#LetHerSpeak

Momentum is gaining for the recent social movement for rights for women, with a series of hashtag quotes to promote justice for women especially those suffering various forms of abuse. While these gain popularity on social media, they do not seem to influence change where it is needed.

It seems to take a Royal Commission for fairness, justice, and equality to get a hearing. We are led to believe that the church, the Christians of this world, are the ones to uphold morality and ethics and be a shining light in society – however, since the #metoo, #churchtoo #missiontoo exposure, this has proved to be incorrect. The horror of the reality of this situation will continue as long as victims are not heard. There is currently a court case to investigate a former Church Leader in my state, for a cover-up of abuse that spanned decades and led to offenders claiming more victim’s livelihoods. Yet, due to the Leader’s poor health, the court case has been suspended – leaving victims without any opportunity for justice.

Justice vs Justifying

When confronted with serious errors of judgment from our church leaders, who are meant to guard and guide the ‘flock’ we would hope there would be repentance, as we are often told – to turn around and commit to another course. There seem to be two responses – a case for justice or to justify behaviours.

When a long string of offenses spanning many years is presented about a church leader the tendency is to defend the leader and justify the behaviours. What does this do to the victims of abuse? It silences them, it denies the authenticity of the claims, it leads to the further demise of their social, emotional, mental wellbeing – it reoffends the victim.

A test case – if a list of a leaders’ offenses were to be published in the newspaper, would the Church Leader be mortified to the point where all credibility is lost, character questioned and career coming to a standstill? If yes, then the behaviours require a consequence that includes demotion. This enables victims to continue to live a normal life. Otherwise, it is the victim’s credibility that is lost, character questioned and career coming to a standstill. It reoffends the victim 70 times 7. When the Church Leader tries to question the character or emotional health of the victim to use as evidence for the offender’s innocence – this is a tragedy. Such a Church Leader should step down and allow a more competent person to guard and guide the flock.

Often it is a church worker/volunteer or attendee who is abused by the leader – here the leader has a paid salary and benefits (= right to protection by fellow leaders/authority). However, it is the church worker/volunteer or attendee who has sacrificed their time and potential salary for building up the church. In speaking out, there is no goodwill in this scenario – only lawyers and litigation. It is a crying shame when abusive leaders are protected so as not to bring public shame or humiliation on the church – because that would harm ‘gospel growth’. Conversely, it is very difficult for church attendees to want to bring friends or family to church when it is a toxic environment. Instead, having safe leaders means a growing church – based on the love of Jesus and not the power of money and authority.

Blindness to offenses is not part of ‘forgiveness’ – when a person in power denies justice to the vulnerable, they are using their power to re-abuse.

What kinds of behaviours have you experienced that continue to cause you harm?

What can be done to break the silence on these issues?

 

Recovery 101: How to recover from an abusive situation in work or personal life

Truth Telling

Silence is your own worst enemy. If you have been subjected to abuse you must tell the appropriate authorities as soon as you become aware of it; whether it was one or two instances or dozens of incidences over many years, whether it was mildly coercive and seemingly unintentional or blatantly berating behaviour.

Abuse occurs when there is an imbalance of power, so speaking out about it means you will have to deal with that imbalance of power and authority and risk suffering secondary abuse due to inappropriate actions being taken against you. Alternatively, there may be a complete disregard for the safety and well-being of those affected by the abuse by people in authority, or by those closest to you. This should not deter you from speaking out. Write down everything that happened as best you can to help you with truth-telling to the authorities.

If you are in a situation where you cannot foresee your case being heard and dealt with in an appropriate way, talking to your GP or the justice department may help you receive good advice and will also validate the seriousness of your claims. (Justice Department: Work Health and Safety or the Police Department).

The abusers may never experience the consequences of their actions in this life, but it is important for the victims of abuse to speak out to someone about it, for the sake of their own health and wellbeing.

Self-Care

Find a few trusted friends, preferably one who is not connected to the situation and ask if they could be a support person as you go through recovery. This may take a while to find the right person; it may be a few people that you are able to share your feelings with. Friends only need to know that you are going through a hard time and may be able to point to healthy activities that will enable you to improve your emotional health. Stay clear of alcohol, drugs or other risky activities and opt for nature walks, movies, dinner out, a weekend away, or a new hobby or group such as singing, book clubs, or gardening.

You can choose not to share the details of the abuse with friends and only share those details with a confidential Specialist Psychologist, GP or Counsellor.

If you are unable to work because of the abuse, seek help early for career advice, take a break from work if financially possible and do some study until you feel ready to approach a new work situation.

Safe Boundaries

Avoid speaking about the person(s) at all in conversation in public. If people want to know what happened to you (‘where have you been?’) and ask you about it, you can choose not to discuss it at all so as not to trigger those emotions that are a normal reaction to abusive situations and people.

If you see your abuser in public, be polite if you must speak to them then you can choose to walk away. If the abuser replies with a harmful comment about you, let those words go immediately and know that you are doing the right thing by speaking out and staying away. Wherever possible, continue your normal routine and go to the places that you enjoy going to.

A Clean Mind

When thoughts rush in about words and situations that caused harm, remember that those words were probably intended to harm you – this is difficult to do, but if you allow those words to continue to harm you, the abuser will continue to have power and control over your life and emotions. This is unacceptable.

Healthy and Diverse Work and Personal Relationships

Most organisations will have a zero tolerance for bullying or any form of abuse, if they do not have such a policy, consider finding employment with an organisation who does have a sound policy for unacceptable behaviour. When finding work, be clear with yourself and with your employer about your values for workplace relationships.

Be clear about your values in friendships and relationships in social clubs or any other group – do not allow yourself to be bullied by others who do not understand what has happened to you.You do not need to tell them the details of the abuse in order for them to believe you or be ‘on your side’. Protect yourself from further harm.

A Hope and a Future

Time is a great healer, however most abuse will continue to be remembered and may have an effect on your life for many years. The guidance in this article is meant to encourage and strengthen victims of abuse – know that you are not alone, do not give up hope in finding help or a safe place to live, work and recreate. If these suggestions are not helpful for you, take some time to write down what has been helpful or is likely to help and take steps to consider practicing these things regularly. It is important that we break the silence on this issue and ensure healing from the past and prevention for the future on the problem of abuse.

Find in your life story memories that are edifying and acknowledge those memories more often through journaling, story writing or art. Turn to pursuits that will give you space, peace, and build resilience so that you can look forward to the future. Helping others who have been through similar difficulties is a gift that life experience brings, but ensure that you have received all the help you need before you look to the needs of others.

Resources

This article was written by an abuse survivor who is trained in conflict resolution, leadership and management, workplace communication, mental health first aid and pastoral care.

Recovery can be a long journey there are many resources and organisations that are available to help you. Some of these are listed below and I can personally recommend. (Australia/ USA)

White Ribbon: www.whiteribbon.org.au

To Write Love on Her Arms: www.twloha.com

Beyond Blue: www.beyondblue.org.au

Lifeline: www.lifeline.org.au

Anglicare (Australia): www.anglicare.org.au

Mental Health First Aid Course (MHFA International): www.mhfa.com.au

Mental Illness (SANE Australia): www.sane.org

Sexual abuse: (SASS): www.sass.org.au

Sexual abuse: 1800RESPECT: www.1800RESPECT.org.au