Friday, February 20, 2009

Unit 4 Lesson 1, Out of the Darkenss into the Light

This week's goal... You will be challenged to confront the issues of responsibility, betrayal and denial and to give yourself permission and time to heal. You will be encouraged to allow God to lead you to restoration.

This week's memory verse is Isaiah 42:16, "I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them."

Before we get started, I want to spend a minute reflecting on that scripture. God will turn the darkness into light - He will turn the light on so we can clearly see. He will shed His pure, righteous truth on the dark evil that happened in our lives. He will make the rough places smooth - he will comfort us on the rough road to recovery, making healing and restoration possible. He will heal the rough places in our past, making us new and whole again. He will not forsake us - He will be with us every step of the way.



Responsibility, betrayal and denial are issues that all victims of sexual abuse must face. Regardless of our age, we tend to be confused from the very first incident. We immediately lose objectivity and normal reasoning abilities. When victims describe their first incident of abuse, they use such statements as, "I don't know what I did to deserve this"; or "if I hadn't done this or that, this wouldn't have happened"; or I was so confused".

Too often, rape victims take responsibility (at least in part) for the rape. It is true that we can make bad decisions that put us in unsafe situations - drinking, using drugs, riding with strangers, or even opening our front door to a stranger. But making unwise decisions does not remove responsibility from the perpetrator.

Survivors must understand that they were victims of a crime, regardless of any decision that may have put them in harms way. Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines victim as "one who is injured, destroyed or sacrificed under any of various conditions," including rage, desire or ambition. Victims of sexual abuse are injured mentally and physically. We were sacrificed for the pleasure of our perpetrators. A crime was committed against us.
  • As you think about this, write down the person(s) who are responsible for the abuse you endured. How and why are they responsible?
  • What feelings do you experience when you think of yourself as a victim of another person's sexual sin? Anger, grief, resentment, relief, fear, sadness, pain, other...
But what if the victim benefits?

It is not unusual for an abuser to give gifts or rewards to his/her victim. I can remember my father slipping me $20 every now and then when I headed to our neighborhood pool. He would tell me not to tell my siblings... The money was because I was "extra special". A snow cone probably cost about a $1 and a candy bar wasn't more than 50 cents back then, so $20 was way more than I needed for a day at the local pool. I can also recall expensive running shoes and an expensive formal gown for a school dance in high school (the shoes were for track - not to go with the gown). We spent way more than normal but, again, I was "special". Other survivors have shared stories of similar gifts, attention, protection from others and compliments. Regardless of whatever benefits you may have received, your abuser is still the person responsible. Did you experience some benefits from the person who abused you?

Repeat the following statements aloud three times. You are encouraged to say the words even if you do not believe them.
  • No child at any time, under any circumstances, can consent to sexual activity with an adult.
  • Because of the differences in maturity and power, adults always are responsible for their conduct with children - children cannot be held responsible.
  • Regardless of the circumstances, no person has the right to force or coerce another person into sexual activity against his or her will.
How do you feel after repeating these statements?

What about others who were around?

Survivors must also give responsibility to any co-perpetrator; that is, any person who knowingly aids or allows the person who commits the abuse to perform an abusive act.

Victims sometimes express their greatest anger toward the parent who enabled the abuse. Often the victim has to deal with the question of whether or not the "other parent" really knows. If the victim is certain that the other parent knows, the child is left wondering why the other parent is letting it happen. The child has learned at an early age that parents are to take care of their children. Understanding the role of the enabler is especially difficult if the mother is the person who aided or allowed the abuse. Mother is usually the person tends to wounds, dresses the children, prepares meals, puts them to bed, etc. So why is she not doing something about what is happening?

All victims need to place an appropriate share of the responsibility on the person who allowed the abuse. Most co-perpetrators are not actively involved in the sexual abuse. They just all seem to have come to the same decision - to ignore or discount what they saw or felt was happening. It is not uncommon, once a family comes into a family counseling session, for the parents to weep over what they suspected but did nothing about.

The main issue here is for victims to recognize that others are responsible for not protecting them. We must assign appropriate responsibility to everyone who could have been accountable, rather than to continue taking responsibility ourselves.
  • In what ways have you avoided acknowledging the role a co-perpetrator played in your abuse?
Other pieces to the problem

There are other pieces to the problem of responsibility. Given society's attitudes toward women, children, sex and pornography, it is not uncommon for a victim to rationalize what has happened and who is responsible. Whatever may be involved, the person made the choice to abuse! For healing to take place, victims must let go of responsibility for the abuse and acknowledge that responsibility for the abuse belongs to the person who committed the abuse.

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