Sidestep

I wrote this one way back in the beginning of my blogging adventure, in May of 2012. I didn’t know how to publicize it back then.  I was looking for it yesterday, and decided to repost it and publicize it today.  I am just as passionate about it now as I was five years ago.  Maybe more. 

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This is a rant.  I don’t care if anyone is offended by it.

I am SO offended by the pain, confusion, misery, and total dysfunction that results from children being exposed way too soon, way too graphically, to sexual behaviors.  I am offended that children who aren’t even in their teens think they have to decided whether they are straight, gay, or “bi.”  I am offended at the angst they suffer when they think they should already know about sex.  When they tell me their friend asked them to “just try it,” like you would try a new flavor of ice cream.

I am offended when these children dissolve into tears in my office because they are, after all, still children.  They have been taught everything they need to know about human sexuality except for the important things:  Love, respect, godliness, commitment, consequences. I am offended that they have been hurt by someone they should have been able to trust; most child sexual abuse is at the hands of a trusted family member or close friend of the family.  I am offended that these children are often told it must have been something they did to cause the abuse; I am offended that they are the ones who feel guilty, while the perpetrator just continues his behavior with not a twinge of conscience.  I am offended that a woman told me she was a promiscuous four-year-old.  Good grief.

I am offended by the man who told his wife that if he had known she’d been molested as a child, he wouldn’t have married her because she was impure.  Not the creep who molested her (her older brother, by the way); it wasn’t his fault; she must have been asking for it.

I am offended that these victims of sexual abuse suffer flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks, addictions, promiscuity, and self-harm; and yet they are sometimes told by other believers that they just need to get over it and move on with their lives.

I am offended that we have forgotten that Jesus said that anyone who harms one of of these little ones would do better to tie a very large stone around his neck and jump into a deep river.

I tell these hurting people that it was not their fault.  I tell them that when someone touches you sexually, he is touching your soul.  It changes you.  It makes you have to deal with emotions and behaviors that no child is mature enough to understand. It causes terrible confusion and creates a huge sense of unworthiness in the heart of a victim. We process through what happened; we work together for healing and forgiveness.  It’s hard, painful work. No one should try it at home alone.

When the person begins to heal and to understand that God never stopped loving her, there is a change in demeanor. Sometimes they’ll even let me hug them when they leave.  Always, they cry.  A lot.

Until we stop sweeping this horror under the carpet and offer help and healing to the victims, it will continue to grow like the plague it is.  Parents, you cannot be too protective of your children.  Sometimes the perpetrators are the kids they sit next to in school.  Sometimes it’s the babysitter; the friendly old guy next door; an aunt, uncle, or grandparent. Take off the blinders.  Talk with your children.  Know where they are and who they are with. You are their protectors.  Of course, often the parent is the perpetrator.  There are just no words.

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” II Chronicles 7:14.

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20 thoughts on “Sidestep

  1. anonymous

    Thank you so much for this post. I don’t really know how to understand it right now. I can’t be sure that God cares personally for ME after all that happened, but I am thankful for what you wrote. Do you know that churches and Christian leaders cover these things up? They condemn victims of sexual crimes and don’t seem to ever condemn the perpetrators. How do you then trust the God they follow?

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  2. I’m so glad you posted. I don’t know what to call you, so how about Ann? I’m going to try to address your questions one by one, and I want you to feel free to talk with me as long as you need to.

    First, you have to understand that the treatment you receive at the hands of other people does not in any way reflect on God’s love for you. If it did, then God couldn’t have loved His own Son. Jesus, after all, was more a victim than anyone else in history. He was sinless, yet He was horribly, unjustly mistreated, falsely accused, tortured, humiliated, and finally had the weight of the sin of all mankind placed on Him. God had to turn His face away not because He didn’t love, but because He could not look on sin. His Son, He loved completely. Nowhere in God’s Word are we told we will be safe from harm if we love God. In fact, God makes it clear that trouble will come, but that He will walk through it with us. Colossians 1:16 states clearly that YOU were made by Him, for Him. He loves you. Ephesians 2:10 says you are His workmanship, His masterpiece. He loves you. Psalm 39 says you are fearfully and wonderfully made, a marvelous work of God. He loves you.

    Second, I want to revise your statement: SOME Christian leaders and churches cover these things up. SOME condemn victims of sexual crime. Not all. Don’t make the mistake of painting everyone with a huge black brush. Not all believers are guilty of such ignorance. All through history, horrible crimes against mankind have been committed in the name of many different gods, including the God of the Bible. The Catholic Church was the creator of the Spanish Inquisition, yet no one condemns every priest, every Catholic, for what the hierarchy of that time perpetrated.

    In my experience, people who do cover up the sin and accuse the victims are guilty of terrible ignorance, and there is no excuse. They are operating on the basis of centuries-old prejudice and superstition, and there is no excuse for that, either. But their behaviors are NOT a reflection on the God they say they serve. Instead, they are clear evidence of the fallen nature of mankind and of Satan’s ability to influence our thinking. Jeremiah 17:9 says that the heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; that we can’t even know the depths of our own ability for evil. I had a pastor years ago who said that any Christian is capable of committing any sin. Not God’s fault. Please don’t let the wickedness of which we are ALL capable get in the way between you and God. See God clearly through His Word, not through the filter of other people. That filter distorts the truth.

    Ann, you are clearly the victim of an evil person. But what he did to you in no way changes your worth and value in God’s eyes, nor in mine or anyone else’s who understands that the victim is not to blame. Consider this: if there had never been a sexual criminal, Jesus would still have had to die. The only sin He cannot forgive is the sin of rejecting Who He is. You do not need to be forgiven for what happened to you. You were not the criminal. And even if some people are too ignorant to understand that, the truth of it is not changed.

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    1. Ann

      Thank you! I never thought about God not being able to love Jesus if he condemned victims simply for being victims. I also have to agree to your point that not all Christian leaders and churches cover those crimes. Although I grew up in environments where those crimes were that happened, and attended a university where sexual abuse and assaults were covered up, I have found Christians in recent years who do not do that. On some level I know that God can’t be who I was taught about growing up. I get a glimpse of this when I look at who Jesus hung out with. He seemed to pick a lot of people to spend time with that the religious leaders avoided feeling like they would somehow be tainted by them.
      I really do WANT to trust God. I just don’t really know how to. I don’t know what that would look like. I’m trying to separate who he is from who I was taught he is and how he was represented to me. I can kind of get it in a factual way, but when I try to get beyond that, it gets confusing. The idea of it being a personal relationship is confusing. I don’t know what something like that even looks like.
      On one occasion, I was assaulted by someone who was trying to “witness” to me. When I said I wasn’t interested and didn’t trust churches because of past experiences, he responded by r*ping me. Now, he is a religious leader. At the time, I thought that God was punishing me for not going to church and not listening to what this man preached to me. Now, I’m not sure what to think. There are people who are talking a stand against these things, specifically the incidents that are being exposed at the university I attended. One of them is the person who posted the link to your blog on a facebook page where he has defended many who have been hurt. He says he does it because of God’s love.

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      1. Ann, I’m going to try to address each point you’ve made in the order you stated them, so I don’t overlook anything. I have a strong desire to help you find the peace with God that you seem to be seeking. I’ve been praying for you, and I’m sure some of the others who have seen your post are doing the same.

        I, too, grew up in an environment (and a generation) in which it was strongly believed that what happened behind closed doors should stay behind closed doors. While I believe that we are way too quick to display our dirty laundry to the public these days, I also know that such a closed-mouth policy made it easier for abusers to continue their behaviors. I want to reassure you, on this point, that not all of us who grew up in fundamentalism have turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to such injustice. Not only that, many of the leaders of my childhood and in the years following have taken clear and strong stands against protecting abusers. If you study the subject of sexual abuse as I have, and work with it nearly every day in my office, you will understand that it’s not just religious people who deny and cover up. There is no layer of society that doesn’t have this dirty little secret infecting it, and that includes education, law enforcement, medicine and so on. It just seems so much worse when people who claim Christ, and who have access to and influence on children, are the guilty ones. And we are all still learning about the horrendous consequences of such abuse.

        I hear your heart-cry when you say you really do want to trust God. Again, I need to stress the importance of not allowing yourself to see God through the filter of other people. The way to see Jesus is through His Word. If you long to see His love, grace, and mercy you need to contemplate Bethlehem, Calvary, and the empty tomb. The purity of God’s Word will speak to your heart as nothing else can.

        When you talk about the difficulty of visualizing a personal relationship with God, I have to wonder what kind of family you grew up with. Were they uncomfortable with expressions of affection? Did you have the opportunity to speak intimately with either parent? Or did you come from a family in which The Rules were the most important thing? What we learn about relationships when we are children certainly colors our view of God. The good news is that you can go back and learn whatever you missed in your early years! It’s never too late to learn to love freely and without conditions.

        I am so sorry for the experience you had with the man who assaulted you. I hope you have done whatever was possible to bring him to legal justice, although I realize that sometimes it’s very difficult to do so. His actions were evil, immoral, unbiblical, ungodly, and illegal. And they were in NO WAY a punishment of God on your life. Remember, Jesus protected the children and promised retribution on those who would harm them. God never behaves in a way that opposes His own character. He is always good. Always.

        I spend several hours every week helping others who, like you, are suffering the backlash of someone else’s ungodly behavior. I wish with all my heart that you weren’t suffering; and it makes me very angry that anyone would protect the person who hurt you. If he did it to you, he has almost certainly done it to others and if he is still living, he needs to be stopped. I want to reassure you that even if this person is never brought to justice here, he will indeed answer to God for his actions. I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes on that day.

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      2. Ann

        Sorry, I couldn’t figure out how to post my comment under your response?? Thank you so much for the time you have taken to respond. I wish I could just “get it”, but as much as I long for that personal relationship with God, I don’t think it is meant for me. I do believe that he is God and that he is good. I just don’t know how to relate any of those things on a personal level. My days are filled with flashbacks, shaking and memories that I can’t block out anymore. My nights are mostly sleepless, sometimes filled with nightmares. Where is God in all of this? I prayed for months pleading with him, not really to take it away, but just to let me know he is here in the middle of it and won’t leave me alone, but I could never sense his presence. I have to acknowledge that while I still know that he is God and I do believe he is good, the kind of relationship I hoped for isn’t available for me. I don’t know how to have that kind of relationship. And you are right, my parents didn’t believe any of their kids earned their love, so they withheld it. They told us they couldn’t love us because none of us performed to their expectation. My mother told me when I was young that the best thing I could do for them was to die. I was more beneficial to them dead as she said people would feel sorry for them and their ministry would benefit from that. They were in full time ministry and wanted perfect kids. None of us met their criteria.
        I’m okay with the past having happened. Life was hell, but many had it much worse. All I want is to somehow be able to actually connect to God’s love now. I just don’t know how. I feel like that part of me is broken.
        As for pressing charges regarding the assault, that has just come up recently. I only just started facing what happened and realizing he might be a danger to others. I do think it will have to be pursued legally, but am completely terrified. My parents will condemn me. I hate the thought of people I know finding out what happened to me. It’s shameful and I don’t want real life people to ever know. It’s bad enough just acknowledging it here and it isn’t even under my name.

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      3. You don’t have to “just get it” right this minute, Ann. You’ve been struggling with the hurt and confusion for a long time. Healing doesn’t come in a moment.

        You are not exempt from God’s desire for a personal relationship with each soul He has created. You are precious to him. He stands with arms wide open, waiting for you to find His peace, mercy, grace, and love. It’s there.

        What you are describing with your flashbacks and so on–these are classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Many soldiers who have been traumatized could tell you that it would be important and very helpful for you to get some professional help for PTSD. I am a trained and certified trauma therapist, and I wish you lived in my area. Let me ask you this: would it be ok with you if I used the email that is available to me as administrator of this blog to contact you privately? If I knew where you live, I could help you find someone who has the same training I do. If you don’t want me to contact you, then I won’t. I understand how you might be afraid of trusting anyone. But I can promise you in God’s Name that I will never betray your trust or hurt you in any way.

        Anxiety is part of PTSD. Extreme anxiety dulls our ability to process, understand, and even feel any but the most devastating emotions.

        I have four children, all adults now. I cannot even imagine withholding love from them; not for what they may have done, and especially not for anything someone else may have done to them. To do so goes against everything Jesus taught. It is not Christ-like. I don’t understand how anyone can say he is in ministry, and yet refuse to minister to his own children. How can you want “perfect” kids when you yourself are so imperfect? If being a parent and grandparent has taught me anything at all, it’s that we fall so far short of what we ought to be.

        You are correct that a part of you is broken, Ann, but it is NOT beyond repair. What happened to you is, indeed shameful; but the shame belongs to the perpetrator, not to you. Outrage, righteous anger, yes. Guilt and shame belong to the evil person who assaulted you, not to you. A victim is a person who has something happen to him that he does not want but cannot prevent. No blame is attached to being a victim.

        Please consider contacting me privately, or allowing me to contact you.

        My heart is yearning over you, and it’s because of the love of God. He has placed you in my path. There are no coincidences with Him. I love you in His Name.

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      4. Mike

        Ann,

        Do you remember the story of the father whose child was dying, in Mark 9? He came to Jesus and said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Can you hear the desperate plea in that cry? That’s the sound of one who has reached the end of himself, and who is now putting trust in someone whom he neither knows nor understands. It is his leap of faith. Jesus did not fail him. He NEVER fails. He doesn’t always move when we want him to move, but he NEVER fails.

        John Michael Talbot sang a song with these lyrics:

        “Christ has no body now but yours
        no hands, no feet on earth but yours
        Yours are the eyes through which He looks
        with compassion on this world
        yours are the feet with which He walks to do good
        Yours are the hands,
        with which He blesses all the world

        Yours are the hands,
        yours are the feet
        yours are the eyes
        You are His body.”

        So, when people are reaching out to you in love, hoping to help you through a tunnel that most of us have never traveled, it is Christ’s love reaching out to you. He understands you in a way that I never will. The people who are praying for you and caring for you right now? These people are the physical manifestation of the spiritual truth that is so mind-boggling…that each of us was intended for a personal relationship with a personal God who loves us more than we can imagine.

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      5. Ann

        I don’t know how to privately message you, but it is okay for you to use my e-mail address. I can’t think clearly enough to answer anymore right now, but thank you!

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      6. Ann

        Granonine,
        Thank you so much for your offer of help. On one hand, I am very thankful. I can explain better what is happening if I am not on this page where everyone can read it, but I have to tell you that I am terrified to hope that I can really be free. Hope seems like the utlimate weapon that can destroy what is left of me. I know that there is ultimate hope in eternity, but I am fearful to expect too much hope while here on earth. Anyway, thank you. I don’t know how to e-mail you???

        Mike,
        I kind of get what you are saying. I pray and sense nothing, no feeling that God cares, no sense that he is hearing or with me, but there have been specific instances where I was so desparate and the phone would ring or a card would come in the mail – just something showing me that I am not completely alone. I guess, in a way, God is orchestrating those things. I just wish I could find HIM. I want to be able to see him in a relational way. I just don’t know if that is available to me.
        Thanks for the song. It’s beautiful!

        Katrina,
        I don’t know if this helps or not, but from my esperience and the experience of others I know, most don’t go to church expecting that those who are there will be able to “fix” their problems or know what to do. For my part, I have never struggled with someone who doesn’t have all the answers. I don’t expect anyone too and it’s an honest relationship if that can be admited. The only people I have ever really trusted are people who didn’t necessarily have all the answers, but trusted that God did and they genuinely cared. I hope that helps.

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  3. Katrina Gonzales

    Good for you for speaking up, Ann! Linda is so right!
    Growing up as a pastor’s kid and very much my life surrounded by church, I was very aware of our inabilities and sinful human nature as Christians, but also a very strong awareness of God’s unfailing love! He is the One and Only that NEVER failed me.
    I will be the first to admit that I am not skilled or educated in dealing with those who have dealt with things such as Linda listed, along with drug, alcoholic, pornographic, etc..type of addictions. I do wish we as a church and Christians had a stronger desire to learn how to help these hurting hearts. I also feel there is a misconception on those newly coming into the church to have very high expectations of those already in the church to know how to respond and care for these huge hurts and struggles. Many of us as Christians get just as aggravated and angry by the sin and failure of these leaders within the church and it is not acceptable!
    Keep your eyes on Jesus. He will never fail you!
    Deuteronomy 31:6 – “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

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    1. Thanks, Katrina. Your point about having high expectations of other believers is well taken, and one I hadn’t thought of. When our expectations are unrealistic, we are surely going to be disappointed.

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  4. Well said. Such an important topic and one that is not discussed or considered anywhere near often enough. Unfortunately, most Christians I grew up around would never ever talk about something so graphic, but there is such pain, hurt, turmoil, & fear amongst those who have suffered silently too long.

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  5. Dear Linda, amen to your post and to your wise and loving replies to Ann. May God bless her with healing through an intimate relationship with Jesus.
    It’s often someone you’ve trusted that takes advantage of and terribly abuses that trust. I wish I could say I haven’t experienced this. I think more women have been abused than haven’t been in one way or another. Heaven will be gloriously safe for all women, for all men, and for all children.
    Blessings ~ Wendy

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