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