I’ve been trying to write this for weeks. In fact since the 15th November. Since I read the ‘Paedogeddon: of God and Monsters’ written by Sara Kewly Hyde and published on Threads here;
I’ve been trying to respond since then. And I have written and rewritten this blog several times now. And then I decided I would write it, and try and put down in words some of my personal thoughts. The thoughts I had initially.
Because however hard I try to come up with something deep and meaningful, I am not sure I can. However hard I try to come up with something that is ‘seen’ as ‘theological’ I am not sure I can. In fact I am sure I cant.
I’ve discovered all I can actually come up with is my own personal, deep down, gut instinct response to what Sara wrote.
I have been challenged. Big time. I have not been able to stop thinking about it. Since I first read what she had to say, it has played on my mind, and I have thought about it at least once a day, often more.
I am a survivor. I grew up being abused by the people who should have been caring for me. By the people I should have been able to look up to. The man who should have been a father to me abused me. I was abused by someone else who was unable himself to deal with being abused.
I also, as a young adult, in my early twenties was assaulted one day, in the street, just down the road from where I was living at the time. When that happened, that day, my life changed. Forever. Yet another thing was taken away from me.
I had nothing left. It pushed me to the brink of death, because just over a year later, I would try to kill myself (here by the grace of God and all that).
Sometimes I am able to eloquently describe and talk about what it is like to be abused, and raped. And sometimes I am not. Sometimes I am able to put into words the pain, shame, fear and torture that fill your mind. It is torment.
However hard you try to wash, scrub, cry, scream, cut and plead away the pain, the memories, the nightmares, they don’t go.
They will never go. They will always be there. And even though in time, you may be able to try to start living a life, a different life again, those memories will always exist. Sometimes they are more painful than others. But a day does not go by, when some memory surfaces. Somewhere, sometime during a normal day, something will trigger a memory. It could be a smell, a word. Something. Anything.
But what I have learnt as I grow stronger (and I shall be forever grateful to those people who support me in this journey) that life can be lived, and lived well. And that is the journey I am on, learning to live life, and live it well.
I am learning to laugh again, to smile, to be loved, and to love.
And it is going well. I think.
But then every now and then something comes along that halts you. Makes you stop. Makes you remember even more intensely than you already do. Makes you reflect more so than ever before. And makes everything so loud once again in your head.
That has been my experience since the Jimmy Savile expose happened. Since it was revealed that he was a predatory child abuser, and that his victims could be as many as 500 and counting.
Since everyone has been talking about child abuse, and rape. Since it has not left the front page, and Internet, the conversation in the street. Since the topic has been everywhere. And that is why I wrote this:
To put into words, and convey some of my thoughts and feelings that had been aroused so much more than they usually are.
However, reading Sara’s Paedogeddon article made me realise that my response was just that. It was my response. It was the emotional and personal response of someone who has experienced the pain of abuse.
And this is where the clanger kicks in for me: it was NOT a Christian response. And it was not a response that considered the offender. In fact I never really thought about it from those points of views. I never really thought about what it means to be a Christian and a survivor, to the point where I have to then think about how I think about and respond to people who rape and abuse. Not properly anyway. Not deeply. Not with any meaning.
Until I read Sara’s thoughts. Her article was so well written. And it touched on topics I have not wanted to, have not been able to, and have tried to ignore.
But I have no choice but to. I have no choice, as a Christian but to confront these issues.
So how would I respond? If I was face to face, or in the position where I had to be with or engage with an offender.
And this is where I come a little stuck. This is where my head goes round and round in circles, and this is where I have written this blog so many times, and still not managed to write a coherent answer.
The best I can offer is I don’t know.
The best I can offer, after chatting about this to many people, including close friends, other survivors, and my minister is this: I don’t know.
The truth is, I really know how I would respond to someone who I knew was or had been a child abuser, or a rapist. I don’t know how I would love them, or even if I could. I don’t know how I would respond to someone sitting in front of me in church, who was a known sex offender.
Maybe I would want to hit them. Maybe I would want to scream at them. Maybe I would want to walk away and never have to think about them again. Maybe.
Or maybe I would want to talk to them. Maybe. I don’t know. Maybe I wouldn’t.
But I ask myself this: do I have a place myself, a place in a Christian community if I am not willing to accept this line that Sara wrote:
‘The church needs to be a place of acceptance and healing for the abuser and the abused’.
But it is true. Painfully true.
If I talk about, and expect, and desire, and wish to see His church, THE church understand, accept and have a place for a survivor of abuse, then surely I have to accept that it is also a place for an offender. I have to accept that there can be/is/has to be a place for them too. That they also need to be part of a community that will accept, love and support them. I have to accept that they are people too.
She says this
‘There has to be grace for those who have committed even the most atrocious, life wrecking crimes , and those cripples by the effects of these crimes, otherwise the cross is a nonsense’.
As a survivor, and a Christian I HAVE TO BELIEVE that Jesus came for the people who abused and raped me too. That He came for people who abuse and rape others. Otherwise, as Sara put it so well ‘the cross is a nonsense’. And deep down, no matter what state my relationship with God is, I know it is not nonsense.
But that is big. That is big stuff to get my head around. But I am trying to. Slowly.
But how does this actually play out?
And again, that’s where I come to ‘I don’t know’.
I could give you the answers I’m ‘meant’ to. The answers where I say I would greet them with open arms, welcome them into my community, my family, and love them. But whether I would or could, I don’t know?
I could give you the answers that I have thought about for the last few weeks, that have gone round and round in my head, the ones where I have tried to be deep and super spiritual, but actually those answers wouldn’t be being true to myself. Because the answer I have is I don’t know. I simply don’t know.
But I do accept that there has to be a place for them. The church has to have a place for them. Because deep down, deep down where it hurts so painfully, I know Jesus has a place for them. He loves them, like He loves me.
Knowing that is not easy. Trust me. I don’t say it in a blasé way.
But it’s the truth.
I have to accept that these people have the right to be engaged with, supported and part of Gods Kingdom, like I do.
But I also have to accept that I do not have to everything and anything to everyone and anyone.
When I threw this topic out on to twitter a few weeks ago, I had a chat with Jon Beech who you can find here: @_jonb
I asked something on the lines of, how as a survivor should I/could I engage with offenders. His response startled me. I was not expecting it.
He asked back whether I should have to.
His point was: I cannot, and not have to engage with absolutely anyone and everyone I come across. I do not have to be all things to all people. I can’t be.
So I have to accept my limitations. Whilst accepting child abusers and offenders may have a place in my community, and probably already do, that I just don’t know about I have to accept I don’t HAVE to engage with them. And that unless God somehow struck me with lightening and convicted me in such a way that made clear that I was meant to, that actually I can keep myself safe.
At the top of Sara’s article on Threads, it says this in a blue box ‘ who has all the answers? Not us, that’s for sure. But ignoring the questions doesn’t make them go away’.
And that’s the truth. Who has all the answers? I certainly don’t, but the questions will not go away. So we must keep discussing them. We must keep talking about them. And we must be honest.
So, I bring this to an end, probably without writing about what I started out intending to. I am a Queen of tangents.
But rest assured, these topics are ones that roll around my head on a daily basis, and are never too far away from my thoughts, so if you ever want to join in the conversation with me, feel free to contact me. I’m open to all thoughts.