My experiences concerning abuse and what I learned from them
In the past three articles (see here, here and here) I wrote about the somewhat heavy subject of sexual abuse on our children.
I found it a difficult task to resume the book I was working with; even though it was a quick read – it was packed with important, relevant and challenging information and insights.
Some of my readers (and even Benny, who worked on the English and German translation of these articles) told me how this was not an easy read; using a language we aren’t really familiar with, talking about a topic many of us would rather not even confront.
In this article I want to round up this series with my personal thoughts on this matter; why this is an important subject to me and how I am growing into an adult who is always more clear in how to protect her family from abuse of any kind.
Today, while I was thinking about this article, I received a phone call:
“Hey, am I talking with Miss Jeanne?”
“Yes, you are” was my response.
“How are you doing today?”
“What are you calling for?” I responded
“Well, we are a Winehouse and in the past we had a talk about you buying some of our delicious wine… “
“I don’t think so” I interrupted politely.
What, you don’t remember our talk about that matter?
“Nope. And we live in a region with delicious local wine, so I have no need to buy any wine from you. Have a nice day“.
This phone call was nothing to worry about. However, it was intrusive, manipulative and with suggestions that were simply a lie.
There are many similar phone calls.
Some of them are from “Microsoft”, telling me “they need access to my computer, in order to fix a problem”.
In the beginning, I was scared of such phone calls, knowing that behind this is a corrupt organization, trying to either install a password on my computer which they will only remove if you pay the demanded money – or filling your computer with viruses.
Realizing that they call into MY home, where I am in charge, I have come to learn to talk to them freely.
They introduce themselves, asking me to go to my computer and give them access.
For example, my response would be:
“Do you know that God has better plans for you than working with this corrupt company?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about. Could you now please go to your computer….”
“Oh, you don’t know that you work for a corrupt company? Ok, then listen. This company you are working for is not a good place to earn your daily bread. God has made you amazing, with unique capacities and gifts and he has great plan for your life…“
Mostly, they will have hung up at that place. One lady once told me
“I don’t get you”…
A guy told me:
“I didn’t call you to get evangelized!”
“Well, you are calling into MY home. Taking MY time, So I decide what I want to talk about…. “
You see, I don’t want to be a nice girl anymore, as I explained in that article.
As I explain there,
“Nice girls might be a good citizen, being polite, quiet, obedient, serving, endearing, sweet, gentle… and powerless.
Nice girls are not complicated to handle. A good girl adapts to any situation, behaves politely, obediently and servingly.
Nice girls will not cause problems with own opinions, different views or a defiant attitude. They will simply take basically anything, trying to be liked, appreciated and complimented for their effort to be “nice”- at almost any cost.“
However… Nice girls can’t protect their family. They can’t stand up for what is dear to them. Nice girls mostly don’t have the freedom to stand up for what they believe in. They mostly lack on integrity, courage and strength to protect themselves – and the ones they love dearly.
A couple of years ago,
On a hot summer day, I went with two of my small children to the public pool. Right in the middle of the toddler corner with the “baby pool”, there was lying a man on his abdomen, with only a string thong as swimming gear. He had dark sun glasses and was watching the children… all by his own, no family or children with him.
All parents were watching…. But no one, including myself felt enough “courageous” to go to that man – or to the pool attendant to get this guy removed from this area. Today, I assure you I would get this guy removed from there immediately!
Or like that other experience a decade ago
when I worked with a Christian organization, and one of the main leaders, around his forties, married and having children, started to behave inappropriate with a fellow leader…. an 18 year old girl, who had just given her life to Jesus. This girl was in need of a father figure. He spent many hours with her, talking and “helping” her. We, the other leaders, thought that well, it was kinda strange and unusual … but we knew that main leader since many years. We trusted him. It was impossible for us to imagine a bad ending to that! We were unable to consider the worst.
Well… the end of this story? This leader abused his authority and position to get that girl. He told her: “God told me you are the one for me”… That girl got pregnant, his family fell apart by his attitude and behavior. Later in that story, that same leader had enough of that girl and threw her away like garbage. That girl was robbed of her dignity, her youth, her honor, the protection she needed – all because of that abusive leader – and because we never imagined that something like this could ever happen, we were letting this guy do what was obviously not right.
You see, no one of us is called to be “nice”.
As I wrote above, nice people can’t protect their family. They can’t stand up for what is dear to them. Nice girls mostly don’t have the freedom to stand up for what they believe. They mostly lack on integrity, courage and strength to protect themselves – and the ones they love dearly.
Here we come back to the subject of sexual abuse on our children.
We cannot protect our children by limiting their contact to the real world. Neither can we walk around and see a possible abuser in everyone.
Personally, I want to see the best in everyone. I want to believe in those around me, be someone to encourage them to become what they were created to be.
However, – I don’t want to be naive anymore. I don’t want to be too nice and miss to stand up for my children, my family and loved ones. Unfortunately, there ARE people in this world who don’t have good plans for thers. Today I know that the reality of pedophilia is a reality touching every level of society, the secular world as well as the church…
I personally know several parents who have a story of abuse in their own life. In fact, my own parents were affected as well.
One of my parents went through a childhood of abuse by a close family friend. However, this parent wasn’t able to confront that situation when I was still a child – because it was simply too painful. Therefore, when I was about 6 years of age and was recovering from a severe sickness, needing “fresh” air described from the doctor, my parents sent me to live with that very family, because they lived in the mountain region of Switzerland. I was there for several weeks.
I have no remembrance – neither good nor bad – from that specific family friend whatsoever. I remember that I loved hiking in the mountains with his wife, giving food to the squirrels and picking berries.
But what I know today is – my parents failed lamentably to protect me from that guy. How could they even send me there?
Well, the answer is simple. Having not confronted their own trauma, there was no capability to protect me. Not because they didn’t love me. But because this parent wasn’t able to confront that reality of abuse in the own life. The same is true for all of us.
On the other hand it may be that you experienced abuse in your past –either on yourself or that it happened to someone close to you – and you are well aware of that abuse and now try to protect your own children with everything that you have in order to preserve them from the anguish, the terror or the fear you’ve gone through.
However, guarding your children in such a way, you will transmit your own anguish to them. And such a surveillance, in any case, is usually useless; your child will, in case of experiencing abuse, know that you’re not ready or capable to hear his or her story. Children are very sensitive and by them wanting to protect you from their reality, it will be even more difficult for them to break their silence and tell their story.
The best protection you can offer your children if you have suffered abuse in your past, is to share your own experience with them; the horrors you experienced, your journey of dealing with it – and the pleasures and beauty of “true” sexuality. Your child will feel concerned, and relieved to understand a little more about your personal anguish (which the child may have also taken on himself) – or understood, accepted and supported if he or she is abused!
But in any case it will help the child and deepen the relationship with you.
I will close with the words from Jimmy Hilton, the son of a pastor who tells us the following:
“When we fail to accept the reality that some of the most trusted, respected, productive people in our churches (and any other place) are perpetrators themselves, we help them to multiply their victims. I speak from experience. I never in a million years dreamed that my own father, a minister himself, was capable of abusing children. It never crossed my mind. He was one of my best friends. Maybe I didn’t want to believe it….”
(His father was a pastor for decades and was 2011 discovered to be a longtime child molester who had sexually abused more than 200 young girls, escaping discovery for 40 years.)
You see, to protect our children, we can’t just believe “it won’t happen to our family”.
Nor is scrupulous protection a effective way to protect your child from abuse.
We need to get informed, we need to deal with our own story… and we need to break the silence.
We can do much to prevent.
We can be prepared to detect.
And we can learn to stand up for the victims around us.