When God Triggers

Religion and Abuse

Roughly eighty percent of people in the United States self-identifies as Christian. About 15 to 20%  of people identify as non-religious and the remaining 4 to 5% of people consist of those who identified with other world religions (Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc.). These stats are off the top of my head but you can Google for specifics.

I’ve spent a lot of time writing on abuse and equality. Mainly abuse and for good reason. The UN says 1 in 3 women will experience violence in her lifetime and the NY Times reports 1 in 5 women will be raped, and again this information is available on a quick Google search. Those are horrific numbers for a nation that touts its Christian morals while simultaneously opposing Planned Parenthood and equality for the LGBTQ+ community on the basis of those same morals.

During the course of my activism, the responses I get are typical  but infuriating nonetheless. They usually go something like this:

  • You sound angry. You need to tone it down. Be quiet.
  • You sound like a woman who’s trying to get revenge.
  • You sound like a victim.
  • What about men?
  • Not all men.
  • Whatever happened to you must have happened for a reason.
  • You need to move on.
  • What did you do to cause this?

Now, the last few sound like victim blaming and they are and yes, I get these responses because some of my readers do know me on a personal level and realize that though I’ve kept my private life private from my activism at least publicly, I am in fact, a victim. However, being a victim of abuse does not mean I don’t also have an obligation to speak out, at least, that’s how I feel (nor should my activism be considered biased or suspect). Not all responses were like those above. I also received emails from victims of rape and violence worldwide and I began to notice a trend among the majority of the victims with whom I spoke. Most were from religious backgrounds whose abusers were practicing Christians. These women (and some men) oftentimes did not see the link between their abuse and the religious beliefs that made that abuse okay. That was something I felt needed to be addressed.

That said, I’m going to do something I hadn’t planned on doing, at least not in this way. I’m going to tell you my story because I think it’s time for the Christians in this country to step up and address the role they have played in not only the creation of perpetrators who commit crimes against women and children but also in the legal protection they have provided these criminals.

I was a young child when my abuser began grooming me. By age ten, I was being sexually molested on a regular basis. I remained silent first out of ignorance (being a child) and later out of fear. I didn’t speak out until I turned fifteen. During the summer prior to my sophomore year of high school, I told several church friends about the sexual abuse. The physical abuse had been spotted by numerous schoolmates some three years prior, but I had urged them to remain silent. Again, out of fear. Another of my abusers had told me that if I wanted to report them I could, but that I would be sent to a place where I would experience something far worse (the foster program). This tactic worked. I felt the abuse I endured up to this point was at least physically survivable.

It took me years to realize that the abuse would not end and that it would only worsen. The last day I was sexually abused, I had been sound asleep. A sharp pain in my vagina woke me from my dreams and without time to wake or assess the situation, I struck out at the source of pain and hit my abuser who fled from the room. It was at this point that I realized I could soon be raped. Pregnancy was not even a fear as I hadn’t begun menstruating. Truthfully, I knew very little about sex. Sex education had been withheld as it was ungodly (note that withholding this education made grooming and abuse possible).

One of those children I told of my abuse that summer day, demanded we tell her parents. After some coaxing, I did. Rather than contact police, the girl’s parents advised we report it to a trusted relative who could then handle the situation from there. I didn’t realize at the time that these parents were counselors or that one of them had a father who was a psychologist.

I reported the abuse to the trusted family member as directed. The family met and confronted the abuser after which, I was forced to face my abuser and tell him what I had told other family members. Naturally, he lied. He said it only happened twice, in all of those years, twice. I didn’t care. He would never touch me again.

Or so I thought.

Naively, I assumed all would be well. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My abuser was a leader of our church. As was custom for this particular brand of Christianity, private sins could be forgiven in private prayer with God, but sins of a public nature required the sinner to publicly repent his sins and ask the congregation to pray on his behalf. This was because God could not hear the prayers of a sinner. The Christian is not required to name their sin but may simply say they have “fallen short of the glory of God and wish to be restored to His presence” or something similar. I have sinned. I’m sorry. Take me back. And just like that, the sin is forgiven and forgotten by God. As a result, fellow Christians are urged to forget the sin and never mention it again. Everyone moves on. Life is rainbows.

Except, it wasn’t. My abuser went forward and repented for sinning. He resigned from his position of leadership (the highest he could attain in this religion). Afterward, he spoke to the families of the girls with whom I had discussed my abuse. I never learned what was said at those secret meetings. I think I have a good idea as later I was warned that if I didn’t keep my mouth shut people would be told what really happened and I could only guess, through conversations with others, that that meant people would be told I had seduced my abuser. His other victim had been nine at the time her abuse began. I didn’t think I knew many people who would believe that a nine or ten-year-old girl could seduce a fifty-some-odd-year-old man, but the threat worked, and in any case, it seemed most people did believe this. At the time, I had to tell myself that they had been lied to otherwise I had to accept the fact that adults with children willingly looked the other way and kept a sexual predator in their midst (which is exactly what they did). I kept my mouth shut. I was afraid of my abusers and they still had power over me in more ways than just the psychological.

After my abuser went forward to repent for his transgressions, I was forced to go forward and repent along with his other victim. What was our sin? Gossip. We had gossiped when we told our friends what our abuser did. We gossipped like ladies in a knitting circle. Did you hear what so and so about such and such? The church’s response to my request for help in stopping sexual abuse was to force me to repent for gossiping. In addition, the father of one of those parents that I had trusted for help was brought in to counsel me, and I use that term loosely. These godly Christians decided that for thirteen years of physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, a single counseling session would suffice for me and the other victim. This counseling lasted no more than thirty minutes, perhaps ten to fifteen at the most. During that counseling session, I was told the following:

  • Watch what you wear (I wasn’t allowed to wear a bathing suit, shorts, tight pants, or even sleeveless shirts).
  • Don’t hug men too tight as it may send the wrong message if your breasts press against their chest. I weighed 70 lbs my senior year. At the time the abuse began, I was maybe 45 lbs. and only ten years old. I had no breasts to speak of and at age fifteen wore a training bra because they didn’t make bras in the negative range. TMI, I know, but important because my abuser was a pedophile (something the counselor would have been well aware of) and also important because it highlights the type of assistance many in the church are offered when they do come forward about abuse. For me, that assistance was a thirty-minute victim blaming session.
  • Forgive and forget. God doesn’t remember the sin so I shouldn’t either.

That was it. That was all the counseling I received. No one reported the abuse to police. No one called CPS. No one said a word. No one removed me or the other victim from the presence of our abuser.  He had daily access to us for an additional three years. Everyone looked the other way. Even those church members with children of their own (and later these children were allowed to visit the abuser’s home for a youth devotional even after the abuse was made public).

Everything changed after I spoke out on the molestation. I began receiving odd looks from men at church. Some men looked at me with expressions of confusion like they were trying to figure something out. In my mind, a child’s mind, I wondered if they thought I was a liar. Or maybe they thought I was ugly. Some men smiled at me or stared at me in suggestive ways. My friends shunned me. Most church goers ignored me. I began using pot and smoking cigarettes. At one point, a church member commented on my smoking. I looked at her open-mouthed. Her husband was part of a group of men using smokeless tobacco in the parking lot between Bible class and the main service and here she was lecturing me on cigarettes while worshipping with a known child molester. I was dumbfounded. Years later, one church member said they had believed me. One person in a congregation of over three hundred had believed me. That hit me hard. And yet, that one person had done nothing to help me (to my knowledge). Had said nothing. Had not even tried to make a difference. Worse, I had stayed in the religion (cult) and in the very same church(es) that had overlooked the abuse determined to prove that I was a good person.

When I turned eighteen, someone did report the abuse to police just after Georgia had passed a law dissolving the statute of limitations on sex crimes.  The person who reported my abuse was not a member of any church in that town. After making a statement, I was informed by an officer of the court that police intended to arrest me for falsifying information, intent to destroy by reputation, slander, contempt, corruption, and some other charges, nine total if memory serves. At age eighteen, in a backwoods southern town eroded by racism and white privilege where good ole’ boys run the show, I knew I didn’t stand a chance. I fled rather than be incarcerated for crimes I didn’t commit and left to rot in a cell forgotten by everyone, or worse, dead. I was a nobody and didn’t have the money or connections my abusers had. I couldn’t afford justice. The other victim, when it came time to speak with detectives, refused to speak (and I never blamed her for that). Her tuition was paid to a private school and she was sent to live with a well-to-do family. That new Georgia law made my life a living hell. I was watched closely by the family of the abuser who had apparently gone to great lengths to avoid prosecution. I was intimidated time and again.

Later, the abuse I suffered as a child was used against me in a court hearing wherein I fought an abusive ex-husband for custody of our two daughters. Had I received appropriate counseling in my youth, I may have fled this town and never returned. I may have never married an abuser, one I had thought to be a good, Christian man. After six years of marital abuse, I found myself at odds with church leaders once again, church leaders who disapproved of my decision to leave an abusive marriage. They begged me to ignore my RO so my abuser could come to church. I refused. They wanted to offer me counseling. I accepted. At one meeting I was told that if I left the marriage, I would place my husband in danger of eternal damnation because he would undoubtedly remarry (this would be considered adultery). I would be in danger of hellfire as well since one could only divorce and remarry in cases of adultery (and the leader informed me that I was a beautiful woman and as such would be incapable of remaining single). In my final meeting with these church leaders, one sighed and said, “Have you ever seen The Burning Bed?” This was the last meeting I attended.

Though my abuse had been well-documented and there was a conviction for DV (he was even arrested by a fellow church member), I lost custody of my children to my abuser. I’ve not seen them since 2009. Members of the family of the man who had sexually abused me testified or were subpoenaed to testify on my ex-husband’s behalf during our custody hearing, which at one point centered on the sexual abuse I had suffered as a child. My case against my childhood abuser had never been closed nor had it ever really been investigated (which to me should have been grounds to bar testimony from these individuals). No charges had ever been filed against my childhood abuser (whose brother had been married at one time to the sheriff’s daughter). The entire system was corrupt.

I paid a heavy price for speaking out against abuse in the Bible Belt in a town full of devout, Christian people. I took on the church in that town twice and lost both times. I’m still paying the price for daring to speak out about my abuse. Prior to my childhood abuser’s recent death, he resumed his leadership position in a church where many knew he had admitted to molesting two girls.

In her book, Predators, Pedophiles, Rapists, and other Sex Offenders, clinical psychologist Anna Salter discusses numerous studies, one of those being the Abel Harlow Child Molestation Prevention Study, which found that pedophilia molesters average 12 child victims and 71 acts of molestation. An earlier study by Dr. Abel found that out of 561 sexual offenders there were over 291,000 incidents totaling over 195,000 victims. This same study found that only 3% of these sexual offenders have a chance of getting caught. – (Startling Statistics: Child sexual abuse and what the church can begin doing about it.) Remember this.

Years after my abuse had been reported to police, I asked the detective handling my case why an arrest had never been made. She told me that the church had been unwilling to cooperate with the investigation and church members refused to speak to authorities. This all sounds like a V. C. Andrews novel or a Lifetime mini-series, I know. The horrible truth is that my story is not at all unusual. It’s the norm for women and men across the nation (and worldwide).

And that’s why I’ve singled out all of you Christians, a group comprising about 80% of our nation’s population. You have a duty to your children, to each other, to your churches, to your communities, and to your nation to STOP covering up abuse and violence. Women are being counseled by church leaders to submit to their husbands even in cases of known abuse. Husbands are told they are to love and discipline their wives and children lest they lose these souls to Satan and thereby suffer eternal damnation.

There was a time when ignorance was winked at but that time is no more. Abusive acts should not be viewed as acts of dominance that are sanctioned by God or as acts of discipline that might prevent one’s soul from being damned. It’s time for Christianity to evaluate how it handles abuse within their walls. It’s time for Christians to stop silencing and shaming victims. It’s time to stop telling victims that God has a plan for the abuse they suffered and they just need to be patient for that plan to unfold. It’s time to stop protecting abusers and covering up their crimes out of fear of legal retaliation and lawsuits or out of concern that a diminished church membership will mean diminished collection plate earnings (that’s probably the more legitimate fear, am I right? And when most divorces impoverish a family it’s not hard to see that a divorce will hit the collection plate too. Bad for profit, eh?).

It’s time to stop plying victims with empty prayers, counseling, and platitudes and take responsibility for the environment of control and violence and submissiveness that tells men that they are entitled to sex and have dominion over others. It’s time to give victims of sexual and/or violent crimes the help they so desperately need. What they don’t need is a dress code or to be forgiven for gossip or to be made responsible for the immortal souls of their abusers.

People who profess to be members of a loving and peaceful religion must stop harboring violent men and sexual predators in their congregations. It’s time for Christians to stop hiding behind forgive and forget and to start reporting abuse. Church leaders and counselors have got to start offering actual help and resources to victims. Understand, Christians, that the majority of your numbers have been abused or touched by abuse in some way, and many of these people have been suffering in silence.

I leave you with the knowledge that I am only one of two victims who reported my abuser’s crimes. How many victims did that leave in his lifetime? How likely is it that he became a pedophile at age 50? How many victims might he have had in the churches where he was allowed to hold office as both Elder and Deacon? How many victims might he have had in the community where he was a well-known business owner? How many were victimized after I came forward, if any? How many victims were there before me?

My guess is that no one knows the answers to these questions or if they do they’ve remained silent. Remember from above that the Abel Harlow Child Molestation Prevention Study tells us that pedophilia molesters average 12 child victims and 71 acts of molestation so it’s not likely that I was only one victim of two.

The Abel and Harlow Child Molestation Prevention Study

 

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18 thoughts on “When God Triggers”

  1. Kimberly,

    After reading your post I feel a knot of white hot anger in my chest. The intermingling of religion and sexual abuse is a more common tale than is ever admitted to in polite Christian society. While yours took place in what seems to be a rather insular Christian community any religious community espousing fundamentalist beliefs will find the same problem in equal measure. Christianity though does allow the escape clause of repentance for ones sins.

    I spent 8 years as an expert in Child Abuse for Child Welfare in New York City. While I am the epitome of a bleeding heart liberal on most subjects, when it comes to abuse of children, especially sexual abuse, I was in my job somewhere far to the right of Attila the Hun. At one point I was offered the position of creating and running five special sexual abuse units, in the boroughs of NYC. Though it was a big promotion I turned it down, because part of the mission statement was to provide counseling to reunite family’s with their abuser. I declined it because I explained that when it came to child sexual abuse I believe in one strike you’re out, no second chances or reconciliation. People who sexually molest children are monsters. As a psychotherapist I know that the effects of sexual abuse last for a lifetime in the victims, even in the best of situations.

    I thank you for the courage of your honesty and for your commitment to the battle against the ignorance that finds the victim suffering even more for exposing the perpetrators. You are truly a noble and brave person and I admire you for it.

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    1. I had relatives telling me all kinds of odd things, which is no less disturbing to me now as it was then only now for different reasons. I heard things like, so and so used to hug us tight when we were kids or my cousin kissed me. At the time, I thought people needed to lessen my experience to make themselves feel better or that they were actually trying to make me feel better. It could have been a combination of both, but as an adult who has heard so many stories of abuse, I find it more likely that they were trying to find ways of lessening abusive events in their own life. I had one man show me a Victoria Secrets catalog and repeatedly tell me that that was what men thought of women and that that was what men wanted, which was oddly confusing as I was not a woman nor had I been when the abuse started. I’m still not clear on how that was supposed to make me feel better, but I believe the intended message was that perpetrators of sex crimes can’t help themselves.

      There were other allegations of child abuse made against another man in the same church and no one believed that girl either. I know of one other child who had been abused by my abuser, years prior to my own abuse. I was told this child was sent to another state. Other women sought help for domestic violence and there were cases of wife swapping and adultery some of the latter being perpetrated by a church member while serving as a counselor. That seemed predatory and manipulative. Of course, these events were kept quiet by that particular church which was a multi-million dollar organization. With so many stories of abuse from victims in the church, I realized that most people probably had believed me, but when it came time to choose between a child and profit loss, lawsuits, and negative press, profit won out.

      I think if anyone is to be commended for bravery, it’s you. I’m not certain I could ever do the work you have done in NY. That must have been an emotionally harrowing job. People like you are among the unsung heroes of our society.

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  2. Kimberly,

    Thank you for your kind words. It was an emotionally trying job, especially when I ran a pilot program out of the Brooklyn Field Office (the largest) called the High Risk Unit. As supervisor I would choose the most difficult cases that faxed in from the State Hotline in the morning. I had my pick of the best five workers in the large office as my caseworkers. By the end of the one year trial period we we deemed the best Protective Diagnostic Unit in the City, based on a study of our performance and procedures. However, during that year my five caseworkers were burned out and in the end I was doing all of the cases with the assistance of another supervisor. My workers were so good that there case narratives came alive. In one such case, the murder of a 3 year old by I started weeping uncontrollably at my desk and had many people crowding around me to see what was wrong.

    The mantra of my life has been “Don’t Hurt Little People” and I wrote about it here https://jonathanturley.org/2014/01/04/dont-hurt-little-people/ as my last post at Jonathan Turley’s legal blog. I’ve never forgotten, nor repressed the pain of my own childhood and the feelings of helplessness that children have seeing the world around them. My mantra has given me purpose in my of now 71 years of living.

    Back to my Child Welfare work there is one regret I have, which I’ve come to accommodate myself to as the years have passed. I have two daughters, that were young children in the 80’s while I worked in Child Welfare. Because of my experience dealing with incest, child rape and sexual abuse of all kinds, I was not the type of Father who was constantly hugging and touching my daughters. Those who know me see me as a warm, hugging type of man. With my girls though, I always made sure that my kisses were on the top of their heads and my hugs were rare and only if they needed them. I was afraid to do anything tha would make them feel uncomfortable.

    My daughters are in their 30’s now, strong, independent women as their mother and I raised them to be. I still kiss them on the top of their heads and hug them briefly. I regret that I’m not the cuddly father type portrayed on TV. I always knew my daughters loved me and my love for them is so great that when I’m even writing this now, tears come to my eyes, but I never knew how much they really loved me until five years ago when I was almost dying and needed a heart transplant. They alternated coming down to Florida to see me and I could see the love and the fear for me in their eyes. Their love and my wife’s love, put me at peace and to be honest at that point I had no fear of dying because I felt my life had been fulfilled. I did get the transplant and seeing their relief in the aftermath filled me with warmth again.

    As a psychotherapist I can pretty much empathize with anyone. Being a father and a grandfather though, it is hard for me to find empathy for anyone that would harm any child. From a cold, psychological viewpoint I can understand how people become child abusers and often this is something that runs through generations. However, thinking human beings have choices in their lives and one of those choices that people need to make is whether they identify with the oppressors, or with the oppressed. I’ve clearly made my choice.

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    1. I’ve only recently seen posts regarding the teaching of bodily autonomy to children floating around social networking sites, so I think you were on to something when raising your daughters. While I did/do cuddle my children I have always been hyper-aware of their bodily autonomy and will only cuddle, hug, and kiss at their request and prefer kisses on the cheek or head as well. I taught my girls that their bodies were their own and that no touch or interaction should be made without their prior consent. Rather than seeing that lack of physical affection with your daughters as a negative, I believe you were modeling consent and autonomy, which may very well have saved them from ending up as the children in your many files. In any case, for people so touched by the horrors of sexual abuse, our lack of physically affectionate displays toward others, especially children, make sense. It does leave you hyper-vigilant and empathetic in a way people untouched by abuse can never fully understand.

      I’ve come across articles recently which state that pedophilia is a neurological disorder. My grandmother and I were discussing this recently. I told her it was not something I had studied in depth, and given my situation, I’m afraid I’m unable to empathize with perpetrators of sex crimes period, let alone crimes against children. I’ve been unwilling to research further and would love to hear your thoughts on this.

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      1. >> I’ve come across articles recently which state that pedophilia is a neurological disorder.

        Let me argue that this would make no difference whatsoever; or would make things worse for the pedophile.

        Let me exaggerate this argument for clarity: Suppose we capture a psychopath serial killer that murders random people when he finds them vulnerable; and we discover by medical examination his violence is the result of an untreatable neurological disorder. He cannot help himself.

        Well, we obviously cannot just release him into society, he is a clear and present danger to society. And he has killed poeple! We must, in some form or another, incarcerate and control this psychopath for life. Or put him to death. The goal of incarceration does not have to be punishment, the goal can be (and should usually be) to protect innocent people from those that cannot stop themselves from inflicting harm upon others.

        To retreat from this exaggeration, the same principles hold for a pedophile. Either they are predators making conscious choices to permanently harm children for their own sexual gratification, or they have a neurological disorder and cannot help themselves, or there is some noxious mixture of both.

        In the end such people must be segregated from society to prevent further harm to innocents; and the only effect of the neurological details should be deciding what sort of incarceration they shall experience for life. Such people contribute nothing to society that they could not equally contribute from behind bars or in chains. There is no compelling need for us to continue to allow them either physical or communicative access to children; even their own.

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        1. I agree with you completely MoreMozart. These individuals do need to be separated from others. It would be nice if scientific research could pinpoint appropriate therapy and/or incarceration, yet so much of society would rather place the blame on victims.

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  3. Regarding the neurological basis for pedophilia I am skeptical, as I am with many supposedly scientific psychological studies. The problem usually devolves to confirmation bias, in that many in the field of experimental psychology are behaviorists in outlook and are looking for a genetic basis for human psychology. It’s the old nature/nurture dichotomy. While I’ve seen wonders done treatment wise with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), I’m think their success is obtained because to my mind “nurture” accounts for perhaps 70% of human behavior, while “nature” accounts for perhaps 30%. Now it is possible that I am overly influenced by my training as a Gestalt Psychotherapist, but that is how I see it until convinced otherwise.

    In any event even if that is true is doesn’t answer the question of how society should treat the pedophile. I am a “one strike you’re out” believer and I don’t think that they can safely be put in a position to do it again. Yet the whole sexual offender issue is a muddle in today’s America. We are a society that is sex obsessed and yet highly puritanical. We sees father’s who are obsessed with their daughter’s sexuality vowing to keep them “pure” until marriage There is something that sets off my alarm bells in this “fatherly obsession”.

    My wife and I made sure that our daughters were thoroughly grounded in all the information they needed, or wanted to know about sexuality and then allowed them the autonomy to act on it, or not. We never looked into what they were doing with their boyfriends, because we respected them enough to believe that they would make the correct choices, for them, not for us.

    Before I married and had children there were two books that gave me the philosophical grounding for being a parent. The first came out in the 1950’s and was a book titled “Summerhill” by A.S. Neil. He was the creator and headmaster of an extraordinary school for “problem children” in England. He believed strongly in letting a child set their own pace of development. The second book was popular in the 1960’s and its title was “Between Parent and Child”, by Dr. Haim Ginott. He believed also in the idea that we should as parents set our children on the right course, but allow them the individual autonomy to grow.

    Luckily, my wife and I, saw parenting in the same way and so we were able to rear our daughters with unanimity. I think we’ve done alright since both are now independent and in their 30’s. They have and have had good relationships and they are both successful in their self chosen careers. Both of their careers incidentally are in fields that help people and so they are following somewhat in my path, though my older daughter is far more successful than I was at her age. To give you an idea of how that worked, both daughters kept extraordinarily messy rooms. Since they had separate rooms, we would talk to them about it, but never made it an issue of it, or demanded they clean up the mess. No food was involved though, since that was a deal breaker for health reasons. When it came to the rest of our home we insisted that they did not bring the mess there. Both of them have been out on their own for a number of years and at least when we visit, their homes are immaculate.

    Child allowed to make some decision for themselves will begin to make the right ones through trial and error, which is after all the basis for learning.

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  4. Although I was not sexually abused, I was physically beaten (“disciplined”) regularly from 3 years old, until I left my parents’ house when I was 17 — all in the name of “religious discipline”. My mother was the “servant of her husband”, like Saint Paul directed. It’s discussed in my recent book “Reflections of a Boy” which is now on Amazon. The nuns and priests thought my father was “a good Catholic father” and he was praised in the church. I learned that religion is often the cloak of immorality. Charles Sutherland

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    1. I’m sorry to hear that, Charles. I’ve often told people that the psychological and emotional abuse was far worse than any of the physical and sexual abuse I endured. Thank you for reading and commenting and sharing your story.

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  5. I agree with much of your post, K. It is an example of how our experiences form our characters and I applaud your courage in revealing yours.

    I was educated initially by the Sisters of Mercy and then by Jesuits and can honestly say I did not experience any form of sexual abuse during that time. Some of my teachers were kind, some were less so and one or two were probably disturbed, but none did me any harm apart from what was then ‘normal’ corporal punishment. Today, I suppose it would be called physical abuse.

    What caused me to reject Christianity was not abuse, but the inability of religious figures to respond to logical argument without threats of hell or physical punishment. At 14 I came to the conclusion that they were wrong and therefore the religion was wrong. But, I was wrong. A religion cannot be dismissed on the basis that some of its adherents are unable to defend their ideas rationally or that some of them are abusers. Now, I’m neither a Catholic nor a Christian,but I owe much of who I am and how I think to my early education – they could be logical and rational at times – and for that I am grateful.

    Your experience was horrendous and there was and is no excuse for paedophilia, whoever is the perpetrator. Without using the word ‘but’ (there can be no buts) I would ask you to examine the sexual abuse in Islamic and other belief led societies as a corollary to your experience. Perhaps it is not Christianity per se that is the shelter for such people, but the concept of religion itself and the access to the vulnerable granted by power within that shelter.

    Those of a religious turn of mind might say that evil is always attracted to rigid belief systems because believers are attempting to do the right thing, however unsuccessfully. I’ve tried to address that idea in both of my novels (and in my current WIP), but it may be beyond my abilities to do so.

    I hope your writing is going well 🙂

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    1. “Perhaps it is not Christianity per se that is the shelter for such people, but the concept of religion itself and the access to the vulnerable granted by power within that shelter.”

      I absolutely agree with this and covered it in the follow-up post, The Link Between Religion and Abuse. I separated Christianity specifically in this post because it was the religion practiced by my abusers, it was the religion I had experience with and a broader knowledge of, and because it fit my target audience. I see a large number of Christian victims in the U.S. who are oblivious to the link between their abuse and their religious beliefs. I believe that many victims of abuse cling hardest to their religious beliefs in the aftermath of exposing and/or leaving that abuse. These victims are shamed and frightened and many victims of IPV feel guilty about leaving marriages. When many of these victims come forward be it for rape, domestic violence, or even pedophilia, their own actions and behaviors are put under the microscope in an effort to dismiss allegations of abuse that could have a negative impact on the church or bring bad publicity to the church thus impacting membership and contribution. This is something that needs immediate address. I further focused on Christianity because it is still the number one religion of the world. Islam is a close second, but perhaps I should edit the follow-up post to read Abrahamic religions or patriarchal religions.

      I have no problem whatsoever with spirituality. I have a huge problem with religion. If you want to worship frogs or unicorns or a celebrity, fine. But I will demand proof for your beliefs as I demand proof of scientific theory and discoveries. Why should religion be exempt from the burden of proof and rational debate? If adherents of patriarchal religions seek to dismiss scientific discoveries and theories for the sake of subjugating their followers while urging their flock to vote for politicians pandering the religious vote and while also putting religious leaders in government, then their belief system should be open to the same scrutiny as any other. These religious empires don’t pay taxes yet wield an undeniable presence in the political process and are notorious for covering up abuse.

      The religious right and fundamental extremists would turn back time if they could and have us living in the dark ages once again. Climate change is supported by all scientists, and yet conservatives cry foul and say it’s a conspiracy. We have people who refute evolution despite scientific evidence and despite many progressives in their own numbers who want to see religion align with science where possible. My point is this, religious extremists, fundamentalists, and even those practitioners who seek no malice cling to outdated beliefs and traditions. They have no problem dismissing progress and scientific discovery and this stonewalling inhibits our advancement as a species. Imagine the progress science and technology could have made had religion not sidelined advancements in these areas with their fear mongering and regressive beliefs and ideas. How much further might mankind have advanced had we not stopped to soak the earth in a bloody blanket of religious superiority, of my god is better than your god.

      Religion is a shelter for abusive people because many of its principles and traditions are abusive. I don’t think adherents commit such atrocious acts of abuse because they’re trying so hard to be pure. I think they do so because religion and her gatekeepers have essentially handed them a playground full of victims and when they’re caught these leaders look the other way. They have to dismiss abuse, to victim blame, to victim shame, or their followers would leave thus leaving them without a profit. Religion hates rationality and hates knowledge. It relies on the ignorance of its practitioners in order to maintain power and control. Why else would the GOP be so actively defunding education?

      I focused on one Abrahamic religion but they should all be called out. Islam is getting a thorough lashing (so to speak) in the media and Christians are at the forefront of this lashing, failing to see the irony in their chants of no Sharia law here while they pass regressive religious legislation stripping others of their constitutional rights. And while modern Christian extremists have yet to behead journalists like their Islamic counterparts, their history is not without its own beheadings, burnings, genocides, etc. The texts of various religious creeds are worlds away from anything resembling rationality and give rise to hatred, bigotry, oppression, violence, and murder.

      Religion dismisses science, education, and abuse and for those reasons it must be subject to rational thought, debate, and dissection and it must be made to bear the burden of proof when it demands the blood of innocents and the souls of children. Religion must be held accountable for the damage it causes. Religion must be made to stand up to rational debate and critical scrutiny. We demand that of science. We demand it of the medical community, and in a world in which religion wields such power and control, whose grasp extends to government and law we absolutely should not give it a pass. For the above reasons, I do dismiss religion and will continue to do so as aggressively as religion seeks to dismiss progress and rationality. Your fourteen-year-old-self was spot on!

      I love what you do in your writing. It’s brutal and in your face. I still cringe when I think of certain passages in And Soon the Song. It was not an easy read and it takes a bit of time I think to be able to absorb it appropriately and without bias. I think that even for those religious practitioners who believe their violence or abuse is actually sanctioned by their god, is all the more reason to hold religion to the fire.

      I’m currently editing my novel. I had planned to publish this month, but have been burdened with other matters. My father passed away last week. I have worked sporadically on editing since completing the novel in January. I hope to get back on track soon.
      Great to hear from you again, J. Been awhile.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love you, sis. I’m so sorry it’s taken me so long to come to terms with the actuality of the situation. I tried to be that perfect person that does all the right things. Now, I realize, it was all the right things, for all the wrong people. I miss you, immensely. I hope you are healing well and happy as you can be. I love you with all that I have to give and you will always be that spunky girl singing and dancing around that chicken noodle soup can. I miss you, love. Please take care of yourself, keep fighting this fight, and know that you are loved beyond measure.
    – Action

    Like

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