silence doesn’t make abuse go away

"Silence" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Silence” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

The amount of effort that goes into silencing victims and their advocates is really overwhelming and quite unbelievable.

I know it happens everywhere, but it seems especially powerful in the Christian community. I’ve learned a lot this past year about abuse and the tactics used for silencing victims and their supporters.

One of the most naive beliefs is that if you just ignore it or forget about it or shut up about it, it will go away. In fact, if you talk about someone’s story of abuse for too long, apparently you become the abuser by reminding people of past abuses that have not been addressed appropriately if at all. You become the nuisance. You become the problem. You become the one who is ruining the community for everyone.

Too many people believe that an incident of abuse is an episodic mistake and that in contrast talking about it is an incessant whining. Too many people think abuse is a forgivable oversight on the way to success whereas constantly trying to address it is an expression of deep-seated bitterness and an unforgivable betrayal of success. Too many people think these vocal victims are unwilling to sacrifice themselves to some greater good. Too many people fail to see that this episodic abusive event is symptomatic of a deeper malady, and that is the abuse of power.

Too many people think those who talk a lot about their abuse are selfish. In fact, all the victims I know speak up about it not so much for themselves but for others. They want to stop abuse. They don’t want others to suffer what they did. They are advocates for justice.

It has been suggested to me that there are other issues to address in the church besides abuse. I wonder. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that the core issue at the heart of our communities is the abuse of power and its privileges. All other problems stem from here. It is the church’s enthrallment with power and power’s parasitic, and, yes, symbiotic, relationship with our communities that too often concludes with the dehumanization of people.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it is a political problem… that is, how people dwell together.

Join us at The Lasting Supper where we try to be a truly democratic community without the abuse of power.


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12 Responses

  1. Isabel says:

    How do I find someone to help me?this is the exact situation I’m in, I feel so alone. No one will help me, I’m at the point of becoming homeless. Who can I turn too? The therapist are telling me it’s me that is wrong, I just want to move forward. I just want a normal life. I just want to be happy.

  2. Ducatihero says:

    I feel I must firstly apologise for previous comments with regard to abuse. In focusing on compassion and forgiveness, it appears that I may have without being aware of it, inadvertently encouraged abuse to continue in doing so. Of course the healing that comes with forgiving is only part of the story. There must be strong action taken against abuse by way of attaining justice for victims and enabling for victims to find the strength within to speak for themselves and prevent any further abuses happening.

    At the same time, going beyond critique to twist someones words and demean them publicly, dehumanising them out of retribution for what others have done is hypocritical. It’s not OK. and only compounds a problem. Of course this can happen to survivors of abuse as well as others. It’s also naiive to think that it is only those in positions of power that abuse. It is the co-dependents often people that stand by and look innocent that do so with sweeping it under the carpet that are equally culpable.

    Conversations here are evidence for the need that while speaking up for victims is great, anyone of us who does so really need to take the time to know when to listen, being beside a victim and survivors in the way they need out of respect to their particular story and choice of how to be moving on – building them up and honouring their journey and healing process.

  3. Isabel: I don’t normally overtly invite individuals, but I am in your case: please join us at The Lasting Supper! We’ll listen to you and provide support. I promise!

  4. Richard says:

    yes David there are other issues in the church — like the people not doing enough and working hard enough to serve the pastor…er…I mean god……

  5. nexar says:

    David : ‘In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that the core issue at the heart of our communities is the abuse of power and its privileges’.

    Whilst that is a GREAT comment and I agree with it whole heartedly I think there is also a BIGGER need to question the NEED for power in religion. If there were no ‘leaders’ and no ‘followers’ I suspect there would also be far less abuse.

  6. I don’t have a problem with leaders or leadership, nor do I have a problem with paid clergy. It can be done as a service. I’ve seen it and it can work. It’s when this is abused. It can’t be helped. Like my post suggests, whenever people gather together or try to dwell together, it becomes political. How do we respect freedom and uphold responsibility at the same time.

  7. Ducatihero says:

    David, to what degree do you think this is an issue for the church only and to what degree do you think it is symptomatic of society at large of which the church is part of in keeping with what you say about politics wherever people gather or dwell together?

    Of course in principle, a leader must be a servant of all according to Jesus’ teachings and the writer of Hebrews instructs to have confidence in leaders and respect their authority in a way that their work is a joy not a burden.

    Before I wrote (edited) “I am in favour of… encouragement to anyone who is a victim… that there is a greater power to call on” to which you replied “I think that helps… Yes, I understand where you’re coming from.”

    So again, I would talk of power for a victim to call on for encouragement, I’d also say that same power is there for pastors to be enabled to serve. Also sometimes it is the pastors that are the victims?

  8. AJ says:

    Every single word you wrote is my true story. In the end the board will only be willing to speak with me further regarding the harm that has been done IF I return to attending there. Otherwise the conversation is over. Their problem is solved because they no longer have me causing trouble by pointing out what has been going on. Currently the pastor is changing the board and he’s on the committee picking the board, yes the board that coincidentally has the power to fire him.

  9. Thanks AJ. I hope you see justice.

  10. Tamara Rice says:

    I believe our collective compassion has a short attention span in the church and that even those who want to be supportive of justice work grow weary of the same cause if it is not resolved within a certain time frame. “Still talking about this?” seems to be the norm. And then finding a reason why it shouldn’t still be talked about is the next step to finding a new cause that will be invigorating and feel fresh. It’s sad to be so jaded about our approach to “causes” in faith communities, but I’ve seen it up close. I’m glad to see that you are still talking about abuse. It has to be talked about. And I absolutely agree that the core issue is power dynamics and I believe power dynamics are the true “crisis” facing the church. Everyone wants to talk theology and whether millenials are coming or going … meanwhile people leave in droves over issues that usually come down to power dynamics.

  11. Bill Kinnon says:

    If Kevin Dutton’s research is correct, 1 in 8 people have psychopathic issues, then it is a societal problem. Psychopaths want power. The church is an easy place to exercise that power. Whether as a pastor or chairperson of a church board.

    Only as we begin to accept this and learn to recognize and deal with it, will we begin to possibly protect the victims.