Times are changing. What some believed to be buried and well hidden, suddenly re-surfaced. Hideous dark secrets brought to light. Degrading acts brought to our attention. Someone’s trauma turned into a 30 seconds’ segment on the news. We respond with outrage at the daily reports of harassment and abuse and demand that the perpetrators are brought to justice. For some, the news cut deeper, as memories take on a life of their own, continuing their ravaging path of destruction through sleep, identity and relationships.
I’ve had several conversations with abuse survivors lately; strong, powerful women who have had their inner being violated. They have carefully crafted their own path back to life, thinking that they have left their trauma behind.
“I can’t look at the news without being reminded of what happened to me. It’s all over social media. I can’t talk to anyone, it’s just too hard.”
Someone else’s abuse experiences had re-traumatized her, torn her open, shredding her fragile confidence to pieces. She just wanted the constant updates from the many media outlets to stop. Admitting it brought tears of shame to her eyes. What was wrong with her? Didn’t these victims deserve justice? Who was she to tell them to keep quiet about what happened to them? That’s not even what she wanted. But she simply could not take it anymore. Not another sleepless night. Not another dreadful day. No more panic attacks. God, please make them stop!
Shift of focus
In every debate, the pendulum tends to swing back and forth. First, everyone’s outraged by the injustice done to vulnerable victims. Then the media grows tired of reporting similar stories. So, they search for a different angle, of tales where the protagonists are ambitious young women who have found their way to fame and success by sleeping with powerful men. And all the abuse survivors hear, is that, “These girls wanted it. They had something to gain. All these women crying about abuse, they’re not so innocent after all, luring good men into traps before exposing them. These guys were framed, their lives have been ruined!”
Let me make one thing clear:
There are no excuses for robbing someone’s innocence. For crushing someone’s hope. For inflicting irreversible physical, psychological and emotional havoc on a blameless victim. No, she did not deserve that. Nor did anyone else.
If you have been a victim of abuse:
Nobody had the right to do this to you.
It was not your fault that you were abused.
There is healing and restoration for you.
Your life is not over.
You are loveable.
We value your words and your presence.
As we listen to their stories
We have to guard our heart, to make sure that it is still made of flesh and not of stone. We need to keep on feeling, even when it hurts. As Christ wraps us in tender compassion, so will we encounter every abuse survivor with respect, dignity and unconditional love.
We have different rules of thumb; shortcuts that help us navigate through life without investing needless amounts of energy and attention. Mental shortcuts usually help us structure our thoughts more efficiently. That is how we solve problems and cope with grief and frustrations. Such principles are generally helpful, except when they’re not.
You may find that dismissing someone else’s story as exaggerated, distorted or even false is a shortcut that temporarily shields you against feeling their pain. Downplaying someone’s experience may help you cope with their excruciating loss and numbing effects of the trauma. Don’t do it. I’m not saying that you have to carry their hurt, but don’t ever reduce someone’s pain to something that you are comfortable with. It’s disrespectful and abusive.
Remaining empathetically invested may prove difficult. It’s hard to understand someone’s pain. After you have heard several stories of abuse, you may feel tempted to dismiss them, brushing them off or avoiding them as if they had a contagious disease. Please don’t. Keep your heart pliable and partner with Holy Spirit as you listen to their story. It’s worth it.
They’re worth it. Always.
Then, watch how the Holy Spirit brings light into the dark corners of the soul, healing to the broken heart, and peace to the haunted mind.
All who are oppressed may come to you as a
shelter in the time of trouble, a perfect hiding place.
May everyone who knows your mercy
keep putting their trust in you,
for they can count on you for help no matter what.
O Lord, you will never, no never, neglect those
who come to you.
Psalm 9:9-10, TPT