Some reasons abuse victims don’t tell
If the victim is young and has never told anyone before.
1. “No one will believe me. He’s too nice/powerful/well-respected.”
2. “I’ll get in trouble. They’ll blame me.”
3. “It really was my fault. Any time something bad happens, it’s my fault. I feel overwhelmed with shame and guilt.”
4. “My abuser is also my authority. He said I’m not supposed to tell.”
5. “If I say anything, I’ll be disobeying my parents. I’m not supposed to cause trouble or disrupt the ministry. ”
6. “I’m confused. I don’t know what to say, what to tell and what not to tell. I don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong. I don’t know how to answer the questions they’re going to ask me.”
7. “I’m supposed to be a living sacrifice. This is just part of that.”
8. “I’m not supposed to get anyone else in trouble.”
9. “I don’t want to believe that someone who was my friend / family member would do such a thing.”
10. “I don’t feel safe. I’m afraid if I tell it might be even worse.”
If the victim is older and has never told anyone, he or she can feel all of the feelings above, plus these:
11. “It was so long ago. I didn’t say anything when it happened. I shouldn’t bring it up now.”
12. “It was so long ago. I should be past this. I should be able to get over it.”
13. “Everything I know will come apart. I want to keep my world together.”
14. “I’ve been told I’m supposed to be strong. I’ve been told that bringing up anything about my past is complaining or ‘being weak.’ ”
15. “It seems impossible to explain. There are no words to describe some things.”
16. “They won’t understand. They’ll minimize it. They’ll tell me it wasn’t as big a deal as I’m making it out to be. I can’t bear to hear anyone minimize my trauma.”
17. “They’ll talk about God’s sovereignty. I can’t bear to hear that God planned my abuse.”
18. “I saw how they treated someone else who came forward. They made the victim forgive the abuser and have a relationship with him again. This terrifies me.”
19. “If I tell, then I’m admitting it really happened, and if I never speak about it, then I can pretend it didn’t.”
20. “I don’t know who I can trust with this broken part of my heart.”
21. “I just want to live a normal life. Being an ‘abuse survivor’ is not part of that.”
22. “I’ll make them uncomfortable. Nobody wants to be uncomfortable.”
If the victim has tried to tell before, he or she can feel all of the feelings above, plus these:
23. “Nobody believed me or understood me, and I don’t want to risk it again.”
24. “When I told before, they all turned away from me and wanted to avoid me. I’ve got to pretend I have a normal, happy life, or I’ll lose all social connections.”
25. “They told me I shouldn’t be stuck in the past; I should just move forward. They said, ‘let the past be the past’ and ‘time heals all wounds.’ ”
26. “They said nobody should air their dirty laundry.”
27. “I’ve been told that if I forgive I’ll be fine, and if I bring up the past that means I haven’t forgiven.”
28. “They said I’m sinning in response to the abuse (eating disorder, cutting, drugs, etc), so I feel helpless in the face of their judgment.”
29. “They told me I was gossiping by bringing it up.”
30. “The abuser denied it and they believed him. It’s far easier to keep it a secret than to see all the church lining up in support of the abuser.”
You’re welcome to add more reasons in the comments.
I didn’t expect this to be as hard to read as it is, but includes many of the reasons that silenced and terrified me as a child.
It includes many of the reasons why I couldn’t tell as I got older, but the hardest part is that, now, as an adult, I have finally broken the seal and some of it has leaked out.
Some responses have been very encouraging and patient, but the responses of many others make me feel different, isolated, as if I’m some alien creature.
As a young adult, I tried to tell just a couple of things. Immediately, I was labeled. The young man that I was dating at the time was told not to date me. I was forever stained and would destroy the marriage. People “like me” cheat on their spouses and lie all the time.
Thankfully, I was able to just block it all out for many years and I was able to pretend I was just a normal person with a regular life. It was wonderful!!!
Then, the nightmares and flashbacks started. Right in the middle of a happy, normal life, my current life all but disappeared. I remember the exact day it began. It was filled with horror and absolute terror. I could feel things as if they were happening right at that moment, but they were from decades earlier. I struggled to breathe. I kept shaking. I couldn’t speak clearly. That night, the nightmares began and more the next several months, I felt as if I was being raped every day. I was still able to push back against most of the past, but there were a couple of experiences that I couldn’t fight.
I lost all the “normal” relationships I had. I was simply trying to survive, and conversations about shopping and various daily activities seemed surreal to me. I couldn’t follow the words while fighting off the past. Sometimes it felt as if I was being raped while someone was talking to me on the phone, and somehow I was supposed to find a way to sound normal and understand their words. I don’t blame them for walking away. I wasn’t “me” anymore.
Now, I’ve moved past that initial phase. I am more easily able to fight against flashbacks and recognize when they could potentially happen. I can avoid settings that could trigger them.
However, I don’t belong anywhere now. To others, these things happened decades ago and I should be looking to the future and forgetting the past. “If I want to fit in, then I need to forget the past.”
My counselor tells me that I will never be well if I can’t face the past – face it in full. Some of those around me who are aware that I am struggling give me verses and encouragement to forget the past. They tell me to forgive, to not think or talk about it.
Until I have worked through it all with the counselor, I can’t fit in with “normal” people. I’m stuck somewhat like a yo-yo between different worlds of the past and now. Some (counselor primarily) want me to fully face the past – something that fills me with absolute terror and feels impossible.
Others see me as if I am choosing to live in the past, as if I’m feeling sorry for myself and want pity. I am NOT feeling sorry for myself. I do NOT want pity. I want to be just a regular person that doesn’t make everyone around me feel uncomfortable. I don’t know how to do that.
I can live my life mostly in isolation, go through the legal steps alone, go through the counseling alone, etc. or I can try to join in a community that will continually give me opposite advice of my counselor. They want to “fix” me as if I am just a project or they avoid me completely. Many don’t think these things should be talked about, especially since they were done by godly people.
It sort of feels as if I have to choose to be a “victim” – I do NOT want that – or I have to forget completely and pretend to be “normal”. Neither are who I am. I am just a regular person who lives in the present, but sometimes has to walk through battles from the past.
It is a very lonely road, yet I am incredibly blessed. As alone as I feel, there ARE a few who walk with me. I don’t know why they do it or how they so readily understand, but they are there, tracking with me, journeying with me, reminding me what is true, but without adding it as an extra burden to try to carry. Instead, they sort of share the load. When I am with those few people, I get to be just a regular person again. The struggles are still there, but they aren’t my identity.
I am sometimes sad as I am limited in where I can go and who I can be with and be “normal.” I wish I could join into regular christian society, but I can’t do that until I am “fixed.” I make people uncomfortable. I can see it. Sometimes, I will be fine, but will be startled by someone walking up behind me. It sets off alarm bells and though I fight it as hard as I can, I can’t stop shaking and trembling. My words get stuck and I realize how foolish I look. I see them look at me, and they feel uncomfortable. I mostly just end up feeling guilty for making an attempt to join into normal society. I leave and feel the weight of failure, the weight of being different, strange, the weight of making others feel awkward. I feel the weight of ruining their evening and I wonder why I try.
How does one make the leap from being alone to being able to be around people without making them uncomfortable? Is it best just to take a break from society until enough is fixed so that they won’t notice? What if that takes years?
Wow. This list! I fit all over the place. It’s like the author consolidated decades of my journals (many of which are written only on my heart).
JustMe, I get it. I hear you. Your words perfectly depict my journey too. People just don’t get how deeply their “fix it” words and assumptions hurt. They don’t understand how cornered it makes us, when we are already feeling “crazy” and disjointed and panic-stricken. Groups of people (not even crowds) can be the worst for me. Takes every ounce of energy to show up at church or the grocery store when I’m in those moments.
But isolated and lonely is no way to live. I’m thankful to hear you have a few people “with” you. Individual friends have been my lifeline. In recent years, I’ve started to breathe again. And I can cheer for you as you feel the life choked out of you and are thrashing to survive… For me, giving up sounds easier at times, but my hope is that you will not succumb to these terrorizing, lonely, trapped feelings.
This recovery stuff is HARD but somehow God strengthens us to get through. (Even during the times I haven’t really known what to think about God.) I’m in your corner!
Wendy, Your words are wise, “isolated and lonely is no way to live,” yet there are precious few who are willing to walk with others during long, hard and dark battles. I am deeply thankful for those who DO love even when it is costly. Thank you for being who you are, for speaking out, for not giving up! You give me courage and hope!!
I enjoyed reading your comments. Knowing people will still like and enjoy you as a person and want you around is comforting even when we do things that make us feel silly because we can’t control it. As a friend, I know I would rather be walking with you through this as a friend than to be by myself enjoying life as someone who is just pretending. I’m a deep person and I connect best when I know I have a real person as they are, I appreciate them and care more about their opinion if they are fighting for good than I could anyone else. You’re more precious than you know.
Yes! Here’s to being real and not just pretending! We are valuable “as is” — to God and to others!
Dear Just Me,
I’m a complete stranger to you, I know, and so these words may seem hollow. You’d rather hear them from those who have abandoned you, to know that they get it and are OK with your journey. I just want to validate your journey to healing and to tell you that you are brave, courageous, AMAZING, to keep pushing through to healing and freedom, even as your friends abandon you. You are well in your way to healing, and I applaud you.
I’m so glad that there are a few friends who are sticking with you. The phrase that makes me saddest is this one:
I wish I could join into regular christian society, but I can’t do that until I am “fixed.”
Oh, honey, I just want to put you on a plane to here and bring you into our little church fellowship. There is nothing but grace here, and you don’t have to have it all together to bring and be loved. I’m an praying right now that God brings you to a church community where you can experience this, because this is what church is really supposed to be. Much love to you, you brave overcomer, you!
I echo this! Brave overcomer, for sure!!!
Thank you for your words of kindness. I love hearing that there is a church ready and willing to walk with others during hard journeys. I suppose that those look very different from one individual to another.
While I assume that your church is likely not within my community, I can almost guarantee that there are many in your community who feel unloved, alone and desperate. I hope that they find your church to be a place of comfort, a place of hope, and a place to not walk life alone.
I live within BJU’s localized community, so there is no welcome for us here. There ARE those who truly care, but they are limited in what they can do without paying a very high cost. Some still speak, such as those at BJUGrace. I don’t think I have ever seen them post about the opposition they face, but I am quite certain that they have paid a price and likely continue to pay a price for the choices they have made. They could have walked away, yet they didn’t.
Thank you, BJUGrace, and thank you to those around the country who would welcome strangers and show them love.
I am shocked that BJU would post this list as they have done all they can to deny and coverup the rape of a minor on their campus, while letting the rapist go unpunished.
Darcy, we aren’t BJU. You can see who we are here: http://bjugrace.com/about-us/ Also, the allegations against the person cited in that link are only allegations at this point, because he has been charged but hasn’t gone through the court system–at this point the only people who could say unequivocally that he is a rapist would be any victims or witnesses; the rest of us need to use the word “alleged.” A minor may have been raped on campus, but we haven’t heard or seen any evidence to that effect.
Hi Darcy — if this list had been posted by the university, your shock would be 100% reasonable. And widely reiterated by many of us who are horrified by their stance of ignoring truth, vilifying victims, honoring and praying for perpetrators and…even rewriting decades of history for those who choose to stand with the school instead of God’s heart.
Until the school stands by truth…this website and FB page (BJUGrace) is stepping up. Their role of truth telling, supportive encouragement and providing information is reliable and trustworthy. I am forever grateful that their voice has sung loudly, esp during times when my own was hoarse and my heart was broken.
Thank you for your obvious care!
I fully agree with the comments you have already heard. I have not seen any indication of repentance or desire to care about those who need protection from the BJU world.
BJUGrace, however, is a group that has stood faithfully beside some of the most hated in our community. The victims of the BJU world are not readily accepted in this area of the country. Even if a church wanted to show kindness and compassion, they are bound by the payback that they would receive by BJU. Some will and do show private support and that is a beautiful thing to experience. None of us can really expect more than that.
I truly don’t fully comprehend why BJUGrace has made the choice they have made. Surely, they pay a price for it!
If you pay attention, however, are their any local churches who comment on the BJUGrace page showing unity in their desire for BJU to repent and do right and showing support to the victims?
Where is the church? Maybe it isn’t to be found in actual buildings that are made up of a community. I think that perhaps, the “church” for many of us, is made up of a small scattering of people around the country, people who readily walk hard journeys with others.
I just wanted to reply to Just Me to say that I live in Greenville, SC and I have found so much healing and redemption in Christ through LifePoint church. We are not perfect. We are not counselors. But we would love to welcome you and love on you any way we can, whatever that looks like (or doesn’t look like) to you. Please check us out at lifepointsc.org. We have no affiliation whatsoever with BJU, or even BJUGrace, but we don’t want anyone to walk alone. You are loved. Unconditionally.
Also please feel free to contact me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org
Peace be with you.
I have tried so many times to reply to your comment, but don’t know what to say. Thank you. It is hard to trust the idea that a church in this area would truly be welcoming. I don’t know of any local survivors who would risk the church world. That doesn’t mean that none go to church. I just don’t happen to know of any who do.
Thank you so very much for your kindness. Also, thank you for sharing your e-mail. Have almost e-mailed a few different times, but I just can’t. I’m so sorry.
All of the reasons that people don’t tell that are listed in the article are spot on. May I add a few (in the voice of the child that used to be me)?
Warning: these may be triggering.
-It never occurs to me to tell. I’m a child and I have no idea what this is, what’s happening to me.
-He told me not to tell. The Bible says for children to obey their parents, so of course I won’t tell.
-This is something that happens silently, in the darkness. Because the adult never talks during these times (except to occasionally tell me not to talk about it), I also get the *unspoken* message that this is something that’s not to be talked about.
-What he’s doing now is not as bad as what he used to do since he was confronted by another adult. He’s not touching actual private parts, so I guess it’s not abuse. I guess I don’t have a right to complain. I just know that I hate it. If I get up early enough and go play outside, maybe I can avoid it tomorrow.
When I was older (young adult) there were different reasons not to tell:
-It would shame my family, and change the way people treat my family, even those who have nothing to do with the abuse.
-It would change the way people see me and treat me. I want to be seen as a strong woman, not a weak victim or an emotional basket case.
-I wouldn’t be able to talk about it without crying. I hate crying in front of other people. I hate having to talk when I’m crying because of the way it changes my voice.
-Even thinking about it is too painful. And you want me to talk about it?
Thank you, Mom. This is painful and poignant.