How does one follow a couple of blogs on family violence (FV) and safe ministry?
Before I return to blog posts poking fun at myself on this Christian journey, I wanted to share a couple of lessons that have popped up for me in the responses to both.
I am not a victim. Please let’s stop using that term.
Yes, I may have been harmed or injured as a result of family violence. But I am not a person who has come to feel helpless and passive in the face of misfortune or ill-treatment. Whilst I was physically sick after publishing that post, it wasn’t from any feeling of helplessness. Instead it was because I dreaded someone looking at me differently in the present day. Treating me differently. Like a victim. To be named a victim is to somehow remain stuck in the language of fear.
Nor am I a survivor.
Gloria Gaynor has a lot to answer for. Surviving something feels so limiting. Slightly static. I don’t continue to live or exist in spite of FV. In fact, I rarely think about it. Why survive when you can bust through and grow?
Show compassion, sorrow or anger on my behalf, but, dear God, don’t pity me.
The parents who split messily, the mother who attempted suicide, the step-father who used his fists, all those experiences made me the woman I am. Whom I love. A resilient, strong, sassy, kind, fun, loyal warrior. Sarcastic, dry-humoured, yet compassionate and empathetic. (The latter two are less my default feelings. Thankfully Jesus reminds me to access them more each day). So please don’t pity people for the very experiences that forged them. If they value what they see in the mirror, your pity only devalues the experiences that gave them worth.
Love, forgiveness – ‘turning the other cheek’ – can achieve miracles.
Rosie Batty responded to a hateful, vile act with love. As a result she placed FV far higher on our nation’s agenda and was instrumental in the instigation of a Royal Commission into family violence. It’s early days, and I look forward to seeing how our leaders and our society as a whole tackles it.
There’s more to do, to pray for.
Yes, call for increases to budgets for family violence support services. Safe havens are necessary. But rather than parking the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff as abusees tumble over, let’s start fixing the underlying issue: why men (and some women) perpetrate family violence. What messages are being sent in our culture that perpetrate it? That cause confusion? Such as:
- We tell our boys it’s never okay to hit a girl. How often do we teach our girls that it’s never ok to hit a boy?
- Advertising that portrays women as passive objects that any amount of muck can be done to.
- Porn. Rape porn.
- Laws that leave Fathers battling for fair access visits to their children, with little recourse. Yes, there are times when that limited access is necessary. But (and I write from personal experience) there are also times when good men, great Dads, are punished by their ex-wives for the relationship breakdown; via making access visits incredibly difficult to secure.
This isn’t going away.
Ending family violence requires massive societal change; results need to be measured across generations. I’m impressed by the many clergy who have been vocal in calling for change and appear willing to shine the light in the dark corners. I’m also hopeful because of another massive societal shift that spread across the world incredibly quickly, back in the first century, and continues to support the weak and stand up for the oppressed today.