Financial Ramifications of Abuse: What’s a Church to Do?

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Survivors of abuse have to climb many mountains.  The first mountain is acknowledging the fact that they are being abused.  Then they have to decide what to do.  They are left emotionally reeling and yet, have to survive, take care of their children, put food on the table, etc.

One of SSB’s regular readers, Brenda, found the blog via a Google search which landed her at this article:  Being Married to a Pedophile: A Wife Speaks Out and Offers Hope to Other Wives of Pedophiles.   While Brenda’s story is horrific, the story of how she found the blog and what has happened since is one of my favorite stories.  You can read the comments where she connects with another former wife of a pedophile.  It’s a beautiful story in that two women who had their lives completely disrupted by their pedophile husbands were able to connect and tell their stories.   Now they have a unique connection and can offer one another hope, share heartaches, and struggles.  I just love how God works.  Brenda has a blog, A Solitary Journey, and is so vulnerable in sharing her personal story in hopes that she can be of encouragement to others.   

Brenda shared from her heart on the new SSB Forum.  Because Brenda has been so open about her experience, I asked if she’d be willing to discuss it here. Brenda gave me permission to copy it entirely.   She has such amazing strength.

It makes me sick to think of the money churches spend on church expansions, high-tech equipment, remodeling projects, spending thousands of dollars to send people on short-term missions trips when victims of abuse are left in financial ruins, barely surviving because of the predicament in which the abuser has put them.

I can’t help but think that an abuse survivor must feel as if they are in prison with so little help from people who are supposed to be helping:  the church.  She is the one who first bore the pain of the abuser, but she is the one who also must deal with the aftermath in ways that are likely more difficult than the abuser will ever face.  Why is the survivor abandoned and re-victimized yet again?  This is not right!

It is important to read Brenda’s first-hand account to understand exactly what survivors face as they try to get back on their feet again.

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Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

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Financial Ramifications of Abuse: What’s a church to do?

by Brenda

I know that in a sense I am preaching to the choir here because I believe we are all on the same page when it comes to the righteous anger we feel on how the church handles abuse victims of any sort.  But I’m wondering what your experience has been in terms of how the church has responded to the tangible needs abuse victims have.  Let me explain:

When my ex was arrested for child pornography, his “Christian” employer immediately fired him.  I understand that was the wise and correct thing for them to do for him and for their institution.  But he was the only breadwinner in our family so my daughter and I were immediately left with no source of income and quickly without health insurance.  We had no savings to draw from and our financial needs were huge–staggering.  The legal fees for my very difficult divorce exceeded $20,000, not to mention the cost of relocating and starting life over again.  My daughter and I literally left town within two days of his arrest with a suitcase of clothing and nothing else.  The media coverage was huge and we were afraid for our safety since our home address was printed all over the media.  We landed in Southern California and lived out of that one suitcase for weeks and weeks and weeks.  There was no offer of support or help in any way from organized religion or “religious” individuals.

I was unemployed for a year and a half after my life exploded.  It is a difficult environment now for job seekers plus I know that I was discriminated against by religious institutions because of the ongoing public spectacle of my ex’s criminal case.  The only way to get a job these days is to know someone who knows someone and I desperately needed someone to take me under their wing and help me find a job by networking for me with their associates.  I longed for someone to say, “Hey, I know x and y and z who are in the position to influence hiring choices.  Give me your resume and I will personally contact them on your behalf.”  That didn’t happen.

I needed cash and lots of it.  Other than a few very small gifts, there was none forthcoming from any religious organization or individual.  My Buddhist gay brother and his partner pledged to provide for us until I could get on my feet.  And they did–tens of thousands of dollars–all a gift, nothing expected in return.

I needed household items since I was unable to gain access to my former home to get our belongings for months.  My daughter and I slept on air mattresses for a time and eventually, I maxed out my credit card to purchase beds, etc. so we would have a place to sleep.  How many people have excess in storage units, garages, etc.  It would have saved so much money if people had offered.  But they didn’t.

I needed friends who would call and invite me to a family dinner or take me out for a meal.  Instead, I had a few friends who wanted to connect but never offered to pay for my meal and often used the time to bend my ear about their struggles.  Might I add, it was incredibly difficult to sit and listen to the pain they still experienced over the death of a pet for hours?  My mind was present but my heart just was screaming–“Let me tell you about pain, my friend!!!!!@@###$$”

I needed recognition as a victim.  I was told by the prosecutor in my ex’s case that the court does not recognize me as a victim.  And unfortunately, neither does the church.  Instead I am a pariah, a leper, contagious.  The church I now attend is a safe place, I believe.  But only a few of the small congregants know my story. Not sure why the pastor has not been more forthcoming with help–still puzzled by that.

The extraneous expenses a partner of a pedophile faces can be huge and there seems to be no place where assistance is available.  At one point, my daughter’s therapy expenses exceeded $700 a month and we had no insurance so that came out of my pocket. Legal fees are often a necessity–I so often wished for a defense attorney or any attorney who could help me understand the process and any potential liability I might have.  We have Christian attorneys–do they make themselves available to individuals such as myself, who cannot afford to pay them?

So what has your experience been in terms of tangible needs?  Have you received support from any religious organizations with which you are affiliated?  I’m asking because I so want my experience to be the anomaly though I fear it isn’t.  As this forum grows, we are going to have people raw with pain from recent disclosure, etc.  If we can work through some of this stuff now, then we will be a safer place for them during the initial throes of their trauma.  Does that make sense?

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Can we please discuss this?    How does your church handle situations like this? Do you know of survivors in your church? Are their needs being met? How can we find these survivors? What can we as a church body do to make sure the Brendas in our midst do not slip through the cracks.  Oh, this pains me to know this is going on!   Take note – Brenda’s Buddhist gay brother and partner helped provide for Brenda and her daughter, but where was the church? Sometimes I feel embarrassed to be a Christian.

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175 comments on “Financial Ramifications of Abuse: What’s a Church to Do?

  1. Gary W., your question is a good one and as a response, I go back to my original posting. But another partner of a pedophile posted a heartbreaking story at:

    https://spiritualsoundingboard.com/2013/05/15/being-married-to-a-pedophile-a-wife-speaks-out-and-offers-hope-to-other-wives-of-pedophiles/

    An attorney offered a response that perfectly answers your question, I believe. Offer what you have to those in need, and it may not necessarily be a financial resource, it may be your skills or professional knowledge. An attorney offered sound legal advice to Kristy. This attorney probably has a network of other attorneys in other parts of the country that could also help.

    Several months ago, I had a crown break and without dental insurance was wondering how I could take care of it. I contacted a former dentist, who I know is a Christian and explained the situation. I was not asking for him to repair my crown free of charge, but just if he had a discounted price he could offer me as a cash-only patient. He did not even respond to my inquiry. We all have talents and abilities as well as resources that we can make available to those in need. But doing so is an inconvenience and will certainly stretch us out of our comfort zones but may very well be life-saving for those we help.

    Lydiasellerofpurple, I was simply pointing out that the discussion had taken a turn from ways to offer practical help to what constitutes a church, is it Biblical, etc. These are good discussions to have but are doing nothing for a woman such as your friend, who is losing her home. We can sit and debate forever and it won’t help one needy person, in fact, it may cause them to leave the discussion/church/group altogether. I am so sorry your friend was abused by a religious organization–that is some of the absolute worst abuse that can be meted out. And to have it negated by the person who was supposed to help her just compounds it. I can understand why her trauma was triggered.

    I know that abuse in religious organizations is rampant and that there are many, many who have exited the church altogether because of it. I think the solution needs to focus on two needs simultaneously: meet the needs of those within the church and its neighboring community–especially those who are marginalized by abuse, poverty, violence, etc. But at the same time, work to reform the church and to educate members and leaders on the needs–both spiritual and practical–of those who sit in the pew and are deeply wounded and in great need.

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  2. Lydiasellerofpurple, I was simply pointing out that the discussion had taken a turn from ways to offer practical help to what constitutes a church, is it Biblical, etc. These are good discussions to have but are doing nothing for a woman such as your friend, who is losing her home. We can sit and debate forever and it won’t help one needy person, in fact, it may cause them to leave the discussion/church/group altogether. I am so sorry your friend was abused by a religious organization–that is some of the absolute worst abuse that can be meted out. And to have it negated by the person who was supposed to help her just compounds it. I can understand why her trauma was triggered.

    Brenda: I appreciate you bringing this aspect up. We have some strong voices here saying that institutional church is wrong, period. Okay. That’s their opinion. We have some strong opinions that say institutional church has problems, but can be a positive experience. That’s another opinion. We can have strong opinions here. The person at the keyboard right now is certainly not exempt and this is, after all, the SSB.

    Some people say if we don’t remove Calvinism entirely out of this church and that organization, it is destined for failure. Guess what, Calvinists say the same thing about alternate doctrinal beliefs. Sometimes the polarization along the process does more damage than good.

    When I see someone say: my way or the high way with regard to their way of thinking, I get my dander up. I do not see grace and love. I think there are better ways of communicating.

    Ok, and here’s one more thought while I’m at it. There are a lot of bad churches out there that may not support an abuse victim well. There are others churches that probably do a fairly decent job of it. But what is the likelihood of an abuse victim in the middle of a crisis to want to change her whole church paradigm? IMHO, it’s the wrong to do put that on someone during a crisis. Provide for her in real ways – you know, just love on her. After she is settled and secure and the dust has settled, then share with her concerns you have about institutional church vs non-institutional church. I think this is what Brenda is addressing.

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  3. Brenda,

    Your previous post reminds me that opportunities to serve have a way of presenting themselves to us, whether or not we go looking. Certainly this has been true for me, and it was often, maybe usually, been connected to the particular area of law in which I practice. I would like to think that I have never been like the dentist you describe who didn’t even respond to your inquiry, but maybe also I’d rather not give it too much thought. It would be good if I can remember to always at least respond.

    And who knows? Maybe I am experiencing something of what I call divine coincidences. Just yesterday I had an opportunity to speak directly, though briefly, to the Director of Public Policy for the (Name of State) Coalition Against Domestic Violence. One thing I gleaned from this conversation is that there are people and agencies out there to whom I could direct somebody who is in a DV situation. I was assured that, in my state, help would be available in a situation where a spouse was left without resources due to the unexpected arrest of their husband. It turns out that there is a single almost local phone number to call to get help, information on how to safely separate from an abusive spouse, other advice, counseling, and further referrals. Interestingly, and distressingly, it is the secular world that is stepping up to the plate.

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  4. Excuse me, but it seems to me that the primary victims were the children of Brenda’s husband. Brenda might feel a lot less slighted by the Christian community if she would think less about what she is entitled to and more about the children who were abused by her husband. The church didn’t wound her–her husband did. And she is wounding herself further with her sense of entitlement.

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  5. “These are good discussions to have but are doing nothing for a woman such as your friend, who is losing her home. We can sit and debate forever and it won’t help one needy person, in fact, it may cause them to leave the discussion/church/group altogether.”

    Or, it might help them to become as ‘wise as serpents and gentle as doves”.

    “I think the solution needs to focus on two needs simultaneously: meet the needs of those within the church and its neighboring community–especially those who are marginalized by abuse, poverty, violence, etc. But at the same time, work to reform the church and to educate members and leaders on the needs–both spiritual and practical–of those who sit in the pew and are deeply wounded and in great need.”

    Why wouldn’t that be “just talking about it here”, too? I am afraid I am even more confused.

    Most “help” comes from individuals and quite frankly from those who get it and have little to give. And as to education, perhaps that might help…not sure… but how is it we need to educate churches when they are around single moms out of abuse every week at church? Don’t they know? Don’t they inquire past, how are you today? Perhaps we need more Holy Spirit education?

    My points here are not to hurt anyone in fact, just the opposite.

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  6. “But what is the likelihood of an abuse victim in the middle of a crisis to want to change her whole church paradigm? IMHO, it’s the wrong to do put that on someone during a crisis.”

    I agree. I think I may have misunderstood this thread and I apologize for any part I had in making it uncomfortable for anyone. I did not realize that pointing out the problems or experiences would make people feel they had to change their paradigm.

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  7. April,

    You also appear to be assuming that the facts are other than what they are. Read Brenda’s blog. Brenda’s children were adults when her ex husband was arrested. They were not victims in the sense that you seem to be assuming.

    There are two reasons your insensitive, hard hearted attack has not prompted me to respond with my own counter-attack. The first is that I fear that to do so would serve to further traumatize some who are reading here. The other is that you seem to give evidence of living out of your own unresolved trauma. I may be wrong. I will explain further only if you ask me to do so.

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  8. I agree. I think I may have misunderstood this thread and I apologize for any part I had in making it uncomfortable for anyone. I did not realize that pointing out the problems or experiences would make people feel they had to change their paradigm.

    Well then I’m glad we’re discussing this because I don’t think people understand what this kind of crisis can produce. I mean depression alone can cause someone to not be able to function properly. Imagine this kind of devastating news that puts someone in such a shock. Imagine immediate loss of income. Imagine your husband being taken away in handcuffs with no warning. Imagine having to tell someone, “my husband is a pedophile.” Imagine having to ask for help and having to admit with your mouth that your husband is a pedophile when you can’t even believe the reality yourself, but regardless if you believe it or not, you need to survive. That alone could send someone over the deep end. We’re talking very basic here: give the woman and her family food, shelter, and support. She has no room in her head to even think of anything else but survival.

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  9. Excuse me, but it seems to me that the primary victims were the children of Brenda’s husband. Brenda might feel a lot less slighted by the Christian community if she would think less about what she is entitled to and more about the children who were abused by her husband. The church didn’t wound her–her husband did. And she is wounding herself further with her sense of entitlement.

    Hi April:

    Perhaps you have a story that causes you to say hurtful comments to Brenda. I hope for your sake that is not so. Perhaps you know of a situation in which a perpetrator’s family was treated better than a victim’s family. I know of cases like that, too. When there is horrific sex abuse committed against someone, it’s only natural to be angry, but please, let’s not let that anger get misdirected to innocent parties. Anger must be appropriately directed towards the perpetrator and anyone who knew about the crime and failed to report.

    A perpetrator leaves a trail of victims. Of course the primary victims must be cared for, but there are many secondary victims. The purpose of this post is to encourage others to look beyond to see all victims involved in a crisis to see if they are helping in the best ways possible. In Brenda’s case, her husband was the family’s primary breadwinner. Without warning, she was left without any income to provide for herself and her daughter. Do you think Jesus would abandon Brenda and her daughter? Jesus commanded Christians to love. He modeled that love by showing compassion and also meeting physical needs. There were two incidences recorded in which he multiplied bread/fish to give to the multitude so they had something to eat before their travels home. Yea, I think He would care for Brenda and her daughter and would someone to tend to their needs of food/shelter. Were the multitudes who listened to Jesus preach labeled as entitled? Neither then should Brenda be labeled as such.

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  10. April,

    Whoa, really: You said: “she is wounding herself further with her sense of entitlement.”

    PLEASE, I hope you will consider what Gary W & Julie Anne said to you.

    However, I don’t know how you came to the conclusion that she has a sense of entitlement. Where is your compassion? If you were sexually abused and found help from church that is remarkable, but to cast scorn on a woman who has suffered from what her husband did, and how the church she was in mistreated her is so off the mark.
    I ache that you could be so callous & cruel. Lord have Mercy, Christ have Mercy.

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  11. April most likely does not understand true sociopaths (or whatever they are calling them these days). People like that are easily deceived by sociopath types and often blame the victims. If they have no experienced living with a person for years and having NO idea about their evil, then they do not understand how very deceptive it all is. They work at being deceptive. It is part of who they are and their evil.

    In my experience Christians have been the most gullible about this because they also buy into the “sinners just keep on sinning even after saved” bit so they tend to ignore even the most subtle red flags because that would be “judgmental” and “nobody is perfect”.

    As a policewoman detective told me, Pedophiles love church because it is a great place to hide out in. People automatically lend you their trust because you are a fellow Christian and they are even more reluctant to believe bad things about you and then if you are caught, they want “grace” for them because they are “Christians”. It is a horrible cycle.

    Christians get a lot of things backward.

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  12. Arce posted (6:38 AM) just as I was needing to get ready for work, so this followup response will be less well thought out than I would prefer. That said, I consider it noteworthy that Brenda writes elsewhere of how one man’s sin redounded to the great detriment his descendants. I think I should let Brenda decide whether she wishes to supply the specific link.

    In the NET Bible we read: 10: 5 . . . for I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, responding to the transgression of fathers by dealing with children to the third and fourth generations of those who reject me, 20:6 and showing covenant faithfulness to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. NET Bible.

    In the very place where we are warned about the generational consequences of sin, we are given great hope and encouragement that we need not be bound by the sins of our ancestors. Even more encouragingly, neither our children nor theirs need be caught up in either the sins or the consequences of the sins of their parents and remoter ancestors.

    The solution is found in Love, which is the summary and substance of the Law, as well as Jesus’ new commandment. Love covers a multitude of sins.

    Charismatics, and no doubt others, speak of praying for the breaking of generational curses. Well, why not? But also we can love. Would that it were not to late to bathe my own children in only love from before birth, apart from any attempt to compel good behavior by fear. Yet, surely, it is never too late to love as we have been loved. We can love our families and our neighbors and, yes, we can even strive to love our enemies.

    I am reluctant to speak of loving enemies for fear of unintentionally communicating a burdensome expectation. We simply cannot do it on our own. Surely the timing must be His alone. Surely we need not beat up on ourselves because our Lord has not yet brought us to the place of loving our enemies. (Yet, I can also testify to this, if only in small degree: Love of enemies may benefit them, but it appears that the greatest reward is visited upon the one who loves.)

    All of this is to make my main point, which is that we need not be overly anxious about how our own failings, or those of others, may negatively impact our children. The concern is real, but we are given the ability to apply the healing balm of prayer-bathed love, of love-bathed prayer. Plus, our Lord continuously loves in all the ways we must fail. God is Love.

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  13. We are to love our enemies, but that does not mean we are to wish them success in their enmity toward us. It really means that as a Christian, we are not to have hatred toward enemies, because of the damage it can do to us and our relationships with others. We should be praying for the salvation of our enemies, and seeking ways to share the message of grace and forgiveness.

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  14. Thank you, Arce. Perhaps I should not have allowed myself to get distracted beyond simply observing to the effect that, though abuse and neglect has long-term effects, victims are not without hope. Because your post triggered anxious thoughts regarding how my own conduct might have affected my children, I perceived that others might be having similar thoughts. So part of what I was and am trying to do is communicate that there is healing, and we are even given the means by which we can participate in the healing–though without having to take responsibility for the final result. Only our God is big enough for that. The question of loving enemies very likely was one I ought not to have made a part of this particular thread.

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  15. Hey Gary,

    I was always struck with the cognitive dissonance of people telling me to “love my enemies” when the “enemies” who did the wrong, were professing Christians….many in ministry! I always thought, shouldn’t they rebuke them, instead, for the evil they perpetuate while claiming the Name of Christ? Everything is so backwards in so much of what passes for Christendom.

    Loving your enemies is one of those proof texts that is often abused and misused. I think Arce gave a good explanation of it.

    Of course my favorite verse on this issue is:

    Be wise as serpents but gentle as doves. If it was good enough for the Apostles in navigating this world as followers of Christ, then it is good enough for me.

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  16. Lydia,

    Well, since I don’t seem to be able to re-close the loving-enemies can of worms anyway, I might as well observe that neither love nor forgiveness means having to pretend that the bad thing done doesn’t matter. They don’t mean walking way from justice, just vengeance. They don’t mean you don’t hold the offender accountable. They certainly don’t mean remaining in a place of vulnerability, in a place where the offender can inflict further harm.

    Plus, the offender doesn’t get to manipulatively demand forgiveness and love. The offender’s responsibility is repentance and restitution. If the offender is seeking restoration of relationship, the victim gets to set the terms of restitution. The terms need to be severe enough to establish that the offender is serious, and to write the sinfulness of the sin committed on the offender’s heart. The victim gets to decide whether or not the reestablishment of relationship is even an option. Basically, the victim gets to claim control. If children are involved, their interests come first.

    And maybe I need to follow my own advice and just listen intently.

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  17. Gary, I totally agree. That verse was used against me horribly. In fact, one of the worse things Christendom does is accept an “I’m sorry” from the perp and move on expecting the victim to instantly forgive and reconcile. Not enough. That is NOT repentance. But it is being taught that way. (This was all over the SGM mess)

    I had this conversation with a Christian school principal last year. he said he was very concerned about some of the kids doing really mean things to other kids and then saying “sorry” when caught but then repeating the same mean things over and over thinking “sorry” got them off the hook each time.

    I told him they were being taught this at most churches and he had to reluctantly agree. So we can see where it starts and then the person who did the wrong thing can accuse their victim of not being forgiving if they don’t move on from the “Im sorry”. DV abusers do this all the time.

    And if you watch the news, you will see it everywhere especially in politics! “Apologizing” erases just about anything with no real consequences to those who were hurt or lied to.

    This is narcissism/sociopathy. And it is becoming ingrained in our society. Church should be the last place we see it but it is rampant there.

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  18. Gary, Lydia: I agree with your most recent posts. It was what I was trying to convey. The issue of loving one’s enemies does not mean an easy forgiveness and clearly does not mean restoration of a relationship under any circumstances other than a complete change by the offender and a free choice by the victim, just as Gary said in his last comment. Kudos to both of you.

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  19. Just sick. But you know what? Brenda started out four paragraphs in a row with the “selfish” phrase, “I needed.” I can just hear it now that some church leader would say we need to stop needing and do what we can to help others. We’re not here to get something out of church, we’re here to give. Been there, heard that. Sick.

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  20. The author doesn’t mention if she asked for help. There are often many people who want to help but don’t know what to do and don’t want to offend. They may be afraid that the person would be offended at the offer of money or a bed. Often times we need to speak out and say, “I need help”. It’s hard to do actually, but when we do usually people are very willing to help.

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