Archive for the ‘coersion’ Category



The Silent Scream

Understanding The Distressing Path and Aftermath
of Sexual Coercion and Betrayal

Rape is an ugly word.
What thoughts, feelings, or images come to mind as you hear or actually say the word rape? In all probability, the word conjures up graphic images in our mind of a stranger lurking in the shadows, an intruder in the darkness, a predator who violently and with overpowering physical force assaults, overcomes and forcefully penetrates the victim sexually. More disturbing than the images are the sickening feelings that come with them. That is one form of rape, an overpowering physical assault by a stranger with the intent of forcing sexual intercourse or penetration. As awful, as prevalent, and as devastating as this type of rape is, it is not the most common type of rape. Rape actually takes a number of forms, such as:
o Date rape is a brutal betrayal that can occur on the first date or any there after. It is what the name implies, a prearranged social outing where the perpetrator sexually assaults his date by coercion, force or by taking advantage of the dates condition such as intoxication;
o Acquaintance rape, similar to date rape, often occurs at a party setting or in a situation or set up by an acquaintance or “friend.” The acquaintance is not a date, but someone who commits sexual assault as previously described;
o Partner or Spousal rape is was it implies;
o Child Rape occurs in many degrees and perverted varieties.
o Senior Rape and sexual abuse occurs in nursing homes, etc.

But the most prevalent form of rape in our society and in the church, in the teen and young adult years, is something much more subtle than what we normally think of as rape. This form often goes unrecognized and is wrongly and regularly dismissed as something far less. The most common form of rape does not feel like rape, especially to the victim and her family. Frequently, the victim, her friends, her family, or her community or church do not recognize this subtle variety real rape. The most prevalent form of rape is Boyfriend Rape. Many victims of Boyfriend Rape know and feel that they were forced, coerced, pressured or intimidated into performing or participating some form of sexual act, but deny that they were raped. Why? Answer: It doesn’t fit the image of rape in their minds. Also, since they had chosen to be with the perpetrator or were in a relationship with him they feel partially at fault. Victims of Boyfriend Rape often mistake their own desire for intimacy or temptations as somehow contributing to or minimizing what was done. The lack of validation by parents and others adds to the internal turmoil and confusion. The result of this conflicted experience is the victim’s silent scream of intense shame, guilt, feelings of worthlessness, abandonment and emotional pain. Often the silent scream goes unheard or unheeded by parents and others in spite of definite changes in the silent screamer who is crying out for validation and understanding. The vast majority of the rapes among teens and young adults in the United States and in the church are Boyfriend, date, or acquaintance rapes.

The National Crime Victimization Survey, 2001 showed that 73% of women who had been legally raped didn’t believe they had been raped. Over one-third did not discuss the incident with anyone; only 5% reported it to the police. That same study found that
44% of male college students reported some likelihood of “forcing a female to do something sexual she didn’t want to,” if they wouldn’t be punished or found out. At least
1 in 4 female college students will be a victim of rape or attempted rape. And these statistics are old and very low as compared to today.

But Was It Rape?
Rape (or sexual assault) is any sexual activity that is attempted or completed by force, threat of force or by coercion, duress or intimidation against another person’s will or consent. This includes forced or coerced oral or manual sex as the unwilling recipient or stimulator; and other non-consented to sexual touching. Rape and sexual assault is not limited to vaginal penetration by force. The person does not consent if she cannot reasonably choose to consent or refuse because of age, circumstances, mental condition (including that induced by drugs or alcohol), level of understanding, or dependency/relationship to the offender.

Victims of Boyfriend Rape experience extreme guilt, shame and denial because they feel they somehow contributed to the rape or assault because they trusted the boy friend, were aware of his intense sexual desires, yet chose to continue the relationship. It didn’t feel like rape as normally pictured in the mind. She is lacking objectivity.

It will help the victim to reframe the event picturing someone other than herself in the situation. Once she can relive it in her mind, but with another girl such as a niece or sister or daughter at the same age most victims will readily see that a rape has occurred. She will answer the question, “What is he doing to her?” with the words, “He is raping her.” “What did he do you?” Answer: He raped me.” Saying those words aloud for the first time is a powerful step toward freedom from the unwarranted guilt and shame that has resulted in the silent scream.

It will also help the victim answer the question, “What were you thinking, believing, and feeling about yourself during and after the event?” A flurry of untrue self-beliefs normally emerges. These false beliefs are what prevented the person from seeking the help she needs and also further enabled the control and intimidation of the boyfriend, thus enabling further sexual mistreatment.

How Does This Happen?

While each Boyfriend Rape scenario has its own characteristics unique to the needs of the victim and the dominating traits of the abuser, there is an observable pattern that each case generally adheres to. In most cases Boyfriend rape is not spontaneous, but the result of a well thought out strategy for conquest and control. This is usually difficult for the victim to accept because it means that she was devalued and connected with to be used from the very start. All the pretense of caring and deceptive compliments was part of an act to dupe and use her. That is very difficult to accept and undermines the ability to ever trust or love again. Boyfriend rape often follows a predictable sequence of phases always ending with the discarding of the victim as a used and item of no worth or value.
1ST: The Connect and Care Phase Somehow and somewhere the young man deliberately connects with the young woman. There is a steady, engaging, and heart-warming pursuit of the girl or young woman. There is a relational connection. They both can feel it or so it seems. Her heart comes alive with the potential fulfillment of her dreams and desires. Her need to be loved and valued promises to be met as never before. She feels relationally alive and cherished as never before. Phase one brings hope to the unsuspecting young woman and creates the desire within her for more and deeper intimacy. There is a part of her that has been awakened that yearns for stimulation and closeness. Her heart and her head begin to conflict as her long held values bump ever so gently against her growing desire to be closer, to be kissed and to be held. The hook has been set and now he will play her as a skilled angler plays a trophy fish slowly wearing her down always with the intent of reeling her in to use her to feed his own appetite.

2ND: The Caress and Compromise Phase Who among us does not want to feel the warmth of a caring touch and the softness of the kiss given and received in love? Touching begins to occur in this phase, but it is normally safe and appropriate touching (holding hands, an arm around her shoulder, a simple kiss goodnight, etc.). It feels like part of the dream coming true. She feels fully alive. This is a feeling, a relationship, and a sense of fulfillment that she does not want to lose. The Boyfriend is counting on this. A bonding is beginning to take place in this phase, both emotionally and physically. As one writer puts it: “Touch enhances the pleasure of relational bonding, and relational intimacy gives meaning and vibrancy to physical contact.” These feel like the initial stages of genuine love. The love for her is real, but the love by the Boyfriend is part of the act and the power of the snare.

After she has been conditioned to the pleasure of his touch, he begins to cross an uncrossed and inappropriate boundary ever so slightly. It might appear accidental. It both stimulates and frightens her at the same time. Values and desires are conflicted.
Even if she put off the inappropriate touch she did so fearing that she would lose something she now had, the feeling of being loved and giving love, and the relationship that seems so real to her. Already she is conflicted by the mixture of guilt and pleasure, love and pressure, and feeling responsible when in fact she is not. A small simple compromise or series of them begin to raise doubts in her soul about the boundaries she has held so dear in her mind. Her heart beckons her to not let him go. After all, she has been saving herself just for him. A small deposit surely would not be too big a price. What seems so innocent is the beginning of a deliberate betrayal and the tightening of the snare.
3RD: The Coerce and Conquer Phase To paraphrase a very wise counselor: Sexual abuse occurs in the context of emptiness, confusion, loneliness; a context that sets up the victim for a baffling interplay of betrayal, ambivalence, and powerlessness as the Boyfriend moves the girl or young woman from one phase to the next. Initially he nourished her soul, and then combined the stimulation of touch with the thrill of feeling alive and the awakening of her sensuality. Even the compromises seemed but small slip-ups and surely it would stop because he cares. He would stop, if he genuinely cared, which is not the case. What is so easily seen by an outsider is so mysteriously disguised to the girl whose emotions and body are being betrayed by the one person who brought her the feeling of being alive and loved. Betrayal is without mercy.

The hook was set with the birth of relational hope. The bait was swallowed when emotions were affirmed by the pleasure of touch and the promise, implied or spoken of a lasting love. The girl or young woman was worn down by being played with the illusion of freedom in what appeared to be an occasional compromise. And now the Boyfriend is going to reel her in by bringing the line taught and pulling her in the direction he wants her to go through manipulation, coercion, pressure and in some cases physical force.

When he senses the time is right, he may place her hand where she would never put it. If she recoils or retracts she will be met with whatever ploy will work to manipulate her, guilt her and pressure her. He might even physically force her. The irony is that she is made to feel guilty if she does not comply and is accused of being selfish or uncaring or a freak by the one who actually is all of these.

The common forms of coercion often involve not what is done to her, but what he makes her do to him. His aim is to gain control and to gain control he must move her past any safe boundary until she is far from shore and drowning in a sea of shame and guilt and imprisoned by the fear of exposure. Secrecy is essential. A common ploy is for the Boyfriend to make her masturbate him either manually or orally, the latter being the ultimate form of shame as he ejaculates into her mouth and face. The act may be followed with his gentleness and compassion only adding to her confusion and shame. To whom could she turn if not to him? She draws close to the very person who abused her. Drowning in a sea of shame, guilt and feelings of worthlessness she ironically clings to her betrayer as her only means of staying afloat.

4TH: The Control and Compliance PhaseThe Boyfriend will now use whatever means necessary to ensure secrecy and further compliance. He needs to instill both fear and absolute loyalty in the young woman. The shame insures her silence. If her virginity has not been taken from her by now it soon will be, but not as she once imagined. The dream of intimacy and romance she once imagined in her dreams will now become of nightmare of numbness, nausea, fear and pain.

A counselor summarized what he had heard from one young woman such an occasion and the taken of her virginity:

“…He gained an emotional hold over you — controlling you (not through brute force, but emotional coercion and secrecy). You were raped in many ways: physically, emotionally and spiritually. … When you told me what it was like when he planned and carried out your loss of virginity and what that awful event was like, my heart broke for you. You described the raw emotions, reactions and behaviors of other rape victims I have counseled — extreme terror or fear, frozen in passivity or paralysis, nausea, blacking out, excruciating pain… and much more. Your worst hurt, however, came when he later “discarded” you and you pleadingly asked of him, “Who will want me?” and he walked out of your life forever.”He has her silence and that silence is rarely broken. Her only hope is to comply with his darkest desires for as long as necessary always counting on the day he will marry her.
But, marriage, if she is fortunate, will never come, at least not with her abuser, her Boyfriend Rapist.

5TH: The Cast Off Phase“Your worst hurt, however, came when he later “discarded” you and you pleadingly asked of him, “Who will want me?” and he walked out of your life forever.”

The Boyfriend Rapist is filled with and consumed by self-gratification. His narcissism demands that he exploit and experience the control and muse of other young woman or girls. Unfortunate is the young woman who actual marries the one who has abused her. His character will not change. Just as he pushed, exploited and used her before marriage, he will do in other areas after marriage for self-gratification.

“Who will want me?” This is where the young woman will either experience life as a victim or find the path to being a survivor of sexual abuse and Boyfriend rape. There is no hurt or scar so deep that the power and love of God cannot bring healing to the wounded soul. The answer to the wounded hearts question is that first, God does and secondly, He has someone much better for you who will love and cherish you as He designed your for. But first you must heal from the silent scream. You are never more vulnerable to further exploitation and choosing unwise coping mechanisms than you are right now.

The Sounds Of The Silent Scream
The result of this conflicted experience is the victim’s silent scream of intense shame, guilt, feelings of worthlessness, abandonment and emotional pain. Often the silent scream goes unheard or unheeded by parents and others in spite of definite changes in the silent screamer who is crying out for validation and understanding.
How can we hear it? What should we look for?

Many Boyfriend or date/acquaintance rape victims suffer from Rape Trauma Syndrome. Symptoms include loss of appetite, sleep disturbance, suicidal ideation, nightmares, cutting and other forms of self harm, extreme phobias, preoccupation with the rape, anxiety about leaving the home and being with other people, inability to concentrate on studies or work, and sexual dysfunction.

Dr. Georgia Witkin-Lanoil notes that Rape Trauma Syndrome has three stages:

1. The Acute Phase. In the victim’s silence, her emotions may be expressed as physical symptoms: headaches, sleeplessness, nausea lightheadedness, blackouts, and/or muscle spasms. There might be aversions to certain foods or places associated with the scenarios that unfolded. In addition, she may experiences confusion, depression, anxiety, nightmares, and jumpiness.

2. Chronic Phase. After several days, a victim seems to slide into preoccupation with her role within the relationship by constantly replaying memories to figure out how the rape that didn’t feel like rape might have been prevented. The alternative is just as prominent: a temporary “adjustment” period that is based on mental and emotional denial of the incident. Numbing is the way most young woman cope with the ongoing abuse they are secretly experiencing at the hands of her Boyfriend. Along with the numbing comes the desire to feel normal again. The victims do want to feel, are desperate to feel, but the one feeling they crave is what they have been robbed of: normalcy. This may lead to use and abuse of alcohol, drugs, eating disorders, and self-abusive behaviors such as cutting or burning, etc. These are all part of the silent scream.

3. Long-Term Reorganization Phase. Often six or more months will pass before the victim digests and incorporates the reality of the experience.

What is important to realize is that the sexual abuse survivor will begin to act out of the belief system she has acquired during this abusive relationship. How does one act who believes she is good for only one thing, namely, to be used by men? How does one act if she believes that no one could ever love her because she is in her mind dirty, worthless, and unlovable? Couple that with the use of alcohol or drugs and you have a formula for further abuse and rape at the hands of other men. As bizarre as it may seem young women also may come to equate love with sexual activity giving rise to a need and aversion that is quickly destructive when coupled with the party scene she may now be drawn to.

Fear that God might punish them for the wrongs they perceive they are responsible for is not uncommon. The silent belief that they also deserve to be punished is also common. May we all begin to hear the sounds of the silent scream…

Whether the young woman becomes a boisterous party girl, a loner tough girl or one who lives in pretense behind a facade of normalcy while crying or hurting herself alone in silence, she is screaming for help and needs acceptance, validation of her rape and hope that she and the future are more than they appear to be. Let us be aware of one more thing. The Boyfriend needs help to.

What Can I Do To Help?
Listen and Believe
Above all else the victim/survivor of Boyfriend rape needs to be listened to and believed.
The greatest fear in all of this for most women, young or old is that they won’t be believed. Too often their fear is justified. At 50 years old my own wife experienced this fear when she chose to share what had happened to her with her parents. Fortunately they believed her and embraced her. It meant all the difference in the world.

Often parents, siblings or peers simply attribute to the sexual involvement to the boy and girl being mutually responsible. Why? First, promiscuity of any degree would be easier to handle than facing that your loved one or friend has been raped. Injustice is a cruel dagger. Second, they do not understand the phases and control that occur unless they have been through it themselves, and use logic instead of understanding. Why does an abused wife stay with a wife beater? There is nothing logical about it, but rather relational control. They do not understand the desperation that the young woman goes through trying to hold on to the desperate hope of marriage. Third, some refuse to deal with reality and retreat in to judgment and accusation rather than reaching out to help the victimized. And lastly, some men do not dare admit that what has happened is rape or sexual assault because they know if it is, then they would be guilty of it as well and are afraid to face the truth.

Protect and Provide
Above all else the young woman needs a safe place with safe people. Deal with the issue forthrightly and in a way that protects your loved one from having to have unwanted contact with her abuser. Do not try to fix her. She needs to see her parents or spouse react appropriately with hurt, anger, sadness, and yet without sinning. My own wife has thanked me for entering into her suffering by listening, holding her and praying with her. These survivors of sexual abuse are validated as we show a desire to know the truth and the harsh realities, not out of curiosity, but to share in their suffering.

Do not handle this alone, but find safe people and competent counselors. The more she is able to tell her story or what she is ready to tell to safe people who validate her feelings, the better and faster she will heal. Become informed. Read good solid treatments of this subject.

Encourage and Embrace
It would be normal for the young woman to experience PTSD and flashbacks or awful memories assault her mind. Encourage her and tell her this will pass in time as she moves forward in the process. She may doubt her memories, but you must not. They are probably all true and real. She may need to be held and prayed over. Take the initiative.


Forgive and Confront

In time you will need to forgive the person and ask God’s blessing upon him. Jesus did not die so you or I could hate someone. HE died so we could be free from the hate by forgiving very specifically what has been done.
How has he wounded you, your loved one?
What judgments are you making of this abuser? Identify them and give God the seat of judgment as Joseph did when he refused to sit in the seat of God.
What debt does he owe you? What would make it right? Identify these specifically and when you can, cancel each of the debts based on the blood of Jesus. Give up the right to punish.

Do not expect the victim to forgive until she is ready. In time this will occur, but not yet. Its not your job to get her to do this. It is God’s.

If you do confront, and I believe you should, do it in a way that protects your loved one. Do not condemn or berate the abuser, but do bring this into the light. The best thing that could happen to him is to get caught and be exposed. Do not mistake forgiveness with acting as if nothing happened. Boundaries are necessary. Trust is not warranted.

Pray and Pursue
Pray and pursue God and all that is good. Pray and pursue time with safe encouraging friends. As you move forward and your loved one moves forward you will find that God is enough for whatever lies ahead.

What Is Next?
Jesus died so you and I could live…really live. Whatever else lies ahead for you, please trust Him and His promises. Time alone does not heal, but we still need time for healing to occur and occur it will. Do not stop living, but keep moving forward, loving God as you go.

Jeremiah 31:3-4 (NIV)
The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with loving-kindness.
I will build you up again
and you will be rebuilt, O __________________ (your name).
Again you will take up your tambourines
and go out to dance with the joyful.

Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)
“Forget (don’t obsess on) the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.

Lastly I would say, do not waste the pain and suffering. Dozens of women (and some men) have been helped simply because my wife and others like her dared to share their story with others and through them doing so, many have found the path to freedom and healing.

You can find healing, hope and freedom.
You are a survivor, no longer a victim.
I Promise.

Note: I have not tried to footnote or reference some of my resources, but simply tried to consolidate what I normally share into one paper that hopefully will benefit many.
God is with you. God will not let you down. As you heal tell others of the path you have found and have followed and of the God who has walked with you through it all.
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APPENDIX

MYTHS ABOUT RAPE

From Focus on the Family

Rape is any sexual activity that is attempted or completed by force, threat of force or coercion against another person’s will. Men, as well as women, can be violated, and it is not a crime that necessarily strikes any one group of victims. The person does not consent if he or she cannot reasonably choose to consent or refuse because of age, circumstances, being impaired in thinking by drugs or alcohol, level of understanding or dependency/relationship to the offender. Young and old, black and white — anyone can be raped.

Nobody has the right to demand physical or sexual favors from another person without their consent, regardless of their relationship to them. Rape exploits one person in order to meet another person’s sexual or emotional desires. Psychologically, it devastates its victims. Economically, it’s extremely costly in terms of physical and mental health care, as well as lost time from work or school. Victims of sexual assault often experience fear, anxiety, depression, difficulty in sexual relationships and many other psychological and physical symptoms.

Rape, and the issues of shame and silence surrounding it, are not new: The story of Tamar, who was violated by her half-brother Amnon, is described in 2 Samuel 13:11-12, 14 and 20. When her brother Absalom learned of this incident, he told her to keep silent and she remained a “desolate woman in his house.” Many misconceptions about rape exist, and the following are just a few of them:

(Note: Since research shows that the majority of violent sexual acts are committed primarily against women, and for the sake of brevity, we will use feminine pronouns when referring to the victims of rape. However, it should be remembered that either gender can be a perpetrator or victim.)

Myth #1: Rape is an expression of intense sexual desire. Rape is an expression of violence, not sexual desire. It is motivated by the need to dominate, control and degrade the victim. This act of aggression is often triggered by feelings of anger or violence. Some rapists punish their victims out of a need to release pent-up anger or frustration. Others have deep feelings of inadequacy that are relieved by their ability to control and dominate another person. This display of aggression is due to low self-concept, doubts about masculinity, feelings of social distance or general unhappiness. In reality, many rapists state that during the rape they felt no sense of sexual stimulation or arousal.

Myth #2: Rape always occurs spontaneously. The act of rape is almost always carefully premeditated and executed. In the majority of cases, the rapists acquaint themselves with their intended victims before they actually attack. Rapes committed by men who are known to the victim may account for as much as 74 percent of all rapes. Rapes are not committed by lonely men looking for affection and temporary closeness. And because they are planned, rape almost always includes the use of force or threat of harm and often the use of deadly weapons.

The victim of date or acquaintance rape commonly experiences extreme guilt, as she feels her behavior somehow contributed to the rape. Often victims feel partially responsible for the assault because they trusted the assailant or dressed seductively. She may hesitate to report the incident if there are a number of mutual friends because of embarrassment or shame over potential public exposure and the resulting stigma.

Myth #3: Some women secretly desire or invite rape. The act of rape is a horrifying and life-threatening experience. No woman wants to be used against her will. And when rape occurs, the victim’s sense of self, as well as her body, is penetrated and used without consent. In the same category as homicide, rape is the most profound violation of a person’s body. It deprives the victim of both physical and emotional privacy and autonomy.

Myth #4: Some women deserve to be raped. In actuality, physical appearance or actions have little to do with who gets raped. Infants, elderly women and females of all incomes and living arrangements can be raped. No one deserves to be raped. This thinking shifts the blame from the attacker to the victim, faulting her for her dress, behavior or whereabouts. Victims of non-sexual assault are not subjected to such attitudes, and neither should rape victims.

Myth #5: A woman is raped because “she asked for it” by being careless. A woman who goes out alone or after dark is not “asking” to be raped. Everyone should take precautions to avoid being victimized. However, some women are raped in their own home. Open areas in daylight or automobiles are also common places for rapes to occur. No woman is responsible for the behavior of a rapist merely because she happens to be in a particular place at a given time or with a certain person.

Myth #6: All rapists are big, mean and tough. There are no obvious features that would make a rapist stand out in a crowd. It could be your neighbor, a repairman or a door-to-door salesman. Rapists may be nicely dressed, masquerade in disguises (including a policeman’s uniform) or pose as a woman.
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I am pushed along with the crowd of people.  Church is over!  We are outside.  I blink my eyes in the bright sunshine.  What is all the noise about? Oh, I see!  Look at all the balloons!  Red, white and blue.  Not regular old balloons.  They are floating on strings!  I have seen balloons floating in pictures, but I have never held one. The men are handing out balloons.  Will they give one to me?  Could I have one of those magical, floating balloons?!    Oh, I can really have one?!  He says to be a big girl and hold on tight.  He says not to let go.  I am a big girl.  I am almost four.  I will hold on tight.  I won’t let go!

Oh, there are so many!  Everyone is excited.  We stand in the bright sun, holding all the balloons.  I am holding on tight!  A man is talking loud.  He is saying numbers.  His voice is getting louder!  But now, what is happening?  Oh no!  People are losing their balloons.  Red, white and blue, all floating away!  Going far away toward the big, bright sun!  But, I am a big girl.  I won’t let go!  I am so happy that I did not lose my wonderful, floating balloon!

But, people are looking.  Do I have the only balloon left?  Mom and Dad are looking.  They are angry.  Their faces are red.  Why are they so mad?  I did what the man said!  They want me to lose my balloon?!  Oh, I don’t want to.  Please don’t make me lose it!  I start to cry.  They get madder.  They take my fingers and move them so I can’t hold the white string.  Oh!  Oh!  There goes my wonderful, floating balloon.  It is going up high, but I can’t look at it.  The sun is too bright.  I am hot.  I am crying.  They are angry.  I am not a big girl because I am crying about my balloon.  The man who said the numbers wants to take a picture.  All the people smash close together on the steps in front of church.  He says to smile. I cry.

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Now, in the hot car.  Boy, are they mad.  They say to stop crying.  We are going to a party.  I don’t want to go to a party.  I want my balloon.

The party.  It is hot.  Grandma and Grandpa are here.  I don’t know them.  I am afraid of them.  There are lots of big tall men.  I don’t like them, either.  They hold silver cans and little white sticks that make smoke.  They have dark, pinched faces.  I feel sad and afraid.  I stand by Dad’s leg by all the big tall men.

One big man looks at me and says my eyes are all red.  What’s wrong with me?  Dad starts to tell them about my balloon.  But, what?  Now Dad is not mad.  He is laughing.  He laughs to tell them how I wanted to keep the balloon.  Now all the big tall men laugh.  It is not nice laughing.  My eyes are hot and start to feel wet.  They laugh because I am crying.  Now Dad is not mad that I am crying.  He is happy!  He is happy because he is laughing.

I look for Mom.  She won’t look at me.  I am all alone with all the big tall men.  They laugh and laugh.  I try not to cry.  I am not a baby.  I am almost four.  I’m a big girl.

I did what the man said.  I held on tight!  Mom and Dad are mad that I held on tight.  They are mad that I cried.  But, they are happy, too.  Happy that I held on tight and happy that I cried.  I don’t understand.  I want to go home.  I hate floating balloons.

It is thirty years later.  A long time ago I learned that the big event was a balloon release to celebrate the bicentennial on July 4, 1976.  I know because I have seen the group picture from that day enough times.  I’m the little girl in the front row, crying.

Even though I am a responsible adult, I get anxious around helium balloons.  Especially if I see a child holding one.  “Hold on tight!” something inside me screams.  My stomach gets knotted up and I look away.  I hate floating balloons.

I have come to realize that it’s not only the helium ones that I hate, but all the other ones, too.  My parents sometimes gave me the ones called Promises.  I tried to hold on tight, but they usually managed to pry my fingers off. I could only watch helplessly as the Promises floated away.  Sometimes I had the ones called Hopes, but I couldn’t keep those, either.  And, while I tried hardest to hold on to the Dreams, somehow they always slipped through my fingers, too.  Where are they now?  Probably lying in ditch somewhere, next to an ancient, deflated bicentennial balloon.

Lately, God has been showing me how helium balloons and other things like that are keeping me in chains.  They are heavy, shame chains that I drag around with me.  I have heard of a place called Grace, where there are no chains, and where the balloons don’t fly away.  Oh, how I want to get there!

And, that is why I am the grown-up woman, sitting in her pastor’s office, crying about a lost balloon.

But, Pastor Bob asks me to pray.  To tell God what it felt like to be the little girl who couldn’t keep her balloon – the little girl who was shamed into the ground by big, laughing men who thought her tears were funny.  It is a different way to pray, but through my tears I tell God the story.  And then, Pastor Bob tells me to ask Jesus to show me where he was.  After a few moments, I choke out an anguished, “JESUS, WHERE WERE YOU??!”

Oh, those big tall men look scary when they laugh.  I want to run away.  I want to hide.  Oh no, now there is another big man!  I don’t know if he is tall because he is down by me.  He doesn’t have a silver can or a little white stick.  I wish they would stop laughing!!  The big man by me wants me to look at him.  He is so close to me!  I don’t want to see a pinched, laughing face that close.  I look at the dirt.  He puts his arm around me.  He feels strong.  Slowly, I look up to his face.  Oh!  He is not laughing!  He is not mad!  Oh.  His eyes are wet.  He is crying, too.  He squeezes my shoulders.  He says, “I understand.”  Oh, he does!  He does!  Now he looks at the big tall men.  His face is sad and angry.  But he looks back at me.  He holds tight to me.  He won’t let go!  I can’t hear the laughing anymore.  He is down here by me.  His eyes are wet.  He understands.  I am safe.

And now, it is several years later.  I like helium balloons!  I buy them for my kids.  They are an essential part of birthdays and parties around our house.  And, I did get to the place called Grace.  Along the way, Jesus healed many more deep, old wounds.  He has taken the shame-chains away.  And while I know that I am not perfectly free, I live a life that is lighter than I ever imagined possible.

And, I learned that all those Promises, Hopes and Dreams did not just end up in some dirty ditch.  They didn’t float away into nothingness.  Jesus caught them.  Every single one!  I know because he has given some of them back to me.  They are in my hands again, and you better believe that I won’t let go!  He is keeping the others for me, and because I know that he understands, I’m okay with that.  Every so often I get surprised by a long lost hope or dream suddenly becoming a reality.  Jesus has perfect timing!

The desires of my heart matter to him.  And so, I won’t be a bit surprised if he meets me in heaven with a big smile on his face, holding on tight to a wonderful, floating bicentennial balloon.

____________________________________________________

Written by a woman of excellence, a wife and mom who has gone through the Genesis Process and found inner healing, hope, and freedom…                          (Pastor Bob Barnett, Real Life Ministries USA)

balloon girl

 

Gods's Unfailing Love

Gods’s Unfailing Love

HEALING OUR WOUNDS –Part One

Not all wounds are visible.

Crash!  The sound of two cars colliding at high speed in the street brought me to my feet and out the door.  Two badly smashed cars, several people injured, and one bleeding profusely right in front of me.  I tore off my shirt and made a compress to stop the bleeding from his head wound. His mother took the compress and held it tight. I proceeded to assess the others, some still in the vehicles.  One young man involved in the accident was walking around directing me to the others who might be injured. He seemed unscathed, just as the paramedics arrived  he collapsed and was quickly taken care of and transported by ambulance to the hospital.

He had no visible wounds because his were internal.

Sometimes the wounds that you cannot see are the ones that are the most damaging of all.

 So it is with soul wounds… injuries to your soul, heart, and/or mind. 

What happens when your emotions are torn, there is a hole in your heart, and your thinking and beliefs have been damaged?  How can you identify your soul wounds and what must you do to heal from them?

Why Identifying Our Soul Wounds Is So Crucial —

Here are some key thoughts, proven principles about this:

  • Soul wounds affect how we think, how we feel, and therefore affect how we act and relate.  The wounds are at the root of everything in the sense that they affect everything.  I heard someone say that a heart early broken will grow back crooked and that crookedness will make us live and relate that way.
  • We are powerless to change that which we are unaware of, do not understand, or deny.
  • Soul wounds hold us back I life, in relationships, in loving, in serving or work, and even in our ability to receive love from others.
  • Soul wounds become walls to protect us from being hurt, but walls don’t keep just one person out.  The walls we erect (and they take many forms) keep all people out.
  • Our protective but destructive behaviors anesthetize, numb, or push down unwanted painful thoughts, feelings, and memories.  But, listen! We must feel in order to heal.

How We Can Begin To Identify Our Own Soul Wounds—

  • Look at your own copes:  What do you do to cope? Why? If you were not doing what you are doing to cope (to numb the pain), what might you begin to think about, begin to feel, or remember?
  • Look at your over reactions or under reactions.  When have you over reacted to a situation or person?  How about a gross under-reaction?  Either may point to an earlier time, event, or person that hurt or threatened us and how we learned to cope in a situation where that “button” gets pushed.  The soul or heart (limbic system) does not tell time, so when that same type of wound is opened the soul or heart react the same way. Who made you feel this way before? How old were you? What did you tell yourself as a result of what was happening to you?
  • Look in the mirror:  Who do you dislike?   What about them do you dislike the most? What negative quality in other people do you dislike a lot? It could be that you are projecting something about yourself onto others…something you can’t accept in yourself.
  • Ask Others.  I have at times of personal evaluation asked others, “What is it like to experience me?”  When honestly answered the results are very revealing though sometimes painful.  At one point of burn out I told my wife I had asked my staff that question.  She then asked, “When do I get to answer that question?” Sometimes the truth hurts, but truth is necessary to our healing.
  • Ask God.  A great man once asked God this of God: Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24
  • Ask Yourself.  Where does it hurt? Why?  Your wounds may be internal but they still hurt and they still “bleed.”  Write it down.  Discuss what you are thinking about with someone who can help you identify truth and discern the real issues.  You see, the truth is, we are all wounded.  So do not be embarrassed at that being the case for you.  Safe people are also vulnerable and honest people who are real and authentic and caring rather than judgmental.

 What We All Need To Heal Our Wounds —

Part Two, to be released later this week, will address a Ten Part Process of Healing.  But for now let me give you a few keys to get started with:

First, no one heals from soul wounds and destructive relationship patterns through counseling alone. I counsel many and it is essential.  But people are wounded in relationships and people are healed in relationships, but (LISTEN!) it takes real people in real community in real relationships. Find or create a safe forum of safe people for yourself and for others.

Second, we must experience truth in our soul, truth that identifies and replaces the lies or false beliefs we may unknowingly hold in our hearts.  When Jesus of Nazareth said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free,” He wasn’t talking about facts or head knowledge.  The word he used from that culture meant to know by experience or to know something in your soul.

A number of years ago Dave, a counselor  I was seeing asked me a question.  “What are the three deepest hurts in your life?”  “Let’s ask God to show you,” he said.   And God did.   

Dave had me pick one and relive it in my mind, narrating all that had happened.  IT involved rage and abuse from someone dear to me but much older.  I was a young boy. When I finished, Dave asked, “Do you sense Jesus coming into that room in the scene?”   I answered, “Yes.”

“Well,” Dave asked, “What does He do and say?”  To my surprise Jesus came over to me, held me close, and said, “I love, you, Bobby.”

There is more, but my life changed that day.  The lie I had learned to believe, that I was not loveable, was erased and rep-laced with the truth that I was lovable and deeply loved by God.

I knew the truth (experienced it) and the truth then set me free….

Well there is more to come about healing our wounds.  Next time we will look at the 10 or 12 keys to our healing….

PART 2 Coming Soon…

Gods's Unfailing Love

Gods’s Unfailing Love

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Once upon a time, there was a normal middle class house in a normal middle class neighborhood with a normal middle class family or so it seemed. There was a mother and a father and older siblings that came in and out of the home. And there was a little girl. But the family carried a secret. Unlike some other families who just go about their normal lives doing normal things the Suberbansteins had to “get ready” to be normal. They had to put on their people skin to cover up their monsterness. Daddy Suberbanstein was a mixture monster of fear – which gave him claws, pride which made him abnormally gigantic, selfishness which gave him one eye, numbing which encased his body in this shiny metallic black armor and hurt which allowed large lesions to fester. Mother Suberbanstein was a mixture monster of the wrong kind of submission – which made her small and flimsy like tissue paper, false beliefs – which caused her to have eyes everywhere including the back of her head, and fear which caused her feet to be light and her tongue to be metallic and sharp with jagged edges on it. The younger but older Suberbanstein siblings were monster mixes of addiction – which caused them to have little aliens coming out of their stomach and hijacking their brains and neglect which seems to make them have eyes that were blind to the world around them but facing inward so that they could not see anyone but themselves. The little girl didn’t need to “get ready” when she left the house when she was younger. And this “normalizing” practice confused her and made her wonder what she should be hiding about herself.

The outside of Suberbanstein home was beautiful. It was well manicured with flowers everywhere. But years and years of the Suberbanstein’s taking off their people skin when they got home had damaged the inside of the house. The interior walls were painted with fear. The air was filled with anxiety and tension so much so that it actually had a certain smell to it. There was so much negative energy that it dimmed the lights and drained the color out of everything.

Daddy Suberbanstein was the worst sometimes he would confuse the little girl wearing his people skin. One day Daddy Suberstanstein came home smiling in his people skin until he saw the little girls pet unicorn was leaving a fragrance of beautiful sweet flowers…Daddy’s smile changed and the little girls saw his monster horns come out as he went after her unicorn. He wanted to paint the unicorn with fear and fill it with anxiety so it no longer perfumed their home. Afterwards, Daddy put on his people skin again and called the little girl over to him. He sat her on his lap and she was hopeful that Daddy would make her unicorn better.

Instead he explained how she didn’t really see his monsterness and that unicorns weren’t supposed to be fragrant – all while his claws of fear were digging into her back and his eyes flashed with pride.
Such was life for the little girl. Normal =people skin and monsterness was the unacceptable norm. Over the years little by little the little girl began to adopt the normalizing process of the ADULT Suberbansteins. In was insidious and subtle. First it was in little things – she saw her reflection changing. Her voice became silent. She noticed part of herself becoming invisible and transparent under the weight of despair; then she grew small razor sharp spikes of hatred dripping with self-loathing on top of her head so she had dark streaks of loathing dripping down her face. The little girl became aware of her need to find people skin that would fit her so that she could go into the world of the “normal” people.

By the time the little girl grew up and left home she had become a full grown monster. What started out as silent voice became such a void of sound that her mouth had disappeared altogether. In it’s place was a dagger with razors for teeth. Her spikes had become adult horns and the self-loathing had a red tint of death in it now. Her eyes were sullen and she began looking for a way to stop her monsterness.

She tried a variety of things including getting more people skin and people gadgets to help her look less monster-like. She tried denying the monsterness which helped her horns and dagger to vanish if only for a moment or two. She learned about being “normal” and what the other people in suburbia do and she mimicked them – so much so that others believed her to be an upstanding “normal” middle class adult in a normal middle class neighborhood.
One day she a grown monster in people skin was out helping other “normals” when her people skin fell off in front of everyone and her monster-self started to show. She was mortified and began trying to “fix” her monsterness. She would saw off the horns – only to have them grow back bigger and stronger. She would tear the dagger off of her face only to have a sharper one grow in it’s place with more deadly razors.

Then she went to a place where some other middle class “normal” people were. She was about to tell everyone at this place that she was a monster and giving up her people skin when someone from across the room said he noticed she was helping the “normal” people…that she was helping them ~ so that they did not have to get any monster traits…
He was different. He saw through her people skin. He had a beautiful wife and she also saw through her people skin. But the really crazy thing was that they saw through her people skin and they didn’t see a monster. They saw a little girl and they loved her.

— By Anonymous in Testimonials

 

 
Downcast eyes pour over the pages of scripture with an expression that speaks of an almost angelic innocence. It is an image that would make any parent proud.
Indeed, Debby’s own parents are proud. They genuinely love and care for her, but are unaware, perhaps, of her heart’s deepest needs. She is a freshman in high school on the cusp of womanhood. At a time when life should be filled with football games and nail polish, teddy bears and sleepovers, a more sinister reality awaits her. It will happen in the shadow of a steeple, within the confines of her church and Christian school.
But not yet. In this moment Debby is unscathed. Possessing an innocent naiveté, she is painfully shy around boys and has never been touched or kissed. Her dreams include getting a part in the Spring Musical, or a spot on the volleyball team, and someday, someday winning the heart of her prince.
And then life changes.
The student leader of Debby’s Christian youth group begins to take notice. At 18 he is bound for college and a bit of an enigma to the teens in his charge. She is flattered by his attention, the envy of the other girls who titter together about how dreamy, how handsome he is. Unwittingly she is led down a path, one that seems strewn with light and love, but will soon veer off into a destruction that will very nearly destroy her soul.
By the third date this youth leader has taken Debby to a secluded place under the guise of romance. There he will combine tender words with stimulating touch to gain a heartless dominance over his victim. She is no match for his charisma, and when he has her exactly where he wants her, he convinces her to perform an act she finds unutterably repulsive. She is caught and he knows it. His coercion has trapped her in a silence that walls her in with shame. There in the dark she guards the secret that keeps her captive.
Over the next three years the abuse will continue, bruising her in unspeakable ways. She wants it to stop, but is so afraid. The truth would destroy her parents. What would they think of her? She already knows what she thinks of herself.
This fear of exposure, combined with a shame and guilt that keeps growing, begins to consume her soul, shredding her delicate sense of worth. But maybe, she tells herself, it will yet be alright. Maybe he has plans of marriage. Perhaps that which she’s given will end up being nothing more than a small deposit to secure his love.
Tragically her abuser’s intentions are not nearly so noble.
And when Debby finally finds herself discarded, she is utterly bereft, believing herself far too damaged for anyone to love, too dirty to be of any value. She is completely crushed, left without a glimmer of hope. But life goes on.
High school ends and she begins living on her own. Other, older men begin to ask her out. Again she is flattered, wanting to find value in their desire, but she has no idea how to act, how to build a healthy relationship with a man. All she’s ever known was learned at the hands of her Christian youth leader, the man who abused, then discarded her.
She is invited to parties. In her awkwardness and fear she begins to drink.  Alcohol’s numbing effect holds the lies she believes about herself at bay, but she is easy prey under its spell. She is date raped again and again, further proving that she is good for one thing and one thing only…to be used by men.
What do you think? :  Is there any real hope for someone like Debby, someone so badly broken?
How could this girl who feels so worthless and dirty ever be clean? What kind of future could she possibly have?  Could anyone love her? Could God?
Does Debby’s story sound familiar? Do you or someone you know struggle to believe that God can and does restore broken, hurting people? In next week’s blog we’ll introduce you to Debby as she shares her story of redemption “out of darkness into His marvelous light.” I Peter 2:9