Tag Archives: hope

Life

“Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them” (Ps. 139: 16).

Abuse survivors have not always experienced life at its best.  But life remains a priceless gift.  We must cherish it.

Mother Teresa (standing all of 4’11” and weighing less than 100 lbs) worked among the poorest of the poor in India.  Yet she maintained a positive view of life.  The poem below is by her.

“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.

Life is beauty, admire it.

Life is a dream, realize it.

Life is a challenge, meet it.

Life is a duty, complete it.

Life is a game, play it.

Life is a promise, fulfill it.

Life is sorrow, overcome it.

Life is a song, sing it.

Life is a struggle, accept it.

Life is a tragedy, confront it.

Life is an adventure, dare it.

Life is luck, make it.

Life is too precious, do not destroy it.

Life is life, fight for it.”

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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Dry Bones

Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel” ‘ “ (Ezek. 37: 12).

WARNING:  Graphic Images

The Old Testament prophet, Ezekiel had a widely known vision in a valley of dry bones.

The corpses there had been scorched by the sun, picked over by vultures and jackals.  God spoke to Ezekiel and asked if the bones could live again, to which Ezekiel replied that only God knew the answer.  God then instructed Ezekiel to prophecy, and life was restored to what was a vast army.

Though Bible commentators agree that the bones were a symbol of Israel, this passage has a highly personal meaning for me.

Many times in my life I have been at the end of my strength.

As an abuse survivor, I have walked lonely beaches at night, and cursed hope for drawing me forward toward another dawn.  As an advocate for the poor and a lawyer responsible for the welfare of clients and staff, I have fought many a losing battle.  As a woman with chronic health problems, I have sat in emergency rooms at 3AM, and more than once lain prostrate in public restrooms, unable even to call for help.

Rarely did God make Himself known to me, in these circumstances.  Unlike Ezekiel, I saw no visions, heard no voices.  But at all times God was present.  It was from God my strength derived, and He that carried me through the worst ordeals. Continue reading

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“Alice, Milton and Oscar: Making Sense of It All” by Marie Williams

Child’s drawing (PD).

Marie Williams offers us a poignant word picture of abuse, from a child’s perspective.   A gifted poet, Marie has captured with utmost sensitivity the interaction between a painful reality and the fantasies which form a vital part of a child’s world:

https://mariewilliams53.wordpress.com/2017/10/10/alice-milton-and-oscar-making-sense-of-it-all/

Marie Williams blogs on Come Fly with Me at https://mariewilliams53.wordpress.com/ and on Blow Me Out of the Water at https://riceandpease.wordpress.com.

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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The Side of the Angels

“Archangel Michael Tramples Satan” by Guido Reni (c. 1630), Santa Maria della Concezione, Rome, Author Andrew Graham Dixon for Yorck Project (PD-Art l Old-100)

“In the absence of light, darkness prevails”

-Motto of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, “Hellboy” (Dark Horse Comics)

Heart wrenching tales of abuse could easily fill these pages.  Generally, I try to stay away from stories of that kind.  Too often, they leave us feeling helpless and hopeless.

When I do write about lost lives, the words are my poor attempt to honor those lives and bear witness to the loss.

It may be some small consolation that such children have gone home to God.  Their pain is over.  That should not, however, diminish our outrage.

There are, of course, countless unreported cases of abuse.  Names we will never know, though God is familiar with them all.

While those victims are gone, their struggle ended, our obligation is to fight on.  It is a way of fighting darkness and death, fighting evil.  We may not have been in a position to save the lives of those children.  But we can try to save our own.

Our struggle with darkness is not insignificant.  We may feel isolated, may feel that our scars are overwhelming.  And, in truth, those scars may last a lifetime.  Which makes our struggle all the more heroic.

If the lost children could speak, they would applaud our efforts.  They would wish us Godspeed.  They were not able to live in this sad world any longer.  But we may yet triumph for their sake.

In fighting the scars, the darkness, we are on the side of the angels.

“Praise the Lord, you His angels, you mighty ones who do His bidding, who obey His word.  Praise the Lord, all His heavenly hosts, you His servants who do His will…Praise the Lord, my soul” (Ps. 103: 20-22 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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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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Protective or Not?

Las Vegas Strip, Author David_Vasquez (PD)

Hotel clerk, Danielle Jacobsen, expected a routine shift.  The middle-aged woman approaching her desk looked like any other Vegas tourist.

But Virginia Paris was decidedly out of the ordinary.  Explaining that she had been kidnapped, Paris asked that Jacobsen contact police without alerting her kidnapper who was standing nearby [1A].

“She was like, ‘Uh, I need help.  I’ve been abducted.  I’ve been missing since Friday.  It’s pretty serious, can you please pretend like you’re checking me into a room please and get the cops on the phone and get them here?’ ”

-Danielle Jacobsen on her encounter with kidnapping victim, Virginia Paris [1B]

Despite an Order of Protection, Paris had been kidnapped by her former boyfriend, Joseph Hetzel.  Jacobsen managed to contact Security inconspicuously.  Paris was taken to a room for safety, and Hetzel later arrested.

Orders of Protection

An Order of Protection from Abuse (also, known as a Restraining Order) limits or forbids the subject’s interaction with a particular person.  Such orders commonly arise from allegations of domestic violence, harassment, and/or stalking.

Statistics on Protective Orders have not been publicly available.  But there are thought to be over 1 million in effect in the United States on any given day [2].

Experts disagree on the effectiveness of Protective Orders.  A 2010 analysis in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law concluded that they do serve a role in managing threats of violence [3].

However, an earlier analysis had determined that Protective Orders were violated an average of 40% of the time.  Some women maintain they were beaten for having obtained a Protective Order. Continue reading

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Extra! Extra!

First page of Book of John, part of illuminated manuscript known as Athelstan Gospels (late 9th or early 10th Century), British Library (Cotton MS Tiberius A.ii) (PD)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

The news comes crashing toward us at the speed of light these days.  We cope with it as best we can – ignoring some things, shrugging off others, arguing over (or worrying about) those that strike closest to home.

We can at times be grieved by the news, even wounded by it.  More often, in self-defense, we develop calluses.  Occasionally, we dare to hope.

  • Catholic Church Sex Scandal.   Catholic Cardinal, George Pell, the third highest ranking official at the Vatican, has been charged with multiple sexual offenses by Australia [1].  These involve more than one individual, and are believed to extend back decades.  Pell will be returning to Australia to mount a defense.
  • Mother’s Boyfriend a Threat.  Michael McCarthy, convicted of second-degree murder in the 2015 killing of his girlfriend’s two year old daughter, has been sentenced to life imprisonment by a Massachusetts court [2].  Evidently, Bella was killed because she did not want to go to bed.  Testimony indicated she had been harshly punished before.  Both McCarthy and Rachel Bond, the girl’s mother, were heroin addicts at the time.  McCarthy will be eligible for parole in 20 years.
  • Opioid Epidemic and Child Abuse/Neglect.   Tragically, incidents of this kind are becoming all too common.  The nation’s opioid epidemic is having a direct impact on children.
    • In urban areas, the number of infants born drug-dependent quadrupled between 2004-2013 [3A]. In rural areas, that number increased by a factor of seven, stretching limited hospital and medical resources to the breaking point [3B].
    • As might be expected, the children of addicts are entering foster care at an alarming rate [4].  Often these children live in deplorable conditions for an extended period before the system takes notice.  Trash and vermin, illicit drugs, and drug paraphernalia fill the home.  Milk and food are absent.
  • Preventing Hot Car Deaths. Meanwhile, Bishop Curry, an 11 year old Texas boy, has invented a device that may aid in preventing the deaths of children left unattended in a vehicle [5].  When the “Oasis” detects a child inside a vehicle alone, it texts parents and police while blowing cold air until assistance arrives.  Toyota is exploring the possibilities.

Continue reading

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Blue on Blue, Part 2 – Despair

This is a highly personal post.  Like most abuse victims and many depression sufferers, I am well familiar with despair.  Having been grievously wounded, we cannot help but wonder whether God has turned His back on us, whether He exists at all.

There are Christian denominations which view despair as sinful.  Not all Church Fathers (influential early theologians) would, however, agree [1].  Neither do I, for that matter.  This post was written to demonstrate that the despair abuse victims experience is NOT sinful, even from that strict perspective.

Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!” (Ps. 130: 1-2).

Depression sufferers often face condemnation from their well-meaning Christian friends.  Such condemnation is misplaced.  Depression should not be confused with despair.   And for despair to be considered “sinful”, certain conditions must be met.

Depression v. Despair

Depression can arise despite our circumstances.  Despair stems from our circumstances.  Depression is the manifestation of a medical condition.  Despair is the spiritual conclusion we draw about an eternal reality.

Both will make us unhappy.  Only despair, however, can be seen as “sin” [2].

Despair as “Sin”

When we despair – as most of us use the term today – we view our suffering as pointless, and God as powerless (or uninterested) to intervene.  This is situational despair.

For our hopelessness to qualify as “sinful”, we must have a genuine understanding of God; must be above the age of reason; must be in sound mind; and — in the strictest sense — must despair not about our circumstances, but about our Salvation.

Abuse victims (and depression sufferers) simply do not satisfy these conditions.

Judas and Suicide

Judas Iscariot’s suicide is often put forward as the classic act of despair.  The apostles had daily close contact with Christ.  Judas had experienced firsthand Christ’s infinite holiness, infinite power, and infinite love.

All these Judas is said to have rejected by his self-destructive act [3][4].  Judas viewed his betrayal of Christ as so heinous it was beyond God’s capacity to forgive.  He despaired, in other words, of his Salvation.

Abuse Contrasted

By contrast, the child who is daily abused and gives up hope is not guilty of the sin of despair.  For one thing, the child may not yet have reached the age of reason.  S/he may not, therefore, be capable of forming the necessary intent.

For another thing, a child who is abused is likely to have little or no understanding of God’s true nature.   S/he has no reason to believe in a just and loving God, so cannot be penalized for the failure to trust Him.  At worst, the child rejects a flawed image of God based on tragic experience with a hostile and painful world.

As important, the abused child despairs of his/her situation (not his/her eternal Salvation).  Hell is here and now.  If anything, unfounded accusations – in reality, out and out lies – about the child’s responsibility for the abuse and overall lack of worth may make death appear inviting.

Depression and the Will

Finally, adult or child, our capacity to sin is reduced when our will is compromised as, for instance, by the brain chemistry associated with depression.

God is hardly likely to condemn us for the sins committed against us, or the scars stemming from them.  That, at least, is the opinion of this lawyer.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15: 13).

[1]  Augustine believed that despair was not a sin.  Thomas Aquinas argued the point, seeing despair as a variant of pride.  Aquinas, however, distinguished hopelessness about our Salvation from hopelessness about our situation.  He explained that a physician might despair of curing a patient without committing sin.  Aquinas conceded that God could forgive despair, by way of a miracle.

[2]  It should be emphasized that not all Christian denominations view despair as equally sinful.  Unlike Catholics, Presbyterians and Baptists reject outright the concept of “mortal” sin, i.e. sin so serious it has the potential to cost us our Salvation.

[3]  Suicide has frequently been described as the “unpardonable” sin (Matt. 12: 31-32).  This though is an error.  According to Scripture, it is speaking against the Holy Spirit which will not be forgiven.  Since the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove when Christ’s divinity was revealed (Matt. 3: 16-17), the consensus now seems to be that the unpardonable sin actually signifies rejection of Christ’s offer of Salvation.

[4]  Even those who never publicly acknowledge Christ as their Savior may accept Him in their hearts, during their final moments.  “But do not forget this one thing dear friends:  With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3: 8).

ANYONE WITH THOUGHTS OF VIOLENCE OR SELF-HARM SHOULD SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION

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

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Death and Laughter

Actor Robert Cummings as Parris in

Actor Robert Cummings as Parris in “Kings Row”, Author Stetsonharry (PD)

“Parris:  I don’t know if you can take it, Drake.

Drake:   Give it to me.

Parris:    Dr. Gordon cut off your legs.  I don’t know if it was necessary.  He was that kind of butcher, who thought he had a special ordination to punish ‘transgressors’… Heaven knows what else.  The caverns of the human mind are full of strange shadows, but none of that matters.  The point is he wanted to destroy you.  Oh, not literally.  He wanted to destroy the Drake McHugh you were.  He wanted to see you turn into a life-long cripple, mentally as well as physically.  That’s all there is, Drake…

Drake (after a long pause, chuckles):  That’s a hot one, isn’t it? Where did Gordon think I lived, in my legs?  Did he think those things were Drake McHugh?…”

–        Kings Row (1942)

My younger sister and I shared a second floor bedroom as children. We would often stay up past bedtime –  watching old movies, talking about what may have happened during the day, telling stories, or sharing our childhood dreams with each other.  The two of us would invent silly games or make up jokes, and giggle under the covers.

Saplings in a Hurricane

When our father yelled up the stairs at us for being noisy, however, we trembled.  His word was law in the house.  That’s how I remember it, anyway.

Like saplings in a hurricane, we were raised in the storm of my father’s ever-present rage. We were not beaten outright.  But the threat was always there.

And yet, at times, that threat made our laughter all the harder to contain.  We would laugh helplessly, till our sides ached.  My sister and I had a name for it:  laughing in the face of death.

A Life and Death Struggle

Looking back now, we were not far wrong with that description.  There was a life and death struggle going on.

Our laughter was the sound of life, winning out, over death and darkness.  Our laughter was the sound of hope and happiness, if only temporary; the sound of faith in a future we hardly dared believe might exist, a future in which we would be free simply to live in peace. Continue reading

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Spring

Cherry blossom, Author Maksym Kozlenko (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and…all the trees of the forest sing for joy” (Ps. 96: 11-12 NIV).

Spring, the season of hope and new life, is here again.  The trees are in bloom, the first tender shoots pushing their way out of the soil, and the children decked out in their Easter finery.

Greeting cards may giddily proclaim the equinox, as if God had not ordained it.  But Spring is more than just our chance to air out the house, lay down mulch, and pull the patio furniture from storage.  It the season that points us toward resurrection, the victory of life over death.

That has special meaning for abuse victims.  We are all too familiar with death and darkness.  The battle with evil is fought (or re-fought) everyday.  It has been part and parcel of our lives for as long as we can remember.  If the abuse has passed, we continue to wrestle with its scars.

Which is why we are astonished by the beauty of daffodils.  Light and life may be foreign to us, but we long for them the way a seed buried in the ground longs for the sun it has not seen.

“ ‘He is not here; for He is risen, as He said’ ” (Matt. 28: 6).

Only one Man in history conquered sin and death.  But He conquered them – absolutely and irrevocably – for the rest of us, even the abuse victims.  Most especially the abuse victims, the outcast, the downtrodden, the poor, the abandoned and forgotten.

We commemorate Jesus Christ’s victory over sin and death at Easter.  There is no celebration more profound.  Christ arose from the tomb – once and for all time – to offer us hope and life eternal.

Little wonder that the earth, itself, sings for joy!

Happy Easter!

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

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