Together We Heal

Together We Heal is for any who suffer from the trauma of Childhood Sexual Abuse. We are here to provide a safe forum for survivors of abuse to share, learn and heal, give direction to those seeking guidance and to expose sexual predators for what they are and their methods of getting into our lives.

Marginalizing the Abused: Six Ways Survivors are Treated as Insignificant

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The following article was written by “Boz” Tchividjian. It is an extremely insightful article explaining how survivors of childhood sexual abuse are made to feel by those in power within religious organizations.

Boz is a former child abuse chief prosecutor and is the founder and executive director of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment). Boz is also an Associate Professor of Law at Liberty University School of Law, and is a published author who speaks and writes extensively on issues related to abuse within the faith community. He is the 3rd-eldest grandchild of the Rev. Billy Graham.
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“He has worked hard to convince everyone that I am crazy.” These were the words of a woman who was speaking about a relative who had sexually abused her as a child for years. This well-known and “respected” relative has been successful in keeping her abuse disclosures ignored for many years by convincing anyone that listens that she is an irrational and troubled individual.

After years of being labeled “crazy” and being ignored, this survivor became silent and even found herself struggling with whether or not the baseless label was legitimate. Do you see what happened? A person who is well liked and well-respected in the community is accused of horrific behavior that the community prefers not to believe.

The perpetrator provides the community with exactly what it wants in order for it to look the other way. Believing that the complainant is “crazy” gives the community the excuse to marginalize the victim and the disclosure, all the while showing support to the “unfairly” accused offender.

I recently watched the acclaimed Norwegian film, King of Devil’s Island. Based upon a true story, this movie was about the Bastoy Boy’s Home for delinquent boys located on an island off of Norway in the early 20th century. During the course of the film, a housefather named Bråthen sexually molests one of the resident boys who ends up committing suicide. Another resident eventually reports Bråthen’s abuse to the corrupt superintendent, Bestyreren, who confronts Bråthen. What follows are scenes that vividly illustrate some of the appalling ways sexual abuse survivors are marginalized by our communities:

Don’t Listen: When initially confronted about the reported abuse, Bråthen responds, “You can’t listen to them. They say whatever they want.” Survivors are marginalized when communities are all too willing to accept the claims made by perpetrators and their supporters that the individual disclosing the abuse is “crazy” and should be ignored. Disregarding the claims of a survivor communicates insignificance.

Helpless Souls: During the course of the confrontation with Bestyreren, Bråthen claims, “The only thing I have done is to try and help a boy who could not help himself.” Survivors are marginalized when perpetrators and their supporters paint them as helpless souls. Perpetrators are heralded as compassionate and the survivors are pitied as their disclosures are largely ignored.

Supporters Maligned: At one point, Bråthen identifies the boys who reported the abuse as “animals”, claiming that they were the real source of the victim’s harm. Survivors are marginalized when those who support them are maligned as being irrational and harmful. All too often this becomes the needed validation by some within the community to disregard allegations of abuse.

My Reputation: Just when we think that Bestyreren is going to report Bråthen to the authorities, Bråthen pulls out his trump card. He threatens to report that Bestyreren has been misappropriating funds for himself and his wife. In perhaps the most decisive scene of the film, Bestyreren makes the deliberate decision to protect his own reputation instead of reporting the abuse and protecting the lives of the other boys under the supervision of Bråthen. Survivors are marginalized when those within the community value their own reputation over the life of the abused. One way this happens is when an institution fails to report an offender out of fear that its own reputation may suffer. When speaking about the failure of boarding schools in the United Kingdom to properly respond to abuse disclosures, attorney Alan Collins recently told the New York Times, “…when teachers were discovered abusing pupils, they tended to be moved on quietly to avoid public embarrassment and damage to the school’s reputation.”

Disingenuous Response: The scene immediately following the confrontation between Bråthen and Bestyreren, shows Bråthen leaving the island with his suitcases as the boys look out their dorm window visibly rejoicing. At first it looks as if Bestyreren did the right thing. It is not until later in the film when Bråthen returns to the island that we learn the real reason for his initial departure. The Bastoy Boy’s Home board of directors had scheduled its annual inspection of the facility and Bestyreren did not want the boys reporting Bråthen’s abuse, fearing that it would get him fired. The best way to keep their silence was to make the boys think that he had terminated Bråthen. Tragically, the plan worked. The boys remained silent, Bestyreren kept his job, and Bråthen returned shortly after the inspection. Survivors are marginalized when a community is disingenuous about its responses to abuse disclosures. All too often such responses are not driven by the need to serve abuse survivors and pursue justice, but to create a positive public perception and to protect jobs.

Misplaced Focus: At the end of King of Devil’s Island, the boys begin a revolt when discovering that Bråthen has returned. Eventually, the armed forces are called in to put down the revolt by beating and capturing the boys. At no time do the authorities address the horrific abuses perpetrated by Bråthen and the fact that he was responsible for the death of a boy. Instead, the authorities focus on silencing those who were simply crying out for justice. Survivors are marginalized when the community misplaces its focus on behavior of the abused instead of the abuser. This belittles and re-traumatizes survivors, while conveniently keeping the spotlight off of the offender, where it needs to be.

The heartbreaking reality is that the marginalization of survivors is all too common in the Christian community. I have encountered many abuse survivors who want nothing to do with Jesus because of being marginalized by the very community they had hoped would care most, the Church. Just like the Priest and Levi in the parable of the Good Samaritan, we are often so quick to embrace ‘rational excuses’ for why we walk away. When we do this, we marginalize the very lives that God sees as beautiful and infinitely valuable. When we do this, we marginalize Jesus.

You can read the article at it’s original post here:

http://boz.religionnews.com/2014/03/20/marginalization-sexual-abuse-survivors/

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You can learn more about Boz and the organization he founded at:

http://netgrace.org – GRACE – Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment

While Together We Heal, Inc., has no ties to any religious organizations, we gladly promote any group that works to protect children from sexual predators and it is clear this is the focus of GRACE.

Founded by Basyle ’Boz’ Tchividjian, J.D., a grandson of Billy Graham, he is leading by example on how churches should respond to childhood sexual abuse. We are honored to be partnered with them in efforts to help survivors of CSA, and educate any who seek to better protect all children.

The Mission of GRACE is to empower the Christian community through education and training to recognize and respond to the sin of child abuse.

Obedience to Christ dictates that the Christian community must learn how to respond to those children and their families who cry out for help when they are victimized. This obedience begins with the education and training of those within the Church regarding the sin of child abuse and how to respond to such disclosures in a God honoring manner.

GRACE is an organization whose sole purpose is to equip and assist the Church and those within the Christian community to fulfill Mark 9:36-37.

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.

Author: Together We Heal

In 2006 David took the first step in acknowledging the sexual abuse that was perpetrated against him from the ages of 12 to 15. During those 3 years, the foundation his family had worked so hard to build within him was destroyed by one man, his youth minister. The result was his heart, mind and faith were lost. After having kept this secret for more than 25 years, he was finally able to reveal to his family and friends the reason behind the addiction and self-destruction that at times had him incarcerated, eventually left him destitute and nearly ended his life. Fortunately he was blessed with amazing friends and a loving family who helped him get the help and therapy he so desperately needed. He was finally able to get clean from the grip of addiction and face the demon of sexual abuse that had clouded his life for so long. Now he and his wife work to aid their fellow survivors through the non-profit they created, Together We Heal. The mission of Together We Heal is to provide guidance for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, educating parents and all adults through public speaking on matters concerning Childhood Sexual Abuse and giving a safe forum for victims of abuse to share, learn and heal. "To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.” - Dr. Seuss Follow us on Twitter @Together_WeHeal "Like" us on Facebook - www.facebook.com/Togetherwehealorg Visit our website - together-we-heal.org

7 thoughts on “Marginalizing the Abused: Six Ways Survivors are Treated as Insignificant

  1. Thank you for timely article. I had 2 clients today that were sexually abused by clergy. One Jesuit priest, another Pentacostal church. Thanks for being there for all of us. Leslie A. Abbey,LSCSW…survivor

  2. In my experience, demands from religious leaders that victims forgive their abusers is also a way of marginalizing us. Often we’re pressured or coerced into false forgiveness, which is really just continuing a relationship with our abuser(s) and pretending like everything’s fine to keep up appearances. When you tell a child that God will be angry if they don’t forgive, they’ll almost always do what they’re told, even though the coerced “forgiveness” looks very little like the kind of forgiveness Jesus taught.

    • I couldn’t agree more! That’s why I wrote the following article a while back. I think you will appreciate it- and please feel free to share it with whomever and wherever you’d like, if you so choose – http://together-we-heal.org/2013/05/05/is-forgiveness-necessary/

    • Hope, this is such an excellent point, and painful as hell, too. This entire issue of marginalizing abuse survivors is so broad — from within religious institutions and others, such as medical facilities, public schools, and even our judicial system in the US.

      Dave, thanks for posting this important conversation on the issue of marginalization of survivors. I think it is the source of deep anger for me, as I have suffered much “IBT” Institutional Betrayal Trauma, in response to my own abuse and what followed my disclosures. I become outraged when I see any hint of maginalization of other survivors even in public discussion forums. It can occur as suggestions that survivors are not working hard enough to heal if they don’t follow someone’s program, or outright statements that the survivor prefers to live as a victim. These statements within forums are a type of marginalization and institutional betrayal, as people go to a site or sites with the reasonable expectation that they will be heard by others who have been where they are and/or who are “trauma-informed.” I take heat when I articulate my feelings about these issues, however I only do so because I cannot remain silent anymore than I could if I saw someone being oppressed in any other way.

      If you have not done so, I would look at Dr. Jennifer Freyd’s work on Betrayal Trauma, and IBT in particular, as it is so relevant to this discussion, and she even gets into issues such as “abused for being abused” — which is the theme of the story in this blog post. She gets into whistleblower betrayal trauma issues, which are closely related, and she really contextualizes this issue better than anyone I have ever read on the topic. Dr. Freyd is a trauma research psychologist and Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon and is a world-renowned trauma expert. She is editor of “The Journal of Trauma and Dissociation” as well. She has two books on Betrayal Trauma, and the latest, *Blind to Betrayal* can be found on Amazon and is so worth the read. It is written in plain-speak, and quite digestible by the lay reader. This is perhaps the most important material that a survivor could ever read to help understand the responses of others, and that isn’t something that I have ever said about another published work in my entire 30 yrs in this field.

      Thanks so much, Dave. You so often present material that is so helpful and supportive. This is certainly no different.

      • Lana, I wasn’t familiar with Dr. Freyd or her work. I’ll definitely check it out–sounds like it’s right up my alley. Thanks for the recommendation.

        I too get outraged when I hear people talk about the “victim role” or “victim mentality.” In my experiences, those accusations usually get leveled at survivors when people are uncomfortable hearing about the deep, life-long impact trauma can have on people. They want us to shut up about it, smile, and pretend everything’s fine, so they tell us we’re playing the victim and causing our own problems by dwelling on what happened. In too many cases, it effectively shuts us up, just like our abusers. It becomes another trauma.

        I’ve been blamed many times when certain treatments have failed to cure me, usually treatments intended to produce quick results. How can people expect me to undo a lifetime of trauma in six or eight weeks? But somehow, it’s always my fault. And when I refuse to try other quick fixes–or refuse to retry ones I’ve tried before–I’m blamed for being unwilling to change and wanting to stay sick. I’ve pretty much given up on finding help at this point.

  3. You are not alone in being abandoned from in my case my family because I had the courage to stand up for myself.
    I was not only ignored but also regarded as a mental case.
    I wasn’t allowed to see my niece and nephews growing up.
    I had to go my own way long ago.

    Three years ago everything came back when my parents, they were divorced 50 years earlier and I hadn’t seen my father for 32 years and my mother and brothers for seventeen years), died half a year after one another.
    The last thing my mother could do to me was to disinherate me and the last thing my brothers could do was cheating me out my legal part.
    My parents are dead but my brothers are still going on in their pattern.
    I don’t think that my brothers have molested their children physically but for sure they have done emotional damage.

    This is what I wrote about compassion:

    The meaning of compassion is:
    Understanding yourself and/or the other while maintaining your standards and values.
    On many occasions you can lose yourself by having too much or too little understanding for another.
    You are judgmental, drawing conclusions too fast or trying to cure the situation or person without the necessary humility and the consent of the other.
    You want the others to be better for you own benefit.

    Forgiving is not necessary

    There may have been events in a person’s life that it is too much to ask to forgive.
    So a different approach is needed:
    “What have you learned and to what extent has your life changed after these events in a positive way?”
    It is better to look at how things are now and to continue from this point.
    This can only be achieved by training yourself.

    Bitterness and self-pity will keep you in the role of victim and are attracting more negativity.

    In this way you feel that in any situation, how serious it may be, you can make a choice for survival or to be broken completely.
    From surviving you can start living again.

    Let go of everything and surrender it to the universal laws (Dharma).

    Strict compassion towards yourself does not mean that you are not allowed to feel any bitterness, hatred or self-pity.
    It is good to know that you have to experience those feelings while facing the consequence.
    The severity consists of not lingering on in it or dragging another person into it but:
    – To take responsibility for your Self.

    Feelings of guilt result into nothing: they only undermine you.
    Willingness to see yourself in relation to others can make an end to your loneliness.

    Strict compassion is not playing God, but rather by being humble without becoming slavishly or fatalistic getting your inner freedom back.

    It works like a loving parent/educator/teacher who has taken the care for the feelings of your Self.

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