Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Jump the ropes!

When a survivor fights to expose a clergy child molester, no Southern Baptist official is in your corner. They all go to the opposite corner.

But here’s the worst part. There’s no referee in the ring. It’s a gang fight, and you’re on your own. It’s a rigged fight, and you’re expendable.

So here’s my advice. Get the heck out of that ring!

What is it that keeps clergy abuse survivors in that ring? For me, it was my own unrelenting, incessant optimism. It was my own belief that good people would ordinarily act in good ways, and that if I just tried hard enough, I would surely find someone who would do the right thing. Or that if I just tried hard enough, I would surely find the right words to make them understand. It was my own failure to realize the extent to which basic human goodness can be overrun by the human capacity for denial in the face of evil. All of that was what kept me in that ring for way too long.

Maybe for you it’s something else. Maybe it’s about faith, family or fear. Whatever it is that keeps you in that ring, find a way out of it.

Jump the ropes; kick out the back door; run down the alley. Get yourself out of there!

Find a way to take on the fight on your own terms and in your own way. I know you want to expose the truth about your perpetrator and about the people who covered up for him, and that you want others to be warned, and that you want healing and reconciliation. You’re entitled to all of that, but they aren’t going to help you. They’ll hurt you. Get out of that ring!

As long as you stay in that ring, they will pound you against the ropes, pummel you to a pulp, and kick you when you’re down. When they’re done, they won’t even drop your body at the hospital.

This is a psychological metaphor of course. But we survivors know all too well that psychological wounds can shatter us even more than broken bones. So get yourself out of that ring!

I haven’t talked with a single Southern Baptist survivor who has gotten help from state or national leaders. Not one. I haven’t talked with a single Southern Baptist survivor who has gotten help from the perpetrator’s church, past or present. Not one.

What I have talked with are far too many Southern Baptist survivors who have been shamed, shunned, manipulated, exploited, threatened and bullied. This is the norm. This is what Baptist leaders do. It’s extremely hurtful. It’s why you MUST figure out what it is that keeps you in that ring and get yourself out of it.

Nowadays, with every abuse survivor I hear from, my optimism is inspired by their courage. (Yes, I know some of you don’t feel courageous, but what I see is that you keep stepping forward in spite of it all. That’s courage.) In the light of our stories, I see the hope for a safer future for others. In the miracle of a couple survivors who contacted me on the same day naming the same perp, I see that truth will eventually prevail. In a small band from Bellevue, who keep insisting on accountability, I see that cover-ups can’t stay covered. In 8600 messengers who voted for a clergy predator database, I see that, sooner or later, ordinary believers will demand change. In conscientious reporters who keep working to bring the stories to light, I see that “no lie lives forever.”

I haven’t given up my optimism...but my optimism isn’t in that ring.

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