“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Prov. 31: 8-9 NIV).
Poverty and abuse have much in common.
The traumatic and repetitive nature of child abuse, and the huge imbalance of power between adult and child, can leave profound psychological scars on victims – scars that may include PTSD, depression, and anxiety to name a few.
Often, victims are left with a fear of authority as adults. The impact of poverty is surprisingly similar.
Fear of Authority
Their hopes chronically dashed and their pleas for justice routinely ignored, the poor frequently assume further effort on their part will be futile.
People who have been repeatedly downtrodden – deprived of basic necessities, cheated of their rights by abusive landlords and the host of other scam artists who prey on the poor – will forget that they have a voice, and throw in the towel (already exhausted).
Angry and Overwhelmed
The thought of challenging a fraudulent real estate agent or employer can leave the poor feeling angry and overwhelmed. Why bother? Why risk failure and the associated pain?
That is one of the reasons getting the poor to vote is so difficult. They fail to recognize their potential power as a voting block. It is, also, one of the reasons the underprivileged sometimes explode in violence. Their patience at last at an end, they may see no other course open to them.
Of course, anger turned inward can become depression. That can manifest as apathy.
A Sense of Empowerment
Regaining control over their lives is essential for the poor. They deserve dignity and security.
Just as with the victims of abuse, if the poor can be convinced to risk confrontation in a judicial setting where their rights are protected, the act of standing up for themselves can help restore a sense of empowerment.
Success in any small degree (particularly when coupled with appropriate legal support and simple kindness) can help re-establish belief in a system from which the poor have felt excluded.
Whatever the outcome of litigation, the poor need no longer view themselves as voiceless children, forced once again to submit.
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