Tag Archives: incest

Honor

WARNING:   Graphic Images

Incest, the least reported form of sexual abuse, exists worldwide.  Even when incest is disclosed to other family members, a family may want to keep the abuse secret from society at large, in the name of so called “honor”.  There can, also, be governmental reluctance to investigate matters considered of a highly personal nature.

This leaves victims without recourse.

Pakistan – Human Rights Violations

Pakistan is just one country where these factors come into play [1].  The UN estimates that 36% of girls and 29% of boys in Pakistan experience sexual abuse.  An estimated 90% of street children have been sexually abused [2].

The situation is complicated by the fact that women have so little power over their own lives, and so few options other than staying in an abusive marriage.  Mothers are, in effect, as trapped as their children.

Despite this (or because of it), both mothers and fathers have been known to participate in honor killings.

Honor Killings

As long ago as 1989, Zein and Maria Isa, a Pakistani couple living in St. Louis, jointly murdered their daughter, a high school senior, for taking a part-time job at Wendy’s, and dating a boy of whom they did not approve [3].  Though the couple claimed Tina had attacked them, this was proven untrue when it was revealed the murder had been recorded.  Zein Isa had been under surveillance as a possible terrorist, and a listening device installed in the couple’s home.

Little has changed in Pakistan.  Earlier this month, 18 y.o. Zeenat Rafique was tied to a bed, then set afire by her mother and brother [4].  Zeenat’s crime was that she had married without her family’s permission. Continue reading

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Falling Knives, Part 1

“…A morning of tears, remembered fears
Withering looks from the past
Cut the heart, tear you apart
Pain racked soul heaves your body
Causing you to tremble and shudder

Cruel words spoken with loathing
With no care for the innocent soul
Who listens carefully
And believes this to be truly
The way things could be…”

– Marie Williams, Damaged People

Some days are darker than others.

Perhaps we have had an oppressive dream, now half-remembered. Perhaps an icy rain is falling, sharp as knives, and the weather determines our mood. Perhaps a misplaced word pierces our already injured psyche or our blood chemistry is off or the stars are misaligned.

Self-Criticism

Whatever the reasons – internal or external, identifiable or not – for abuse victims, particularly those of us suffering from depression, the most innocuous thoughts and observations can quickly morph into self-criticism, calling up faults and failures, real and imagined. No mistake is forgiven; no oversight on our part – however slight – is laid to rest for good.

Hour after hour, our criticism is unrelenting; our self-assessment, merciless. We may be able to defend ourselves against a single assault, even a dozen. But we cannot dodge the falling knives forever.

Emotional Flashbacks

The pain is searing. Old wounds are re-opened; new wounds, inflicted. What may seem insignificant to others can trigger repeated emotional flashbacks with childhood traumas not merely recalled but relived, re-experienced emotionally, again and again.

Minimizing the Abuse

To those unfamiliar with abuse, this description may sound overly dramatic. Surely, victims must be exaggerating. Actually, however, the opposite is true.

It is not uncommon for the victims of childhood abuse to downplay their suffering. Some will make excuses for their abuser, assuming liability for the abuse which is not rightly theirs. Why this tendency to minimize the scars of abuse, to downgrade the brutality of a traumatized mind and body?

Minimizing is a form of denial victims utilize in an attempt to deal with their trauma [1].

In denial, the brain tries to protect the psyche by refusing to admit the reality of trauma or abuse [2]. Details of the abuse may be shielded from the victim’s consciousness. The horror is diluted; the trauma processed in manageable, bite-size pieces. The victim is still adversely impacted, but not completely immobilized.

Fear, Shame, and Family Secrets

Victims may fear they will be overcome by the intensity of their feelings, should they accept the full extent of their abuse.

They may find it too painful to admit a loved one would treat them so callously. They may feel responsible for keeping family secrets. They may have difficulty connecting present day problems with past trauma. Continue reading

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Abuse and Our View of God

God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 4: 16).

The image we have of God is greatly influenced by the childhood experience with our own fathers, and the men who – willingly or not – filled that role in our lives. We view God as possessing all their faults while, at the same time, blaming Him for those faults.

Abuse necessarily darkens the lens through which we see God.

If our fathers were absent, chances are we will see God as absent and unconcerned for our welfare. If the men with whom we had relationships as children were hard and critical of us, we are likely to see God as harsh and judgmental.

If our fathers were cruel and sadistic, or molested us under the guise of “love”, we may see God as cruel or deceptive, and turn our backs on Him entirely. After all, He turned His on us first. Didn’t He?

Incest survivors may be threatened by the very concept of God as a “father” [1]. It speaks to us not of love and protection, but of violation. The Bible though uses many different images for God. These include our Shield (Ps. 3: 3), our Rock (Ps. 18: 2), our Shepherd (Ps. 23: 1), our Healer (Ps. 30: 2), and our Protector (Ps. 78: 23-29).

The Gospel is transformative for abuse victims, in this regard. The lens is wiped clean. We can for the first time see God clearly.

And we can see ourselves in a new light. Our true value, long clouded by abuse, is suddenly clear. For many of us, the impact of this is akin to forgiveness and equally powerful. Continue reading

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Complicated

My mother died this week. While I loved her deeply, our relationship was, as they say, complicated.

The relationship between mothers and daughters is always complicated – all the more so when there is sexual abuse by the father/stepfather or another family member.

The central questions victims ask themselves, in such cases, are: whether their mothers knew the molestation was taking place; and, if they did know, why their mothers chose not to intervene on their behalf.

This can feel like betrayal on the most visceral level. How is it that we can be rejected by our mothers? Our very hearts cry out.

Many factors come into play:

  • A woman who is herself abused may fear for her life, if she does not acquiesce to the sexual violation of her children (daughters and/or sons).
  • Alternatively, a mother may fear abandonment by her partner/spouse, especially if she does not see herself as capable of supporting the children on her own.
  • A few women may be callous, particularly if they are addicts whose judgment has been impaired. This group of women may actually trade a child for drugs.
  • Many women live in denial. Unwilling or unable to cope with the thought of molestation by the father/stepfather or another family member, these women ignore what may to an outsider seem like clear signs of sexual abuse [1].

As for rescue:

  • There are women who do not understand the abuse dynamic (the inherent inequality between adult and child) and, therefore, see their daughters (even children as young as 6) as “competition” for a partner/spouse. These women are likely to blame a victim for the molestation, mistakenly characterizing the violation as seduction by the victim.
  • When the child molester is a family member, but not the father/stepfather (for instance, a brother, uncle, or grandparent), there is a greater chance of rescue for the victim, since “competition” does not come into play.
  • When child molesters challenge the veracity of the children they have violated, mothers are faced with a credibility issue. Some women will side with their partners/spouses as against their own children. This can be crushing for victims.
  • Women in denial never deal with the rescue issue.

Often, mothers and daughters are alike in more ways than we might care to admit. But ours is the choice of whether to follow in our mothers’ footsteps. We need not make the same mistakes they did…or inflict the same wounds.

[1] Signs of possible sexual abuse can include:

  • the presence of child pornography in the home,
  • changes in behavior by a child (disobedience on the part of a normally obedient child, for example),
  • sudden unease by a child around the offending individual,
  • secretive behavior by the offending individual,
  • unexplained nocturnal visits to a child’s bedroom,
  • sexual comments about a child in the mother’s hearing,
  • inappropriate touching of a child in the mother’s view, and finally
  • the statement by a child that sexual abuse has taken place.

None of these is, by itself, conclusive.  Each though merits inquiry.

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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Frozen

The Disney animated film “Frozen” has become enormously popular. Rather than telling yet another tale of how a girl finds her prince, the film tells the story of two sisters whose love for each other saves them and their world.

Child abuse victims, too, run the risk of being frozen.

It is not difficult to find stories about abuse in the news. Incest. Child pornography and exploitation. A child tortured to death. A group of children held captive; handicapped children tormented. Systemic abuse with the collusion of law enforcement or the church. The rare monetary judgment against a predator, more often than not unenforceable for lack of funds. Take your pick.

No Disney villain can compete.

The children robbed of their innocence and peace of mind – sometimes their lives – deserve to have their stories told. But as survivors we cannot focus exclusively on this darkness or we will succumb to it. Isolated, immobilized by despair. Frozen.

There is hope in the world. There are those who consider these violations among the worst harm human beings can inflict. There is love waiting to be found. Reach out for your share.

Darkness cannot withstand Light.  It was to conquer darkness that Jesus Christ came into our world.

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1: 4-5 NIV).

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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