WHEN IT GOES WRONG
We care so much about equipping churches to be trauma informed because we hear stories time after time where people have ended up being significantly harmed by people within churches who don't understand the impact of trauma. Sometimes we can understand what not to do when we read stories of things going wrong... So we hope these help. Thank you for the courage of those who have shared their stories to help churches become safer.
We have permission from different people to have their stories on here so that others can learn for them:
‘I was 19 when I told my Christian community about what happened to me when I was 13; that one night I was molested and then raped by a man almost 4 times my age. They were the first adults I ever told. I instantly regretted it and I still do. Following what should have been a safe, quiet conversation that turned into a dramatic unveiling of my personal trauma, with lewd questions asked and painful details drawn out of me, I was then forced to share with other people in the church community about what had happened. Within a week it became common knowledge. even though to me this was a deep wound, to them it was salacious gossip.
I was told I needed to ask my family and friends for forgiveness because I had kept them in the dark and deceived them by not being open. I was told to pray for my future husband because this would hurt him. There was more emphasis on the fact that I hadn’t “brought it into the light” and that I was no longer “pure” than anything else.
I was never asked how I felt or if I was ok. My opinions, thoughts and feelings did not matter.
They took what information they had and ran with it. I was completely silenced. A spotlight was shone on me as damaged goods. At this point I was then banned from spending time with boys on my own, they said they “just couldn’t trust me” because girls who go through what I did are “promiscuous”, never mind that I had repeatedly said both men and physical contact make me incredibly anxious and uncomfortable. It didn’t matter what I said because they knew better, they were the adults, they were the christians, they were the leaders. Maybe they knew something I didn’t, maybe I was a slut and this was for my own good?
At 19, scared and isolated, I just didn’t know any better. Soon they all stopped inviting me to events and even deliberately uninvited me to others. I was gossiped about and ostracised. Not much at all was said to my face, so in truth I still don’t know all of what went on but I do know I was made to feel dirty and “impure”.
My biggest fear in speaking up has always been that I would no longer have control over it and that is exactly what happened. It was taken out of my hands, spread around and twisted into something else. I was silent for six years and when I finally spoke out I learned that you cannot trust christians to provide a safe place and you absolutely cannot trust “gods people” to care about you if you don’t fit in with their agenda.'
This is devastating and we need to make sure that when anyone is courageous enough to trust others in telling them what had happened we ALWAYS assume that the child was terrified and the emphasis is on supporting the child/ teen rather than ever making assumptions, judgments, or blaming or shaming. It can be long term damaging....