Already Dead

‘In late 1944 conditions in Lunghua [internment camp] continued to worsen, not through deliberate neglect by the Japanese authorities, but because they had lost all interest in us… The huge Japanese armies in China were ready to defend the Emperor and the home islands to the last man.

Nowhere had Japanese soldiers surrendered in large numbers. Fatalism, fierce discipline and a profound patriotism shaped their warrior spirit. In some way, I think, the Japanese soldier assumed unconsciously that he had already died in battle, and the apparent life left to him was on a very short lease. This explained their vicious cruelty.’

from ‘Miracles of Life, Shanghai to Shepperton, An Autobiography’ by J.G. Ballard

I wonder if this is a similar situation to that of today’s suicide bombers, or members of Islamic State? We’ve all seen the shocking news reports of beheadings, violence and rape of young girls. Do they believe there is no other choice and sooner or later they’ll be dead anyway? Is this nothing more than a bleak reflection of a life without hope? Here, perhaps, is how we learn to pray for our enemies.

So I am praying for my persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ in war torn areas. May they be granted the grace and courage to truly be light in all that darkness.

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matt. 5:14)

What a great commission. If you would like to know more about how to help our suffering family, please visit Open Doors .

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Reblog – Context swap: helping others to see how their attitude offends

Something Laura wrote in the post below niggled me and has stayed with me the past few days. It coincided with certain news articles, particularly surrounding the Rotherham abuse ‘scandal’ and the mention of former ‘national treasure’ convicted paedophile Rolf Harris. I finally put my finger on what it was:

When someone is convicted of a sexual offence, and then you casually or otherwise remark that you ‘don’t believe it’, you imply that victims are at fault. Even if this is not what you mean, if you insist that you can’t believe that a person could do such heinous acts, you disrespect – no, you dehumanise and degrade – victims and former victims like me. These crimes leave a legacy that lasts a lifetime. Anyone who would rather look the other way than look at the awful truth head on is, in essence, spitting in my face, and the faces of those like me. Spitting in the faces of those vulnerable young girls in Rotherham. They were children, for God’s sake. And that is the politest way of saying it.

We have an appallingly low conviction rate for sexual crime in the UK. An estimated 85% of sexual violence goes unreported. Of those that are reported to the police, only 7% result in conviction. That means that 1% of sexual crime results in conviction. I’d say it’s a pervert’s paradise, especially when police and social services look the other way (which is what happened to me, too).

Also, whenever anyone says that a rape or sexual assault victim ‘must be lying’, this is incredibly offensive. The reality is that very few people invent stories of sexual violence. On the contrary, ‘in March 2013, the Crown Prosecution Service published a survey confirming that false rape reports are ‘very rare’ and suggesting they could make up less than 1% of all reports.’ 

source Rape Crisis

Abusers abuse and rapists rape and molesters molest and all of them blame the victim. That’s how they get away with it! So many times I was made to feel as if everything I experienced, including sexual, emotional and physical abuse, were my fault, both overtly by the abuser, and less overtly by the fact that no one did anything (except my parents, who did all they could under the circumstances). The abuse tore our family to shreds. No bomb could have blown us apart any better. We are still picking up the pieces, all these years later. I thank God that we can. I thank God that it is indeed true what Paul writes in his letter to the church at Corinth (paraphrased rather movingly by Eugene Peterson):

…no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything [except abuse]
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies.

1 Corinthians 13:3-8

My thanks go to Laura, for prompting this. It’s been cathartic. Any thoughts from any of my readers?

Laura Droege's blog

Recently, controversial Christian preacher Douglas Wilson took issue with women who disagreed with him. (You can read a fuller version of the story on Tim Fall’s blog and several others.) He called them pushy broads, twinkies in tight tops, or waifs with manga eyes.

I’m not interested in discussing Wilson’s views; others do a much better job of pointing out what is wrong with his theology and attitudes. Nor do I feel the need to talk about what’s offensive about these particular terms; I’m assuming that my regular blog readers already agree that the terms are sexist and racist.

Here’s what interests me: If another person has a sexist attitude or uses a sexist term and doesn’t understand why it’s offensive, how do we help him (or her) understand?

(This isn’t limited to gender matters, of course. This applies to race and sexual orientation, too.)

For someone like…

View original post 1,060 more words

Why I am Not a Survivor

In the Beginning

People try to put labels on you from the moment you’re born, it seems. Have you noticed? Some of them are benign: ‘healthy’, ‘thriving’, ‘girl’, ‘boy’. For some the problems begin at birth. What happens if the child is not healthy, or has ambiguous genitalia? Already the labels are out of kilter.

I had some nice labels attached to me when I was an infant. I was loved and treasured. I lived in one of the world’s most prosperous countries. As I grew a little older, I heard the words ‘gifted’ and ‘clever’. My mother at one point went as far as getting the prospectus for one of the local prep schools, to see if I might earn a scholarship, but decided against it because I was already thriving in a happy little C. of E. school. I was given books and toys at Christmas and birthdays which subtly reflected this notion of ‘clever’ and ‘gifted’: a microscope, a typewriter, an encyclopaedia, ‘The Book of Answers’, a gyroscope, the junior version of Trivial Pursuits…

Labels

‘Gifted’ is supposed to be a pleasant one. Yet it placed expectations and pressures onto my malleable little mind. Somehow my sense of worth was in being ‘clever’. I grew up believing that all I had to do was to be more intelligent than anyone else, work hard, and life would be all right.

‘Victim’

Although at the time I didn’t know I bore this label, I became a victim of childhood sexual abuse. Later, when I learned that I was a victim, I tried to ‘tell’… No one listened. I had to ‘tell’ numerous times before anyone actually took me seriously. No one in authority took me seriously, however, which is why it was never investigated.

Just over a year ago I was praying for answers to why I was still held by such terrible remnants of the past, as if they were woven and wrapped around me as a mummy is wrapped for burial. One night, after a particularly vivid dream, I woke and there was the answer – or part of it. It suddenly dawned on me that no one had listened when I had ‘told’ and why the **** had no one listened?! despite me trying to ‘tell’ several times (which was in spite of threats to my life from the abuser… do you know how courageous it is for a child to speak out when there have been threats on her life?).

Twenty years ago my parents went to the police, who never even spoke to me. Yet I was pretty sure they would now. Things have changed, thank God. I have changed. I am not afraid. I now await the results of their investigation. I pray for justice.

Twenty Long Years

Back then, I received counselling and therapy, which helped. Yet somehow it missed some vital, and I mean vital components. The label of ‘victim’ still seemed stuck to me, as if stamped like a brand across my forehead. It was synonymous with there being something innate, something within me, which was not quite right. My mother would speak about me in hushed tones to her friends as if I was ‘troubled’. I don’t know why she did that. And I never saw anyone get angry about what had been done to me, except my father, who was so torn by grief that I didn’t know how to discern the tumble of emotions he bound within himself so carefully, but with such fragility. Yet when I think of such things being done to one of my own children, or anyone’s children, I am angry enough to burst. I could kill. Gentle little me! Is it just me? Am I somehow more aware, because of what I have been through?

Going back to the past: at first, I tried to tell other children. Twice. Once in school, to a group of girls, and once to my best friend. No, three times; I tried to tell at my youth group summer camp too. I also tried to tell my mother…

And I was sent to a psychiatrist. This is not to say my parents didn’t believe me, but they didn’t really know what to do.

Yet why did they still let ‘him’, the abuser, be part of the family…? It reinforced, over and over and over, that it was me who was at fault. Me who was screwed up. I recall one day, after having ‘told’ my mother, having used the words ‘sexual abuse’, that she took ‘him’ and me to a village tea room, where we had afternoon tea and scones… How very pleasant. How very Orwellian in its screwed-up Englishness.

You couldn’t make it up, frankly, could you? I mean, who the **** hears their 13-year-old daughter say, “I was sexually abused by so-and-so” and subsequently treats everything and everyone as normal??? 

No one tried to find out what had happened. And the abuser was still allowed free access to our family home. I was raped for the last time when I was 14. I had tried to ‘tell’ several times from the age of 12.

It took two years for it to finally stop. Two more terrible years. Why? And how could it possibly teach me anything other than ‘Sandy’s the one with problems’. Tut tut. Whisper, ‘It’s a shame, isn’t it?’

Sandy’s the problem. Sandy’s got something ‘wrong’ with her. A ‘troubled teen’. I was sent to a school for ‘troubled teens’ (though I was there ostensibly because I’d missed out on schooling due to illness). The head teacher, instead of trying to find out what my problems were, decided that I was ‘middle-class’ and therefore couldn’t have problems (at least, this is what I deduced) and on one occasion told me about a former pupil who was raped at knifepoint. I was bewildered. Should I reply with “I was raped too. Many times.”? Was it a competition to see who had been hurt the most? What on earth did she say it for? I could not reply. As I perceived it, it was said to make me feel as if I was attention-seeking, with little or no reason (I had not disclosed details of what had happened to me by that point. I was too traumatised to talk about it). 

So, on the one hand I had counselling and therapy, which was good. I am still in touch with my wonderful Christian counsellor, who was the only one, the ONLY one who spoke the precious words which would come back to me with full vehemence last year, “You’re not suffering depression, Sandy, you have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

And on the other hand I had people treating me as if I had ‘problems’, or outright dismissing me, as the police did, cementing the idea that I was somehow worth less than other people. Unfortunately, the nature of being human is that negative things tend to stick to you. I walked into adulthood a very damaged soul.

Damaged

Damage is what the first boyfriend at 21 saw, right from the first. And damage is what he grabbed and manipulated and coerced, to earn my attentions, and to manipulate my affections (love does not arise from being made to feel guilty, but I did not know that). Damage is what he made use of over the years, during the marriage, when the manipulation and coercion became biting words and flying fists. I didn’t believe I was worth anything better. I didn’t fully comprehend there was better.

Carrying the Burdens

For years, then, I carried burdens which were so heavy they crushed me. I didn’t understand what they were, or that they shouldn’t be there. I didn’t realise that I should be any other way. I sank deeper and deeper into the role of ‘victim’, because I had learned nothing else.

Eventually, after years of quiet, desperate prayer, something inside me changed. I decided that, despite what I had been told about divorce and remarriage, I couldn’t let my children grow up in such an atmosphere of sadness and misery. I knew it would affect their long-term development. I still had no notion of my deserving anything better! But I’m glad I valued my children enough. I’m proud of that. So, despite the idea that divorce and remarriage were both ‘wrong’, I made myself a vow. If things didn’t improve – meaning, if the ex-husband’s behaviour didn’t improve – within six months, I would leave. I’d find a women’s refuge, or something. Somehow. What made it difficult was that he’d promised that if I ever went to the police about his violence, he would tell them that I mistreated the children, that I was a bad mother. For years this had kept me ‘in my place’ because I believed I was a bad mother… Eventually (hallelujah) I cottoned-on to the fact that I was not the bad parent.

Fortunately, the police caught up with him for his other criminal deeds and then there was no question of whether divorce would happen or not. And it did, as quickly as I could manage it, though during this time the wicked man still tried to manipulate me and coerce me out of divorce! A convicted paedophile – a criminal of the worst kind – tries to tell me he is a Christian and does not believe in divorce. Insane!

Celebrate Recovery and the Road to Sanity

I then had to bear so many awful labels. All at once they were chucked at me. Added to my load. Social Services had to investigate me because of the charges against the ex-husband (I knew they had to, but it didn’t make it any pleasanter). I had to sit through a Child Protection meeting, which was the most awful experience of my life (bear in mind all I have been through and I still say it was the most awful experience of my life). It was the worst because they were questioning me as a mother, which was by far the most wounding. I also now bore the label of ‘single mother’, ‘benefits claimant’, ‘divorcee’, etc.

As I began attending Celebrate Recovery, the label of ‘survivor’ was offered to me. I accepted it with gratefulness. I was no longer a ‘victim’.

It is a few years since then. I have grown. I have changed. All by grace and only by grace. I am now, fully, ‘wife’ and ‘mother’. I am also ‘mature student’, ‘blogger’, ‘volunteer’…

‘Future pastor’? 😉

But what I have learned is great. The most great. Ever. It is this: these things don’t define me.

For years, as long as I can remember, I was defined by other people’s ideas of me, other people’s expectations, other people’s cruel actions, other people’s negligent actions. I was a ‘victim’. If I allow myself to be a ‘survivor’, I am still allowing myself to be defined by things that were done to me, even if it’s in an apparently more positive way than ‘victim’.

I am not a survivor. I am me.

My identity, my entire being, is as a child of God, who calls me His beloved.  He woos me and cherishes me and calls me by name. I am His and He is mine. Here is eternity. Here is love. Here is grace. 

All is grace, as Ann Voskamp is so fond of saying. And that, dear friends, is the most freedom a human being can ever have.

‘God’s way of putting people right with himself has been revealed… everyone… is far away from God’s saving presence. But by the free gift of God’s grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free.’ 

Romans 3:21,23 GNT

‘…if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’

John 8:36

Free indeed. To be me.

Amen to that.

Hallelujah for the grace to just be.

Addendum: 2014

I think there was some anger towards my parents when I wrote this post. Now, in retrospect, having recognised my own mistakes as a parent, I realise there are no handbooks when you have children, especially not for the circumstances my parents found themselves in. I believe the fact their marriage survived is a testament to their love and their dedication to their family. I am thankful for my parents and esteem them greatly.