Calling all Family Members…

besupportiveNeedless to say, all of our relationships are affected in some way by our abuse… especially family relationships.  Recently in my SOSA support group, we talked about this.  I used these examples…

  • Renee, my best friend for decades – She has now been through so many things with me that I feel like a reoccurring train wreck.  I recently joked that if she knew what she was getting into in high school when we became really good friends that she may have reconsider.  It was meant as a joke, but I wasn’t really joking.
  • My kids – I live on the edge with them… always ready to protect them. Always wanting to be close to them… they have been my life for over twenty years.  I see them as a blessing that I cherish immensely because they are the only ones who haven’t left me or let me down.
  • My ex-husband – I trusted him, but I still watched him with our kids because you never know who may destroy a child’s trust.
  • My aunts and uncles – They are who I hold dear to my heart, but I’ll never be one of their own children. 😦
  • My brothers… now here is my topic for today and it is mainly meant to address the siblings of survivors and how I think, as a survivor, you should treat your survivor sibling.

I know this is a touchy subject, but it is one that needs addressed and put on the table for discussion. One can assume that as a sibling of a survivor, you were put in a uniquely odd situation from the moment you became aware of the situation.  In my case, the abusers were our parents… my dad and my mom knew. How does a sibling react to this? These are your parents. You love them. You try to honor and respect them. In your eyes, it is mind blowing that they are capable of such great horror. And then there is your sibling… is she crazy?  Did this really happen? Is this true? You never knew her to lie… to make up unbelievable stories.  You may have known there were other forms of abuse.  You may have been the subject of other kinds of abuse as well… but this? Sexual abuse? Is she sure?

Well I am here to answer… YES, she is sure! You have no idea how much courage and strength it takes to even open her mouth to tell you.  And usually there is a reason she is telling you.  Generally, survivors do not just share their stories freely with anyone… and I mean anyone… not our best friends, not our husbands, not even our therapists… until we have to.  There is ALWAYS a reason why the truth is ever finally told.  The survivor, she, feels damaged, dirty, unworthy, ashamed, guilty, disgusting, embarrassed, lowly.  She is AFRAID others won’t believe her and think she is crazy.  She does NOT want to invite others into her personal hell.  She is terrified her hell can be made even worse.

In any case where the abuser is a family member, I know you cherish any relationship that you may have with them.  I know they are special to you and will not be around forever. I know they have done nice things for you.  I know they may have taken care of you. I know this and your survivor sibling knows this.  She has thought about it.  She knows what you are struggling with.  She has been there.  This is her family member too.  She wanted to have a relationship with them.  She misses them.  She loves them.  BUT THEY COMMITTED THE MOST HEINOUS CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY.  Your family member molested an innocent, trusting child.  Your family member ripped away your sibling’s childhood.  Your family member damaged your sibling for a lifetime.

So what do you do? (And this is the hard part and remember this is just my opinion.)  You stand by your sibling.  You believe her. You help her. You give her what family you can.  If you have to make a choice between her and your family member, choose HER! She didn’t ask for this life.  She didn’t do anything wrong.  She wants your family to be there for her too, but they can’t be and why can’t they be?  They are criminals! Literally criminals.  What they did was against the law of this land and God’s law. If it was a neighbor, a friend, a stranger, what would you do? Choose your sibling, right?  So why not now?  Why not in this case?  Because it will hurt you? Damn right (excuse my french), it will hurt you! It hurt her! She KNOWS how it feels.  She has been there, time and time again.  You can support each other as you mourn the loss of the relationship and the idea of an ideal family.  And if you want to still have a relationship with your family member, do it.  It’s fine.  She will understand.  But NEVER pick the abuser over the survivor.  She should always come first.  She was innocent.  She was a child.  She shouldn’t have to mourn over being the one left out of holidays, birthdays, etc.  Remember, she did nothing wrong and didn’t ask for these cards in life.

Here is something to ponder…  Have you watched the news coverage of the Larry Nassar’s trial?  Did you listen to the testimony of the women that he assaulted? Do you think any of the victims’ loved-ones should be hanging out with Mr. Nassar?  Do you think any of the victims will want to ever speak to or see Mr. Nassar again?  Would you ask one of them to spend a holiday or birthday with Mr. Nassar?  Would you ask them to take a picture with Mr. Nassar? Well, if all of those questions seem ridiculous to you, then EVER choosing the molester over your survivor sibling is just as hurtful and ridiculous as doing so to one of Mr. Nassar’s victims.  The only difference, and granted it is a big one, is that this choice hurts you as well.  And that hurt you would feel, (I’m sorry to say this.) is NOTHING compared to the hurt the molester did to your sibling.  What you are feeling, she has felt and so, so much more.

So choose wisely.  It will hurt. But you and your siblings will be closer and you will have another common bond.  And NEVER blame her.  This is the molester fault and no one else’s.

Footnote: This topic is an unfortunate common thread for many survivors of sexual abuse, whether it was a parent or another close relative.  For some reason, relatives of survivors tend to think that the survivor should just be able to be around the abuser for the “sake of the family.” The irony is that they are appalled when they watch the news and hear a story of a child who has been molested, but far to many relatives cannot transfer that feeling to their own family member.  The only reason I believe this to be true is because of the tremendous hurt it will cause themselves if they face it. It takes courage and strength to face.  A courage and strength that many cannot muster. However as you struggle with your own courage and strength to deal with this tragic subject, please remember and take pause knowing your family member, the survivor, has already shown that much courage and strength EVERY DAY that she is breathing.

Song: You Make Me Brave by Bethel Music

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.” – Isaiah 34:1b-2

 

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Courage

download.jpgCourage: the ability to do something that frightens one,strength in the face of pain or grief.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” –Deuteronomy 31:6

So much of this journey takes courage. It took courage to admit the absolute horror of what happened to you. It took courage to tell your story to the first person you decided to share it with. It took courage to seek professional help through counseling and then more courage to tell this stranger why you were there. It took courage to even think about goggling sexual abuse. Now that you are here, WOW that took immense courage! YAY FOR YOU!!!

If you read my story, you know that I tried to begin a conversation about what happened to me with my new husband when I was twenty-one. It was extremely uneventful, but in a weird way still offered enough support at the time. However fast forward seventeen years and the news to my husband came out in a fit of despair. He now knew I’d been raped and witness the agony I experienced remembering.

The interesting part of this event for me was that I couldn’t tell my best friend of twenty-plus years. I needed her. I knew I wanted her help, but I couldn’t tell her. My husband had to call to tell her what was happening. Isn’t that odd? I am not sure what prevented me from saying those words to her aloud. But this just proves to me that we all need help.

My next significant moment of courage was telling my brothers and my sister-in-law. The first time I spoke about it to them, I DID NOT give details. I didn’t even mention that it was our father. They did not ask questions and I did not offer any more information. Just speaking the words that I was molested as a child was enough. Several days later, one of my brothers wanted more information and that was another act of courage when I met him to discuss it. Ten years later, I still have not had the conversation with my other brother.

After sharing with my husband, my best friend, my brothers and sister-in-law, the next step of courage was counseling. My best friend was instrumental in getting me to my first counselor for my sexual abuse. I was a pro at counseling for my bipolar, narcissistic mother and talking about physical and emotional abuse, but this… HECK NO! My first round of counseling with this new counselor was a bit of a joke. I was very good at discussing all of my abusive past EXCEPT the newly found sexual abuse. She was a young counselor and I wasn’t ready and I took advantage of her lack of experience. After time and with a recommendation from church, I found an experienced Christian counselor, whom I eventually sprang the truth of my sexual abuse on.

My courage grew with time as I tried to find a support group. First, I went to Celebrate Recovery, which is a fantastic group, but wasn’t for me. Then I told someone in my Bible study. Then I told my mom’s sister. Then I spoke to a caring pastor at church about how church should consider starting a group. All of these steps took courage.

Lastly, a new caring pastor started at our church, who I had also known from Bible study. In passing, I mentioned to him that a group for sexually abused women would be an awesome asset for our church and that there was nothing out there for us. Next thing I knew, I am in his office discussing plans on how WE could start a group. Now that took courage, but it wasn’t from me. It was God’s plan and HE pushed me every step of the way, filling me with just enough courage for the task at hand. Next thing I know, I am talking about SOSA at care-counseling meetings in front of 25 strangers, asking for volunteers to help, then starting the group and standing in the lobby of the church for questions, then counseling individuals, starting a blog, writing a book… this is all courage. However, the biggest act of courage for me came when church’s caring pastors asked me to help with a video message that would be played before the church services to advertise SOSA. One pastor would interview me and the other would record my responses. They would edit it with the help of our church’s tech guy, who also was the host of the Bible study I attended. All good, right? I know these people. I can do this. HA! In the agreeing to help with the video and the recording, which both took a LOT of courage from me, I forgot one small detail. I was now going to be the poster child for sexual abuse for my entire church, over 3,000 members and counting…   Are you kidding me?!?!? I really don’t think I was ever so nervous the day I walked into church and would be sitting in the audience as the video aired. I was shaking, I had tears in my eyes, I thought I was going to be literally sick and had to excuse myself, but I did it. God gave me that courage.

See God doesn’t want us to suffer from this horribly tragic event any longer. He will give you the courage to get through each and every step if you ask Him. The courage to come is just another step on your amazing story of recovery and redemption. Don’t forget to recognize and celebrate your acts of courage… each one is monumental.

Song: I Have This Hope by Tenth Avenue North

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.“ – 1 Cor 16:13

quotes-on-strength-2

Emotion in the Details

Today, I sat in a counselor’s office and rattled off some of the details of my family’s background.  It was quite matter-of-fact and without emotion.  It was something I have done numerous times for several reasons. The questions are simply fact finding missions to see where I come from and the history behind my story. For me, it is rather impersonal and just routine.

An interesting and unthought of consequence to having my ministry, being a lay counselor, having this blog, and other things is that I can share my story rather robotic-like.  I am now able to tell the highlights of my story without a tear or even any emotion, which is not always a good thing when sharing your story with a struggling survivor for the first time.  I have actually taken time to reconnect my emotions with my story, so that I don’t come across as cold or insincere. The last thing I want is for someone needing help to feel that I don’t think it is a big deal.  IT IS!  It is just that I have now repeated my story dozens if not hundreds of times.  If I felt raw emotion every time I shared it, I’d be a nervous emotional wreck.  Quite frankly, it has happened due to self-preservation.

However as I sat there and reflected on the session in my car, it struck me where my emotion is found.  It is in the details.  I never realized how much you can share without giving details.  In fact, most of my blog entries lack the details.  Why is it that one can rattle off facts and feel nothing?  But think of a detail and BOOM! right to the gut.  Have I created an umbrella of fact that shields me from the raindrops of details?  It seems so.

The question for me is: Is it a healthy way of dealing?  Am I sane for operating this way?  My guess is yes.  It has enabled me to heal, to help others, to move forward.  I’m not stuck and I can see how getting stuck in the details could happen… I mean they suck. (Please excuse my french, but really there is no other word.) One detail can literally make me what to throw up.  So I am pronouncing myself healthy.  I’m okay with how I handle this. And at the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is I am moving forward with God.girl-with-umbrella-and-falling-feathers-johan-swanepoel

What does this blog mean for you?  Maybe it is time that you don’t get stuck in your details.  Pull out your umbrella with me and just share the big picture and let the details fall to the side.  I like this image.  Don’t you?

Song: Light Shine Bright by TobyMac

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

Unfortunate Blessing

575x360-v-dpc-93555606As I have relayed my story, I have written about suppressed memories.  For me, this was an area in which I struggled for some time. To suddenly remember something that happened decades ago is quite a shock and an extremely amazing phenomena.

The shock hits first like a 10-ton truck.  There is no way to describe the unsettling feeling and grief.  You know at the core of your being that what you just remembered is true. There is no doubt. That comes later.

Doubt is a curse for survivors with suppressed memories. Not only do people you share your experiences with questions you, but you end up questioning yourself.  Please do not get me wrong here… a little fact checking of the memories is good.  It keeps you sane and it is reassuring.  But down right questioning a survivor’s memories is damaging to say the least.

Survivors need support, understanding, patience, love, and to be believed.  The survivor herself will question the memory enough to know it is valid and there is a distinct difference between remembering an event that happened and one you imagine. The feeling is unquestionable.

For me, my suppressed memories have been an unfortunate blessing.  It is unfortunate because of the questioning that I have received and the lack of support.  However, I am blessed that I do not remember all the gory details.  I don’t need to know them.  I know enough.  But I also have unique blessing, it is that my brother has told me things that I still don’t remember.

Weird, isn’t it?  Someone has told me about parts of my life and I still have absolutely no recollection at all… zip, zero, zilch. The reason this is a blessing for me is that it gives reliability to my new memories.  If I still don’t remember horrible things that I have been told, it is no surprise that there are other memories I am unaware of.  This means that when I do remember something, I don’t question or doubt myself… as much. ❤

So the point of this blog for you?  Talk to people.  Ask your family and friends questions about your life during the years of the abuse. They may not know the details of your abuse, but they might fill in some interesting details.

It is an odd peace that I have with my memories… knowing there are ones in limbo, but knowing I am not crazy. It’s a blessing. ❤

This is my song for my memories (aka: ashes): Once and For All by Lauren Daigledownload

“See, I will create
    new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
    nor will they come to mind.” – Isaiah 65:17

 

 

 

Battle for Your Mind

images-2.jpgThis blog post is a uniquely Christian point of view.  It is something that I firmly believe in and have given much thought to, but have never written about.  It is the battle for your mind and your soul.

I have been reading a book about healing and hope after abortion, because in my ministry, I have spoken with several individuals who were forced to abort babies.  I thought it would be good for me to have a better understanding of what a woman goes through emotionally.  The book I am currently reading was written by a Christian woman who had three abortions.  The message in the book is outstanding and can be applied to so many of us who are broken.  Her words regarding the battle for our minds struck a cord with me today.

As a Christian, I believe that Satan is a domineering presence in this earthly realm.  His handy work can be seen every day on the news, surfing the internet, and in our communities. But how much thought have you given to the fact that the devil is battling for you as well?

The abuse that you experienced is not a reflection of you, but of the abuser’s heart.  His or her heart is evil.  However, how many of us walk around in a shroud of fear, guilt, shame, anger, and heartbreak?  But are all of these emotions ours to carry? The answer is no, but the devil wants us to believe they are.  As long as we shoulder emotions for the abuse, the devil is holding us captive. He is constantly maneuvering to rally up self-condemnation and self-loathing in our lives.

And why does he do this?  It is to hold you back from seeing the goodness of God and experiencing health, healing, peace, and joy in our lives.  If we cannot realize the amazing grace of God, we are an easier target to be won over to his side.

So what do you do?  You recognize the battle.  You question your thoughts and emotions and ask yourself “are they godly… is this what the Bible says about me, how I feel, my actions, or the abuse?” God’s word is very clear about what He thinks of us, how we should act or feel, and how He feels about the abuse of children.

I will be truthful… this isn’t an easy task.  It takes extreme consciousness and self-discipline on our part and it is hard work.  It also is a choice to say “I am not taking it anymore and I want to be better.” Those words in themselves can be quite the stumbling block and to follow through with the action will be herculean. But friends, it is oh so worth it.

So pick up your Bible and put on your armor of God and head out onto the battlefield for your mind and soul today.  Remember, if God is for us, who can be against us.

CHARGE!!!

For more on  Spiritual Warfare

The Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. – Ephesians 6:10-18

Song: Mighty Warrior by Elevation Worship

I Should Be Dead Right Now

1Last night in our SOSA (Survivors of Sexual Abuse) meeting, we talked about shame.  I know I have blogged about shame before, but I was asked an interesting question: “How did I overcome my shame?”  It was a question I did not have an immediate answer for.  I said the typical Christian responses; with God, time, patience, prayer, but that wasn’t a complete answer for me. And as ridiculous as it seems to me at this moment, I really had to think about it.

Before I get into my answer, I’d like to spend a minute or two addressing the topic of shame. Especially for those of you who are not survivors, but are reading in order to help a survivor close to you.

Shame is an overwhelming, suffocating, life-debilitating condition. It encompasses the survivors heart, soul, spirit, and general well-being.  It is more often than not what causes depression and self-loathing.  It makes you feel unworthy to be in the presence of others, friends, loved one, and most devastatingly – God.  The worst part is that shame really isn’t ours.  We didn’t cause the abuse.  Our hearts aren’t the ones filled with evil.  We were the victims, yet we carry the burden of shame that is associated with childhood sexual abuse.

Many of us have made numerous mistakes… more than our fair share and more than we would like to admit. And there is definitely shame associated with that as well.  According to Committed to Freedom’s “The Way Forward” self-help workbook, there are scores of self-protective behaviors that victims routinely engage in.  This is a small sampling of the list:

  • I isolate myself from people.
  • I am hyper-vigilant.
  • I am always late.
  • I choose people I can control.joy
  • I often lie.
  • I depend on no one but myself.
  • I use sex to express power or rage.
  • I cut or burn myself.
  • I over/under eat.
  • I avoid sexual situations.
  • I often think about death.
  • I abuse others.
  • I use drugs/alcohol to numb or to feel better.
  • I attempted suicide.
  • I avoid people, places, or circumstances that I do not like.

There are 102 self-protective behaviors on the list.  This was just a sample of the first few or ones I thought to mention.  For me when I first read the list, I could check off 34 of the behaviors. 34! The good news is that these behaviors are considered a “normal” reaction to what happened to me. Normal! That was a crazy thought.

Now checking things off on that list made me quite aware of the shame I had because of those choices. My biggest, shameful choice was having sex with someone while my husband and I were separated… to me it was committing adultery.  It was a purposeful act, which would send me to hell.  A choice I literally made instead of killing myself.  Now finding out that I was “normal” helped relieve a little of that shame, along with praying, focusing on God, counseling, etc. But the thing that truly released me from the shame of what I had done was brought to my attention by a dear friend.  It is the FACT that if I did not commit adultery that night; I would be, without a doubt, dead.  I’d be dead.  I would have been dead for 8 years now.  My kids would have been without a mom for 8 years. That was powerful… the realization of a truth in my life.

I then took that to the cross and laid it at the feet of Jesus.  I repented for what I had done and the choice that I made. Then I saw the world with new eyes.  They were the eyes of a woman who should be dead, but is now thankful for the messed up alternative I choose.  The one that saved my life… and I am free, I have joy, I have a thankful spirit, and I will NEVER be ashamed of my choices again. I am forgiven.

Love this song: Shouting Grounds by Crowder

“Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; But you will forget the shame of your youth, And the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.” – Isaiah 54:4

 

I’m Still in Your Hands

images.jpgToday’s post is simple.  Just a song.  Just a verse.  Just a quote.  But Oh, it is so much more than that. ❤

song: Do It Again by Elevation Worship

Verse: “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

Quote: “What consumes your mind controls your life.”