Tag Archives: God’s love for abuse victims

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!

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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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).

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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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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Preventing Teen and Pre-Teen Suicide

The band “Rockers Behind the Bridge” performs at Suicide Prevention Month event (2015), Washington DC, Author US Customs and Border Protection (PD-fed. govt.)

After 7 students committed suicide, the Mesa Valley School District in Colorado briefly took 13 Reasons Why — the book on which the Netflix series by the same name is based — out of circulation [1].  The ban lasted no more than a few hours.

Other school districts have made the book mandatory summer reading.

Romanticizing Suicide

13 Reasons Why is a work of fiction in which a high school girl kills herself, leaving behind tapes to be played after her death.  Critics of the book – myself included – view it as romanticizing suicide, without providing young readers an alternative perspective.

A Daily Assault

Our children are daily assaulted by a culture that lionizes physical appearance, popularity/fame, athletic ability, wealth, and conformity.

Most do not meet the requisite criteria, in one way or another.  Those who do not may be excluded from normal activities, made the butt of jokes, taunted, intimidated, told that they are worthless, and urged to commit suicide [2].

Some 4400 will take their own lives [3][4].  Suicide is, in fact, the third leading cause of death among young people.  Over 5000 middle and high school students in the United States attempt suicide daily.  Over 14% of high school students admit to having considered it.

As parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, scout leaders, and mentors of every sort, it is up to us to equip our children to deal with this barrage of insults, lies, and pain.

Reasons Not to Commit Suicide

The website Notes from the Recovering Self-Harmer provides a list of 40 reasons not to commit suicide [5].  Among them are the fact that suicide is final, the hope that things will get better, music, smiles, laughter, chocolate, and sunrises.

More even than these, the love of family, friends, and – above all else – God should anchor us.  But not all children have those to rely on.  When there is abuse (emotional/physical/sexual) or neglect in the home, the image of God can be greatly distorted. Continue reading

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When Mr. Right Is Mr. Wrong

Monument to Cervantes (statues of Don Quixote and his companion Sancho Panza) by Lorenzo Valera (1930), Madrid, Spain, Author/Source Luis Garcia (“Zaqarbal”) (PD)

“He thought that every windmill was a giant.  That’s insane.  But, thinking that they might be… Well, all the best minds used to think the world was flat.  But, what if it isn’t?  It might be round.”

They Might Be Giants, lead character commenting on Don Quixote

Miguel de Cervantes in his great classic Don Quixote celebrates the individual, and the unique vision that can see beyond the limitations of this material world.

We get the phrase “tilting at windmills” (pointlessly assailing imagined foes) from the scene where Don Quixote – an elderly gentleman who believes he has become a knight – mistakes certain windmills for giants.

On the page, this is laudatory.  We are elevated by the call to idealism.  But in practice – especially where love and romance are concerned – this approach has serious flaws.  In fact, it can be downright dangerous for abuse victims.

Fixing Mr. Right

We meet someone.  We like his appearance or his sense of humor [1].  Whatever the attraction, whether he is a loner or the center of attention, we find ourselves drawn to him.  At long last, we have found Mr. Right.

We may, on some level, notice in the early stages of romance that there are problems in store.  But we dismiss those.  So he drinks a little.  OK, more than a little.  We tell ourselves he has his reasons.  We are sure we can “fix” him.

In reality, the problems may be precisely what we find appealing.  Reminiscent of problems in our family of origin, they feel “familiar” – as if we had met this man before.  We convince ourselves that fate has selected him for us.

We determine to defend him against the world.

If Only

What women often see in their beloved is the man he might be.  We fall so deeply in love with that man the thought of leaving him, of abandoning our dreams (especially dreams in which we have invested precious years of our lives), is unbearable. Continue reading

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Negative

Photographic negative of London’s “Big Ben” (picture taken from a bus), Author Diane from Chicago suburb, Source flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

Photos used to come with negatives when I was a girl.  These were reverse images on strips of plastic film, with light areas appearing dark, dark areas appearing light, and colors reversed.

We would sort through our photos for the best, then resubmit the corresponding negatives for processing, so that copies and enlargements could be made from them.

Instead of storing images as patterns of darkness and light, today’s digital cameras store images as long strings of numbers.  Film isn’t, strictly speaking, necessary.  But negatives have something to teach us.

Hard on Ourselves

As abuse victims, we find it easy to be hard on ourselves.  It’s second nature to us – as if we were specially trained to see only the negative aspects of our lives.  And, of course, we were.

We question our every action, criticize our every decision – past, present, and future:

  • Why couldn’t we have avoided the situations in which abuse occurred or have prevented it outright? As if children had such options…or such power.
  • Why did it take us so long to figure things out? As if abuse weren’t incomprehensible to children, and understanding proceeded according to a set timetable.
  • Why do we keep making the same mistakes? As if abuse had not impacted us at a formative stage in our lives.
  • How will we ever leave our abusers, support ourselves, succeed at work or school? As if we were “damaged goods” for having survived an unbearable ordeal.

This ongoing critique should not be confused with a genuine effort to improve our character or atone for some sin [1].  It originated as an attack by our abusers on who we are, an attack on our very being.

Judgment Passed

Judgment has already been passed against us by our abusers.  We are simply carrying out their sentence – lifelong punishment for the failure to meet insane expectations, for the unpardonable “sin” of intruding on their lives.

But judgment was passed without any real evidence. Continue reading

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Rescuing Ourselves

“The Rescue” by John Everett Millais (1855), National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia (PD-Art l Old-100)

There was finally a point in my teens when I realized that I would never be rescued from sexual molestation [1].

The shock of that revelation was overwhelming…as if all my trauma had been condensed into a single instant.  It felt, at that moment, as if I had been struck in the chest by a sledge hammer.

Trauma Beliefs

Traumatic childhood events (especially those involving a parent) can give rise to false core beliefs [2].  Often, such trauma beliefs are not articulated.  They may never be identified and consciously brought to mind.

But trauma beliefs can be enormously destructive – not only damaging our self-image, but crippling us.

Here are a few versions of such beliefs:  I am stupid; I am ugly; I am unlovable; I do not deserve to be cared for; I must do everything perfectly, or I will be rejected; I should be punished; I will be abandoned by everyone I ever love.

Self-Hatred

Deep inside, I concluded that I was unworthy of rescue, because I would never be the woman my mother was.  I would never be as kind, gentle, or generous as she was.  Most especially, I would never be as vulnerable or petite.  This translated into self-hatred.

That I developed weight issues in high school seemed “proof” of my deficiency.  Clearly, I had an innate flaw that went through to the bone.  So it appeared to me.  I became a perfectionist to offset this.

Acting Out Trauma Beliefs

Weight problems can be a source of torment and discouragement, especially in our culture.

Those of us with problems involving our weight try diets, weight loss programs, and gyms.  We buy expensive exercise equipment, and gadgets guaranteed to change our dimensions.  Some of us even have surgery, and still the weight comes back.

Weight issues are the symptom, not the disease.  Weight issues are a constant source of shame which is why, with some part of ourselves, we cling to them.  They reinforce our trauma beliefs.  That these false core beliefs were laid down so early in our lives gives them added strength.

Perfectionism is likewise a harsh taskmaster.  Perfectionism (another way of acting out trauma beliefs) insures a sense of inadequacy which is the reason it is so tenacious.  The bar is constantly out of reach.

What these two have in common is that they preserve the feelings we had as children.  Those feelings have simply found a new focus. Continue reading

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Beautiful in His Sight

“Face of Christ” by Claude Mellan (1649), Rijksmuseum Amsterdam (PD)

Abuse frequently destroys the faith of victims, undermining our capacity to trust.  While we may reject God or despise Him, He loves and values us.  It can be difficult for us to reconcile God’s love with our experience.  But that love is real.

Let me try and explain what I mean.

Self-Worth and the Cross

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3: 16).

As abuse victims, we were taught at an early age that we were worthless.  Our needs were insignificant.  Our feelings did not matter.  Our bodies were not our own.

These were the inferences we drew from our experience with those who rightly should have loved and cared for us.  God, however, sees things differently.  To Him, we are of infinite value.  He proved it by giving His Son, Jesus Christ over to a death on the cross for our sakes.

Our value is not governed by a predator’s opinion of us.  It was established for all time at the cross.  No one need add to it.  No one can detract from it.

God’s Unconditional Love

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies” (Ps. 36: 5).

God’s love for abuse victims is limitless and unconditional.  The concept of unconditional love may be foreign to us.  We were taught that love was unreliable.  It had to be earned, over and over again.  Most of us paid a high price for a counterfeit version of love.

Sin and Our Relationship to God

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8: 1-2).

God’s love is not withdrawn when we make mistakes or fall short.  We grieve His heart at such times, but He does not turn away from or reject us.  We are His beloved children.  Even when our relationship with Him is rocky, He continues to love us immeasurably. Continue reading

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