We are living in an age of reckoning.
It is an age when all that is hidden, will be revealed, when who you are in private is finally catching up with the you that you present yourself to be. It is a warning to a watching world… that the two should be the same; as if that wasn’t already painfully obvious. It is an age where it seems the Narnian spell has fallen upon the land where “all things invisible, shall be made visible’. As I poured over 2017 and pondered the coming year I had an urgent sense that I was indeed to watch closely as new things unfold. As time, trauma, and truancy has allowed I have done so.
I am watching closely at this “new thing” that is afoot in our culture. Where #churchtoo, #metoo, #silenceisnotspiritual campaigns are aflame and social media has become a powerful tool to out predators and finally give a voice to victims.
As of late I had been following Jacob Denhollander on twitter. He is the husband of the lovely Rachel Denhollander, survivor of Larry Nasser. He had been tweeting about the cost of sexual abuse, the high price each woman and her family has paid, the victory and vindication for the victims – the humiliation that Nasser necessarily and rightly bares.
When a pedophile is caught and convicted, even hardened criminals rejoice. There is a code, as I was recently informed, even among the incarcerated. Sex offenders routinely ask the other if they were convicted on a “good touch” or “bad touch” charge. Good touch is purportedly purveying sexual material, bad touch is actually sexually harming a child. If you are incarcerated for a “bad touch” charge, apparently that makes you free game to be experiencing some of your own “bad touch” by the big boys in cell number two – even criminals don’t cosy up to pedophiles.
The sobering thing is that only 3% of pedophiles are ever caught. Anna Salter states that “crime pays, and sexual crime it appears, pays particularly well”. So, now Nasser is part of that 3%, and those precious women can have some sense of closure, even as they continue to move from silent suffering, to speaking, to surviving and on to thriving. These women deserve the standing ovation that Andy Savage received and praise be to God – they are getting it – globally.
Here is where it hurts girls… That leaves a staggering percentage of pedophiles on the loose in medical practices, schools, sanctuaries or stages near you. I heard it said, but I cannot find the source, that statistically, there is one pedophile per square mile in the USA. Thier victims are left to suffer silently and catastrophically. 97% of pedophiles walk on as if nothing ever happened but 100% of victims never do. Those victimized children grow up to be traumatized adults who have to fight with all they have to come to terms as a woman, with what happened to them – as a child. These same women are at risk for revictimization at rates that researchers estimate the range from 2-13.6%. Many victims of CSA have adverse outcomes that linger for a lifetime ACE Study. 97% of pedophiles never see the inside of a prison, 100% of their victims are held captive unless they trudge the long hard road to liberty.
I recently read a post by Ann Voscamp that cut deep into the arteries of my own life; if tears had of been blood, I’d need a transfusion. My husband had a sore back, and after a long day at work I had shifted into my pajamas and had set to fix him up – I did exactly that. He was prone on the old massage table when a message came in with a link to Ann’s post. I sat on the floor at the head of the table, he facedown, eyes at my feet. I started to read, and immediately couldn’t speak. Within the first few words, I could no longer see. Torrents of tears fell on red flannel pajamas, sobs filling the space between my feet and his face.
My mumma lives in a tiny apartment, on an upper floor, with a security entrance – it is the only way she can sleep at night and feel even somewhat safe. Not a day goes by where a wide open space doesn’t make her feel vulnerable. My Daddy stole us after he raped and almost killed my oldest sister. He said she left us when we were in diapers – he failed to mention that she came back to see us repeatedly with rape as the entrance fee. She called the police – back then, it was a “domestic affair.” He took seriously his domestic duties, and proceeded molest and mutilate us girl babies he stole until we were big and brave enough to run away. She was not to see us again until our shoes were bigger than hers and our bodies and souls just as broken. Incidentally – we run still.
My mumma and I, we sit in the overwhelming majority of girls and women who suffer in silence. For us, and millions more like us, there will never be a Nassar moment. After a lifetime of sexual violence and victimization without justice – I can tell you that I can sit quietly and accept the justice of God for Mumma and me.
It is His silence now I struggle with.
There are times when silence can feel like betrayal. As I look in the gospels I see the upward face of Jesus as He cried out, “My God, My God… what have you forsaken me?” I’m not the first to struggle thus.
It was Ellie Wiesel’s book Night that gave me vocabulary for catastrophic suffering and injustice of a child at the hands of evil men. Wiesel’s own words set the stage:
Trigger Warning – it is very difficult to read this.
“One day,” writes Wiesel, “as we returned from work, we saw three gallows… The SS [guards] seemed more preoccupied, more worried, than usual. To hang a child in front of thousands of onlookers was not a small matter. The head of the camp read the verdict. All eyes were on the child. He was pale, almost calm, but he was biting his lips as he stood in the shadow of the gallows…
‘Where is merciful God, where is He?’ someone behind me was asking.
At the signal, the three chairs were tipped over… Then came the march past the victims. The two men were no longer alive… The child, too light, was still breathing… And so he remained for more than half an hour, lingering between life and death…
Behind me, I heard the same man asking: ‘For God’s sake, where is God?’
And from within me, I heard a voice answer; ‘Where is He? This is where – hanging here from these gallows…’”
There were millions of children and adults that were victims of the Holocaust. The injustice seems somehow so much worse when it is a child who suffers. I am Watching Closely the landscape where millions of mothers and daughters are yet hanging… hanging their heads in shame, blame, and accusation and whispering, “Where is God, for God’s sake, where is God?”
For the innocent to suffer unrighteously at the hands of wicked others; to be sentenced to death when the offender goes free; to have the flesh of your back ripped off; to be spit upon with words; to hang lingering too long between life and death; to be mocked in your naked estate and to be silent – by a ‘choiceless’ choice or by treaty; is to enter into the deepest of His sufferings.
I stand biting my lip in the shadow of the gallows. God help me, I hear the same answer, “Where is He? This is where… hanging on the gallows” … with me.