When I think I’ve heard it all, and am beyond shock, every now and then something strikes such a shocking blow that I am left reeling. This week was once such week. Frankly, I’m glad I wasn’t sitting face to face with some of the people whose stories were told to me this week. I have a ‘thou shalt not gasp’ policy, meaning no matter what I hear, I remain even-keel, calm and reassuring. What I felt as I read stories this week was not even-keel. In truth, I felt anger. And, at moments I slipped towards hopelessness that we will ever make any real headway, with all that lies hidden, and carefully swept under the proverbial church mat. But then the realization, We are making headway! This stuff was hidden yesterday! Today it is not. This conversation was silent not so long ago, now it is not.
And that is true whether we are talking about sexual abuse, bestiality – forced or other – and beatings often justified as spankings. We have made unbelievable progress, as far as I and the victims/survivors/overcomers of abuse are concerned. Of course that means for those who wish to hide it, the job of sweeping has suddenly become the job of shovelling waste, as the carpets are ripped away. But that’s another problem entirely. And that one isn’t mine.
What I mostly want to address in this blog is two things: forced bestiality and beatings justifies as spankings. Predominantly the former.
First the beatings as spankings… My Facebook friends and I have had some rather engaging conversations this past week. I could try to capture the conversations here but will leave you with the links, if you are interested in reading the many thoughts shared. (Visit links to read/engage discussions: spanking wives/adults and Christian ‘counsellors’ saying that is what abuse victims need if they just don’t get over it , also, on bowing to religion – the not-God-kind of religion, that is.) My request is this, if you engage, choose to also listen to opposing views. Some strong feelings were expressed on both sides of the spanking debate, but from what I saw, it mostly stayed respectful. That is my expectation.
The ‘birthing’ of these conversations all began a few months ago when — not for the first time and not the first person — someone wrote and asked if I would address the topic of spankings and the religious justification for it. But, most specifically, this individual asked if I would address the topic of sexual arousal in the child being spanked. I’ve heard of this over the years when working with survivors of abuse and trauma, but what was unique in this case was that the individual was raised in a loving home, protected from abuse – sexual and otherwise. Even in that environment this individual struggled with sexual arousal during spankings, which developed into a spanking fetish later in life. (Read the conversations on spanking & fetishes here: First conversation and Second conversation.)
(To better understand this, I have read claims that the increased blood flow to the genital area can, in some individuals, cause erections in males and engorgement of genitals in females. I will not link the articles as there was other information that I am not comfortable linking in my blog, given my audience. I offer the disclaimer that I cannot endorse or disprove these claims, but it would make some sense of the phenomenon.)
The result of this sexual arousal during a spanking can lead to spanking fetishes, as was explained by the individual asking me to address it, and it can also lead to fascination with BDSM. (I have supported and engaged multiple clients/individuals, internationally, who have experienced this, and most, if not all, developed the struggle through spanking and/or sexual abuse. Not all were sexually abused, but all were spanked. So I am personally familiar with this, though my experience is limited.)
My motive for opening the conversation, especially when my knowledge and understanding of it in our settings is so limited, is quite uncomplicated. To give voice to those who are isolated and ashamed, with no one who understands them. There was a day when we, as survivors of sexual abuse, thought we were the only one, that no one would understand us, and if we spoke out we would be judged, condemned and shamed. Well, part of that proved to be true. Most of it, in fact, except the being all alone part. And the judged, condemned and shamed parts were already our reality, so nothing was lost. But we gained a community of supports, a place to be understood, to stand together in our brokenness and try to heal. And, just as importantly, to try to influence change for the next generation, to make sure they do not suffer what we suffered. Or, at the very least, that some who would have suffered if we had not spoken out, do not because we spoke out. For survivors, that is often more important than our own healing and justice. So I give voice to this today, for those who have suffered, so they can rise to the Light and find freedom and support. (Yes, you will be judged, condemned and shamed, I can’t make that go away; it is the painful reality of religious responses to suffering and speaking out. But I can promise you that there is also a community of supports who will rise up, cautiously at first, but then grow stronger, and hopefully save the next generation of children this horror.)
Before I address forced bestiality, I want to address the many who have engaged in bestiality out of ignorance and a lack of teaching surrounding sexuality. People freak out when you talk about bestiality. Yes, it’s tragic. It is horrifying. It is dehumanizing. But lay aside the disdain and the judgment for a moment and hear me on this. It is not as cut and dried as many people make it, of a perverted teen deciding one day to have at it with an animal. It mostly doesn’t work like that. The reality is, it often starts young, and often because of abuse and/or exposure to things no fault of the child/youth. That doesn’t make it ‘okay’, but for heaven’s sake, consider the context. Their recovery/healing and redemption depend on it.
The number of people who engaged in forms of bestiality as relatively young children – I believe the youngest I am aware of is around age 4 – and into teens is shockingly high in our farmer-family conservative Anabaptist Christian groups. (This is not to say it isn’t a problem in other cultures, but I cannot speak for non-Anabaptists because I have no such stories to draw from.) Some engage in bestiality because they were abused (forced to perform sexual favours such as fellatio/cunnilingus) and this sparks the idea of engaging with an animal. Others see older siblings, hired hands, or fathers engage in bestiality and experiment. Some experience sexual feelings and watch the animals and decide to experiment. Whatever the driving force behind it, almost without fail there is no teaching on sexuality, and no awareness of what it means, or the consequences. I do not wish to shame you, judge you, or further impose that darkness on you. I have worked with many clients who were involved in various forms of bestiality and I have a lot of compassion for you. It is heart-breaking, the lack of teaching and whatever you suffered that influenced the choices that flowed out of that. There is healing and freedom for you; you do not need to carry that shame.
The real issue I want to address on this topic is the use of bestiality as a weapon of abuse. I will not expound at length on it, nor will I be graphic in it. My intent is to create awareness and hopefully give voice to those who are and/or have suffered this violation. Furthermore, I want to make leaders, family, friends and fellow believers aware of it, so they can respond and be available to help these victims heal. Our minds cannot fathom the horror if we have not been there. And we have no right to silence them, or to rush them to healing. (Which, in religious communities often equates to pretending things while the mind slowly deteriorates into insanity. Not healthy at all!)
It was early in ministry when bestiality crossed my radar the first time. I had heard of it, a little, but was relatively naive. And certainly naive to the prevalence. In 2012 a counsellor from Guelph – a city not far from us – asked to meet. Their team had heard that I was doing conferences and wondered if I would be willing to share how I do what I do, what my training was, and other various questions. I agreed to meet and candidly responded to anything they asked. When the counsellor asked, bluntly, if I was encountering many stories of bestiality I was stunned. Yes, I said, more than I expected, including young women. This was their experience as well.
Over the next few years, from near and far, the stories trickled in. Were there hundreds? Probably not. Though I never kept track. But there were men. Men and women, alike, told me their stories – or wives told me their husband’s stories, and men their father’s or brothers’ stories – and the shame, the guilt, the brokenness that ensued. Fathers teaching their sons. Sons seeing their fathers. Brothers shamelessly engaging together. Young women. Sisters….
Several years had passed, with story after story trickling in. Wives resenting and despising their husbands, wanting nothing to do with them after they found out. And then the first story of forced bestiality appeared. Nothing can prepare the mind for such a thing. Daughters told of their fathers forcing them into it. Sons told of their fathers ‘teaching’ them. And wives… wives forced to engage in it at the commands of their husbands.
I have not been able to write about this before. And even now, as I do, my heart is sick. I really do not care what people think. That’s not what troubles me. It’s the horror… the opening up of something so deeply buried inside our walls and our churches. A cancer eating at the souls of our people … A poison draining the life from souls. And, like everyone else, I’ve just not had the stomach to open it up.
But the time of silence is over. As I said on Facebook, I have no one left for whom to perform, and the weight of that burden lifted is a gift. It frees me to speak all the things that need to be spoken, with no fear of consequences. Oh, there will be consequences, but they really can’t take anything from me. I have nothing left to lose in the religious world. (Thank you Jesus!) Nothing and no one left for whom to perform. And even my personal life, upon my death – should someone see it necessary to eliminate me, I expect a series of disclosures to be set in motion that will rock the world. I do not plan to die with secrets left to kill another generations. So I really don’t have anything to lose.
What I stand to gain is the freedom of those crying from the shadows. And that, to me, is everything. What I stand to gain is the hope that maybe someone in the next generation will not suffer because some adult found healing before they hurt that child. That, to me, is everything. What I stand to gain is that one person, currently in bondage, will hear the voice of Jesus saying, “I have not forgotten you. I have not ignored your suffering.” And that, to me, is everything.
If these are your experiences – whether the person who willingly engaged in bestiality, through ignorance and confusion, or the person who was forced into it, or the child (maybe now adult) who struggles with fetishes or BDSM – you are not alone. There are godly and good men and women who will walk with you, love you, support you. As many of you know, my world is quite busy/full right now with university, but I am not too busy to do my best to link you to support in your community. If you need someone to talk to, private message me, (EMAIL FOR SUPPORT) and I will do everything in my power to find someone safe for you to connect with.
Don’t suffer alone. Don’t suffer in silence.
And if you are guilty of committing the atrocity of forced bestiality, whipping, beating or spanking adults without consent/participation, or abusing children, youth or adults, reach out. I will help you face the truth. It won’t be easy. But you will find freedom. You will have to face the consequences, but it will be worth it to break the chains for yourself, your victim(s) and the next generation. There is no price too high for freedom.
With compassion… sadness and deep love for the broken… As always…
~ T ~
Disclaimer: I am not endorsing consensual spanking and/or BDSM as a healthy practice, I’m merely saying it isn’t my business and it isn’t illegal or criminal. My calling is for the victimized and to help offenders face consequences.