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]

Change Begins With Us

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Devanath / Pixabay

Devanath / Pixabay

Peace, brothers and sisters in Christ, peace.

 

Lately, I’ve encountered a disturbing amount of Christians bickering amongst ourselves, sometimes with the eyes of a lost world literally watching, and likely thinking if our unkind, unloving, disrespectful attitudes in the moment represent what Christ is about, no thanks. They can get plenty of that without the Lord. Meanwhile, often, everyone involved in the fussing is sure they’re right and the other person is wrong, no one is respectfully listening and respectfully responding to each other, and everyone feels justified in their bad behavior by the other side’s bad behavior, and this ugly cycle just goes on and on. Let’s break the cycle, be respectful to the disrespectful, kind to the unkind, loving to the unloving. It begins with us.

 

We have to set boundaries sometimes of course. Even when that is the case, if we want anything to change, we need to all examine our own conduct, restrain ourselves from reacting automatically, pray for God’s help, and choose to respond in a manner that represents Christ well. I know such discipline is hard for some of us, and learning it may take time, but we have to keep practicing making the choice to crucify the flesh and walk in the Spirit on such matters. It is too easy to behave disrespectfully, hatefully, etc. when we feel we or someone or something dear to us is being disrespected, hated, etc.. That’s simply the nature of the flesh we all struggle with.

 

It’s long been a battle in my own life for sure, but lately, I have observed so much of Christians falling prey to the flesh in this regard, I’ve begun to strongly suspect that none of us are immune. If we want things to change, we need to face that if we’re not watching ourselves, any of us can get sucked in and become one of those people. Yes, even when we deeply love the Lord, care deeply about the lost and demonstrating who God is to them. Even someone who is normally one of the loveliest, sweetest souls on Earth can potentially get conned by “righteous” anger into becoming part of the problem. So I ask us all to watch ourselves, to humbly face the potential within ourselves to become a part of the problem, in hopes one of us will catch ourselves about to act like that and check ourselves first.

 

Again, becoming “one of them” takes only one moment of “righteous” anger where we’re sure we’re right, that the other side is ignorant, wrong, and a threat to people or causes we love dearly. One moment of feeling disrespected and hated and in pain is all it takes to surrender to the flesh, snapping back in kind without thinking or praying through our hurt and asking God to help us respond in a way that will glorify his name. While it is fine to give respectful, loving responses and to set boundaries in a respectful, loving manner, outside of that, keeping it going isn’t much better than causing it when these things quickly come to both sides thinking the other side started it.

So again, let’s all work together to break this ugly cycle. Let’s stop before we react automatically by mirroring either real or anticipated bad behavior. Let’s instead give our angry feelings to God and ask God to give us the strength to respect those who are disrespectful, to be kind and loving to those who are unkind and hateful. It begins with us.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]Tired of sister dividing against sister over politics? Longing for peace? It begins with us. [/tweetthis]

True Love Marries.

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weddingbands
First, my apologies for the meme’s attention-grabbing nature. True love for God does wait for marriage to have sex, and it is best to be prepared to enter into marriage before doing so. However, it seems we need to start preparing kids to marry at younger ages. If the reports are true that upward of 80% of Christian evangelical young adults are having premarital sex, that is a rather strong indicator we’re delaying marriage longer than most have the self-control to wait.

Based on my experiences, for a young couple deeply in love, following the cultural trend of delaying marriage until nearly thirty and also delaying sex that long would be unbearable torment. I applaud the single folks who do remain celibate successfully into their thirties, their forties, or even for life due to a personal calling. However, for those who are struggling, the clear biblical solution is to stop delaying marriage and tie the knot before you fall into sexual sin (or to repent, get a clean slate, and marry before you fall again.)

God has called us to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and trust him to keep his promise that he knows our need and if we trust him and honor him first, all these things we worry about shall be added unto us. Frankly, many of the worries Christian parents have boil down to, “but if our children marry right out of high school, what shall they eat, where shall they live, what shall they wear?”

It is written I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor their children begging bread, and God’s word will not return to him void even if we defy the wisdom of this age and choose to marry young rather than fall into temptation and sin against him.

We need to have our hearts set on eternity’s definition of starting out right rather than the world’s definition. My husband and I were only 20 and 21 on our wedding day, and he lost his job not long after we were married, but God took care of us and saw us through it.

If the couple both attend a college with married housing, being married college students isn’t any poorer financially than being unmarried college students spiritually impoverished due to falling into sin and sleeping together out of wedlock. I recall hearing married college students tend to do quite well academically, too.

Regarding non-college students with jobs, it is more expensive to maintain separate households, so a budget wedding followed by combining households is cheaper financially. (Save the fancy dream wedding for a vow renewal down the road.) This approach is also more profitable spiritually than the world’s shacking up solution is. The biblical counter offer to that, however, doesn’t apply to those couples who are willing and able to maintain separate households while they’re delaying marriage without falling into sexual sin.

By the way, when I first heard about this issue afflicting the Church, I was tempted to judge the sincerity of the faith of the 80% of young believers who fall into sexual sin, but God checked me. That is not always the case. For many, cultural expectations that are unreasonable for those individuals set them up to fail. If that’s you, admit it was wrong, apologize to God, receive grace and strength to stop sinning, and resume practicing celibacy until marriage.

Many fear marrying young dooms those couples to divorce. The truth is, marriages at any age fail today because at least one spouse is irresponsible, self-centered, and not committed to keep promises no matter what. So, Church, let’s do our best to teach children better than that, gradually begin to treat them like responsible adults when they physically become adults, and support them as needed. With such tools in their hands, they’ll have better chances of staying married to one person for life, having no sexual regrets, and remaining in right relationship with God most importantly, whether they head off to college as husband as wife or leave it as such.

More of our high schoolers might find temptation easier to withstand if the finish line of the marriage bed was somewhere anywhere close to in sight. If I recall, at that age, college seems an eternity away, let alone turning twenty-five or even thirty. Again, I’m not advocating we force teens into shotgun weddings unprepared; I am saying let’s prepare them for adulthood and for marriage and give them the tools needed to marry and stay married at the ages where their bodies are urging them to date/find spouses and open minds to the possibility of a personal calling to marry young.

When true love can’t wait anymore, it marries, and it needs to learn how to stay married with the support of its family and/or its church.

(Original draft written on December 16, 2011 at 11:03pm)

[tweetthis remove_url=”true”]True Love Marries http://www.christsglory.com/?p=1722 pic.twitter.com/U2CguARmnE[/tweetthis]

Coffee Cups Don’t Matter, Culture Does

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Red Cup & Coffee (close-up)

photo:

Progressive Christians are having a field day because one guy, an Internet Personality, has decided he’s mad about red coffee cups. Let me go ahead and say it wouldn’t be fair to call these concerns stupid. It’d be fair to call them extremely stupid.

Let me say, you don’t have to have anything to do with a particular chain of coffee shops. I don’t drink coffee. If I have a Chai Latte, it’ll be at Dutch Brothers or a church coffee shop. Aside from a couple of gift cards, I pretty much gave up on [the chain getting enough free advertising] when they decided baristas were going to randomly lecture people on race relations. A red cup doesn’t have much to do with issues some people have with that place. And to passively not to go somewhere takes very little of my time.

However, I’ve noticed a subtlety in the commentary from many progressive Christians. People aren’t just suggesting that this is a stupid thing to be upset about and that the guy is behaving badly.

Rather, it’s indicative of a larger “problem” of Christians being concerned about the state of our culture: issues like the removal of God from the public square, immorality in the media, and a society that forces Christians to violate their conscious or be ghettoized. Why can’t we focus on things that really matter like people’s needs?

We should care for the needs of people, but we should also care for the state of our culture and the soil in which people grow and are influenced. Many children are orphans because their parents listened to cultural messages to “follow your heart,” and “be true to yourself,” and ended up in a world of trouble. It left them so broken, they couldn’t care for their own children.

When you look at the trail of broken and destroyed lives that so many ministries deal with, you can find the messages that led them astray are in the schools, the government, and the entertainment media. Saying, “Why not just help hurting people and forget about the culture,” is kind of like saying, “Forget about turning off the faucet, let’s just bail water.”

For those who are concerned about evangelism and bringing people to Christ, I would plead our government doesn’t just hand out inoculations against disease. In public schools, our government attempts to inoculate against the Gospel of Christ by trying to remove the very idea of sin, a creator, and the need for a Savior.

What can a healthy culture do? It can’t compel faith, but it can point the way to faith. I have a relative who grew up in the 1940s and 50s raised by an Atheist. In the early 60s, he wrote a song about Noah’s Ark before becoming a Christian. When he got into trouble and decided to turn to God to help, he knew: 1) he needed to be humble before, and 2) he needed to confess his sins to God. (A lot of people won’t get that from church.)

No, red cups don’t matter. However, culture does matter a great deal. A culture that spits on God, encourages sexual immorality and self-idolatry is a culture that hurts a lot of people. Yes, let’s care for those in need, but part of that is caring for the cultural climate of the world we live in.

[tweetthis]Coffee Cups Don’t Matter, Culture Does. Guest Post by Adam Graham @idahoguy[/tweetthis]

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]”Care for the needs of people and for the cultural soil people grow in.” Adam Graham, @idahoguy[/tweetthis]

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true” remove_url=”true” remove_hidden_hashtags=”true” remove_hidden_urls=”true”]Saying, “Forget about culture, just help people” is saying, “Forget about turning off the faucet, just bail water.” ow.ly/UudcL[/tweetthis]

Flashback Friday: Holy Grace

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A revised reprint of a timeless article from May 11, 2007.

grace of god

 

The Church is a family, not a daycare. Yet many churches say “when you’re here, you’re family” à la the Olive Garden. While we focus on numbers like a business, some in our churches today have been raised in church their whole lives and still have little understanding of the gospel.

The surrounding culture says, “there are no absolute boundaries of right and wrong. We each get to create our own, and all of our contradicting boundaries are valid as long as we’re each doing what is right for us.”

gracethornHow should we respond in the Church? By explaining the gospel like this? “Bad news, you were born on the wrong side of the boundary, and are incapable of getting on the side where God lives. Good news, Jesus died to remove the boundary.”

While this may sound good, what the post-modern soul makes out of such teaching is, “By saying a little prayer, you can live however you want and still go to Heaven.”

The only difference the unchurched postmodernist sees between that and what they’ve already got is the prayer of salvation and getting up early on Sundays to get hit up for money. And quite a few of them did say the prayer once, back when their parents dragged them to church as kids. This gospel is attractive to those looking for a commitment-free eternity-insurance policy, not a life-changing relationship with a Holy God. In this business transaction, the throne of their hearts rarely comes included.

We are born sinners on the wrong side of God’s boundary and incapable of changing that on our own. Jesus died to make a way for us to cross over the boundary, transform from sinners into saints. He nailed our sin to the cross, yes. And as Ephesians 2:8,9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:Not of works, lest any man should boast.” The common cultural misunderstanding comes in with our understanding of grace.

Grace isn’t a static thing where Jesus accepts us as-is by enabling us to commit our pet sins consequences-free for all eternity. On the flip side, Jesus also isn’t a far-away-tyrant demanding we do what the Bible teaches we’re incapable of in our own strength.

When we’re born again, God freely places within us a new spirit–-a new heart–-one that lives on the right side of the boundary and wills to act in accordance to His will. This is a gift solely of God’s craftsmanship. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

At the same time, we still live in a body of dead flesh that’s just as wrong-side-of-the-boundary as ever.

At every minute of the day, Christians face a choice whether to walk in the ways of our dead flesh, or in the Spirit, with Christ’s grace actively giving us the will and the strength to live in accordance with God’s ways. Let’s ask for it, step back, and let God change us.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true” remove_hidden_hashtags=”true”]The Church is a family, yet many churches say “when you’re here, you’re family” à la the Olive Garden.[/tweetthis]