Sexual Abuse and the Luck of the Draw

luckofdrawApropos to my last post, Six Things to Know About Sexual Abuse and Forgiveness, I late last night wrote as a status on my Facebook page:

I think if there’s one message that victims of abuse need to hear and believe, it’s that every single ounce of the total power of their lives is still with them.

By way of a response I later got emailed this (which of course I use with permission):

I just wanted to respond to your last Facebook status, about victims of abuse needing to know the total power of their lives is still with them. When I read it I immediately started to cry and I just couldn’t stop. I can’t find the words to explain how much that means to me. In one sentence, you’ve shattered a wall I’ve spent years building and reached a part of me that I’ve always kept hidden at all costs because I was afraid. For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m not alone. Thank you.

In reference to our brief e-chat last night, this morning this same person wrote me this:

This is the first time I’ve told anyone anything, ever. I’m still too scared to share. I would be lying if I said last night was easy; I didn’t get much sleep. It probably sounds stupid but I felt exposed, like I had been cracked open. I know this is a good thing, but it’s so, so hard.

In response to which I wrote her all that follows, which I thought I might also share here:

No, this feeling you have of what amounts to irrational, panic-inducing vulnerability doesn’t sound stupid at all. It sounds like exactly the way victims of childhood sexual abuse find themselves feeling all the time—especially if anything comes up having anything whatsoever to do with that abuse—or with sex, or parents, or their bodies, or … the wind blows in a way that feels a little off to them—which it does, all the time, because they’re exquisitely sensitive. In the realest possible way, victims of childhood sexual abuse are, through their trauma, transformed into beings who are, in some really essential ways, more human than people who weren’t sexually abused as children. Because virtually everyone trips, hard, about sex. Everyone is insane about their parents. Everyone is a freak about their own body. Everyone is so emotionally sensitive that if it comes to their attention that on their grocery list they so much as misspelled the word coffee, you practically have to restrain them so they don’t commit hari-kari.

Everyone is too sensitive for … well, life. Everyone feels inadequate to the ever-overwhelming task of life. They feel that way because they are inadequate to the ever-overwhelming task of life. We all are. None of us knows what the frack is going on out here, or what if anything we’re supposed to do about it.

But people who as children or young people were sexually abused? They have an extra burden in life, and it’s not a good one. Namely, they were robbed of their safety zone. When the bad thing happened to them, the first thing they learned was that their natural instincts for protecting themselves not only are not worth a damn, they actually work against their well-being. That’s an exceptionally …  unhelpful message to receive. The one thing people use to keep themselves sane and protected is their innate sense of what will and will not harm them. The world (thank God) comes in patterns, and we all learn to read those patterns, and to thereby see when something threatening is headed our way. We hear a train whistle; we feel the ground rumbling; we look down and see we’re standing on train tracks; we step the heck off those train tracks. Done. We’re safe.

But the person who as a child suffered sexual abuse at the hands of someone whom with all of their heart they loved—someone in whom they deeply trusted, someone whom they instinctively understood would always protect, care for, and love them? When that person comes at them and destroys their universe?

When that happens, the one thing that the poor victimized child right away learns is that life—virtually, literally, and forever—cannot be trusted. What they have immediately imprinted on every fibre of their being is the certain knowledge that anything, at any time, from any quarter whatsoever, can come flying out of nowhere and obliterate them. Furthermore, there isn’t one damn thing they will ever be able to do to prevent that from happening. How can they, when so obviously their Early Warning System is so severely broken? Their EWS doesn’t work. It’s useless. It didn’t warn them.

They did get hit by the train.

They cannot trust life; even worse, they cannot trust themselves to know when, where, or how life is going to randomly start slaughtering them.

Not exactly a swell thing to have weighing down your backpack as you begin your travels through the great big adventure we call life.

But. That’s what happened to abused children when they were kids. As adults, they necessarily come into possession of powers that as children they certainly did not have. And chief amongst those powers is the ability to put on a hard-hat, go back and look at the control panel for their Early Warning System, and see that—hey, whaddaya know!—the thing is perfectly fine. It’s not broken at all. It just never got the chance to work. Some [bleep] supervisor of theirs switched it off before it was ever fully up and running.

And then, boom: a switch here, and plug here, a few lights turned on, and their EWS is every bit as operational as anyone else’s.

Then that person sees: they didn’t fail themselves. Life didn’t fail them, either. The only thing that failed them was one sad, angry, miserable, lonely, deeply tweaked human being.

They see that what happened to them was never really about them at all. It was always all about their abuser. They were powerless to stop what happened to them, and they were powerless to stop it from affecting them the way it did. That’s it. That’s all that happened.

In the final analysis, the victim of childhood sexual abuse was never anything but the one thing that no one on earth can ever stop themselves from being: good ol’ fashioned unlucky.

Finally, if I might say one thing about survivors of childhood sexual abuse feeling alone—which, invariably, they do, since what happened to them is so deeply intimate and personal that the last thing they’re inclined to do is share it with anybody. Below is a table I made based on data from two sources: a 2009 study published in Clinical Psychology Review that examined 65 studies from 22 countries, and a 1994 study published by Princeton University, Current Information on the Scope and Nature of Child Abuse.

abuseworldusa

So the good news (such as it is) is that no one member of any group that includes 625,544,337 people is ever anywhere near alone.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Courtney

    You are absolutely not alone.

  • Jenn

    You are in no way alone.

    as a side note: Thank God for you John. Thank God for you.

    • Susa

      AMEN on both counts!

  • Lymis

    Not only aren’t you alone in the sense that you aren’t the only person who has been through it in your past, you are also not alone in the sense that many among those of us who didn’t have the misfortune that experience won’t hold it against you, won’t see any shame in it, and are willing to be here in any way we can if you need us.

    The people who told you it had to stay a dirty secret lied. While it’s a dirty thing to have been done, it didn’t make you dirty in any way, and there is no shame in having done what you needed to do to survive.

  • Shelley

    Dear friend, you are not alone, even though it feels that way! It will be harder to navigate relationships, and you will need to find your own strategies to do so, but believe me when I tell you that it is not impossible. You are safe here, and valued here as a wonderful human being who bears the image of her Creator. Hugs and prayers, sister.

  • Jill

    An added note that often victims are faced with a now over-active Early Warning System, which is also known as PTSD. Everyone and everything can feel like a threat. A panic attack can start on a dime, often without warning. They’re in fight-or-flight mode most of the time. That’s often how buried memories that surface can feel so suffocating.

    There are great treatments available to process and alleviate PTSD through the help of a professional.

    • http://www.patsediting.com Patricia Brush

      Uh huh. That was me until my mid-50s. I spent most of my life not knowing that other people didn’t feel the way that I did. I thought that PTSD was normal. The earliest that I can now identify panic attacks was age 8, but I have a suspicion that they started earlier. I got some great counselling (and am now on my own recognizance) and don’t have panic anymore, but I am still wary of situation that I find myself in.

    • Lissy

      I was going to point that out, but you beat me to it! Looking at emotions as chemical responses, constant panic is the result of the amygdala being overly sensitive. I would suggest that people who know they have PTSD (or have panic attacks, etc) go get their adrenals and thyroid checked out. It’s not the REASON for PTSD but one of the results- low adrenal stored and thyroid disruption.

      Abuse, in whatever form, really screws up the body, in addition to the soul and mind.

      • Melissa Chamberlin

        I have my day time, conscious panic attacks under control, but it is those ones that wake me up in the middle of the night that get me. I have no idea how they start, nor do I know what how to respond when I first become conscious. It is as I feel like I am physically under water and I cannot pop up above the surface. I cannot take anti anxiety drugs because I am an addict, however, I do take proponanol, which is a beta blocker, right before I go to bed, and I have not had one since I started. I have real reasons to have them (PTSD) however, since my body does not register physically with the rapid heart rate and shortness of breath, I stay asleep. I no longer fear going to sleep, which was an issue just three short years ago. You are not alone, my friend. What is happening to you is very real and your child-like fears are trying to work themselves out. One thing that has helped me greatly is that I went through a day treatment program for anxiety, and they taught me numerous different ways to work through the anxiety, instead of either fighting or flighting. My days are soooo much better. I can handle just about anything that comes my way. If you want some direction in fighting anxiety read about mindfulness. There is so much hope, and so much relief if you face it instead of hide from it. So proud of you, my fellow warrior. You have taken your first step to healing. One day, you will realize how this this part of your life can make you stronger and more compassionate, which allows you to love in tremendous ways. I believe in you. Please keep moving forward with confidence.

        • Jill

          Can I just say again here how powerfully eloquent and wonderfully courageous all of the survivors are out here, sharing and offering support, guidance, compassion? Sometimes we feel like we could shatter like glass or wish we could melt into the floor, but we keep going. And we keep sharing.

          I’m remembering my early days of counseling. A truly gifted therapist, she taught me how to inquire about the world that scared me so much. But our small survivors support group didn’t fare as well. I did think that my healing work would remain mostly solitary. This was pre-internet, so yeah. Read, and sort out how to overcome my neuroses alone.

          But here I get to benefit from all this shared wisdom. Your courage is contagious, each of you. I am honored.

  • Marlene Lund

    The lie of the abuser is that you need to be ashamed and keep this awful, painful secret because of what people will think of you. That is such a horrific lie! You are innocent of this crime committed against you, and you are so strong for having survived it. There is no shame in having been the victim of a sexual predator. You have hundreds, if not thousands, of people who will hold you in prayer as you continue to tear down the wall you built to survive, and are able to clear out that hidden room and bring in the sunshine of truth and love to that dark space.

  • usingmyvoicewell

    Wow. Loved this one, John. You spoke for us all. Thank you.

  • Lauren

    You are most definitely not alone.

    I would also add something, John. Yes, to be a victim of childhood sexual abuse is world-shattering, and makes you question your ability to know what’s safe—to ever /be/ safe. But it also has that impact on the people who love you. Imagine a mother who finds out her own brother had abused his niece—her /child/. Having put her child in the hands of someone she knew since her own childhood, someone she loved and trusted, and finding out that trust was /betrayed/… I have to imagine it would be just as world-rocking. That was my experience: I was abused by an uncle, and when i told my family what had happened, my mother—his sister—was completely devastated by it. It seems to me, looking back, that it was even harder for /her/ to recover than it was for me.

    So not only are victims of childhood abuse not alone in the sense that there are so many of us, but in that so many people suffer /with/ us, /because/ of what happened to us.

    • Courtney

      Thank you for putting this into words for me.

    • http://www.patsediting.com Patricia Brush

      What you said resonates strongly. I suffered from childhood emotional and physical abuse. The sexual abuse came at age 11 from a school janitor.

      When my grandmother was near the end of her life, she started telling me things. She told me how when I was 5, she found the whip marks on my body. She became suicidal to think that she had raised such a monster, but happily got past the suicidal thoughts. She told me that the only time that she had struck him was a light slap to his face when he was 14 when he had sassed her back, for which she immediately apologized. That knowledge explained why she had always been so protective of me and was always saying how special I was.

      I questioned my aunt about why people stood by and didn’t do anything when my father would randomly strike me. It was hard for her to answer. It was in the days when “these things aren’t talked about” and “what would the neighbours say”. She said she felt like her hands were tied and it about killed her.

      A woman who had been my Sunday school teacher and who is now a good friend told me that she knew exactly what was going on in my home because I was such a strange child with such outlandish behaviours, but there wasn’t anything that she could do either.

      I sure hope that with the changes in the reporting laws and the greater awareness that society in general has, that we might be responding in a more timely fashion to the children who are in difficult circumstances.

  • Carol B.

    You surely are not alone… Look at what you have survived, and with your sweet soul intact! There are so many of us who are still learning to bring down those walls, brick by brick, but it is possible.

    Know this…you are faultless, you are able to overcome this, and you are exactly who and where you need to be at this moment…How do I know? Because I am too!

  • Ting

    “What they have immediately imprinted on every fibre of their being is the certain knowledge that anything, at any time, from any quarter whatsoever, can come flying out of nowhere and obliterate them. Furthermore, there isn’t one damn thing they will ever be able to do to prevent that from happening. How can they, when so obviously their Early Warning System is so severely broken? Their EWS doesn’t work. It’s useless. It didn’t warn them.

    They did get hit by the train.

    They cannot trust life; even worse, they cannot trust themselves to know when, where, or how life is going to randomly start slaughtering them.”

    Oh. Oh, no. This is exactly how I feel about life. So much so that I’m fighting a panic attack right now. But I’ve never been the victim of sexual assault. Thank you for such a concise statement, even if it doesn’t exactly apply to me. I don’t know how to fix what’s wrong with me.

    • Courtney

      Suffering from anxiety and panic attacks, even without having been abused, is not uncommon. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Counseling and medication can help. In the meantime, breathe… You will be okay.

    • Jill

      I truly hope that you are ok tonight, Ting. Please take extra gentle care of yourself tonight and in the days ahead. Sometimes panic attacks can knock the wind out of us, even if what our body was gearing up to fight or flee never arrived.

      Just like Courtney said, be aware that you are breathing deeply, slowly. Drink water, drink herbal teas if you can, stay away from caffeine if you can, take a calcium magnesium supplement if you can. Think of a few things that you enjoy doing to relax, and do one each day this week. When you feel panic, think of us who are holding you in our care. You don’t have to know us to know you are being loved. And continue to breathe. We’re with you.

    • DR

      Ting, sometimes panic attacks are our unconscious way of saying “My mind is strong enough to feel this fear that I’ve been holding in my body since I felt it but did not have the cognitive ability to name it and release it.” Panic attacks are terrifying because they feel like we’re literally dying. But it could be your self has recovered enough to start an even more meaningful healing process that liberates you from fear and anxiety in the long-term. Medicine is enormously helpful. Much love.

    • Ting

      That description was so spot on that it stabbed me through the heart. I guess there’s just stuff that I might never be ready to take a look at.

      But I’m okay. I’m always okay.

      • Jill

        VERY glad to hear from you! Sending you best wishes and prayers, Jill

  • InaCat

    I wish I could tell you that you’re one in a billion, that you’re one of a tiny percentage of children who had some of the most important parts of their life shattered…but I couldn’t tie my shoes yet, when my parents first explained to me that some people like to hurt things, and those people are bad straight through…and over the years, as my understanding grew, they revisited that warning.

    I was 11, the first time I repeated the warnings to someone. I have repeated them a hundred times, sometimes years after the monster had left the scene of the crime…because people who have been hurt like that, especially as children, carry that scene around with them for years if the spell is not broken.

    Alice Miller will help you understand how not alone you are. Andrew Vachss will help you understand how not alone you are – and how evil, and deliberate, and deceitful your attackers really were. Charles DeLint, and Sheri Tepper will help you understand just how many other children have had to find a way to grow up a second time, so that they could be whole. Organizations like RAINN.org exist because you are not alone.

    You are not alone…not only are you not the only person to have been forced to endure abuse, but for every monster, there is at least one of us who, if given the chance, will try and help you.

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric Booth

    You are not alone. Although I know the feeling. Your comment here is very familiar.

    In one sentence, you’ve shattered a wall I’ve spent years building and reached a part of me that I’ve always kept hidden at all costs because I was afraid.

    I’ve written poem about this place. Here is one you reminded me of:

    Rescue Me

    i crave, a normal Rockwell

    to cover, up the smell

    my mind, is on a mission

    dec-orating hell

    he is, so quite convincing

    so easily, he fools

    my heart, so numb from wincing

    I am, his chosen tool

    a child, he learns pretending

    the truth, he dare not risk

    the pain-less pain he’s sending

    the lie, hides on a kiss

    i lost, my heart a normal

    the nicest, place to be

    like death, draped in floral

    I am, who rescues me

    • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric Booth

      And this one, Hidden:

      my hidden hurt, i cannot shake

      i love to long, i feign escape

      i fear to leave, i loath to stay

      my paradox, please go away

      but do not leave, come visit me

      just do not stay, lest you may see

      my self’s encased, alone again

      my longing is, a lonely friend

      i feel i must, inside remain

      to enter is, to know my pain

      experience, my darker side

      just turn away, to run and hide

      yet still you come, you take my hand

      you sit with me, you understand

      all others gone, all pushed away

      yet still you hold, this potter’s clay

      my time is come, i see your face

      and sip at last, the cup of grace

      • DR

        Those are profound.

      • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

        So beautiful.

      • https://www.facebook.com/lynne.k.everest Lynne

        Wow…love them both, but “Hidden” is just amazing. It carries you along swiftly in its rhyme and brevity, from a dark lonely place to a beautiful place of safety and peace. The references to God (potter’s clay, cup of grace, but still you come, take my hand, understand, all others gone) are very insightful. Just lovely, Ric!

  • Matt

    My mother was always so proud of me because I was an “easy kid.” Didn’t smoke, didn’t do drugs, didn’t drink underage (or really at all, now that I’m legal). Stayed quiet, stayed out of the way, always polite.

    And from my preteens onward, it was mostly because of what you just explained, John. Soul-crushing terror–of school, of people, of accidents and injuries. The desire to hide, to be alone, was overwhelming. It eventually grew to be less of a desire and more of an acute need–on the same level as hunger or fatigue, because any person’s presence drained every ounce of strength I had left.

    I am leaps and bounds better nowadays. But now at least I can stop blaming myself for what I couldn’t accomplish at that time–I was literally just trying to stay alive.

    • Ting

      How did you fix it?

      • Matt

        There was no real “fixing,” per se. It took years, and it’s an ongoing process. My method was very informal (professionals had failed me multiple times), and I don’t recommend it for everyone.

        My first step was to recover from depression. A few factors came together to help with that, and I just took a year to work, go to school, and enjoy the feeling of not being constantly suicidal and having renewed hope. I kept to myself during this year.

        The year after that, I focused on reconnecting with people. I put myself on a dating website, and met my current partner. Once trust was established with her, I began feeling safe enough to go out with friends again, first with her and then without her. I consciously worked on social skills, which had been severely delayed due to my PTSD and depression in high school. I worked on being a good friend and boyfriend. I got my first “adult job” at around the same time, and this helped my professional social skills.

        This year has been focused on getting back on the path I had originally intended to take, had I not been so sick: Going to nursing school, and now gender transitioning. I now have enough energy, motivation, and stable mental health to work full-time, and then I’m in college 9 additional hours a week, plus studying and so on.

        It all sounds very deliberate, and it wasn’t. It sounds like a smooth progression, and it wasn’t. Not by a long shot. I got incredibly lucky. Do I still struggle with nightmares and flashbacks sometimes? Yes. Does that old feeling of needing to isolate come back sometimes? Yes. Do I still struggle with forgiveness, with trust, with occasional depression? Yes.

        But every milestone has increased my confidence. I am now mostly financially independent. I have an excellent support system, people I can call who have told me explicitly that they value my safety and trust. They have helped me unravel extremely toxic beliefs I had about myself, like that I was insane beyond redemption, bad to the core, dirty, worthless, overdramatic, etc. Writing here has been enormously helpeful too.

        It’s as John said in his last post. I was an abused kid. Then I grew up and actually had the skills to do something about it.

        • Jill

          I probably sound like a broken record, but you just impress the hell out of me, Matt. I think we have a few parallels on how we have worked on our lives, worked on transforming the darkness. One step at a time, and not always sure which step we were in or why we were in it.

          Anyway, good on you for giving yourself free and full permission to take care of you. Conquering that ridiculously hard life lesson is a valuable example to everyone in your life that you’re more than worth it. They could take a leaf from your book.

          • Matt

            It sounds like you and I are at similar places to me as well.

            Would you like to have my personal e-mail? I’m sure John knows what it is, given it’s required to post here. A note: you will (inadvertently) learn my birth name by knowing my e-mail. But I trust you to see me no differently, or I wouldn’t offer.

            I’d like to be your friend, in any way that I can. You certainly deserve it.

          • Jill

            That you trust me that much, I would really like that. I’d be happy to exchange email addresses with you.

          • Matt

            I bet you can ask John through his e-mail (under “Contact”) and refer him back to this page if he wants to know why.

            And you’re very welcome, Ting :). I hope you can find some relief and peace.

        • Ting

          Thanks. :)

  • Christie L.

    Oh John,

    Much of what you wrote can be applied to survivors of any sort of childhood abuse. Both me and my fiance’ have had our own experiences. His was a life-time of abuses by family and their friends. I had one particular soul-shattering incident in my life.

    Different trains on different tracks that obliterate the sense of safety we all so desperately need.

    We’re both still broken by our experiences. Trying to find our power and take back control is a grueling journey. I can intellectually look at what happened and assign to the abuser(s) all the blame and even feel pity for them at times. But that still doesn’t translate into healing my emotions, my hurt, the destruction I endured.

    To repair all of that is not so easy as replacing a light bulb or flipping a switch. It’s layers upon layers of gunk that no de-greaser can cut through in just a few swipes. I have to scrub and scrub to even make a dent. It’s exhausting work. And then I realize I’ve got what seems like miles more of that gunk to go. Even if I do get through all the gunk eventually, my original parts won’t be the same. That gunk changed me.

    There are times I can superficially say that I’m glad for what happened because I do like who I am today. That’s only partially true. I can see some differences in me that I can appreciate. But it doesn’t feel like those changes can replace what was stolen.

    • Heather

      I’ve never heard the torment of abuse summed so perfectly. It’s perpetrators are theives of the most basic human right – safety; as humans have no natural predators, other than humans…

  • Heather

    All of the advice and encouragement above is so profound and loving. I couldn’t add to it if I tried. I have only one thing to say, and I will use Winston Churchill to say it: “When you’re going through Hell, keep going.” There’s a way out. I didn’t know it years ago, but I know it now. Silence is an enemy so thick you can choke on it. It is the ultimate killer and must be abandoned. You will get better, it will get easier. I swear on my own life, it won’t always be this hard. The more you speak, the more you heal. Speak.

  • Barbara Fiedler

    You are NOT alone! There are many of us that have been sexually abused as children. I was abused by my grandfather. My Mom’s father. I believe that he also abused my Mom, although she never admitted it, she did ‘sort of’ refer to it. It’s funny how our minds work. It stays hidden away. I forgave him years ago, and felt like I was ok with everything. And I still feel that way, really. But every once in a while something will come up and those feelings arise. Not so strong, but just a reminder of a childhood lost. My sisters were raped by a stepfather. Child molestation is rampant. It breaks my heart ever time I hear of a new person being molested. It breaks my heart to hear of you!! Please, if you are having trouble dealing with it, get help! That’s the only reason I can have a happy, fulfilled life. I got help. Therapy was there for me. God was there for me. Whatever your belief system is, whatever your support system is, take advantage of it.

    Many here are offering you their love and prayers. Accept that from us! We really mean it. We want you to be happy and healthy!!

  • Julie

    Thank you all – John and all of the posters. Having people write about this in such an open (yet not triggering) way is amazingly helpful. I even shared this on my Facebook. It was scary, but this has to be talked about more. I don’t want to hide any of it anymore. Of course, I don’t want to open myself up to attacks, but I will not hide what I struggle with and why I struggle anymore.

    • David S

      Julie –

      I tried several times to leave a comment here, but each one seemed more inadequate than the one before. So all I will say is this: This beautiful cyber community is an absolutely safe space. The love and support here is remarkable. And I pray that you have found (or soon find) a flesh-and-blood community that also loves and supports you in a way that is a balm. Thank you for sharing yourself with us. It is a gift.

      • Kerry

        Much love to you Julie.

        You are brave, you are a warrior. I wanted to comment earlier too but hadn’t yet either – kind of struggling for what to say.

        Based on how John’s response spoke to you, I feel like God is standing right beside you in this. That perhaps God lined that all up. I hope you can take strength from that.

        As David said, this is a safe space. I would like to tell you about another space I have found that speaks to me and you might find comfort in. http://momastery.com/blog/

        The most recent post about God’s Mysterious Amazing ways (and groceries) reminds me of how I think you and John were connected.

        And John, Pastor Shore, Rev. Shore,

        (I never know what to type now),

        You are AMAZING – the things you write and the lives you have changed – it’s a privilege to get to witness it all. (and I know there are unseen miracles happening too – people who are helped that may never comment)

        I wish more people knew about you.

    • Kerry

      PS Sorry – I meant to reply under you but wrote under David

    • Matt

      Julie,

      Talking is always the very hardest thing to do in this case, when we have been told by our abusers, our community and our world that the best thing to do (for them) is to be quiet. I hope you find someone, whether they be therapist, family, friend, or teacher. It doesn’t matter, as long as they can hear everything weighing on you with love and compassion.

      In the meantime, fight on, brave warrior of God.

  • Charlotte

    To Julie and all the people who have started finding their voices to speak out … and to those who are still, for this time, silent … much love.

  • Kathy in KC

    There are those of us who were viciously emotionally and physically abused too, who carry similar scars. They inhibited our relationships, they drove us into crazy risky sex and abusive encounters, they made it hard for us to tell the difference between being struck to the ground and being lovingly embraced as what constituted intimacy.

  • Inwoodista

    John, as a survivor of child sexual abuse, I know that I was not merely “unlucky”.

    As an adult, I realized that the man who sexually abused me had almost certainly abused many other children. He had easy access to them as janitor of our church and the father of a “Christian musician”. He was protected by adults being unwilling and thus unable to see what was right in front of them. He was considered such a “good man”.

    That abuse was (and is) supported and perpetuated by the rape culture that still exists. The culture that calls child sexual abuse “unspeakable” and “obscene” and thus supports people’s refusal to even look at the issue, and refusal to acknowledge that people who sexually abuse children live among them and prey on children they know. This culture still blames the victims, calls them dirty, contaminated, evil and holds them responsible for the sexual assault perpetrated against them. This makes it unsafe for victims to confide in adults and ask for help.

    This rape culture identifies child sexual abusers & rapists as “stranger danger” and prevents people from being unwilling to see the patterns of behavior in pedophiles that are clearly observable and identifiable, and learning how to protect children in their families and communities.

    Luckily there are organizations working change this culture and train adults to be good stewards of children in protecting them from sexual abuse. One notable organization is Darkness to Light (d2l.org).

    But being a victim of child sexual abuse was not a result of me being “unlucky”. Our entire culture of denial and victim blaming supported the abuse my rapist perpetrated on me, and allowed it to continue.

    • Inwoodista

      Child sexual abuse is not a meteor that comes out of nowhere and hits the “unlucky” child. It’s a pattern of behavior that’s supported by our cultural unwillingness to recognize that the people who sexually abuse and rape children live among us. We know them and we like them. They are often the most charming people around.

      This is why we have to WAKE UP. And wake up our families and our churches and our communities. All adults have the responsibility to protect children. We have the responsibility to learn about child sexual abuse, the signs that a child has been abused, the behavioral patterns of child sexual abusers, AND learn about organizational structures that make it harder to groom and abuse children.

      Please see and share Darkness to Light, http://www.d2l.org with all people who care about children and all organizations that deal with children in any way.

    • Inwoodista

      P.S. I was not failed only by the man who sexually abused me as a child. I was failed by my church. I was failed by my parents, who refused to look closely at my symptoms (As plunging to Cs and Ds, dropping former friends, rage) and get me any help. I was failed by my teacher when I wrote an account of my abuse (& escape) as a class assignment and only got an A+.

      I was failed by my community, that refused to see the evidence and effects of the abuse, and I knew would deny the assault, and blame me.

      This is all part of the huge damage that child sexual abuse does. It blames the vicitim and puts them in virtual solitary confinement, alone in their families (the bad one), alone in their communities. I believed (for good reason) there was no one I could trust to believe me and help me.

      Luckily in some circumstances this is changing, and children who report are believed and supported. This makes all the difference in a child being able to heal.

      This is why we have to get educated and get our friends, families and communities educated: so adults understand and recognize child sexual abuse, so the issue becomes “speakable”, and thus safe for children to tell.

      See Darkness to Light: Prevent Child Sexual Abuse

      http://www.d2l.org/

      • Jill

        Thank you for sharing all of this… I am truly sorry for all you’ve endured. We all have more power than we realize, to heal, to make an impact.

        This website is excellent. I will be looking further into it when I have more time, so thank you very much for it. It linked me to another good resource: survivormanual.com , with PTSD help, articles, etc.

        • Inwoodista

          Thanks Jill. I’m well along in my recovery (thanks to an enlightened therapist who was also a survivor, and to “The Courage to Heal”), and that’s why it feels safe for me to tell (some) people I meet that I’m a survivor. Everyone’s got their own individual divine timing for healing, based on how safe they are in their life, and the grace of God. Not everyone can bear witness to their experience to others, because it’s just too painful. So I’m grateful I can talk about it without fear or pain, and call on adults who aren’t survivors to perhaps to suffer the discomfort of talking about child sexual abuse to learn how the perpetrators operate, and how our culture supports it through denial. Then miracles can happen. The truth can truly set us free. — Thanks for recommending the SurvivorManual.com . I’m very excited by what Darkness to Light is doing. They are truly a beacon.

      • DR

        Lots of wisdom in those of you who have suffered so much. Hundreds of people read this blog, think of the parents who are reading what you just wrote and instantly thought of those symptoms they might be seeing in their own children right now. Thank you for being here.

        • Inwoodista

          Thank you, DR. I know I really went OTT (Over the Top), with my three posts. It comes from my passion for justice. Child sexual abuse causes so much damage to so many people, I think it’s the world’s biggest unrecognized public health issue. It causes abuse, crime, mental illness, alcoholism, drug addiction. So adults who don’t think they know a survivor or predator need to wake up and learn. We need to be willing to suffer talking about unpleasant things to help protect children from deep and damaging pain.

          • DR

            I could not agree more and I didn’t experience any OTT at all from you!

    • Jen

      I took John’s point about bad luck in the sense that it was completely not the victim’s fault because he/she cannot control who their parents are; what church they happened to be at; that an abuser was in their life or family; being in the wrong place at the wrong time; etc.

      IOW, on the part of the victim there was no choice but for the abuser and his abettors it was completely by choice. I don’t know though if that’s what was meant in the OP.

      I agree with you about rape culture and I think the most evil part of is the “one-off”/”misunderstanding” myth. There’s never just the one time or the one victim but anytime a victim comes forward there’s pressure not to ruin the abuser’s life with charges or a bad reputation but instead deal with it “internally” or “in the family”. So the abuser just keeps getting free passes by others to continue abusing. Look at example especially in the media about a rape or child abuse, the abuser is always assumed innocent and the victim a liar. But there’s always more victims who were too afraid or were actually silenced and only after mounting accusations come forward does everyone else actually start believing the victims are genuine, and even sometimes not even then!

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    Hi, guys. So the girl to whom I wrote what I then shared in this post emailed me to say this:

    John, can you please say thank you to those who commented on your response to me? Again, there are no words to express how much it means to me.

    So. Thank you from both of us. (Oh: I know it reads as if Julie, below, was the girl who originally wrote me, but that’s just a simple miscommunication. It wasn’t her.)


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