Naming Abuse

If we normalize abusive behavior it is destructive of the psyche of the victim. The victim must internalize the blame for what they receive if it is “okay”. If it okay to punch and kick me then I must be pretty worthless, right? If my body can be taken without permission and used to satisfy another’s lust, then I am just a piece of shit.

The first thing which must happen for a victim of abuse to heal is to de-normalize the abuse. I watched a film called “Resilience” which dealt with abusive childhood experiences (ACEs) and how it affected the health and well being of the individuals as they grew up. Physicians in different parts of the country noticed that both health disease and obesity in women correlated highly with the number of ACEs the woman had faced.

One of the interventions they tried with children was to have a woman come in and teach daily for a short time and have them repeat maxims: It is not okay for someone to punch and kick me. It is not okay for someone to touch my private body parts. It is not okay for someone to scream and yell at me, etc. Just that one intervention changed the acting out behaviors of the children significantly. Knowing that what they are facing is abuse is so helpful. Because if they don’t have to justify their treatment as their own fault, then their own self-image is not destroyed by it.

In leaving the abusive environment of our church, we had to first name it as abusive and wrong. In our case, naming it came long before we were strong enough to leave. But naming it began the healing. It put the blame where it belonged, on the abuser, not the abused.

The Bible tells us a great deal about God’s attitude toward oppression. God is clearly against oppressors and on the side of the oppressed. “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” Ps. 9:9. Abuse is oppression. God does not oppress. He never abuses His power. He is good and righteous and just. I have also noticed that He doesn’t force His will on me, but I can choose to obey or disobey.

If I am Christlike, I will not oppress or abuse others.