Why do abuse victims keep silent for years?

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photo credit: Ömer Ünlü romantic sunset via photopin (license)

This question is being asked mostly in related to sexual assault victims coming forward. I won’t get into any of those cases. Politics and current events are not in my realm of expertise and this blog isn’t about current events or politics.

However, I do have an interest in abuse culture, otherwise known as the dynamics of a dysfunctional tribe. I would like to answer this question for those who sincerely want to know. And the church is made up of flawed humans, from many backgrounds, so it could help make peace in church disputes to offer up my understanding of how dysfunctional tribes operate. I have seen the survivors God has delivered from that toxic environment attacked in the church, too, for, say, “turning on” a fallen church leader after propping him up by covering up his secret, ongoing, unrepentant sin. So for those of you who sincerely want to know why a real victim may well wait years before shining light on deeds done in darkness, here’s why.

Keep in mind, this is a general answer on abuse culture and dysfunctional tribes. Not on simply sexual abuse. These dynamics can appear in all types of abuse and dysfunctional environments. A dysfunctional tribe can be anything from a family, a workplace, a group of hobbyists, a political party, or even a church.

First, a dysfunctional tribe has dysfunctional/abusive leadership. Abusers in general often, but not always, hold positions of power, these can include: parent, spouse, boss, teacher, coach, pastor, politician, doctor, and any other authorities a particular tribe may respect. Abusers holding important positions in the victim’s life often instill a real fear of the victim coming forward leading to the abuser harming the victim both directly and by turning the tribe against the victim. The abuser often succeeds at that. S/he often presents him or herself in public as a good guy/woman. One of the dysfunctional tribe’s rules is believing in and upholding this public image. This can be so ingrained, only neutral outsiders or members of an “enemy” tribe stand by the victim. The “enemy tribe” may be functional advocates for victims who truly help or another dysfunctional tribe just using the victim to advance their cause.

Abusers are usually found in dysfunctional tribes, and they usually target their own tribe members. Their victims are often brain-washed by the abuser and/or their tribe to keep silent. In such cultures, the victim coming forward, naming names especially, is deemed worse than what the abuser did. The tribe will defend the abuser and attack the victim, convinced the abuser is the real victim. The abuser convinces themselves and their tribe that they only hurt people who deserve it. In the tribe’s rules, it is often the tribe member’s responsibility to bow to the abuser’s every whim and manage their emotions for them. Until the victim gets outside the dysfunctional tribe, the victim may be unaware that managing the abuser’s emotions is solely the abuser’s own responsibility. It can take years for some victims to heal enough to accept it wasn’t their own fault, that they didn’t deserve treated like they were.

The abuser frequently will also insist the person coming forward has blown everything out of proportion, is making things up, or is crazy and imagining things, that nothing like that ever happened. Again, within the abuser’s tribe, this often seems reasonable and the victim often fears everyone will side with the abuser against them. An internal, God-given sense of fairness can set off alarm bells in victims’ minds but it is still an enormous relief the first time an outsider sees what’s going on and says we’re right, it did happen, we truly weren’t treated fairly by our tribe, and we haven’t blown it out of proportion, they are minimizing it.

So, within an abuser’s dysfunctional tribe, there is enormous pressure on the victims to keep silent and bolster the abuser’s ego and good person/perfect saint image. It is far too common for a dysfunctional tribe’s members to surrender to pressure to outright lie to protect the tribe and their dysfunctional leadership from their dysfunctional reality. Why? They don’t want to be abused, too, they don’t know how to fix the dysfunction and fear shining a light on the tribe’s actual dysfunctional reality will only lead to their cause failing and/or the tribe disintegrating. That has happened, too, but such deceit only props up the fallen, keeps the fallen from having to deal with the consequences of their fall, and kills all hope of the fallen ever recovering.

Still, it takes great courage for someone accustomed to this to come forward and tell the truth any point after the fact. For many victims who do come forward, it is often due to encountering the next victim(s.) The first victim starts to think the subsequent victim(s) abuse is the first victim’s fault. Since it could have prevented by speaking up. The victim comes forward when that guilt grows greater than the guilt of speaking out against “a good man/woman, really, s/he just has a little problem with . . . ”

Another way victims within the tribe find their courage is when they see the dysfunctional tribe leader in some way attempting to position themselves to hurt even more people. When that happens, real victims are vulnerable to exploitation by their tribe’s enemies. Especially when the tribe’s enemies are kind and loving to the tribe’s victims while the victims’ now ex-tribe defends their ex-tribe and props up the abusers at the victims’ expense.

A dysfunctional tribe is often blind to their own contribution to a victim’s “fall to the enemy.” The more valid of an enemy it is, the more serious the victim’s fall is, the blinder the tribe is to how the tribe has been a stumbling block to the victim.

Let’s be real now. Instead of objectively analyzing evidence offered against a trusted tribal authority, most of us are prone to dismiss it out of hand, sure it couldn’t be true. It is also too common for people to think their enemy tribe’s failings outweigh and somehow justify our tribe’s own. When a victim exposes one of our own, our eyes are prone to seek any reason the victim is the guilty one, and to question why they didn’t come forward sooner. The short “why” is because the abuser’s own tribe holds power in the victim’s life and will assume the victim is the one in the wrong without proof of that rather than give serious consideration to evidence of the abusers’ guilt that is coming in the form of eyewitness testimony.

Rather than dismiss eyewitness testimony out of hand, let’s at least seek actual proof the witness isn’t credible.

Now, it’s apparent many of us don’t know the difference between eyewitness testimony, other evidence, and accusations. To the best of my understanding, I’ll give some examples:

Accusation: “She/he is X negative identity.”

Eyewitness testimony: “This person did X wrong act to me or someone else in front of me. Here are the details to the best of my memory, given with the discretion called for by the nature of the act.”

Counter Accusation: “S/he is a liar!”

Counter Evidence: “Here are multiple separate cases where the same person has targeted multiple separate powerful men who fit a certain profile with asexual assault accusations. Here are recorded calls/emails/letters sent to all of the accused, demanding hush money or otherwise attempting to blackmail all of the accused.”

Counter Evidence: The same person has told the same story six different ways six different times and contradicts him/herself.

Counter Evidence: Four eye-witnesses to Christ’s execution and resurrection give the exact same account of the same event. This would have been evidence of liars colluding on a story. What we actually find in the Bible is four separate eye-witnesses giving testimony that contradicts each other on minor, insignificant details. Such is evidence the eye-witnesses are four ordinary humans telling the truth to the best of their own recollections.

In our modern tribal disputes, often, both sides of a dispute are contradicting each other and calling the other side a liar. We need to examine the credibility of both sides’ arguments objectively. That can be tricky, as it is human to be biased in the favor of our own tribe and the tribal authorities we love and respect. We could all stand to check our biases and more fairly evaluate the evidence and the objective credibility of eye-witness testimony. If, on careful examination, one side of a modern flap is giving detailed eyewitness testimony and the other side is mainly throwing out accusations and deflecting responsibility for their own behaviors, the latter side is at least acting guilty.

So, if you are innocent and someone is falsely accusing you, it’s best to resist letting yourself get caught up in defending yourself and lashing back at your enemy. Especially if you’re a Christian; that is not what our God calls us to do. Instead, pause. Reflect on how things looked from the other person’s viewpoint and ask “what could I have done to discourage incidents like this in the future?” Without taking the answer as justifying any wrongs done against you. It doesn’t. These steps are meant to help you calm down and to calm down the situation with a contrite, humble response.

Sociopaths, narcissists, and many other dysfunctional tribal leaders NEVER consider others viewpoints or admit to their own faults, and certainly not in public. In most situations, we’ll find we did contribute, though how we could’ve avoided the incident does not make it our fault. Unless the incident was ourselves lashing out, of course. Either way, owning your contribution, apologizing, and seeking to change can show either your innocence or genuine repentance and make peace. Victims are scared to try that, though, and our reasons can be valid with dysfunctional tribes and abusers. Pray hard before trying that tactic on an abuser or a dysfunctional tribe known to be apt to use your admitted flaws against you. Either way, take the brave road. Resist defending yourself. Resist lashing back. Instead seek to offer kindness, respect, love, a humble, soft response, knowing God is with you and will help you.

 

[tweetthis]Why victims keep silent so long: the dark side of #tribes #dysfunctional #coveringupabuse[/tweetthis]

It’s Not Always Easy to be a Kid

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photo credit: Daddy-David Crying at dinner – Day 331 via photopin (license)

I have gathered, when kids express they feel it can be hard to be a kid, some parents laugh, saying the kids’ feeling is wrong, that what is hard is being an adult and having to work and pay a mortgage, to earn money to care for and provide for kids who would turn and complain about their lot in lives.

Certainly, children know little of the problems of adulthood. There’s the exertions of work, the stress of finances, and the time consuming tasks of raising children. There’s the emotional stresses of wondering whether our life has really mattered, if we’ve made the right choices, and what type of world we’ll leave to our children.

We may find ourselves looking out on a summer day which we’re about to spend doing thankless office work or thankless housework and remember those summer days that were as free as rain water when we could do most anything we wanted. When we could sleep until 9 in the morning or later and then run until the sun went down, with almost boundless energy. What energy we often have is drained in drudgery spent at work and at home for kids who complain about their lot in life.

There’s something to be said for gratitude. Modern middle class American children need to learn it. If they were born another time or in another country, their lives would not be spent playing video games or demanding cell phones. They’d be spent working in the field or in some sweatshop. Their country and their parents have afforded them a great deal of opportunity.

Rather than blaming the children for feeling their lives are hard, let’s graciously remember two things. They typically lack the perspective on life needed to realize how easy they have it compared to past generations of kids and kids of lesser economic situations. They are also not capable of commiserating with the challenges of adult life. They’ve never been adults. But adults are capable of taking off their rose colored glasses and remembering what it was like to be children–what it was really like.

In addition, beyond the confines of the safe home you raise your well-adjusted family in, the sad reality is many children are suffering greatly in situations bad beyond our comprehension. Kids are easy to abuse in the most vile ways imaginable by adults. Kids from abusive and otherwise disadvantaged backgrounds can be easy prey for bullies. Kids suffer from hunger, starvation, discrimination, and poverty in every corner of the United States and even more so around the world.

Yet even kids in far better circumstances lack control. The biggest things that kids can’t control is who conceives them and who parents them. While there are now designer parents, children will never get to have designer parents. An infant doesn’t get to request an emotionally supportive father, a mother who will encourage her interest in sports, or a parent who will sacrifice part of her career to stay home with her and any siblings she has. They don’t get to choose if they’ll have a parent who will read to them.

Birth parents begin making decisions for a child before he’s even born by the birth mother’s habits during pregnancy and how she takes care of herself and then during the developmental years. Decisions are made about exposure to media and stimuli that will set the course for the rest of their lives.

Kids don’t get to choose their economic strata or what type of schools they’ll be able to attend. They don’t get to decide whether their parents will be dedicated to making their marriage and family work. They don’t get to decide how much exercise they’ll get in early life or whether their food will be healthy. They don’t get to decide whether the parents will make decisions that are far beyond their ability to understand: whether they’ll receive religious instruction or how it is given if it is.

Kids suffer all the time due to parental unwise decisions made as a result of a lack of knowledge of their unique kids’ unique needs and how to meet them while emotions like pride, fear, and shame keep the parents from seeking professional help. Parents can allow kids to do whatever they want, only for the children to suffer later because the parents didn’t consistently say no to something harmful.

Some types of short term pain produce long term benefits. Parental-induced boredom may be meant to prepare children for the fact life isn’t a non-stop party of fun. Limiting junk food and screen time may produce healthy bodies when they’re older. Yet, such reasoning is beyond a child’s comprehension.

From a child’s own, limited perspective, it is indeed hard to be a kid. After all, even as adults, Christians are still children in relation to God. We don’t get to decide his Word or His Commandments, His Ways are often beyond our comprehension. And, if we are truly submitted, then we are not in control, He is. And at times, we don’t understand, and get very frustrated at how hard this foreign way to live is.

If it is hard, at times, to be a child in the hands of a God who loves us, how much harder is it to be a child helplessly in the hands of well-intentioned but flawed human beings?

[tweetthis]It’s Not Always Easy to be a Kid guest post by Adam Graham @idahoguy[/tweetthis]

[tweetthis]If it can be hard to be a child of a perfect, loving God, how much harder is it to be a child of flawed humans?[/tweetthis]

 

 

Break In

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photo credit: country_boy_shane The Citadel – National City Building via photopin (license)

The street lamp lured the two young vagrants towards their only hope of warmth in the dark night. The store was closed, but a lock pick fixed that in short order.

Inside, the young man cursed. “It’s as dark in here as it is out there. Find a light.”

“How?” the shabbily dressed girl asked. “I can hardly see my hand in front of my face.”

Maybe they couldn’t. I could see just fine. Not that there was much to see, besides me, anyway. I was the main thing for sale around here. This place was generic Corporate America. No different from any other corporate headquarters, other than everyone but upper management having all gone home for the night. Even the janitor had taken off.

The young man sighed. “At least it’s warm. Let’s find what we came for already.”

Blind eyes glanced around as they turned in a slow circle, struggling to see through what to them was a dark gloomy night that the lights should have kept safely outside. The girl’s eyes landed on me, peering hard. “I think I might see something.”

No, don’t. Not this way; you’ll set off the security system.

The girl’s companion shivered. “Let’s get out of here. Something doesn’t feel right.”

The fools ran forward, towards me.

Blue sparks flew from the ceiling and zapped the youths. They didn’t even have time to scream before the ionizer had dusted them both. Gone, just like that.

That was it. No more of this.

A swift kick, and my display case shattered. I rolled out and hit the ground running. No time to mess with the hassle of going upstairs the normal way, and they’d be expecting something like that. But I knew a better way to get into upper management.

Dashing around the corner, I found the grate covering the old service elevator’s shaft. A screwdriver had the bolts off in two minutes flat. I climbed inside and shimmied up the service elevator shaft’s stainless steel rails. On the second floor, at my easy tug, the rusty service elevator doors creaked apart with a groan.

The light from the office glowed golden yellow from the open door. It was a perfect square. Three feet square.

I scrunched down and limboed through the door. Easy for me, but no one should have to jump through hoops like this, and I bypassed the normal steps to management.

At my entrance, the resident Woman in Charge, in a perfectly pressed power suit, came flying at me, red faced and flustered that some miscreant got past security. “You can’t come in here!”

I regarded the manager calmly. “Sure I can.” I pointed at the door to the owner’s office. “That’s my office.”

At the sound of my voice, my manager and her associates assumed a posture that was far more appropriate for employees in the presence of their boss. Finally, upper management had figured out I was the guy that gave them the keys in the first place—the same keys they used to lock me out and treat me like a product to market and sell.

[tweetthis]Break In #FlashFiction based on a dream. A sentient product for sale confronts his managers.[/tweetthis]

Our Rabbi: Confident, Savvy, and Assertive

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26 They were not able to catch Him in what He said in public, and being amazed at His answer, they became silent.  (HCSB)Today’s full text: Luke 20:1-26

How did Jesus respond when the religious leaders of his day questioned his authority to do the work His father had sent him to do? For context, one of the reasons they doubted his credentials as a Rabbi is because he had never been a disciple for anyone, so he’d rebelled against the status quo, no human had taught him to be just like them and commissioned him as a rabbi to teach others to be just like his own rabbi. So he didn’t meet the education requirements to preach the gospel and had no human certifications saying he was a licensed minister commissioned and under the authority of a particular rabbinical school of thought.

First, he didn’t become offended. He didn’t doubt himself and his ability and qualifications because the experts of the day doubted in him. He remembered what his Father had said about him, that he was the Son of God, and called not to teach disciples to be like a human rabbi, but to be like his Father. He also knew if he pulled out his credentials for the religious leaders, they would refuse to believe, accuse him of blasphemy, and kill him.

Since it wasn’t time yet, he refused not only to doubt in himself, but to prove himself to men, turning the tables on them, asking whether John was commissioned to baptize people by men or by God. The religious leaders were trapped–answering from God would be a winning point to the Lord in the debate, but the crowd would riot if they denied John’s authority, too. The leaders refused to answer, so they got no answer, but the crowd got one right there. Jesus addresses the issue in a parable about tenant farmers who kill the heir to the land hoping to keep what belongs to him for themselves, thus warning them without saying an arrestable word that the religious leaders of the day would be destroyed if they continued on the road to crucifying the Lord.

The leaders were smart enough to get the message and were furious, but he’d made his point to the huge crowd,  making the leaders also afraid to oppose him directly–so they turned to spies pretending to be on the Lord’s side and tried to trap him with their famous question about paying taxes and the Lord again saw through their deception and refused to be trapped into either speaking against paying taxes to Caesar and committing treason, or speaking in favor of Caesar and offending the crowd. So he gave his famous answer, that affirmed giving Caesar his coins per the letter of the law directly while stating indirectly that mankind should give ourselves, our whole lives and bodies, to God, as we bare the image of God and everything we have comes from him and is truly His.

If we disciples want to be more like our Rabbi, we should be more confident of our calling, not swayed by the voices and opinions of man, but aware of them and savvy in our responses, testifying to the truth, but being aware of the climate and what the people accept and reject and what is around us and using that in our Lord’s favor while seeking to avoid needless offenses that would get us arrested and harmed before it is His time. This passage also indicates there is a season to follow the legal/certification processes of the day and a time to reject them and confidently go out and do what our Father has told us to.

Lord, give us your wisdom and discernment! Help us to use what is available in the culture today to your glory and to advance your Kingdom in ways that uphold the truth. Give us confidence of your calling and open our ears to hear what the season is regarding following laws and the ignoring the “normal” established processes traditionally followed in our calling.

Pay Your Taxes–and Your Debts

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“For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” (Romans 13:6-7)

The first question we must ask is because of what? Starting at the top of the chapter, we learn:

  • Obey authorities because only god has authority and all true authority anyone on earth has comes from him. (Echoing back to Christ’s words to Pilate while on trial for his life.)
  • Resisting authentic authorities is resisting God
  • Rulers are to be servants of God who carry his sword of vengeance and use it to punish wrong doing, only approving of good conduct.
  • We must obey those appointed to bear God’s sword of justice both to avoid his wrath and for conscience’s sake.
  • We pay taxes so government can effectively serve God in their appointed task of executing justice in the land
  • Besides your taxes, also pay all debts, both literal financial debts and obligations of respect and honor.

Lord, may our governing authorities bow their knees to you, doing justice in the land, punishing evil as you define it  and approving only of what you approve. Convict our government, Lord, so that they would recognize as our founders did where their power comes from, for that is why you are our only king. I pray we would be accountable to our obligations also: paying our taxes, obeying the law, showing respect and honor to all, especially to all those serving their country. In Jesus’ precious name we pray, Lord, amen.