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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?
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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