(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.

 

(Part 2 of 5): Healing: Acknowledgement, Lies & Truth

….Continued from Part 1

There is no formula to healing for sex abuse survivors, but there are certain things, in no particular order, that bring deep healing. The following are some of those steps far from exhausting the list.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
What is not acknowledged, cannot be healed. It can be suppressed. It can be buried. It can be downplayed and ignored. But it cannot be healed. And it will surface, one way or another.

Many female victims talk about misplaced rage and anger. Others talk about being shut down and feeling nothing at all. Yet others talk about resenting their husband’s touch, or feeling disdain for all males – if abused by males — including their own sons, husband and other male friends. Others talk about a constant desire for male attention that is not theirs to have. (Referring to married women struggling with the need to seek the attention of other men; often the husbands of close friends). Many talk about obsession with body image. And sometimes the fear that they will do to children what was doen to them. Those are some of the ways buried abuse resurfaces in females.

My experience with male victims is more limited, but I have seen a few patterns. Among them are men shutting down after being sexually abused. Disdain for sexual intimacy with spouse, if the abuser was female, and disgusted by female anatomy. Desire for sex with other males, if the abuser was male…. or deep disdain for their own sexuality, because their own anatomy is like the weapon used against them. Escaping life through addictions, whether porn, alcohol, drugs… or work. Fear they too will molest someone one day.

Many of the patterns that are there in lives of victims who are in denial, are also there in those who acknowledge the abuse. The difference is that what is acknowledged can be worked through and healed. Once healed, there is a whole new level of peace, and when those same struggles come up, there are strategies for handling them in a healthy way. In contrast, what is buried will continue to negatively impact the individual and those around, with no hope of healing or change.

Acknowledgement alone is not enough. While it is the first step, therefore a critical one, to stay there with no further hard work does not offer hope. It opens the door to finding hope, but it only admits darkness exists, and darkness can never produce light.

UNRAVELING THE LIES & REPLACING THEM WITH TRUTH
I’ve heard it said that the only real power Satan has is ‘the lie’. I’ve pondered often on this, and am more and more inclined to believe it. In every circumstance of my life, spiritually, it has not been the circumstance that caused the deepest mind and soul struggle; it has been the lies. But there is a practical this-world-reality of humanity and the physical mind and body that must be considered or we will destroy victims’ faith yet further.

We must separate the traumatic aftermath of violence, assault and terrifying experience from how we deal with those lies. That human element of struggle – ie; flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety – are not based on lies. They are reality. (Often unacknowledged and/or unresolved reality, but reality nonetheless). Many people in ministry demonize these human responses to terror, and that, in itself, is spiritual abuse. It imposes on the victim the sense of being in the devil’s grip when in fact they are responding as the human brain and body are wired to respond. God created our minds and body to live in a Garden without pain, suffering or sorrow. This thing we were hurled into, we are not designed for.

With gentle healing, these things generally resolve themselves. No hypnotherapy. No manipulation. No casting out demons. Just patiently living the love of Jesus in their world. I make this claim based on my work with survivors these past 9+ years. This is not scientific research, or any other research, for that matter. There have been two exceptions with victims I worked with, who did not find deep and ongoing relief from the triggers, nightmares and flashbacks just from having someone listen, care and speak life. And most of the rest did not take years to get there. On average, I worked with clients for 3 to 6 months, after which most were equipped to handle the aftermath both spiritually and practically.

Having clarified that, I will address the lies. In every traumatic event, there is a lie…. or many. And there is usually truth entangled with it. For example, when a person is raped several things happen. Their safety is taken in an instant. But not safety only in the broad sense. It is their very body, which they must take everywhere they go, making the victims feel helpless.

Already there is a lie, and there is truth.The truth is, they were indeed robbed of safety. No one can argue that. Rape is not safe. The body is attacked physically, spiritually and psychologically. There is nothing safe about it. The person might carry aids or some other STD. Not safe at all. It could, in fact, cost the victims health or life. We must acknowledge that truth with the victims. Downplaying these harsh realities or minimizing them escalates trauma. A simple, “I am so sorry” is all it takes to acknowledge the suffering.

The lie is “I am helpless”. While safety has been robbed, the individual is not helpless. We feel helpless, and once upon a time I thought I was. (Imagine that!) It felt so real that I genuinely believed I as destined to a life of emptiness, worthlessness and that I had no purpose. I cried out to God in that place over and over, “Please don’t let what I went through be in vain. I can live with it if it has purpose. But I can’t live with it if that’s all there is.” I would tell Him I’m willing to go where He sends me, and do what He tells me. The only thing I couldn’t accept is purposeless suffering.

Little did I know then that God would answer that cry be asking me to do what goes against everything in my desire to be loved and it accepted by people. Had I known the cost then, I’d have been too afraid to pray half the things I prayed. I’m thankful I had no idea.

Another lie is, “this is all you are worth.” I’ve only encountered a few victims who did not struggle with this lie. Rape and other sexual assault communicate to the victim that they are not worthy of love; they are only worthy of being used and assaulted. They take on themselves the identify of the vile abuse – not even that of the abuser, usually – and live out of that. The truth is the offender chose you because of his/her own wickedness and depravity, not because there is anything wrong with you. It has nothing to do with your worth, and everything to do with their opportunistic depraved selves. You are beautiful, precious, beloved… made in the image of God. You are worthy. You have so much more to give. You are valued and cherished by God, and deserve that same gift from your fellow humans.

Sometimes offenders focus on making the victim’s body respond to his/her assaults. The power to force the victim’s body to respond via orgasm and stimulation is its own thrill. This leaves victims tormented on so many levels! Unlike rape at gunpoint, the victim is terrorized by his/her own response rather than a gun. There is guilt and shame. If I truly hated it, why did my body like it? If I didn’t want it, why did I orgasm? There is betrayal. It is as if the victim’s body has conspired against the victim to partner with the offender in the attack. If safety is robbed in every sexual assault, there is no case where such safety is more stolen than when the victim’s body takes the side of the offender.  The truth is the offender weaponized sexuality. Your body responded precisely as it was designed to respond to sexual touch, and the offender took advantage of that. It is not your fault. God created you to be loved intimately by your marriage partner, in safety. The offender stole that from you, and violated you.

The list of lies goes on, and on, and on. While I stopped taking clients in 2016, and no longer do 1:1 sessions while studying — and don’t know if I will ever again — when I did, looking at the lies was a key part of the healing process. I asked clients to write out what they believe about themselves, about others, and about God. Having done so, we picked out the lies, unraveled them, and replaced them with truth.

It wasn’t a formula. And it can’t be made into one. It is about listening at a gut/heart level, listening to the victim’s needs, and speaking truth into the lies. It is about showing victims how to do that in the day-to-day, and finding a new and healing mantra to replace the lies that attack our soul and being.  Every victim’s story is unique. So walking in with some agenda or preconceived notion of what it will look like – or should look like – is arrogant, at best. Abusive, at worst.

Every victim needs someone to listen without judgement…

Continued… (PART 3)

 

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 1 of 5): Should abuse victims sue? And what about healing & forgiveness?

SHOULD VICTIMS SUE?
My previous blog “Why Anabaptist Sexual Abuse Awareness (ASAA) Founder Hopes Conservative Anabaptist Church Gets Sued…” left some questions unanswered, I’ve learned. In it I addressed a conversation with ASAA founder, Randal Martin, and his wife, and him saying he hopes the conservative Anabaptist church gets sued, as he believes it is the only way they will take the ongoing problem of sexual abuse seriously. What was unclear in my blog, and left people with questions is my position. Where do I stand on victims suing abusers?

I’ve worked with survivors for nearly a decade. None have ever, to my memory, expressed interest in launching a lawsuit. And I have never suggested such a thing. But I do tend to agree with Randal’s statement, and am concerned the issue will never be taken seriously by some churches and communities until such a thing happens. Will it then? Possibly. Or will they revert to the cry of, “We’re being persecuted for righteousness sake.” The latter is more likely, but, Sunday after Sunday they will think about victims when they pass the offering plate to cover the lawsuits, I imagine. They won’t think kindly of them, or compassionately… but they will part with their hard earned dollar and remember…

I’m also fairly certain if the problem of sexual abuse hits the wallets they will have a vested interest in functioning differently, going forward. So, while the heart wouldn’t necessarily change, the methods might, and children be more protected. I mean, how often can you afford a massive lawsuit? A recent case against the Jesuits, whose missionary Mr. Perlitz abused around 150 victims in Haiti, cost them a whopping $60 million. The similarities to the current Jeriah Mast case are uncanny. I’m suspicious the Jesuits will be screening their missionaries better, going forward. And that, I would expect, will happen with our culture too, when a massive lawsuit hits. It seems that might be a positive outcome, regardless of anyone’s personal opinions about suing.

While suing has never come up with my clients, if one were to express interest in launching a lawsuit, I would definitely not interfere or try to talk them out of it. And I would continue to support them as I did before. They’ve been robbed of their voice and thrust into deep struggle against their will. Finding their way back out is messy.  And whether they sue or not in that process is none of my business. I trust God will allow what needs to be done to bring accountability to the church, and bring the people of God to their knees in true repentance. And that may well include this kind of thing, given other cries have been long disregarded by religious communities.

That said, what I would tell any client is that the lawsuit will not bring you peace. It can’t. It might provide the funds to afford the help you need, but it won’t heal you. It might make it possible for you to relocate to a new start. But it won’t remove the hell you must walk through. That hell will follow you. It may distract for a while, but sooner or later you will have to face the truth and walk through the healing process. Much like grief, it comes in stages and phases.

There will be anger, for most. There will be tears and sorrow over the loss. There is, most often, phases of denial. There is despair. There’s the overwhelming sense of lost identity.

Money doesn’t address any one of those things. It can’t. But that doesn’t mean God won’t allow – even orchestrate – a series of events to shake up His people through lawsuits. He’s been known to do things like that and use uncomfortable means and methods to call His children back to truth and what really matters. And right now money and power matter too much. Don’t be surprised if God strips those idols.

So I let those things play out as they do, knowing God has a higher purpose, and in all things He pursues all hearts. That is who He is, it is what He does..

HOW THEN DO WE HEAL?
Every victim has his/her own journey to walk toward healing. I’ve not met two people whose stories were identical. None that could be turned into a calculated formula to apply to every individual. There are steps and layers. And how they bringing healing, or what order, is dependent on so many things, such as temperament, the nature of the crimes committed against the victim, and by whom.

Sometimes it is non-victims who offer more compassion and understanding than other victims. It is easy for victims to get down on each other for how the other is not healing their way. I see comments and statements by victims directed at other victims that are not helpful. And when I ask the nature of their stories, the one may have been a rape victim at the hands of a father, pastor or brother, the other had someone pull down their panties and looked at them.. sometimes touched. Or, they may not have suffered sexual abuse at all, but suffered emotional abuse, and somehow feel all healing should follow the path that worked for them. And, sometimes, once victims are healed, they forget their own struggle and have no grace for others to walk the journey they themselves walked.

It isn’t realistic to expect victims to arrive overnight where we took 20 years. Not even if we impart our wisdom. Is it possible they can avoid 20 years of agonizing struggle with healthy support and guidance? Yes, by all means! This doesn’t mean they will never struggle or have tough moments even after healing, but there is a far cry between living in that dark pit and slipping over the edge at moments, or being triggered. But, no matter what, they still deserve space to walk the messy process of healing.

While there is not a formula, there are certain steps that must be part of that process, for deep healing to be achieved. …

Continued… (PART 2)

 

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.

 

A Survivor’s View on Trauma Triggers

This blog is the voice of a survivor sharing what triggers are like, based on her experience, and how the public can show sensitivity. It is my hope that this will help those who really care for victims but have no understanding on how to be sensitive to the things that trigger them when they are learning to speak out.

***

FROM THE AUTHOR:
My prayer is that (this blog post) will help bring light to the often volatile conversations, where people cannot seem to fathom why they get such strong responses to certain seemingly innocent questions.

I left the way I had been raised in the Old Order Amish church, at 21 years old. I am a survivor of physical, emotional, spiritual, and sexual abuse. God has faithfully taken me on a 13 year long journey of healing through counseling, inner healing ministry, & personal revelation. It will be a lifelong, ongoing process, but I rejoice in it and in the overwhelming goodness of God to me through it all.

I am at the point in my journey where I am becoming more and more aware of what my triggers are and how to process them in a powerful way. So from that personal experience I want to try to address and possibly bring clarity to the readers, whether they are survivors or not.

Trudy’s platform has thousands of abuse survivors from Anabaptist communities. From what I understand that is who her platform is for. Among the abuse survivors are others: some have not experienced abuse, but they are here with true empathy and support, some are here out of curiosity, (who is this “Jezebel!? Ha!) some are here to challenge what she’s doing, (honest hecklers!) some are here to troll, and some are here who haven’t yet come to grips that they were abused and possibly don’t want to come to grips with it. And some are abusers.

It’s the non-survivor group that I want to address first. If you are just learning what abuse is, there’s a good chance that you are not familiar with all the terms that you see being mentioned. Gas lighting, triangulation, triggers, just to name a few. I’m going to do my best to explain triggers to you.

I’m going to use a hypothetical situation to illustrate. Let’s say that you had the traumatic experience of being held hostage at gunpoint. Possibly you were even shot, but by a miracle of God you escaped with your life. Now your physical scars are mostly healed, but you are left having flashbacks, nightmares, ptsd… You are trying to pick up the pieces, heal and put your life back together.

One day you stop by to visit a friend who by mere coincidence is cleaning his gun while you’re there. You tense up, anxiety rises, but you battle it back. You remind yourself that the gun is not loaded and this is your friend who would never hurt you. You maintain composure but you are on edge. Suddenly he picks up the unloaded gun, points it straight at you and says he wants to test the sights.

Now even though you know in your head that the gun is not loaded and that your friend means no harm, you react as if you were fighting for your life. Raw terror. Because in that moment, the traumatic memory took over and you were right back in that moment when you were shot. You can’t help it, you are triggered. He is shocked by your reaction at his innocent (although very stupid in real life!) gesture. Why would you react this way when you know he would never shoot you?

This is what happens with abuse survivors. I see the scenario played out in the comments on Trudy’s posts. I will use a quick real life example from the other day on a post about the horrendous abuse that has been done in the name of spanking. A gentleman dropped the misinterpreted and abused Proverbs 23 verse in the comments and responses exploded. He could not understand why he got the angry responses he got.

For survivors who were abused by people who used this verse to justify it, (spiritual abuse) this verse is a gun being pointed at them and they will respond accordingly. Especially for those who have just become brave enough to use their voices for the first time. Immediately they go back to being a powerless, helpless, little child who had no voice. Now they have a voice, so don’t be surprised when it screams back at you in pain and furious rebuttal! You have unwittingly stepped into the role of their abuser.

If you are among the ones who can’t understand why you get the responses that you do at times, here’s a few suggestions: On social media, it’s crucial to remember what kind of platform you are on. (Yes, it’s a free world. It seems it’s a free for all melee, because everyone thinks it’s THEIR free world.) For instance, Trudy’s platform is for giving Anabaptist abuse survivors a voice. So her first priority is to keep that a safe place for those voices. So when you are on her platform, respond with that in mind. If you do respond, please be as articulate and concise as possible. Don’t be in hurry to respond to hot topics. A well thought out response goes so much further than a hurried, heated reply.

Remember that you are on a platform where people have suffered horrific abuse from perpetrators using scripture to justify the abuse. So using scripture to prove a point might not go over well. In my own personal journey, there was a time when I simply could not read certain scriptures without being triggered. I have loved Jesus and followed him all these years. It took years of healing before I was able to read certain scriptures for what they really are, rather than reading them in the way that was used to oppress me. When scripture has been used as a whip instead of as keys to freedom, you will flinch automatically when the “whip” is raised.

When you use scripture are you using it to bring about healing and encouragement or are you using it to manipulate and coerce? Those are questions everyone should ask themselves before commenting.

All survivors are on varying degrees of healing in their journeys. There are varying levels of abuse for each one. What will trigger one, won’t trigger another one. Some will trigger harder and more quickly than others. Some will trigger even when you have “done everything right” and you had zero intent to harm. Communication on social media is a challenge in the best of scenarios and when you have a lot of hurting people crying out in pain, it will be even more challenging if not impossible at times. Everyone’s pain is too loud to be able to hear what others are saying even when they are saying the exact same thing. Keep this in mind when you engage on social media and refuse to take offense when you are taken the wrong way.

I pray this helps to increase your understanding a little bit as to what triggers are and how they work. Thank you for reading to this point.

Now, to address my fellow survivors. First off, I commend you. I cannot put into words how much in awe I am of the strength and resilience I see in all of you. You have begun an incredible journey of healing. I know it took GUTS and GRIT to open your mouth and say: Me too, that happened to me too and it was not ok.

Your voice matters. Because every time someone gets brave enough to speak up, it encourages someone else to do the same. Keep speaking up. It’s been a most powerful thing to me to realize how much I am NOT ALONE! Yet heart breaking as well, because there are SO MANY of us. Lord, my heart breaks at the thousands upon thousands of stories coming out of our culture that are like mine and even many times more horrific.

But I want you to know something: when works of darkness are being exposed, it’s because God’s light is shining brighter. Make no mistake, He is uprooting the evil and making way for great healing, redemption, and restoration! It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the darkness, keep your eyes on the Light, dear brave ones, watch what He’s doing and join in with that. He is our pillar of fire by night and great cloud by day. We will follow Him to the Promised Land. What is The Promised Land for us? Freedom from slavery for us and for our future generations!

The desert to cross to get there will not be easy. It will be messy, challenging, overwhelming. But so worth it! You will see God part the seas, rain life giving manna from heaven, and shatter your Jerichos. Never give up on pursuing healing and freedom!

With so much love,

Ann Lehman

***

For my trauma course in fall 2016, I had to do a short PSA on some aspect of Trauma… something we want the world to understand. I discovered quickly that when it came to ‘explaining’ the impact of trauma – the nightmares, flashbacks and fears – there were no eloquent sentences available. I had only: Words, Thoughts, Feelings, Scenes, Sensations.

The following is the presentation I shared with my class.

Together, I pray, we can continue (or begin) to move toward a better understanding of what trauma survivors contend with. Sometimes daily. Sometimes rarely. We are all different. All on a journey. And all at different stages in the journey. Sometimes we loop back and have to regain ground.

For non-survivors to seek to understand is helpful. And the ‘more healed’ survivors to remember when they were in that place of trauma and triggers is crucial. Recently a survivor said to me, “The healed survivors can be the most cruel”. At first I agreed, and I still get the point that was being made. But in hindsight I had to ask, “‘then are they truly as healed as they say they are?” ….or are they possibly avoiding rather than healing.

In any case, we need a better understanding of trauma, collectively, if we are going to be effective at all in helping survivors and stopping the epidemic.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

***  See below: early ‘concert only’ registration for abuse survivors Nov. 2, 2019. ***

NOTE OF THANKS FROM RAPE VICTIM:
After discovering that there are enough funds to cover approximately 17 sessions of counselling, the young woman who was assaulted at age 7 wrote amid tears of appreciation

When I gave you permission to share my journal entries, I never ever expected such kindness, understanding, and love from complete strangers. And certainly not monetary help for counseling. A simple “Thank you” doesn’t cut it. I believe it is, in part, an answer to my desperate prayer to be whole. I wish I could thank each person who contributed in person, but since I can’t, I will do what I can: I promise to pass it along to some other survivor some day.”

It has been encouraging to see ‘the church’ enter into her story and care for her well-being in word, prayer, and helping with costs. Thank you for contributing. Every bit helps, as this is will require ongoing support. If you wish to contribute, you may do so through the following link: Support for Rape Survivor.

Thank you! God bless you all!

***

ONLY 1 MORE WEEKS TO REGISTER WITH LUNCH AND CONCERT INCLUDED!
(ENDS AUGUST 1, 2019)
THE GATHERING, NOVEMBER 2, 2019, LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:
One of the things we are working toward November 2, 2019, at  THE GATHERING, is creating a place where we collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse, and their trusted support persons to join together for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering. We will cry out to God, together. The invitation is to ‘come as you are’ in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to 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.

(More information for potential attendees is available under THE GATHERINGRegistration and for non-attendees at THE GATHERING Information.)

EARLY CONCERT REGISTRATION FOR ALL SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL ABUSE:
If you are a sex abuse survivor – Anabaptist or not – and are not a sex offender, who wishes to attend the ‘concert only’ portion of The Gathering, we will allow for early registration before tickets are released to the public, August 1, 2019. For link to register for the concert only, email AslanHasHeard@gmail.com. Subject line: “Concert link for survivors”.

***

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.

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

Response from Emanuel Lapp, a non-victim Anabaptist Male to CAM & Jeriah Mast Crimes

A deeply moving email landed in my inbox addressing the CAM and Jeriah Mast abuse case. Tears flowed as I read his message. As someone who had no experience with abuse – neither as victim nor as offender, and whose idyllic childhood left him with no understanding of it, he put into words something I, as a female, had never thought of or heard from anyone. He put to words the shame that he as a man feels after hearing of Jeriah’s crimes.

I don’t know if that response is common, but it made me realize again how victimizing children violates so many, even beyond those who are sexually abused. Certainly not int the same way, and the assault victims are and always should be prioritized, but the ripple effect creates trauma and suffering that extends far beyond the initial crime. I’ve been told that for this reason the crimes should not be publicized. I would propose that it is the reason we must speak out and make the crimes known so that accepting as ‘moral failure’ and a ‘slip during a weak moment’ is no longer acceptable. (And the Old Testament, which documents slaughterings of humans and sexual assaults, would give testimony to the need to speak out).

Thank you to Emanuel Lapp, the author of the following letter. And special thanks for permission to post the letter. I do not know him, or what group he is affiliated with, but appreciate the care and compassion shown in the letter.

***

Dear Trudy,

I suppose i’m sending this to an open forum, so if I am, then hello to all of you. I don’t know much about blogs, or whatever this is, not because it looks hard to learn, but because I’ve had so little time to invest in one more thing to take up more off the extra time that I don’t have. But I do at times use the computer at the local library, which is where I stopped in to get a news update on the Mast/Haiti/CAM situation.

I was aware that I had unanswered questions about homosexuality in the back of my m ind, but first, a disclaimer and then a little background about myself. In the following paragraphs, I use the umbrella term of “Anabaptists” loosely and do not wish to imply that “Anabaptists” of today would be accepted by original Anabaptists. They were recognized for their exemplary lives and for their firm stands against sin in the church. Now for my background in short form:

I was born at home, in a farmhouse on a peaceful dairy and crop farm in Lancaster County PA. Being Amish, I, as well as my ten siblings, were taught good work ethics and high morals from little up. Growing up, I knew nothing of immorality among our people, and would have been devastated had I found out. Mine was indeed an idyllic life and a protected childhood. I was never abused as a child, neither sexually nor otherwise, and have never been a perpetrator.

However, I was exposed to sexual sin at the young age of 10 or 11 when I overheard a 13 year old boy being a self-appointed teacher on human sexuality to a small group of his peers in a corner of the school playground, explaining it all, including masturbation, in graphic detail, only without exposing himself.

About a year later, as I was working a field in preparation for planting, I came upon a pornographic magazine lying in the roadside ditch. For years afterward I vacillated, never quite sure masturbation was wrong, but feeling dirty afterward.

As a teenager, I loved music. Gospel music. Then Country and Bluegrass. Then Rock & Roll. Then heavy metal Rock & Roll, and by that time, give over to the Rock & Roll rebellion of the 70’s, I indulged in drinking, dancing, and pot.

But perhaps because of the strict training of my Mom, or the warnings from Dad, coupled with their prayers, my first experience of having sex was at age 21 with my 19 years old bride. Now my wife of 37 years, going on 38, she is the only one I’ve ever had in that way. Which is a wonder that I ascribe to God and to praying parents, for during my “wild years” I had various girlfriends and many dates.

That is a little briefing on my background, now for the unanswered questions in the back of my mind.

One; How can men have sex with men?
Two; Or little boys?!?! Impossible! my mind screamed.
How could I not know? It’s 2019. I’ll be 59 years old this month.

The answer is that I have studiously avoided finding out. I’ve known sin.
I know natural temptation. And I knew how defiling sin can be to the mind. So I avoided perversion life the plague that it is. When the Scripture tells us “there hath no temptation taken you but that which is common to man,” it is referring to natural sin, not the perversions of Romans Chapter One. Those are in a class by themselves.

So then, the first reader response that I read to your blog was the one from Jay Voder. It was disturbing. Thank you for your level-headed response.

The next letter was the one from […] the experience of a victimized 12 year old boy. And I read….oral sex….anal sex…the pain of sitting in school the next day….I cried. And then I was filled with shame. “Anabaptist” shame, for though I’m no longer Amish, I’m still “Anabaptist” at heart and part of a church so identified. Masculine shame, almost ashamed to be a man. I don’t know that the above incident was “Anabaptist” nor do I know how far Jeriah fell, that is now up to the courts to discover, but to think that men can, and do, fall that low brings shame upon my gender. And no matter how far Jeriah fell or didn’t fall, we do know that little boys were defiled.

I had known of the Catholic scandal about their priests, knew it involved little boys, found the thought disgusting and shoved it aside. But now….it hits close to home and cannot be shoved aside.

Nor should it.

Then I got angry.

And discouraged.

And then sorry. For little boys. Especially in comparison to my idyllic childhood. Unprotected little boys. Exploited little boys. Defiled little boys.

And then I searched the news.
Sex abuse perpetrated here by a school teacher.
There by a coach.
Over here by a Pastor.
Over there by a Priest.
I read back over your response Jay.
And got mad.
Again.

And got over it. Maybe you’re just naive. I hope so. I hope Jeriah didn’t go as far as some do, but even if he didn’t, where is God in this unfortunate way of allowing a young man with a history of perverse sexual attraction to children, to have children in his care? Even at night. I understand the need for forgiveness and trusting God to change the hearts and lives of evil men, but even trustworthy men can fail by trusting people, including themselves, too far.

So now, as we pick up the pieces, let us also pick up those neglected pieces under the rug. So we can finish the puzzle and have the big picture, seeing where we must change. The puzzle pieces under the rug so often are the victims, or so I am told.

And so it seems.
They need a voice.
We need to allow them a voice.
We need to be a voice for them.
And as we hear them, may we say, as the Nations said of the Holocaust after WWII:
Never Again.

Because these young victims have their own personal Holocaust to live through. And as our Never Agains upset failed methods, may our faith be ignited with personal Pentecostal fire.

May the perpetrator, his family, and victims alike, find the grace of God to face life as it is now and be made whole, again or for the first time, through the power and love of Jesus.

Thank you Trudy, for being a “voice crying in the wilderness.” A voice for the victims of sex abuse.

And to my fellow “Anabaptists,” how can we ever trust again? Must we eye each other from here on with suspicion? Or may we call for a deeper level of transparency? Indeed, I believe I hear the Word of the Lord, through the Voice of Exposure and through His Word calling us to a deeper level of transparency.

To a deeper love and kinder help for abuse victims.
To tougher love for perpetrators.
No matter how close the emotional or relative ties.
God is calling us back to the Bible.
May we, together, heed the call.

The call to finding Exposure Redemptive.

Because Jesus Lives,
Emanuel Lapp

 

***

I am so grateful for men and women who are rising up to stand with victims. To see such a broad positive response, and encouraging the community to see exposure as redemptive, this is an answer to prayer. And to hear men – even those who have not been victimized or victimizers – rise up and call for the victims to be remembered and heard… this is healing for many!

Remember the victims! Remember Haiti!

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

 

***

THE GATHERING, NOVEMBER 2, 2019, LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:
One of the things we are working toward November 2, 2019, at  THE GATHERING, is creating a place where we collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse, and their trusted support persons to join together for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering. We will cry out to God, together. The invitation is to ‘come as you are’ in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to 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.

(More information for potential attendees is available under THE GATHERING Registration and for non-attendees at THE GATHERING Information.)

***

 

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.

© Trudy Metzger 2019

Wailing Wall in Church; Godly Anabaptist Men Rise Up; Anabaptist Sexual Abuse Survivors Reclaim What Was Stolen

A LOUD CRY ROSE UP IN THE LAND
Repeatedly, in light of the present exposure of sexual violence in religious community, and specifically in our Anabaptist culture, I’ve heard the question, “Are there no righteous men among us? Who will rise up?” These cries come from survivors of horror, as well as their parents, grandparents and loved ones.

The cry is loud. It is miserably uncomfortable. It has the church squirming and wondering what to do. This time, singing the hymn a little louder isn’t enough to drown it out. Another message on forgiveness isn’t going to cut it. Telling others the allegations are unfounded… we slipped past that solution too.

So the wailing and the hollering continues. Loud. Bold. Whimpering. Broken. It comes in so many forms. None of them easy to ignore.

In our discomfort we rationalize and minimize, downplay and trivialize… scold and attempt to shame into silence, the source of our discomfort.

canstockphoto5496412

The loud and bold, well they’re just obnoxious and seeking attention; probably not victims in the first place, like they claim. The whining broken ones, they’re stuck in a rut of victim mentality. Can’t help ’em if they don’t want it. Hopeless cases. Lost causes.

If the whole lot of them would just forgive and heal, we could make progress. And shut up, of course… if only they would shut up after forgiving. That would prove the healing. (And it would make us more comfortable).

But God forbid we let them don the sackloth and ashes of King David’s sorrow, or Job’s loss… those righteous men of God who dared to feel and grieve. The former, a repentant offender who did not hide his sin from the nation, but announced it publicly and let it be written in a book. The other a victim of terrible suffering and loss, feeling alone. Both welcomed by God.

How have we landed at this place of stoic, emotionless, oppression of the wounded? How do we dare proclaim it as a godly thing?

GODLY MEN MAKE A SHAMELESS SCENE
Apostles Paul and Barnabas tore their clothes when they were placed on a pedestal and worshiped (Acts 14:14). Why? they were not willing to take the worship and glory that belongs to God. Would to God that men and women of God today would not hesitate to tear their clothes for such a purpose. Imagine that.

Josiah tore his clothes when the book of the law was read (2 Kings 22:11). Why? That question is answered a few verses later, “…Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book…” (2 Kings 22:13). There’s no hand-washing about the matter. No excuses. No “it wasn’t our problem,” … “It wasn’t the whole nation,”… “It wasn’t every leader.”

These men showed humility; they were grieved that humans would worship them. They showed leadership; even though others failed they rose up, without excuse and took ownership. They showed emotion. Ripping clothes is generally not seen as rational response. (Picture your Anabaptist leader ripping his straight cut suit coat in church Sunday morning as a display of sorrow for all the atrocities committed in God’s name, under the care of His leaders. I expect in some churches he’d be ousted in a day).

Now let’s go to Apostle Paul. In Acts 18:9 God speaks to Paul in a vision and tells him to be bold and not hold his peace, and adds “I am with you, no one will hurt you.” We love peace. Anything that disrupts it, many call out as evil and ‘not of God’. Yet… here God commands Paul to not hold his peace even though it will disrupt the religious, and then adds, “I will protect you; I have many people in this city.” It goes on to tell a really amazing story of the people rising up to take Paul for judgement, but God totally has Paul’s back.

Jump ahead to verse 18, and randomly it throws in a line about Paul having shaved his head because he made a vow. There’s no real explanation for the vow, just this little interesting comment that “by the way, he shaved his head before leaving the area because he made a vow.”  If tearing a suit coat won’t get your pastor removed from ministry (silenced, we call it), throw in a shaved head and he’s out. If he brings a container of ashes and sits in that…

APOSTLE PAUL REALLY BLOWS IT… AND THEN SHOWS TRUE LEADERSHIP
Just for good measure, let’s look at a particularly human moment with Apostle Paul, when he addresses the high priest with, “God shall smite thee, thou whited wall…” Now that’s not a noble way to speak to someone in authority. Granted, he doesn’t realize it’s the high priest he’s talking to but was that really necessary? Where was his discernment? The man clearly had some authority if he was ordering Paul to be whipped.

But it’s the next part…. Paul realizes his wrong and immediately apologizes. Not only do we see his humanity as a leader; we also see his vulnerability and humility in his apology. That, my dear friends, is the mark of a true leader. The one who cannot own his or her faults, and it matters not for what reason, is not a leader at all. Not until leaders relinquish the ‘right’ to power and self-preservation are they truly leaders. This doesn’t mean they won’t fail; they will. And, having failed, they might, at moments and at first, hold their power in tight-fisted grip. But then they will see, “I was wrong. I sinned. I failed.” And at that moment, when they realize it, that is when they are defined as a leader, or not, based on their response.

Alas, we live in a world where such a thing is difficult. Secular society advises ‘lawyering up’ and carefully guard our wording in an effort to calm the loud cries without admitting failure. The church simultaneously hollers at those who dare point out wrongs of those held high, as if it is blasphemy. Thus, a leader who is going to stand up with honour and humility, and speak the truth without careful editing, must do so with blatant disregard for image, and amid the shouting of those who hold them high.

Wailing Wall

WHAT IF…
What if it’s okay for leaders to admit to failure. What if this obsessive search for perfection is not how it was ever supposed to be. What if ‘holiness’ is not about perfection after all, but rather an intense reliance on God’s grace and forgiveness? A ‘taking on’ His righteousness even in our imperfection, with the humility to face the consequences for our actions in this life. What if knowing that His grace has given us eternal life was enough, and we surrendered all entitlement in this life?

Wouldn’t that change everything?

Leaders wouldn’t need to pretend that things aren’t a mess. The image of perfection would hold no meaning. Instead of looking the other way when unspeakable crimes are revealed, they would acknowledge them. God’s grace would be held in high regard. Rather than lifting up the image of religion, the name of Jesus would be held in purest light.

And in that light, those who commit heinous crimes would repent with such humility that they would lay aside rights and demands. They would see that anything they can do to bring ‘rest’ and healing to the victims is a small price for the suffering and horror they caused. Here, in such a place, deep repentance would take on a whole new meaning.

The people crying out would be heard, not scolded and silenced. Not dissected, analyzed and judged. The cry would be recognized and the suffering acknowledged. Because, really, how bad must things get before anger and a loud cry are warranted?

Tamar, having been raped, wept loudly in torn clothes and ashes. Her father, King David was very angry when he found out but did nothing about it. I suppose at least he was angry. That’s more than most victims get as an appropriate response.

It is time to welcome an outcry that is not neat and tidy. The blood of generations past cries out from the ground, blending with the cries of the living. Our grandmothers and grandfathers, their sons and daughters, the single and the married… countless souls whose blood is on our hands…

God has heard the weeping. He has seen the tears and devastation. And the time for exposure has come.

It is an act of His mercy that this is brought to light. In that mercy, men of God are rising up to hear their sisters… and their brothers weeping. They are bending their ears and bowing their hearts, to acknowledge the suffering, terror and trauma, without demanding they be polite. They are acknowledging the anger as justified…. and seeing it is the language of those who have had to protect themselves, and behind that anger is a flood of pain so deep they cannot fathom it… a flood held back by a weakening dam. As these godly men lean in and listen, a beautiful thing is happening.

The damn is bursting, but it is a good thing. The tears are gushing over parched lands and territories, and life is bursting from places long deadened.

To these men I offer deepest gratitude. Many of you have messaged me this past month. You have prayed for the children of Haiti, you have prayed for the brokenhearted. You have prayed for me. I have wept as your words validated the awful reality we have allowed to steal our children.. as you spoke life over this hell we are in… as you spoke life over me and encouraged me to never abandon this calling God placed on me. It is especially powerful and meaningful that all but one of you are still conservative Anabaptist. You, have challenged me, offered counsel and encouraged me. Most importantly, you showed me the heart of God.

Maybe it is time to let the dams break, and rather build a Wailing Wall. A place where people gather, unashamed, to grieve the horrors they have suffered. Where the unspeakable is welcomed.

A place God visits the brokenhearted through the awareness that they are not alone; they are many. And the grieving ones are able to leave notes for God – whether literally or figuratively, and their sorrows are etched on the doors of His heart.

canstockphoto8168874

A place He takes the sorrows and broken identity, and offers, in return, a new name, a new identity even while He welcomes the tears, the pain and the sorrow. An identity that does not demand denying the depths of grief, but supersedes its reality. Not a ‘taking away’ of a reality, but a ‘taking on’ and entering in, by God and those who grieve with us.

***

THE GATHERING, NOVEMBER 2, 2019, LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:
One of the things we are working toward November 2, 2019, at  THE GATHERING, is creating a place where we collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse, and their trusted support persons to join together for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering. We will cry out to God, together. The invitation is to ‘come as you are’ in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to 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.

(More information for potential attendees is available under THE GATHERING Registration and for non-attendees at THE GATHERING Information.)

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

 

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.

 

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

Female sexuality, after sexual abuse, in conservative Christian context (Let’s talk sex: Part 2)

WARNING: Content in this blog may be triggering. It will be considered sexually explicit and offensive to some readers. Others – namely the little children who have suffered the things addressed here and have lived with the consequences addressed here – will consider it a breath of fresh air. For me, it is about ‘truth telling’. Jesus said, “the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). Until we dare to discuss the truth surrounding sexual abuse, in all its horrible and explicit reality (albeit without titillating the audience), we will not find that freedom. We must address the truth of it. We owe it to the children of past generations, whose blood cries from the ground. And we owe it to the children of the next generation, whose freedom and protection we seek.

I’ve said it before, and will say it again, if the children are forced to live through these things ‘among us’, we better have the stomach to read and discuss it. When you read and are tempted to judge as pornographic or explicit, remember that, somewhere right now, it is highly likely that a little child lives this life. I will say again, if a toddler has to live it, we better grow the stomach and sense of holiness to be able to address it without going into perversion.

“To the pure or heart and mind all things are pure – (so you should be able to read this with a pure mind) – but to those who entertain and walk in corruption, nothing is pure”. (Titus 1:15, slightly paraphrased for clarity)

***

After committing to writing about female sexuality (and note that I am doing so in conservative Christian context so this has nothing to do with being politically correct), I sat back and wondered what I’ve gotten myself into. Since when do conservative Christian women talk openly about their sexuality? However, having made some broad statements in my recent blog “Sex-crazed men? Frigid women? (Let’s talk sex: Part 1)” about female sexuality, without addressing it more in-depth, including addressing the exceptions, this one is necessary. Furthermore, the epidemic of sexual violence in our culture demands conversation. Without knowledge the people are led to destruction. And our silence on this front has surely validated that biblical principle.

Women are ‘beautifully sexual’ creatures. God made us that way. He didn’t hide in shame when He was finished, and with half an apology present her to her husband. He didn’t tell Adam not to enjoy her beauty. He didn’t tell her she is a whore if she desires sex, or that she’s there to serve her husband’s every demand. He didn’t respond negatively at all. He didn’t say, “Sorry that every man after you will lust uncontrollably after every woman conceived. It’s the women’s fault. And you men are fresh out of luck, victims of fate.”

In fact, He said it was very good when He created Adam and Eve. He presented her with delight. He knew what lay ahead. He knew The Fall was coming. He knew the struggle that lay ahead. And He still said, “it is very good” of His beautiful creation, and declared her to be created in His own image and likeness. Not in the image and likeness of Adam. Not a second-rate afterthought. But a creation made to represent and reflect something of Himself to the world. Sexual creatures… females… made in the image of God. Truth, spoken by God. Truth we have resisted to our own demise.

Yes, as sexual creatures, He spoke blessing over us. And, what’s more, He added ‘fun parts’ and feelings that serve absolutely no other purpose than to bring sexual pleasure to the woman. No female needs an orgasm for procreation, nor does she need to experience pleasure to ‘be fruitful and multiply’. He could have made humans so that males orgasm and females experience nothing. He didn’t. Those fun parts – ie; the clitoris and (for some) pleasure from nipple or vaginal stimulation, tells us that He intended sex to be a delightful encounter. It tells us that this is good. It isn’t shameful! It is delightful!

With rates of abuse as high as they are, many women struggle with seeing their sexuality as ‘good’, and are not able to ‘get into it’. Many have no desire for sexual intimacy.[1] It is not always due to abuse, but often.  If this is you, there is nothing wrong with you. In either case, you do not need to accept it as a ‘life sentence’ without trying to heal. I cannot promise you healing. I wish I could. But I would encourage reaching out to a medical doctor or a professional if you are struggling.

The other part of this is the warped portrayal of sex pretty much everywhere you go. In the media it is presented as this explosive thrill that rocks your world. Every time. Sex is this crazy amazing out of this world experience. Every time. Truth is, sometimes it can be. But realistically, it isn’t always. And in any case it shouldn’t boil down to that. There is a bonding and an intimacy in sex that goes beyond the orgasm. The orgasm can be part of that but it is not the epitome of it, and the closeness can exist without climax. There are women who have never experienced that climax, despite every effort on her husband’s part, and whose fulfillment must come from other intimacy.[2]

The loving husband will patiently work with his wife, consider her needs, slow his pace, listen to her share her day and her heart (some need their ‘list cleared’, before they can enter in), and he will seek to meet her needs first. It has been said men are like microwaves and women are like crockpots. All I can say, men, is if you tend well and lovingly to your wife’s needs, both of your hearts will find a safe place. No one likes to feel sexually used. And it is easy to feel that way, especially for those who have been abused and have to process flashbacks, sometimes in the middle of intimacy.

Along with this possible repulsion for sex due to past abuse, there is the lack of good teaching regarding sex, and plenty of shaming. “She’s boy-crazy”… “she always has to have a boy’s attention”… “She’s so desperate she’s always chasing after anything in pants”… etc.  Crushes are a normal part of life. Guidance is important, but the shaming that goes on in religious cultures about interest between sexes is causing unbelievable struggle and destruction.[3] Then, having been shamed about sex her whole developing years, she gets married and, “Voila!” now you must have sex. Whoa… back up a bit. That thing that defines you as a whore and a slut just for desiring relationship, you now must perform, on command? How does that shift even happen? And we wonder why so many of our marriages are ‘divorced’ at heart? This is one reason. Not the only one, but one. She feels like his prostitute, not his bride, if he enters marriage with that mindset.[4]  When women enter marriage already having been abused and having a very warped sense of their own sexuality, when they land with men who have no desire to understand their needs – not only in bed, but certainly there too – things deteriorate quickly. He demands sex, she hates it… What can possibly go well from there on out?

That said, not all abuse victims of sexual abuse dislike sex. On the contrary, many crave it and struggle with addictions to it. (This is true for both males and females, but we’re going to focus only on females). While repulsion for and disinterest in sex may not show up until marriage – though in some cases it does — for some addictions begin at a very young age in various forms, and progress with age, access and exposure.. This is common in the little girl who has been sexually stimulated since two… four… six – pick your number – and where this abuser has used coercive means and by pleasuring versus violence. He/she introduces the little girl to sexual pleasure, desire and bonding. She has been sexually awakened and trained to desire sex.

And before you conclude that the undeveloped girl can’t orgasm or experience sexual arousal, think again. In conversations – whether formal or informal sessions – women have reported sexual stimulation and orgasm at various ages, with some saying they experienced them ‘as far back as I remember’. Process that for a moment. An innocent little preschool girl experiencing orgasms and/or sexual arousal and desire due to sexual abuse, never having known any other life. And this continues for many years for some victims as a father, an uncle, an aunt or, most commonly, in cases I’ve encountered, an older brother abuses her. (I will use the older brother scenario to make the remaining of my points, to make it less cumbersome, even while any other person can be the abuser).

It is critical to know that the little girl should carry no shame! She has no understanding of what is being done to her. And it is just as important to note that her body responds precisely as God created it to. The fault of that awakening lands squarely on the shoulders of the abuser for the rest of her life and struggle.

Both God and science tell us that the hormonal response to sexual stimulation is a combination of pleasure and bonding, and establishes a desire for more. Starting at a young age with this pleasure, a little girl will quite likely become addicted to sex. Before she is old enough to understand any of it, she will pursue more interactions with her abuser and even initiate what he or she started against her. In her teens, she will quite possibly be promiscuous. And the more she is shamed, the more she will reach for affirmation in the one way she can get it.

As ‘church’, we have done a dreadful job of responding to this. First, we’ve downplayed abuse without ever daring to look this closely at what is happening to the victim, sexually. We’ve accepted a quick “I’m sorry” from the offender, and then judged the girl for her promiscuity, sexual addictions and inability to mature spiritually and respect herself. She is dubbed a slut, a whore, a shame to the family and community, all while the offender preaches on Sunday morning, leads Sunday School, serves as Youth leader… You get the picture. And we’ve judged those who dare to talk this bluntly about sexuality and sexual abuse. (For example, supposedly I’m sick and perverted for talking about sex so bluntly, and it is pornographic! And now I’m talking about children having orgasms! Bring out the gallows.)

To this I say, again, “Grow up!” If I a child is forced to live with this reality, so help us God if we cannot be mature enough and pure enough of heart and mind, to face the hard reality of a child’s story. Shame on us! How can we be so selfish as to think they must live with what we cannot handle hearing? If that somehow turns you on sexually, deal with it. Master your sexual responses, and if you can’t, get some counselling or help to deal with your heart. The Bible is clear, “To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt nothing is pure” (Titus 1:15). If you are pure of heart and mind, you will be able to discuss this tragic epidemic without pushing some corrupt label on the victims and their advocates speaking out.

When she is a teenager, and that older brother gets married, this little girl will quite possibly grieve, become angry and depressed, and turn to other sources for sexual fulfillment, or alternatively to self harm. And then she will be told she is just looking for attention. You think? A child with no understanding of sex and relationship, just wanting attention because her one source of connection has abandoned her? All those years she has had sexual relations, now suddenly she is abandoned, rejected and unfulfilled. She must now compete with her sister-in-law, and clearly she has lost. If she has a younger brother, she may well turn to him. All of this can happen before she has even reached puberty.

Masturbation will be another outlet for her sexual energy and awakening, or pornography. Or both. (It is important to note that many women who were not molested also masturbate. The notion that it is something only males do, and only the troubled ones, is nonsense. It is a common human struggle). Some will argue masturbation is good for you, others will condemn those who engage in it. (And many will respond much more harshly to this than to sexual abuse!) I’m particularly disinterested in making a judgement call either way as to how sinful it is, or is not, in this blog.

God is gracious and kind. He understands humanity and struggle. And He specifically addresses in Hosea that He will not judge the daughters who commit adultery and turn to prostitution because men have been using them (Hosea 4:14). God doesn’t change. That, alone, tells me that the church (broadly) is failing terribly at dealing with abuse, and the various forms of aftermath, in ways that don’t reflect the heart of God. We have it backwards. We give that grace to those God holds accountable, and condemning those who are stripped. This is not of God.

If God doesn’t, why would I? So if you take issue with that, take it up with Him for influencing me that way. Furthermore, I have walked so closely with so many struggling conservative Mennonite/Amish Christians, that any illusion of slapping on quick judgement and punishing them to solve the problem is long gone. Patiently leading them back to the love of Jesus, to His grace… that’s been effective. Encouraging them to skip ‘living in shame’ and moving immediately to repentance with every sin they commit, but not dwelling there and instead shifting to what Jesus did on the cross, that has been effective. Encouraging them to invest no time in ‘trying to overcome’, because the whole time we spend trying to overcome is time spent focusing on that thing. And the more we dwell on it, the more power it has over us. Instead, investing energy in relationship with God, thanking Him for His grace and kindness, that has been effective.[5]

It doesn’t cheapen grace. It doesn’t cheapen the cross. It shifts the focus away from ‘me and my struggle’ to God and His goodness. Away from me and my failure or imperfection to God’s incredible love for me, and the value I hold in His heart. And that is one way that inner need is met. One way that healing comes to broken places. And that restored identity and healing helps in overcoming sexual addictions.

So, no, I’m not interested in passing judgement on the victim of abuse who masturbates and struggles sexually. What I am interested in addressing is the practical outcome of any sexual addiction. When masturbation (or any other sexual activity) becomes an addiction, it will rob you. Married women (and men, but we’re talking about women here) have shared that they struggle to engage in sex with their spouse, because “it just doesn’t work”. They are so programmed for masturbation that they instinctively turn there for release, and are not easily aroused by their spouse. Or they may be aroused, but their body is conditioned for masturbation. They don’t want it to be that way, but it is their reality. And the marriage slowly – or not so slowly – disintegrates if they don’t invest deeply in understanding and overcoming these addictions.

Sex bonds people. That’s a fact. Masturbation robs a marriage of that bond. It is hard work to move past those addictions, but it can be done. And it is worth it.

These addictions can play out within the marriage as well. We hear a lot about sex-addicted men, demanding sex from their wives, but we hear little about the wives being addicted to sex. It happens. Again, I have no stats to support the prevalence, nor is that my goal. What I have is the stories of couples who have fought through that struggle. The husband may simply have a lower libido, or maybe he was abused and responded by being repulsed by sex. Or maybe he has a healthy sex-drive but simply cannot keep up with his wife’s constant need for sex. Again, remember that the woman who has been used sexually for years by multiple people has been conditioned for constant sexual activity. One man cannot keep up to the energy of two.. four or more men and women who may have stimulated her as a child.

This results in feelings of frustration and inadequacy in the husband, or even resentment. He may find her sex drive repulsive and frustrating. He may internalize and conclude he is not man enough, that there is something wrong with him. Or he may start using her aggressively and raping her, calling her perverse names and mistreating her, or judging her harshly in other ways. All of these responses are unhealthy. And I have encountered all of them.

But there is the alternative. The man who gently works with his wife, entering into her struggle with compassion, will bring healing and invite trust. This man is confident and secure in his identity. He does not neglect her needs, but also does not internalize her struggle as his fault. He does not label her, or view her with repulsion. Rather, he cares for her in that struggle and values who she is, and cares for the little girl she was in a way no one has before. It takes teamwork, and she does need to be willing to learn to trust, however slowly.

Women who are sexually addicted because of sexual abuse tend to expect their spouse to perform sexually at levels that are simply not realistic. They are looking to have something filled by sex, a need met, that is connected to their core identity as a victim of abuse. Survivors of abuse function out of that need on many levels, looking for affirmation. And sex cannot meet that need. Only healing from the abuse and the love of Jesus can meet that need.

Sexual frigidity due to sexual abuse and ‘zoning out’ (disassociating) with no resistance or interest, is common. Women do this to avoid the trauma and reminder of the abuse… avoiding flashbacks, memories and the ‘grossness’ of those traumas. There is no expectation of affirmation from the experience of sexual intimacy, no expectation of bonding, and not necessarily any open repulsion. She may be happy to snuggle – or not, as the case may be, and may even want babies, but sex as an act of intimacy is of no interest. She may (and many do) give the husband permission to ‘do what you need to do and be done’, but when it is over they don’t really know what happened.

Overcoming this takes patience on the husband’s part. The temptation will be to internalize her lack of interest in sex as rejection of him, personally and sexually as a man. Don’t give in to that. And wives, be careful not to transfer negative feelings about sex based on past trauma onto your spouse’s sexuality. This is true for men too; guard your tongue when tempted to blurt out a negative comment about your wife’s sexuality. Of the many things marriages struggle to recover from, this is one of the hardest. Negative comments about the other person’s sexuality are deadly and strike at a very core part of our identity as humans.

There are professionals who are willing to help, willing to work with you. There are people who understand. Find someone, and work through it. There is hope. Yes, it is usually a financial investment, but it is worth it if it’s what saves your sanity, your marriage, and your relationships. Everyone has expenses — all ministries, families, people have bills to pay — so expect to have costs associated. A coffee a day for two people (at Tim Horton’s, Xlg) is $4.00. That’s $20 a week. That’s $80 a month. Add junk food. (I admit, I don’t go for coffee even once a month, so this isn’t going to be everyone’s reality. But it’s amazing where you can find money for what really matters, when you’re desperate for help. We know from experience).

So start tracking where you spend money that you could put toward what really matters. And if you don’t have places you can adjust, reach out to local churches to sponsor your sessions. Many are willing to support even those who don’t attend their congregation. Be proactive and fight for your freedom.

The topic of sexuality and the aftermath of abuse is somewhat endless. This is a synopsis of what could be a whole book. (A book that I have on hold since starting university, but is near completion). For now, I hope this helps some of you struggling with these things. You are normal. You’re not crazy. There is hope. Reach out. Fight forward.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

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Footnotes are below, but first… we have a free seminar starting tomorrow night in Newburg PA. If you wish to donate towards the event and support the work of Generations Unleashed and Trudy Metzger’s travels/teaching, you may do so at:
http://www.generationsunleashed.com/donate

Here is the poster:

Screen Shot 2019-04-25 at 11.39.01 PM

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Footnotes:

[1] This blog focuses on women, but the impact of sexual abuse on sexual desire affects both male and female. There are similarities and differences, from what I’ve observed. But I am not male, and my work with male victims is still but a fraction of my work with females. I am hoping a male survivor will write a blog addressing this… but am still waiting to hear back.

[2] Some women who have been abused cannot climax or even enter into sexual intimacy. When this is due to the terror of being used and overpowered, being the one to initiate intimacy can help some women overcome this terror. When she were abused, the aggressor disregarded her safety and overpowered her. It works for some to reclaim this through working patiently with her spouse to initiate intimacy, and engaging her when he initiates. Rather than reaching over and touching, if she guides his hands there is safety. This is not a quick fix for everyone. It is one of numerous things a couple can do, practically, to reclaim what has been stolen. Husband, hold your wife tenderly without sex when she is afraid. Hold her when she cries if that is what she needs; ask first.  And know that those tears are common; though most of us hide them as long as we can. (It’s not your fault, unless you wounded her, which is a separate discussion). As you seek to enter in and be there for her, be mindful of things that will make her feel overpowered and invaded. Move compassionately and with her permission. She had no one to protect her when she was abused and raped. To enter into the trauma and emotion of that space, requires deep trust and risk on her part; you need her permission.

Wives, I speak as one who had to walk these steps at various times. I get some of your struggle to an extent. I learned to heal. Then I reverted back to old fears at times. But I overcame. And I’ve advised couples to try these steps over the years. It has been effective for some, though not all. I entered marriage without that fear of Tim and sexual intimacy. But I faced various forms of it later in life when flashbacks started and left me feeling like a whore. I felt ugly, ashamed, guilty. I desired intimacy but feared rejection and at times hated myself. Overcoming this took patience and courage. It’s worth it. That’s all I’ve got to say about that. Don’t give up on your intimate relationship easily.

[3] A few things in our conservative culture –and note that I say in our culture, which I draw from their own admissions, and I am not speaking broadly of society –are profoundly linked to homosexuality. This shaming is one. Sexual abuse is another. Oppression of women is another; to be valued you have to be male/masculine. And all the shaming/condemning of femininity and beauty is another.

[4] Many men are gentlemen. I tend to still believe the scales tip heavily in favour of honourable men who treat their wives well in bed. I pray and hope I am right. These men deserve respect, yet they don’t demand it. Their wives are safe emotionally, sexually, physically and spiritually.

[5] This paragraph on addictions also applies to men. It doesn’t mean there will suddenly be no struggle. But there is growth and there is empowerment to overcome. And moving quickly to focusing on God, rather than our wrongs is incredibly important. However, if those wrongs include violating another person, there is an addition step. And that step is facing consequences. If a crime has been committed it must be reported without self-preservation. This frees the victim from false guilt and blame, and helps the person who offended see the gravity of what he/she has done.

NOTE:

Thank you to all who sent in thoughts and questions that helped shape this blog.

If you have questions, feel free to email: trudy@generationsunleashed.com. I am back in university, traveling for speaking, and still going through post-heart attack and other medical issues, so my response time is not as quick as I would like it to be. But I try not to let any fall through the cracks. I will respond as I’m able.

What about the “victim mentality”?

The term ‘victim mentality’ is one I don’t use, because I have found the true ‘victim mentality’ is an incredibly rare phenomenon. I would dare to say that what we often call victim mentality is the aftermath of dreadfully under-acknowledged terror and trauma, rather than some notion of ‘wanting to stay there’. (More on what drives this being stuck in trauma later). In 9 years of interacting closely with them, I have watched most victims of abuse move ‘beyond survivor’ to truly thriving, with few exceptions. This includes those who were my clients, and many who were not my clients but stayed in close contact as they worked through their stories with other mentors and counsellors.

At least a percentage of these individuals would have been classed as having a ‘victim mentality’. Always needing sympathy or affirmation — or both — and seeming to feel ‘poor me’ at every turn with everyone around them always being out to do them harm, no one ever understanding them, and ever being on the fringe of an emotional crash (including threat of suicide etc).

Along with this there was, for some, the need to have somewhere between 6 and 8 people at any given moment whom they would hold on emotional string, as I call it, that they could yank at any moment to have people running from every direction to ‘save them’ from themselves. This is exhausting for everyone.

Sometimes we call it ‘victim mentality’ because we are tired, so that we can remove ourselves from the suffering, which is not productive. It is a sign of deep wounds that need healing. And those who have no concept of offering healthy support, make things worse by accommodating every yank of the string. And yet, ignoring them is not the answer; these victims do need support.

What has happened is that their boundaries have been brutally violated in the same act that left these victims of abuse so emotionally/psychologically, sexually, spiritually and often physically devastated. They, therefore, do not know how to respect healthy boundaries, and when their pain surfaces, for many the only survival skill they have is drawing emotionally from others.

We judge them for it, when the reality is that their suffering has never been acknowledged, and no one has ever said, “I’m so sorry. May I just sit with you in your pain, and love you where you are at?”

When we do that… When we stop judging their neediness… When we stop defining their place of suffering as ‘victim mentality’ …. When we pull up a chair at that preschooler’s table – or that pre-teen’s or teenager’s …now that young woman or man – something beautiful happens. They begin to heal.

To offer this support well requires having boundaries. Set specific times to meet. Have a limit on how many texts, emails, phone calls etc, and set time restrictions on how long those calls are. Or you will be consumed, and they certainly will not heal. We enter into their suffering, but must do so with wisdom.

Then, when we have been there with them, in that dark place of their suffering, only then have we earned the privilege of being invited to speak. It’s not a right. It’s a privilege. And the best gift we can give, when we do speak, is an invitation to walk together. An invitation to share with them the Love of One who gives us life and hope. Not an invitation for us to ‘fix’ them. Or for us to help them arrive where we are. But an invitation to meet the One who is our life and hope. The One who defines us.

When we are given permission to speak His life, His hope and His purpose over them, they grow. They learn to trust. They learn to forgive. As we care, they become stronger. They heal. And when they heal, they no longer see only their own pain, but the pain of others.

Some fear healing. It isn’t that they don’t want to heal, most of them. But a few are terrified of healing. If they heal, who will be there? The only connections some have ever had, have been linked to their trauma and need. If they heal, who will be there? If they heal, will they be alone… lonely? And who will they be? They’ve never been anything other than in pain and suffering? What if being whole demands things they are not capable of. More than one survivor of trauma has admitted these fears to me.

It is easy to judge from a distance. It’s easy to say those fears are not reasonable. Yet they are very real for many survivors of terror and trauma. The shift from fear to thriving happens with recognizing we have something to give, that our need doesn’t have to be the source of our fulfillment.

When, having sat with them in their sorrow, we have earned the privilege to speak… And when, having earned the privilege to speak, we have encouraged, and believed, and spoken life and purpose… Then we can ask the hard questions…

worm to butterfly

What if healing didn’t mean you would be alone? What if healing meant that you could be there for others? What if healing meant that you would be more fulfilled than you ever imagined you would be or could be? What if…?

And when they dare to embrace that challenge, a courage rises up, and they reach out. And in reaching out to others, they are healed. Again. And this doesn’t mean they will never struggle. Tomorrow might be a hard day. Next week they might call their counsellor because they feel lost. Next year they might need someone to ask again, “What if healing doesn’t mean you will be lonely, or alone? What if you keep reaching out to others? What if…?”

It isn’t a victim mentality. Not usually.  And we do a lot of damage when blithely we write it off as that. Mostly it is fear. It is the aftermath of deep trauma. It is a failure to thrive because there has been a failure in those of us around them to sit with them patiently in their suffering, and acknowledge it. And it is a journey. A rising and falling. And rising again.

Only when we have walked through deep trauma, or dared to entered into the suffering of others can we grasp that battle.

***

When we reach out to others in hope and healing,
our healing comes more quickly.
~ Isaiah 58 ~ 

 

Love,
~ T ~

 

© Trudy Metzger 2019

A Conference for Sex Abuse Victims With The Anabaptist, the Baptist, and Me

God willing and the crick don’t rise, on May 19 – 20 we plan to do a conference at Erb Mennonite church, Lititz PA, for survivors of sexual abuse, as well as those who offer support. This includes pastors, teachers, friends, family, mentors and anyone who wishes to offer understanding.

poster

Some years ago, when going through a particularly dark time in dealing with the abuses in my past – the sexual, physical and spiritual abuse – I cried out to God, as I have often done over the years. I don’t expect God to write on the wall, take away my grief or pain, or even say a whole lot in those moments. It’s mostly just a trusted place where I release my heart and know I will not be brushed aside, judged or disregarded; He always listens and always loves me just the same. But somewhere in that time He whispered something to me. And I just knew it was Him, and I just knew it would happen. Deeper healing would come from the place of my suffering, but the ‘how’ of it was not revealed. I shared it with Tim, a bit hesitantly. I didn’t know what it meant, but believed someone from ‘within’ would play a role in that healing and acknowledge that the problem is real. I didn’t hold my breath, but I held on to hope, knowing such a thing would have significant impact on many.

Being told it doesn’t happen or isn’t so bad, thus downplaying the impact of sexual violence, adds to trauma while also escalating the problem. And maybe it is the latter that makes it the denial so hard; we who were once victims know it continues and there’s no way to stop it from happening to other children. That thought torments us. So for someone within my culture to boldly acknowledge the problem, without excusing the offender, minimizing the trauma, or blaming victims, would have been enough. But what happened was so much better.

The note came at a difficult time. The challenge of helping victims is wearing, because exposing it disrupts people and systems, and anger is directed at those trying to help. And exposing the darkness is particularly exhausting when I’d rather be friends with everyone and believe there isn’t any evil in religious cultures. The fatigue of that resistance had set in when the note came from a conservative Anabaptist lay pastor; a simple apology for the attacks on our ministry, and on me as a person, simply for following God’s call, a thank you for daring to follow that call, and then speaking into that calling and affirming it.  I was overwhelmed.

Weeks earlier someone shared an incident where they heard a leader in our local community speak evil of me and our ministry. Because they are a couple I held in high regard, I contacted them and asked to meet and try to come to an understanding. They declined and till all was said and done, I felt inadequate and genuinely believed maybe God was telling me to walk away from my calling, that I was unqualified.  On the heels of this, I was astounded to receive the random note of encouragement, apology and blessing from the conservative Anabaptist leader. He even included the very verses God used many years ago to define my calling; verses which are documented and engraved in every phase of this ministry, and which always seem to resurface from random places when something is at stake.

That conservative Anabaptist leader was Kenny Kuhns.

Some time later, when I heard Kenny speak, I wept. Hearing a leader from ‘among my people’ speak such life and hope into the harsh reality of my past, and the past of every survivor of sexual violence in a religious setting, deeply moved me and gave me hope. For a second time, God used Kenny to bring deeper healing into my own experience. I’ve been in ministry a long time, and sometimes people ask if the past ever causes struggle. The answer? Of course it does. From time to time, something triggers the trauma. While this ever less frequent, the truth is that humans have moments when we are confronted with the past, and we must grieve, or run. I used to run. Where there is grief and pain, there is a need for healing, and that is something we need never be ashamed to admit, no matter how long we are in ministry, or how ‘healed’ we become. I believe with all my heart that Jesus is enough for me, and the power of the past is broken. I am not a victim. And I believe just as confidently that He sends representatives to unveil His love in new ways to bring deeper healing when needed.

After seeing Kenny’s heart, we invited him and Irma to join us at our upcoming conference at Erb Mennonite church in Lititz, to speak to the victims as a ‘voice from within’ who understands both the magnitude of sexual abuse in our culture and the cost to those who were victimized. Having worked with survivors for many years, he sees the damage done, but also sees the potential, the place for hope, and the power of Christ to restore and renew. His compassion for survivors serves as a life-line for those often misunderstood and unheard in churches, as he acknowledges the deep suffering. But he doesn’t leave us in our suffering; he honours the hard spiritual battles we fight and acknowledges speaks the life and hope of Jesus into that darkness.

We’ve also invited Pastor Dale and Faith Ingraham from New York to join us again. We’ve had the privilege of working with them numerous times in the past five years, and are always blessed and encouraged. Faith’s story of overcoming abuse at the hands of her father, also a Baptist pastor, while painful, is also a story of resilience, courage and faith. Their heart for the wounded is as genuine as any I’ve encountered, and the gentle message of hope God has given them, brings healing and life.

We are honoured to partner with Kenny and Irma Kuhns for the first time, and especially thankful for the long-term support and friendship of Dale and Faith Ingraham. We look forward to what God will do. It’s going to be good!

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All are welcome to attend. We acknowledge sexual abuse, however, what we focus on and talk about is God’s love, His grace and His redemption; that is something we all need. Registration is by donation until May 5. After May 5 it is $65. Refreshments and a noon meal will be provided on Saturday May 20, but attendees must preregister for this. This is to make meal planning possible, and avoid last minute stress for the organizing team. Register online: http://www.generationsunleashed.com/events or by snail mail to: Generations Unleashed 15 Coral Gables Crescent, Elmira Ontario N3B 3P4.

For further information, call Dave Miller at: 519-669-3126.

Love,
~ T ~

Ps. Because of the unusual nature of this conference, in that we have invited a conservative Anabaptist leader to come speak, we are aware this may stir up questions, concerns and even fears for some who have suffered abuse at the hands of leaders within the culture, whether spiritually, sexually or otherwise. We acknowledge this risk and are open to questions, concerns and addressing those fears. Please feel free to contact any of our speaking team at:
Trudy: trudy@generationsunleashed.com
Kenny: kenkuhns@nls.net
Dale & Faith Ingraham: dfingraham@speakingtruthinlove.org