This may be the bravest thing I have ever written. Long I have sat on this shore with the tide of trauma rising and falling. Here I have placed all of the the traces in the shifting sand of #churchtoo sorrow. Into your hands and at His feet I pour.
Some seasons are indelible for their joy and jubilation; still others are remembered for their riptide of ruin. This last traumatic season was the latter — wiping out all traces of the former. I’d rather not remember, but the swirling reminds me of the sea in that season. Occasionally the sorrow swells with the stress of life, lack of sleep, and the rising traumatic tide.
Abuse of faith is an ocean I never wished to swim in; in fact — no one does. I was flung into it by feckless men; spineless cowardly creatures; personal predatory pirate types. These are men as C.S. Lewis so aptly said, “without chests.” (It is however, clear that they have other ruling appendages.)
In this ocean of atrocity I have met some of the most precious creatures. I have attempted to live by the lighthouse; resting on the occasional rocky shoal; eating the odd shore lunch, and enjoying the respite of calmer days. In general, however, there is a lot of fog, the weather turns at the most inconvenient times, the swells make me sick, and my sea legs are far from marine material. Periodically the tide rises too high — I lash myself to the mast until the storm dies — or I do — whichever comes first.
Here I have writ a collection of scribbled observations from the overtaken; broken bits in a bloodied bottle that I cast wearily upon this weighty water.
On Persons To Whom Things Happened
I write to you not as a professional, though I am, but as a person – a person to whom things happened. I could not know for sure, but the very fact that you are reading this suggests to me that you either are a person to whom things have happened, or you know a person to whom things have happened, or you care about people to whom things have happened.
The phrase “a person to whom things happened” comes the famous author Virginia Wolfe memoirs. She was lifted up in front of the hall mirror in her home by her half-brother and fondled at the age of 6. Her own memoirs also reveal that she was molested nightly by another half-brother for a season. She suffered from what she called “looking glass shame”, an aversion to seeing her image in the mirror. “It is difficult,” says Woolf, “to give any account to the person to whom things happened.”
Wolfe went on to have a successful literary career, only in her mid sixties to put rocks into her pockets — heavy rocks — walk into a body of water and succumb to the depths of despair that she felt had never left her.
The man to whom I am now married knew nothing of the darkness that I fled, having met me in the light — only to find that in time, our whole life was engulfed in the darkness of clergy abuse. How close we came to putting rocks into our own pockets — heavy rocks — and succumbing to the deep. Such is the power of looking glass shame.
On Looking Glass Shame
Looking glass shame is common in abuse survivors, for how do we know our worth but that it is reflected in the face of a loved one? We see it with the baby and mother. A baby coos and the mother coos, a baby goes “ahh,” and the mother goes “ahhh.” What of the victim who sees rage reflected in the face of her primary caregivers, or apathy, or despair, or even worse, disgust?
What of the victim who having the singular fault of being vulnerable, of having less power, of trusting someone older, stronger, wiser, more mature, someone spiritual, fatherly – even elderly? Who upon disclosure of abuse by this person then sees herself and her family through the public looking glass shame of the offenders narrative?
What of the child, convinced that she has caused horrible things to happen to her? They said it was her fault – and it is the only thing that makes sense. That internalization of looking glass shame is one of the ways that I as a victim could still maintain some sense of control — if I could just change my badness — these horrible things would stop happening to me.
It is too much for the mind of the victimized to hold the dual realities of “I am bad and my caregivers are bad too.” Looking glass shame, it has it place… in a way it can keep us safe. It keeps us from outrage, it blinds us to our own betrayal.
How then do we clear the lens of looking glass shame? One small step at a time.
On Offender Centricity
I was offended against before I was born — birth did not improve the situation. (Some folks get all the breaks.) That does not make me a better victim, it just makes my victimhood long and formative. I could fill a police lineup and identify all the accused. I don’t. Offenders need to be held to account. They do. They should not, however, gain and keep centrality to steer the ship of your life — you should.
On Digitization of The Diabolical
Offenders can and do use digital modalities to inflict traceless trauma. Be advised that “faith is the assurance of things unseen” as it relates to pious and persuasive predators. For survivors, not seeing is not believing — you.
On The Supposedly Faithless
There are those who claim to be faithless who deny the reality Christ, but live His ethic far better than the “faithful.” This is to our utter shame.
On Masterful Deception
A Mdiv degree is supposed to be Masters of Divinity. I have come to think that for some, it is better thought of as Masters of Deception. You, like me, probably think that you are a really good judge of character. That having met someone, having heard them speak, having spent time with someone (perhaps even in your own home), you think that you could be a good judge of their character. All evidence suggests that we are really good at detecting when folks are telling the truth, but no better than chance at catching a liar.
On the Predatory Pack
Wolves travel in packs. Never forget that. Where there is one, there will surely be another. Do your homework — connect the diabolical dots. They are surely there.
On Faith Based Media
The most comprehensive coverage of clerical malfeasance is written by secular investigators. Consider the Boston Globe and The Houston Chronicle as cases in point. Faith based coverage has an bad case of CYOA (Covering You Own Ass).
On the Kingdom of Gawd
Kingdoms need kings, public relations people, and perfect platforms. For the kingdom of Gawd to be advanced — these things are required. You must decide what kingdom being and bringing looks like for you.
On The Despised and Disposable
When slaughtered survivors screw up the courage to speak — they are all too often despised and considered disposable. Find a safe place to disclose where you will not be disposed.
On The Courageous and The Cowards
Predators are the ultimate cowards; survivors are the courageous. Never, never, never confuse the two.
On Adverse Childhood Experiences
Whatever adverse experiences formed you, may have also have informed what fractured you. Explore that “bloodied dust.” There is beauty in to be found in the midst of brutality. You are worth the search and rescue.
On Age, Adulthood, and Consent
We speak as if 18 years of age is a magical threshold into adulthood; into conscious consent, containment, and capability. What of the child whose body matures to adulthood — but whose vulnerability has not? What of the woman who was groomed by elite deviants to give whatever was asked, her money, her mind, and eventually her modesty?
I can see vulnerability in persons across the lifespan. Where I see vulnerability, I cover it, I inform it, I advise it, I protect it, and I nurture it — with a view to maturing it. Predators see it and they eat it.
Therein, rests the difference.
On Abusive Activism/Advocacy
We raise our fist and shout hurrah when advocates wish eat individual offenders and offending institutions for lunch. I fear some have become so accustomed to abusive tactics that we wish to use evil for good. I fear some have mistaken abusive activism for accountability.
We want warriors on stallions. Yet, we were given a servant on a donkey. I fear some have catastrophically confused the two. I value powerful warriors and stallions — but I place no confidence in either. I fear some adopted the god of our oppressors and having lived under their traumatic tyranny — some have become like them.
I fear some have lost their way.
In the process of coming to know (understand, acknowledge, and metabolize) what I have known (poly-victimization), the writings of the survived but dignified have aided my climb out of this traumatic trench. It was the work of Holocaust survivors that spoke to me most deeply — they have given me the vocabulary for victimization; for the anguished memory; for the feeling of living half dead.
A body can be imprisoned and crushed but the soul and spirit of a person can be restored to dignity. No one and I do mean no one can take that. Dignity is an invisible force that the feckless can feel, but they cannot manufacture.
I have not yet met an abuse victim who was not revictimized in the disclosure of her abuse, for whom the pursuit of justice has been anything but pyrrhic in nature. Survivors are left with the unbearable choice of public annihilation upon disclosure or private imprisonment in their own memories.
We yet live in a world where powerful predators are protected and where money, position, politic, and platform persuade. Often times the worst things you can imagine upon disclosure can and does happen. Count the cost very, very, very carefully.
You can do it all “right” and it can still all go terribly wrong.
On Observing Ourselves & Others
There are things I keep a close watch on in myself and others, for they have been the very things that have been signposts on the road to slaughter:
1. Humility or the lack thereof
3. Fear of reprisal that creates action or inaction
4. Unacknowledged hungers
5. Unkindness to others — however slight
6. Dual relationships
7. Blurred boundaries
8. Conflicts of interest
9. Uninvited interest
10. Imbalance of power
11. Shrouded self aggrandizement
12. Lack of self care
13. Sacrifice of anything and everything for X, Y, or Z
To be sure there is more… Deception of any degree in ourselves and/or others will end in destruction of someone or something.
Let us be watchful and wise.
While it is easy for me to speak passionately and powerfully for and about others, I would never willingly speak of my own personal life on this or any other public platform, had circumstances not required it. I don’t covet a platform, I covet privacy. Since being repeatedly revictimized by clerics in adulthood, privacy is a commodity that I and my husband have lost in such a catastrophic, publicly humiliating, and disempowering way. Privacy ought to be protected. Predators pervert it.
When three years ago today I finally was able to get off the bathroom floor, having wretched out all of the contents of my stomach and my soul — I was a shattered shadow of a person. My marriage and family (that included small children) was imploded by abuse.
My mental, physical, emotional, spiritual health — was obliterated. I could not work. I could not even walk. My husband and I lived in that state of fracturing fog for what seemed like forever. All days were bad days. Some days were horrific. Most days I didn’t think that he, or I, or either of us would make it. Recovery looked like an apparition; hope looked like a cruel joke.
For many months, all we could do was was lose ground. We didn’t move. We hardly ate. We couldn’t sleep. Working was an exercise completed in autopilot. Parenting? Forget it.
We tried to keep each other safe, yet nether of us resembled anything close to safe for the other. I reached out to folks whose writing I found online. Those people helped and still do. I do a lot of reaching. Reaching back to what was; reaching forward to what will be; reaching within for what is.
Traumatized people don’t walk freely. They look around with darted eyes on the horizon that holds more horror than hope. Leaving the house was a heroic act. Recovery looked a lot like one step forward and three steps back; one step forward then two steps back; one step forward then one back — which meant we finally were no longer losing ground. Before we had one good day a month. In time we progressed on one bad day a month.
On The Landscape of Loss
There are trauma trip wires all over this landscape of loss. In time and with unwanted experience we learned where the trip wires were; how to defuse the detonators that were waiting to kill, steal, and destroy. With trauma informed care, we have worked to assess where the fractures have left fault lines in our lives.
Vigilance is required — it may always be.
On The Way of Peace
It takes a long time, perhaps a lifetime, to metabolize the aftertaste of abuse. I make no platitudes. I abhor abuse and I think no more favourably about abusers. I am no friend to the institution. Nor do I find in Christendom the trace of the face and feet that first drew me. Neither do I seek to model the ways of those who prayed and preyed and left us by the proverbial side of the road. I recognize the desire for change. I have chosen to be the change I wish to see.
I suspect that while the way of peace is more powerful than the sword — history rewards and records the sword. So be it. I presume not to instruct but to inform. The higher way oft looks like the low. For that, I am ever thankful.