Guest Post: The Abusers Haven

Why do we keep hearing and/or reading, “Forgive your abuser and move on with your life?”

I have to speak up about something I have continually seen reoccur within the ranks of the Advocacy/Activism/Survivors/Alumni groups online. I’m talking about way before Facebook was ever even thought about. What I’m referring to goes back much farther even than when I came to the harsh realization that the IFB children’s home of which I was a former resident, New Bethany Home for Girls in Arcadia, La., was not just a surreal, multi-million dollar con job of a “home for wayward girls/boys” that nobody would believe existed because (I thought for years)it was the only one of its kind. But I don’t want to get off track too much, so I’ll try to get to the point and not ramble.
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I have seen, within the archives of the “Survivors of New Bethany” website on Multiply, going back for quite a few years, those who (appear to?) deem it necessary to pop up like a bad penny occasionally and declare that those who were abused should forgive their abuser. And now, after having become a member of several groups comprised  of survivors of IFB/religious institutions where they themselves were horribly sexually/physically abused, or had direct knowledge of it happening, I sadly, not to mention infuriatingly see how commonly, and loosely given this advice is. Much like the be-all-end-all of wonderful, Godly instruction. Frankly, it makes me sick and tempted to punch something. It’s a good thing I value the use of my hands so much.
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Has anybody really tried to figure out why there are some who feel like this is good advice to give? And where the hell they would come up with such a horrible idea? Primarily when sexual/physical abuse is a factor, and the abuser has very little chance of being stopped or held accountable? My conclusion is that the “forgive and move on” idea was firmly planted in their heads. Healthy logic and reasoning do not coincide with this concept. I’m tired of our religious leaders stressing the importance of “forgiveness” within their churches and institutions, especially with children, beginning at a very young age, in order to assure that the guilt of speaking up about things that are wrong is set like concrete within the psyche of each individual human being who is under their umbrella. And with this being done primarily to protect the reputation of their “leader”, church or institution, it reeks of evil. The very opposite of safety, love, holiness and the spiritual well-being of every person.
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I have no doubt, however that there is the occasion where a well-meaning person, hoping to help a hurting individual will, with this deeply-ingrained and years-long taught “forgiveness” concept, will suggest that another person “forgive and move on” from those who have wronged them. When this suggestion is given to someone who is, or has suffered from abuse, then the giver of this advice has left their logic and reasoning at the door. The “forgive and move on” advice in such situations needs to be recognized for what it really is. And by that, I mean it is a conveyance of a pre-programmed idea, crammed into the head of the advice giver, that has no more logical sense than repeating the same word over and over again until it’s lost its true meaning. (Much like memorizing whole chapters of scripture under the threat of being beaten and humiliated. Knowing how to recite huge passages of scripture, over and over and over again, totally annihilates the meaning of what has been memorized. Like saying the same word over and over again until it sounds just plain silly.)
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I see the “forgive and move on” (FAMO) concept as the very same. Unsuspecting people say it to others without understanding the hidden meaning behind why they have been taught to say it. All they know is that it’s supposed to be the right thing to say. And, yes. My conclusion is that it is something taught, rather than learned or experienced with a guaranteed healthy outcome. There is no way that telling someone who is, or has been abused, that everything will be okay if they FAMO, even resembles logical sense. And every person alive has a sense of logic, or even better, a conscience……..until it becomes twisted and perverted under the direction of a leader or leaders who are given free reign to do it, whether by a consenting adult or defenseless children.
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There is a multitude of us who had the FAMO (or forgive and forget) concept branded into our brains and hearts. For some, who have also suffered abuse, it seems that the only way to alleviate their own anger, fear and guilt, is to cling to this concept, because they are psychologically and spiritually unable to revert themselves back to logical thinking, or else they are simply afraid to, as thinking outside the box of their religious instruction is alien to them. For others,and for more reasons than I could list, there develops an epiphany. “What if this is all wrong?” (For me, personally, my realization was worded “I have been fed a line of bullshit my entire life! I’m outta here!”-followed by a descent into a hole of feeling worthless and undeserving. It’s been a hard climb back up. But now, no one does my thinking, or feeling for me.)
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Sexual and physical abuse of children is wrong. Inside, outside and upside down. Wrong. And evil. And inexcusable. Regardless of who the perpetrator is. A pastor, church elder, teacher, coach, parent, whatever.
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“But our Brother in Christ has been disciplined within the church, sent away for awhile, and now we must “lift up our fallen brother.”
“It’s under the blood!”

What a crock of horse-pucky! The reality of it is that this “fallen brother” is still free to continue perpetuating the same abuses, and will likely never be held accountable for the harm inflicted on the innocent. But at least “the cause of Christ hasn’t been harmed, and we must protect the cause of Christ at all costs!” Another crock of horse-pucky. Christ can protect himself just fine, thank you. Allowing predators to continue with their prowling does not lift up the cause of Christ. It destroys it. What sounds logical to me, would be seeing that those who harm little ones be put in prison, for the cause of Christ.
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Anyone who honestly parrots the FAMO spiel with good intentions needs to realize, before they inflict any more harm on a suffering person, the real reason they had this concept crammed into them. You cannot honestly say that you yourself, independently, and with no human influence, decided that FAMO was a great idea. You are repeating what you have been taught to repeat, much like some of us recited entire chapters of scripture with no complaints. We were afraid of the consequences if we didn’t. However, if in being completely honest with yourself, you can say that FAMO worked for you personally, good for you. But you have no right to suggest that it’s right in every situation. You need to stop doing that.
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And let me mention this. By telling someone suffering from abuse that they should FAMO, you are putting yourself (in their eyes) in a position of authority to dictate to them what is or is not a “forgivable” offense against them. Not to mention trying to assert a time limit on their hurt.
Chances are very good, that in you being taught that FAMO is the solution for yours or another’s pain from suffering abuse, instead of “I’m so sorry this happened to you. How can I help?” the real and diabolical reason you had this crammed firmly in your head is because, somewhere down the line, an abuser of children may face real accountability.
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And the “Godly” leaders who command you to FAMO, or command you to say that to others ain’t having any of that.
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Before you turn the FAMO switch to on, think for just a second. If you wouldn’t give the same advice to a victim of Jerry Sandusky’s, then you sure as hell don’t need to give it to anyone else who suffers like that.
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(Disclaimer: The above essay is a compilation of my own conclusions and personal experiences. I don’t claim to be an authority on anything.)

~Teresa Frye

12 thoughts on “Guest Post: The Abusers Haven

  1. Just heard this, this week. The person referencing it is very sweet and was trying to be kind, but it seemed obvious that she felt like that was the ultimate goal – get me ultimately to the place of forgiveness and that will just take care of everything. I tried, hesitantly, to explain that fogiveness really wasn’t the issue. That is not what I am struggling with. Stopping the offender is an issue. Stopping Christian churches and institutions from covering up sexual abuse is the issue. How can that be considered unforgiveness? This truly is a lonely battle. Criticism and judgement come from all sides. Those that are hard-core protectors of these perpetrators condemn us loudly. Those who are just well meaning in Christian circles, focus on helping us “forgive”, but seem oblivious to the offenders and actually doing anything proactive to change what is going on.

    • For some reason, this following subject matter came to mind. I mean really. Do church leaders miss engaging their brains with their mouth this often?

      http://dannimoss.wordpress.com/2009/07/06/alleged-hephzibah-house-abuse-survivors-must-be-silenced/

      “In a Sunday evening church service a discourse about the alleged victims of Hepzibah House troubled me greatly. There was no room given for the possibility that the victims were telling the truth. It was obvious that in the mind of the speaker Hepzibah House had been acquitted.

      I grew more uneasy, then righteously angry, with every word spoken. When the discourse ended with the words, “the women must be silenced one way or the other” my heart wrenched for every victim of abuse who have broken their silence, taken a stand for justice and the protection of other children.”

  2. Thank you for your post I read chuckles post quiet often but never comment mostly because I don’t want to be ripped apart by other people commenting.
    I have been called bitter and angry by family members and churches for my respond to the news of others being sexually assualted or abused. I have been told that my time would be better spent looking up Bible verses on bitterness rather then calling into question family members who still attend IFB churches, where yet another man has been found to be a sexual predator.

    I cannot calm down about what has been done to me, I cannot bite my tongue. I would really like to hear where they getting these passages of Scripture that they quote at us. Are bending them to their own interpretations? Or is this really what God says? I’ll be honest since I was raped and then beaten down by Christians I have a hard time believing anything that I have been taught my whole life. Because if they have been so wrong on much of their doctrine: standards (dress codes, movies, and music) equality of women, forgiveness, the treatment of women and vicims. Then what’s to say that Bible really does say all of that and that this god is really nothing more than a man made judgemental restricting god? I have tried to sort these things and questions out myself and I seem to get no where but frustrated. I hope cannot be the only one to wrestle with this.

  3. The only one who forgives and forgets is God, and that concerns our sins after we repent of them, choosing instead to see only the Blood of Jesus and His holiness on us in terms of the Law. Our sins being removed from us as far as the East is from the West is a reference to justification and redemption. It’s not a model for human relationships. We are always required to repent and to make restitution, and then, Jesus steps into the court proceedings and bears our sentence. Forensically, we are deemed righteous. There is no more condemnation, only conviction to repent and much love for the forgiveness we receive.

    Once the truth is established on a disputed matter, forgiveness can occur and mercy can then triumph over justice. God never forgoes identifying, validating , and establishing justice.

    In a court of law, hearing a case results in a verdict which establishes justice, after each side has an opportunity to defend their own position. The verdict concerning justice is a separate act of the court than sentencing. Once the truth is established, the judge and the court moves on to the higher act of the matter of restitution where mercy can triumph over justice if that is what the court decides. Justice may cry out for mercy for the contrite, but it may cry out for punishment for the recalcitrant and hard-hearted, entitled, guilty offender. To allow such an injustice to go unaddressed is no justice at all.

    So forgive and move on with your life is valid, but it is only valid after truth has been established and justice has been satisfied.

    When these ministers in the IFB tell the abused to just suck up their pain and the misery they’ve endured and are then treated like rubbish, these ministers tread on the Blood of Jesus and justice itself. That’s not a Christian virtue. Airing the dirty laundry of a penitent and contrite offender who has made restitution to those who have been harmed is Christian in many cases, depending on the circumstances. Those who sin and scoff as though they are eating a piece of fruit to which they are entitled and then wipe their faces like the harlot described in Proverbs are another matter. Woe to them. Woe to them. And woe to those who facilitate their ability to continue to sin and cover up what they and others have done in the name of Jesus. This is not Christianity, folks. This is what a ravenous wolf in sheep’s clothing does to lambs.

  4. Thank you so much for presenting a healthy perspective on abusers and the enabling line of garbage that basically gives the abuser a free pass to continue and burdens the victim with an additional psychological whip of guilt if he/she doesn’t give the monsters that sexual, spiritually, physically them a “No problem,” it is/was OK justification! BJU, the fundamental churches I USED to attend, all treated kids as though NOTHING was outside the parents right to damage their children with those varieties of life long destructive actions and setting the victim up to accept future abusers. That “forgive your abusers crimes against youand move on”platitude, really perversely gives them license for their acts, negatives justice, and destroys the victims rightful sense of outrage for the things they suffered. It sure as the devil set me up for a future, destructive, abusive marriage, as well as an all pervading sense of guilt. REAL spiritual icebergs! I have finally realized that, even if my abusers had a psychological problem(s), it didn’t negate their accountability or my right of anger that I’ve long suppressed! Christ gives forgiveness IF WE ASK…why should these destroyers not need a sincere request for forgiveness before their victims give them carte blanc? Such twisted thinking waters the weeds of abuse and sets up true “shamelessness” with the perpetrators~

  5. I truly know the turmoil that you are going through! The fundamental churches and their judgmental, man-made set of legalistic trash distort Christianity and cause deep psychological, spiritual scars. My psychologist has greatly helped me to “Call a spade a spade” and hold the abusers in my past accountable, even though many are dead. By doing this, I have found peace, strength and best of all, the empowering to NOT let others abuse me in the present and future! I truly hope you can find this release from what you went through, it has nothing to do with letting everyone who wants to, abuse you, trample your rightful boundaries and then make you feel somehow guilty! What a devilish, self-serving paradym these haughty, loveless monsters perpetrate on their victims with relish!
    There is a way to think that shatters the myth of never ending “forgive and forget” ruse!
    I sure have learned that buying into that crap, set me up for “hit me with your best shot”
    personna…NO MORE!

  6. IMO, Fundamentalism has become a cult–especially the IFB. This is nothing but a cult control tactic. The leaders preach one set of standards to their followers, but should the leaders ever get “called out” on their own sin, suddenly what they preach does not apply to them. The leaders are “God’s “anointed” and are not to be touched, only obeyed without question. If they err, then they should be forgiven without question. Should one of their followers sin–as in violating the man-made doctrines of the local church/cult—the sinner is judged and shunned–but never forgiven…… unless he/she comes willingly and penitently back into submission to the cult, after a period of “church discipline” . It is a control issue which has nothing to do with the Bible or God.

  7. Unfortunately, I have to say that Christians are the hardest people to tell anything about what I went through. They so quickly jump to the question of whether I have forgiven or not. They want to “fix” me and seem to think that answering that magic question will solve all my struggles. If only I have forgiven, then I should be able to live with no pain or ongoing struggle with all that happened. None of them seem to care that the perpetrators are free. None seem to care that they are probably abusing others. None seem to care about any form of justice. None seem to care about the daily struggles, the flashbacks, the nightmares, the fear, the confusion. They just want that forgiveness question to be answered. In their mind, that is the solution and should settle it all.
    I find that churches really don’t have answers for sexual abuse victims. They typically don’t even seem to try to understand or really care. The answer is always, “forgive and forget”, then go be a good Christian. If you happen to be struggling with it, confused, hurting, they walk away and write you off.

    • Anonymous,

      I’m working on a blog post that, I believe, gives a more clear picture of what the Jesus of the Bible said about that topic – and the religious posers who continue to chant it as their mantra. You are exactly right about their desire to “fix” things and get people to “move on”. They are NOT Christians in the way that true followers of Christ try to emulate Him … Jesus wouldn’t do any of that garbage. He’d sit down and hug you while you cry … or at least that’s what the Bible stories I read say He did.

      C.P. Travler

  8. I’m really humbled by the response here. In trying to decide whether or not to post my thoughts and opinions on this matter after learning of at least 3 “forgive and move on” incidences in the same week, I have to confess that I was told by someone “you won’t reach the people who need to understand what they’re doing when they tell people such a thing”. And in one sense, that might be true.

    But in flipping the coin, part of my hope was that, for people who are told to “forgive and move on” when they speak up about being abused, at the very least, will understand that, more than anything, those who would suggest FAMO are more likely than not to be parroting a suggestion of which they don’t know the real and hidden meaning of. My hope is that it gives them even some small amount of comfort. Perhaps in forgiving, they should ask God to forgive and be merciful to the thoughtless person who would suggest such a thing. “Forgive them, Father. For they know not what they do.”

    Another thing I have found that, in some cases, certainly leads people to think, is the Associated Baptist Press article by Norman Jameson. He sums up the whole article very well in his final statement. No one who spouts “forgive and move on” in their support of accused or proven abusers/predators will answer the question Jameson asks.

    http://www.abpnews.com/opinion/commentaries/item/5017-opinion-catholic-sex-abuse-cases-share-window-in-baptist-house#.UBE5DKN5mK0

    “You may feel you owe compassion to the predator, but what is your obligation to the innocent?”

  9. Pingback: More on Forgiveness…. « chucklestravels

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