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Yahweh, your God, is intimately present in your battle, as a mighty and victorious warrior, fighting for you! Having overthrown your enemy, He serenades you, singing over you with great delight, like a Papa mesmerized by His child! He (Based on: Zephaniah 3:17)
The battle is not mine, it is not yours. We are loved. We are fought for. We are accepted. And our Heavenly Papa–Abba–holds us in His arms and in His heart. He is not a far-away-never-present Papa; He is ‘over us’ watching, loving, laughing and finding joy in us.
He sees His creation; a child in His own image and likeness, not the brokenness that we feel. He sees us through the eyes of love, acceptance and grace. We are His; we belong… no longer misfits. In this we find our true identity, our freedom.
Take a moment to whisper a thank you to this amazing God, and spend a moment basking in the light of His infinite love. It is life-altering to experience the wonder of Him.
~ T ~
The need for love and understanding is universal. Particularly the need to be loved by our parents, and supported by them. But so often at a time when children who have been molested reach for parental support and compassion, they find themselves neglected, abandoned, overlooked or even told they are making things up. At a time when they need love and affirmation most, these victims are forsaken and left to navigate through the fears and trauma alone.
They pack up their fears, pain and grief and set out on the ‘life journey’ in search for a place to be loved, a place to have their pain validated, a place to be believed… and ultimately a place where it is safe to unpack the whole bit, and heal. Too many search their whole lives, and the ‘whole world over’, only to never really find that place.
King David understood the one thing we all need so desperately… that God–whom we are given permission to call ‘Abba Father’, meaning ‘Daddy’ or ‘Papa’–stays where even parents turn away. He takes care of the abandoned and brokenhearted, and is near to them.
Those of us who have experienced this, have a gift to share with those around us, to live out the love of God in a practical way. A listening ear, a heart that does not judge the victim’s pain, a safe place to speak and grieve, and a place to be reminded that they are valuable, loved and accepted, a place where they rediscover hope, freedom and purposeful life…
That is one of the ways that the Father ‘stays near’ and loves the wounded, as His love flows through us into hurting hearts. So often we are the only way the wounded know His hands as loving, His feet as running to us not away, and His voice as one that offers hope.
Today I will tell at least one person that they matter, their pain matters, and show them the love of God in a practical way.
~ T ~
For the Elmira Independent
It was November 1990 when I first started opening up about the sexual abuse and violence in our home. That journey began when one couple, in the Mennonite church I attended at that time, reached out to me with compassion. In one moment they changed my world, when they asked if I had been sexually abused. That one question opened a door that led directly through the deepest ‘hell’ and, with much time and healing, into the sweetest ‘heaven’ I have ever known.
Initially the trauma threatened to overwhelm me, and destroy me completely. That was the ‘hell’ of the journey. For just days shy of 21 years, I had buried those memories. Way, deep inside. Far from the conscious mind. That’s where I hid the truth.
But we never truly forget. The body remembers. And what the mind blocks, the subconscious lives out of. And, because I lived out of the terror and trauma of the past, my life screamed of victimization. (Continue reading at The Elmira Indpendent)
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Return to First Blog: September 2010, “Running on Empty”
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It has been more than a week since I started this letter, and still I haven’t made it past the opening lines… Of all the letters I have written, this one is the most difficult, because it requires that I reach into the deepest pain in my own soul, to identify with the burden you carry.
In a way I have become so familiar with my pain, in speaking openly and doing ministry out of that pain, that it has lost its power… and sometimes I forget how hard it was. That is, until I think of you and see the raw agony of your battle. It is then that I am forced to see the trauma of abuse as it really is, before healing comes and hope rises out of that pain.
And I need to remember. If I cannot let my heart return to the memory of that battle, and ‘know’ that pain, then my expectations will become unrealistic. I will not extend to you the grace you need to fight through the ‘hell’ of that pain, and struggle with God in the process.
So, as I think of what you have been through, my heart cringes because I remember that daunting journey. I don’t have words of wisdom that will instantly transport you beyond the struggle. There is only one way to reach light of daybreak, and it is by experiencing the blackest part of the night. And that blackest hour of the struggle is the only way to be free of the grip of sexual abuse. There is no short cut, no easy way.
And, while I understand the pain, the trauma and struggle of overcoming abuse, your struggle is unique to you. I can love, support, pray and care, but I cannot walk the path for you, or understand your unique battle. While I can’t do it for you, I can tell you that fighting that battle and facing that pain is the best thing you can do. It is key to your freedom.
Having said that, don’t do it alone. The pain and trauma of abuse and betrayal is too deep for us to walk through alone. Find someone… a friend, a counsellor, a mentor.. someone who will walk you through the ‘hell’ of that pain and still love you. You need them to keep you grounded, to remind you of who you are, and the purpose you have.
When you were abused, you began to believe a lie. Each time you were violated, that lie grew stronger, and in returning to the pain, you will face that lie more intimately than ever before.
When you are abused it’s as if a lie begins to pursue you. Everywhere you turn, you hear it whisper, ‘you are worthless… you are ugly… you are trash…. you are used…’ and so on. The lie grows strong, over the years, and we fear it. We fear if others find out that they will see us that way too, and so we run… We run in fear and denial.
But the day you stop running, the day you turn around and walk back courageously into that memory, the lie begins to lose its power. Oh, it will try to overtake you. It will scream more loudly than ever, because you are growing stronger, but don’t quit.
When you return, ask Jesus to come with you. Ask Him to revisit that place of pain and trauma, and to show you what happened there. Ask Him to show you the lies you believed, because of what was done to you. And then invite Him to show you the truth, to tell you who you really are. Ask Him how He sees you. Invite Him to define you, to restore your true identity.
Because of life’s experience, you have been robbed of the ability to see yourself as you really are, as God created you, with great value. If you listen to Him, and let Him speak truth over the lies, the lies will lose their power, their grip, and you will be free from them.
It’s not an easy thing. Running seems easier. But the truth is that running is hard and facing the pain, in order to discover the truth, while hard, is worth it. I encourage you to keep going. I would do it for you, if I could, because I’ve done it and have discovered that it is possible to be free.
I’m sorry that you were abused, violated, stripped of identity, and used. I’m sorry that it left you feeling lost, lonely, broken and wondering if you’ll ever be whole again. I’m sorry that it opened a door for demons to attack you. I’m sorry for how you have suffered. And I’m sorry you have to go back. I’m sorry because I know what it takes.
I know you can do it, with God. Getting rid of those lies is the key to a full life, a bright hope, and a future with purpose. I will cheer for you, walk with you, care for you, and never stop believing that you can do it. Never quit!
With heartfelt love and a prayer for peace,
~ someone who is no longer a victim ~
Ps. Thought I’d share a few of my favourite songs right now, that help me see how much I am loved, and how great my God is. I’m not doing this fight alone.
© Trudy Metzger
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First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series
“Perpetrator. How I hate that word. I’ve still been reading your blog regularly, tho not quite as enthusiastically as awhile ago. I have read the word “perpetrator” more times than I would have cared to. I am wondering, how exactly do you define “perpetrator”? And how do you define sexual abuse? How “minor” does it have to be before you would define it as abuse? Some explanations would be appreciated…”
I received the above note from one of my blog readers today and wrote back with a brief explanation and a promise to write more about it here.
The individual went on to, somewhat apologetically, acknowledge that the message may sound harsh. Harsh? Not to me. It’s truth. It’s honest. It’s refreshing. I appreciate that. And I recognize that not all my writing is for everyone all the time. Having said that, I’ve had the highest consistent visits on my blog in the last several weeks. Where it’s not working, or where readers have concerns or questions, I appreciate hearing from you.
The word perpetrator is a broad term commonly used for anyone who commits a wrongdoing, especially in sexually inappropriate offences. It covers everything from the person who exposes himself or herself, violating others visually, to the people who rape, molest or otherwise abuse others sexually.
I use it in story telling because it allows me to write about the offender without giving away name, gender or the details of the violation. (To share those details, by calling the offender a rapist, is something I rarely do. In The Travelling Missionary… Rapist I did this, because I am hoping people will recognize him and get help if they or a loved one were one of the many who were violated by him.)
I’m not a big fan of changing names, though I do it on occasion, and rather refer to the person as a perpetrator. For better or worse, I’ll probably keep using it.
Defining Sexual Abuse is also not without challenge. There are various types and ‘degrees’ of violation, but any sexual exploitation, regardless how minor, or whether it involves touching, or not, is Sexual Abuse. Within that there are various definitions for different forms of abuse.
Molestation, for example, is typically used to describe unsolicited sexual contact with a woman, if it does not progress to rape, and also refers to all sexual contact with children. If children ‘consent’ they are still considered victims of molestation.
Sexual assault is a broad term used to define ‘knowingly causing another person to engage in an unwanted sexual act, by threat or by force.’ Sexual Assault, in legal terms, has for the most part replaced ‘rape’ and ‘sexual abuse’ or any form of sexual violation.
(In searching for answers as to when and why rape was redefined as sexual assault, I found Bill C-127, in 1983. The purpose was to include male and female victims, and make the law stricter and clearer by defining levels of assault. StatCan)
The person who exposes him/herself sexually in any way, is referred to as a perpetrator, and can be charged. (This is referred to as exhibitionism) The person to whom they exposed themselves is the victim.
Any sexual interaction with a minor is abuse, and is usually referred to as molestation or sexual assault. If it is two minors, it can be innocent exploring, or, more likely, the result of a victimized child introducing another child to what they have experienced, or are experiencing. These children are not perpetrators, though it can still have damaging or negative impact on one or both children. In a legal sense, adolescents and adults can be perpetrators of sexual abuse and adolescents are typically referred to as those between 11, or 12, and 19.
There are varying degrees of impact, and what some refer to as ‘minor’ abuse can have major psychological impact on the victim’s life. In any case, abuse is abuse, and victims need to be helped, while the offender needs to be held accountable and helped.
I’m not a big fan of assigning levels and degrees of abuse. If it happened, and it traumatized you, you need healing. If it impacted your behaviour, caused you to get involved in any unhealthy sexual behaviours, even in childhood, and left you feeling guilty or ashamed, then you need healing.
I’ve had women share things, reluctantly, worrying that they are being petty about something that happened in early childhood. It isn’t petty. If it felt wrong, and if it felt like it violated your right to be respected and protected, then deal with it on the level of abuse, regardless of the other person’s intent. To excuse it leaves you in bondage.
The best example I can think of is a young girl completely naked, or partially undressed, in her room, and someone marches in without knocking, to get something, to spank her, to yell at her or some other intrusive behaviour that has nothing to do with sexual intent. Even if the young girl is not touched, or even ‘looked at’ with sexual intent, she will likely feel violated. The sexual intent is not always there, for the violation to happen.
The scenarios I mention have happened and have left women struggling. I presume a boy could feel the same way, though I have not heard testimony to that fact, so I cannot speak to it.
These are some of the definitions of sexual abuse. If you have perpetrated in these crimes, there is hope, forgiveness and healing. You do not need to be defined by, or stay in bondage to what you have done, however, you do need to find help.
As always, whether you are a victim or perpetrator, if you need help finding someone to talk to in your area, email info ‘at’ faithgirlsunleashed ‘dot’ com. We will do our best to help, anywhere in Canada and USA.
© Trudy Metzger
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Before I tackle how I taught my children about healthy sexuality, I will write about what and how I learned. My frame of reference in childhood was warped, and that is where I will begin.
In childhood no one talked to me about my body. All I knew then was based on what happened to me, and what I witnessed around me. Both were damaging, though what I witnessed was probably more traumatic than what was done, or what I recall was done.
Many personal experience memories are still vague, while others have come back in vivid colour over the past fifteen to twenty years. To repeat them in graphic detail would be inappropriate and unproductive, but to be silent and avoid truth is no better, so I will be honest, but gentle and discreet.
I was born in La Batea, Zacatecas, Mexico, into a large Mennonite family. My family background was Old Colony Mennonite, also known as Russian Mennonites or Mexican Mennonites. When I was nine months old we moved to Chihuahua and started attending the ‘Kleine Gemeinde’, or ‘Small Congregation’ church, a more evangelical group that had split off of the more conservative group.
Memories of attending church are virtually non-existent, though I am told we attended regularly. The little I do recall of times at church, are pleasant and ‘happy’ memories.
At home things were very different. My father was a violent man, driven to succeed, but always falling short. A dreamer with big ideas, but no resources or focus to carry them out, he lived life on a short fuse.
Having more than a dozen children—sixteen by the time all was said and done—he was under a lot of financial pressure. Added to this was his own painful childhood, which he did not tell me much about until I was twenty-one. As if that wasn’t enough dysfunction, my father also sexually abused some of his daughters, myself included, to one degree or another, as well as at least one other cousin.
How much his rage was because of the past, and how much it was his own guilt, we will never know, but our childhood was riddled with death threats, violence and constant terror. Our home was not safe, in any way, and at a very young age I learned to ‘live in a bubble’, so to speak. It is difficult to explain but there is a mental/psychological ‘disconnect’ that happens when life is that harsh.
While my memories of sexual abuse are few and far between, memories of what I observed are much more graphic. Most of our family had been sexually abused by someone, whether uncles and aunts, a parent, or neighbours, and that resulted in serious sexual dysfunction between siblings in various degrees of incest and inappropriate behaviours. Where this impacted my life, I have freely forgiven and released siblings. We were children with a frame of reference so vile, so harsh, that this was all ‘normal’.
One of the most painful realities of sexual abuse is that children learn destructive behaviours and perceive them to be ‘normal’. But, because the topic is often not spoken of, other than a scolding or beating if caught, there is a sense of secrecy that leads children to believe that it is normal private behaviour, it is getting caught that is the problem. Especially since the adults who punish children, beating them to within an inch of their life, are often the perpetrators in the lives of those very children. And, when caught in the act, it didn’t matter if the child was the instigator or the victim. The punishment was severe either way.
That was the case in our home, and in many homes within the Old Colony culture and those who had broken away from that culture. How the sexual abuse and perversion took such deep root, I do not know, but it was rampant then, and in many communities it has not improved.
The hardest part in healing has been remembering, usually against my will, the horrific sexual abuse I witnessed as I saw groups of older teens use and abuse little children. On at least one occasion I followed a group of teens as they led some of my older siblings to a ‘secret place’ where I witnessed horrible things. For many years I questioned whether I had imagined it, dreamed it out of thin air, but this year I had the courage to ask several siblings.
Instantly, when I mentioned the ‘secret location’, the one sibling gasped, and before I could even describe what I thought I remembered, he repeated in graphic detail a vision that had haunted me for almost forty years. He had completely blocked it until I mentioned the place. We believe I was three years old when I witnessed this, or four at the most, since that family moved away from the community at that time.
With this as my framework for understanding sexuality, I was destined for pain and tragedy. The events that took place in the first few years of my life, brought deep shame on me, and set me up for further victimization later.
All of these things triggered nightmares and confusion. Eventually, when I could take it no more, I blocked those years completely so that I would not remember the details again until many years later.
The year I turned six, we moved to Canada…. A new world… a new future… a better life.
…To Be Continued….
© Trudy Metzger
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