Samaritan SafeChurch – 2016 Election Impact on Survivors of Sexual Abuse

November 11th, 2016 by admin

2016 Election Impact on Survivors of Sexual Abuse

Blog Post #8:  November 10, 2016

Linda Crockett 2015by Linda Crockett, Director of Education & Consultation

In our SafeChurch work, we encourage congregations and leaders to protect children from sexual abuse, as well as to create healing space for the many adult survivors among us. Over the past 3 months, we sat with many survivors in Wisdom Circles and were profoundly moved by the deep wisdom they expressed in response to our questions about faith, justice, offenders, forgiveness, and the church. This post-election week, many survivors are hurting and need communities that understand their particular kind of pain.
The election of Donald Trump is a personal, as well as collective, crisis for many survivors of sexual violence, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, the disabled, and other groups he objectified and mocked throughout his campaign. I began receiving social media messages and emails from survivors of sexual abuse as it became clear early on November 9th that the man who had openly talked about his sexual aggression against women, and then disparaged as liars those who came forward to confirm he did exactly what he said, would become our 45th president.

For most, it was not so much about his policies (whatever they turn out to be) but a deeply personal violation. It was as though their perpetrator had just been elevated to the highest office in the land. It was also reminiscent of the many by-standers who failed to protect them, turning a blind eye to the abuse because the offender was someone they valued more than the person being harmed. It reminded many of the justification often used by those who are inclined to overlook the egregious abuse of power by the perpetrator because he or she is too valuable to the family/congregation/community i.e. “look at all the other good things he does!”

As girls who are molested are at elevated risk for abusive relationships later in life, some have also suffered domestic violence, compounding their trauma. Many talk about the relentless emotional abuse inherent in relationships with partners who use power and control tactics, often characterized by criticizing, shaming and physically threatening behavior. When Donald Trump tweeted that Megyn Kelly, a Fox News host who confronted him with challenging questions, had “blood coming out of her wherever”; referred to women as “fat pigs, dogs, and disgusting animals”; called Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe “Miss Piggy” when she gained weight, it reminded them of how they were treated by abusive partners. When he angrily stalked the stage directly behind Hilary Clinton at the last debate as she addressed the audience, their bodies registered the fear they experienced when threatened by a physically more powerful spouse.

Survivors expressed shock, despair, numbness, confusion, betrayal, and exhaustion. In short, many are re-traumatized. PTSD symptoms, reactivated during a seemingly endless campaign that sunk to new levels of depravity, kicked into high gear as the election results became clear. The urgent question from many survivors is “Where do we go from here? How do we live in this new social space where sexually predatory, as well as bullying, behavior is effectively endorsed by a national election?”

I want to respond to the personal, as well as collective, pain expressed, in these questions. I do not have the answer to how to move forward, nor do I believe we need to figure that out right now. At the present time, what we most need is to allow ourselves to process what we feel, to grieve, and to be in community with each other and share the impact of this election on us. The time will come soon enough to turn our attention to strategies, and how we will navigate this new and painful social space.

We have been re-traumatized by the campaign, and its outcome. The feelings of disconnection, dislocation, disorientation and shock are entirely normal. We need to be in safe space in a community or circle of allies and friends that will listen to this pain, that will weep with us, that will allow us our grief and anger.

We need to take time to nurture the resilience that lives within each one of us who has survived sexual violation. But first, we can take time to mourn, to seek comfort and support. Our greatest danger is to numb out and isolate ourselves.

The time will come when we are ready to take action, to find new ways to live in resistance to the abuse of power operating system embedded in our culture, our institutions and our government. And we will need to do it in a way that is grounded in our love and our faith.

It is not God’s will that the powerful triumph over the vulnerable, the disabled are mocked, the victims of sexual abuse are shamed, and immigrants – referred to in scriptures as the foreigners in our land – are refused hospitality.

We need religious leaders willing to preach this, to bravely say this out loud. We need faith communities that are real sanctuaries for the vulnerable, with people who know how to sit with pain. And until we have those leaders and faith communities in abundance – which we hold as the vision we are working toward in SafeChurch – we have each other. Our love will make us strong.

One Response to “Samaritan SafeChurch – 2016 Election Impact on Survivors of Sexual Abuse”

  1. November 15, 2016 at 1:59 pm, Wendy Minnix said:

    Thank you, Linda, for your incisive reflections on the impact of the election on persons who have experienced sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violation. Many of my clients are sharing similar distress. One told me that the only way she got through the campaign was by believing that after November 8th she would not have to look at Donald Trump again on television or hear his voice. Seeing or hearing him has triggered nausea and feelings of disgust. Another shared that the face of her abuser and Donald Trump were merged in flashbacks of abuse. I am grateful that The Samaritan SafeChurch Program is offering opportunities for people to come together and express their feelings in healthy ways. Such opportunities are an antidote to the feelings of helplessness which many survivors feel in the wake of the election of someone who spoke and allegedly acted in disrespectful and violating ways towards women.

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