Ode to Survivors.
I worked with survivors of child sexual abuse in a faith based setting for 8 years. From providing education about abuse, to getting alongside families and communities, to working with police to supporting survivors, I found all areas a privilege. However it hurt. It hurt being faced with the reality that abuse does happen and yet is preventable, it hurt that most often the offenders are people in positions of trust including close family members, family friends and others.
In this blog id like to honour survivors of any form of abuse whether it was verbal, sexual, physical, emotional or spiritual, whether you were a child or an adult it was never right and it was never your fault. You are never to blame. Abuse is always about power and control at some level- treating people as objects. And of course there has to be 'access' given in most child abuse to enable to abuse to occur.
A survivor can be defined as 'one who remains alive, carries on despite hardships or trauma and remains functional.' Many survivors don’t feel functional on the inside though. While they may carry out normal jobs and normal lives on the outside, they often feel they live double lives. Together on the outside and bleeding on the inside. They feel a sense to blame , they experience some level of shame and generally carry the abuse as a secret with them for years. Deep down somewhere they believe that they are the problem, that they have some deep flaw and that they are not lovable. Its not the case at all. They may find themselves in relationship after relationship that reinforces that they are flawed and the problem; the common denominator' But I want to write today to give voice to these precious humans that they are more than ok that they are not too much and they are not flawed but may have some work to do to recover from the abuse.
Often its not until some significant event or experience in their life that happens that a survivor is forced to seek some help. That is when they reach out looking for love, understanding and acceptance ready finally to share their story. Unfortunately in my experience they often come against prejudice, judgment and blame (which further reinforces their wrong thinking). So in this short blog today I have a few key tips for survivors, those who love and care for them, and those who would like to support them better.
1/ It was never the childs fault ever- adults are responsible for children and no matter how much the abuser or others may have said it was the child's fault that is simply a lie. It never was your fault and it wont be. Let go of believing that lie any longer.
2/ Hurt people hurt people- if you are a survivor of abuse at some level you will be hurting and it will come out in different patterns, behaviours, or tendencies until its dealt with. It may be that you are passive aggressive, it may be that you put walls up or eat for comfort. I encourage you to reach out and seek help. It may feel scary but do it afraid. Its much better to have a bit of temporary uncomfort of dealing with things instead of living a life of slow constant pain. For those getting around survivors give them time to share their story, without judgment or condemnation. There are lots of different forms of help. There is counselling, support groups, websites, government agencies that will assist you in getting justice and compensate you for your trauma. Feel free to contact me if you would like to seek support. Ill happily assist you.
3/ Its not who you are- you may have been abused but its not who you are. It may have been a short time or long time. Unfortunately it may still happening, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Its not your future. Look for hope, look for the good, hold fast to who you really are, find areas in your life that bring you joy and get yourself around people who will speak life over you and bring you higher. You are destined for greater things. Abuse is not who you are. Its about making one good decision after another. One foot in front of another into your God given destiny.
4/ You can overcome- as you take one step after another hope rises and life starts to take on more meaning, more joy and you become an overcomer. You look for those things that bring life and hold fast to them and move away from those that don’t. This can include moving away from people, stopping drinking, giving up drugs, changing your eating, making huge lifestyle decisions that support your desire for a good life. And somehow one day you wake up loving the body you are in, loving the life you have been given and loving the people around you and who you are.
Maybe you are on the other side of abuse and you now have a story of victory, a story of hope for others. Maybe you are still going through it right now. You might think that you have to live with it but you don’t. Maybe you have no idea that God is interested in helping you.. That He cares about every area of your life. The truth is God wants you to enjoy your life, not just survive and live with the pain of your past.
John 10.10 say Jesus… 'purpose to give them a rich and satisfying life' (NLT) and in Psalm 147.3 He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds' (NLT).
To any one reading this who may have been abused or is being abused. You are not alone. You are loved. This is not who you are, it doesn’t define you and you will overcome. I believe the best is yet to come.