I think I have to write this. I generally stay away from “hot topics” and media-inflamed types of things but this time I just can’t. I tried, believe me. I’ve let it sit and simmer and have tried, so hard, to put it away or at least out of my reach. But I just can’t.
I’m not going to get into the “he-said, she-said” or the interviews or what I think about the way the whole thing was handled by that family. In the end that’s their business, even though they have chosen to go public.
It’s the very public-ness of it all that I can’t get past. I can’t stop thinking about how the abuse has been underplayed and the forgiveness has seemed easy and right and that erases it all away. Like it never happened.
But I believe that survivors of sexual abuse have been demeaned and shamed and made to feel like they should just be “over it” or worse, should never have been affected by it in the first place.
What’s never spoken of is the stolen innocence and trust. Of a lifetime of wondering, was it my fault? Or will I become an abuser? What if I had … resisted, told someone? What if I hadn’t … frozen up, kept quiet, just “let it happen”?
Because maybe it was a family member. Or close friend. Or a bully. Someone you were scared of. Because you might question whether it really even happened.
Because you know how far-reaching the damage was. Because you live with flashbacks, triggers and bad dreams still today.
Maybe because as a parent, you didn’t know. How could you not know this was happening to my beloved child?
And, most likely, because you are living in shame, feel guilty, and that goes on and on.
Because even with healing and forgiving, you still live with the aftermath and it affects your most important relationships. And then you feel guilty and shameful and like SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH YOU.
There is. You were violated, Your innocence was stolen. You weren’t protected. Even if you think you put yourself in a dangerous or self-destructive placed that “caused” the abuse to happen. (You didn’t, by the way.)
You question your judgment. You question trust and love and wonder what if, what if it had never happened. Who would I be? Would I be whole? What if I had protected myself? Should I have known better?
Put simply, the aftermath is devastating. All manner of pain, self-destruction, bad behavior may follow.
And what of intimacy? Can you ever truly trust yourself to another? Your deepest pain, your self-loathing, your fear, your shame, your guilt?
Can you keep it at bay and move ahead in denial even as every relationship is affected and you.don’t.even.know?
Have you seen the meme?
Well guess what. They are your monkeys, and therefore it is your circus. And you were powerless under the Big Top.
So what to do?
Perhaps you become powerful and self-reliant and protect your inner broken self at all costs. You build an impenetrable hard shell. You develop coping skills so strong they define who you are, instead of being defined by who God created you to be.
Perhaps you become so painfully shy that you are paralyzed. Maybe you shut down, or lash out, or become bitter and angry, or engage in self-destructive behavior.
Maybe you refuse to to give yourself fully to anyone out of fear and shame even though you think it’s really strength.
You probably freak out at unexpected touch and you’ve pushed it so far down you don’t even know why.
You feel like you need to protect others from the truth because it might hurt THEM, even though you weren’t protected and it changed your life forevermore.
And your view of God is warped. After all, if my protectors didn’t protect, how can he and furthermore why should he even?
And time goes on. And with each passing month or year or decade, you are more unwilling and unable to take it out and examine the pain and loss and shame and guilt because after all you’ve moved on and it wasn’t really that big of a deal anyway.
This, all of this, is what minimizing the effects of sexual abuse does. Highlighting the remarkable resilience of the Duggar girls sends us the message that we should just forgive and forget.
But you carry it with you always, and even your detached, logical self, cannot, in the end, change the truth.
I wonder, for real, how much it has impacted them and what the theft has taken from them and what might happen when they find out, perhaps, that they’re not quite as “over it” as they think they are.
God help us not to be further shamed and confused. God help us not to retreat further into denial. God help us to face the truth. And God help them if their denial is shattered.
There is hope and healing to be found, for sure. There is help and there is hard work and there is bringing the darkness into the light and that brings freedom and finally, forgiveness.
But please, while the survivors live where they live, while they are where they are in the process, please have mercy.