I would like to write this morning about abuse. I tweeted and facebooked a couple of statements last night:
“It’s abusive to criticize people for the way they speak out against how they’ve been abused.”
“No matter what the religious tell you, bestowing forgiveness is always an unwarranted privilege, not a necessary requirement.”
“Your Honor, I stand for the abused.”
The reactions I got from these are mostly disturbing. Of course, there were plenty of people who “liked” them and commented in agreement with them. But then there were quite a few who “shared” them on their own pages, as well as others who commented on them, that made me realize that Christians and the Church generally are very poor at handling abuse. That comes as no surprise, I’m sure. But it is always shocking to me when I see it.
There’s a lot of talk these days about “rape culture”. Wikipedia says that rape culture is “a concept used to describe a culture in which rape and sexual violence are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone sexual violence.” It is being argued that we are living in a rape culture, and I would agree, since potential rape victims are responsible for their own safety and held in suspicion for the rape.
After last night’s reactions to my tweets, I’m even more concrete in my opinion that the church is generally an “abuse culture”. It is so common and normalized that people within it can’t even see it. As soon as I make any comment in defense of the abused, many religious people rush in to demand that the abused shouldn’t have put him or herself in harm’s way, that they are not to be angry or bitter, that they are supposed to forgive, they must respect and protect the reputation of the abuser, and they must file once again in line under the abuser’s authority.
It’s ridiculous how normalized the abuse has become. My other site is pretty much devoted to challenging this, which is why it is on the one hand so popular but on the other hand an incredible thorn in the side of those who would protect the reputation of the church, for those in authority, and fight for its security.
My contention is we need to keep the issues separate: the abuse, the accountability of the abuser, and the abused’s response to the abuse. These are distinct issues and should be kept so. The church, generally speaking, is very poor at admitting the rampant abuse, addressing it and repairing it. So I am not yet prepared to make demands on the abused until the problem is addressed.
Sure, it is always healthier for the abused to forgive and move on if they can. Everyone would admit that. But it seems to me that many religious people are emphasizing this tactic first and only because it is the quickest way to put the atrocity behind us and get on with the program.
What do you think?