Together We Heal is for any who suffer from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. We provide a safe forum for survivors of abuse to share, learn and heal. We work to expose sexual predators and their methods of getting into our lives.
Category Archives: marginalizing the sexually abused
This week Together We Heal, as an organization, and myself, David Pittman as an individual, have joined forces with Justice For Anne, For A Time Such As This & several fellow advocates. Together we have issued a statement that was most perfectly articulated by fellow advocate Ryan Ashton:
“If you please, read the joint statement myself and fellow abuse survivors and advocates delivered to the president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) yesterday regarding their announcement of a sexual abuse study group:
“We all have a decision—to become more polarized and distrustful of one another, hide, build barriers, and perpetuate numerous injustices. Or we can face this evil together, choosing to create a culture where healing and safety are the norm, where love and compassion dwell, where children and families flourish, and the hope of the gospel maintains its integrity. We sign with that hope, committed to a future where no one in the Church has to say “Me Too” ever again.”
Everything we do at Together We Heal and GRACE is because of the past and current failures of those within the church to better protect children and properly respond to those who’ve been harmed. It is our hope that the SBC will begin to live up to the call of Christ they espouse and not be just another one of those “cast to the bottom of the sea with a millstone around their neck”.
If not now, then when? If not us, then who?
The time is long overdue. The ball is in your court SBC leaders and church members. Do you truly believe the scripture you preach and teach? Then BE THE VOICE OF THE VOICELESS and quit giving lip service and protecting sexual predators.
I can’t tell you how frequently, because sadly I’ve lost track of the number of times a fellow survivor of childhood sexual abuse has told me someone in their life said to them, “why can’t you just get over it?”
Someone commented the other day in one of the online support groups that I belong, “sometimes the feel of this group is to be passed the past. I am simply not. My one on one therapy has been shit. I don’t feel I have gotten any better. If I post some bad things or things I feel I don’t know it’s like I fail. It is not you, it’s me :(”
So I replied – “please know you are not alone with the feelings you’re having. Many of us, including myself, wonder when things will “get better”. In group this week we even talked about how we didn’t understand why, after going through so much therapy why we would still have the past come back and bite us in the butt. We even have members of our family or friends say, why don’t you just get over it? The thing is, we never “get over” what we have been through. The best we can hope for is to “work through it” and to heal. And so together, helping one another with what has helped each of us, we try to do just that. Combine our cumulative learning and coping skills to better handle “it” when it rears it’s ugly head. I guess I’m just trying to say, we’re here for you, I’m here for you and you’re not alone.”
What’s really sad to me is when people in our lives, people we care about and love utter those words, “get over it.” It’s as if they think we’ve been in a car wreck or had a bad cold. How they can be so insensitive to spew such verbal poison is beyond the pale.
I know, and thankfully so, they can’t possibly comprehend the hell and torture we’ve been through. But to lack even the slightest amount of decency or courtesy boggles the mind. Even more baffling is when it comes from a “professional” or someone who HAS been sexually abused. In those situations it’s clear they have not faced their own demons and so to make themselves look or feel better, they say words that cut to the bone and do more damage. It’s that type of thought and speech that causes survivors of abuse to either stop talking or further bury emotions and the trauma that they desperately need to work through. And now, because someone has said what they have, the healing process is delayed, derailed or denied altogether.
I remember being told as a youngster, if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all. Well here’s my message to all those who tell us to get over it…
…shut your pie hole! You have no clue what you’re talking about and you’re hurting more than helping so do everyone a favor and keep your mouth shut!
Can you tell I’m a little aggravated about this issue?
And to all of my fellow survivors, please hear me when I say this…pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, and the dingbats who would say such words. They don’t know what we’ve been through. Keep doing what you’re doing by working with your therapist, attending group therapy and relying on the support, guidance and comfort of those who care enough about you to say positive affirmations. We CAN heal and we CAN do it together.
Healing and recovery from childhood sexual abuse is challenging enough as it is. If someone is not a part of your healing, disregard them. And cling tightly to those who show you true love, empathy and support.
I had a fellow survivor give me the perfect example of the struggle we face. They told me of a relative who had a permanent physical disability and how comforting the family was toward them. And yet, when it came to their own pain from sexual abuse, this same family was completely indifferent.
Just because people can’t “see” our injuries doesn’t make them any less real. Simply because someone doesn’t have the capacity to look inside our hearts and souls, doesn’t make the pain we feel any less severe. Instead of assuming we’re ok, how about taking the time to really listen to what we’re saying. In doing so, you might just be the one who helps someone in pain beyond what you could ever imagine or bare. You could be the one that makes all the difference in the world.
As I was writing this I thought of something to say the next time I hear those words…I’ll ask them, would you tell me to “get over it” if I had cancer or heart disease? Of course not because that would be ridiculous. Well, what we are going through is like a cancer of our minds and disease of our hearts. If we don’t address it in a healthy way it tears us apart from the inside out.
So please, be careful what you say to those in pain, to those who have been utterly devastated as children to the point it affects us adversely as adults. We need to be loved and supported, not dismissed with hateful words. And be thankful it didn’t happen to you and pray it doesn’t happen to your children. I bet you wouldn’t tell them to…get over it…
The following article was written by “Boz” Tchividjian. It is an extremely insightful article explaining how survivors of childhood sexual abuse are made to feel by those in power within religious organizations.
Boz is a former child abuse chief prosecutor and is the founder and executive director of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment). Boz is also an Associate Professor of Law at Liberty University School of Law, and is a published author who speaks and writes extensively on issues related to abuse within the faith community. He is the 3rd-eldest grandchild of the Rev. Billy Graham.
“He has worked hard to convince everyone that I am crazy.” These were the words of a woman who was speaking about a relative who had sexually abused her as a child for years. This well-known and “respected” relative has been successful in keeping her abuse disclosures ignored for many years by convincing anyone that listens that she is an irrational and troubled individual.
After years of being labeled “crazy” and being ignored, this survivor became silent and even found herself struggling with whether or not the baseless label was legitimate. Do you see what happened? A person who is well liked and well-respected in the community is accused of horrific behavior that the community prefers not to believe.
The perpetrator provides the community with exactly what it wants in order for it to look the other way. Believing that the complainant is “crazy” gives the community the excuse to marginalize the victim and the disclosure, all the while showing support to the “unfairly” accused offender.
I recently watched the acclaimed Norwegian film, King of Devil’s Island. Based upon a true story, this movie was about the Bastoy Boy’s Home for delinquent boys located on an island off of Norway in the early 20th century. During the course of the film, a housefather named Bråthen sexually molests one of the resident boys who ends up committing suicide. Another resident eventually reports Bråthen’s abuse to the corrupt superintendent, Bestyreren, who confronts Bråthen. What follows are scenes that vividly illustrate some of the appalling ways sexual abuse survivors are marginalized by our communities:
Don’t Listen: When initially confronted about the reported abuse, Bråthen responds, “You can’t listen to them. They say whatever they want.” Survivors are marginalized when communities are all too willing to accept the claims made by perpetrators and their supporters that the individual disclosing the abuse is “crazy” and should be ignored. Disregarding the claims of a survivor communicates insignificance.
Helpless Souls: During the course of the confrontation with Bestyreren, Bråthen claims, “The only thing I have done is to try and help a boy who could not help himself.” Survivors are marginalized when perpetrators and their supporters paint them as helpless souls. Perpetrators are heralded as compassionate and the survivors are pitied as their disclosures are largely ignored.
Supporters Maligned: At one point, Bråthen identifies the boys who reported the abuse as “animals”, claiming that they were the real source of the victim’s harm. Survivors are marginalized when those who support them are maligned as being irrational and harmful. All too often this becomes the needed validation by some within the community to disregard allegations of abuse.
My Reputation: Just when we think that Bestyreren is going to report Bråthen to the authorities, Bråthen pulls out his trump card. He threatens to report that Bestyreren has been misappropriating funds for himself and his wife. In perhaps the most decisive scene of the film, Bestyreren makes the deliberate decision to protect his own reputation instead of reporting the abuse and protecting the lives of the other boys under the supervision of Bråthen. Survivors are marginalized when those within the community value their own reputation over the life of the abused. One way this happens is when an institution fails to report an offender out of fear that its own reputation may suffer. When speaking about the failure of boarding schools in the United Kingdom to properly respond to abuse disclosures, attorney Alan Collins recently told the New York Times, “…when teachers were discovered abusing pupils, they tended to be moved on quietly to avoid public embarrassment and damage to the school’s reputation.”
Disingenuous Response: The scene immediately following the confrontation between Bråthen and Bestyreren, shows Bråthen leaving the island with his suitcases as the boys look out their dorm window visibly rejoicing. At first it looks as if Bestyreren did the right thing. It is not until later in the film when Bråthen returns to the island that we learn the real reason for his initial departure. The Bastoy Boy’s Home board of directors had scheduled its annual inspection of the facility and Bestyreren did not want the boys reporting Bråthen’s abuse, fearing that it would get him fired. The best way to keep their silence was to make the boys think that he had terminated Bråthen. Tragically, the plan worked. The boys remained silent, Bestyreren kept his job, and Bråthen returned shortly after the inspection. Survivors are marginalized when a community is disingenuous about its responses to abuse disclosures. All too often such responses are not driven by the need to serve abuse survivors and pursue justice, but to create a positive public perception and to protect jobs.
Misplaced Focus: At the end of King of Devil’s Island, the boys begin a revolt when discovering that Bråthen has returned. Eventually, the armed forces are called in to put down the revolt by beating and capturing the boys. At no time do the authorities address the horrific abuses perpetrated by Bråthen and the fact that he was responsible for the death of a boy. Instead, the authorities focus on silencing those who were simply crying out for justice. Survivors are marginalized when the community misplaces its focus on behavior of the abused instead of the abuser. This belittles and re-traumatizes survivors, while conveniently keeping the spotlight off of the offender, where it needs to be.
The heartbreaking reality is that the marginalization of survivors is all too common in the Christian community. I have encountered many abuse survivors who want nothing to do with Jesus because of being marginalized by the very community they had hoped would care most, the Church. Just like the Priest and Levi in the parable of the Good Samaritan, we are often so quick to embrace ‘rational excuses’ for why we walk away. When we do this, we marginalize the very lives that God sees as beautiful and infinitely valuable. When we do this, we marginalize Jesus.
You can read the article at it’s original post here:
While Together We Heal, Inc., has no ties to any religious organizations, we gladly promote any group that works to protect children from sexual predators and it is clear this is the focus of GRACE.
Founded by Basyle ’Boz’ Tchividjian, J.D., a grandson of Billy Graham, he is leading by example on how churches should respond to childhood sexual abuse. We are honored to be partnered with them in efforts to help survivors of CSA, and educate any who seek to better protect all children.
The Mission of GRACE is to empower the Christian community through education and training to recognize and respond to the sin of child abuse.
Obedience to Christ dictates that the Christian community must learn how to respond to those children and their families who cry out for help when they are victimized. This obedience begins with the education and training of those within the Church regarding the sin of child abuse and how to respond to such disclosures in a God honoring manner.
GRACE is an organization whose sole purpose is to equip and assist the Church and those within the Christian community to fulfill Mark 9:36-37.