Tag Archives: community

Victim and Survivor Shaming Must Stop

Victim and survivor shaming must stop. It’s imperative to the health and welfare of all victims past and current of any type of abuse, domestic, emotional, spiritual and sexual, for the shaming to stop immediately. We must be allowed to tell our stories. We must be allowed to tell them accurately and as honestly as possible. We must be allowed to tell them as often as we feel called to. We must be allowed to tell them in public, online, in books, in stories, in private and to friends and family. We must be allowed to be heard, whether our abuser is a celebrity, family member, friend or stranger. We must not be continually questioned as to the validity of our statements. Even when something is remembered only partway, there is a valid reason for that – the event was traumatic and as a result, the formations in our brains were changed dramatically. Our brains may not want to retain the information, so it attempts to lock it away in a deep dark corner, like stuffing something revolting into the bottom of the trash in order to dispose of it entirely. There is no way to completely dispose of trauma, except to heal from it and move forward. Otherwise, we are stuck in a never-ending cycle of running from it only to find we’re actually running in circles, gaining no actual ground. There is no road behind us except that which is well worn by our own souls – the same sights, smells, tastes, memories on repeat.

When we’re allowed to tell our stories, we take the power away from the event little by little. We effectively state that we are no longer stuck in the past but are actively moving towards a brighter future. We build in our community, hope. For each survivor that speaks out, another victim is listening, gaining strength to someday break free from their own hell and begin to tell their own story. The path to healing is paved by the bravery of the freed survivors – those who were not silenced by hatred and shaming but spoke up anyway. I will be one of those that help pave the road for the next generation. I will be one of the brave and you who hate what I have to say will not stop me. My God gives me strength and in Christ, all things are possible. I will speak up for those who are too weak to speak for themselves. I will inspire the next generation to stand up and tell their story. I will no longer sit in shame, but will look you in the eyes and tell you my story. I am no longer a victim, but a survivor. You cannot take that from me.

Over the years, I have been told that I should not give pearls to swine and that by telling my story openly, I am giving pearls to swine. I respectfully disagree. By keeping my story secret and protecting the identity of my abuser, I am giving pearls to swine. I choose to take my pearls back. My abuser was not only my step-father, but several of his friends as well. Most of the abuse occurred while my mother was out of the home, tending to work or to my severely handicapped sister, Melissa. My step-father was very manipulative and found many avenues for gaining control over me. It seems that one of his favorites was to nurture me. Often times he’d turn children’s shows on the television – shows like Disney on Ice that were meant to fascinate me and hold my attention. He’d then call me onto his lap and proceed to molest me, his hands between my legs and my hands often between his, at his insistence. If I rejected him, I’d often be punished severely. I remember being cornered in a narrow hallway on a few occasions, his leather belt in hand. I’d refused him. He didn’t care for that too much. I learned my lesson. The next time I focused on the television show and did not resist him. I pretended I was somewhere else and that it was not me who has touching him, but someone else. This is how I coped. This is also how the abuse was allowed to go on for so long. My memories were deeply repressed and this abusive behavior became a way of life for me, like waking up and eating breakfast before going off to school. It was habit and I was overpowered, my choices removed from me before I even realized I had a choice to make. I’d also refer to this as brain washing.

It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Luke 17:2 (NIV)

I fully believe my step-father will answer to God for all of his sins against me. The Bible makes it clear that my step-father not only sinned against me, but against God Himself as well. That is a strong statement with lasting repercussions, and it’s one I believe whole-heartedly. If he doesn’t repent fully, I believe my step-father will burn in hell. I see him suffering now in his personal life with work, health, his continued marriage to my Mother, and his fractured relationships with family (his only son, my younger brother) and with friendships. There is a large part of me that finds satisfaction in his suffering, though I am aware that Christ is not pleased with my satisfaction. I pray daily for His Light to overcome the darkness in my heart. If Christ can forgive those who crucified Him, I too can forgive my abuser. I’m finding it’s a daily, if not hourly process. Each time I think I’ve fully forgiven him, my heart finds more bitterness and I lash out. It’s my intent to forgive but never forget.

Out of the pain of the past, it’s become difficult to trust others. In my own personal life, there are precious few who are allowed intimate glances into my daily life, and fewer still who are allowed to remain in my life for long periods of time. The time of abuse from my step-father and his friends has taught me to trust no one, and to keep no one around for long periods of time. Habits form when people are allowed to be near you. It gives people time to manipulate and brain wash you, therefore, relationships must be considered disposable in order to remain safe. This has been the most difficult thought process to overcome. I understand intellectually that it’s flawed and needs to be revised in order to live a full life, but it is one of the hardest for me to address on a consistent, daily basis. It is simply too painful. I will continue praying for Christ’s Light to overcome this darkness in my heart. Could you, reader, pray for me as well? This is a hard battle, and I’m not the only survivor walking it. This battle has threatened my marriage multiple times. I will not allow it to overtake me or my marriage, but I can’t do it alone. Neither can you. I continue seeking help.

Seeking help is another area I want to address in regards to victim and survivor shaming. Over the years, I’ve sought help from many different avenues. Some of them have been entirely appropriate – talk therapy, behavior modification counseling, psychiatry, Christian Bible-based counseling, support groups and prayer. Other avenues haven’t been nearly as successful, especially within friend groups, but they did often lead to other, more helpful solutions. I also gained a better understanding of who my true friends are, and who I am in Christ. The most painful avenues I took were speaking to close and personal friends, entrusting them with information, and then being told that I was too broken to formulate a lasting relationship with. I understand their point of view to an extent; however, the delivery was painful. We are all a broken people in one way or another. This is why we must live in community. We complete the beautiful picture that Christ has painted.

I’ve written many times on the struggles that I’ve overcome – homosexual tendencies, adultery, depression, suicide, addiction…these are nothing new within the sexual abuse survivor community. These are prevalent themes. They’re sins and they need to be addressed as such, but they’re also causes for deep concern. Why are these things happening to our youth? Why are so many survivors turning to harmful avenues as a way of healing from the pain of the past? I have a theory, but you probably won’t like it.
We’re being silenced, shamed, told to keep it quiet and move on, but we can’t. Our stories are banging on the walls, begging to be let out. We can’t move on until we can heal. We can’t do that until we can talk about it, explore the depths of what happened to us and be allowed to move on in our own time. I’ve been told by several professionals that for every year of trauma a survivor has endured, it takes an equal amount of years to heal from that. We can’t even begin to heal until we’ve been effectively heard.

In the news, we’re reading about celebrities abusing youth and we turn our heads and scoff at the victims and the abusers. We make jokes about it and quote famous lines from movies, TV and commercials. It becomes funny to us, but it’s deeply harmful to the victims. I’ve been on both sides of this, and it’s disgusting no matter where you stand.

Satan has twisted scripture for so long and has whispered lies into so many ears. He’s using sexual sins, among others, to rampantly overtake the world. He’s started with the innocent children, molding them into confused, scared little people who grow up to pray on the children they’re entrusted to protect. It’s a rabid hamster running around in the same wheel, in the same putrid cage, breeding and killing it’s own off-spring. We have to treat that rabid hamster, no matter how disgusting he really is on the inside. We have to do it without killing the off-spring and without silencing their cries for help. Each person needs their own space to heal, their own space to tell their stories and their own space to carve out a life for themselves. We cannot continue to group survivors in with the abusers, nor can we continue to ignore either’s cry for help. I know, this is a controversial statement, but it’s one that needs to be made. Perhaps if my step-father had received the help he desperately needed, he would not have abused me, my handicapped sister and my younger brother. Perhaps if we have been removed from the home, we could’ve healed sooner and more effectively. Perhaps if more victims and survivors’ voices were heard, there would be less abuse and more action towards ending it.

I do not propose that simply hearing our stories will end all abuses, but I do propose that it will end for us, the cycle of abuse and begin the path to effective healing. We need more success stories and more survivors to find their voices and call out for action. We need more bravery and less cowardice. Join me now in sharing your stories. Stop protecting your abuser. Speak out and speak up!

My simple prayer for you: May God bless you in your endeavors to tell your story and heal from the horrors of your past. In Christ’s Name. Amen.

Today Is A Gift!

Today is a gift

Brothers and Sisters, today I just wanted to remind you that today is a gift from the Lord! Whatever your worries, whatever your struggles, the Lord is aware of them. He has given you this day as a gift and wants you to deeply rest in Him, trusting in His providence and sovereignty. Take some time today to remember all the Lord has done for you and know that there is still so much yet to come.

Let’s Pray:

Heavenly Father, today I lift up to You all who feel burdened by heavy worries. I ask You to surround these brave souls with Your loving care. Place a hedge of protection around them. Surround them with Your people who will remind them to slow down and enjoy the preordained blessings of this beautiful day that You have created. In Christ’s Precious Name I pray. Amen.

Your sister in Christ,

Mandy 🙂

Hope

Walden U & Me {The Beginning of a Beautiful Journey}

It’s no secret to those who know me that I’ve been itching to get back to school. A few years ago, I tried out Seattle’s Art Institute, intending to earn a Bachelor degree in baking (yes, you can do that), but was cut short due to hardships in my life. At the time it seemed utterly devastating to me, but as time passed and the wound healed, I realized that baking is more of a hobby than anything.

One of the issues I’ve noticed in my community for the last dozen years or so is that slowly, the mental health programs are creeping away. Except now, it’s not such a slow decline as it is a rapid decline in education, in funding, and in the programs themselves. There is a lack in trained mental health employees (because there is no funding available to pay more than the bare bones essentials, and even then their salaries are minimal), and the issue has gotten so bad, that the state has had to step in and take over a lot of programs due to a lack of community funding.

Looking around from the middle of this crisis, it’s as if everyone wants to simply deny that problems exist at all in this beautiful utopia! You can’t simply place a band-aid over a deep gash and cross your fingers, hoping the situation will get better. No, that is how life-threatening infections begin, and we’re seeing that here in Curry County right now. Many life saving programs have been swept away, leaving thousands of people without treatment that they desperately need. This is very sad, especially since the epidemic not only affects those with inadequate care, but the tax payers, local/county/state government, children, families – the community at large. It affects each one of us! We’ve seen an increase in crime, in child abuse, in homelessness, in poverty and in frustration among the general population. Many people are  wondering who is going to stop the madness, yet what has been forgotten is that we are all responsible for what is happening. Each one of us has a responsibility to contribute to the solution. Are we willing to step up and do what we can to make a difference? I am.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

In my teenage years, I was severely depressed. At age 14 I was prescribed Prozac to manage symptoms of depression and PTSD. It was 1998 and medical professionals did not know then what they know now. The Prozac caused me to become almost immediately suicidal, and a few months later, I had my first suicide attempt. I was 15 years old, thinking I had nothing left to live for. Praise the good Lord that He has had other plans for me and I survived! My psychiatrists and other mental health professionals adjusted my medications for the next eight years, through two more suicide attempts, and psychotic behaviors I’d never exhibited before taking psychotropic medications (yet were now controlling my life and seriously depleting my quality of life). Finally, at age 22, I’d had enough and I begged my psychiatrist to remove me from all medications.

What I learned through my own journey to health and healing is priceless. For years I was angry with “the system” and I wanted to lash out and scream and yell at everyone who’d ever made a mistake, but now I realize that it wasn’t a mistake and screaming and yelling will not change anything for the better. Instead, I’m going to embrace who I am today. I’m going to stand up and thank those that worked so hard to help me, and I’m going to fight to get them what they need to do their job. I’m going to share my experiences, because they’re valuable! Most of all, I’m going to make sure that I’m in a position to extend compassion, empathy and healing to everyone in my path, because that is exactly what I have needed. I know firsthand how long the road can feel when overcoming the obstacle of poor mental health.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:10

Recently, I was encouraged to embrace my dream of working within the mental health field, so I jumped on the chance to research the steps. I found that Walden University has a top-notch Psychology program, all the way up to Ph.D! I’m now enrolled and will begin school in just a few short weeks. I am really excited! One of the first assignments I was given prior to entering classes was to write a short committment statement about why I had enrolled in Walden U., what I hope to accomplish, and state my level of committment to completing the program. I’ve already shared my personal committment statement with my closest friends and family, but I want to share it here with all of you as well. My hope is that as I share my own journey into giving back to my community,  it will inspire and encourage you to do the same. If you’re already actively involved in community outreach, then my prayer is that this will encourage you to continue persevering through every obstacle.

Here it is, my personal committment statement:

I, Mandy T., am committed to improving the lives of my family, my community at large and myself by dedicating the next 8 years of my life to higher education at Walden University. It is my dream to see an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center in Curry County, Oregon. Currently, there is not one and many people with addictions are simply labeled as repeat offenders and locked away in jails and rare state hospital beds, as the local and state government is overwhelmed, understaffed, and low on funds to properly care for those who desperately need help.

With God’s help, I will complete a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and continue moving forward in my studies until I have completed a Ph.D in Psychology, earning the privilege of serving and giving back to the community that raised me into the woman I am today. I know that there will be struggles that I will have to overcome, but my God is bigger and I am not a quitter.

While I am in school, I will continue to pray for my community, and to support the efforts to bring in more money and awareness towards the needs of my community, especially in regards to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.

I start school on December 2nd and I will greatly benefit from your prayers! It is not in my strength, but in Christ’s that I move forward.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

Built to Last

When trials are pressing in on me, it’s tough to remember that I’m built to last – built for eternity with God, to worship and to love Him, and to recieve His love for me. But it’s the most important time to pay attention to what God is saying! The lies of the world are always nearby, whispering in the background, clamoring for my attention.

“You are not loved.”

“This mistake is far too big to be fixed.”

“You’ll never get there. You might as well stop trying now, before you cause yourself more pain.”

Right now, we’re facing the possibility of losing our house, our safety, our car and our dignity. We’ve heard lie after lie from someone close to us who is in (earthly) control of some of these factors, and we’ve worked really hard to prevent this situation, but I don’t see a happy, safe resolution. I’m having a hard time loving this person whom God has not only asked me to respect, but to love. I want to scream and yell “God, don’t you see how much she’s hurt me?!” It’s then the lies kick in. “Well, Mandy, you’ve been mean before. This is karma, kicking your butt. You deserve this!” But I don’t. And my children don’t deserve it either. This will affect them far more than it will affect me.  I fear, and I try, oh I do try not to listen to those lies and those angry, unloving words from people who do not know me – do not care to know how much this hurts us.

But I will hold on to Jesus.

I will seek Him. I will chase after Him, and I will seek His Truth. I will Listen to Him, and when I fear – I will repent. I will daily study His Truths and lock them deep in my heart. This scripture came to mind recently as I was praying, and it’s stuck with me as a comfort when I’m tempted to fear what may happen.

For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of calamity.

Proverbs 24:16 (NASB)

It’s helpful for me to remember how far God has brought me, and that this is not to my ruin, but to my benefit! I am being tested and refined as silver is refined through fire (Psalm 66:10) so that God may see His image in me. This is a blessing! The more that stress presses in on me, the more I pray. My kids see me praying and they often catch snippets of those prayers. They have, in turn, began developing an active prayer life of their own. In fact, one of my most frequent prayers is that of thanksgiving for these beautiful children that God has blessed me with!

Theresa praying Chelsea praying

It’s during moments of pure blessing like these, that I remember just how amazing God is and that He alone can strengthen and prepare me for anything. I remember that our family’s house is built on The Rock, and it will weather any storm.  I stop and take a knee, thanking God and asking for what I need in that moment, for that day and He answers me, filling me with love, patience, wisdom, and Truth. He reminds me that I am never walking alone, nor am I expected to handle big problems alone. He enables to me to shine His Light, no matter how big that storm raging around me is.

The wise man built his house upon the Rock - and shone His light for ALL to see. Even in a severe storm.

 “All who listen to my instructions and follow them are wise, like a man who builds his house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents, and the floods rise and the storm winds beat against his house, it won’t collapse, for it is built on rock.

Matthew 7:24-25 (TLB)

And I will continue to shine His light, and proclaim His Truth from our house upon The Rock, when the sun shines and when the storm rages, for I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

Gladness in Trials

It’s been a long time since I’ve written in this blog. I keep looking at it, thinking about it, and wondering when I’m ever going to make time to write again. The Lord has brought me on such a journey since I began writing for Nest Full of Birds. The entire vision has changed as I have changed. The structure of my family has changed as well. God has grown us into the people He has desired us to be at this time, and we have accepted that call, moving into His will and letting ours go. It has not been without a fight, and therein lie many of the struggles we have faced. Once we finally settled down and accepted that God can be trusted both in good times and in bad, we began to see the many blessings – the rich blessings which are far too many to be named,  bestowed upon us. If I tried to list every blessing we’ve been given in the last few years, I could not do it. They are too many. What I will do is list some of our greatest blessings. Some may surprise you. I know it has surprised me to consider some of them blessings, but they are! They are proof that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Romans 8:28 NLT)

  • We lost a baby 2 days before Christmas in 2010. This certainly took a long, long time to recognize any amount of blessing from this tragedy. What I learned is profound and deep. God cried with us. Our child was born into heaven and “Jesus wept.” John 11:35 (NIV)
  • My husband was deployed many, many times during the six years he was in the Navy. In fact, he was away more than he was at home. I learned that my husband is not an idol to be worshipped, but a flawed, sinful human like me, who needs love and prayer. Exodus 20:3 (ISV) “You are to have no other gods besides me.”
  • We moved many times and I met a diverse number of Christians who taught me that there is more than one way to love and worship our Lord. This opened me up to considering others’ needs, wants and feelings once again and I was stretched and grown in the face of my own sin, and that of others. Isaiah 1:18,19 (NIV) sum it up best, saying “Come now, let us settle the matter, says the Lord.“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land…
  • My husband was unemployed following his honorable discharge from the Navy. There were days when we went hungry. My stomach would growl loudly and painfully as I walked through the grocery store with a borrowed $20 to purchase food for my children so they could eat. Philippians 4:12 says “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”
  • I got a speeding ticket and was pulled over shortly before that for driving without my lights on during a time of darkness. Ever since I was a very small girl, I have been deeply afraid of authority figures, especially cops. When I was pulled over, I was shaking because I was afraid the cop would try to hurt me. I was a woman in a car alone with two small children. No man to protect me. The cop could’ve done anything he wanted to, and no one would’ve protected me. But the cop did not treat me unkindly. He was professional and kind. My fears were all for nought. I cried as I pulled away, and thanked God for reminding me that He can and will heal the hurts of the past. He sure did on those two occassions.
  • My husband told me I was a bully. He called me out on something I’d been picking on him about. For those of you who know Anthony, you’re well aware that he never says an unkind word to me, even when I’ve deserved it! But one day, he’d had enough of my nitpicking and called me on it. It shocked me, but I was glad to have heard the truth about how my behavior affected him. Proverbs 27:6 (NASB) says “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.”