Two important news stories have been circulating this week that deal with sexual abuse.* The first is the rescue of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight. You’d have to be living under a rock this week to have missed the story. But in case you have been living under a rock this week here is the article from the Huffington Post: Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus Found Alive in Ohio After Being Reported Missing for 10 Years.
The second story is about Elizabeth Smart who has has been speaking out against the churches’ current teaching of Abstinence. She says that teaching abstinence only brings about a culture of shame and makes women who have been abused feel worthless and damaged beyond repair. To see her own interview: go here.
My responses to some of the things in the video:
- She mentioned that people ask her, “Why didn’t you leave?” And I want to say, “How dare you ask that question? How dare you question her actions or lack of actions? How dare you, a person who was never been in that situation question how a little girl coped with her living situation? Only a person who has been there, a person who has survived her situation can know how they would react in that situation.” Elizabeth’s answer is to say that she was afraid. She was terrified of her captors. She links her inability to fight back to that of fearing that she was too lowly to fight back. This is a common feeling among those who have been abused.
- First, your abuser tells you they’ll kill you, kill your family, and harm anyone you know if you tell.
- Then your abuser convinces you that you are worthless and no one will ever want you. Elizabeth in her interview explains that this message was also drilled into her through her religious circles.
- Then your abuser convinces you that even if you did tell, no one would believe you.
You begin to believe the abusers “truths” about you and about the things they will do to your family because no one has rescued you. You begin to believe that you are worthless because no one has saved you. Your abuser uses their power over you again and again and again, until you believe anything they say until the time that you are ready to leave, ready to get out. Until the time that you are ready to tell some. Ready to fight.
The girls in Ohio will be asked these kind of questions a lot over the next few years: why didn’t you call sooner, why didn’t you try another escape. They will be asked to justify their actions over and over again. Here’s my question: Why should they have to justify anything? They have survived and that is the best and the most we can ask of them. We can help them get help and healing and do our best to be there for them but we should not ask them to justify themselves we should only be thankful that they survived.
Questions the church, schools, and other organizations that deal with children and adults before and after abuse should be pondering:
- When it comes to messages of sex are we only thinking about premarital sex?
- Is shame the only way to teach about sex?
- Where is the grace in our messages of sex and abstinence?
- Where is the mercy?
- Where is the love?
- How can we care for those who fall, for those who have sex before marriage?
- How can we best care for those who have been abused?
- How can we teach survival in horrible situations?
- How can we best prevent abuses?
- How can we best teach children to fight back?
- When should self defense classes be taught?
*Yes I do know that up to this point there has been no sexual abuse reported in the Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight cases, but I think to dismiss that possibility would be a grave mistake. I am lumping these cases together to show that even though the rescue has happened the journey to healing and a normal existence has just begun for these girls and anyone else that has been held against their will for a long period of time.
If you’ve been online or watched TV in the past few weeks you’ve probably seen the Dove Beauty commercial. There have been parodies about it and much controversy.
All this jibber-jabber of late has taken away the important message of the video: when it comes to ourselves we see the worst. This is especially true of sexual abuse survivors. As I mentioned in a guest post on a friend’s page, 5 Questions on Dating/Singleness, abusers are not silent in their abuse. If someone in a violent way tells you that you are unworthy and ugly you begin to believe it.
Sexual abuse victims begin a war with themselves the day they are first abused. A war with how they view themselves and their body. I have a healthy body image because I have worked hard to have one. But I knowingly have a broken sexual image.
This may not make sense if you have never been abused. My body was literally used for someone else’s enjoyment and in order to survive the ordeal I had to become separate from my sexual self or my sexual organs. You see my va-jay-jay is a separate entity in my mind. It is something that was used and is inherently ugly and damaged. This may actually be the case, after all they do call it, “bumping uglies,” but I understand this view to be broken.
We are not born with an unhealthy body or sexual image. We are instead born with healthy images and it takes culture and abusers to change that.
Over the years I have managed to work out that I am a beautiful woman, who is wonderfully made. I have also worked out that my vagina is part of my body and is therefore, beautifully and wonderfully made.
But I’m still a work in progress. I work with God, friends, and trained professionals to sort out the distorted views in my mind. It may take a healthy, loving relationship to truly begin to clear out the cobwebs and clean out the distorted broken images to see my sexual self as it is: a gift from God and therefore something to treasure.
Shelter: Slyvia’s Place in Allegan, MI
I mentioned in my blog: Highlighting Shelters Series: Reasons, that I chose websites that had quick exits. Most of the pages I have looked at exit you to a search engine, and usually to Google but this one had a great exit to Weather.com. I loved how unique that was and how innocent it is. Google could be a bad exit because your abuser may not like you to search but it seems unlikely that your abuser would not let you check the weather. I thought this was really ingenious.
Other things I appreciated about this site:
- They have a page devoted to how to leave your abuser. It literally tells someone how to prepare to leave and all the things that are necessary to get out. It literally gets a victim out of the house. They have tips to prepare that include telling someone. It is incredible how helpful and knowledgeable this site is. Imagine how helpful and knowledgeable their shelter is. 🙂
- On every page, towards the bottom is a success story. They are showing each person that visits that they have success stories and that people have been helped through them. They tell the story of how the person got out and the help they received to stay out. How awesome is that? They are not bragging about what they can do but instead are showing you that they have done it before and they can do it again. Yes!!!
- They have a mission to provide safe haven for those who are seeking shelter and to help keep them safe. They are concerned about Domestic Violence escalating to death and are willing to help to make sure that doesn’t happen. An awesome mission and a great effort to make sure it doesn’t happen.
I was really impressed with this site and this group so be sure to check them out: Sylvia’s Place.
Reasons for why I chose certain shelters and websites to highlight: relevance, easy escape pages, and explanations of how to guard your computer and hide activity.
Why is it important for a Website to look relevant when it is dealing with abuse victims and survivors? Well, let’s think about this, if a website looks outdated then it looks like it’s not kept up. If a shelter does not take time to keep up their website how relevant will they be when I call them? How relevant will they be when I need to trust them? If a business wants to attract people then it has a relevant and up-to-date website, the same should be said for shelters. The websites I have chosen are easily accessible and care about the world around them and are relevant in an ever changing world.
Easy access and easy escape is important because victims need an easy way out just in case. If their abuser comes in the room they need a quick way to leave a page. This is also why it is important to explain how to guard your computer and hide your activity. These pages obviously want their visitors to be victims and to be people that need their help. If their pages are not made for victims then what kind of work their shelter actually do?
These are some websites and shelters that I haven’t chose because their websites are outdated and not regularly updated. I do not have any affiliation with these shelters or websites (those that I have chosen to highlight and those I have chose not to), I am simply exploring each site and letting you know what I find of value there. But you should of course visit these pages yourself and if the shelters are in your area you should take the time to visit them and to make informed decisions about them.
When I started this Ministry, just over a year ago, I started it because I saw a need. Women who have been sexually abused need healing.
But if you are going to trust me, you need to know me, to understand me. To that end, I have done a guest post on a blog called Body Theology. It is run by a close friend who seeks to answer the questions about our Body and God.
She asked me five questions about singleness and in doing so I gave a little bit of myself away. I am completely transparent and open in this post. So give it a read and let me know what you think.
Five Questions on Dating/Singleness
In the next few weeks, I’ll be highlighting some of the shelters that are available all across the country. Once you start looking for places to help people you can find many in your area.
In the next few weeks I will be highlighting some of the shelters and people that are helping victims of Domestic and Sexual Abuse. I say some because it is difficult to develop an encompassing and exhaustive list, but if you live in some of the areas I will be highlighting, hopefully you will be able to find some help.
Ministers and counselors and teachers should pay specific attention so that you can begin your own list of what’s available in your area.
Stay tuned for what’s available, given the social climate we are facing where people standby when someone is being abused the more we know about what’s out there to help people the better off we will be.
Be sure to subscribe so that you won’t miss anything. I know I’ve been a little absent lately but I’m hoping that will change soon and I will at least be updating things weekly.
Parents of Abused Children Resource_Being told that your child has been abused
I have recently encountered some parents who were told that their child had been abused. They were unsure what to say or what to do. This resource will help parents get through the first few conversations with their child.
Feel free to use this source in any context but please give credit where credit is due.