Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A year ago...

A year ago about two dozen supporters gathered from all over the country to support Tina Anderson through the trial of Ernie Willis. Some of the supporters who came had never even met Tina, but were so impacted by her story that they came to sit in the courtroom every day to show her their support. The Concord, NH based supporters were amazing. They fed us, gave us a place to sleep and loved us. On the day of the verdict finding Ernie Willis guilty on all counts, a local rape crisis support group celebrated justice by releasing balloons and gathering in support of Tina.

I've been thinking back on that week today and feeling thankful.

Tina is blogging!

In one of my conversations with Tina recently, she mentioned that she had many things on her mind that she wanted to share with others and that she had been writing it all down. I was thrilled to hear this because I know how much she has encouraged me and others I know in our own journey of healing. I was also excited because there have been so many times I just wished people could see the beautiful spirit and soul that makes Tina who she is.

Healing from any kind of abuse is a personal journey. No one can make it for us and we'll all have variations that are unique to us. Tina's path is her own.

Two years ago this month, Tina's story went public when Ernest Willis was arrested. In April 2011, ABC 20/20 aired the episode featuring Tina's story (see press timeline here). It was one year ago this week that her rapist was finally brought to justice. Tina's willingness to let her story be told by the media has accomplished a number of things in the last two years:

  1. Pastors were alerted to areas where they need to do better with policies and procedures in their own churches. Even in IFB circles there have been open conversations about the appropriate way to handle difficult circumstances involving minors, sexual assault and what "church discipline" is or should be. I'm no longer in IFB circles but I'm grateful to see these conversations happening. It is my prayer that more leaders within the IFB will be willing to step forward and push for change. Though the IFB leaders like to emphasize that they are "independent" and thus there is no real network, there are a number of influential organizations that can effect change if only their leadership would be willing to boldly talk about the way to handle abuse properly: 
  2. Because of Tina's courage many other victims have come forward and are finding help and healing. 
  3. There has been an increase in awareness among church attenders of the problems associated with abuse--especially sexual abuse--and how it is handled in churches.
  4. There has been an increased awareness of important safety concerns for parents. Just because a place SHOULD be safe for children doesn't mean it will be safe.
  5. There has been a lot of public conversation for how to offer the best possible support for victims of abuse. This includes reporting to law enforcement agencies immediately, and making sure medical and licensed psychological support for healing is provided. 
If you have suffered from any kind of abuse, help is available! 
  • Online assistance from the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline.  
  • For assistance by phone, you can always reach your local rape crisis center directly by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

The title of Tina's blog is "Glimpses of Hope." I hope you are blessed by it as much as I am!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ad Hominem and other logical fallacies

I read a lot of different blogs and websites on a daily basis and lots of other articles and postings that I come across throughout my daily reading. Typically what I read is addressing abuse in one form or another. Some blogs and website are considered safe sites that don’t allow dissenting comments and other places thrive on discussion, debate, arguments, banter, whether friendly or not. No matter the website I find the comments usually the most interesting and I see a lot of logical fallacies being used.

We all use logical fallacies and my purpose is not to explore what comments are using what kind of logical fallacy but to make some general comments about some of the things that I read. If you want to explore logical fallacies, I suggest you visit thou shalt not commit logical fallacies. I think it’s a great and helpful website.

It bothers me when people wonder why the person is spending so much time addressing the abuse in Baptist fundamentalism and not the abuse in the catholic church or some other organization that is also known for abuse. I can only guess at the purpose of this but maybe it’s like being pulled over for a speeding ticket and having other cars obviously speeding past you while the police officer writes you a ticket and you’re wondering why they aren’t going after them or trying to catch a murderer or thief. You think there are bigger fish to fry other than you.

My thought is that people addressing abuse in Baptist fundamentalism, Southern Baptist, Catholicism, or anywhere else are doing it in the area that they are familiar. People know abuse is elsewhere but he/she focuses on his/her small part of the world that affected them. This would be like wondering why the neuro-surgeon won’t operate on the heart. I mean, he’s a doctor and he knows people have heart disease and he/she shouldn’t just work on the brain when hearts need fixing too. You’re a doctor and you’ve heard people’s hearts need mending. You shouldn’t just specialize on one part of the body.

It bothers me when I read about a person’s abuse and, especially when we know it’s true, instead of accepting the person, he/she is attacked and any mistake or misjudgment the person has done or is perceived to have done, whether real or imagined, is criticized and critiqued as if that makes the abuse any less real. People are not perfect and no matter who or what the person is or has done, he/she does not deserve to be abused and they especially don’t deserve to be abused again by spectators.

It also bothers me when people assume the motivations, reasons, or circumstances that led to what happened or why something happened the way it did and dismiss, discard, or ignore the abuser’s statements of what happened and why. It’s like being at a baseball game and yelling at the ump that he got the call wrong because we all know that the person in the stands or the person on the couch watching the TV can see it so much better than the umpire who’s standing at the bag a couple feet from where the action is happening.

It makes me sad when the abused are told to be quiet so they don’t hurt the name of Christ but in reality God was hurt when that person was abused. God was hurt when that sin was covered up. God was hurt when the abused don’t get justice. God is honored when the light shines on darkness, when sin is exposed, and when sin is defeated and the abused is victorious and people stand up for and with the abused. The name of God is not an institution. It’s not a church. It’s not a religious affiliation.

Jesus is a great example of standing up for the abused. He took a stand against the “holiest” people of His day. Jesus called the leaders and followers of the holiest, most righteous, and pious looking religious organization and Temple attendees of His day abusers and hypocrites. Jesus was concerned about His name. He couldn’t be quiet when He saw abuse. They even attempted to quiet Him a few times but they couldn’t and He couldn’t let them. He had to do what was right and that was to stand up for the little person. The person who couldn’t stand up for themselves.

Let’s be like Jesus and stand up for the individual who’s trying to stand up for what is right. Let’s help them find their voice and comfort them like Jesus would and not cast the stones of the “righteous” religious leaders who want to protect the “name of God” and not the true God of the Bible.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What does repentance look like?

Though repentance will surely look different depending on the situation, there are some standard aspects on which most Christians would agree: admission of wrong, seeking forgiveness, and making restitution.

I read with tears the most recent status report from G.R.A.C.E. (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) regarding the ABWE handling of the decades old child abuse by Don Ketcham in Bangladesh.

I think this is a good example of what repentance looks like from an organization. Here is an excerpt:

"In May 2011, ABWE entered into an agreement with the G.R.A.C.E. organization, asking it to investigate the tragic child abuse more than two decades ago by Donn Ketcham in Bangladesh. At the time, we wrote to tell you why it was so necessary for us to probe deeply into what happened in 1989 and its aftermath.
This May, we need to give you an update, to open our heart to you about how deeply we are grieved by the hurt caused by actions so wrong that they can only be described as indefensible. We need also to tell you about the changes we have already made.
The G.R.A.C.E. investigation is not complete, and we do not know how much longer it will take to complete it. However, we already know of things that need to be changed. Repentance does not wait.
The first step in repentance is to acknowledge one’s failure. We have acknowledged that people in leadership positions made decisions that were unwise and unacceptable. These include:" (to read more go HERE)

I don't know why there's been no visible evidence of repentance from those that wronged Tina. But I know it is never too late to say, "I'm sorry my actions hurt you. Will you forgive me?"