At long last, here I am tapping out my thoughts on computer keys, sharing bits and pieces of my story, or perhaps your story, if you’ve given me permission to do so. I am in the process of overcoming my worst case of writer’s block, since 2001, when I first transitioned from paper—where I struggled often with writer’s block—to computer. There is something fascinating about the way my thoughts spill out on the screen. It has, for the most part, put an end to writer’s block for me. Except for this topic on sexual abuse.
I know it needs to be said, I know it needs to be addressed, but I have, for weeks now, tried to find a good starting point, and have remained stuck. I’ve written some things to share down the road. But there seems to be no good place to begin, so I am going to start ‘chattering’ the thoughts in my head, and hopefully present them in comprehensible form for you to read.
Like a unravelled yarn, so tangled together that there is no way of unravelling it, I have pulled, and studied, and contemplated….
That got me pondering this whole thing of how it is in reality with sexual abuse. Where does it really begin? Or is it a thread of shame and corruption, a perversion of God’s plan, and violation of innocence that began, somewhere in Genesis, and never really stopped?
I have friends who were perpetrators, and hearing their stories has given me much insight into this cycle of abuse. (For the purpose of this series on Sexual Abuse & Violence I will define perpetrator as someone aged 16 or older.) I have many friends who violated children in their early years, for most a one-time act, prior to age 10 or 12, and a few between the ages of 13 and 15. I do not refer to them as perpetrators. Besides the fact that most of them were sexual abuse victims, they were innocent children, in a culture that gave no knowledge on how to manage their sex drive, their natural sexual feelings, and were made to feel dirty and shameful about their sexuality. The only advice that I know of in the culture, with most families was to say ‘thou shalt not’, and ‘you’ll go to hell if you do’. There is so much more to it than that. I will write about that another time.
Even those older than age 15 are ill-equipped and hardly responsible, due to ignorance. In two separate incidences, 16-yr-old boys violated me, when I was around thirteen or fourteen. Because of a lack of education, and healthy sexual awareness, I cannot hold them too hard for what they did. Yes, they took ownership and both apologized to me, but ignorance is a curse, not bliss. They did not fully understand how they wronged me.
In the one case, had my brother not appeared, and had I stayed alone with the young man any longer, odds are high he would have raped me. A man much older than him—(a man who dressed like a Mennonite and travelled across Canada, victimizing young men)—had raped him, and he, in turn, had already violated other youth in the church. Out of his experience and trauma, along with the church’s silence, he became a perpetrator. God only knows where or if that cycle ever stopped.
The worst part was that our church leaders knew the ‘Mennonite poser’ had violated the young man, and the church knew the young man had violated other boys, but nothing constructive was done to protect us. Instead, because he was the son of a leader, they covered it. This led to his victims victimizing other boys, and so the cycle was set in motion and chains started.
At around age twelve or thirteen, I made a vow that I would not have any sexual involvement with anyone. I took care of anything I knew of that had happened in my childhood, before age eleven, and started over with a clean slate. When the young man from church violated me, it set in motion a host of struggles, including very low self-esteem and sexual confusion. Because men had all the power and seemingly had the ‘right’ to violate us, I wanted desperately to be a male so I would not need to surrender to it. I was angry with God for making me a girl, a victim, an object.
Boys wore normal clothes and acted like nothing happened when they violated us. We were stuck in home made dresses, giving males easy access, and still the bulk of responsibility fell on us. When they violated us, it was because we must have behaved in a sensual manner, dressed inappropriately, or perhaps flirted with them. They couldn’t help their sex drive and if only we would behave right and dress right, we would protect them.
How ironic. In a male-dominant culture, where men were portrayed to be the godly leaders, the strong ones, they were not required to be men at all. All they had to do was cry, “she asked for it” and the onus was on us. And even if they didn’t cry it, that was a given. There was nothing of teaching young men and boys to honour, respect, love and protect a woman. Nothing of saying, “if you find her naked, be man enough to cover her and protect her”.
Real men do that. They don’t victimize the younger, the weaker, the innocent. Because of their good character, they take authority over their desires, and choose rather to protect and do the right thing. Jesus was a real man. He was human and could have violated the prostitutes who came to him. He didn’t.
Selfish men use and abuse. Weak men use and abuse. Confused boys also use and abuse.
But the culture failed men terribly through silence. It failed us all. They were not equipped for the hormone surge, and we only knew how to dress ‘right’, not what to do in a vulnerable situation. Many years later I would learn that this is a Christian culture problem, not a Mennonite church problem.
When it comes to Sexual Abuse and Violence, much of secular society, for all its corruption, is more godly than most Christians. In the secular world, silence is discouraged and protecting the innocent, however lacking the methods, is a high priority.
If ever we want to reclaim influence, as the people of God, we will need to take a stand against sin in the church–in particular, the victimization of the vulnerable–and let the light of Jesus shine in.
© Trudy Metzger 2012
Tk you for writing all this and much more to come.
Yes… there are many stories that need telling, not only to expose abuse, but also to bring hope to victims who are still caught in shame and silence.
All I can say is wow, wow, wow. This is exactly what I’ve been trying to explain and put into words. So true and so unspoken. You have hit the nail on the head.
Thank you. 🙂
Oh Dear God Trudy! YOu have a gift of saying things that need to be said, in a way that has impacted immensely!
So many things………….. Ripples that will last forever… Without God where will we be!
Thank you Kim.
Yes… Without God, where will we be? Without Him, I would have nothing to say of value. He is our Redeemer, and He uses ordinary every day people, like you, like me, like Howard & Alice… If we let Him…
Thank you for your blog… I found that it is impossible to tell anyone when it is a church worker… More so a woman… And when you are much younger, and must therefore be the liar… And silence is killing, because you’ll feel ‘stuck’ to stop it.
Unfortunately the church has not done well in this area, but slowly those chains are falling to the ground. The enemy is hell-bent on keeping us in bondage, and God has promised to set His children free. I’m clinging, for the dear life, to that promise.
Thank you. *hugs* God bless you on your journey too…
I’m sorry for sounding so bitter.
No need to apologize for expressing your feelings… feelings born out of deep wounds and betrayal. No judgement coming from me.
I’m sorry you had no one in your church to believe you, fight for you, and walk you through to freedom. I’m sorry you were made out to be the liar. I sit with victims quite often, who’ve had similar experiences. They may be males, or females, who were victims of the same gender or opposite gender. They may have been closer in age, or far apart… It doesn’t make much of a difference, some of them are still not believed. And that just gives the offender more power to deny, and keep on doing the crime. It is tragic.
Sometimes the victim(s) and I go talk to the offender, and sometimes I go alone, and we offer that person the opportunity to acknowledge and repent. Sometimes they deny remembering anything, but as we talk, they are confronted by the truth… And usually they remember.
I’m sorry for what you’ve experienced, and I pray you find healing in every way. Be blessed!
Nobody has ever said ‘I’m sorry’ to me before… Thank you Trudy *hugs* . God bless you and lead you on your journey to bring healing to others.
And I pray that your own healing will be complete.
thank you! 🙂