Protect your ass, you mean

Recently I took an online “course” designed to protect Christian ministries from lawsuits arising from child sexual abuse.

I knew it was going to be annoying, but it was worse than I had anticipated.

Here are some (but definitely not all) of the curriculum deficiencies:

  • There was very little information about helping victims of child abuse
  • Many of the recommendations were protective of the church over the child
  • There were broad, unsubstantiated allegations about the victims of child abuse and their families which included saying that they were mentally disabled and prone to familial dysfunction
  • The course stated and repeated that the adult survivors of child sexual abuse were not emotionally stable, neither able nor willing to process and recover from childhood trauma
  • The methods of ferreting out both abuse and abusers were shot through with harmful stereotypes and inadequate information
  • The course taught the participant to favor in-organization reporting over direct and immediate reporting to law enforcement, legal guardians, and child protective services
  • The test reinforced curriculum biases

I contacted the company directly after I took the course and asked them for information on their source material and bibliography.

No answer.

I am not a rape victim, but I was targeted by at least one pedophile when I was young, and I have children who are childhood sexual assault survivors.

I am not “low IQ,” and my children are all smarter than I am. Had any of us been “low IQ” (term taken directly from course material), we would still deserve help from the law and relief from abuse.

Our individual and collective intelligence was not the reason my children were molested by my adopted son, but it also did not save us from protracted and compounded grief.

First from the felonies,

Later from the way “good people did nothing,” or worse still, did things to let us know they wanted to silence our story.

Jesus said, tell the little children they will always be safe with me.

Yet in order to protect their legal asses big, well-known communities and institutions all over this country are serving up biased, unsubstantiated defamation of childhood rape victims and their families in place of solid, simple procedures to ensure that children are safe in church and that the law is followed.

It should never be “protect my ministry,” over protect the children.

Matthew 18

The Stages of Grief

The call costs five cents a minute and you have to be ready with a form of payment. On the other end of the line there is

A princess stuck in a well

Bears curled in around a wee-sleepy home invader

A girl in a badly blended family with a knack for the most inconvenient footwear

And all the rest of us-

sleeping beauties, garden-of-Gethsemane-tired

Of hearing about

This impending crucifixion.

Who is my neighbor?

This morning, 40 minutes before an exam in his class!!!!!!!! my son silenced his alarm, thought he had turned his phone on, then went back to sleep…with his cellphone still on airplane mode… his landline casually unplugged.

And his mom was in a frickin’ panic.

I had spent some time studying with him over the weekend so I happened to know how much the quiz was going to impact his grade and that he was not going to be allowed to switch sections to take it with a later class.

So I prayed.

I prayed to God, but I also prayed to neighbors.

I prayed to two neighbors on the first floor who then prayed to a third neighbor on the floor above Sleeping Beauty.

Thank God for good neighbors, and for the reminder that I need to be

A good neighbor.

Luke 10:29 and 15:6

If someone tells you they have been abused

Worth repeating.

Worth putting on your refrigerator:

When I first found out that my adopted son had sexually abused children I was in shock. The hours and days that followed were filled with anger, pain, and terrible questions.

They were also filled with calls to the state to report him and forensic interviews.

I understood that I had to revise my view of my son–he was capable of unspeakable harm.

How do we handle stories of unspeakable harm? Not well. We handle them with avoidance, ostracism, excuses, and silence. We blame the victims.

Don’t. Don’t do these things to a crime victim. Do this instead:

Be there and listen. Victims of abuse are all around you. Most will not share their stories because they know if they do they will be viewed as contagious.

Abuse is not sui generis contagious. Ignorance is. Refrain from perpetuating any stereotypes about the abused or their families. Remember, they are the victims.

Explaining to a child how and why an older person would take their innocence is a heartbreaking conversation, but it starts with repair–

What I told my kids was this–sex is like driving a car, good but challenging and not for kids.

Kids should not have to deal with sex–either in advertising, media, a bikini culture, pornography, or abuse.

It is our job to protect them, and we can’t do it by keeping our heads in the sand.

And if they have been hurt by sexual exploitation it is our job to be there to heal what has been broken–the human heart.

Fairy Tale Beginnings

Imagine you are a reasonably attractive young person in your 20s. You are educated and have an interesting job with growth potential.

Then…you enter into a completely voluntary relationship with two fairy tale creatures. Think frog in well, old lady at door of castle material. There is a spell that has been cast over them, you, intrepid young person, must break the spell!

This requires enduring a lot of verbal abuse, physical abuse (fairy tale creatures are small but fierce and sometimes quite wild).

You hang on, barely, telling yourself each day that the humiliation and loss you feel is worth the investment in these small people, I mean enchanted creatures. Someone has to break enchantments, why not you?

Yolo; I know. That is part of the heartbreak. To “waste” your youth on the ungrateful and the enslaved can feel like desert living.

When they get older, larger, and more criminal, it can feel like…well let’s just say not a fairy tale.

The other people in the enchanted woods look a little queasy when you spill your tale–what? No magic reveal? No broken spells? What the heck?!

You can see it in their faces–please stay away from us, we live in this forest and are invested in keeping up magic appearances.

But you know the secret–dark, sad, but unavoidable secret. There is only one happily ever after and there is only one handsome prince.

He was the unlikeliest of Redeemer Princes–unremarkable, a tradesman. Itinerate, shekel-less. He died a miserable death and seemed to indicate there would be rough and uncertain times for his kingdom.

His spell-breaking talisman seemed a little too brief–follow me.

Like we would want to do that. Like that would be pretty. Like hell itself would be a picnic.

But of course, hell was just a place on a narrow road for him. It was not his destination. So keep up, girl, the story isn’t over…

Isaiah 58

Literal Jesus

I take God very literally. I do this out of long years of watching Him pull stuff off that no one else can–like trees and sunsets.

He is the Master.

So when Mark quotes him–

Mark 8:26 (NIV)
Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t go into the village. ”

I kinda wanna know why and I kinda wanna know what next?

He doesn’t tell me specifically. He says, what do you know about Me? How do I operate?

I know these things:

Jesus loves
And because he loves he sacrifices
And protects

Jesus wants to be with us
So he finds lovely and extravagant ways to insert himself into our stories

Jesus is faithful
He never wanders off
Never gets distracted
Never loses interest.

Jesus sees the whole story.

Sometimes the terseness of God can be vexing–whatcha mean, don’t go to the village?

He means

Trust me. I am the way , the truth, and the light.

Hm. Light indeed. Light for the blind man. Good stuff.

Hypothetical Family

In the fall of 2009 our family as we knew it imploded in a fierce burst of awful. This was after years of maintenance strange and two years of ascending chaos as our adopted daughter burst forth into mental decline. Epic mental decline. Followed by the revelation that her biological brother was a pedophile. Then things got worse…

Actually, not worse. Safer and blindingly honest. Grandparents punished the victims and rewarded the perps. Uncles were cowards. Aunts were um, not helpful.

The nuclear families that my husband and I had been born into were destructive forces. I think that the stigma of being in a relationship with the victims of sexual abuse was too much for them to handle. They blamed the victims. It was like an acid bath. They said terrible things.

I drew a wall around us. There were months of fasting and debilitating heath problems. There was our children’s grief. There was the cost to our marriage. It was enough.

We skipped a wedding. We cut off our phone. We changed. Our family became orphaned not just from these near familial relations but also from a church we had served for years.

Our older children remember. Our young ones do not. They do not know their aunts or uncles, their grandmothers or grandfather. My son knows that my father died the year he was born. He knows that we live on a small island of ourselves. He sees these relationships played out on the children’s shows he watches. Dora has a cousin named Diego. Word Girl has a cool grandfather. Every so often one of us will refer to the missing uncle or grandmother he does not know. His eyes will light up as though we are discussing Christmas–I have a grandfather?!. He will ask incredulously.

Yes, I say.

Then his face grows serious. Oh, but he is not safe for us, right?

Right, I say, he is not safe.

The loneliness and loss in his face is the reminder: the ghost of hypothetical family.

Be Open

Mark 7:31-35 (NIV)
Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. [32] There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man. [33] After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. [34] He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”). [35] At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

The man’s disability was hindering his integration into community. His community responded the way it should (at least in the context of this story). They begged God for help.

Who needs help in your community? Too often our communities silence and marginalize the different, not recognizing we are all different, we all need healing.

We all need a voice.

Many, many people suffer because they have been deprived of a voice.

One summer years ago I took ASL. Part of our class assignment was to go to Union Station and pretend to be deaf and mute. It was a valuable exercise. To see how servers responded to my verbal powerlessness…who was kind? Who was impatient?

Jesus heals the man in a very visceral way–he puts his fingers in his ears, spits and touches the man’s tongue and then sighs deeply as he commands the healing.


He could raise the dead from a distance, why such raw physicality?

Because Jesus speaks the language of each human heart. His physical actions are a form of sign language the man can understand.

Nobody talks like this guy. He is the Word made flesh.

He sets the captive free.


If I could give you
The safe place
Perfect butterfly,
Wings the color of sunlight
wave through the glass

If I could give you
The shape of the boy’s face
The cities he sees across the dammed

If I could give you the boats
Alone on the water
And the sheer drop
Carved from stone

If I could give you these things
In a bottle called forever

You would understand
How I failed him
How I failed her
How I fear tomorrow

Arms not strong enough

How to heal sexual abuse

Imagine your child is the most beautiful baby in the world. Now imagine they are a beautiful toddler, then preschooler and then kindergartner.

(yes, I know your child is the most beautiful of all these things–this is why I wrote it that way– so you could empathize)

Imagine you homeschool because you enjoy time with your child so much. Imagine your child is both smart and good, charming and graceful and funny.

Now imagine you discover that your child has been sexually abused by someone they trusted. Someone you let be around your child. You trusted the abuser too.

When you find out that all this has happened before your child is 6, how will you feel? What will you do?

I can only tell you what I did. The first thing I did was grieve. I cried for at least a month. I cried for three years. I cried yesterday.

The next thing I did was ask how could I have missed it? The abuser was highly deceptive. Most are.

Then I stared right into the face of an awful list. On it were:

Acting out sexually
Academic problems
Anger issues
Small cutting
Suicidal behavior
Poor hygiene
Gender identity crisis
Eating disorder
Low self esteem

Imagine you are the mother of the most beautiful child in the world and you do not want your child to struggle with the things on that list. You want healing.

I prayed and the answer I got was remarkably simple: the truth will set you free.

I had a hard time at first because of the list. I hated the idea that people would judge my child because of what had been done to her instead of seeing she was not those things.
She was just another 5 year old crime victim. Five year old rape victim.

You don’t get your head around that right away. Hurts too much.

But I began to tell our story. I used the language of the criminal code because what had been done was a crime.

As I told the story I found out one thing for sure: the list is wrong, really wrong.

How do I know? Because the vast majority of rape and child sexual abuse survivors never show up on the list, never reveal their stories.

They live quiet, normal, functioning lives with no predetermined set of symptoms from the list except the terrible loneliness and pain that comes with the betrayal of their innocence and the added weight of attempting to heal alone.

Why would they need to heal alone?
The list.
Who wants to have to deal with terrible pain of sexual abuse AND the stigma of that list?

Not me. I wouldn’t. But I have chosen to let the truth set me free and it has.

My beautiful child is no more at risk of the things on that list than any other child. In fact she is far less so.

Because she has me and I would swallow a world of pain, humiliation and prejudice before I would let her walk the road into adulthood alone.

In fact. I want to get rid of the list. It a terrible fiction.