pictures may not show up and to my dismay, the comments are lost. I will try to reconstruct the links, but I apologize for these posts. ~Jackie
I watched the move “Precious” last night. Yes, I know I am about two years behind in watching the up and coming films, but I finally got to it. It was SO hard, but so hopeful.
I also watched the interview with Sapphire, the author of the book, “Push,” on which the movie was based. She said the way it was presented in the film, she hoped it caused people to see everyone and not to dismiss people. My story was not the same as Precious’, but there were many elements to which I could relate. I could see everyone in that movie in my life. I saw the teachers who refused to give up on me, I saw the silly girls to whom I could not quite ever relate, but loved anyway.
The only person in the movie who became less of a person to me was the mother. For me, she devolved as the movie went on. At first, she was just horribly abusive to her daughter, but at the end when she said her boyfriend had started abusing her daughter when she was only three years old as the mother and her boyfriend were having sex, it was like all the humanity was gone from her. How could she just lay there and let the man she supposedly loves molest the child she also supposedly loves?
I don’t think it was over the top or taken too far. I think it was actually pretty realistic. I think women get jealous of their children for “taking away” the person who was supposed to love them. It should not be a competition, but some people have such low self-esteem, they cannot see that it is just plain wrong what is happening.
I watched the movie, horrified and mesmerized. How could she live through such horror and get up every day and go to school and love her kids? She could do it for the same reason at the end of the move, she took her kids by the hand, and didn’t know how she would do it, but knew that she could take care of them better than anyone else.
I also watched “The Secret Life of Bees” this weekend. Again, I am behind. I read this book, but did not remember all the details to it as I sat down to watch. I was struck by the similar theme of the movies. “The Secret Life of Bees” did not deal with sexual violence as “Precious” did, but it did deal with women put in impossible circumstances who carried themselves with hope and dignity.
And I think of all the survivors I know and how they carry themselves with such grace and hope. They may not even be feeling hopeful, but to see them, unless you really know them, you wouldn’t even know. They press on and persevere, even when they don’t feel like it. They may not even want to but they can do no other. “Here I stand. I can do no other. Amen.“ Just as Martin Luther stated so many years ago, and under completely different circumstances, there are things for which we must stand, even if we are not completely sure why or what the consequences will be for standing. We are also unsure of what will change by taking a stand.
So, even though it is hard, I encourage you to hope. Even though it is terrifying, I encourage you to keep trying. Even though it is daunting, keep going.
The path is not smooth on the way to healing. It is not fun or easy to get there, but I guarantee when you get there, it will be totally worth it. With love in your heart, carry on, knowing you are loved and never alone. Keep shining your light, even through the glass darkly.
“Some folks has a lot of things around them that shines for other peoples. I think that maybe some of them was in tunnels. And in that tunnel, the only light they had, was inside of them. And then long after they escape that tunnel, they sitll be shining for everybody else.”
And just because I like this song and it is kind of my theme, in case you haven’t heard it, here you go. Christopher_Grundy_-_Holding_Up_the_Light_-_11
My survivor friends are already feeling the strain of an upcoming event. This is one of those events that strikes a chord of fear and anger with many survivors. And in my opinion, it is one of the more difficult days of a survivor’s year. Why is that? Because it is the celebration of something that is supposed to be very special and for many people it is a no-brainer to celebrate.
What day is it? If you haven’t run to your calendar to check it out or aren’t one of those people who prepare early for such magnanimous events, it is Father’s Day. I have finally come to the point in my life that this particular day does not make me want to hide in the closet and throw things at anyone who might approach me in my sanctuary. I can type the words without feeling sick to my stomach.
For many other survivors, there is still a deep, gut-wrenching pain associated with the person who should have loved and protected them. Instead, they were violated and abused by that person. They were raped, often as small children and left with emotional and physical anguish, with no way to deal effectively with the pain and terror that was left behind.
Many of us endured Father’s Day for years without ever telling anyone what happened. We blocked it, ignored it, tried to tell and weren’t believed. The response to our pain varied, but the national commendation of fathers continued.
And before I continue, let me just say that I know not all men are bad. There are plenty of wonderful fathers in the world. I just wish the world would come to recognize there are many who should never be able to hold the title of father. The destruction they cause in their children’s lives should be enough for the world to say, “You are not a dad, you are a destructive monster. You may have been the sperm donor, but that is the end of your connection to this child.”
When I was in Girl Scouts, we used to have an annual “Daddy Daughter Date Night.” The whole concept just made me ill. My father DID view it as a date night. He didn’t see the innocence of just spending time with his daughter. And sadly, I know he was not the only one.
Father’s Day also always falls on a Sunday. Sundays were never very good days for me anyway, and then I would go to church, sometime even sitting next to my father, and hear how my father was great and strong and to be worshiped just like God, because, after all, God was also my father in heaven.
That made my head spin. God was supposed to be good, as was my father. My father wasn’t, so did that mean God wasn’t either? I still haven’t been able to completely work that one out in my mind, but now, as an adult, I can at least hear the possibility of a difference. It took a long, painful time to get here though.
I could never get my mind around how to approriately address this day in church either. People expect you to say Happy Fathers day to all you great guys out there, knowing perfectly well that some of them are just not great. There is also the knowledge that there are victims and survivors in the congregation. I never know how to hold the tension of these dynamics and not hurt some worse than they have already been hurt.
So, how will we make it through another Father’s Day, trying to maintain our own integrity and also believing that not all fathers are bad? My friend is posting pictures of her husband on her profile this week. She is reminding herself, and others, that her husband is a good husband and father. Sometimes it takes a lot of reminding to not get caught up in the “well, he is a man, and therefore I have to protect my daughters from him” mentality. That requires a great deal of trust in your spouse, and in yourself, for chosing someone different than your father.
I have a few male friends to whom I write happy father’s day. I don’t say anything else, just those three words. Each of those men are good men, and they know what a struggle it is for me to even write them.
What is a survivor to do on a day that can be very triggering and just downright sucky? I vote for just taking care of yourself. If you need the day off from television, read a good book. If you need a way out of the family get-together, take a bike ride. Fly a kite, go fishing. Love yourself and those around you who are lovable. If it doesn’t feel like you are taking care of yourself, stop doing whatever it is and try something else.
Be well and be strong. It may seem like there is no light in this darkness, but the dark cannot last forever. And in the morning, there is the dawn.
I had the opportunity to go back to Eden Seminary two weeks ago. Every spring, there are speakers and a reunion of sorts for students. It sounds silly, but I was hesitant to go back. I wanted to see my friends, but I didn’t want to answer the question, “So which church do you serve?” The answer is, I don’t. I am still a fringe member of a church in Illinois, but as far as working for one, I haven’t figured that out yet.
At Eden, I got to hear Otis Moss III preach and Rita Nakashima Brock speak. Rev. Moss is the pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. His sermon was focused around Ezra 3: 10-13. This text focuses on the rebuilding of the temple after it had been destroyed. The young people are excited and yelling with loud voices in anticipation, but the older people who remember the pain of the destruction are weeping. The sound of the praise was drowning out the weeping.
Rev. Moss related this text to the African American experience of knowing the blues, and knowing how to praise. “Praise and pain are first cousins.” He spoke of the connection between being connected to the pain and being able to turn it into a gospel shout. I was right there with him through the whole sermon until he got to the end and talked about the violence that Jesus knew in his lifetime and the connections we hold dear to the violence in our lives.
Quite honestly, that is a large part of what turns me off from church. I believe in God and I believe in Jesus. I do not believe in glorifying the violence of Jesus’ experience. God is supposed to be good. God is supposed to be love. I cannot say these things are true and believe that God sent his own child to be killed for the sins of people who had not even been born yet when he died. I have always thought that made God into a cosmic child abuser.
From the pain I have experienced through being molested as a child, I simply cannot abide with the doctrine of atonement. Jesus was killed by men who were threatened by his voice and his opinions. People are still tortured, shunned and murdered for speaking their truth because it threatens the social order and disrupts the lives of those in power.
The final part of the day at Eden featured Rita Nakashima Brock discussing her book, “Saving Paradise.” I read Rita’s book “Proverb of Ashes” twice during seminary. I liked it a lot, but felt like she and Rebecca Ann Parker took it right to the edge of revolutionary and then swallowed the party line about the violence of Jesus’ death.
“It took Jesus a thousand years to die. Images of his corpse did not appear in churches until the tenth century.”
The early Christians did not write for the most part, but they left us reminders of their beliefs in their art. Jesus was in paradise with them. He did not leave them behind to go to a palace in the sky. He was still with them in their memory of his works and the people he had healed during his life time. He left behind his love, and the Holy Spirit poured out on the people who watched him die. They carried that love with him and that is the mark Jesus left on the world.
Paradise is here and now. It isn’t some far off point we get to when we die. It is here. We can be better to each other, but for all our brokenness and pain we inflict on each other, we move further and further away from what we can be.
This is theology I can buy. I am tired of the violence. I am not unrealistic about the violence and sins of the world. Far from it. I have known violence and it is nothing to be celebrated. I am tired of empire winning and telling us that violence is ok. I’m tired of women being abused and being told that Jesus suffered violence so it is just their cross to bear as he bore his. I am tired of men being abused and being told to just keep quiet and be a man about it. Putting up with violence doesn’t make anyone more or less of a person.
I stand outside the Christian tradition while standing within it, if even on the fringe. I don’t think it is about what we have turned it into. I think it was about community and fellowship, not about violence and keeping people out.
If we want to be like Jesus and follow in his footsteps, perhaps we should actually look at what he said and did, not make assumptions that fit into a political scheme that doesn’t work for anyone. Communion was about eating together for Jesus. It was about inviting people in to share in the feast. It has turned into something vastly different and oppressive to many people.
Every time we go to the communion table and celebrate someone’s death, we reinforce the violence we are willing to live with. Many people don’t realize there were other traditions that honored people and relationships over death and violence.
Paradise can be here on earth. It is all found in how we treat each other. There is enough paradise for everyone, not just enough for a select few. Look around and find it within yourself and the world in which we live.
Other than spending some much needed time with my friends, there was one other very important experience I had while in St. Louis. There is a song we used to sing while I was in seminary called “More Than We Can Ask.” I cried almost every time we sang it. The words of the song are as follows:
More than we can ask,
more than we can ask,
more than we can ask or imagine.
Again, as I sat in a sacred place where I had struggled and gained so much, I cried again. I am on the brink of dreaming, and hoping for more than I can imagine. I hope you can do that for yourself, or if you are in a place where you can’t imagine it, I wish you someone in your life who can.
I’ve been working on a video for My Name is Project. This Project was started by Chris and Ophelia de Serres who run (Wo)Men Speak Out. As their website states, “(Wo)Men Speak Out™ is a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating rape, sexual assault and gender violence. We seek to educate both men and women, cultivating healthy relationships and gender equity.”
My Name is Project started when Chris posted a video on Youtube to offer hope to survivors of abuse. There is so much silence and division when people are abused. The stigma of “what would “good” people think” used to haunt me. If anyone found out what was going on in my house, they would think I was the one to blame.
Even when I was young, though, I didn’t believe that. A secret that big that made me hurt so much just couldn’t be right. I was always well behaved and got good grades, so what could I possibly have done to deserve what was going on? The simple answer to that question is I didn’t do anything. The more complex answer is that I didn’t do anything and neither did any of the other survivors. We were just kids who were abused by adults.
The web of secrecy and silence that surrounds abuse is so sticky and complicated that it is hard to even imagine people getting out. But they do. They survive, and so many survivors even become thrivers.
Chris’s video on Youtube has brought a lot of survivors hope.
Chris is doing what I see so many survivors doing. He is using his pain to let others know they are not alone. He is offering hope to the hopeless who feel broken beyond repair.
I was finally able to finish my video in response to My Name is Chris. It was an emotional work of love, but I am so glad to have it finished and have it out where other survivors can see it. The day after I posted it, I felt extremely anxious. It was really stressful to know that much of myself was out on display and could be seen by anyone in the world. I returned home to find really positive and uplifting comments. As I said in the video, I would not have made it without the love and support of friends. The anxiety diminished and I was reminded of how many people I know who really do care.
I’m so glad to have another outlet like the My Name is Project. At times, it feels like I am not doing enough to help survivors of abuse. I try to do as much as I can, while still having a life.
If you are a survivor, please tell you story in whatever way you can. It can be a video in response to My Name is Chris, it can be in poems, in letters, in the Survivor Archives Project. It can be over coffee with an understanding friend. It is not your fault and you have done enough by surviving.
In the (Wo)Men Speak out blog, Chris wrote, “Sharing your story is the greatest gift you can give to another survivor. When I made My Name is Chris I was only trying to heal from my pain. Imagine the impact our collective montage of stories will have on survivors who need to hear that they are not alone and that their pain matters.”
As a survivor of abuse, I have often felt that the light would be eclipsed by the darkness. Today, I am convinced that the light still continues to shine. This is how I relate to the resurrection. Today is Easter and I feel like I have come back to the living from the dead.
My friend Sara Kay wrote this song which will soon be released on a CD. It is called “Resurrection.” It resonated with me today and I would like to share part of it with you.
I believe in the resurrection
And I affirm that it is real
Every time I stand my ground
For all those who’ve been trodden down
Every time I voice concern
For those not able to be heard
Every time tears flood by eyes
For those who’ve no tears left to cry
Jesus lives in me
To all those who have have survived, happy Resurrection.
In February, I wrote a post called, “It was an ordinary day.” Today was another one of those anniversaries and it didn’t feel like such an ordinary day. Today is my abuser’s birthday. He is fifty six today. Much too young in my opinion, as he can still do so much damage before his demise. I hope he is not. I hope he was cured in prison, but I don’t even really have a small bit of hope that he was.
I don’t believe prison cures. It is not a system of “correction” as it claims, but a system of punishment, and in his case, the punishment came no where near to fitting the crime. He received two concurrent sentences. One was for four years and the other was for five. The most he could have served was five years, but because the prisons are full and in the eyes of the court, his crimes were not that violent, he served just over two years. That’s fair, right? He got two years and his victims, each and everyone of us, got a life sentence, through no fault of our own except that we were born or adopted into this twisted family.
His birthday is always a harder anniversary for me than others. It’s not so much because we used to celebrate it more than other birthdays, but I think it’s so hard for me that he is still a menacing force in my universe. I am no longer afraid of him, but I hate him. I am still angry that he did what he did, and to so many people. I am sickened by his existence.
And yes, I know I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him. I wouldn’t have been exactly who I am, but I know my spirit would have been in this world, even if in a different form. I could have lived without being abused. I am grateful, and continually surprised, that I survived, but I refuse to be thankful for such pain. It seems I need to write a healing service for this particular anniversary, for my own healing. Perhaps I should base it on the unresolved Psalm.
This is kind of a side note to my current rant, but something triggered this thought last night. We went to play pool and one poster hung on the men’s bathroom door was of a very curvy blond woman wearing a tight shirt and tight short shorts. She was pulling the shorts down as she walked, or so the picture implied. The picture took me back to all the pornography that covered the walls in my father’s shop bathroom. It was like wall to wall pictures of naked women, some in very awkward positions. Standing in the bar last night, I could smell the soap and grease smell that always hung in that bathroom, even though I hadn’t been in that room for over twenty years.
It has been said that I am a prude and just don’t understand pornography. I would say I have many reservations, with good reason. Yes, the women in the pictures may be smiling and look like they are enjoying themselves. They may also get paid a lot of money to do whatever they are doing. Please don’t forgot that looks can be deceiving and even though the woman may be ok with what they are doing, what happens to the pictures afterward is a whole different ballgame.
I do not know where they got these statistics, but the law firm of Estey & Bomberger states that “77% of child molesters of boys and 87% of child molesters of girls admitted imitating the sexual behavior they had seen in pornography they had watched.“ I know one of the girls my father abused was shown pornography by him.
Pornography also plays into the distorted sense of self so prevalent among young girls. They are exposed to more sexuality than they are prepared for and they are also bombarded with distorted images of what they should look like and how they should perform. Young men are presented with a distorted image of how they should look and are shown things they and their partners probably cannot realistically do.
I know a lot of people do not believe pornography is bad, but I disagree. They believe the images have no affect on anyone who views them. Some twenty years after seeing the pictures hanging up where my father worked, I was still transported back there in a heart beat. I used to look at the pictures in the bathroom and be intrigued and repulsed by the pictures at the same time. I was intrigued by the positions in which the women were posed. Why would anyone want to wash a car without wearing clothes? Or ride a bicycle? I was repulsed by what the women were doing and appeared to enjoy. My knowledge of sex was pretty limited but most of what was depicted in the pictures did not look fun or loving. Some of it even looked painful. I don’t understand how it could in any way be described as healthy.
I am not naive enough to believe that sex is always about love and relationships. Sometimes it is just about sex, but it seems there should be limits about what people would find acceptable, but with the number of child pornography sites on the internet growing so rapidly, it looks like I am off base once again. I will never believe that child pornography or anything that is abusive is “normal.”
So, as I’ve said before, I have looked through the glass darkly in life. Today, it still seems pretty dark.
I went home for my sister’s wedding last week. I love my sister a lot and am really glad I got to go to her wedding. Going home is such a mixed bag for me because I have so many bad memories of it.
I stayed with a friend with whom I have never felt anything but safe. As strange as it is, my friend and her husband live two blocks from where I grew up and where my my father and his new wife live now. It was so good to see my friends and I didn’t have the sense of dread that I used to when I would go out of my friends’ house. I saw one of the trucks owned by the company my father works for and I had an overwhelming urge to flip off the truck. It has nothing to do with the company, but with the fact that my father’s boss saved his job for him while he was in prison. How insane is that? My grandmother saved her house for him so he’d have a place to live and his boss held his job for him.
In that moment of seeing the truck, it was all I could do not to flip off the driver. He wouldn’t have seen me and none of it was his fault, but I would have been doing something. A lot of my life I felt like I was standing around unable to do anything. I know now I was doing the best I could in an impossible situation. I know adults let me down and it wasn’t me who was doing nothing.
So back to my sister’s wedding. No one knew I was coming. The wedding was in the town where we used to go to counseling as a family. It was in the court house, across the street from the counseling center who made me apologize to my father for breaking up our family. It isn’t a place where I feel exactly at ease, but at the same time, I wasn’t there for me. I was there for my sister and I struggled less than I imagined I would going into the building.
I didn’t know where I was going in the court house. I was just on time, if everything went smoothly. Of course it didn’t. I went to the security entrance, turned off my phone and handed it to the officer. He said I couldn’t have it or my camera in the building. So I ran back to the car and threw them in, then ran back to the court house. I went through security, then the guard said, “Oh are you here for the wedding? We make exceptions on cameras and phones for weddings. Do you want to go back and get it?”
At that point, I just decided to pass. I knew there would be enough other cameras that mine would just be one more flash. (There was enough time before the ceremony that someone else ran out to the car to get my camera and I got lots of nice pictures.) Then I walked around the corner and surprised my family. My uncle stood, mouth open, and just stared at me. Then everyone else realized I was there. We all laughed and talked until the judge was ready to perform the wedding.
I didn’t know who the judge was, until I walked in the room. Then I realized the judge was the same man who had prosecuted my father. A surge of anger ran through me because I used to be angry with this man. It was seriously messed up that I was angry with him, but I could only hold so much anger for my father and then some of it spilled over onto anyone else who was around. The prosecuting attorney was one of the people my anger spilled on.
It took me only a few seconds to realize I wasn’t really angry with him. The heat of the moment passed. The wedding started and it was really quite nice. My sister and her husband are now happily married. I am so glad I was able to go, even with the up and down emotional roller coaster I was on for most of the trip.
Life is just like that sometimes. There are things I can anticipate that may upset me. I am so glad to note that they are far less than they used to be. I am rarely blindsided by emotional upheaval anymore, but there are still times as I found out. I have more skills to handle them now and more emotional maturity to be able to step back and really see and feel what it going on.
I ordered business cards this week. That seems like a simple enough task, but I kept starting them and then I’d stop. I was struggling to define myself in the words that I’d put on two-hundred and fifty, glossy double-sided business cards. Who did I want to be? How did I want to describe what I’m doing here with this blog? How did I explain what I consider a somewhat ambiguous endeavor which I had undertaken? Lots of people blog. Lots of people recover from abuse. Some of them write books, or blogs or columns to describe how horrible it was and how one can survive it.
The denomination of which I am a part has not officially condoned or denied my ministry. The denomination is large and there are lots of people doing lots of things. I consider myself another one of those who is doing something. To be fair, I have chosen not to be ordained at this point, so I do not blame the denomination. For me, it has just been one of those occasions that life happened.
So I designed my business cards. I tried to use a similar color scheme to my website so that people would mentally link one to the other when they saw either the business cards or the website. I got to name myself and describe what I did, briefly, but distinctly. I chose to describe myself as a writer and an advocate. I hope someday to be an author, but at this point I feel like a writer.
And I find strength in that. I write this blog. I slowly write healing services. I can work with other survivors to write healing services that are personal and meaningful to them. Shockingly to me, people read what I write. I don’t have a huge following and no one pays me for it, but I am honored that others read what I write.
And I find relief in writing. It gives me a place to rage against all the atrocities I see in the world. That, I do primarily for myself. It’s a good way for me to vent and catalogue what is going on in my life. And I am constantly reminded how much sexual abuse touches my life.
Today, I got an email from one of my uncles. He identified another victim who was molested by my father. That, to my knowledge, brings the count eight. I am sickened to believe that there are probably more. Of the other children who were around at the time, the number could be as high as twenty. It is my guess there are a lot more. My grandparents had foster kids. They lived two doors down from our house. My father was over at their house all the time. When he was forced to move out of our house, he moved in with my grandparents and their foster kids. He lived there until social services figured out there were other kids in that home as well and that might not be the best place for him to live. There were a few other kids in the neighborhood. Cousins, friends I brought home from school. I honestly have no idea how many children could have been affected.
And now there is the new generation. My father remarried and she has two daughters, who could have also been victims. It if my guess they will have children and bring them around their mother and my father. The cycle could continue. And the way the laws were in Illinois at the time, he no longer has to register as a sex offender. It was the law at the time that after he had been out of prison for ten years and had not molested anyone else, he was essentially cured. I do not believe he is cured, and the laws have changed. That doesn’t make it a whole lot better for me or the other survivors of his crimes. That does not heal the wounds or take away the memories.
It does matter that at least he was charged and convicted. People may not know that who know him now. But it is something I will always know. The other survivor who came forward will always know. Until very recently, she did not know I had come forward at all. We were young and not really encouraged to share our stories. Actually, we were not encouraged to talk at all. And for the other survivors who were not given the chance to come forward at the time, I want you to know how strong and amazing I think you are. I am so sorry you had to live with these terrible hurts all by yourself. I love each and every one of you and admire you for your strength to survive. I hope you have each found your voice and have been able to find some healing.
To all survivors, every where, I wish you blessings on the journey. It is a long and painful one, but you are loved and not alone.
I just got back from another trip to Texas. While there, I met two very different people, each of whom had been touched by sexual abuse. The first was a chance meeting in the airport. He asked me what I did and I told him primarily I wrote a blog and healing services for survivors of abuse. I think he was a little taken aback by my answer, but said that a colleague’s husband had been arrested for being a pedophile. He said it was so hard on the family because they had no idea. The second person I met was an arranged meeting with a minister in the town I was in in Texas. It was actually my husband’s idea that I contact this minister. We had lunch and he revealed to me that a man in his church was recently arrested for parole violations from charges stemming from inappropriate contact with a minor.
Meetings like this sometimes cause me to stop and wonder if there is a single person in the world who is not touched by sexual abuse. I know some people genuinely believe they are not touched by sexual abuse. They have never known anyone who was sexually abused. They certainly have never known anyone who was sexually abused. They have seen it on the news, but their lives go completely unaffected by it. I do not believe that is true, but I know many people believe that it is.
When Senator Scott Brown went on 60 Minutes a few weeks ago and broke his silence about being sexually abused by a camp counsel, I thought it was pretty big news. That is something many public figures would like to keep quiet. He is not the only public figure who has come forward though. The ones I can think of off the top of my head are Maya Angelou, Tyler Perry, Teri Hatcher, Marilyn Van Derbur, the three Brown sisters, Desirae, Deondra and Melody, of the group the Five Browns, and Mackenzie Phillips. These are just a few people I can think of off the top of my head.
I know the accepted statistics of childhood sexual abuse. Most people when quoting statistics state that one in four women and one in six men are sexually abused. I believe that the statistics are not accurate because so many people never tell anyone about the abuse they suffered. One article written by Donna Trussell about Erin’s Law (Get Away, Tell Today) and Senator Scott Brown stated that thirty-nine million people in the United States are survivors of sexual abuse. Thirty-nine million. That is an inconceivable number. That means that the combined total populations of the ten most populated cities in the United States does not equal the number of sexual abuse survivors in the United States. Those cities include New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas and San Jose. This list of cities is actually a little short. About sixteen million short, give or take. That means, a more fair representation of thirty-nine million survivors of sexual abuse would encompass approximately the populations of the top twenty-seven most populated cities in this country.
Can that even be right? It seems like such an insanely high number. And sadly, it is probably not high enough.
So, what can we do? I know I am overwhelmed with thinking about this statistic. I know it hasn’t stopped and kids are still being sexually abused.
Here is a short list of practical things that you can do to protect the kids in our world from very real and present danger.
1. If you are a survivor, speak up. There is no shame in what happened to you. Surround yourself with loving people who want to see you get through all of this and who will not abuse you further.
2. If you are a church leader, a minister, a teacher, a parent, a person, educate yourself on the signs of sexual abuse. There are tons of sites that list the signs. Here is one of them. Signs of Sexual Abuse.
3. If you have people or children under your supervision, train the adults with a program like Darkness to Light. If you are the leader of a church, implement a Safe Church Policy. If anyone resists discussing a Safe Church Policy, consider their motivations for resisting. They may not be a sex offender, but why wouldn’t they want to keep people safe from sexual abuse?
4. Check the sex offender registry before letting anyone volunteer around children. This is free. There is a national registry and usually one for each state. They are pretty easy to search.
5. Pay attention. If someone regularly volunteers to be around kids, especially if the person tries to be alone with kids regularly, make sure another adult is always with them. That is a good idea anyway. Have open door policies and be mindful of adults and children being alone together.
The bottom line is sometimes you are the only person standing between a child and a lifetime full of pain. This is definitely something they can survive, but wouldn’t it be better for everyone if no one ever had to go through sexual abuse ever again?
The lens of sexual abuse is a dark and oppressive one. Help shine a little light and prevent the fall into darkness.
Yesterday at work, I realized it was the seventh of February. With a bit of panic, I realized it was the date of something I was supposed to remember. I’m really bad at remembering birth dates and anniversaries, so I was wondering whose birthday it was that I’d forgotten this time. While waiting on customers and trying to remember, I remembered. Yesterday would have been my mother and father’s thirty-fifth anniversary. I was suddenly extremely relieved that I had remembered and that they were no longer married.
My father actually filed for divorce when he was in prison. How strange is that? The perpetrator filing for divorce. I used to beg Mom to divorce him, but she was married for life and never wanted to end a marriage. One Sunday afternoon, I remember having the conversation with Mom again that she really needed to get a divorce. I did not know that dad was outside the window “working” on the house. He was working on something, but he was also listening. I wasn’t allowed to see him by myself at that point, but Mom told me later how hurt and upset he was that I thought they should get a divorce. What else could I have possibly hoped for?
After my father had to move out of the house, he and my mother would have date nights. My sister and I would stay with my grandparents, two doors down from our house. It was so strange. I’d stay up most of the night playing Mario Brothers. I did it in part because I totally wanted to win the game. I also did it because I wanted to see if Mom and dad came home. And I admit, I didn’t want them to come home. I was so mad at my father for abusing me and so mad at my mother for failing to protect me and staying married to him. I thought my sister and I would be better of in a foster home. Things are better between my mother and I now, but it took a long time to get there and there are still things we don’t ever talk about.
The date of their anniversary was also significant because his birthday and my mother’s birthday are also on the seventh. Their birthdays are in different months, but dad always acted like it was some preordained pattern and that it was so important that those three occasions happened on the seventh. I was not born on the seventh. Therefore, in his mind, it was my fault that the pattern was broken. For a long time, I believed him. I felt like some kind of freak because I wasn’t born on the seventh.
As I grew older and began to understand more about human biology, I realized it wasn’t my fault that I wasn’t born on the seventh. I was far from the one to blame for that.
I was born on July twenty-sixth, in the same year in which my parents were married. If you are good at math, you will quickly realize that is less than nine months. That was also a source of shame for my mother. She was pregnant before they got married. She actually sat me down at one point and explained to me that she was pregnant with me before she and my father got married. She wanted me to know so that I could be prepared for it when the other kids in my class figured it out and teased me about it. She didn’t think I would figure it out.
The seventh of February was always strange for me and I am relieved that this year it didn’t haunt me. I had to really think about what the date was supposed to signify. And I realized it doesn’t have a significant meaning for me. It is a date. There are people I know who where born on that day. I am sure there are people of significance who died on that date. But to me, it is primarily just a day. Yesterday, I worked, made dinner, played pool with my husband, did laundry. It wasn’t a day of pain in the remembering. It was an ordinary day.
And to my great relief, there are many just ordinary days. There are few days that I think about being a victim of childhood sexual abuse. I still remember it and know it is a part of who I am, but it is not the primarily definition of my life. It used to be. I was just a shell of a person defined by sexual abuse. It was all I thought about and I was tormented by flashbacks and memories. Now it is something I know is there, but no longer feel so broken by what happened. I actually don’t feel broken anymore at all.
That isn’t to say that I don’t still have hang ups from being abused or things I need to work on, but in general, I’m a whole person and not a bunch of broken pieces just rattling around.
In seminary, my friend talked about a concept he’d learned in Greek class. The word in most modern translations of the Bible used to describe Jesus as perfect was mistranslated. A better translation would have been whole. That was one of the most profound things I learned in seminary. I cannot be perfect; but I can continue to work toward being whole. That is a goal I think everyone can attain.