When I started into ministry, back in 2010, with Faith Girls Unleashed, I did so with the naive belief that male victimization is quite low, and female victimization is much higher than the statistics indicate. I still believe the second half of that to be true. The first part? That’s gone.
Beginning with the very first conference, in November of 2010, men approached us and asked if we will do a similar conference for them someday. At the time I didn’t think so. The obvious reason is that I am a woman, running a women’s ministry. A title like ‘Faith Girls… and Boys…” well… it just didn’t have a nice ‘ring’ to it.
In all seriousness, I didn’t know what I had to offer, or how to put together something that would help men. I presumed their struggle to be very different than mine, and in some ways they are, but pain is pain, and betrayal is betrayal. Besides, I couldn’t imagine how most women would drag their husbands to an event about sexual abuse. But, it was men asking…
As emails, sent by male victims, trickled in from various places in Canada and USA, and as wives shared that their husbands are just as abused as they, often sexually, I was confronted with a daunting reality in the church. Male victimization seems to be as high, if not higher, than female victimization. At least in the Mennonite church, though I presume it is in other churches also.
Yesterday, for the first time, I received numerous messages in one day, from wives who are exasperated by their marriages, because their husbands refuse to work through victimization. They go to church, Sunday after Sunday, in their plain–or straight cut–suits and bonnets, pretending all is well. Meanwhile these women are frantic for help, and so desperate they contemplate abandoning their husbands.
One couple, married over 25 years, fear it is too late to reclaim their marriage. They both shut down years ago, and have lived together in relative silence most of their marriage. They are not alone. I’ve spoken with and heard from other couples married longer. Same story, different setting.
Most wives say their husbands insist that they may not tell anyone. They refuse to get help, leaving wives feeling hopeless and angry. When wives insist on getting help, because they are struggling so intensely, or ready to abandon the marriage, the husbands tell them it is sin for them to leave, or it is controlling of them to demand that they get help, heaping guilt on top of anger and frustration.
And we wonder why the marriage unit is failing in the church. They stay together, but emotionally they are divorced, and generation after generation pays the price.
Some men want ‘sex on demand’, and when the feeling is not mutual, they begin quoting scriptures out of context, either about submission, or from 1 Corinthians 7.
1 Corinthians 7
New International Version (NIV)
Concerning Married Life
3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.
These men seem to remember the second half of verse 3, and the first half of verse 4, but neglect to take note that it’s not a one-sided bit of advice from Paul. And then there’s the bits and pieces about ‘loving your wife’, scattered throughout the Bible that get lost in the shuffle of personal wants and selfishness.
Other husbands don’t want sexual intimacy, or try and fail, because it is not what they are used to from years gone by. It is not what they enjoyed and became addicted to in their homosexual relationships–relationships that often started through abuse–and wives are not comfortable ‘playing the role’. This week alone I have heard this ‘heart cry’ from several women.
It is a devastating state of affairs, what has happened because of silence. These harsh realities trigger anger and hopelessness for wives, panic for church leaders, and no doubt break the heart of God.
I am torn between all of those feelings, as I vacillate between my understanding of victimization with all its trauma, and hearing the desperation in the women. But only the silence makes me angry.
I have nothing but compassion for what these men have experienced. And anger for the cover ups, the abuse, and the corruption that have taken them to this place.
While the children die inside, religion continues to sacrifice her children, her boys and girls, on the alter of pride and image, selling them into the most insidious of sexual slavery. So many parents, so many leaders, turn a blind eye as their sons and daughters slowly bleeding out on the alter. They do not hear the silent screams. Sometimes they are the ones who strip and violate…
God have mercy!
In the middle of compassion is the reality that each of us is given the power (by God) to choose wisely from this moment on. Each one of us, whether male or female, has the potential to live free and whole lives if ever we stop lying to ourselves, and believing the lies of life experience. But we need help. We were not created to do it alone. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness.
If you are a man who finds yourself trapped in this role, I encourage you to seek help. There are countless male victims, probably in your church, if not in your pew, who understand, because they, too, were abused. Because of their silence and denial, they cannot help you, but there are people who can help you.
And you, in turn, may be the one to offer freedom to a friend, when you find help and deal with it. You may be the one God has chosen to break the chains for the next generation. You may be the one to prevent your sons from experiencing rape, abuse and violation. It is a high calling, and requires greater courage than most of us have, but it is time to take a stand. It is time to take back territory.
It takes incredible humility, because of the power of false shame, for any victim to come forward. And I’m learning it takes even more courage for men. You feel as though you should have been able to stop it. You are male, after all. The stronger gender. The providers. The protectors. The ones who slay lions and bears. How could you be so weak as to surrender to abuse? Your manhood is stripped, and you will do what you must to hide that raw wound.
Those, my friend, are lies. The perpetrator often grooms his/her victims, or chooses the more vulnerable, because of age or size difference, or even because the potential victim already has a low self-esteem and won’t talk. Yes, you were victimized, but you can reclaim healthy power. By breaking the silence, you break the victimization and show greater strength than most men will ever need to show.
It is never to late to break free. Never too late to break the silence and learn to live a full and vibrant life. The choice is up to you.
© Trudy Metzger
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