Sexual Abuse and Violence: From Victim to Healer

Thursday, February, 13, 2014 – 2:02:56 PM
Trudy Metzger

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)

© Trudy Metzger

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Return to First Blog: September 2010, “Running on Empty”

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Letter to the Victim of Sexual Abuse

Dear Friend,

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.

Beyond the darkest hour, the world bursts with life and light.
Beyond the darkest hour, the world bursts with life and light.

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.

Stronger — Hillsong
It’s Your Love – Hillsong
You Hold Me Now — Hillsong

© Trudy Metzger

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What is Sexual Abuse?

“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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