I have the right to be bitter; I was molested… And the Church’s Response to Abuse (Part 1)

The Crime and the Calling
Standing against sexual abuse and violence is a noble and godly thing to do. It really is. And I applaud anyone who does so with a pure heart. Because I cannot think of many topics that stir deeper feelings than child molestation. And rightfully so. What is more horrendous than an innocent child or young person stripped of sexual innocence by an adult? I can’t think of a thing, really, that does the thing to my stomach that such a story does.

Especially now, as a married woman who understands what sex was supposed to be in the first place, as designed by God; a beautiful and fun bonding between husband and wife. For an adult to impose such a thing, and impose a life-sentence of struggle on an innocent child… to rob that victim of unhindered marital joy…

Even writing about it, like this, creates inner angst and tension on behalf of that child that the makes me want to vomit. And that’s not exaggerating. That’s how the mind and body should respond, with powerful resistance, against such a thing. And the instinct to protect children should rise, immediately, to the surface.

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The Danger in Fighting Against Abuse and Violence
But that is the very thing that makes it such a complex thing to stand against. Those feelings, legitimate and justified, must be acknowledged but cannot be the driving force, in and of themselves; there has to be a deeper goal to be effective. Those feelings must not be it, lest we move out of hate and bitterness. Because then the very thing we fight against, gains power over us, and makes us slaves to it. When we become bitter and hate-filled, and out to make the offender(s) pay, on our terms, a toxicity sets in that does nothing–not one little thing–to protect victims or change the world.

Bitterness is counterproductive in every way. Besides rendering your voice empty and irrelevant to those in positions to help change the world, its toxic poison will suck your soul dry faster than any hurt imposed on you. Every time. And not only that, it will suck dry those around you, if they don’t leave before it poisons them. In either case, it will leave you empty and friendless, or empty and lacking healthy support. It’s not worth it.

As Believers, What Do We Reach For?
There are good and positive things that can be done in dealing with molestation, without turning to the venom of destruction and the poison that is so prone to dribble from our lips. I know what I’m talking about. I’ve done it. I’ve lost sight, in the past, of what my heart really longs for in all of this; redemption, justice, boundaries, mercy, truth and ultimately restoration with God… even in situations where the last thing that ever could happen (or should, for that matter) is reconciliation between offender and victim.

In religious settings it seems often there is a dreadful imbalance in situations where an abuser is exposed, caught or turns himself or herself in. It is either carefully guarded and covered up in denial, or the individual is abandoned and thrown under the bus. Most often it is the former. And, to the latter, many ‘justice seekers’ would shout a hearty ‘Yay… serves them right’ and jump on the bandwagon that finally someone is listening.

At the risk of receiving hate mail, I will say publicly that I think both are corrupt; both are wrong. That’s my view. Justice and truth without mercy is barbaric. Mercy without truth and justice is endorsement of evil. As I watch the two sides play out around me, in various situations, I think surely there must be a better way! Surely there is some humanity, somewhere. Humanity that says, “Enough is enough!” to the senseless victimization, and humanity that says, “we are all broken and need help, so we’re going to get you that help.”

And then, beyond humanity to Christ-likeness, that says, “Someone died for my sins; He died for yours too.” To offer the grace and love of Jesus to my offender is the most freeing thing I have ever done. Freeing for me.

To not share that truth with others, is to keep them in bondage. And yet, as angry voices–and yes, they should be angry–shout around me, some with bitterness and hate, I find myself retreating, publicly, for fear of tomatoes… or worse, thrown at me. It is not the healthy anger that makes me cringe, it is the hate and offensiveness. And I am not alone. Other victims have written me, saying they are afraid to publicly state they have forgiven, for fear of being judged or ‘hated on’.

What Then is the Solution?
While abuse angers many of us, as it should, the greatest headway in change will come from calm, composed persistence. There is a time to expose, but doing so with venom will stop the ears of people we want to speak to; it is overwhelming. Furthermore, if there are defenses already in place–take for example a pastor, parent or other person of influence–where the person feels it is an attack on them, the attack and raging approach will trigger subconscious response–either tuning out or defending.

An approach that lacks attack, and rather appeals to the intellect, the heart and compassion of individuals in positions of influence, will produce a much healthier response. Reasonable dialogue is necessary, and exploring healthy solutions without demanding the heads of abusers on a platter, will go much further than raging and bitterness. And if we want to really make a difference, then we need to manage those feelings with honour.

What Can the Church Do?
When a molestation case comes to light in a church, there is inevitably much upheaval. In 2014 I was hired by a church several hours away, to work with a very difficult situation. I learned more in a few months, about what pastors and leaders go through, than I had learned in the preceding 44 years of my life.

When a pastor cares for his church and wants nothing but the best for everyone, abuse and molestation allegations cause heartbreaking struggle. When the offender owns up, admitting to the crimes, and it is confirmed reality and not allegations, the truth is harsh and offensive. The crimes need to be dealt with, and the person needs someone to walk with them, and the victims need to be protected along with all vulnerable church attendees, children in particular. How is a pastor to do all of those things, and not be harshly judged by some, if not all involved and aware?

Some want the offender banned from attending. Some want the church to ‘forgive and move on’. Others want boundaries and protections in place. Some want it taken to the law. Others say that’s not biblical, even when the laws require it. The latter, for me, is not optional; a crime must be reported. The Bible says that the law is for the lawbreaker, and if that lawbreaker happens to sit on a church pew, he or she is no less a lawbreaker.

How to handle incorporating the abuser, or banning, as the case may be, is something each church family must fumble their way through. Each situation and solution presents complexities that make a black-and-white-blanket-solution nigh impossible to implement. And while the protection of victims should alway take precedent over the abuser, I hesitate to judge harshly when I see a church trying to care for both.

I say that as someone who instigated inappropriate sexual interaction with a peer in my early teens. Sure, she came into agreement before we did anything, but I will always see her as the victim. I was a few months older and I suggested it, therefore I feel I need to own that. To this day, it is more important for me to know that she is cared for than to have my pride protected. She deserves that; I made her vulnerable. And any offender who steals innocence should pursue the well-being of the victim, over their own comfort. It’s the least any of us can do who have wounded another.

So what, then, should a church do? What are some options?

(To Be Continued…)

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

FYI, You’re Crazy! And Your Memories of Being Abused Aren’t Real…

canstockphoto11708263I met him on a comment thread, just the other day, when my friend Boz Tchividjian posted an interview on his blog. In it I share a bit about our home and upbringing, and answer a few questions about the book I released earlier in March.

His name is Tom. I’ve not met Tom in real life, as far as I know–at least he has not identified himself–but he began a line of questioning on just how I came about remembering my childhood, after years of pushing down those harsh realities. He was gentle and polite, so I engaged. (I found him quite delightful, actually. So this blog isn’t really about him… but he’s the one who took me down that road) At length, he identified his concerns regarding Memory Recall Therapy, and found it hard to believe I didn’t use these methods to try to recall things in my past.

I’ve heard that hypnosis is one method used, but I’m not curious enough to bother myself about learning just what that entails or what the other methods are, as I have long made it clear that I do not support trying to remember things. I am very supportive of confronting abusers (or alleged abusers, as the case may be) when memories return on their own, but to force them, I am not in favour of, nor have I ever engaged in such activity. And the reason I don’t want to understand it, is because it is useless information at this time.

I’ve read up on Rapid Eye Movement Therapy, because I’ve had clients going through this either overlapping with my coaching sessions, or before them. When it impacts a client, I am interested, or if it is information that is useful to me in what I do. (For this reason I have done a fair bit of reading PTSD, Bipolar, and various other disorders, as well as self-harm, sexual sadism, violent sexual self-harm etc, masturbation, addictions and the psychology behind them–because these are things I’ve worked with, in clients.) But to study other ‘strange’ or questionable treatments and therapies, when I have no intention of using them, is as helpful as studying accounting and business to learn how to play a violin. Poor time and resource investment.

This stranger, Tom, did leave me with one article to read, in his final comments, and the article frustrated the life out of me. It brought to memory another article I read a year or so ago, regarding the use of hypnosis for the purpose of remembering past events, but I cannot find that article, or recall it. What I recall is that I skimmed it, and agreed with the author (some PHD, and in the Britain Journal of Medicine, if I recall accurately) that it was hokus pokus, though I’d go further and say it is spiritually dangerous. Not being able to locate that article is only a small part of my frustration.

In the article from Tom, found here, these questionable recall methods are tackled and ‘debunked’. On this, I agree with the article, 100%. (When I’ve been asked if it’s a good idea, my answer is a resounding ‘NO!’ I feel strongly about it!)

In this same article the term “The body remembers even if the mind cannot” is also addressed, referring to ‘body memories’. I know little about this, but use a similar statement in my book, when referring to my damaged right wrist that required therapy in my twenties, a wrist that was wounded when my father struck me, as a young toddler. It is a story mom and siblings recounted to me, of my wrist hanging limply after being struck violently.  Beyond that, ‘body memories’ are not something I am very familiar with.

What frustrates me most in this article is that all ‘returned memories’ seem to be called ‘recovered’, and the baby seems to have got dumped with the bath water. That this topic is studied ‘at a distance’ and disqualified as illegitimate, when the hands on reality proves otherwise–when done *apart* from memory recall therapy–seems careless. And I would take on any psychologist, psychiatrist or other ‘ist’ in this area–no matter how ‘educated’–and let them ‘experience’ the truth with me. (Yes, that’s an invitation! It isn’t arrogant; it’s confidence in what I see, over and over again.) Work alongside of me for a while, make it a study, and I promise it will be proven that people block memories, and those memories are easily validated, usually by the pepetrator. And there will be no memory recall therapy used.

Several years ago I had a client (who gave me permission to share parts of her story) with recurring nightmares, always of a real time, real place with real people, involving trauma. Having heard the nightmare a few times I asked if they had ever talked to the ‘real live’ people in that nightmare and asked if they know of anything that happened in that particular room. (I discouraged telling what was in the nightmare, to avoid creating the ‘memory’ for the other person.) Having contacted one, my client contacted me, shocked; the individual confirmed the event. Ironically, when it came out there were other victims. (Surprise, surprise.) And, coincidentally, having dealt with it, my client suddenly started to heal, and did a radical U-turn.

More recently, I worked with a client who (first of all, also gave me permission to write) and ‘recalled’ memories, on her own, out of the blue, that she had blocked for years. False memories? Think again! We met with the man who molested her, and took not one, not two, not three but four witnesses to confront him. (One was a couple from his church, one was the husband of the victim, the other was my husband.)

I started the meeting with, “Do you know why we’re here?”

He said he knew, but immediately added, “but it wasn’t sexual.”

“Uh.. yes it was,” I said. He argued again. A few ’rounds’ of this and I knew we were headed no where fast. And then it occurred to me…

“In that case,” I said, looking around the room at the three gentlemen present, ” you wouldn’t object to each of these men doing to your wife, right now, what you did to that girl?” His wife sat beside him, vulnerable.

“Okay.. it was sexual. It was sexual,” he said, and broke down weeping.

That established, we moved forward with his apology, and him addressing the victim’s husband, asking him to apologize to her, on his behalf. While there is much more to write about that story, it isn’t relevant to today’s blog, so I will leave it.

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According to that article, my client’s memories would be casually tossed aside as being ‘not valid’ because she had blocked them for many years. And yet, the confrontation confirmed them. My frustration, then, is that the ‘professionals’ who do this–and many don’t–are potentially contributing to the mental deterioration of these clients that could otherwise heal.

To have my own memories challenged is one thing. There’s sixteen siblings in my family, and we all have similar hellish memories, so no one needs to convince me, or them. We know the truth and stand by it, every one of us–though obviously our experiences vary. As does my mother. And, heck, even my dad owned up to his wickedness, so not a lot of affirmation needed, on my part. But to carelessly disregard an individual’s memories, in every case, is tragic and ends with the victim being violated all over again. Not only are we saying the abuse is irrelevant, now we’re saying they’re crazy on top of what they already suffered. (And I say ‘carelessly’ because there are ‘false memories’ that have also been proven, and people with mental illness live, at times, in some alternate reality that they have created. I have known such people, and it isn’t fun to watch, but to use a blanket statement to negate all memories that come back over time, is foolishness.)

Even in my book, where I mention the older teens who use a group of my siblings, the scene has been corroborated. One of the teens–I discovered a few weeks ago–apologized to one of the victims. And yet that memory didn’t resurface, more than the time or two I mention in my book, until my thirties, then disappeared again until January 2012, when I finally had to deal with the reality of it.

This article, for that reason, has little credibility based on my experience, regardless the letters behind the name, because I have too much proof that it is not accurate. I will stand by the truth that I know, and continue to help victims of abuse heal, mediate with confrontation, and offer life and hope in the process.

And my encouragement to you is, if you know your memories are real, don’t let anyone push you back into the darkness. Forgive the abuser, but don’t be afraid to establish healthy boundaries. Invite Jesus into the pain, to heal your broken heart and spirit. And, having done so, move on to embrace a life of purpose.

Love

~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Between 2 Gods Facebook Page

To Donate: Generations Unleashed (Help Victims of Sexual Abuse Churches
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Interview with Boz Tchividjian, Founder of Grace

The horrors of child abuse not only extinguishes the innocence of childhood, but so often defines survivors who spend a lifetime struggling to process such devastating childhood trauma. When abuse is perpetrated in faith communities and is rationalized with scripture and distorted theology, most victims come to understand God as the ultimate abuser. All too often, these precious souls get weary of processing what seems to be a forever dark journey and simply give up hope.

Last year, I was privileged to come into contact with an amazing individual who is walking that journey and has given up hope more than once. The life of Trudy Metzger is one that is both deeply tragic and remarkably hopeful. She was the one beaten and left to die on the side of the road in the parable of the Good Samaritan. She is also the one pursued, embraced, and loved by the ultimate Good Samaritan. Trudy’s journey is not unlike the painful journey of so many others who are weary and who have or are giving up hope.   Her life is a declaration that there is hope.  

In order to share this hope with others, Trudy recently wrote a book about her journey entitled,Between 2 Gods.   This amazingly honest memoir doesn’t hide the truth about the deep physical, emotional, and spiritual pains caused by childhood trauma. It also doesn’t hide the truth about a loving God who crosses the road and gets down into the dirt with the hurting and brutalized.

I hope that we can all find some comfort in Trudy’s words that have been formed out of a life that for all intensive purposes should have ended long ago. I’m so grateful God had other plan. – Boz

Boz: Can you tell us a little bit about your family background?
Trudy: I was the 12th living child, of what would eventually be 16, born into an Old Colony Russian Mennonite home. With a history of unaddressed abuse and violence in my father’s family, and murder and unacknowledged sexual abuse in my mother’s family, we didn’t stand much of a chance at escaping abuse. Intertwined with this were deeply rooted religious beliefs that presented God as volatile and harsh, rather than a kind ‘Abba Father’—or ‘Papa’—who loves us and understands our humanity.

Boz: What was it about the culture you grew up in that you believe contributed to an abusive environment?
Trudy: This topic would produce at least a chapter, but more likely a book, if covered with any kind of thoroughness. Certainly male dominance was a problem—and I say that as someone who believes all are created equal, with something of value to contribute in every situation—and this robbed women and children of any voice. Contributing to this was the ‘elders are to be respected view’ that required younger children to submit to older siblings, giving older siblings almost the same authority as parents. While these older siblings were not necessarily the abusers, the mentality very much affirmed ‘voicelessness’ and demanded submission and surrender to the wishes of anyone older. This is a set up for abuse throughout life.

I want to add that our communities in Mexico were infested with sexual abuse on every level, and it was not only the girls who were victimized by fathers, brothers and men in general. Male to male violations were a tragic reality, leaving young boys devastated by the impact of rape, often from older boys or fathers. Teen boys raped teen girls and older girls seduced younger boys, and mothers molested their children. I wouldn’t have known all of this in childhood, and didn’t address its brutality in my book but it goes without saying that such depravity is the result of multiple issues, not only male dominance.

Another piece was little teaching about sex, and what was communicated was presented more in strict warnings to ‘not sin’, and warnings to protect against ‘evil boys’. This made sex an altogether horrid thing, feeding the unhealthy lifestyles and resulting in much sexual promiscuity on besides abuse.

Continue reading interview here: Rhymes with Religions

Love

~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Between 2 Gods Facebook Page

To Donate: Generations Unleashed (Help Victims of Sexual Abuse Churches

(Tax Receipts will automatically be issued for all donations over $20)