THINGS YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO SAY TO A SURVIVOR. Day 13. (15/16).
We're going to be wrapping up the #16daysofactivism soon and I thought to share a few things survivors shouldn't have to hear from others. It's not an end to activism against gender-based violence in general as the fight is yet to be won. As we continue to campaign for women and against violence, we need to recognize the things we can easily do at an individual level like learning how to interact with survivors. I've put together a striking few things you should never say to a survivor, no matter what happens. If you hearken to my advice, you'll help create a safe environment for women who have suffered abuse.
1. God wanted you to get abused.
Last week, I came across a tweet from someone replying to the comment of a survivor who asked a valid question as to why God let her get raped. This "someone", claimed God wanted the survivor to go through rape to bring her closer to Him. This is a popular opinion among some Christians and I find it disturbing. Some people claim it's destiny and God placed such a heavy burden on survivors to make them stronger and in a better position to help others. I want to say this to you as someone who has been repeatedly abused and had to navigate her relationship with God, you were lied to. God never wanted you to be abused. It's not His will, it's not your destiny.
In James 1:13-14 NLT, the scripture says "And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away".
We see here first, that God doesn't tempt anyone with evil. All forms of abuse are evil and aren't from God. God neither tried nor tempted you with the abuse. The second lesson here is, God didn't present an opportunity to your abuser to abuse you. No one is tempted by God but people are led to act according to their own desires. This means you did nothing to deserve the abuse. Your abuser acted all by himself to hurt you.
If this isn't enough, see Jeremiah 29:11 NLT "For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope". God is saying, He knows His plans for you. He has plans for you. Unlike you, He sees the end from the beginning. Your future and everything you're planning for yourself is His past. Yet, He's telling you firmly, with so much authority that in the entirety of His plan, there's no disaster, evil, or abuse. What He has planned gives you a good future and indisputable hope.
If that doesn't work the magic for you, let's look at two of my favorite scriptures.
Matthew 7:9-11 NLT
“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him".
James 1:17 NIV
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows".
Concerning earthly parents who're able to give good gifts to their children, we see that God who's so much greater and loves more than anyone else can give good gifts to His children. God knows how to give perfect gifts and abuse isn't one of God's gifts to you. God didn't purpose rape for you. Instead, He made a redemptive plan to save you from the traumatic experience of abuse. He knew beforehand and He made a provision of healing for you. What man meant for evil, He turned around for good but He didn't plan the evil. You're not a pawn in a supernatural cosmic game. God isn't some sick twisted psycho who derives joy in torturing you. You're loved by God.
2. You shouldn’t question God.
As a survivor, I know you have questions and I can bet you on the salvation I have in Christ, God wants you to ask Him all of those questions. He Himself said "Ask and keep on asking and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking and you will find; knock and keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives, and he who keeps on seeking finds, and to him who keeps on knocking, it will be opened".
Mat 7:7-8 AMP.
When something traumatic happens, it’s not just fine to question God, it’s necessary for healing and restoration. Job did it, David did it, Moses did it, Elijah did it and even Jesus did it. Jesus asked why the Father had forsaken Him. It’s only in asking that we can understand. God will give us clarity on things we find confusing and answers that no one can give. It’s wrong to tell survivors to not question God. God isn’t like humans, He isn’t afraid of our emotions. He created us with them, to begin with. Let Him know what you’re feeling.
3. Forget what happened.
Again, the majority of folks who say this are Christians. It's a misguided belief to think something as traumatic as abuse will automatically be wiped out of one's memory. I don't even think forgiveness of abusers is something to coerce survivors into. The goal should be to allow them to experience God; the more they behold Him, the more they're changed into His image. This will in turn bear fruits of forgiveness, allowing them to forgive the abuser. As for forgetting what happened, I don't think that happens. Even if you suffer amnesia, your body will always remember. The truth is, it's in remembering that we heal. We need to face the ugly reality and the negative accompanying emotions. We need to give ourselves permission to retrace our steps and accept we were abused. We need to remember the pain and the severity of the damage. That's how we know how much healing we need. Telling a survivor to forget is dismissing their pain.
4. You must report so he doesn't do the same to someone else.
I know people say this from a good place but it's a statement that overwhelms the survivor. It's a good thing for a survivor to come to that knowledge all by themselves. However, when you're pushing for this and making them believe they have to report it even when they're not up to it, you're doing more harm than good. You're making them responsible for the abuser's behavior There's a culture of silence we must address and there's an enabling environment we must create for survivors. Until we do that, we have no right to push survivors into making formal reports when it's certain we can't protect them or guarantee them justice. Abuse is traumatic and survivors can take all the time they need to report. And if they don't want to, that's fine too.
5. You shouldn't have worn that.
Anything insinuating their outfit contributed to the abuse should be thrown out the window. Outfits don't mean consent. We need to stop believing a woman's body is a source of temptation and start holding men responsible for their lust. Nobody owes you decency but you owe God self-control which is a fruit you have by the Spirit. Take Jesus advice in Mat 5:27-30 AMP "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who [so much as] looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble and leads you to sin, tear it out and throw it away [that is, remove yourself from the source of temptation]; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble and leads you to sin, cut it off and throw it away [that is, remove yourself from the source of temptation]; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell".
Finally, if you're a survivor, I want you to let go of any guilt associated with any of the points above. Refuse to believe God played you dirty and brought the abuse on you. Refuse to hold back your questions because you feel it's too emotional and insensitive to God. Refuse to feel guilty for not reporting on time or for not reporting at all. Refuse to feel guilty for not being able to forget what happened. Stop punishing yourself for what you were wearing or not wearing. It wasn't your fault.
"Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me".
Psalms 23:4 NLT