So, there’s a follow-up to that terrible advice that Douglas gave to Gabrielle. It’s bad, really bad. So prepare yourselves, we’re goin’ in!
We’ll start off with a terrible metaphor, because why not?
Think of it this way. Compare what has happened to you to a broken bone, and let us say the break was particularly nasty, broken in bad ways and in multiple places. Before any “healing” can begin, before physical therapy can start, the bone has to be reset. A cast has to be put on it. What this does is immobilize the injury, preventing further injury. And sometimes the work of resetting a bone can be pretty gnarly—not a comforting experience at all. Considered in itself, it is simply one more bad experience following all the others.
This isn’t a broken bone. It is not even close to being a broken bone.
When you’re dealing with something like this, a wounding of the spirit, there is no set schedule. You have good days and bad days; some days you feel absolutely normal. It’s as if nothing ever happened to you. Other days, getting out of bed takes Herculean strength. You don’t want to get up, you don’t want to face anything, you don’t want to deal with anything. Some days, even breathing is difficult.
Even worse is the fact that people demand to know when you’ll be “over it”. The thing is, even you don’t know when you’ll be over it. Healing from an abusive situation isn’t a straight line; it is a journey and a destination. It takes time, a lot of time and many people don’t understand that.
With a broken bone, you have a timeline, a base idea of when the cast might be removed and when physical therapy can start. You don’t have one when it comes to abuse; it is touch and go at best. To say that this is a lousy comparison is putting it mildly.
What you refer to as my “Calvinism” is like the cast, setting the bone. It can appear rigid and unyielding. That is because it is rigid and unyielding. That is exactly what a cast needs to be. Whatever you do, however you think about this, do not find fault with God. If you start blaming God, there is nothing waiting for you at the end of that road but an everlasting swamp. You will almost immediately find yourself in a world where anything goes—including what your father did—and it will be a world in which you will find yourself victimized again and again. My central concern is to head that off.
Again, here we go with the “there can be no good without god”. But Douglas fails to mention where god was and he might have been doing while Gabrielle was being abused. There is no mention of god abandoning Gabrielle, which clearly happened. Douglas isn’t concerned with that, however. He is extremely concerned that Gabrielle might abandon god.
If she does, I wouldn’t blame her in the least. Why would you want to worship an entity who let you be hurt? It makes no sense to me.
I mentioned the prospect of being victimized again and again. Let me give you two examples of how this can happen. You have (almost certainly) noticed that some of the boys at school—and not the right kind of boys either—have started paying you the kind of attention that creeps you out and (simultaneously) beckons you. This kind of guy has an instinctive awareness of your vulnerability, and make no mistake, their interest in you is not altruistic. In such a situation, you are the prey (again). The reason it creeps you out is the Spirit within you. The reason it beckons is that you have probably already told yourself (hundreds of times) that you are “damaged goods,” that no Christian man “would ever want you,” that there is “no sense trying,” that there is “no sense caring,” that you are “forever defiled,” and so on. The emotional pull is based on the idea that the kind of guy who is paying attention to you now is the only kind of guy who would ever be interested in you. This is false, by the way, but in the moment it feels like unalterable truth.
That is the reason we have to set the bone—so that it doesn’t move in certain directions. The cast may seem “unkind,” but it is the kindest thing anyone could do for you in this kind of situation.
I don’t know why Douglas is so against her fraternizing with boys of her own age; seeing as how it was an adult who abused her, she’d be at a greater risk of further abuse by the hands of another adult. It would most likely be another adult grooming her for more abuse rather than someone her own age. I’m thinking that this falls into the “guys that age only want one thing from girls that age” trope.
Or we’re quite possibly dealing with the same mindset as Mike Pence; if two unattached people of the opposite sex are alone together, it means there will be sex. A lot of conservative christians cling to that idea; men and women cannot be friends because there is a temptation of sex. Of course, that isn’t true; I have a lot of male friends and I have no attraction to them.
Here is another example. Because of the trial, and the public nature of what has happened to your family, there are certain people who want to recruit you for “political” purposes. Your father was a deacon in your church—that was another betrayal of his—and there are people who want to capture you and use you in their crusade against conservative Christianity. They are on your side, “completely” they say. Whenever they have spoken to you, they have emphasized over and over that everyone has a responsibility simply “to believe you.”
I hate to say it, but this would be the reaction of the members of the church. A good number of them would ooze platitudes and the like, claiming to be on this girl’s side… until they turn on her. It seems her father was a deacon; the congregation would be far more likely to believe her father rather than Gabrielle.
Don’t believe me? Remember that a Catholic bishop blamed abuse victims, that the Catholic church moved abusive priests and that the pope himself continues to protect abusive priests. This happens more often than one might think.
Now of course, Nancy and I believe your account—absolutely. Your aunt and uncle do as well. But there is a dramatic difference. We believe it because it is the truth. It has been established. It was established in a court of law. It was established with multiple witnesses. It was sealed with your father’s confession in the plea arrangement. We all know what happened. Your story is true, in other words.
But there are people who are willing to believe your story whether or not it is true. These people act like they are on your side, but they are simply using you. In this respect they are very much like the boys who are coming around. They sense a vulnerability, and they sense that this vulnerability (that your father created) gives them an opportunity to get something they want. As soon as you can no longer supply them with that, you will find out that their concern is about as deep as a wet spot on the pavement.
Actually, most of the people who will believe Gabrielle will be ex-christians who dealt with abuse themselves. There are many because this isn’t new, as I’ve stated above. Being involved in a church does not magically make someone more moral than someone else. It’s the actions and deeds of that person which is the best indicator.
Not only that, since Gabrielle has come out and spoken out against one of her own, it will probably be the church that shuns her. They will demand that she forgive her father then the congregation will hear no more of her story and insist that since she “forgave” him, the matter is closed. Oh and if she tries to push forward and tell her story, she will be labeled as bitter. Remember: forgiveness in christian circles isn’t always suggested for the victim’s benefit. A good number of times, it is used to silence the abused.
Please know that you have many people in your life who love God and His Word, and who also love you. They want you to flourish. That is certainly want we want for you. Also please know that these people who love you will use many of the same phrases that your father would hypocritically use. But his false use does not negate the true use. In the course of our letter, I may refer to a Bible verse that your father would appeal to all the time. Look past the superficial associations.
Actually, what a good number would really want is for her to keep her mouth shut so that this can go away. That’s why the next letter Douglas is penning will deal with forgiveness. Stay tuned for that one, when it pops up.