Read the blogs of child abuse victims and those concerned for them. Somewhere along the line, you will find mention of what the abuse damaged or destroyed outright.
Our innocence. Our childhood. Our peace of mind. Our self-confidence. Our self-esteem. Our ability to trust. Our capacity to select loving partners, and sustain healthy relationships. Our faith. Our voice.
And from far too many, the abuse took their very lives.
For many of us, what the abuse left behind was isolation, grief, anxiety, depression, rage, and a permanent sense of violation.
Unfortunately, that we will never be the women (or men) we might have been is not helpful information. We are who we are…marked by these scars.
In some sense, the scars are our badges – if not of honor exactly, then certainly not of shame. We were the ones sinned against, not the ones sinning, no matter how we were made to feel about the torture inflicted upon us.
As with the veteran who has lost a limb to war or the woman who has lost a breast to cancer, this is simply our reality now.
No single statement can characterize us all, except that we were blameless.
Some of us were victimized by priests; others, by family members or strangers. Some of us pressed criminal charges against our abusers; some chose to remain (or were forced to remain) silent, sometimes for decades.
Some of us lived in denial, maintaining a painful status quo in our attempt to protect loved ones. Some of us fled to the streets, from one kind of horror to another. Some changed sexes or became sex addicts. A few fled from sex, itself.
Some of us forgave; some never will.
The abuse did not make us bad citizens, bad neighbors, bad employees, or bad friends. Many of us became high achievers, first at school and later at work.
A surprising number of us have found a strength we did not realize we had. We have found a way to use our anger to fuel the struggle against abuse and injustice; use our pain as a subject for art and literature.
A surprising number of us have reclaimed our joy. We remember the past, but choose to focus on the present.
Somehow we managed to survive the onslaught against our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies. Whether by luck or fate, intestinal fortitude or grace, we survived the fire. We are here and entitled to live our lives.
Originally posted 10/19/14
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17 responses to “Surviving the Fire”
maybe , maybe not. i agree but they don’t ever get the chance to say something and even when they do are they listened. no? or yes? but a great article and hopefully will have a good impact.
Thank you, Mia. ❤
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Someone recently told me Anna that pain serves a purpose far above and beyond what their perpetrators violence against them tried to do. Their pain is a reminder that they are alive, a survivor, and that what should have destroyed them could not.
Blessings to you my friend.
Well said, Ron. Blessings to you and your wife.
Amen! As you so aptly summarized, “No single statement can characterize us all, except that we were blameless,” yet we all have some kind of permanent scars or damage done to our psyche as a result of going through the fire. That’s not to say that God can’t bring good out of that bad beginning in life if we’ll give that pain and those scars over to Him and allow Him to use us, even though we are broken vessels, because He can. That’s just it—we have to want to heal rather than continue to dwell on the past, we have to choose to forgive those who’ve done the unforgivable, we have to allow God to work in us and through us for our healing and for the benefit of others.
Well said, Mia. I would add only that this. The time frame for each victim’s healing is different and not all scars are likely to disappear. Victims have not “failed” if they retain scars. Nor is their faith insufficient. Forgiveness is, also, a highly personal matter. Not all victims can bring themselves to forgive.
I absolutely agree with you, Anna! The time frame for each victim’s healing is different, but God can still use us wherever we’re at in the healing process to minister to people where they’re at, helping them through something similar. Much of the damage done and scars left behind are permanent, and have helped shape us into the person we are today. That doesn’t mean we’ve “failed” or that we’re less than someone else who is scar-free.
I do believe it’s only to the victim’s detriment if they choose not to forgive, though, because they’re the ones continuing to suffer by allowing unforgiveness, bitterness, and deep-down anger to settle in their heart from the injustices against them. Those negative influences can affect their attitude, outlook on life, and even their physical health. The perpetrator is not the one who suffers from not being forgiven—they just go on about their lives.
I believe God can help us get to the point of being able to forgive, if we’re willing, and will help us see the perpetrators empathically through His eyes, as people uniquely crafted by Him, but who are in need of God’s healing and presence in their own lives because they’re also hurting from being hurt by others. As Rick Warren says, “Hurt people hurt people” and only God can completely heal those hurts.
I entirely agree. Not all victims, however, do. Each is entitled to make that decision for himself/herself.
“We remember the past but choose to focus on the present”, I really love this sentence. Most of the time we try to forget about the past but what if we got it wrong and all we need to do is to accept it, remember it and to focus on what’s next, on what we can actually change. Thank you, it is a great article ❤
Thank you! I am so glad you like the piece. ❤
I do like your blog too, keep it up. Have a wonderful day 😘
I think Mia’s comments on ‘forgiveness’ are interesting, Anna, but I do think it’s a huge ask to ‘forgive’ an abuser. And it doesn’t necessarily reflect badly on the victim of abuse, if they struggle with this. Forgiving your abuser is not something that should be first or foremost on an healing agenda – the terrible damage that has been done needs to be processed and what ever way the victim feels is needed to make them feel better – whether it be ‘dwelling on it’, for a while or as long as it takes, ‘wallowing in self pity’, ‘trying to find answers’ is all very necessary. These things are sometimes viewed by others as a weakness on the part of the victim, but it has to be acknowledged that trauma does weaken an individual and being broken by abuse is not a fault – it is an outcome. If the abuser is eventually forgiven by the victim, then it shows how strong they have become and how incredibly far they have come in their fight for survival, in my opinion.
And it goes without saying that this is another great and inspirational post, Anna.
You state the victim’s case eloquently, Marie. While I believe forgiveness can eventually aid in healing, many in the spiritual community focus on that far too early in the process. When forgiveness is “forced” on victims, it only adds to their trauma.
As usual, a great article, my Dear Anna.
Visiting Your site today, had gone to ‘categories,’ and clicked on ‘the choice to forgive or not.’
For me, there can be NO Peace without forgiveness. As I have pointed out, when I choose Not to forgive,
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