Tag Archives: isolation

To Match the Blood – Part 1

Large bruise as a result of domestic violence, Author Jane Fox (CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication)

As a lawyer, I spoke from time to time with small groups of other lawyers or lay people about the law.  Several times such talks found me at a Philadelphia shelter for battered and abused women.   I was deeply moved by the experience, memorializing it this way to protect the identities of the women involved:

Initially, I did not know what to expect.  I assumed, if anything, that I would pity these women.  That was not, however, the case.  Instead, I was in awe.

The women, themselves, came in all colors, shapes and sizes.  Those I met ranged in age from their early twenties to mid-sixties.  Some were pretty and petite, others statuesque Amazons.

Some could barely make eye contact, were hesitant to speak.  Others had acquired a hardened demeanor or false bravura to hide their pain.  All were deeply concerned for the welfare and safety of their children.

We spoke about the fact that battered women constitute 25% of the women attempting suicide, and 23% of the women seeking prenatal care at any given time.  We spoke about the fact that children raised in abusive households are fifteen times more likely than normal to become abusive adults (or, themselves, become involved with abusive partners).

We spoke about the spiritual issues faced by domestic abuse victims, and the practical difficulties of making a new life.  We spoke about rebuilding self-esteem, and the lure of false hope that the abusive partner would “change.”

But above all, we spoke about the lives of these women.

They had been beaten, stabbed, burned, locked in, tied up, and chained down.  They had been criticized for being attractive and criticized for being unattractive, instructed what to wear, then punished for wearing it.  They had been struck by tire irons, and thrown out windows.  They had suffered broken hearts, broken dishes, and broken bones. 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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Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, domestic abuse, domestic violence, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women

Ugliness, Part 1

Classic Comics, No. 18, “Hunchback of Notre Dame” (PD)

In the Dumas classic The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the hunchback (chosen the ugliest man in Paris) does not get the girl.  The pair do not live happily ever after, though they are eventually united in death. This is no real surprise. In fact, it is the tragedy on which the story hinges.

Kindness and Beauty

Both mistreated and physically deformed, Quasimodo is drawn to kindness and beauty as a moth is drawn to flame.

We sympathize with, even admire him. Our hearts are stirred.  But we do not root for the hunchback, not in the same way we root for the prince to rescue Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. Quasimodo is never seriously considered a romantic partner for Esmeralda. His love is doomed from the outset.

That fact tells us more about ourselves than it does about Quasimodo.

Exclusion

In the same way that Quasimodo was excluded from normal human society, abuse victims often feel themselves ostracized, outside the very definition of “human”. How does this happen and, equally important, how we can counteract it?

There seems a tendency by infants to favor symmetrical faces – possibly an inborn preference for the genetic “norm”. For the most part, however, we are taught the meaning of ugliness and beauty by the comments and actions of others.

First as infants then children, we see ourselves reflected in a parent or caregiver’s eyes, and are defined by that reflection. Ugliness on our part (assuming it has any basis at all) is likely to come as a surprise. It does not occur to us that we may be ugly, until others point that out.

Not infrequently, those who believe themselves ugly and worthy only of rejection are not ugly at all. Would not be considered ugly by strangers – only by the so called “loved ones” who should have been able to see past any obvious flaws. Continue reading

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Kidnapped by Boko Haram

“No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent…
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.”

– “Meditation XVII” by John Donne (1624)

WARNING: Graphic Images

The extremist group Boko Haram has since 2009 led a brutal insurgency in Nigeria with the twin goals of imposing Sharia law and establishing an Islamic regime. Boko Haram is known to utilize child soldiers; engage in the forced conversion, castration, and beheading of non-Muslim men and boys, as well as the kidnap, rape, and forced marriage of women and girls.

Mary Patrick was one of 276 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014 [1]. The horrors she faced during four months of captivity included cannibalism, the murder of her older sister, and repeated rape by as many as five men at a time.

Given a Muslim name and forced to recite verses from the Quran, over and over, Mary began to lose her identity. Thankfully, she managed to escape before it was too late.

Why the World Matters

Why should this matter to American women? Why should it matter to abuse victims, in particular?

Many abuse victims are likewise brutalized. This tends to focus our attention inward, on short-term survival. But there is a great deal of pain in the world…not ours alone. The girls kidnapped by Boko Haram are just one example.

Abuse victims understand pain. That others, too, have suffered should not demoralize us. Rather, it should motivate us to reach out to one another.

Isolated by abuse though we have been, we are part of the world. We have a responsibility toward the world. And the exercise of that responsibility may actually prove healing to us.

Connection

During the Middle Ages, the bubonic plague or “Black Death” as it was known killed an estimated 75-200 million men, women, and children.

The dead grew so numerous that mass graves had to be dug. Venice and other cities banned the ringing of church bells during funeral processions. The sound was thought to discourage the living.

During one outbreak, the poet and clergyman, John Donne, wrote that no man is an island. We are all connected. That is how Christians see things or should. We are connected to one another – whether abuse victims, plague victims, or the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram.

Leaving the Past Behind

No one can blame victims for seeking to forget their experience of abuse. We long to blot abuse off the face of the earth, and rightly so.

Unfortunately, much as we may desire to leave the past behind, we are often bombarded with unwelcome reminders of it [2]. The ongoing barrage of triggers can feel like defeat; the flashbacks, like daily fresh wounds in a war that has gone on for years [3]. We simply cannot move beyond the pain.

While recovery is not a matter of will power, confronting our demons may help us cut them down to size [4]. And using our experience to benefit others can give meaning to our suffering.

Outward toward the World

If we can manage to direct our attention outward toward the world, we may find that what we have suffered has actually increased our empathy for the suffering of others. Their suffering is personal for us, not merely political.

In turn, they may have lessons they can share with us.

Amazingly, Mary Patrick says that her captivity strengthened her faith. “Before, I didn’t go to church, I didn’t read [the] Bible, I didn’t pray. But now I go to church everyday…I am thankful for my life.”

[1] See, Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter, “Trained to Kill – Learning to Forgive”, August 2015.

[2] Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is frequently accompanied by intense flashes of memory. These flashbacks are triggered by sounds, smells, people, places, thoughts, and feelings which call to mind the traumatic event. Flashbacks can cause physical and emotional reactions, including a racing heartbeat, muscle tension, and profuse sweating.

[3] Coping strategies for dealing with triggers include deep breathing, mindfulness/grounding techniques, exercise, relaxation and self-care, writing, art, music, and prayer. The support of friends and loved ones can be extremely valuable.

[4] Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Collection, “Prolonged Exposure vs. Supportive Counseling for Sexual Abuse-Related PTSD in Adolescent Girls: A Randomized Clinical Trial” by Edna Foa PhD, Carmen McLean PhD, Sandra Capaldi PsyD, et al, 12/25/13, http://jama.jamanetwork.com/collection.aspx?categoryid=5862.

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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Human Contact

Ours is now a culture in which social media play an important role. The internet has made it possible to reach out to like-minded persons around the globe, on any subject, at any hour of the day or night.

We share jokes and outrage, embarrassing and touching moments. We mourn together over public and private tragedies. We exchange recipes and voice political opinions. Sometimes wearing a disguise or the mask of anonymity, we disclose long held secrets or live out fantasies. We unburden ourselves to strangers.

Why are we drawn to do this? Why do we find this electronic avenue of communication so compelling?

It is in the nature of men and women to tell their stories. Being human, we crave human contact. We reach out in an effort both to distinguish ourselves as individuals, and find acceptance by the group. Social media have enlarged our potential audience exponentially, greatly increasing the chances we will find acceptance…by some group, at least.

To that extent, social media have facilitated connection. They have, also, however, increased risk. There are predators of all types trawling for victims. We warn our children against these, and rightly so.

The more subtle danger derives from loneliness. Young people and the victims of abuse are especially vulnerable to feelings of isolation. Nothing illustrates this better than the recent suicide by transgender teen, Joshua (“Leelah”) Alcorn [1].

With the technology available to overcome isolation, there appears little reason not to make use of it.

But there is a distinction between virtual friends and those we can actually see and touch. We have much less information about virtual friends, on which to base our judgment of them. We fill in the blanks based on hope, not data.

Similarly, virtual friends (even if well-intentioned) have much less information about us, on which to base their comments and advice, than flesh and blood friends…and are much less likely to help us move a couch.

We need human contact. Social media alone cannot fill that need.

[1] NBC News, US News, “ ‘Fix Society’: Transgender Teen Leelah Alcorn Posted Plea Before Suicide” by Tracy Connor, 12/31/14, http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/fix-society-transgender-teen-leelah-alcorn-posted-plea-suicide-n277666.

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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To Match the Blood – Part 1

Photo for USS Theodore Roosevelt’s Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions, Author Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sean Hurt, Source Flickr (PD as work product of federal govt.)

As a lawyer, I spoke from time to time with small groups of other lawyers or lay people about the law.  Several times such talks found me at a Philadelphia shelter for battered and abused women.   I was deeply moved by the experience, memorializing it this way to protect the identities of the women involved:

Initially, I did not know what to expect.  I assumed, if anything, that I would pity these women. That was not, however, the case.  Instead, I was in awe.

The women, themselves, came in all colors, shapes and sizes. Those I met ranged in age from their early twenties to mid-sixties. Some were pretty and petite, others statuesque Amazons.

Some could barely make eye contact, were hesitant to speak.  Others had acquired a hardened demeanor or false bravura to hide their pain.  All were deeply concerned for the welfare and safety of their children.

We spoke about the fact that battered women constitute 25% of the women attempting suicide, and 23% of the women seeking prenatal care at any given time.  We spoke about the fact that children raised in abusive households are fifteen times more likely than normal to become abusive adults (or, themselves, become involved with abusive partners).

We spoke about the spiritual issues faced by domestic abuse victims, and the practical difficulties of making a new life.  We spoke about rebuilding self-esteem, and the lure of false hope that the abusive partner would “change.”

But above all, we spoke about the lives of these women.

They had been beaten, stabbed, burned, locked in, tied up, and chained down.  They had been criticized for being attractive and criticized for being unattractive, instructed what to wear, then punished for wearing it.  They had been struck by tire irons, and thrown out windows.  They had suffered broken hearts, broken dishes, and broken bones. Continue reading

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