Disbelieving Victims

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This article is must reading. Then it’s a must stop doing. In this article by Mike published on the blog mikeinsac.com, the author relates tragic stories of how churches tend to disbelieve victims of abuse by pastoral leaders. Please be careful of triggers in this post and in the article at the link.

“The teacher knew she was a mandated reporter, but decided to report it to the school instead of the police. She told one of the vice-principals. He was also a mandated reporter. But he decided to tell the elders of the church about the accusation. They told the Senior Pastor and the investigation was on…

They had not handled it correctly. They should have gone to the police.”

Why are churches slow to believe the survivors of abuse? Why do they often protect abusers?  The author suggests the following reasons. Please read the article for the full details.

  • Familiarity Bias – congregations assume they really know a leader.
  • Over reliance on Personal Experience – the vast majority of people in a church have never known the pastor/principal/worship leader to abuse them.
  • A Theology of Leadership Protection – members feel no compulsion to abstain from criticizing him privately, but as soon as someone brings the criticism into the public eye, everyone becomes his defender.
  • He Who Controls the Microphone, Controls the Direction of the Discussion – When the Senior Pastor is an abuser, he is also the one who controls the narrative…
    Retroactive Reality – church members fear their own spiritual formation is tainted as a result.
  • Doubling Down – It has been proven that once people have taken a position, whether voting for a candidate or choosing a particular story to believe, they are more likely to keep holding onto that story even when evidence suggests they are wrong.
  • Maximum vs. Minimum Harm Concept – most people will choose the path of least harm time and time again.
  • Misapplication of Grace and Sin-Leveling – It is easy to see our own faults and think that we would want people to overlook our mistakes. But abuse is not a mistake.

I encourage you to read the full article and apply what you learn in your faith community. There is a spirit of murder against the women and children of this world and it’s time we start fighting back.

Listen Carefully

He was the principal of the Christian school which met at the church. His dad was the Senior Pastor. He had four years of teacher training and all the obligatory certifications, internships, and education needed. He added a Masters Degree in Theology and another Masters in Educational Administration. He was fully qualified to do the job he was doing.

During the five years he had been principal, his dad’s church had grown from 200 members to almost 1500. In that medium-sized town, the church dwarfed all the others. The main draw for newcomers was the Christian school.

And that’s when the accusations started.

One 8th grade girl told her teacher she wasn’t going to detention any longer. (Note: The school practiced corporal punishment and a very difficult regimen of consequences for even the smallest infractions. Detention often meant at least an hour of menial labor, supervised by a teacher or…

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You Become

‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.

Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

Chew On This

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A while back, I was in a board meeting as I had been many times before. It was fairly routine. When the second last item came up, the person presenting – not a fan of me and quietly hostile for the last several months – took the opportunity to tear me apart in front of everyone. Needless to say the entire tone of the meeting changed. During his rant, I was accused of fraud, being appropriate with a person I care about, even racist. Those that knew me and/or knew the situation stayed mostly silent or spoke in a way that gave my accuser more fuel for his fire. Talk about being slain the house of my friends!

I spoke quietly to the two main accusations – fraud and being inappropriate which were both completely false (afterwards I was provided written statements by those involved that denied the accusations).  I clarified a few other details. I tried to be as gracious as possible. I even apologized for things I felt I could have done better. At that point the person started screaming, “He’s a liar, he’s a liar.”

That one left a pretty big wound. Even writing this is difficult and brings me distress. I can’t drive past that person’s neighbourhood without having a mild anxiety episode.

One of the dangers of having a distressing experience like that is that as the days go by, we can fall into ruminating. I did and I have to catch myself before it gets bad.

Do you know why ruminating is a problem? According to Dr. Guy Winch, in his book Emotional First Aid and in an article specifically on this topic, “Rumination is when we bring up emotional distress and “chew on it” repeatedly… When we don’t have resolution, ruminating goes wrong when we play the same distressing scenes in our head over and over.”  Here are some key points Dr. Winch notes about rumination.

Rumination is maladaptive – it doesn’t help us find resolution and amplifies our distress.

Rumination is addictive – the more we ruminate, the more compelled we feel to continue doing so.

Rumination increases risk of becoming depressed and it can prolong the duration of depressive episodes.

Rumination can increase substance and food abuse as we try to manage or numb out the distressing emotions we feel.

Rumination focuses on the negative which tends to spread to seeing other aspects of our lives too negatively.

Rumination impairs problem solving.

Rumination increases our stress responses and that increases our risk of cardiovascular disease.

To break the the rumination habit, Dr. Winch recommends going cold turkey – making a decision to avoid it and striving to stick with it. What can help through this process is distraction. When you feel rumination coming on, try a movie, exercise, puzzles, Angry Birds (is that still a thing?), really anything that requires concentration. This tends to break the pattern and bring us back to a calmer state. This will take practice so don’t give up. Your rumination patterns will fade with time.

Do you struggle with rumination? What are you doing to reduce it?

 

Clear

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Is it fair to say we idolize caffeine? We put in all sorts of beverages, foods, lotions and potions. It’s the most widely used legal stimulant on the planet. There are some good reasons why you may want to consider clearing this drug out of your system. One is that the impact it has on our brains can actually aggravate depression. Another is that you may simply want to get off the up and down rollercoaster caffeine use creates.

Regardless of the reason, let’s say you want to get free of caffeine, how can you do it? Here’s what I’ve found helpful which might get you through the process.

  1. In the morning, consume your usual dose of caffeine. Then that’s it.
  2. Be prepared for a wicked headache during the late evening/night. I use Naproxen or Ibuprofen to get through it. Drink lots of water.
  3. The headache might persist through the next day but it will pass.
  4. Hang on through the brain fog and lethargy that will last a few days until your brain and body adjust to not being on a drug. Exercise and naps help.

About 4 days after that last dose, the drug will be cleared out of your system. From there it’s the habit you have to change. Finding healthy replacements and distractions – new habits – will help you maintain your new lifestyle.

5 Myths Exposed

Recently, I shared highlights from an article concerning the myth of the free ride – post-secondary education funding and First Nations people. Here are another 5 myths about indigenous peoples. These are from an article by Chelsea Vowel.

  1. Indigenous peoples do not pay taxes. The effect of this myth is seeing First Nations people as lazy, socially parasitic and less than.
  2. Indigenous peoples receive free housing. While there may be some funding for social housing this isn’t unique to First Nations people.
  3. Alcohol abuse is a cultural trait or Indigenous peoples cannot metabolize alcohol. First Nations people metabolize and react to alcohol the same way everyone else does. More Indigenous people abstain from alcohol than in the general Canadian population.
  4. Indigenous peoples have legitimate grievances stemming from awful things that were done in the past, the advent of a modern democracy means we are now all equal and have equal access to the same rights.There is no break between the past and present and that equality does not mean “the same.”
  5. Things are inevitably getting better. The truth is, racism towards First Nations people is pervasive across all our institutions. Generational trauma and repressive polices have significant impact on First Nations communities.

We must stop perpetuating these myths if we are end the racism that undermines the healing needed by First Nations peoples.

The Free Ride Myth

This is fairly specific to Canada but it’s important to put it out to the universe. In Canada, there is the myth that all First Nations people receive a free post-secondary education. I found this article by Lenard Monkman of the CBC that exposes this erroneous belief.

Here are the key points:

“Only “status Indians” — or people recognized by the federal government as “Indian” — are eligible to receive funding for post-secondary education (it’s a treaty right).”

“Most often, the demand for funding far exceeds the money that bands receive for post-secondary education.”  This is due to funding caps initiated by the federal government in 1996.

Students who receive funding face strict conditions:

Reapply every year,
Maintain a certain grade point average,
Have a career outline,
Not miss classes,
Take a minimum of four courses per semester.

If a student loses their funding they “have to wait a minimum of two years before they can reapply.”

“Most only have the cost of their tuition and books covered for the term.” Living expenses and other costs are not covered.

There are very good reasons why First Nations peoples receive education funding. While those not involved in the process could be forgiven for having misconceptions of these benefits what I notice is an expression of resentment and with tones of racism.  I think it’s time for change and that begins with ending the spread of the myth of the free ride.

Holding Space

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“Holding Space means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.” ~Heather Plett

What does holding space feel like? Here’s a great example.

 

I am striving to be better at holding space for people. A great article that explores this topic is, What it Really Means to Hold Space for Someone. The author explores how she discovered how holding space was valuable and how to cultivate it in our lives. Here are a few quotes:

“By offering gentle, nonjudgmental support and guidance, she helped us walk one of the most difficult journeys of our lives.”

 

“Sometimes we find ourselves holding space for people while they hold space for others.”

 

“To truly support people in their own growth, transformation, grief, etc., we can’t do it by taking their power away (ie. trying to fix their problems), shaming them (ie. implying that they should know more than they do), or overwhelming them (ie. giving them more information than they’re ready for).”

I encourage you to read the whole article and incorporate as many of the insights as you can.

Do you hold space for others? What does that look like? Who holds space for you?

Bounce Back

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Everyone has a story that will make you cry. Many have a story that will overwhelm you with grief. No one gets through this life without being wounded.

But why do some people handle these wounds better than others? Why do some people find it so difficult to get back up once they’ve been knocked down? How about you? How do you handle the junk that life throws at you? How can you become better at bouncing back?

Resiliency is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Think of a rubber band being stretched but is still able to return back to its original shape. There are a number of factors that contribute to our coping skills but each of us can nurture our capacity to bounce back or be resilient.

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The foundation of our resiliency was developed as we were growing up. Evidence from epigenetics suggests our capacity forms in the womb and even comes down to us from our parents’ capacity to bounce back!! What is your resiliency capacity? Check out this survey (found at https://acestoohigh.com/got-your-ace-score/). Note that there’s no right or wrong per se – it’s just what has been.

RESILIENCE Questionnaire – Please circle the most accurate answer under each statement:

1.  I believe that my mother loved me when I was little.

Definitely true         Probably true Not sure         Probably Not True Definitely Not True

2.  I believe that my father loved me when I was little.

Definitely true         Probably true Not sure         Probably Not True Definitely Not True

3.  When I was little, other people helped my mother and father take care of me and they seemed to love me.

Definitely true         Probably true Not sure         Probably Not True Definitely Not True

4.   I’ve heard that when I was an infant someone in my family enjoyed playing with me, and I enjoyed it, too.

Definitely true         Probably true Not sure         Probably Not True Definitely Not True

5.  When I was a child, there were relatives in my family who made me feel better if I was sad or worried.

Definitely true         Probably true Not sure         Probably Not True Definitely Not True

6.   When I was a child, neighbors or my friends’ parents seemed to like me.

Definitely true         Probably true Not sure         Probably Not True Definitely Not True

7.  When I was a child, teachers, coaches, youth leaders or ministers were there to help me.

Definitely true         Probably true Not sure         Probably Not True Definitely Not True

8.  Someone in my family cared about how I was doing in school.

Definitely true         Probably true Not sure         Probably Not True Definitely Not True

9.  My family, neighbors, and friends talked often about making our lives better.

Definitely true         Probably true Not sure         Probably Not True Definitely Not True

10.  We had rules in our house and were expected to keep them.

Definitely true         Probably true Not sure         Probably Not True Definitely Not True

11. When I felt really bad, I could almost always find someone I trusted to talk to.

Definitely true         Probably true Not sure         Probably Not True Definitely Not True

12.  As a youth, people noticed that I was capable and could get things done.

Definitely true         Probably true Not sure         Probably Not True Definitely Not True

13.  I was independent and a go-getter.

Definitely true         Probably true Not sure         Probably Not True Definitely Not True

14.  I believed that life is what you make it.

Definitely true         Probably true Not sure         Probably Not True Definitely Not True

Now ask yourself these questions:

How many of these 14 protective factors did I have as a child and youth? (How many of the 14 were circled “Definitely True” or “Probably True”?)   _______

Of these circled, how many are still true for me? _______

This exercise may have made you realize two things. First, your capacity for resiliency was being built before you were even aware of what was going on. Second, depending on your answers, you may also note that you didn’t experience some important protective factors that would have developed your capacity to bounce back. What if you had an upbringing that had many adverse experiences that diminished your resiliency?

All is not lost! With knowledge and awareness, we can be intentional about building our resilience capacity. Here are some practices we find helps us be more resilient:

  • Have a healthy and active lifestyle. A healthy and active lifestyle includes nourishing your whole self. Enjoy health-giving food, recreation, and sleep. Care for your mental wellness through learning, mindfulness, and reframing distorted thinking. Feed your spirituality through inspirational readings and practices.
  • Develop good supports in your life. We don’t need dozens of friends but a few quality relationships with people who are empathetic, keep your confidence but are also honest with you; holding you accountable to commitments you make.
  • Increase other centered activity. Serving others has the effect of getting us out of our heads, gives us goals and provides healthy routine.
  • Develop healthy boundaries. Boundaries are ways we pursue what’s best for us and others, protects us from unhealthy situations and people, and keeps us responsible and effective. A good resource for boundaries is Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud & John Townsend.

Each of us will respond differently to these practice. Some will be better at developing their resiliency than others. It’s important to find the ones that help you where you are currently at and then adapt as time goes on. Developing resilience is a life-long pursuit but it’s also a life-giving pursuit – you are worth it!

Written by Noreen M. & Brad D.
co-founders of COME2LIFE. ​​​​​​​Also published on COME2LIFE.net.