“…[The] poison [of the wicked] is like the poison of a serpent…” (Ps. 58: 4).
The toxin that venomous snakes inject into their victims can cause pain, tissue necrosis, respiratory paralysis, and kidney failure, ultimately resulting in death.
In an effort to shield loved ones from the abuse to which we were subjected, many of us swallowed the venom our abusers spewed.
Powerless, we submitted to their violation of us or neglect of our basic needs, and accepted their lies about us – that we were worthless, that we were undeserving of love, that we were responsible for their violation and neglect of us.
As children, we suffered in silence. Often, as adults, we maintain that silence, wrongly believing the details of our abuse too off-putting or too shameful to share with others.
But until it is spat out, that venom continues to wreak havoc with us. It causes incalculable pain, destroys hope, and interferes with our capacity to breath in cleansing truth, ultimately resulting in a kind of spiritual death.
In attempting to suppress painful memories and negative emotions, we risk tamping down our positive emotions. This may have been our way of coping as children. Merely “going through the motions”, however, can cause a disconnect between our feelings and experiences. Deadened inside, we cannot live an authentic life.
This is not to say that everyone should be told about the abuse or that everyone will be able to respond with compassion. We must be cautious with whom our story is shared, especially early in our recovery. The guidance and support of a trained therapist can be helpful, in this regard.
Not all those we meet will be able to comprehend our suffering. Though that may “feel” like rejection, it is not an unfavorable reflection on us. Many such people may simply be unfamiliar with abuse and unsure how exactly to assist us.
Sadly, a few will be limited. Not all hearts are of equal size.
But there will be friends willing to accept us with open arms and open hearts, in the full knowledge of our past. We deserve no less.
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16 responses to “Venom”
Wow, powerful and uplifting.
Thank you, Patricia. It is important that those of us who have experienced this violation lift one another up.
Anna, your words have touched upon several areas in my life that ring strong with me. Not being able to talk about anything to anyone,esp. my mother and father, you know that silent rule that certain things were never discussed.
There was someone, an adult uncle who was a serious pedophile who needed to be turned in, but I did not know that I could have done this that I had a right; I never knew it! Not until many decades had past! Also I was forever plagued but horrible guilt for allowing this man to get me all liquered up and to drunk to resist, so believing that lie about me being at fault clouded my mind and I just did not know what to do! This man has since passed, well at least he will never hurt another child again.
Back in 1974 God called me to Himself, I surrendered my all to Him and He has done many great and glorious things in my life. But, I am still plagued by the scars which is a life long battle. I wanted to tell my story, but the pastor that I had back then, shut a very important door and from then on I couldn’t speak about what had caused me to be the way that I am. He told me that my story was immoral, to be ashamed of and that if I talked about it, that I would be glorifing the devil. That frightened me into years of silence. Recently I began to tell more and more about the abuse and now I am writing, in hopes that it will cathartic for me. My writing is only a couple of weeks old. I don’t even know if I am doing it right or not.
Thank you for this honest outpouring of your suffering and grief. My heart goes out to you. I am sure there are many victims who identify with your experiences. Given the extent to which you were manipulated by your abuser, and the silence imposed on you, it is little wonder you still wrestle with the scars of the abuse.
Those of us now getting older remember a time when “child abuse” was not even a term in common use. Abuse (especially by a family member), if it was discovered, was promptly hidden away again. Chances are that this would have happened in your case, even if you had told your parents. If anything, blame for the violation was in those days placed on the victim. Like you, victims lived with shame for decades though they were the ones harmed.
Thankfully, we now know better. Slowly, victims are coming forward into the light for the help and comfort they deserve. Society now realizes that child abuse victims were never to blame. Medicine is treating abuse victims for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — a recognized ailment, stemming from genuine trauma on a par with war.
You, of course, experienced a second, deep trauma by your pastor. The thousands of victims of the Catholic Church sex scandal share that with you. While your pastor did not engage in sexual conduct, he sided with your abuser, betraying your trust. Equally important, if not more so, he had no understanding of Scripture as bearing on abuse. What he told you about your story being immoral and “glorifying the devil” was flat out wrong.
Jesus Christ was and is compassion personified. He said, “‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven‘” (Matt. 19: 14). This applies to you and every other abuse victim. Jesus, also, said, “‘[B]ut whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea‘” (Matt. 18:6). This applies to your abuser for whom there will be eternal consequences.
And this, I feel certain, applies to your pastor. “Then He [Christ] will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me‘” (Matt. 25:45). That pastor failed in his essential role as a minister of Christ.
Your story has meaning and power. Tell it in your own words, if nothing else to get the poison out. There is no right or wrong way. But if you want my opinion, you write well and movingly. I am proud to know you.
Amen! It is one thing to be abused by a relative as you both were, but when a man who supposedly represents God shames the victim and excuses the perpetrator, THAT is unforgivable. I believe that there are a lot of tailor made millstones awaiting those who have caused Jesus little ones to stumble as His representatives and I would not want to stand in their shoes come that day.
As another author, Dear “Q”, I say write. It is an excellent catharsis and somehow getting it out on the printed page helps organize all those scattered thoughts into a form you can deal with and finally see the greater picture. As Anna has discovered, what the devil has meant for evil, God has turned it for the good, and for me as well, writing my story has been part of that process.
Blessings and His tender love to you both,
Thank you Michael for those encouraging words, I needed them to help break through the foggy resistence that assails my mind these days, so much confusion and perplexity one just doesn’t know what to do at times!
For many many years people have been doing their best to shut me up, that my confidence is pretty marred. But, I cannot stay quiet anymore, now I must speak out!
I have written another post on my own blog. It is called, ” The Locked Door”.
Good for you, Q! I look forward to reading the new post.
You raise two important points, Michael. One is that both sexes can be abused — emotionally, physically, sexually or through neglect. We sometimes overlook that. The other is that there are good men in the world like you.
There are good men, I just cannot see them, or recognize them yet. I tend to truth [choose] the wrong ones and not the good ones!?
This is very common among abuse victims. Our judgment has been skewed. We have, in effect, been “trained” by the abuse not to trust our inner voice of warning. But the skill can be re-acquired. It is a step forward recognizing that a bad choice has been made. We must not beat ourselves up for having made it. I enjoy Better Not Broken betternotbroken.com, a blog which regularly addresses the topic. You might check it out.
Anna, what can I say to that? I know that I am a bull in an emotional china closet by nature and can be very hurtful. If there is any kindness or love or goodness in me, it is our precious Jesus abiding in my heart, breaking the vessel so that not only He, but others can be blessed…
“Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment.” (John 12:3 RSVA)
Anna, your brokenness has blessed us all.
This is a moving comment, and perhaps the most beautiful compliment I have ever received. But it deserves a correction. While I have not known you long, I do not believe you assess yourself fairly in saying that you “can be very hurtful”.
We all at times hurt others inadvertently. A judge in the case of a sidewalk fall my office once defended commented that this is not a smooth world. We all have flaws. The criticism you direct against yourself is, I think, more a reflection of the criticism heaped on you in childhood than current reality. It goes precisely to the heart of this post.
As abuse victims, we are so hard on ourselves. We do not question the false assumptions on which our critical judgment of ourselves is based. Never recognizing the lies forced on us in childhood — lies now absorbed into our thinking, into our very bones — we fall short in our own eyes, again and again. The defeats pile up. Though our abusers are gone now, we set performance standards for ourselves as impossibly high as they did. What else can we do but fail?
Christ frees us at long last from those lies. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He gives us our lives back.
I love the story of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, and dried them with her hair (Luke 7:38). Others saw only this woman’s sins and failings. Jesus saw the beauty in her soul. He knew the evil done to her. Not only did He forgive her sins, He restored her being. She left there whole.
There is most certainly kindness, love, and goodness in you. Do those derive from Jesus? Absolutely. After darkness comes morning.
Your sister in Christ,
Many countless people have told me that I was too hard on myself also, I never understood what they meant? Their words confused and troubled me deeply. In frustration I cried out to the Lord for understanding, He changed the wording and with that came understanding! He said that when i am hard on myself, I am actually ABUSING MYSELF, BEATING ME UP, AS IF i AM WORTHLESS TRASH! Now I understand what everyone was trying to tell me. And they are right, I do treat myself very badly. The monster that was hiding under the bed, has been identified!
Bravo, Q! I think this is an important insight, and the start of real healing. You are NOT trash, by any stretch. You are a daughter of the King of Kings (2 Cor. 6: 18), and precious in His eyes. I pray that all abuse victims come to see this, themselves.
One thing that really stood out to me in your reply was this paragraph…
“As abuse victims, we are so hard on ourselves. We do not question the false assumptions on which our critical judgment of ourselves is based…”
I have to admit that you are right. The demands on me as a child to be perfect were impossible. My father was taking pre-med in college and as a pre-schooler he had me memorize the Latin names of all the bones in the body so he could show me off to the other pre-met students that came over to our house. Both he and my mom were demanding and I could never do anything good enough. So I tend to see myself in my failures… in the faces of others that I have hurt in the past. My dear wife is one, my own children, dear friends that have got close enough to open their hearts to me, even sweet Christian brothers and sisters. You are right… I find it much easier to forgive others than to forgive myself. Oh, to be perfected in Christ so that these failures would never happen again!
And yet, you bring up a good point even here. There is only ONE who is righteous. Only God is pure love. So, it is not about US, but about Him. My favorite verse in all the Bible is this one, “In HIM we live and move and have our being.” Getting our eyes and thinking off of Romans seven and our constant failures and dwelling in Romans eight is the key to our joy, happiness, and sense of belonging and acceptability. IN HIM, always abiding IN HIM! THAT is our salvation, our joy and our hope.
Your brother and friend in HIS love,
Sadly, it seems there are an infinite number of ways to abuse children. What some people do to them is incomprehensible. God must have given you a remarkable intellect. Without doubt, He has developed in you a large heart.