Victims of abuse in large religious institutions and organizations have really been on my heart in recent years, in part because of the stories of those close to me from my time in a boarding school for missionary kids, but even more so in reaction to the lengths of which organizations will go to hide the truth and protect themselves rather than the victims. Is this true of every religious organization and institution? No. Tragically, though, it is true of far more than many of us realize.
Similar stories have been coming out of Bob Jones University recently as the results from their abuse investigations have come to light. One victim wrote a powerful essay giving a glimpse into their experience, one that resonates strongly with so many of us and I think helps those outside better understand. The above cartoon, created by another victim, is what prompted the essay. You can read the full essay here; the quote below really jumped out at me – unfortunately, because it is so true of what I have witnessed in completely separate contexts than the author.
As for sexual offenders, I quickly learned that they were somehow seen with some strange sort of honor. It seemed that they were always very godly men, men that “God” wanted to use in his service. They had value, and their testimonies had to be protected. They had somehow passed that illusory threshold of being good enough for God.
It seemed that those victimized were treated as forever blackened, forever worthless, rejected and despised. We were used, broken, and useless. The preacher boys and missionary boys were to be protected from people like us as we were considered potentially destructive to ministries. We were ruined.
For many of us, counseling felt like it was driving the nails into our coffins. We now had names – They named us Bitter, Destroyer, Unforgiving, Impure, etc. Through their teaching, it became obvious that there were other names on the list: Worthless, Despised, Hated. We all were assumed to have deserved the abuse and worse, because we were abused by such godly men, we were responsible before a holy God for making one of his precious vessels stumble. We had one and only one possibility of value – our silence. IF we were to never tell and never show any struggles from our abuses, then we could remain on the fringes of the fold.