As a survivor of sexual exploitation, the most challenging aspect of my recovery is when it began.
I was abused from such a young age yet, at the time, it actually seemed normal to me … just another chore on the farm.
By 4th or 5th grade, my body had been pushed so far by the level of abuse (and the number of those who sexually assaulted me) that my physical senses became numb and my mentality reduced rape to just another one of my farm chores. Another chore I must comply with obediently– just like helping milk the cows, clean the stalls, or feed the animals. Yet I was still just a child. A captive, abused child who did what she was told to avoid being beaten, have 8 to 9 inch hat-pins poked through my upper arms, or getting punched, kicked, or burned. I just thought all kids must live that way.
Then suddenly, I was at 13 or 14 living in the fundamental pastor’s home. I remember making a remark when it dawned on me all kids didn’t live the way I had lived on the farm. The response I was given, “You knew it was wrong. You just want to make excuses.”
But, how could I know? Looking back I remember I was very confused – confused and hurt. What excuses?
I’ve been thinking about sexual abuse and assault. In particular, concerning how in too many of these crimes, it is as if the victim is a victim of a hit and run car accident. There seem to be some major differences, however. While witnesses to a hit and run accident witnesses will run to the aid of the wounded victim, get the license plate number of the car, or stay to fill out a police report, the same rules don’t seem to apply to sexual crimes. During nearly 20 years as an nurse, I do not recall one incident when a person was blamed for being a victim of a hit and run. All outrage and blame was directed toward the driver who hit someone, caused multiple trauma as a result, but just took off without stopping.
Within too many churches and Christian organizations, we see the perpetrator ‘runs the victim over’ but could care less about the traumatic wounds s/he has caused. Then to add to the victims wounds, far too many church leaders and church members walk or drive by heckling the victim concerning what a shame it is the victim is so wounded.
What a pity the survivor isn’t capable or needs assistance to get back to “normal”.
What a pity the survivor may still limp around with emotional, psychological, and spiritual problems.
“Why can’t you just get over it?”
God forbid, the survivor is left with some long-term issue or disability such as Clinical Depression, PTSD, anxiety, or substance abuse problems. But even when that happens, many Christian leaders, pastors and church members run over the victim again and again – often reversing to run over the victim again while the s/he is attempting to get out of the way.
I have even taken care of a few drunk hit and run pedestrian victims. I don’t recall even the drunk hit and run victims being blamed.
Let’s look at the same scenario with a sexual assault victim.
The victim will be told if she wasn’t drunk she wouldn’t have been raped.
“What was she doing walking down that street?”
“What were you wearing?”
“You wanted it. Now you just have buyers remorse.”
It’s common for a survivors of such crimes to be told such things as “I understand why you’re bitter, but….”.
“I hate to add more to your concerns but this all falls from a consequence of your actions.”
Pastors, nouthetic counselors or Christians leaders rarely, if ever, use the word pain when speaking to or about the victim of these crimes. Nor do they tend to acknowledge a crime was even committed. The church and Christian leaders are at the same place general society was in the ’70’s when dealing with these crimes. Perhaps even worse in some cases.