(Part 5 of 5): Is there hope for the offender?

…Continued from Part 4...

OPPOSING VIEWS ON OFFENDER TRANSFORMATION
If forgiveness, and the abusive teachings surrounding it, make it the Christian F-word to many survivors of trauma and horror, the topic of hope for the offender is hard for many to stomach. For those who are in the thick of deepest trauma, this blog may not be the one to read today. It’s a topic that needs to be addressed, but it is one that — due to the dreadful mishandling of sex crimes by both church and state — is extremely traumatizing for many.

There are several popular streams of thought related to whether there is any hope for offenders at all, either in this life or the next. And the two most popular ones are also the most extreme and not the least bit healthy.

One is that if the offender says “I’m sorry”, he/she should be offered unconditional forgiveness, with no consequences or boundaries. And that is true whether caught in the act or if they come forward on their own. The minute they cry their tears and say their sorry’s, they are embraced with great rejoicing, and anyone who dares to ask questions, speak to the inherent risks with this kind of response, or fails to join in the celebration, is deemed a faltering Christian, at best. A wicked person, playing the devil’s hand, at worst.

The response at the opposite end of the spectrum is “once a child molester, always a child molester”, with no hope of them ever stopping. Some apply this broadly. If a child, pre-teen or teenager is caught (or comes forward after) molesting a child, they are doomed and destined for a lifelong curse of molesting and should be cast from society. Others apply it to adult molesters only. Anyone who believes that offenders who take full and complete ownership with no excuses or justification and humbly accept consequences and accountability, may change, is irresponsible.

I am opposed to both extremes. I believe in God, and I believe He is who He says He is. I believe He is capable of what He says He is capable of. Therefore, He can transform the life of the offender. Absolutely. And when He has, we will know it.

MANIPULATION CAUSES DOUBT TRANSFORMATION IS POSSIBLE
If victims manipulate to survive, predators do it for the thrill, and to protect whatever image they have or think they have. The religious ones will lie on technicalities. They can’t flat out lie, some of them, so they find some loophole to appease the conscience and mislead people.

For example, I sat with an offender last year and asked, “Did you molest ____ in your car?” He looked me full in the face, without flinching, and said, “No.”

This bewildered me. He claimed to be open and transparent, and willing to talk. (Which means nothing, in many cases). He said he had repented and deeply regretted his crimes. I knew he had assaulted the young woman in a very specific vehicle. I paused a moment, puzzled. And then it struck me…

“Did you molest ____ in her car?” Again, he looked me full in the face and with the same ‘honest’ expression said, “Yes.”

I’m pretty good at spotting liars. There are little signs in their body language. Little flickers in the eyes. And that first ‘technical truth’ but still a ‘technical lie’ threw me. He looked as honest with that answer as with the second. Suddenly I remembered that he had given the vehicle to the victim — one of the many thousands of dollars worth of things he gave not only her, but other women too, in his grooming — so he could say no and convince himself he is telling the truth.

There is nothing of that kind of game that speaks to the repentance he and his ‘buddies’ claimed he experienced. He was arrogant, deceptive and all manner of manipulative.  That case was a crash course on how to spot the likes of him, and those who cover for them.

Contrary to his claims fo repentance, that was not the ‘fruit of repentance’ shining through. That is a master manipulator and high-risk predator at play. And I say play because it is all but a game to them. The more players they engage, the bigger their ego and the more exciting the game. They are narcissists with no capacity for caring for anyone other than themselves.

This behaviour is common, and it is this group of offenders — the majority of them, based on my experience — that make it difficult for the general population, especially abuse survivors, to believe any can ever be trusted to repent. (Which is different than being trusted to be around the vulnerable unsupervised. That should never happen).  And it makes leaders who insist people trust them lose credibility too.

THE BARRIER TO TRUE FREEDOM:
The problem with offenders among us, and the rare event of such open and thorough repentance, is that many Christians — especially leaders — stand in the way of it. The deep shame surrounding the crimes they have committed  — which are first sins in the eyes of God and then crimes against the victim and the laws of the land — makes it difficult for offenders to tell the whole truth of what they have done. It takes courage and commitment to sit with them and invite them to ‘tell all’ and then walk with them through the consequences.

Few leaders are willing to offer that, it seems, based on what I have seen. Some are willing to an extent, but when push comes to shove, they abandon the process at the consequences part and protect the offender. I’ve seen this up close. My theory is that they can’t follow through because they have their own history of molesting children, often in their teens, and they feel guilty standing by the consequences when they got off scot free. (Most often still having their own story hidden, or partly hidden).

I have seen this in cases that are not well known. And I’ve seen it in cases that got the spotlight. It is a common pattern that seriously needs to be addressed. If a leader groped breasts and grabbed buttocks in his youth, how is he to stand by consequences for the man who is caught doing the same thing? When a leader downplays breast-groping as not being abuse because of his own history, how will the offender trying to take ownership be helped? How will consequences be taken seriously?

IS THERE HOPE FOR CHANGE AND HOW CAN WE KNOW REPENTANCE IS REAL?
Yes, there is still hope. It is up to those of us who are aware to insist on accountability. If leaders refuse to do their part to protect the vulnerable and hold offenders accountable, the congregation needs to address it. It shouldn’t ever be only the leaders’ responsibility in the first place. But if they actively protect and defend offenders, they are standing in the way of their freedom and are no longer serving the kingdom of God effectively. It is the duty of the congregation to intervene.

Jesus says you will know them by the fruit they produce. That doesn’t mean you give them a chance to be with children so they can prove they have changed. That’s absurd. (And, yes, I’ve heard such arguments. Sheer ignorance, that is). That’s way past ‘watching for fruit’. That’s giving them opportunity to plant and sow rotten seeds. The fruit appears long before that.

Don’t mistake fake meekness for repentance. The same dude that said he didn’t molest the girl in her car — lying on a technicality — also meekly said he is willing to go back to the one person he remembered saying something in appropriate to, when I first confronted him. In reality there was a long list, and the assault victim besides.

Beware of the offender who is quick to admit and then throws in the disclaimer that there is one victim, but only one, and is super anxious for your to tell the name of that victim so he can ‘make it right’. This urgency is part of controlling the narrative to ensure the public does not find out the truth.

When offenders are truly repentant, they won’t be asking you for the names of victims. They will know and offer names, and seek to make amends — as much as one can make amends for such horrific crimes — and will do so without excuse. They will make no demands. Not even for forgiveness. Or should I say, especially not for forgiveness. They long for it, of course, but recognize that imposing such a request on their victim is not fair and serves only to serve self. They recognize that forgiveness comes from God, and not humans, and draw their strength from that. They don’t speak out of both sides of their mouth — repentance on the one hand, and blaming the victim on the other.

TRUE REPENTANCE BEARS FRUIT
In contrast to lying on a technicality, the repentant offender comes forward on his own, turns himself over to the church for discipline and the law for whatever criminal consequences he may face. If shame has held him back, when the crimes come to light he humbly acknowledges his wrong and brings himself under leadership and the law, accepting consequences. I insert this part about shame holding offenders back because I have been involved in cases where offenders responded with repentance when confronted. No excuses. No blame. One wrote years ago and shared his story and how relieved he was when it came to light, and how long he had wished he had the courage to bring it to light, but feared the victim would not remember and therefore he  would impose trauma on her. While not as ideal as coming forward, if it is true repentance, it will be revealed shortly.

A repentant offender offers his remorse to the victim(s) without demanding forgiveness, admitting he does not deserve it. He is concerned for what the victims’ needs are, and respects their boundaries. If they attended the same church, he offers to go elsewhere and inform the new congregation of his past and places himself under accountability. He does not seek any positions that place him in authority over the vulnerable, and even declines them when asked. He recognizes that it is a small price to pay in comparison to what his victims have to carry for life, with the scars and pain he imposed on them.

That is true repentance. It is rare. It is unmistakably genuine. It invites trust, but also sets its own boundaries so trust will not be broken, and accepts additional boundaries, if requested. Such a repentant offender understands he/she has broken trust completely, and does not demand that people get over it, or demand silence. Their victims are free to speak without accusation, blame or shame.

Personally, I know only of three cases that were handled even close to this. (I do not doubt there are more, but I haven’t met them yet).

IS THERE A PLACE IN GOD”S KINGDOM FOR OFFENDERS?
Successfully integrating the truly repentant offenders is a community responsibility. If they were in a church with the victims, they should attend elsewhere out of respect for those they have traumatized. I would suggest this to be the ideal in all situations where victims are minors. Where they are adults, the victims’ should be consulted.

They should be accompanied by one or two individuals when in church or where there are children, if they are going to be there at all. Laws vary from region to region on this. And churches are subject to those laws. This means it is not always possible to prohibit someone from attending, even if they have a criminal record, but there are no laws preventing accountability.

They should not be placed in church leadership, or any kind of leadership with access to minors and the vulnerable, or authority over them. If we have such a shortfall of men who have not molested, that we have to put men in leadership over the vulnerable who have committed crimes, we have a bigger problem.

Families should be made aware of the individual’s history of molesting. Parents cannot protect their children if they are not informed and those who have molested – even repentant offenders — are free to roam ‘among us’ without supervision. Due to high rates of manipulation and reoffending, anything less is irresponsible.

A team should be formed to give leadership, and to ensure the social, emotional and spiritual needs of these individuals are met. The more connected they are to community with boundaries and accountability — and without access to minors or the vulnerable, the less likely they are to revert to abusing. Isolation and loneliness contribute to crime, addictions, and delinquent behaviours in general.

To counteract that, we do well to find some way to protect our children while also reducing the likelihood of repeat offences. You’ve heard it said, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” This, while ensuring no access to vulnerable and minors is critical. Never should children or minors be placed at risk in this process. If there are women willing to be part of social interactions with male offenders, this is healthy. (I am comfortable in such interactions as long as I know there are no minors/vulnerable at risk).  It gives them opportunity to learn healthy interactions. And visa versa. But, again, with boundaries and never putting anyone at risk.

There is a place for repentant offenders. Jesus died for all, and invites all to be saved. So there is not a question surrounding grace and forgiveness. However, practically speaking, that place should never invade, disrupt or threaten the safety or space of the victimized, the vulnerable, or children.

As always…

With love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2019

***

ANONYMOUS SEXUAL ABUSE SURVEY BY ANABAPTIST MEDICAL DOCTOR

Some time ago, a friend told me of a medical doctor (Anabaptist) who is doing research into sexual abuse in Anabaptist communities. To take his survey visit:
Anabaptist Medical Matters

***

JASON GRAY CONCERT:
NOVEMBER 2, 2019
Lancaster Bible College, Lancaster PA
7:00pm
CONCERT TICKETS NOW AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC: Here

NOTE: Due to the concert being the celebration for survivors of abuse,
we ask that any who have sexually abused as adults not attend out of respect

November 2, 2019:  THE GATHERING, held at Lancaster Bible College, is a place where survivors of sexual assault, together with our support person(s), collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse and trusted support persons to gather for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering and sexual violence among us. We will cry out to God, together. Come as you are in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. We welcome you! The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to grieve and heal another layer, together.

NOTE: Anyone over 18 who sexually assaulted someone – whether child or other adult – is not welcome. This does not mean they are not forgiven if they have repented. It means victims should not fear being confronted with the source of their trauma on such a vulnerable day. Security guards will be present to remove any who show up and are identified as offenders by the victims.

Until August 1, 2019, registration for the day’s events includes lunch and attendance to the evening concert with Jason Gray, whose music had brought hope and healing to countless victims. Songs like “The Wound is Where the Light Gets In“, “A Way to See in the Dark“, Sparrows“, “Nothing is Wasted“, and many more speak a language we understand.

NOTE: After August 1 concert is included dependant on availability. Once concert tickets are sold out, registrations will continue until October 1 and include lunch only.

***

If you are able to contribute to Generations Unleashed and our work with and for victims, you may donate via PayPal or e-transfer to info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.

(Part 3 of 5): Healing; Boundaries & Manipulation

…Continued from Part 2...

THE ROLE OF THE SUPPORT IN VICTIMS’ HEALING
The most profound gift a support person can offer a survivor or horror is listening without judgement. This is not the same as listening without boundaries, but I’ll get to that. Listening without judgement grants the victim a safe place to begin to put words to terror that is stored in deeply emotional context rather than coherent and organized story.

This means that story is going to be messy. You might hear things you later wish you could unhear. You might be shocked when the F-bomb slides off the tongue of a sweet little woman in a cape dress and bonnet. You might not know what to make of her anger. Or her admission that she sneaks liquor into the house to self-medicate so she can survive parenting and wifely duties. But you have one gift to offer: listen without judgement. The moment you judge, that door will close and she will lock up and not trust you. And she will be loathe to trust another.

Listening without judgement does not mean you listen to details you cannot cope with or stomach. If you are sensitive but want to offer care, simply outline early in the relationship what you are able or willing to offer. (In the next section I talk about boundaries and manipulation. This falls in the boundaries department). It can be beneficial to sit together at the beginning of the relationship and write out what is agreeable to you, what you can handle, and have it available to refer back. Keep that boundary firmly and gently.

Listening without judgement also doesn’t leave someone in a place of addictions. It means you offer compassion for the suffering that led him/her there, and don’t focus on it at the moment. When the time is right, and you have given them your heart and compassion, when you have spoken truth and purpose over them, you will have permission to speak into addictions and destructive behaviours. It won’t be about ‘fixing their sin’. It will be about caring too much to leave them stuck. It will be about empowering them to overcome, rather than condemning them.

In every phase, listen and care. And do so with healthy boundaries in place to protect their wellbeing and your own.

BOUNDARIES AND MANIPULATION
Abuse victims who are forced or feel forced to hide and bury their story learn to manipulate. To keep something of that magnitude under wraps, requires lying to oneself and masquerading as healed and together when really we are falling apart. Protecting oneself also requires managing people and relationships in ways that will prevent opportunity for hurt. To do this effectively, victims master manipulation. They have needs that they cannot openly address, so to get those needs met without being forthright and honest; they manipulate the world around them.

Exemplifying healthy boundaries in relationships with victims is not only important, it is critical and it is a gift. (It is also something I wish I had known before I started meeting with victims!)

One of the ways victims manipulate is through disregarding boundaries. They often do this in such a way that they play with emotions, and make the person whose boundaries they are violating feel guilty for keeping boundaries. For example, you may say to them that you are willing to meet for coffee once a week for 90 minutes, but they are not allowed to send you text messages about their trauma because it invades your life when you want to be present with and for your family. They may disregard this and text to say something like, “I’m in a really bad space right now, and I don’t have anyone else… ” Or, more extreme, “I might as well go kill myself. No one cares anyway.”

When victims send a message like, “I’m in a really bad space right now, and I don’t have anyone else”, they are really saying, “I’m not comfortable with myself in my pain and I’d really like you to be here with me.” Critical to healing is learning to sit quietly with our pain. It is easier said than done, and easier for some than others. It takes time, for most victims of trauma to get there, so be patient, but don’t cater to the demands. It will become a habit if you do, and you will find yourself sooner than later, unable to be present for them at all… unless you are codependent, and that’s just unhealthy. But that’s another topic for another day.

Immediately upon facing a severe trigger — especially when we aren’t aware we have been triggered — we don’t see it. Reaching out in a moment like that is likely neither conscious manipulation nor conscious violating of boundaries. It is reaction to trauma, and a desperate cry. And in that moment, reassuring the victim that you care and they will be ok, might be enough. Tell them you are not available in the moment, and encourage them to journal what they are feeling and send it via email in advance of your next meeting so you can discuss it when you get together.

Alternatively, with a newer or deeply traumatized client, I gave the option of sending a request to schedule another session between regular weekly sessions. The reality is if we don’t have boundaries, we will burn out. We will begin to resent the demands of the victim, and sooner or later we will be of no use to them, and likely needing therapy ourselves. With healthy boundaries, they grow stronger and learn to be comfortable with themselves and trust themselves again, and we don’t wear out.

When the message is “I might as well kill myself”, you have to make a tough call, and how well you know the individual plays into that. Most victims know that other humans will respond to such a cry, as well we should. Whether the cry is urgent or not, makes all the difference in the appropriate response. It is one I have never ignored, and never will. However, the way I respond will in itself help with healthy boundaries.

In the past, if the victim was a young teenager, I made arrangements to meet face to face, if possible, when such a cry came in. Families have called me to come sit with youth in that place at ‘all hours’ and I made exceptions. There is a fragility to youth and especially youth in pain. They do not have the experience we have, even by age 22 to 25, to draw from and know they will be ok. Their pain really is the end of their world, and they tend to be more impulsive. They are also (in my experience) more responsive to having purpose, hope and life spoken over them.  Once with them, I ask the typical questions, “Do you have a plan?” if yes, “What is the plan?… When?… Where? …. How?” etc. If there is no plan, we have a conversation to help ground them.

When such a message comes from a known manipulator, there is a time when the best gift to give is to call in and report a suicide threat. It’s not that the person isn’t genuinely tormented and wanting to die. That can be very legitimate in manipulation cases. The problem is when they draw others into it in such a way that it causes compassion fatigue (aka burnout). It’s a form of self-sabotage that in the end costs them more than one visit from police to ensure they are ok. I have done this, and in most cases – not certain if in all – I have told the person I am making that call. If it is a game, it will end. If it is a genuine cry for help and a suicide plan, they will be offered that help.

There is so much that could be said about boundaries and manipulation in victims, that a book couldn’t contain it all. For many it has been a necessary tool for survival, and learning to undo those patterns is the best gift we can give. In all things, we need to respond with compassion and care as well as firmness and boundaries. One without the other is not a gift.

How we establish those boundaries, and when we introduce the various steps in the healing process is a matter of relationship and knowing the victim. Introducing the ‘next step’ (not meaning a particular order) before the person is ready is not productive. If they say they are not ready, respect that. Their boundaries are important too.

And that brings me to the one hot topic that has been used, abused, neglected and confused…

Continued… (PART 4)

As always…

With love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2019

***

ANONYMOUS SEXUAL ABUSE SURVEY BY ANABAPTIST MEDICAL DOCTOR

Some time ago, a friend told me of a medical doctor (Anabaptist) who is doing research into sexual abuse in Anabaptist communities. To take his survey visit:
Anabaptist Medical Matters

***

JASON GRAY CONCERT:
NOVEMBER 2, 2019
Lancaster Bible College, Lancaster PA
7:00pm
CONCERT TICKETS NOW AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC: Here

NOTE: Due to the concert being the celebration for survivors of abuse,
we ask that any who have sexually abused as adults not attend out of respect

November 2, 2019:  THE GATHERING, held at Lancaster Bible College, is a place where survivors of sexual assault, together with our support person(s), collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse and trusted support persons to gather for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering and sexual violence among us. We will cry out to God, together. Come as you are in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. We welcome you! The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to grieve and heal another layer, together.

NOTE: Anyone over 18 who sexually assaulted someone – whether child or other adult – is not welcome. This does not mean they are not forgiven if they have repented. It means victims should not fear being confronted with the source of their trauma on such a vulnerable day. Security guards will be present to remove any who show up and are identified as offenders by the victims.

Until August 1, 2019, registration for the day’s events includes lunch and attendance to the evening concert with Jason Gray, whose music had brought hope and healing to countless victims. Songs like “The Wound is Where the Light Gets In“, “A Way to See in the Dark“, Sparrows“, “Nothing is Wasted“, and many more speak a language we understand.

NOTE: After August 1 concert is included dependant on availability. Once concert tickets are sold out, registrations will continue until October 1 and include lunch only.

***

If you are able to contribute to Generations Unleashed and our work with and for victims, you may donate via PayPal or e-transfer to info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.

 

The Crossroads… (Part 5: On hugging a cactus)

 

The question mark
Hung at the end of every fear
Is answered by
The promise that you are with me here
And that’s all I’ve got
When the lights go out and I lose my way
So I’ll close my eyes
I won’t be afraid, I won’t be afraid

As I reach for your hand in the night
When the shadows swallow the light
‘Cause I’m giving up, giving in
Once again a childlike faith
Is my only way
To see in the dark
~ Jason Gray ~

 ***

A year after we started Generations Unleashed, I was with two young women – sisters .- and supporting one of them facing traumatic memories. She was not a client then, nor did she ever become one, but I had been asked to meet with her. In her trauma, she curled up on the floor in a fetal position – a tiny little woman – writhing in agony. Heartbroken by what I saw, and with no training, I responded the only way my humanity knew to respond: I picked her up. That lasted only seconds but felt like an eternity, because immediately I felt it take something out of me and sensed God saying, “That’s not yours to give.” Not comfortable laying her back on the floor, I asked her sister to hold her, and she agreed. In hindsight, I don’t know if that was right or fair. I just know it was wrong for me to hold her. And I have never again gone there. About that time I also put my arm around weeping victims and let them cry on my shoulder whenever they wanted.

I have since developed much better practices and have watched people heal far more effectively, by getting to the root of the issue, rather than creating dependence on me. And I have looked my clients in the eye when they ‘craved’ that touch and promised them I will never violate their boundaries or their trust, or take such unnecessary risks. That extended physical touch should not come from the professional/ministry worker who is their mentor, coach or counsellor. It is my duty, first and foremost, to protect them and help them heal. I will not cross that line. It creates unhealthy bonds that eventually have to be broken, and is entirely unprofessional and unhealthy. It has led to affairs, struggle with lesbianism among young Mennonite women (when the person holding them was female), and is all around unfair to them.

This does not happen with LOP seminars that I am aware of, but D certainly did it ‘on the side’… It should cause both those who practice this and those who hear of it to at least pause and ask if it is healthy… When you hear of  men holding the vulnerable (sometimes curled up on their lap, faces placed cheek to cheek, and other times more discretely) to comfort them ‘like a daddy would’ or ‘like kind Heavenly daddy’, be aware. Not all who have done that have molested, but many who have been held have felt sexually and spiritually violated. Those being held are incredibly vulnerable, and women are by God’s design very sensitive to tender touch. It’s how we are wired. Do the math. They get sexually aroused being held (this has also happened with females holding females) and go on to deal with sexual shame and confusion all over again.

Women are predominantly stimulated by tender touch – based on my work with them – and are especially vulnerable when they are working through abuse. Some fear touch. Some crave it, but then find themselves deep in sexual feelings for their counsellor (or whoever offers that touch). Some hate it, feeling violated and resenting that feeling of being overpowered. And in every client with a trauma story, there is a power imbalance that makes it even more violating, regardless of the intent of the person touching them. Even when it never feels sexual for either party, damage can be done. For this reason I choose not to take that risk.

Some, like D, have held the hurting ‘like a daddy’ and then gone on to sexually violate the vulnerable individual. And, shamefully, somehow it gets misconstrued as her consent when she was groomed to be victimized. It is, in my opinion, not appropriate for a man to have young women curled up on his lap and call it ministry, but I do know some have done it with what they declare to be the best of intentions.

My advice in any case is, Don’t. Just don’t go there. Because when it gets to court, you will likely be guilty. Nor does it, in reality, typically – if ever – heal the victims. It often intercepts their connection with God and draws them to you and your bandwagon. Just don’t. I have spoken with numerous friends in ministry and urged them to end the practice, telling them that if it ends in court, and I am asked to be involved, I know which side of the court room I will fill. And it won’t be their side. I know the incredible damage this has done in many cases. It is a terrible violation of boundaries – which vulnerable people, especially abuse victims, usually lack – and completely inappropriate.

***

If we are going to make a dent in the abuses going on, it will require seeing fondling breasts, grabbing buttocks and groping crotches as the vile abuse that they are, and acknowledge the damage they do. It will mean no longer downplaying these things and then deciding the victim’s trauma after the fact is for show or selfishness. It is not only rape that devastates victims. Of all the damage I have seen, none is greater than the damage done by someone who is a ‘spiritual hero’ and then molests those who trust him/her, regardless what that violation is. This is spiritually destructive, and I don’t take that lightly.

Until this past week I kept telling myself that S must not know the truth. After working with him on a case recently, my trust grew shockingly strong, almost instantly. Not without reservation, but limited reservation. When I wrote him last week to make him aware of that bigger story, I discovered at the end of the day that he had taken what I told him right back to D. He insisted I am being lied to. I have assured him that I have been given copies of proof for everything I shared with him that day, except one item. (What I shared that day was different information than the sexual assault and lewd phone calls shared here. It had to do with finances). Regarding the sexual assault and phone calls, I have been given copies of messages validating the victim’s experiences, including some sent by D himself. The evidence is undeniable. Had he taken full ownership, and had there not been molestation of a young woman (I reiterate, she is not a minor), it would still be concerning and there should still be some form of ‘buddy system’ at events where he has blatantly prowled in the past.  In this case, had leadership listened to warnings from people close to them who cared deeply, intervention would most likely have prevented the assault. When there are signs of predator-like behaviour, intervention is in the best interest of potential victims, as well as the offender, who ends up carrying shame that could have been avoided.

I do not ask S to hold to my personal values, standards and principles, or to keep the promises we made – this isn’t about that. This is about keeping our promises and commitments to our calling: serving vulnerable people, and exposing those who violate them. The day I cannot do that and fear of facing the fallout and consequences for exposing is greater than my commitment to that calling, is the day I need to resign from ministry. So help me God if I continue without that commitment. This is my calling, and I embrace it. Not comfortably – much like hugging a cactus, really – but I embrace it nonetheless.

It has tormented me, knowing that D assaulted someone, and wondering if LOP leadership was aware, and then discovering they knew and were repeatedly warned about D before the assault, and again after, by people who love them deeply… It has tormented me that if I know and say nothing, and D keeps sponsoring victims, or grooming them, and eventually assaulting another, that I have allowed that through silence. Not to mention that if victims of sexual abuse discover he sexually assaulted a girl recently and I knew and said nothing, that I betray them…

I cannot live with that betrayal of their trust.

I can live with being hated. i can live with being verbally attacked. I can live with being called a drama queen or a nutcracker. I can live with many things. But I cannot live with knowing and being silent.

When I am in a place where I am ‘forced’ to choose between speaking out and being silent about abuse, for any reason (whether out of a sense of duty and loyalty to someone I consider a friend, or to protect family) I will choose to defend the vulnerable no matter what it costs me.

And it has cost me a lot…

But taking a strong position for the vulnerable wasn’t my idea, it was God’s example -and it is His command. It is the Jesus Way. It is the path I choose. Cactus plants and all.

***

Proverbs 31:8
“Open your mouth for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all who are destitute.”

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

A New Season; Barefoot, Dreaming & Necessary Changes

It is the middle of summer, or at least the middle of warm weather, if not summer exactly, here in Ontario and apart from the extreme dryness, it has been a beautiful summer! Roses are loaded with blooms! One bush I counted to 74 buds before concluding it has ‘a lot’, and the actual number doesn’t really matter. And the Limelight hydrangeas are about to bloom, as the delphiniums slowly die off from their first splash of colour.

Seasons are filled with wonder, and then they pass, each bringing in a new season with new wonder. And in each there are things we can long for or miss in another season, while fully embracing the one we’re in. At least I find myself doing that. I look at the evergreen, while sitting barefoot on my front porch sipping a glass of ice tea or some other summer love, and imagine it in winter with sparkling lights. But even as I imagine it, in that moment it is summer I am in love with the warmth.

Til winter rolls around, however, I’m happy to wear boots and a coat, with no desire to sit on my front porch, quenching summer’s thirst. And I certainly don’t sit there in bare feet.

Life experience isn’t that different. When changing of seasons is necessary, whether we like it or not, we are wise to adjust to the new season. And, figuratively speaking, I may have sat in the snow, barefoot, for a while already.

It has been six years now, since working closely with trauma victims, listening to broken stories, encouraging victims, trying to keep healthy boundaries in place–which can be easier said than done, for some. And they’ve been the best six years of my life, on so many levels. They have also been the hardest in other ways.

One of the things I encourage in clients is healthy boundaries, both in personal experience and in respecting the boundaries others set, which can be a difficult thing to learn when boundaries have been seriously violated, and we’ve been taught to give and sacrifice until we drop or burnout. But it’s critical  to take steps that are in the best interest of personal well-being and family before such a thing happens. In the past two weeks, after trying to make adjustments and find other ways to ‘make it work’, it quickly became evident that the changes I was trying to make would bring more stress than relief and my lessons on boundaries needed a close look and personal application. So, after seeking counsel from several individuals, including my doctor who is a rather amazing woman, I  knew it was time to take my own advice, and that of everyone I consulted. In the uncertainty of what is best right now, I saw these words, “Do the next right thing”  and  the words stuck. If I am to be healthy for my family, for university and to continue advocating for victims, I must do ‘the next right thing’. And that next right thing is to take a step back from working with trauma clients for the time being and focus on family, writing and then to University of Waterloo in September.

I have heard other individuals talk about needing to leave trauma support, due to secondary trauma, and am thankful that in this area God has given me resilience, rarely experiencing it. Admittedly, the area(s) I have struggled are in dealing with blatant manipulations, as well as when boundaries are ignored and violated, so that our world is invaded as a family and couple, or  when focusing on personal commitments. Manipulation can only be faced as it happens with clients, and boundaries set to bring about healthier habits. And fortunately there is much good information out there, about healthy boundaries, how to set them, and when to ‘draw a line in the sand’ if they are violated. And on this front I have been blessed beyond words, having had very few problems with boundaries being violated. For this I am most grateful, and thank God, so that I can look back at six years of client relationships and see predominantly positive relationships, and wouldn’t hesitate to return to one-on-one sessions, when school is less intense for having had the most amazing opportunities to walk with victims and see healing come.

So, while I am making changes, I’m not ‘going’ anywhere, and will continue to blog occasionally, and focus more on doing public speaking engagements as far as Generations Unleashed goes, though more one-off engagements in various environments to create awareness, versus church-focused conferences. And, God-willing, I will be able to follow through with travel plans for this summer, where I’ve made commitments. And though I am making myself available to several past clients, and welcome requests from other past clients, to meet from time to time, I will not currently be taking on new clients, or working in intense and high-trauma cases. And it is unlikely that I will consider taking on any full time clients during the first four months of University, starting this September, as I will have 5 courses and must maintain 75% average or higher in each one, to be accepted into the 16-month Master program in January.

These changes leave me with a summer calendar that has nothing but ‘family, friends, and writing’ booked besides travel. While this feels odd and a bit sad in a way, it also feels right and necessary, especially as I focus more on finishing several writing projects and prepare for school.

I am thankful for these six years, and the many people I’ve had the honour of knowing in places of pain and journeys of healing, and only time will tell if this is ‘the end of an era’ or whether God will lead me again to this. While I sense it is ‘an end’, I also try to hold these things in an open hand, and not control every step and outcome, so that God can open the door again in the future if He needs me.

And I imagine I will sit on my front porch at times, figuratively speaking, sandals on my feet, and sipping a summer drink, imagining lights on the tree, all covered in snow. And I will long for it. But I will rest in knowing that ‘doing the next right thing’ will take me where I am destined to be, to accomplish a purpose higher than my own.

Love,
~ T ~

 © Trudy Metzger

*****

NOTE: Due to so many of my clients finding me through my blog, or word of mouth, I an sharing these changes here. (Clients have already been notified, in person or via message, of any changes.)

(…) The Church’s Response to Abuse (Part 2)

Don’t come to Church!
There comes a time when an individual can be asked not to come to church. But it is not the right answer every time.

The identity of a teenager who offends, in many countries if not most, is protected. While there should be vigilance–always, always–public exposure is not usually an option, by law. The teen needs help and guidance and whatever ‘judgment the courts determine to be appropriate, but banning from church is not one of them. At least not most times, though there may be an exception.

The adult who has victimized people in church, people who must face their offender and be continually traumatized, is a different story. In my opinion, an offender ought to have enough remorse to choose to go somewhere else, to protect the child. It’s easy math. And every now and then they do.

But, as it stands, more victims leave churches than abusers, based on the people I deal with, because the ongoing trauma becomes overwhelming. They forgive, they try to move on, but Sunday morning, when they should be hearing the truth of the Gospel, they are confronted with the trauma of flashbacks to naked genitals or breasts, or some other sexual exploitation in the past. A wife goes home with her spouse after church, and struggles all week with intimacy because the flashbacks make her feel gross and disgusting. The husband how remembers being molested, goes home and withholds himself, and possibly turning to pornography, feeling completely inadequate. (Let me inject that, surely we can try to understand that this is not about a lack of forgiveness–as is often the accusation–but about post-trauma anxiety and flashbacks.)

Why would an adult who has molested someone choose to impose such a thing on a victim, Sunday after Sunday, robbing couples of intimacy and forcing them to relive the violation? Is it not reasonable, in such a situation, to encourage the offender to find a church family elsewhere?

Instead, it seems victims are the ones who eventually uproot and find some other church family, or simply stop attending, spiritually stripped, having endured accusations of being unforgiving or making things up. The lack of healthy care and understanding for victims, combined with religious demands to ‘forgive and forget’ has done it’s share of damage, and has in essence told victims to either ‘shape up or get out’, while offering little in the way of healing.

Get Out!

I spoke recently with yet another victim of a now-church-leader; the third that I am aware of, who eventually just left, while the offender went on to become a leader. The victimizations ranged from coercing a peer in early teens to reaching under skirts, yanking down panties to molest–something I recently discovered is/was a very common occurrence with hired ‘maids’ in some homes–and grabbing and groping… well into his twenties. And in every case the victims ended up paying the price, while the offender managed to fly under the radar, with nothing more than a mild slap on the wrist for ‘sexual immorality’. That should not be. And yet it happens repeatedly.

If an offender refuses to take ownership, and comply with the laws of the land and church-imposed boundaries, or if there is any indication they are causing ongoing trauma, it is not asking too much to tell them not to show up. There is no repentance in self-preservation and rebelling against those boundaries, and that person should be deemed unsafe in every way.

Feel Free to Attend, but with Supervision and Boundaries
In the case of the church I worked with in 2014, a team of people met with the intent of creating accountability. There was no agenda to cover up or protect the offender, but neither was there any agenda to destroy. In all my life I’ve never seen such a healthy approach as I saw in that meeting, and in the  months that ensued.

A recommendation was put up for discussion, to allow the offender to attend church, but to always have someone supervise. Every trip to the bathroom, every exit from the auditorium, every event, someone would be assigned to watch over the offender. There would be zero opportunity for offending again. There would be guidelines of not working with children, or being involved in any way that would compromise their safety. Had his presence made victims vulnerable, I might have felt differently, but as it was I thought it was brilliant.

The thought of being ‘babysat’ was offensive to the perpetrator, saying he felt the church was not proving forgiveness. As a result, and of his own free will, he chose to leave the church and find a new church family. If my memory is reliable, the pastor felt it his responsibility to contact leadership at the new church to inform them of the situation, not out of spite, but for the protection of the children there.

All in all, the situation was handled responsibly, and in the best interest of the victims and church family.

What About The Law?
The law was involved early on, in the case of the church I worked with; even before the church was made aware. So, for an example of law, I will share from a conversation I had with a police officer in the past month.

My conversation with the officer led me to believe that when it comes to religion, she is on the outside, looking in, and trying to make sense of it all, and she wondered at the driving force behind that behaviours of churches and Christians, as it pertains to obeying the laws of the land in regards to child abuse. I tried to explain–not justify–from my perspective, what I see; fear, pride, the belief that we Christians are subject only to God’s law and not the laws of the land, among other things. I’ve had the same conversation with 4 police officers since May, where they talk about the religious community covering up and not getting victims or offenders the help they need, and it leaves them shaking their heads. It should.

But what this last officer shared, didn’t stay there. After questioning, she mentioned how several years ago she had a case unlike any other. A pastor, she said, had walked in one morning, accompanied by an offender who had molested his daughter. Immediately after having done so, he went to his wife, and told her, packed his bags and left so his daughter would be safe. The pastor was drawn in, and that is where the man stayed until morning, when they stood in front of the officer saying they have a crime to report. The entire police staff was flabbergasted, she said. Not one had experienced such a thing before.

She told me how the man ended up doing jail time, getting counseling and was eventually reinstated in his home, but is not allowed to be with children unsupervised at any time. He is humbly compliant, and understands that this is to make 100% certain it never happens again. This situation, is the ideal, when it comes to handling abuse cases, she told me.

I wasn’t involved with that situation, and don’t know the people, but from where I stand looking on, I see redemption, while complying with the law and facing consequences. The church is aware of what he has done, and works to make it a safe place for children all around, while allowing him to be part of his family and the church.

A Tragedy Cannot be Undone, only Redeemed
There is no way to make a bad thing good. It can’t be done. There is only redemption of evil in the lives of God’s people, and in the working of society. What our enemy means for evil, God will use for good, but the wickedness can never be made good. We have to accept that, and call the wickedness what it is.

That said, we undermine the grace and mercy of God, when we refuse to extend the work of Jesus on the cross to all sinners… including those who molested a child, or children. There must always be forgiveness for them. While the practical working out of healing should be done with great wisdom and seeking God’s heart–and God always fights for the children and the vulnerable–to sentence offenders to hopeless judgment, doesn’t sit right in my spirit.

I’ve worshiped in prison with those who murdered someone. And I’ve hugged them if they wanted to be hugged. It makes zero difference to me, at the foot of the cross, what you have done; you are my brother and my sister. Besides, I remember that “but for the grace of God, there go I”. And I mean that. Coming out of the sexual confusion of my childhood, it is nothing short of the grace of God that kept me from growing up to be in prison with the murderers and pedophiles. When it comes praying ‘thank God I am not like the sinner beside me’, the words choke heavy in my throat and I cannot spit them out.

Instead, I thank God for His liberal grace and generous wisdom so that we might be forgiven, extend forgiveness, while still choosing to respond carefully in every situation. Bitterness and hate destroys lives, as does overlooking sin and neglecting to address and deal with abuse. Somewhere, in seeking the wisdom of God, there is a better way…

We were molested, many of us, and we inevitably hurt and grieve the loss of innocence. We need to be given space to do that, and to express that hurt without being judged. But, horrific as that moment was, or the thousand times over, none of us really want to stay stuck in that darkness. Advocating for other victims, fighting for the safety of children and creating awareness are some of the many ways to take back our freedom, our God-given voice, and to bring good out of evil, without empowering evil through bitterness.

Together we are a powerful force for good, for redemption and for hope, if we avoid the pit of bitterness, and a sense of being entitled to live in it and speak out of it. Our life purpose is not defined by what happened to us, but it can empower us for greater things. The choice is ours. Always.  And I, for one, want to care for the hearts of all, but I want only to partner with those who bring hope out of darkness…

Yes, together we are a powerful force for good, for redemption and for hope!

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

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

By The Light of The Moon: When Childhood Sexual Abuse & Violence Impact Marriage

Last night, as I crawled in bed after posting my blog to WordPress, I told Tim, “So I didn’t tell my readers that you kissed me the night you asked me to be your girlfriend.”

Rather than say, “Thank you!”, or “Good!”, he said, “Uhhh… What did you tell them?” It was dark, so I could not see his eyes, and any hesitance that might have been there, but I could hear it. He, on the other hand, couldn’t see the twinkle in mine. I gave him a quick overview. (He used to read all my blogs, but I’m writing too many, and he can’t keep up any more.)

Tonight, he asked what that first night was like, with his lips resting on my forehead. (The memories are more vague for him.) I had him stand up so I could show him. Afterwards, I asked him if I have his blessing and approval to continue telling our story this way, and he said, yes. With that, I will pick up where I left off….

After Tim asked me to be his girlfriend, we had at least one date night each week. We spoke on the phone most days, if not every day, and spent our Sundays together. We couldn’t get enough of each other. We loved quiet times. Reading together. And talking about everything from science, to church and religion, to personal faith. And pretty much anything in between.

Early on we talked about our boundaries, the ways we would protect our relationship from premarital sex. One of the things that made us most vulnerable is that, during most of our courtship, we spent a lot of time together ‘alone’, just the two of us.

Having left Howard and Alice’s home, where I lived for almost two years, we didn’t have a family in my life, to be part of our journey. It was up to us, and I didn’t want to make the same mistakes I had made in the past. We wanted to protect our courtship.

It was appropriate that, early in our relationship, we walked The Mill Race again, and sat down at the dam. It was a beautiful spring night. The moon was out. The stars twinkled in the sky. Tim sat on the retaining wall, dangling his legs over the edge. I sat on the wall, my knees pulled up, my skirt falling around me, as I leaned back against him. Always the tomboy, jeans would have been so much more suitable.

We discussed why we would wait until marriage to have sex. Why it mattered, to us. It wasn’t about rules and regulations. It had nothing to do with the potential of church discipline. And not even biblical guidelines, in and of themselves, though that was ultimately the driving force.

We talked about legacy that night. About what we wanted our children to have and know. How important it was, to us, for them to know they were the result of love, within the confines of marriage. That they would never wonder if they were wanted or loved, and even why their parents were married.

We made a commitment that night, before God, and for the sake of our children, to live a life of holiness, and abstinence until marriage.

By the light of the moon, we discussed our future children, and our dreams. Even baby names. We agreed that our first daughter would be Alicia, a name I had fallen in love with in Pennsylvania, when I met Alicia Mullet (Weaver). She was a young woman of great character, whom I admired, though she was a few years younger than I. Furthermore, Alicia is the French version of Alice, and I wanted to use the name of the amazing woman who had changed the course of my life.

Tim agreed immediately to the name Alicia, and added ‘Gayle’, after his mother. And so it was decided that our first daughter would be Alicia Gayle. If ever we struggled with the temptation to cross those boundaries sexually, we would remind each other of the legacy we wanted to give her.

On another night earlier on, at that same location, Tim and I had talked until 5:00 in the morning. We started off outside, but as the night grew cold, we moved into his car, intending to leave but caught in conversation. That night I told him my story, starting in early childhood, the best that I knew how to tell it. Between my telling, and him asking questions, that took up most of the night. He told me his story as well, which took maybe thirty minutes, at the most.

As I invested my heart more deeply, fear and panic began to torment me. Unlike the previous relationship, where my then boyfriend would go back to Pennsylvania and I wouldn’t see him for several weeks, Tim stayed. It was a constant and growing relationship, and that terrified me.

What if this was ‘it’, ‘the one’… Somehow I knew he was, and with ‘the knowing’, panic of giving myself to a man tormented me. The conflicting emotion of feeling this new depth of love, in contrast with that terror, drove me to near madness.

Off and on, for several months, when Tim left to go home I sat in my little blue Z24, jamming Michael W. Smith, David Meece, and Stephen Curtis Chapman, as loudly as possible. The volume was to drown out my screaming, as I released the stress of whatever was happening inside of me. As I screamed, and cried, literally at the top of my lungs, I pounded the steering wheel, careful not to hit the horn. I didn’t need neighbours to come and check on me. I was afraid I’d be committed into a psyche ward, when in reality, I just needed to release the trauma of the past.

I always say that the evil that ‘goes in’, or is imposed on us, must come out. And the inevitable trauma resulting from that evil also must come out. Those nights screaming did more good for me than any counselling ever did. This is not to say that counselling is not good–it also helped me–but I needed to release years of agony that had remained trapped, agony that sparked this terror of relationship.

I didn’t tell Tim that this was happening. I had no idea how to tell him. And, honestly, I didn’t fully understand what caused it. I just knew that I felt ‘hell’ inside of me, and that this hell had to come out. This ‘routine’ was the only way I knew to release it.

And so went the rise and fall of being in love with a man I wanted to be able to give my heart to. He was kind and gentle, and I didn’t doubt that, when the time was right, and if he asked, that I would say, ‘Yes’. But the process was an endurance test.

The one fear, that I could identify easily, was that he would eventually see how broken I really was, and leave me. If that was going to happen, I wanted it to happen sooner than later. That decision made, I decided to help him end it, and in the process, end my torment…

© Trudy Metzger

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

Nobody’s Doormat

I have been pondering ‘authority’ in relationships and the need to set healthy boundaries. Specifically when the person with whom we need to establish those boundaries is someone who has authority over us, or is in a co-leadership position with us. It is a sensitive thing at the best of times, and more so when someone in authority over us violates us and boundaries need defining.

We all have the ‘right’ to be respected. It is not just a human rights issue—it is a right that God has given us. He made us in His image, to reflect His heart and His likeness. Each of us, in our individuality, is made to uniquely represent Him, here on earth. This is true whether we are Christians or not.  The effectiveness and impact of that, whether we allow that God-likeness to flow through us or not, is to an extent dependent on our faith in Him, but regardless of our beliefs, God’s likeness is in us.

When we function under leadership and authority, whether that person is a boss, a father or mother, a husband or any other leader, we should expect to be treated with dignity and respect. When that doesn’t happen, we have a choice; we choose silence and allow victimization—usually ending up feeling sorry for ourselves, or we confront (hopefully gently so that we are heard), or sometimes we may need to first reach out for help. We may not initially have the strength to confront, or, alternatively, we may come off too strong because of personal defences.

Years ago, as a young woman working as a secretary, someone in leadership asked me to do something illegal—I was to ‘fudge the books’ to make things look differently than they really are.  I was the person that signed off on documents for the government reports and to do so would have not only risked the company being slapped with a huge fine, but I would have been responsible.  In submitting documentation I always signed the typical ‘I confirm that the information contained in the report is true…’ and to sign that, knowing I was intentionally doctoring reports, was not something I could do.

However, because it was a leader who asked me to do this, I was in a conundrum. Should I defy my leader and not say anything? Should I do what I was asked? Should I confront?

Me, being me, I opted for confrontation. It’s not that I like confrontation, but silence, either way, would have made me feel victimized and I don’t tend towards accepting that role.

I walked into my boss’s office, defences high, and asked him to explain exactly what it is he wants me to do. Again, he outlined the exact steps I was to take in reporting.

“But that’s illegal,” I said.

He mumbled something that didn’t support me doing the right thing and, without a further thought, I leaned over his desk, handed him the reports and told him, quite boldly, “It’s illegal, and if you want it done that way, you will have to go do it yourself!”

Stunned, he looked at me without a word. After the pause, he told me to go do the right thing.

Back at my desk, my heart was still beating like a drum in my chest. Had I really just done that? My head was spinning. I was proud of myself for taking a stand but felt bad… almost sick, over how I had done it. And yet, it had been the truth.

Maximizing Impact

My boss’s son, having heard the exchange, walked over to my desk. A quiet gentleman, only a few years older than me, he spoke with great wisdom a lesson I have taken with me for life, “Trudy, what you have to say is often bang on. If you would learn to say it differently, it would be easier to receive and would have more impact.”

I don’t remember if those were his exact words, but they were pretty close. That advice has changed the way I address leadership. The Bible says in 1 Timothy 5:1 Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren..”

In my pursuit of healthy boundaries I made some pretty big mistakes. And that’s okay. I was learning a new and better way. It is better to make mistakes on the journey, than to choose apathetic disinterest in growth. It is in making mistakes that we learn to do it right.

The next time my boss asked me to do something sketchy, I calmly rose from my chair at my desk, looked him in the eye, ushered him to sit down and calmly said, “If you want that done, you will need to do it yourself. I find it offensive.”

Again my boss looked surprised, but this time was different. With a new respect he said not to worry about doing it. He never again put me in that kind of a position.

When it comes to family, especially a father, mother or spouse, the familiarity can cause us instinctively to do one of two things. It can make us defensive, angry and disrespectful, or cause us to completely withdraw in fear or anxiety.  Like their wives, this can be a very real part of a husband’s journey. If we overcome these tendencies and learn to calmly speak the truth—that we have value and are not willing to be a doormat—we will have much more impact.

Recently, watching a video series on working through various issues, the one example jumped out at me, illustrating how to do this well. The speaker guided her audience on a gentle approach to establishing a strong boundary. In her example she was addressing a father, and the words were something to this effect: “Dad, I have worth. God sees value in me. I am His daughter and He treats me with respect. You need to treat me with respect and talk to me with respect. Until you can do that, I am not willing to subject myself to abuse.”

Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.” More is said in the tone of voice than in the words we speak. The truth, when spoken with calmness, has authority. The same truth, when spoken in loud or angry tone, loses impact.

The key to ending the doormat lifestyle is to first see that we have worth and value, and then to live a life that commands respect, in word and in deed.

© Trudy Metzger 2012