Monthly Archives: April 2016

Tears in Heaven

Street art by Nitzan Mintz, Jerusalem, Israel, Source https://www.flickr.com/photos/zeevveez/8765164478/, Author zeevveez https://www.flickr.com/people/29001414@N00 (CC Attribution 2.0 Generic)

I curled up on the couch a few nights ago, expecting to watch a good old-fashioned whodunit on television.

Unfortunately, I discovered too late that the corpse in the story belonged to a child molester. A woman sexually abused as a girl had killed him, in her effort to protect another child from abuse.

Suddenly the program was deadly serious — raising all too familiar issues of credibility, deception, violence, guilt, and justification.

The Lens of Abuse

Though this blog regularly deals with the topic of abuse, victims must strive not to view the world through that lens only.

There are countless good things — and good people — in the world. Victims deserve better than to be robbed of those, in addition to having been battered and violated.

A Happy Face

There is a deep and pervasive sadness associated with abuse.  Our childhoods were stolen from us, our lives shattered.  We cannot pretend our abuse never occurred; cannot just wish our depression or PTSD away, and put on a happy face.

The Apostle Paul encouraged believers this way:

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Php. 4: 8).

So  we have every right to incorporate good people and good things into our lives. They are a reflection of God’s own love.

The problem is that we cannot do this by act of will alone. The victims of sexual abuse  cannot simply choose to “think less about sex” [1]. If our abuse was sexual, everything has become sexualized, whether we want it to be or not [2].

Tears in Heaven

“Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same
If I saw you in heaven?”

Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton

How will heaven handle these issues?

Will we forget all the painful events in our lives, and the people who caused us that pain?  What if those events were formative, shaped our character and aspirations?  What if the very people who caused our pain were, also, our loved ones? Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Law, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women

Ugliness, Part 2

As abuse victims, it is not uncommon for us to despise ourselves.  Whether physically, emotionally, or sexually abused and/or neglected as children or battered as adults, we are likely to have concluded on a visceral level that we are unfit, undeserving of love and affection.

Ugly and Bad

Young children equate ugliness with evil.  The two are for them one and the same, which is what makes ugliness so frightening to children.  The Wicked Stepmother needs daily confirmation of her good looks from a magic mirror.  Snow White has no such insecurities.  Snow White’s goodness informs her good looks, and vice versa.

Children who are physically or emotionally abused may draw the conclusion they are ugly — inside and out.  Believing themselves “responsible” for the abuse to which they are subjected, children may conclude that they are being punished deservedly, as both ugly and bad.

The Monsters Inc. and Shrek series of children’s films used humor to challenge this correlation.  Shrek considers Fiona genuinely beautiful, even in her true form as an ogre.  The classically handsome Prince Charming is actually a villain.

Self-Contempt

But for abuse victims challenging the correlation between beauty and goodness can be extremely difficult. By the time we reach adulthood, chances are that self-contempt has become part of our emotional make-up.

Contempt is a feeling of scorn. It can be a reaction not only to something concrete, but something wholly imagined. And contempt can deepen in intensity with time.

Countering Deficiencies

Abuse victims, generally, take one of three approaches, in their attempts to counter supposed deficiencies:

A.  Overachievement

Some of us become overachievers, driving ourselves relentlessly.  External awards are used as the measure of this group’s inherent value.

Unfortunately, worldly achievements are a poor substitute for such value.  The emptiness inside cannot be filled by material rewards, even those earned through great effort. The process of chasing tangible proof of intangible value is a futile task. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women

Ugliness, Part 1

Classic Comics, No. 18, “Hunchback of Notre Dame” (PD)

In the Dumas classic The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the hunchback (chosen the ugliest man in Paris) does not get the girl.  The pair do not live happily ever after, though they are eventually united in death. This is no real surprise. In fact, it is the tragedy on which the story hinges.

Kindness and Beauty

Both mistreated and physically deformed, Quasimodo is drawn to kindness and beauty as a moth is drawn to flame.

We sympathize with, even admire him. Our hearts are stirred.  But we do not root for the hunchback, not in the same way we root for the prince to rescue Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. Quasimodo is never seriously considered a romantic partner for Esmeralda. His love is doomed from the outset.

That fact tells us more about ourselves than it does about Quasimodo.

Exclusion

In the same way that Quasimodo was excluded from normal human society, abuse victims often feel themselves ostracized, outside the very definition of “human”. How does this happen and, equally important, how we can counteract it?

There seems a tendency by infants to favor symmetrical faces – possibly an inborn preference for the genetic “norm”. For the most part, however, we are taught the meaning of ugliness and beauty by the comments and actions of others.

First as infants then children, we see ourselves reflected in a parent or caregiver’s eyes, and are defined by that reflection. Ugliness on our part (assuming it has any basis at all) is likely to come as a surprise. It does not occur to us that we may be ugly, until others point that out.

Not infrequently, those who believe themselves ugly and worthy only of rejection are not ugly at all. Would not be considered ugly by strangers – only by the so called “loved ones” who should have been able to see past any obvious flaws. Continue reading

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

Never Mind

As abuse victims and as women, we frequently let ourselves get talked into things.  A pitch is made for our sympathy, and – without much resistance, without even voicing our concerns – we cave in.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be an angel of mercy.  As Christians, we are encouraged to be kind and tenderhearted (Eph. 4: 32).

This does not, however, require that we allow ourselves to be deceived and exploited by every con-man, hustler, cheat, and user who comes along. Here is what the Apostle Paul had to say on the subject:  “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thess. 3: 10). Short and to the point.

Unfortunately, abuse victims are particularly prone to discounting their own opinions. We have been “trained” by the experience of abuse to ignore that queasy feeling in the pit of our stomachs.

And we long desperately to be loved.  That often translates into an overwhelming desire to please others. Afraid of rejection, we hesitate to impose limits or make demands. So we set reason and instinct aside.

Say, your boyfriend wants his brother to move in temporarily, with the two of you.  Ask yourself whether this exchange doesn’t sound familiar.

  • Just for awhile, your boyfriend pleads.

Never mind that his brother casually overstayed a prior visit.  Never mind that his brother is unemployed and will be unable to contribute to expenses, while you are juggling two jobs.

Never mind that his brother is the father of three children by two different women, none of whom he supports.  Never mind that one of his “baby mamas” got so fed-up she threw him out, herself [1].

  • His brother is turning over a new leaf, your boyfriend swears.

Never mind that there is no solid evidence of this.  Never mind that you do not know his brother’s friends, associates, or arrest record [2].  Never mind that the brother is unlikely ever to change his lifestyle (or drug habit). Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women