(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.

I know what it’s like… (A sex abuse survivor’s wife speaks)

The following post is the voice of a survivor’s wife. She is a brave, loving and compassionate soul. For all who have lived the trauma with a spouse, this post will resonate deeply. To all who have not, I urge you to lean in and really listen. Broken hearts lie scattered on church floors, overlooked, unheard, unknown, unhealed. Unhealed in a place where Jesus is said to dwell.

I urge you to notice one such heart and breath the life and hope of Jesus into just one. Speak life. When you speak. But mostly, listen. Listen, and really hear the heartbeat, no matter how weak, how erratic and how uncomfortable.

Always remember that Jesus chose the broken places. He dwells there. Not in high and together places, but in the lowliest of places, there He enters and makes His home and declares, “If was for the lost children, that I came”.

***

I know what it is like to live with abuse second hand. I know what sexual and religious abuse looks like up close and personal.  I haven’t experienced sexual abuse but I’ve lived with the affects for all my married years. We’re working our way out of extreme spiritual abuse.  I’ve lived the trauma for many years.  If I could sum it up in one word it would be TEARS. Endless rivers of tears.

I know what it’s like to raise a family, praying over them, pleading for God to cover them with His protection and for the trauma of the abuse to not be passed on to them, while their father goes through periods of being completely zoned out. I know what its like to have to know when to follow my husband’s lead and when to realize he’s flipped and irrational and then to step up and fill in the breach. I know what its like to sit in the grocery store parking lot counting the little cash I have to see what I can buy that week for my family because my husband is in a black hole. And I have to try and figure out how long we can survive till he comes out again. I know the heart break of walking alongside him when he realizes all the things that have slipped away while he was “not there,” picking up again, then going through all of it all over again. Because with the triggers and the ongoing mental trauma there’s no continuity.

I know what its like to be married to a man who is a survivor in so many ways, has qualities and gifts that contribute to mankind in many beautiful ways, but to sit with that same man as he curls up on the couch in such emotional pain that words are useless. To watch him reach out to others and have compassion for the hurting but feeling complete worthlessness in himself. To live alongside and watch while normal life is so exhausting that finally he wonders if its even worth it.  The intense struggle of wanting to believe in God but wanting to have nothing to do with the god he was shown, yet unable to grasp the difference. All this while appearing to be a normal family and functioning the best we can because it feels like no one understands.

canstockphoto23608061_ text

The damage abuse does is deep and devastating.  It ripples out and affects so many people.  Its crippling beyond belief. It’s mind altering. It completely strips away identity.  It puts them on a path to prove their worth for many years, and then when their efforts are finally exhausted they give up.  When it’s a man it affects the family financially because when he’s the main provider and fear and flashbacks are a constant reality, there’s not much energy left for making good decisions. So there is added financial trauma.  It affects the whole family.

In fact, years of trauma and dysfunction can happen before one even realizes the brokenness and what is actually happening.

Then there are others.  I know what it’s like to walk with abuse victims who dissociate. To hang on to a victim in a flashback until you can arrive at a safe place for them to throw themselves out of your vehicle once it’s stopped, to cry it out in a roadside ditch. To listen to the pain of their heart’s cry that doesn’t even make sense to themselves. But what do I do when they continue to believe the lies in their heads?  When they would rather believe the lies and that they’re worthless than to even accept the love that they’re given because love doesn’t feel “safe.”

Yes, God is the answer, He’s the healer.  But what if the mere mention of God fills the victim with such anxiety and anger that they shut down because the abuse was so wrapped up in their “godly religious” experience?

There is so much more that could be said.  I just want to bless you and encourage you to keep going.  I believe that once the victims find their voices and speak the reality of what they live with, the reality that so many wish to not hear, that is when people will wake up.  It’s critical that the victims be given their voice.

I’ve prayed many prayers, I will continue. I applaud as I read the (victim’s blog) posts.  I praise God and cry hallelujah when yet another victim has the courage to step up and speak, when yet another leader speaks out in truth, exposing yet more of the abuse.

And then I face the next battle on the home front and I hope and pray that fighting the battle well here will somehow contribute to the war against abuse at large.

~ Anonymous ~

***

The spouse who sits compassionately with the survivor of horror, as he or she grieves the trauma, or lives through the hell of its aftermath is a true hero. This wife is a true hero. I have such a hero in my life.  To this author… to my husband…. to every other spouse who sees and knows what it’s like… Thank you!

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

THE GATHERING, NOVEMBER 2, 2019, LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:

  1. Registration for THE GATHERING will close October 1, 2019 or when sold out.
    To register: THE GATHERING: Registration
    For information:  THE GATHERING Information.
    To register for concert only: JASON GRAY CONCERT NOVEMBER 2, 2019 LBC 7:00pm

NOTE: After August 1 concert is only included dependant on availability.

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.

© Trudy Metzger 2019