Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Child Sexual Abuse Survivors: Are You A Well-Spoken Witness or National Spokesperson?

I know this post is going to cause a stir among my fellow abuse survivors and to some members within the body of Christ. But this is an issue that needs to be addressed. Many abuse survivors in the body of Christ look to celebrities as role models, when in fact many celebrities and/or counselors who have survived abuse give the impression that they have a chip on their shoulder and there's no sympathy to those who have suffered (even to the point where they attacked victims by saying, you’re in sin because you’re not thinking right – regardless of what state they’re in). That’s not fair to an abuse survivor, people with an influence need to understand where people are in their path to recovery or are they still struggling with the pain of abuse instead of attacking (even if it’s unintentional). And that’s what led to this post.

I was inspired by a fellow author’s quote: not every abuse survivor needs to be a spokesperson. I couldn’t agree with her more if I tried. In fact, I agree with her quote so much that I asked her to write on this very topic. A few notes before I bring her on: she’s the author of Identity Crisis, Identity Christ Is: A Journey to Love, she’s a powerful advocate of ending homelessness and she’s also a fellow abuse survivor. Who am I talking about? My sister & fellow author Ressurrection Graves. We both agree that many are well-spoken and even well known, if not healed, or fully aware of re-traumatizing others, they can do more harm than help. Though we will be discussing one prominent person as an example, we’re not bashing her by any means and we are not judging her as a person. We are just answering the question, is she qualified to be a spokesperson for child sexual abuse? As you read her thoughts, spokespersons need to
  1. Consider the audience
  2. Provide warning of the details that may re-truamatize
  3. Have counselors on hand as people may recall or come to realize their abuse

I now turn it over to Ressurrection Graves. She said everything I could say (and then some) :)

Many years ago, when my mother described the kind of success that she saw in me she mentioned one name only, Joyce Meyer. She would often visualize me on talk shows, in particular, chatting it up with Oprah on her now retired talk show. Perhaps my mother sees this great preacher inside of me who is a gifted orator, author and humanitarian through ministries who reach the world.

Joyce Meyer does not call herself a pastor, and she does not identify with what the media refers to as the “prosperity gospel” but instead identifies herself as a bible teacher. As someone who struggles with the term pastor, because of my expertise on issues around sexual abuse and the church, I totally get her stance. No matter what title she’s chosen, she has certainly done well in creating a life for herself and her family. Another problem people have with her, but not me.

Tremayne Moore, author of Deaf, Dumb, Blind and Stupid who refers to himself as a sexual abuse survivor was empowered by a quote that I made stating that not every person who breaks their silence about abuse, is called to be a spokesperson in any capacity. As I chime in to an open discussion with him in particular about Joyce Meyer, I wanted to hear her language and her personal testimony; descriptions of her abuse for myself.

While I understand Tremayne’s passion to hold celebrities and people of influence responsible for how they heal or hurt people with their admissions of child sexual abuse, I am careful to allow us all to have a voice, while I listen and hear from God.
After watching several Joyce Meyer videos on YouTube, of sermons that she shared in front of stadiums full of people, I took away a few things about Joyce, her story, and her ability to share it in front of millions.

Joyce Meyer’s story of incest is the perfect example to use to declare that my petition Make Child Sexual Abuse Grooming a Felony should be given a bill number and passed into law. Click here to read the petition and sign it:

Joyce describes that her biological father started with grooming behavior, used manipulation, threats and coercion, and other fear tactics to make Joyce comply with his demands. The behavior escalated to molestation, which is also grooming behavior because the end goal was rape which her father achieved when Joyce turned around 12 or 13 years old. This lasted according to Joyce until she was 18.

Tremayne seems angry, and I join him in the idea that her mother was given a free pass. Joyce uses the excuse that her mother did not know what to do even after walking in on her being molested and/or raped. I also believe that if her daughter was in fact sexually abused by Joyce’s father (which I have found no proof of such admission), Joyce uses this same excuse for herself.

Although Tremayne is not a fan of Joyce, I like Joyce. We are not called to be downtrodden, she’s not making anyone pay for her products, and her conferences that are free provide people who can only afford to get to the meeting a chance to get in, and receive whatever God may have for them there.

However, there are a few things that when sharing with others about her abuse I encourage both she and her audience to be conscious of during her meetings.

1. Although it’s great for the cameras, people sitting in the audience may actually be triggered by the details of the child sexual abuse grooming which included molestation and escalation to rape. Because of the environment, people may be triggered and even re-traumatized, remembering their own abuse and unable to fully process it in an audience. As a courtesy to the audience, a warning is necessary.

2. As someone abused who may be living in silence, there with someone who knows them but not their story, Joyce presents no options for people to feel safe leaving in the middle of her sermon, or actually processing the emotions that surface.

3. From the video of her personal testimony, I think Joyce did a great job of telling people how she feels but I don’t know that Joyce understands her influence. She is unqualified to assist people in the specific area of their abuse just because she’s a bible teacher. She can lead them to God, yes but by telling her story and opening the wounds that she does, she also offers though unintended perhaps, confusion. For example, when she speaks of her teenage years, she discusses her abuse as if she consented. Maybe this is how she feels but I need to clarify that she did not have a sexual relationship with her father, the term is rape.

4. I listened to Joyce’s testimony. It sounded more like dumping to me. Although at the end she tells people how she’s overcome with her career, and to some extent she discusses her emotional health, it’s a one woman session. This is not a sermon, this is not preaching, this is her personal testimony and that should be handled differently. It should be explained in the beginning that the events shared may scare you.

5. I think it is disrespectful for people to assume that she is lying about what happened to her. Some of the feedback from website blogs insinuates that she’s not telling the truth because she won’t name her perpetrator. Well, I won’t name mine either, not because I’m not honest but because it’s none of your business. It serves you no purpose. Additionally, Meyer’s father is dead.

Solutions to the Meyer’s testimony is that she could have a few qualified individuals who she would be open to confiding in, stand in places that are safe for people who may be triggered and need support. Perhaps they could pose as ushers, greeters or in other positions on the floor serving so that when they see someone in need of support, they are there to help.

The biggest concern with Tremayne Moore and I echo this, that she has taken the position of the “get over it” mentality it seems. She presents the answers in her life coaching style sermons as she talks about her ascension out of abuse. She never tells me how much of a role her husband did or did not play in her healing, only that she married him and they’ve been doing that ever since.

For example, before my husband and I were married, I knew that I would go into ministry work and asked for his blessing if he were to be my husband, to which he supports. I also approached him to ask if he would be there for me as I sought additional healing from past family pain by attending counseling with my family (providing that they would be willing to participate), and he said yes.

I asked if he would love me through the ugly cry, and the emotional me who would be trying to heal through uncomfortable memories and present moments. And, he agreed to be there for me. I grabbed a partner, it was my husband.

Before my husband, I did all the work myself in relationship with God but I’m just unclear about how Meyer’s husband helped to cultivate healing in her. In some of her sermons, she just talks about how mean and difficult she was, but never how that all changed. In other words, Meyer takes us from A to Z without helping us understand the journey from A through to Z.

And this I believe is the unintended “get over it” mentality that hurts members of the Christian community who have experienced abuse. Another area that is drowned out by the applause of people who follow her teachings is the fact that she celebrates his repentance and salvation.

Joyce’s father molested and raped her for 15 years. Even though she doesn’t outright say it, she offers him an excuse of returning from the war as a mentally ill veteran, without actually so that he was. It is implied but not actually true. The truth is, she was three when he began grooming and molesting her, how in the world would she know if he was sexually abusive to anyone else before she were born, or before the war? She does not know, or she knows and has chosen to protect him.

There is no doubt in my mind that the abuse would have continued if she had not left home. Her mother was equally responsible. She did not believe her child, and then walked out turning a blind eye to the incest when she witnessed it for herself. By
teaching people that her mother did not know what to do, she excuses the inaction of every mother in the audience who has a child being sexually abused at home by their father. Her mother and father should have both been held accountable. At the very least, she could have left him, reported him, fought him or had some reaction. By having no reaction she made the rapes permissible.

Joyce admits that her father was a pedophile and rapist. He had more than one victim, and this was his practice. It makes me wonder whether he kept a diary, and whether he was a follower of Alfred Kinsey since, he begin this after returning from the war, and Kinsey’s homosexual-pedophile agenda was released around this time. Judith Reisman, a child sexual abuse expert and adjunct law professor at Liberty University has done an amazing job or uncovering the truth about Kinsey. Joyce Meyer’s father sounds like a follower of Kinsey, based on my research.

Now, from a biblical perspective is this really forgiveness? To pretend that events did not happen? Sounds like denial, and teaching the congregation to live in denial under the premise of forgiveness is where the issue changes from her uneducated ability to identify where she is with abuse, and biblical teachings. Joyce led me to believe that she swept the abuse under the rug on the inside, and was this mighty virtuous heroic woman for standing tall in forgiveness on the outside.

By her own admission, she sent money and kept them well. She never held them actually accountable, she just stayed away. When her father became ill, she took care of him. I wrote about a woman who did that. Her name is Catherine Marie Elder Portillo, and in her case the stepfather who was also related to a huge televangelist treated her much the same way with child sexual abuse grooming escalating from molestation to rape (click here to read about it:
In his eighties, he went to visit his brother and she went to start his car, only to find earrings that would belong to a small child. He was still a pedophile, old and frail.

Joyce Meyer chose to take care of him. At some point, he breaks down and cried a river. When she beckoned to her mother’s call to see what he wanted, it was an apology he offered. She helped him to get saved, and now she preaches that he was baptized and went to heaven. And, that’s where I have a problem.

I don’t challenge that he received salvation or that he was baptized but I say to everyone that you have no idea where someone will spend eternity, because there is no way that you know what is actually in someone’s heart.

My husband and I met in a homeless shelter, knew we were the one for each other and are amazingly in love with one another. He is absolutely the one. However, when I share my story I make clear that this was the way that I was able to overcome homelessness, and do not leave an open-ended idea that this is the norm. Likewise, Meyer’s story is unique in that most pedophiles do not apologize to their victims.

Pedophiles are sociopaths, and do not believe that what they are doing is wrong. In fact, they actually believe that what they are doing is right, and that you are the one who has failed to understand them as “minority attracted persons” who are committed to “intergenerational love”.

Personally, I don’t believe that the father’s apology was sincere but I did not know him, and therefore my opinion (because that is what it is) does not matter.

I wish Joyce continued healing and understanding. I also pray that she chooses to bring in someone who can assist the audience with processing their emotions as it relates to abuse they may have suffered.

Tremayne wanted me to weigh in on whether Joyce Meyer is one of those spokespersons who should not be one. To be honest, from my research, I don’t believe that she is one at all. I think she’s got a platform and in this case has used it to purge, it felt good so she continues to heal from the platform. Unfortunately, for those in the audience, healing from the platform may cause spiritual and emotional injury to those who look up to her as a bible teacher and cannot separate her personal testimony from her spiritual teachings because her denial presents a charge to the audience to forgive.

While we are to always possess an open heart to forgive, it should be given at repentance. Forgiveness does not resist accountability, and healing can not take place from a place of denial. Love does cover a multitude of sin, sin that you acknowledge and turn away from.

My closing thought:
There are many other celebrities who are herald as champions of standing against sexual abuse, but are oblivious to what it entails, or they are opening wounds and not healing them. Ressurrection & I both agree that Joyce, along with a prominent filmmaker don't really know that because these are personal testimonies. They aren't trained in these areas. Though I don’t agree with many of Joyce’s teachings, I will agree with her when she says this: when people are going through, and you want to give up on them, don’t give up because it’s the most comfortable thing for you to do. Go to God and ask Him if He wants you to give up on them. And she also says this: sometimes you need to confront issues instead of running away from them. I would inject to say that iron sharpens iron (and the truth sets people free – if done in a spirit of love).

Now that is what love is!