A “Spotlight”, the Police & the Church

~  Strong trees are felled, with patient, persistent chipping. Little by little…  ~

On my way to an appointment today, I mulled over in my head what a local police officer shared with me on Friday; a project he is working on to create awareness of sexual abuse, and also give victims and offenders resources to get the help and support they need. As I processed this, on my drive, I started choking up quite unexpectedly… then the tears fell… then they poured…
With only minutes to go before my meeting, I tried to pull myself together, wondering what was wrong with me to fall apart over that. As I analyzed what was going on in my heart and mind, to unravel me like that, it hit me: I met twice with the local police–once with only one constable, and once with a team including the director of an organization that helps victims–and the action started, people wanting to make a difference. By this past Friday, less than six weeks after that second meeting, the officer shared what action he is working on to make a difference in our community.
 Before parting ways, he told me to go home and watch “Spotlight” with Tim, and to make sure I have a box of Kleenex handy. He  didn’t tell me what it was about, but assured me I would be glad we watched it. So on Friday night that’s what we did. Tim found it on Google Play, rented it for 4.99 (that’s roughly 3.5o for my American friends), curled up on the couch and watched it. I shed a few tears throughout, but less than I had expected. To see a group of people rise up and say ‘enough is enough’ in regards to sexual abuse and religious cover up was touching, but the intensity was almost too much to take in; my mind could hardly absorb the fact that this was a true story, and these non-victims developed such a powerful sense of justice and compassion that they were compelled to act. The main story was far too familiar… (Every Christian should watch this, even those for whom it is against ‘the ordnung’. Repent after, if you must.)

spotlight

My weekend was too busy to absorb or analyze it all, but this morning when I came unraveled, I knew why…

“We are heard. Our suffering has been acknowledged.”

It took only a few meetings with the police to have them ‘rise up’. (Much like the employees at the Boston Globe, in Spotlight.) In my first meeting I felt truly heard about the need to do something. Anything. I’d rather do it wrong, trying to do it right, than to do nothing at all. So we sat there and brainstormed, the constable and I. And that started the ball rolling. The next meeting they asked for my story, and I sat there with an audience of four, and spilled it out, bit by painful bit, for two hours, asking questions, and answering questions. Speaking from my heart in a way that felt terrifying, yet safe. And then the commander and sergeant of the Major Case Unit each offered a heartfelt thank you, acknowledging the courage it must take to do that…

 Two meetings with the police, resulting in redemptive, informative and healing action. Only two meetings…

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 And that created a sense of thankfulness, but also a struggle. Because there was no resistance, no fighting against, only compassion and support, when in churches, there is still so much resistance….

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 I sat in a pastor’s office and admitted that I wasn’t sure I could keep doing the whole ‘church thing’. Heck, I wasn’t even sure I could keep believing in God. If He and so many of His people–leaders in particular–apparently cared not one iota for the lost children, whose lives were wrecked by molestation in the church, then it seemed there was no place for me in His Kingdom.

 Pastor Gord Martin listened compassionately, and then encouraged me to connect with others who share a similar vision, if not the same one. If I didn’t find that support, he said, my fears would easily become a reality; I would turn my back on my faith, because the fight against abuse is intense, and having support critical. That was a few years ago.

 I now have a solid group of people praying for our ministry and a handful who offer support in various ways. It’s still mostly hard slogging, with a few leaders who really seem to ‘get it’ about the magnitude of the problem and the need to do more. But there are a few, and that’s worth a lot. It will take time for the silence of the church to lose its power, and for the broader church to take action in a meaningful way.  I pray the day will come, and believe it will.

On that bright note…

 In conversation with Pastor Blake from Westpointe Church Grand Rapids Michigan, he asked what I would share with their church, on Sunday March 20. I was thinking about ‘Radical love and Reckless Grace’, I said. There was a short pause before he said, “I thought you might talk about sexual abuse…” I told him I don’t do that on a Sunday morning unless specifically asked. Without skipping a beat he said he would like if I did. “It needs to be talked about,” he said. I was taken off guard, but encouraged that a pastor would not only welcome opening that can of worms in church, but actually ask for it.

To Pastor Blake, Pastor Gord, and other pastors  and leaders who have heard with compassion, and those who have fought for victims, Thank you.We have a ways to go, as the church, but we’re making progress. That death-grip of silence and shame is being shattered, little by little.

 We will keep chipping…

Love,

~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Interview with Boz Tchividjian, Founder of Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading interview here: Rhymes with Religions

Love

~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Between 2 Gods Facebook Page

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Of Guilt & Protecting People from Truth

Having been granted permission by the local Independent, for whom I write a monthly column, I am now posting my columns here, on my blog, rather than having the editor upload them on their site and me directing readers there. It’s easier for everyone, all around. That said, the following is my July column, published Thursday, July 3, in the Elmira Independent.

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There is no end to barriers for healing in victims of sexual abuse. The layers seem endless to someone caught in the apparent time warp of trauma and past pain. No amount of ‘appealing to logic’ and pulling victims back to the present makes that trauma disappear, or convinces him or her, that ‘that’s the past’. It is in peeling back layers, revealing truth, and correcting faulty belief systems that freedom is brought within grasp of these tormented souls.

To go through the many layers, and try to expound on each one, would produce somewhat of a text book of information that would take years to write and no one would read. So I will touch only on guilt and the need to protect people we love from truth.

A wise man—one considered to be a great prophet by some, a rebel by others, but better known to me as the Son of God—Jesus, once said, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” We misquote it frequently as ‘set you free’, but He says, ‘make you free’. Inevitably we humans look for ways to be set free from burdens so that we can released from them and not face or carry them. But to ‘make free’, is a different thing entirely. Freedom becomes a thing that you ‘are’ in spite of burdens…

That in mind, I see many victims of abuse carrying the burden of protecting loved ones from the truth.  The fear that ‘it’s all too much and they won’t be able to handle the knowing’ or ‘it would be devastating for my family’, is a powerful guilt these victims carry when they think about telling family—especially parents—of the crimes committed against them in childhood.

But all the while, as they struggle to protect their superiors, this dreadful role reversal—of a child protecting parents–creates a sense of distance and isolation, pushing the victim further into despair. At the time of the event, a child may have been a toddler, a teen, or somewhere in between. A time when parents protect their children from harm. Or try to. Yet, somehow these children, at that young age, find themselves carrying experiences they think their parents, or other trusted adults, cannot handle knowing.

Set the Chidlren Free

This message is reinforced when victims of abuse are emotionally, spiritually or psychologically ‘punished’ for coming forward. The bullying that goes on, at times, when a victim speaks up, is shameful. It is tempting to encourage the silence out of a desire to protect victims from further abuse and victimization. But to remain trapped in one darkness to avoid another is merely empowering the darkness.

So when a victim asks me what he or she should do, I fall back on the words of that wise man, ‘The truth will make you free’. And the truth will make the people around you free too, if they will receive it. The rest will keep wrestling to prevent light from shining into the place of hidden things. They will wrestle against the truth for personal agenda, one place or another, whether a particular victim speaks up or not. The only thing that changes is that speaking up draws the wrestling into the light.

I warn that it could get messy. Really messy. And encourage using discretion and wisdom in the process, but I never encourage silence. It is only fair that they know the cost for one level of freedom could potentially cause as much fresh pain as the old pain they release. Still, the healing from the past is empowering and strengthening in the present, as victims find their voice and establish boundaries.

A victim of abuse, while exercising sensitivity in what is said, and how, should not carry the burden of protecting adults from trauma they’ve carried since childhood. That is simply not appropriate. Someone said recently that ‘these things are not appropriate to discuss and should not be talked about’…

My response to that dysfunctional belief is this: Are we actually willing to say that we, as adults, cannot bear the reality that our children, as young as two.. four… six-years-olds, carry through life? How is that?

If children must suffer the mental, psychological and spiritual consequences for these crimes, we adults better be willing to give them permission to talk, and someone be available to hear the gory details. To forbid it is the most selfish, abusive and irresponsible act, next to the original abuse.

In a nutshell, it’s time we adults grow up to the strength and resilience of toddlers, so that victims are not isolated, and forced to carry the horrific memories alone.

Truth makes people free. And truth protects the next generation.