Childhood Sexual Abuse: The Choice to Heal

Childhood Sexual Abuse:

The Choice to Heal

By Dawn Damon, author of When the Woman Abused Was You:
A Guide to Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse

(material adapted from When the Woman Abused Was You)

 

Some women live for decades unaware of their abusive past. Others who were abused as children live in the shadows of shame, afraid to confront the monsters of the past. Still other women let their abuse define them.

But there is another choice: the choice to heal. The choice to heal can be difficult, yet it is the only choice that brings healing and new life.

So what things hold us back from making the choice to heal?

Potholes on the Road to Recovery

  • Fear: We are afraid we will slip into an emotional “hole” and never get out again. Or we’re afraid to give up our old coping mechanisms or to be seen as “weak.” Or we may fear going crazy, losing a relationship, or facing the truth or allowing ourselves to feel. No matter the fear, denial is destructive. Ignoring a wound only brings festering. Commit to honestly looking at your past and grieving your losses.
  • Pride: We’re unwilling to admit we have a problem. We’re not one of “them.” We don’t want to be identified as weak or a sexual abuse survivor. Everyone else has a problem. We default to control and manipulation, and we are afraid to trust people.
  • Negative Attitude: We develop a victim mindset. We stake a claim for what we believe we deserve and build a case for ourselves. But our attitude is our choice and the basis of self-control. We can refuse to think like a victim by refuting “thought saboteurs.”
  • Thought Saboteurs: anger, apathy, blame, criticism, depression, dishonesty, fear, guardedness, hatred, indifference, intolerance, irresponsibility, jealousy, mistrust, pessimism, pride, resentment, revenge, sadness, self-pity, shame, skepticism, suspicion, and a victim mentality.

Self Evaluation

Are you struggling with pain from your past? With childhood abuse? Is it time to take steps toward healing? Pray through the areas above and ask God to help you face your fears and recognize pride, negative attitudes, and thought saboteurs. You’ve taken your first steps toward healing, and your life will never be the same.

Observations about the Duggars, Judgment, and Human Nature

WhenAWomanCoverFew people have received more media coverage in the past weeks than Josh Duggar and the Duggar family.

The family became well-known for their television show (Fill in Ascending Large Numbers here) Kids and Counting. Josh is the oldest of the Duggar children and in recent years has become an outspoken political voice among conservatives. (Paint target on his back here from both political liberals and Christians whose feathers are ruffled by girls in dresses and home schooling, among other Duggerish practices.)

I’ve watched the show on and off, which I find preferable to reality choices such as Honey Boo-Boo, Jersey Shore, and The Real Housewives of Places I’m Glad I Don’t Live. I can say that I don’t agree with everything the Duggars are purported to believe about childrearing and theology, but I do find them charming and loveable in many ways.

Josh Duggar was barely 14 when he engaged in irresponsible sexual behavior.

The same age as four people who engaged in similar sexual activities with people in my family. Other children responsible for the same kinds of actions were a few years younger or older than Josh. No one in my family chose to stone these kids, throw them in jail, or demand adult legal action.

I find several things interest about the public’s response to Josh Duggar and his family.

1. We judge those we dislike or don’t agree with more quickly than those we love or see as like ourselves.

Take a real look at your self-talk. Be honest. Many Christians who see themselves as “liberal” are simply “reverse Pharisees,” judging those more conservative in their choices in negatve ways. We see ourselves as liberated and above them, often speaking and acting condescendingly toward Christian brothers and sisters. We judge more harshly. I know few people who would want their fifteen year old child treated as Josh Duggar has been treated.

Who of us has actually has heard the facts firsthand, unfiltered by the media? How would you like your story told by someone who didn’t know you and whose job–at least in some news outlets–was to slant the facts and tell the story in the most sensational way possible in order to engage their readership? Someone who already has drawn a conclusion about your lifestyle and values?

Who of us has or is willing to apply the same standards of judgment to their loved ones and require the same kind of treatment many are demanding of Josh?

 

2. A “killer” lurks inside all our hearts.

The truth of the matter is that we ENJOY seeing the demise of those we dislike or disagree with. Competitive sports and politics are evidence. And if that’s not enough, think back on junior high and high school.

And don’t fool yourself into thinking that because you’re an adult you’ve risen above the killer motives that lurks inside all of us that likes to watch the downfall of those we hate. The creators of reality television understand this principle better than most Christians do. My heart…and yours, is deceitful and desperately wicked…so wicked, in fact, that we don’t even recognize it most of the time. (Jeremiah 17:9)

 

3. As long as Satan can keep our panties in a knot about someone else, we take our eyes off our messed-up selves.

You see, Josh sinned because he’s a sinner, and I’m pretty sure he knows it because he’s admitted it. The people who are busy throwing stones at him are probably not taking the time to see how much they’re like Josh and every other sinner on earth. I, for one, and so messed up that Jesus had to die for me. The good news is that He’s changing me. But we can only be changed when we take the time to focus on our self-talk and movtives as we interact with others in this world.

I’m reminded that Jesus was a friend of sinners. If we’re to be like Him, what should our response be in balancing accountability and love from those who act irresponsibly and hurtfully?

4. We should place focus on the long-term wellbeing of abuse survivors.

Josh’s parents did the responsible thing. His actions were reported to authorities. Law enforcement investigated. The Duggars were public in their dealings. Josh went for counseling. Reports indicate that the Duggar family has been open and forthcoming.

However, survivors of these types of events internalize their experiences differently.

Forgiveness does not replace needed trauma therapy. If the sexual experience took place in an environment of intimidation, fear, threat, etc., the survivors may need ongoing therapy. Other women may need less professional care dealing with the violation that occurred.

But according to Nancy Arnow of Safe Horizon, a New York-based victim services agency, the children who were the objects of Josh’s actions do not match the definition of sexual molestation.

“We have to distinguish between sexualized behavior that might be pretty normal — experimenting, touching each other — versus molesting, subjecting another child to harm.”

Jessa and Jill Duggar have made it clear in media interviews that this incident was forgiven and in their past. If the media and pulic truly cared about so-called “victims,” they should respect their wishes and focus, instead, on the egregious violation of the law in leaking Josh’s juvenile records and publicizing details. 

According to Dawn Scott Jones, award-winning author of When a Woman You Love Was Abused, it’s important for true abuse survivors to do a thorough and honest inventory of the losses they sustained because of their experience before trying to move on.

In the media frenzy to destroy Josh Duggar, little has been said about the needed focus on the long-term wellbeing of the survivors.

The media and the public has missed the point. Their goal has been to crucify Josh and his family. No one would want their child’s DHS records unsealed, their past made public, and exploratory behavior common to fourteen year-old boys applied to their family and friends.

And NO, it doesn’t matter if Josh Duggar is a public figure. We all deserve the right to make mistakes as kids and move on. This is what juvenile court is supposed to help accomplish. And this is the core of Christian community. (I can dream, can’t I?).

Let’s at least pretend to be consistent. And let’s pretend to be consistent.

Abuse is not over when it’s over. Forgiveness, while an important step, is just ONE step toward healing. Don’t drag out a child’s past and ask for adult judgment. The true injustice is the victimization of the children and the entire family by the individual that released Josh’s records, the media that published it, and Christians who love to sling mud instead of focusing on their own dirty hands.

 

Your thoughts?

 

The TQ October Countdown

 

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The countdown begins for the Trauma Queens Conference on October 20th at Rock Pointe Church (formerly St. Stephen’s Lutheran) in Rockford. Excitement is building as we prepare for this life-changing event. 

What will you find at the Trauma Queens Conference?

  • Sisterhood, as you connect with other women in a community of support. Where you’re free to talk, cry, and even laugh about things you may have found difficult to speak about. 
  • An environment of safety and confidentiality among sisters who know your pain and have walked a similar journey.
  • Resources that will help you move forward.
  • Good books. Good food. Cool jewelry to help you mark the path of your journey.
  • Hope and a helping hand.

Come join us. Bring a friend. Tell a friend. Whether or not you’ve experienced the pain of abuse yourself, you probably know and love someone who needs this conference. Offer to come with them. Offer a scholarship for someone else. Or contact us to ask how you can get involved.

Can’t wait to see what God’s going to do to change lives. 

Mandy and Me

 

I put in long hours at my computer. And at the end of the day, you’ll often find me watching television as a means of winding down. I’m a fan of Antiques Roadshow, Wheel of Fortune, and Master Chef. But I also like a good detective show and was disappointed when The Closer wrapped up its final season.

But I have never been a fan of Criminal Minds. I find the show to be voyeuristic and almost celebratory in its exploration of perversion and evil. My spirit recoils at the sight of torture. I choose not to numb myself to the horror this show depicts. As someone who speaks in the nation’s prisons and to women who struggle in the aftermath of violence and sexual abuse with post-traumatic stress disorder (see the Trauma Queens website at TraumaQueens.org), the realities of evil are personal to me.

This week Mandy Patinkin came out with surprising public statement. “[Performing on] Criminal Minds was very destructive to my soul and my personality.” (Huffington Post) In his interview, he talks about how immersing himself in a show that depicted the rape and degradation of women week after week nearly destroyed him.

A question we might consider asking is what effect does watching the rape and degradation of women week after week have on us as viewers? Does it somehow impel us toward justice? Or does it dull our sense of outrage for violence against women? Does Criminal Minds–or any other–build our worldview of truth and carry us forward in a positive direction, or pull us into the horror and make us a voyeur to evil?

Questions, I believe, worth asking.