My Friend Was Abused. How Can I Help?

Last week we were privileged to stay at CCBCE in Vajta, Hungary for five days. It is always a refreshing stop for us when we travel because our best friends live there. It’s a safe place. We can be ourselves, and if that means we’re broken piles of sadness, that’s ok. That is a rare kind of friendship from what I have experienced in my life.
While we were there, the director of the school graciously allowed us to teach his final class of the semester, as he had been teaching about counseling and addiction. He told us to share how God was using counseling in our ministry. We talked about a lot of different practical problems and approaches to counseling in ministry, and shared about how Jesus meets us in the dark places where sin is perpetrated against us. Afterward, there were a lot of great questions, and I thought I would blog about one that a few people had.

my friend as abused
“My friend was abused. I’m not a counselor. What can I do to help?”
That is a really important question. I wish there would have been more time during our session to talk about that, but it was an hour long. God knows. His timing is perfect. But this blog doesn’t have a time limit, so we can talk about it here.

How to Become A Support Person

If you know someone that has experienced trauma or abuse, and you want to help them, the best thing to do is learn about abuse and trauma. There is a term for a friend that walks through the after effects of abuse or trauma with someone else. This person is called a support person. You don’t need to be a counselor in order to support someone as they journey toward healing in their life. However, there are a few steps that will help a friend become an effective support person. We are going to look at them here.

Get Educated About Abuse

The most important step is to become educated about what people feel and experience after abuse or trauma. Here are two wonderful resources that will help you on your way.
On the Threshold ff Hope,” by Diane Mandt Langberg
Good News About Injustice,” by Gary A. Haugen
If you read these two books, you will be so much better prepared to support a person that is struggling to trust another person. There are several mistakes that people who don’t understand trauma make quite often, and Diane Langber and Gary Haugen do a good job of dispelling myths that lead to these mistakes.

Be Willing To Feel Uncomfortable

It is tempting to tell someone you’d rather not hear about horrible things that happened to them when they make you feel personally uncomfortable. Some of the things I’ve heard made me nauseated and disturbed. However, Jesus didn’t shy away from the sins He faced on the cross. In Isaiah 63 we see that Jesus was afflicted in all of the affliction of God’s children:
“In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His Presences saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bore them and carried them all the days of old.” -Isaiah 63:9
Sometimes the truth is very hard to hear, but we must. If we want to be like Jesus, we must allow our own notions of what is comfortable to be shattered. Horrible, unthinkable sins exist in our world, and if we refuse to acknowledge them, we are taking away the survivor’s voice just as much as their abuser did. They need a safe, nonjudgmental place to be heard. You, through the strength imparted to you through Jesus Christ, are able to be that safe place.

Listen & Don’t Act Without Prayer

When we hear that someone has been through something difficult, our first instinct is to try to fix things for them. That instinct itself isn’t bad, it is what leads us to help others. However, we must be very careful HOW we attempt to help. Sometimes we assume jobs that God never wanted us to do. We must pray and fast, and wait on the Lord to tell us what to do in each individual case. For example, if someone has told you something in confidence and they are an adult, it is not your responsibility to tell their parents. They must decide whether or not they are ready to do that. You may also think, “If I could just do this… or that… then things would be better for them.” Be very careful! I am speaking from personal experience when I say that you must be specifically called by God to do whatever it is for that person. Our good intentions can be unwise, but only God sees the outcome of drastic situations. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t help. If someone in an abusive situation needs a place to stay and you have room, it could be that God is calling you to have that person stay with you. However, it could be that He wants you to help them find a different place to stay. You have to be sure what His will in situations like this, because there has to be accountability and safety for them and for you. Remember that anything you do should answer the question, “What is best for them?” instead of “What solution will make me feel better?”

Trust

The concept of trust fights against everything a survivor of abuse has been taught. They have usually be threatened so that they will not talk about what happened to them. Many abusers threaten bodily harm (including murder) and also tell survivors that if they say anything to anyone, that the abuser will be instinctively know. When someone has been manipulative and used power in an abusive way, it creates a tendency for the survivor to believe the abuser automatically. If you have earned the trust of a survivor, make sure you do everything you can not to violate that trust. If you want to talk to a pastor about the situation, first ask the survivor. The only time you should go for help behind their back is if they are sinning in a harmful way against someone else (such as abusing others themselves), you have confronted them about it, and they refuse to get the help they need. You should also reach out to others for help if your friend is suicidal, or involved in self-harm (purging and cutting are two examples).

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

The brain processes traumatic memories much differently than normal memories. Because of this, survivors often seem confused, or like they aren’t sure exactly what happened to them. If the person you are supporting is confused when trying to remember their abuse, remember this is normal. Please, please don’t accuse them of lying. That will set you back in your relationship, and it isn’t actually true. Survivors of abuse may also suffer from Fragmented Memory (where events are split into different memories… locations, feelings, and actions are often disjointed). This condition must be treated by a licensed counselor.

Suggesting Counseling

At some point in every journey as a support person, it is important to tell the person you are not qualified to help them the way they need to be helped. Survivors of abuse need to go through counseling. Forgiving their abuser isn’t enough. It is a great step in the right direction, and it pleases God when we forgive, but counseling is a very important step. You should suggest they find a licensed counselor that has experience counseling survivors of abuse. If the counselor is Christian, that is ideal. However, you cannot make someone get the help they need if they do not want to. Being pushy won’t help, either. Be patient, and continue to support them in a healthy way by being honest, and listening to them when they want to talk about the abuse. If you notice sin on their part, narcissism being the most common, it is ok to point it out in a loving way. Keep in mind that they have to work through their trust issues with God in counseling before there is usually progress in this area.

His Blood Purifies

We know that Jesus’ blood has cleansed us from our sin, but did you know the purification properties of His blood don’t stop there? Jesus’ blood has cleansed us from all sin, not just the sins we commit.
“But if we walk in light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” -1 John 1:7
This means that when we witness atrocious sin through listening to the testimony of survivors, that Jesus’ blood is powerful enough to cleanse us from the sin that our friend experienced in the form of abuse. After I talk with someone and they share hard truths with me, I spend time praying. After I have prayed for them, this is what I pray for me:
“God, I know that your Son’s blood is powerful enough to cleanse me from all sin. I pray that you would bathe me and clean me so that I can continue on now that I have the knowledge of these sins that were committed against your child. Please make me white as snow, and help me not to become bitter toward other people because of the things I have heard. Thank You for your love for me. Keep me close to You, Lord. Amen.”

Spread Awareness

Does this article stir your heart? Do you feel that God wants you to become a support person for survivors of abuse? Awesome! But don’t let that stop with you. This is a huge area of need in the church. Tell your friends what you are learning and do your best to spread awareness. The statistics indicate that 1 in 3 women have experienced sexual abuse, and 1 in 6 men have experienced sexual abuse (although this number is estimated to be underreported due to stigma about being a male survivor). That means that in a group of four girls in your church group of friends, it is likely that one of you have experienced some type of sexual abuse.
I appreciate your heart in reading this article, and I pray that God will bless all of your efforts on behalf of His kingdom and His hurting children.
Sincerely adorned,
Kristin

Where Was God When I Was Abused? – Part 1

“Where was God when I was abused?” This question is extremely important for Christians that have survived abuse. In fact, it is a life defining question. As you know, I am on a journey to learn how to walk alongside people that have been abused in their quest to find healing. I am blessed to have a friend that has been guiding my journey, and one of the book she lent me is called, “Good News About Injustice,” by Gary A. Haugen. I am only 40 pages in, but the spiritual perspective he shares is invaluable.

where was god when i was abused

God Was There

One thing Haugen points out is that when Jesus ascended into heaven, He left two things behind: the Holy Spirit, and believers. He then goes onto explain that God expects us, you and I, believers of Jesus Christ, to seek justice, rebuke oppressors, and defend those that cannot defend themselves. If survivors and victims of abuse don’t qualify for this protection, I don’t know who does. He also writes that God feels very strongly and speaks specifically about abuse and injustice. Here are the scriptures that Haugen uses to prove this point:

“When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. ‘Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.’” -Isaiah 1:15-17

“For He will deliver the needy when he cries, The poor also, and him who has no helper. He will spare the poor and needy, And will save the souls of the needy. He will redeem their life from oppression and violence; And precious shall be their blood in His sight.” -Psalms 72:12-14

“He sits in the lurking places of the villages; In the secret places he murders the innocent; His eyes are secretly fixed on the helpless. He lies in wait secretly, as a lion in his den; He lies in wait to catch the poor; He catches the poor when he draws him into his net. So he crouches, he lies low, That the helpless may fall by his strength. He has said in his heart, “God has forgotten; He hides His face; He will never see.” Arise, O LORD! O God, lift up Your hand! Do not forget the humble. Why do the wicked renounce God? He has said in his heart, “You will not require an account.” But You have seen, for You observe trouble and grief, To repay it by Your hand. The helpless commits himself to You; You are the helper of the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked and the evil man; Seek out his wickedness until You find none.” -Psalms 10:8-15

“The conspiracy of her prophets in her midst is like a roaring lion tearing the prey; they have devoured people; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in her midst. … “Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, to shed blood, to destroy people, and to get dishonest gain. … “So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.” -Ezekiel 22:25, 27, &30

“So truth fails, And he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. Then the LORD saw it, and it displeased Him That there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, And wondered that there was no intercessor; Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; And His own righteousness, it sustained Him.” -Isaiah 59:15-16

Failure in the Christian Body

God has appointed Christians to seek out wickedness, intercede, defend the fatherless, plead for the widow, to stand in the gap! The church is guilty, guilty, guilty of victim blaming and shaming abuse victims into silence, but that is not God’s desire. Where was God when you were abused? He was weeping and asking where all the Christians were who should have stood in the gap for you. Do you see where it says in Psalm 10:15 that we should seek out the wickedness until we find none? That means that Christians must look for those that have been victimized, traumatized, and made helpless. I strongly believe that if we would be more vigilant to obey God’s Word, there would be a greater awareness about abuse. We would also be wise to remember that God’s plan for survivors of abuse is that “He will redeem their life from oppression and violence; And precious shall be their blood in His sight,” as we see in Psalm 72:14. The victim blaming and shaming abuse victims into silence is sin and must stop.

Bear One Another’s Burdens

God never commanded us to avoid dealing with the effects of sin if they make us uncomfortable. Instead we are instructed, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ,” in Galatians 6:1-2. That means I am commanded to consider the sin you committed, or was committed against you, remembering how I feel when I am tempted to sin, or when I am sinned against. Then I am to respond to help you be restored spiritually, in a spirit of gentleness. If that isn’t clear enough, Paul clarifies with this specific command to “bear one another’s burdens,” so that I can fulfill the law of Christ. It’s a law of Jesus that I bear your burdens, and that you bear mine. That doesn’t mean I can dump all of my problems on you. I must always pray and be lead by the Spirit, acting in gentleness and with love.

Those that have been abused and silenced need someone to listen to them as God restores their sense of voice. They cannot share in the burdens of others at that moment. That is ok. This falls under the aspect of God’s perfect timing. God knows when we are brokenhearted and the Bible says during those times He is near to us (Psalm 34:18). During those times He will bring someone to help, to be near as He is near you in a supportive role. It is extremely unfortunate that so many Christians refuse to obey the commandment to bear one another’s burdens because it leaves a huge, gaping wound festering in the body of Christ. Will you pray with me that this will change?

Man Fails, God Does Not

We have to make the distinction between man failing to meet us in our most desperate need and God failing to be there. God is there, God was there, and man’s failure to obey should not discount God’s presence. This is a struggle to realize, and takes time, prayer, and proper support for survivors of abuse to accept.

I’m praying for you, and with you. And if you are standing in the gap to represent someone that has been abused, please don’t grow weary in doing good! You are obeying and honoring God in your actions. If you are the one that needs someone to stand in the gap for them, keep going! It is God’s desire for you to be redeemed from all the oppression and violence. You are precious in His sight!

Sincerely adorned,

Kristin

Recognizing Verbal & Emotional Abuse

Today I found Leslie Vernick’s website through a suggestion from April Cassidy (aka The Peaceful Wife), and I was pleasantly surprised to find a concise yet thorough explanation of what emotional and verbal abuse entail. I experienced constant verbal abuse growing up, but I have also experienced it as an adult. During the second occurrence I didn’t realize what was happening, but looking back I can see that all of these things happened to me. This is one of the things God revealed to me during my journey to walk alongside those who have been abused, and it is important for everyone to know.

verbal and emotional abuse

Take it away Leslie

Proverbs says, “Reckless words pierce like a sword” (Proverbs 12:18), and “Wise words bring many benefits” (Proverbs 12:14). “Gentle words are a tree of life, a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit” (Proverbs 15:4). “Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body” (Proverbs 16:24).

Most often we think of name calling, cursing, profanity and mocking when we think of verbal abuse. However, verbal abuse can also be more subtle or covert. Constant criticism, blaming, discounting the feelings, thoughts and opinions of another, as well as manipulating words to deceive, mislead or confuse someone are also abusive. Proverbs warns us, “The words of the wicked conceal violent intentions” (Proverbs 10:6b).

Emotional abuse can also be characterized by degrading, embarrassing publicly, or humiliating someone in front of family, friends or work associates.

Nonphysical abuse is more than using words to hurt another. Emotional abusers systematically undermine their victim in order to gain control. Abusers weaken others in order to strengthen themselves. They know what matters most to their target (for example, her children, his work, her appearance, her family, his pet, her friends) and they seek to destroy it.

Realizing that I was abused verbally has helped me to cope with an extremely painful situation that has haunted me for years. Just finding the words to articulate that it was abuse, and not something I imagined, has made such a huge impact on my emotional state.

Thank you for your continued prayers as I read my way through different books and articles. I believe God is doing a work, and He is showing me how to help people that have been abused. I know your prayers have kept me from nightmares and panic attacks after hours of reading horrendous testimonies. Please keep praying!

Sincerely adorned,

Kristin