Child abuse stories connect people
My friend Taylor Joy is blogging about her recovery from abuse at the hands of her parents and pastors. She is such a sweetheart, and my heart aches for her every time we talk (or I read) about the child abuse stories of the psychological abuse she went through, and soars at how far she’s come in her journey.
She and I have so much in common it’s insane. It’s like we’re telling parts of each other’s stories when we speak. We’re so much alike, with the big hearts and the creativity and the ADHD…and that’s probably a large part of why we love each other so much. When we met on a discussion board in 2003, it was instant friendship, like kindred souls recognizing each other. The types of abuse we suffered weren’t all the same, and her parents were wealthy and mine wasted every penny they had on their respective addictions, but so much of everything else is alike.
Telling our child abuse stories
Writing and speaking about child abuse survival stories is hard. I’m not speaking for Taylor Joy here (though this may be her experience, too), but for myself, and about survivors in general. Of course it’s hard in the ways that you might expect: it’s emotionally painful, it can be embarrassing, and we feel so vulnerable, putting it all “out there” like that, but it’s hard in a way that might not come to mind right away, too: it can put us in danger–psychological danger from our abusers, yes, but also real, physical danger. Telling the truth can get us killed.
Talking about it breaks the #1 rule of abusive families. They don’t like it, and abusive families always threaten retribution for those who talk. I don’t know about Taylor Joy’s family, but mine has threatened to sue me if I ever write that book (or, I suppose, blog about it). Someone in my family also threatened to murder me and leave my body in a ditch for the dogs to eat if I didn’t keep my mouth shut.
My friend Taylor Joy is Protestant, and I’m a convert to Orthodoxy who came to it through Mormonism then Protestantism. We’ve both experienced spiritual abuse at the hands of former pastors, in addition to abuse at the hands of our families. We’ve both had pastors who have encouraged us to put up with abuse, using spiritual epithets. We’ve both heard “Honor your parents” and I’ve also heard “Submit to your husband,” and “You can’t leave. God will take care of it,” and “I’m the spiritual authority over you; you will do what I say.”
God gave us minds and mouths and He expects us to use them. Sometimes that means getting out of there (and I’ve done plenty of that). Sometimes it means leaving a parent’s home, or a spouse, or a church. Sometimes it means cutting off contact. It usually (dare I say “always?”) means speaking up and refusing to take it anymore, and taking measures to protect oneself. It might involve child protective services. It might involve law enforcement. I believe it should involve therapy of some kind. Some things definitely have to change.
One thing that might set me apart from others who talk about abuse is that I’m not going to say that your only option is to leave an abuser. I know that’s not popular, and will probably get me blasted by a lot of people, but for some people, staying and healing can go together. There are recovering abusers. It is possible for abuse to stop without breaking up a family, but that’s a post for another day.
If you want to be touched and uplifted, and maybe even get misty with other readers, check out Taylor Joy Recovers. You can share your stories there, and here. We both love to listen, and sometimes, you just need someone to hear you.