From a sexual abuse /assault survivor who was counseled less than ten years ago by head counselor and counseling teacher and counseling book author Jim Berg. (Since she’s the second survivor to post with us, we’re giving her the B name “Belle.”)
We aren’t victims. We are survivors. That’s what my trauma therapist and my DBT therapist remind me weekly — I was a victim. I AM a survivor. One day, I hope to be a thriver. Terminology may seem petty, but for me (and, I venture to say, for other survivors), sometimes acknowledging that I am a survivor is what gets me through the day. Some days, through flashbacks and dissociations, and some nights, through nightmares, I re-live things and that makes me feel like a victim again.
With trauma counseling, it’s not about being “good enough.” It’s about having the proper training to know how to effectively counsel sexual abuse survivors without causing more harm than good. When Dr. Berg asked me what was I wearing, asked me if I had any physical pleasure during my repeated attacks — his questions made me feel like a victim again. And it heaped even more shame and guilt on me.
I only speak for myself, but I have no ill will toward him. His questions and words are still burned into my brain, but I don’t hate him. I’m sure Dr. Berg has helped many people. I actually personally know a few people he has helped wth their marriages. But, as is evidenced by the GRACE report, as well as in my own personal experience, Dr. Berg’s trauma counseling did more harm than good, as does seeing people defend him in this specific area who (I’m presuming) have not undergone harm and hurt and re-victimization from his “counseling.”
Dr. Berg also mentioned to me that I need to trust that God will heal my hurt. I trust God will heal my hurt, but there’s more to it than that, to be able to face the things that my abusers left in their wake. My trauma therapist, whom I’ve been seeing for over 3 years now, has helped me begin to deal with my trauma in a way I never thought possible. She has literally saved my life multiple times by sending me to the hospital when I wanted to end my life. My DBT (dialectical behavior therapist) has been so crucial in giving me techniques to handle the struggles that I experience on a daily basis. The crisis therapists at the hospital helped me want to live. And not once did they ask me what I was wearing, what did I do to bring it on myself, etc. These women have helped me, and not once done anything that inadvertently hurt me. I couldn’t be more thankful for them.
You tell us to get over it. I’m just going to put myself out there and say, don’t you think if I could “get over it,” I would? Do you think I enjoy spending days wondering if I’m going to have a flashback or dissociation? Do you think I love having the same recurring nightmare every single night over and over again? Do you think I enjoy living in fear that my abusers will find me, my husband and my daughter, just like they threatened every day they hurt me? I desperately wish I could get over the daily nightmare that has become my life, partly in fault to Dr. Berg for his inadequate and ultimately damaging counsel, for the shameful questions that he asked me, for defending my abusers. And I need to just get over it? Please, if you have a secret about how to do that, share it with me. I’m not trying to be a smartass, but when you talk about letting things go, please understand it’s not that easy.
And it’s not bitterness I hold in my heart. It’s hurt. And when you say I need to get over it, I feel like that’s invalidating my emotions. If someone were to murder a child, and the parents were counseled by a respected person who claimed to have authority on the topic, to not press charges, should the parents just get over it that they were told that? Should they just move on with their daily lives, without their child, and just ignore the fact that the person who told them to not report the crime was still counseling others to do the same thing? I don’t even necessarily want justice at this point. I just want to avoid anyone else getting hurt by Dr. Berg’s counsel, which is exactly what I told the GRACE team.
I also want to be clear that I’m not a hater of BJU. I actually had a wonderful education there and met some amazing friends and teachers there. The University offers a top-notch education in my field, and I’m proud to have received that education.
I’ve also read people’s comments on Facebook: “Focus on your life now and stop dwelling on this.” Despite the fact that I often live hell on earth through flashbacks, dissociations, and nightmares, like I mentioned before, God has truly blessed me. I have a wonderful, compassionate husband who has stood by my side and loved me. I have a beautiful daughter who is my entire reason for wanting to live right now. So the parts of me that are able to move on, I’ve fought to do so.