About the battle: surprising truth about life after #metoo and #churchtoo

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I’ve wanted to write this post for a while now.

I’ve turned words in my head and started and stopped and prayed and not prayed and prayed some more.

The news cycle has been inundated for months now with cases of sexual abuse from all corners of the country…USA gymnastics, Hollywood and Harvey Weinstein, Andy Savage, the pastor who molested a girl in his youth group, and so many others.

Stories of sexual abuse are everywhere.

But you know what?

Sexual abuse has always been everywhere.

We’re just hearing about it more now.

For a survivor like me, this watershed moment is a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing to know fellow survivors are feeling brave enough to speak their truth and seek help and healing. Glory be, it’s a blessing!

But it’s a curse, because every story makes me feel raw and sick and paralyzed with anger and fear all over again.

More often than not, I admit that I’ve wanted to do what Randall Margraves did.The father of not one, but three, of the gymnasts molested by Larry Nassar in the USA Gymnastics case, he charged Nassar in the middle of the courtroom.

Like Margraves, I want 10 minuets.

Five minutes.

One minute alone with each of the people who abused me, and those who enabled them, too. (Sadly, there were several.)

I want to storm their perfectly ordered worlds, where they’ve hidden the secret of what they’ve done to me (and likely to others, too, according to statistics) from everyone.

I want to find a way around the statute of limitations that prevent me from filing law suits and making their lives the hell that they’ve made mine.

I want to write revealing blog posts and victim statements of my own.

I want to make them hurt as bad as I’ve hurt. 

I want them to feel the heinous things I’ve felt and will feel for the rest of my life. (These unending aftereffects are not the result of my own inability to forgive or heal, as I’ve been accused of before. On the contrary, and as science has recently confirmed, like an amputation, some scars never, ever fade this side of Heaven).

That’s what I want.

But.

Like a child having a tantrum, I push and swing and kick and bite at the One who knows better than me…

…the One who wraps His arms around me and rocks my heart and whispers to me to be still…He’s got this…He’ll take care of them.

And He’ll take care of me.

See, we live in a world where the idea of vengeance lends itself to a the false promise of rescuing us from our broken hearts and brokenness.

Hear me out.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t file law suits where law suits are due. I’m not saying we shouldn’t prosecute sexual abusers to the fullest extent of the law. And I’m not saying anyone who has done so in a church should ever be restored to ministry.

Far from it. 

What I am saying is that as survivors, most of us won’t have the opportunity to charge our abusers in a court of law, and for that reason and in general, we need to give the paybacks to the Lord.

As I’ve struggled these last few months, I’ve re-discovered the promises in Psalms 34 & 35 which remind me only the Lord can truly rescue…not only that, He DOES. The Lord is the one who rescues and doles out justice. The Lord is the one who protects and who promises all things secret will be revealed. Nothing hidden will stay that way. Indeed, He already knows it all.

He is the one who rescues.

He is the one who heals.

And He wants to do the same for you, and for the gymnasts, and for the actresses, and for every girl who has ever faced an Andy Savage, or the people who allowed his unconscionable return to ministry, as well as the congregation who applauded his weak apology.

Can I be honest for a minute?

Fretting over feeling helpless against those sick abusers who have robbed me and others, when He promises vengeance to those who steal from the innocent…well, it’s a constant battle for me. Chronic PTSD and the overwhelming tendency for my brain to be in fight-or-flight mode (one of the permanent aftereffects of abuse now proven by medical science) make me want to fight and lash out first, and think about my actions later.

But the Lord wants the opposite.

He wants me to come to Him first.

He wants me to put down my fists and to stop my flailing and my daydreams of having my own day in court, because only He can ever truly deliver me. Only He can ever truly make them pay. Only by forcing myself out of fight-or-flight mode and stepping aside to let the Lord fight for me can I be free.

Staying stuck in a posture of vengeance allows them to steal from me–from us–all over again. And what they stole the first time around was quite enough.

Maybe your fight isn’t abuse recovery or PTSD. Maybe you have another battle you’re trying to fight.

Trust me when I say the Lord wants you to let Him fight your battle. (2 Chronicles 20:15; Psalm 46:10).

He wants to rescue each of us…

…but we have to let Him.

What battle do you need to give to him today? What waters are you struggling to keep your head above? Reach out to His outstretched hands. Hold on to Him.

Let go of the fight that was never meant to be yours, dear one.

Will you let Him fight for you today?

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My novel, How Sweet the Sound, is a contemporary re-telling of the story of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13, quite possibly the earliest recorded “me too.” More than that, it’s a story of hope and healing and forgiveness.

How Sweet the Sound is my word-prayer for every survivor. 

Would you consider giving one to someone who needs it today?

Click here to purchase from your favorite bookseller today.

On consent: the familiar face of sexual assault and abuse.

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April is Sexual Abuse/Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (#SAAPM, #SAAM). This is the second article I’m posting about the subject. Because the first step in fighting the silent epidemic of sexual crimes is awareness. You can read the first article, on how to support a survivor, by clicking here.

The National Sexual Assault Hotline is available by phone (800.656.HOPE) and online (online.rainn.org). Talk with someone who is trained to help anytime, 24/7.  

You’ve heard it before.

The old line that “no” never means “yes.”

But maybe that bears repeating.

NO NEVER MEANS YES.

According to RAINN, nearly 1/3 of sexual assaults are by people the victim knows. This means they’re in a situation where they ought to be able to say no, but the other party refuses to listen, refuses to respect, and at the end of the day, commits a crime with a lifetime of horrific implications.

The numbers are even more horrifying for minors. The majority of children under 18 who are abused, molested, and assaulted and who KNOW THEIR PERPETRATOR is a whopping 93%.

I can personally testify to the accuracy of this one. 

Those friendly little sleepovers? The relative who’s a little too touchy-feely and insists on getting a child alone? The coach, uncle, aunt, neighbor who takes a special interest in your child? There are warning signs…although many child molestors and family members who commit incest are often charismatic, the “life of the party,” likable, and pathological experts at hiding their crimes. I’ll post more about this topic later. (And click here for important information on warning signs.)

In the meantime, RAINN has a number of great resources on exactly what sexual consent is, and is not, including the article below, provided as a resource for #SAAPM.

Share this with someone you love.

Because no never means yes.

And learning those boundaries could save someone a lifetime of hurt.

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What Consent Looks Like

from RAINN.org

The laws about consent vary by state and situation. It can make the topic confusing, but you don’t have to be a legal expert to understand how consent plays out in real life.

What is consent? 

Consent is an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity. There are many ways to give consent, and some of those are discussed below. Consent doesn’t have to be verbal, but verbally agreeing to different sexual activities can help both you and your partner respect each other’s boundaries.

How does consent work in real life?

When you’re engaging in sexual activity, consent is about communication. And it should happen every time. Giving consent for one activity, one time, does not mean giving consent for increased or recurring sexual contact. For example, agreeing to kiss someone doesn’t give that person permission to remove your clothes. Having sex with someone in the past doesn’t give that person permission to have sex with you again in the future.

You can change your mind at any time. 

You can withdraw consent at any point if you feel uncomfortable. It’s important to clearly communicate to your partner that you are no longer comfortable with this activity and wish to stop. The best way to ensure both parties are comfortable with any sexual activity is to talk about it.

Positive consent can look like this:

  • Communicating when you change the type or degree of sexual activity with phrases like “Is this OK?”
  • Explicitly agreeing to certain activities, either by saying “yes” or another affirmative statement, like “I’m open to trying.”
  • Using physical cues to let the other person know you’re comfortable taking things to the next level

It does NOT look like this:

  • Refusing to acknowledge “no”
  • Assuming that wearing certain clothes, flirting, or kissing is an invitation for anything more
  • Someone being under the legal age of consent, as defined by the state
  • Someone being incapacitated because of drugs or alcohol
  • Pressuring someone into sexual activity by using fear or intimidation
  • Assuming you have permission to engage in a sexual act because you’ve done it in the past

Related:

If you’ve experienced sexual assault, you’re not alone. To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org.

Legal Disclaimer
The Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) website provides general information that is intended, but not guaranteed, to be correct and up-to-date. The information is not presented as a source of legal advice. You should not rely, for legal advice, on statements or representations made within the website or by any externally referenced Internet sites. If you need legal advice upon which you intend to rely in the course of your legal affairs, consult a competent, independent attorney. RAINN does not assume any responsibility for actions or non-actions taken by people who have visited this site, and no one shall be entitled to a claim for detrimental reliance on any information provided or expressed.

A time to speak…

It’s an ugly time to be an American.

In many ways we are experiencing what our society at large has asked for…

…no consequences…

…no shame…

…no truth…

All the “free love” of the 60’s is now the cheap love of today, and if you ask me, we deserve to be slogging through the pig sty we’ve made of our spacious-sky country.

While I make it a point to steer clear of online political commentary, we all have our breaking points. I can’t be silent any longer, because in my humble opinion, these two presidential nominees are both abominations. One stands by and enables a pedophile and rapist. The other speaks words that tear and dehumanize the most precious and sacred parts of a woman.

My first novel, How Sweet the Sound, is a modern day re-telling of the story of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13. Tamar was raped by her half brother. Her father, King David, did nothing. And Tamar spent the rest of her life ostracized, condemned, untouchable.

Not much different from the way sexual sin plays out today.

On the one hand in Tamar’s story (and that of the character Comfort Harlan in my novel), there’s the act of the rape/incest itself.

On the other, there’s the silence, the refusal to acknowledge the lifelong devastation of rape and incest, and the refusal to stand up and speak out against it as well.

As a survivor with years of healing work behind me, I struggle to this day to know which is worse.

Today, my heart breaks for my country, which is so broken, so annhilated by sexual and moral sin, we are now faced with our current leadership predicament.

This is what happens when people do and say nothing about power hungry people who hurt the small and voiceless.

This is what happens when people are more concerned with saving face than with the life of another human being.

This is what happens when all we value is what feels good and we no longer care about what is right and what is good and what is true.

I have spent over a decade speaking and writing to survivors of sexual assault, rape, incest and molestation. I have spent over a decade watching the tears run down the faces of women, beautiful, precious women, who have had the parts of them created to love trampled by people who use them for macabre prowess, for humor, for sport. And I have spent my whole life dealing with the lingering effects of that abuse, too.

I’m not writing today with political answers.

After all, that’s not where the answers are.

The answers are in the hearts of good men and women who, rather than remain silent, choose to stand with survivors and speak out…

…in the voices of brave hearts who say loud and clear that at the very least, sexual innuendo, misconduct, disrespect are wrong, and that we will not tolerate a culture of rape, sexual abuse, molestation and incest in our world, our country, our states, our neighborhoods, our churches, and yes, even and especially in our homes…

…in the arms of those who will embrace survivors and say to them, “I believe you. I see you. You matter. You can heal. And you are beloved…”

…and in the healing grace of God.

I’m so tired of this season in our country.

While I don’t have political answers, I do have prayer.

And I have hope.

How Sweet the Sound is set on a pecan farm in southeastern Alabama. As Comfort says,

“Even as the pecans drop all around the trees, I am sure there will be a spring–sure as I am that the branches will once again display the splendor of their journey through rock-laden soil and torrents of storms because of the beckoning sun. Because of the rains that soak them. Because of the hands that turn the soil.”

 

The only political stand I am taking is that both of these candidates are sick and wrong.

The only thing I endorse today is freedom for survivors held captive by the groping hands, the words, and the silence of twisted people who were supposed to be trustworthy.

The purpose of this post today is to SPEAK  for those who feel they cannot. 

As a nation and as individuals, we can stay in the pig sty we’ve made for ourselves, or we can leave the muck behind us and run toward goodness and grace.

May November come and go swiftly.

And may the Lord have mercy on us all.