Monthly Archives: June 2015

Abuse Victims and Failure, Part 1 – A Slow Start

“Today you are YOU,
That is TRUER than true.
There is NO ONE alive
Who is YOUER than YOU!”

– Dr. Seuss

As abuse victims, most of us are familiar with failure. This is not necessarily because we have failed.

Many victims are successful in the work world. Work may actually help us to deal with the abuse we once endured. It can provide a focus for our energies, sometimes to the point of exhaustion [1].

What we experience, however, is a persistent feeling of having failed in the most important arena of all; having failed at love.

This feeling stems, in part, from a mistaken belief that we “deserved” the abuse to which we were subjected (surely, if we had been lovable, we would not have been abused, goes the thinking); and, in part, from the failed relationships resulting from that abuse.

But all human beings experience failure. Life is a process of trial and error for everyone. A baby tries to stand, and falls. S/he tries again, and falls again. Eventually though s/he learns to walk, then run.

A Slow Start

Some of us have a slow start. We may, in fact, have been advanced for our years – struggling to develop without the nurturing and encouragement we should, in all fairness, have been provided.

Still, for argument’s sake, let us say we make a slow start. That is no indication of how we will finish.

  • One little boy did not speak until comparatively late. His parents feared he was mentally impaired. A teacher described him as “mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams.” The boy was expelled from secondary school for being “disruptive,” and was refused admittance to a prestigious university.
    We recognize now that Albert Einstein was one of the greatest minds of the 20th Century. He is regarded as the father of modern physics [2].

Rejection

With or without a “slow” start, we all experience rejection eventually.

  • Teachers quickly grew impatient with Thomas Edison’s inquisitiveness. One called Edison “addled.” Edison went on to invent the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and the light bulb.  Altogether, Edison held over 1000 patents.
  • Charles Schulz of Peanuts fame had every cartoon he submitted rejected by his high school yearbook.
  • More than two dozen publishers rejected one children’s book, before it reached the public. The author, Dr. Seuss, ultimately wrote more than forty others, including such favorites as The Cat in the Hat, Horton Hears a Who! and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

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Abuse and Our View of God

God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 4: 16).

The image we have of God is greatly influenced by the childhood experience with our own fathers, and the men who – willingly or not – filled that role in our lives. We view God as possessing all their faults while, at the same time, blaming Him for those faults.

Abuse necessarily darkens the lens through which we see God.

If our fathers were absent, chances are we will see God as absent and unconcerned for our welfare. If the men with whom we had relationships as children were hard and critical of us, we are likely to see God as harsh and judgmental.

If our fathers were cruel and sadistic, or molested us under the guise of “love”, we may see God as cruel or deceptive, and turn our backs on Him entirely. After all, He turned His on us first. Didn’t He?

Incest survivors may be threatened by the very concept of God as a “father” [1]. It speaks to us not of love and protection, but of violation. The Bible though uses many different images for God. These include our Shield (Ps. 3: 3), our Rock (Ps. 18: 2), our Shepherd (Ps. 23: 1), our Healer (Ps. 30: 2), and our Protector (Ps. 78: 23-29).

The Gospel is transformative for abuse victims, in this regard. The lens is wiped clean. We can for the first time see God clearly.

And we can see ourselves in a new light. Our true value, long clouded by abuse, is suddenly clear. For many of us, the impact of this is akin to forgiveness and equally powerful. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

Signal

While battered women are not responsible for their abuse, certain behaviors can signal the vulnerability of victims to potential abusers. Among these are verbal cues.

This is not meant to imply that victims ask to be abused. There are, however, patterns of speech which can alert abusers before a relationship is ever established that the women with such verbal tendencies are likely to settle for what others would not tolerate.

And the cycle of abuse resumes with a new partner.

Abuse victims will routinely demean themselves, constantly using phrases like “How stupid of me” or “I’m such an idiot” [1] . They will often speak in a low voice or halting manner, swallowing their words or the tail-end of their sentences.

Victims will hesitate to offer an opinion; withdraw or undermine the few opinions they do express; and describe themselves as unqualified to comment, when this is clearly untrue.

Abuse victims will frequently apologize, even for events outside their control. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” The words are repeated in an endless refrain…sorry the train is late, sorry the traffic is snarled, sorry the taxes are due, sorry the weather has changed, sorry the sun has set.

After a lifetime of abuse, victims may find it difficult to make choices based on their own preferences. After all, chocolate ice cream is as good as vanilla, isn’t it? Continue reading

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Ice Cream

Blackberry ice cream, Photographer gordonramsaysubmissions https://www.flickr.com/people/54397539@N06 (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)

“I scream
You scream
We all scream
For ice cream”

– “Ice Cream” by Howard Johnson, Billy Moll, and Robert King

We have all at one time or another over-indulged, whether in a pint of our favorite ice cream or a family size bag of chips. And will again. Food may not be a substitute for love, but it is readily available.

The need for love and connection is closely related to that for sustenance. The need to reproduce is equally primal. Human beings could not have survived without these needs being met, which is why they are so deeply ingrained in our nature.

Weight, however, is tied to self-loathing in our culture. What American woman has not stood naked on the scale, waiting with bated breath for the dial to stop?

As many abuse victims know, the shame of abuse can be transferred to our weight. The ongoing battle with weight provides us a permanent opportunity to vilify ourselves. Inversely proportional to our weight, our self-esteem can, quite literally, be measured by the pound.

When the damaged self-esteem resulting from abuse and the pressure on American women to be a certain size coincide, eating disorders frequently result. Anyone acquainted with anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating knows these are often hidden. The shame of these disorders coupled with the shame of abuse can be overwhelming.

There is worse. Some of us have eaten out of the garbage can. This practice is not limited to the homeless among us [1]. There could hardly be a more apt symbol of low self-esteem. Continue reading

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