Plain truth about the obscurity of abuse survivors.

paradoxical_silence_by_philomena_famulok-d6kcg8dShe adored him. Cooked for him. Tended to him. Laughed with him. Grew up with him.

He was her brother, after all.

Someone she looked up to.

Someone she could trust.

Someone who, because of the roles they naturally assumed, had authority over her.

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He adored her.

Grew up with her.

Looked out for her.

Developed an all-consuming attraction to her.

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And then, he raped her.

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Oh, sure, their dad was angry when he learned of the incident, but that soon passed. After all, he couldn’t bring himself to punish his eldest son, the apple of his eye.

The girl’s other brother, he took care of that, though. Killed the incestuous sibling.

And they lived happily ever after.

Most of them, that is.

Except for the girl.

They told her to hush.

They told her to get over it.

They told her to forgive and forget.

They told her the wounds would heal with time.

Get over it and get on with it, they said.

And they did.

Except for the girl.

Who, as the history books tell us, went off to live in desolation and obscurity.

Things haven’t changed much, have they?

Thousands of years have passed since the book of II Samuel was written and the lives of King David’s children, Tamar, Absalom and Amnon documented. 

Much ado has been rightfully made in the last week or two about an article published and then rescinded by the Leadership Journal. I’m not writing about it here to attempt to add to the wisdom of other writers have who’ve already posted on and led the way in successfully toppling this particular offender’s platform.

I only have a question.

What will you do about the Tamar’s, one out of every four (by conservative estimates) girls and women all around you?

In your church?

Yes, your conservative, evangelical, wealthy suburban church?

In your quiet little country church?

In your burgeoning, established city church?

Because the Amnon’s of the world know no boundaries.

It’s not the people you don’t know who will hurt your daughter, girlfriend, wife.

It’s the people you do know.

The charismatic worship leader.

The hipster youth leader.

The incred-amazing coach.

The theater professor.

The cousin.

The uncle.

The aunt.

The brother.

The father.

The mother.

The guy who got caught but weeps and grovels and praises Jesus for breaking him and makes everyone believe he’s been redeemed, who convinces everyone he had a mean judge who sentenced him to prison. Because you know, the girl in his youth group, she was sorta slutty, and she sat on his lap. What was he supposed to do? (See Maureen Garcia’s brave article here: I Married a Sex Offender.)

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There is a better question.

What will you do to shatter the obscurity of the Tamar’s around you today?

To give them a voice?

To give them a platform?

To give them a reason

a purpose

and a hope

that they can step out of the shadows of shame

that they can live strong

and out loud

instead of in desolation?

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Note: I wrote my novel, How Sweet the Sound, to give the Tamar’s of the world hope, and to let the rest of the world around them know what it feels like to suffer and begin to heal from the vices of sexual abuse and assault. I took great care to write the story in a way that is gentle enough for survivors to read without being triggered. But make no mistake: the book tells the truth. If you know a Tamar, they might like my book. And if you just want to understand a Tamar better, you might, too. 

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For further reading, see also:

Ed Stetzer’s article, It’s Abuse not an Affair

Mary DeMuth’s brave post, Dear Man in Prison

Karen Swallow Prior’s heartbreaking article, #HowOldWereYou: Origins of a Heartbreaking Hashtag

Elizabeth Esther’s Open Letter to Christianity Today

HerMeneutic’s article, To Publish a Predator

The Leadership Journal‘s editorial apology for publishing their article, “From Youth Minister to Felon.”

 

 

 

 

It’s time to talk about it: Sexual Assault Awareness Month Balloon Release Kick-Off

April 1 marked the kick-off for Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), sponsored by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

Here in Indiana, the incredible folks at INCASA organized an important balloon release for the Day of Action on the steps of the Indiana Statehouse. Along with another survivor, Jenny Wendt, who is making incredible strides in reducing and possibly even eliminating the statute of limitations for perpetrators with the Indiana General Assembly, I was honored to be asked to say a few words from the viewpoint of a survivor.

As I said to one reporter, “What happened [to the survivor] is valid, what happened is real, and a court of law can’t stop that from being the truth…”

In my speech, I wanted to give survivors hope, and give advocates a renewed sense of empowerment. Here are a few excerpts:

“Not only is it time to talk about it, it’s time to see our faces. I am one of every three women who’s suffered abuse and assault. It’s not easy for me to be here or to talk about it, but I’m here for every person who’s looked me in the eye after a speech, for every survivor who’s sent me private messages and emails, for every silent one, to let them know we do not have to live in fear and shame…

…We can be a society that rebuilds and restores instead of shaming victims so they’re too afraid to come forward. We can be a society that embraces the wounded and binds up there wounds instead of letting perpetrators and enablers tear them wide open again. We can give survivors safety instead of fear, and an outpouring of support that blots out their shame…

…Abuse and incest and molestation and rape are crimes which cause a lifetime of devastation. But I want victims to know they can break free from generational cycles. We can find hope and healing. Beauty can and does rise from the ashes of our pain…”

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You can learn more about what was shared through these links below:

Radio coverage from WIBC: http://www.wibc.com/news/story.aspx?ID=2148033

Video coverage from the local CBS affiliate, WISH: http://wishtv.com/2014/04/01/rape-survivor-rallies-for-change-at-statehouse/

Video coverage from the Indianapolis Star: http://www.indystar.com/videos/news/2014/04/01/7178671/

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What will YOU do to increase awareness, talk about it, and bring survivors hope this month and throughout the year?

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The amazing Anita Carpenter, CEO of INCASA

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Join me in supporting survivors by wearing teal this month, too, would you?

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Let it go!

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Dogs like this special nugget, celebrating the day by sporting teal dyed fur, are being specially trained to be able to sit with children who are victims during intake and questioning sessions.

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So what’s my novel REALLY about? A universal answer.

That’s what folks want to know.

Many of the authors I follow talk about a phenomenon where readers assume everything in a work of fiction must surely be based on real life, the author’s real life, in particular. How else, they reason, could the writing be to true and deep and realistic?

I read oodles of books and blogs, articles and textbooks on writing, by people who are experts on the subject. People who study literature. People who hold doctorates and win prizes and have great followings of readers. One of the threads stringing through most of these is that yes, effective writing comes from deep within an authors heart, his observations, snippets of conversations she overheard in Super Stores and along pee wee soccer sidelines. How each author processes these often daily, sometimes life changing observations depends on the author…and to a great extent, his imagination…

…her ability to take the real and make it more real…

…his skill at morphing the daily into something shiny, glittering, and capable of rising like an orb of hope above the cacophony of those who, rushing to complete tasks from morning until night, miss

everything. 

Authors, writers like me, are often accused of having too-thin-skin, of having their heads in the clouds, having ridiculous imaginations, wearing feelings on sleeves….

Turns out these “weaknesses” are strengths to those who would embrace a pen.

So.

What’s my novel really about?

One day, about four years ago, I sat on my back patio praying, asking God what He wanted to do with my story. I was at a bit of an ends, as the manuscript currently stood, and I knew it needed a major overhaul to turn it into something marketable. The story had bones–a coming-of age plot, an Alabama pecan farm setting. And as the hummingbirds buzzed among the Rose of Sharon blooms, I heard God whisper: Tamar. Re-read the story of Tamar.

And so I did.

How Sweet the Sound is a loose allegory, set in 1980, of the Tamar of II Samuel 13, one of the daughters of King David. Raped by her half-brother Amnon, who was then killed by her real brother Absalom, Tamar’s story ends there, when scripture tells us she was left to live a desolate life.

How can that be? I asked God. Argued with Him.

That’s not the God of the New Testament, the God who promises restoration, the Christ who raises men and women alike.

You’re right, I heard God whisper. Tell the rest of her story. 

And so, How Sweet the Sound is my attempt to do that.

That’s what it’s really about.

Because one out of every three women in America alone have experienced sexual trauma, molestation, incest, rape. I have never been shy about admitting I am one of those statistics. But my story is not Comforts. Nor is my story Annistons. In the end, my personal story is not important.

What is important is that the majority of those one-in-three women feel like their stories end there, that their lives lay useless and dirty, tainted and worthless, at the feet of their abuser–or abusers.

My hope is, after reading How Sweet the Sound, they’ll feel different.

They’ll know different.

They’ll have hope.

The reality?

The story of Anniston and Comfort, Princella and Jed, Ernestine and all the characters in How Sweet the Sound is universal. Early reader reviews which include heartbreaking, “me too’s,” and “hurt people hurt people,” verify this. Families tear each other apart, even with rape and murder. Tamar experienced all of these things thousands of years ago. Pick up a newspaper or listen to the evening news, and these tragedies are rampant, still, today.

The truth is, story has a way of uniting souls around common hurts, common celebrations, common tragedies, and ultimately, common hope.

The truth is, this story is fiction.

And because of that, it holds more truth than a lot of things in this world.

Plain and simple.

And true.

*****

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better. `- Anne Lamott”

*****

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