Tag Archives: God’s love for abuse victims

Acid Rain

Memorial damaged by acid rain, Author JamesPFisherIII (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

The emotional scars from childhood sexual abuse can badly damage a woman’s view of herself.  But any woman’s self-esteem may be skewed by the world’s sometimes superficial values.

Poor self-esteem can be crippling. The negative feelings associated with childhood abuse often hold abuse victims back from becoming all they might.

Sadly, many of us castigate ourselves for problems and perceived “failings” that are actually scars of the molestation, or coping mechanisms we adopted as children to deal with the pain.  The constant self-criticism is like acid rain for the soul, corrosive and debilitating.

God does not evaluate human beings as we do. He looks at the heart, while the world tends to look only at the outer shell (1 Sam. 16: 7).

Scripture emphasizes Christ’s great love for us, and encourages us to combat these negative feelings whenever they arise.

“…[N]either death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord(Rom. 8: 38-39).

Originally posted 11/10/13

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Abuse Victims and Failure, Part 2 – Bad Advice

“Blue Suede Shoes” sheet music at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Source Flickr, Author Sam Howzit (CC Attribution 2.0 Generic)

“Well, you can knock me down,
Step in my face,
Slander my name
All over the place.

Do anything that you want to do, but uh-uh,
Honey, lay off of my shoes
Don’t you step on my blue suede shoes…”

– Elvis Presley, Blue Suede Shoes

Discouragement from those significant in our lives often accompanies abuse.  Sadly, we may adopt the negative opinion others have of us based on their own shortcomings.

But bad advice is simply misdirection – not an infallible predictor of our future.  The important thing is that it not become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • The author of a beloved 19th Century girls’ novel worked as a maid, seamstress, companion, and teacher.  Thankfully, Louisa May Alcott found her true calling, and left us the classic Little Women.

Taught to Fear

  • Lucille Ball said that all acting school taught her was to be frightened.  Ball, of course, became one of the most popular comediennes in America, starring in such sitcoms as I Love Lucy.  She was nominated for thirteen Emmy Awards, winning four (along with a Lifetime Achievement Award).

Abuse victims are taught to fear.  Change is viewed as negative, and the new as dangerous.

This attitude passed on to us – if we remain bound by it – makes progress impossible, and success unattainable.  Genuine opportunities are missed, since their negative consequences always appear to outweigh any benefit.

Meanwhile, real risk is not accurately assessed.  Danger is not perceived, so we rush headlong into its arms – sometimes in the very effort to escape our past [1].  When harm follows (frequently in the form of further abuse), we question our judgment and become ever more fearful.

Trained not to trust our abilities, we cannot conceive of overcoming the obstacles in our path.  Yet, it must be added, a remarkable number of us do overcome them.  Ironically, our pain is sometimes the impetus for change.

Without guidance, support, or even much confidence, we ignore the odds against us, and persevere regardless. Continue reading

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Returning to Toxic Relationships, Part 3

“Healing of the Blind Man” by AN Mironov (2009), Author Andrey Mironov (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

“…He [Christ] spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.  And He said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’…So he went and washed, and came back seeing” (John 9: 6-7).

The miracle of the blind man is recorded in the Bible to teach us that infirmity is not necessarily the consequence of sin.

Certainly, as the victims of child abuse, we did not, ourselves, sin.  Trauma, however, lefts its mark on us.  Among its scars is the tendency we have to seek out and return to dysfunctional relationships.

What Christ’s love does for abuse victims is heal (or reduce) those scars, and cause the scales to fall from our eyes.  We can see the world more clearly, undistorted by the lies we were told by predators about the nature of love and our own supposed lack of value.

Christ’ love for victims is tender.  “A bruised reed He will not break…” (Isaiah 42: 3).  Rather than inflict pain on us, He grieves over the pain we have endured.  That tenderness restores our self-worth, eliminating the need we feel to return to toxic relationships, and making us again whole.

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Unbiblical, Part 6 – Forgiveness v. Victims’ Rights

“ ‘And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us’ ” (Luke 11: 4).

As I have said elsewhere on this website, forgiveness is a personal matter between abuse victims and their God.  Urging forgiveness on victims prematurely ignores the gravity of their trauma, and the depravity of the sins committed against them.

This amounts to a further violation.  Victims will necessarily feel that Christians are siding with the predator…even condoning the abuse.  Shockingly, in some cases Christians have been guilty of this.

Witness the Catholic Church sex scandal.  This was, at best, a product of poor judgment, and a distorted view of Scripture.  At worst, it was a cold and calculated attempt to avoid corporate responsibility, while facilitating the most heinous of crimes.

Detail from “Christ before the High Priest” by Gerar van Honthorst (1617), National Gallery (Accession No. NG3679), London, Source Web Gallery of Art (PD-Art, PD-Old-100)

Either way, church hierarchy applied precisely the same rationale to young abuse victims, as the high priest, Caiaphas, did to Christ:  “ ‘…[I]t is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish’ ” (John 11: 50).

To be clear, forgiveness is not a “warm and cozy” feeling, on the part of victims.  It is a deliberate decision by victims to leave the harm inflicted on them behind, and instead move on with their lives. Continue reading

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Unbiblical, Part 3 – Humility v. Lack of Worth

“Eve” by Auguste Rodin, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Author MicheleLovesArt (MIchele Ahin at https://www.flickr.com/people/39627257@N04) (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

Many, if not most, victims will conclude from the abuse inflicted on them that they have little or no value.  They are likely to view God as angry and withholding, unconcerned for their welfare.  This applies whether the abuse is emotional, physical, sexual or in the form of neglect.

When in all humility Christians describe themselves as undeserving of Salvation or compare their righteousness to “filthy rags” (Is. 64: 6), abuse victims can readily identify.  However, abuse victims are inclined to view themselves as irredeemable.

Having been treated like filthy rags, having been taught that love must be “earned” – and never is – victims may, even as adults, wrestle with shame and believe that they are worthless.  This can drive them toward legalism (Christianity as perfectionism), in a frantic attempt to obtain the love they have been denied.

But God values every life.  His love is freely given.

Christ said:

“ ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth’ ” (Matt. 5: 5).

He said:

“… ‘Whoever receives this little child in my name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great’” (Luke 9: 48).

Christians must, first and foremost, demonstrate God’s love to abuse victims.  If they fail in this, the shame is theirs.

Originally posted 3/22/15

This series will continue next week with Trusting God, Self, and Others

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In the Aftermath of Abuse, Part 6 – Restoring the Relationship with God

Open Bible, Author “The Photographer” (CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication)

The abuse experience can warp the lens through which victims see themselves and the world.  It skews even their view of God, since He – perhaps more so than the predator – is blamed for the abuse.

Abuse victims must be permitted to vent the full range of emotions elicited by the violation, if their faith in God and relationship with Him are to be restored.

God’s continuing love for abuse victims is more powerful than any symptoms or shame.  This does not necessarily mean that the scars of abuse will be erased.  Victims are likely to need frequent reminders, both of God’s love and His mercy.

He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103: 10-12).

” ‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool’ “  (Isaiah 1: 18).

” ‘I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, and remembers your sins no more’ ”  (Isaiah 43: 25).

Victims might ask themselves whether they would judge another exploited child by the same harsh standards they have applied to themselves; whether the thoughts and behaviors they now characterize as defective on their part would have occurred at all, if they had not been abused.

Originally posed 8/18/13

Of note, the Sex Trafficking Act was this week signed into law.  The “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017” (often referred to as FOSTA) creates a new federal offense which prohibits owning or operating a website or other technology platform with the intent to facilitate prostitution.  Penalties can run as high as 25 years in prison. 

Sex trafficking victims may, in addition, bring civil suits against the websites that hosted ads that enabled their trafficking.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT:  https://alawyersprayers.com

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In the Aftermath of Abuse, Part 4 – Scriptural Consolation

“Agnus Dei (The Lamb of God)” by Francisco de Zurbaran (c. 1638), San Diego Museum of Art, Photographer Daderot (CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication)

While abuse victims have not sinned, it can be helpful for them to recall that God encourages even sinners. He sent His Son to save, not condemn us.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believeth on Him is not condemned…” (John 3: 17-18).

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8: 1).

It is the adversary who condemns the saints, his goal being to paralyze them.  It is his voice that victims hear when the darkness presses in on them, not God’s.  But the adversary is a liar.  Lies are his stock in trade.  Abuse victims are the more vulnerable, since early in life they did not receive the nurturing that God intended.

And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony…’ ” (Revelation 12: 10-11).

Originally posted 7/21/13

Wishing You All a Happy Easter!

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Not Just Victims

Baking utensils, Author Pfctdayelise (CC BY-SA 2.5, 2.0, and 1.0 Generic)

“And if they stare
Just let them burn their eyes
On you moving.
And if they shout
Don’t let it change a thing
That you’re doing.

Hold your head up,
Hold your head up,
Hold your head up,
Hold your head high.”

–        “Hold Your Head Up”, C. White, R. Argent © Marquise Songs

A rock song from the ’70s by Argent has special relevance for abuse survivors.  Called “Hold Your Head Up” it is a reminder that we are more than just victims.

But abuse victims, by whatever name, are not known for valuing themselves highly.  To the contrary, we can barely raise our heads, let alone form a realistic view of ourselves.

The abuse to which we were subjected created a web of lies – that we were worthless, that we were undeserving of love or care.  Trapped in that web, we were denied hope, as the scars (our response to the pain) hardened around us.

Not everything we do, however, will stem from or relate to abuse.  If we focus on that aspect of our experience to the exclusion of all others, we will only enlarge the tragedy, allowing it to engulf our lives [1].

We have relationships, vocations, and beliefs:

  • We are sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. We are friends, lovers, and spouses. We are students, teachers, and mentors.
  • We are social workers, lab technicians, and police officers.  We are doctors, lawyers, dentists, and accountants.
  • We are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.

We have habits, preferences, interests, skills, and abilities.  Some of us are neat-freaks; others do not pick up their socks.  Some are dog lovers; others are “cat people”.  Some of us are musical; others cannot carry a tune. A few probably play the banjo. Continue reading

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Satan and Abuse Victims

Image of Satan by Gustave Doré, in John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1866), Source https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/milton/john/paradise/complete.html (PD)

“All hope abandon, ye who enter here”

-Motto over the Gates of Hell, from Dante’s Inferno

Abuse victims know Satan all too well.  We have met him in the form of pedophiles and panderers; parents and caregivers who did not know how to love; partners who used and discarded us like so many unwanted toys.

Truth and Lies

We have been tormented by Satan in every way possible – mentally, physically, emotionally, sexually, and religiously, to the point that some of us have come to view death as a relief.

That statement about death is, of course, one of Satan’s lies.  But we have been told so many lies, we no longer recognize the truth.

Trust and Control

Where there is a history of abuse, the desire for control can be heightened.  Having been grievously harmed, we are determined not to be harmed again.  Which means trust is an issue for us.

Our wounds are so deep that some of us have vowed never to trust again.  In the interest of safety, we have willingly traded freedom for isolation.  A high price to pay.

But isolation is no guarantee of peace or safety.  That is just another of Satan’s lies.

Cries for Help

Most of us have cried out to God in our anguish.  Many have concluded that He long ago rejected us or simply does not exist (more of Satan’s lies).  A few of us have come to believe Satan is the stronger (a lie he gladly endorses).

Faith and Fear

It takes enormous faith to let down our guard, lay our defenses at God’s feet, and allow Him sovereignty over our lives.  Victims’ reluctance is more a reflection of fear than stubbornness; more a measure of the sins to which we were subjected, than those we committed ourselves.

Legalism and Self-Esteem

Acutely aware of our defects – real and imagined – and often rejected before, abuse victims are intensely sensitive to rejection.  Fearful that God will reject us, if we do offer to submit to His will, victims are flooded by feelings of inadequacy.

We must reclaim our self-esteem before we can surrender freely to God.  Otherwise the concept of surrender is likely to feel too threatening to us.  We were forced to submit to the evil inflicted on us.  The thought of submitting again – even to a good and holy God – can be overwhelming.

In the aftermath of abuse, we hardly dare assert ourselves, as it is.

This is not to say that we must be “perfect” or even “good” before God will come into our lives.  That is yet another of Satan’s lies.  God meets us where we are.

A frantic effort to “please” Him by doing good works (or flagellate ourselves for every failure) is unnecessary.  It amounts, in fact, to legalism – adherence to the letter of the law, at the expense of the spirit.  God does not ask this of us.

Our value in God’s eyes is not something to be earned at all.  It stems from the family relationship we have with God.  We are His beloved children.

Recognition of that profound truth can go a long way toward healing the wounds left by abuse.

“…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isa. 40: 31 NIV).

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Self-Talk

Child sticking out his tongue, Author Augusto Starita (GNU Free Documentation License) (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Their tongue is an arrow shot out; It speaks deceit…” (Jer. 9: 8).

The Bible does not favor the tongue much.  That organ is instead described as crafty (Job 15: 5), lying (Ps. 109: 2), false (Ps. 120: 3), divided (Ps. 55: 9), and deceitful (Ps. 52: 4).  Job called it a scourge (Job 5: 21), with evil hidden beneath the sweetness (Job 12: 20).

As abuse victims, we experienced this firsthand.  The full force of the tongue was directed against us.  We were vilified and demeaned by our abusers, humiliated and reviled without a chance to defend ourselves.

Into the Marrow

And their tongue [is] a sharp sword” (Ps. 57: 4).

Words can cut deeply, especially since children do not weigh their veracity.

Worse still, hurtful words can be absorbed into the marrow, becoming the vocabulary we use to converse with ourselves.  That inner dialog is, in effect, poisoned by the abuse to which we were subjected.

Unaware that there is any alternative, we rely on this polluted self-talk.

Unfortunately, what that does is perpetuate the lies with which we were barraged as children – that we were ugly, stupid, undeserving of attention or affection.  That we were perverted.  That we would not succeed in life, and stood no chance of finding love.

Exhausted and Mute

My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And My tongue clings to My jaws…” (Job 22: 15).

This negative inner dialog renders us not only exhausted, but mute.  How can we begin to untangle the lies?  Who would want to hear our side of the story, in any event?

Even the mildest confrontation has us stumbling over our tongues.  Whatever the context, arguments in favor of our position are never articulated or fade away to silence.

Speaking Truth to Ourselves

 In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues…” (Mark 16: 17).

But there is an alternative available to us.  It involves speaking God’s truth to ourselves.

We are not worthless in His sight.  In fact, the very opposite is true.  We are infinitely precious, so much so that God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sakes. Continue reading

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