Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Confederacy of Silence

Phil Leftwich, a Presbyterian pastor, who recently retired as a church executive, wrote a letter to members of an organization called The Healing Trust. This is from a recent letter to members.

A Confederacy of Silence

As president of The Healing Trust, if I have learned nothing else in 2010 it is that our primary task is to break apart the confederacy of silence that surrounds people who are wounded by sexual, physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse. The abused don't choose to remain silent. They live in silence out of fear rooted in deep shame and believing that others won't listen, will be frightened if they do talk, or will reject them if they listen to the horror of their stories.

They protect themselves, even with those they trust—even with those who share their most intimate lives—because of their shame and fear of rejection. They're afraid the graphic details of their lives are so horrifying that others cannot bear to listen and will turn away.

Sadly, there are still few safe places or people for the wounded to share the innermost secrets of their lives. They often can't find safety and help as hard as they try because the help is so rare.

That’s where the work of The Healing Trust is unique. We

• provide the resources of support groups for men and women who have been scarred by abuse.

• train and certify local counselors with a high degree of specialization in helping those traumatized by abuse.

• provide scholarship fees for those who can't afford such counseling.

• produce public events for educating helpers, especially pastors and church leaders, in understanding the signs and nature of abuse.

• are fiercely committed to protecting children and youth from being abused through educating adults in watching for the signs and symptoms.

• offer special seasonal services to give voice to the wounded in churches that have made commitments to bring openness in talking about abuse. Some are host sites for support groups that meet weekly. For many of the wounded, those groups are the first places they have ever felt welcomed and safe.

Last year, I participated in a service called "Grace for the Wounded." I vividly recall the church’s pastor standing in the rain as night was falling around us. Although “church” had been the place of their abuse and shame, he assured two women who were on the edge of taking a giant step back into a church that they would be accepted.

The pastor shared that he understood because he had also been abused and his church was a safe haven. He accompanied them into the church’s chapel with gentle and inviting warmth that allowed them to know that they were safe in that particular sanctuary.

As a pastor, I cling to the term sanctuary that derives from the Latin, Sanctus, or holy. We know that sanctuaries, whether churches, our homes, or places of retreat, are supposed to be holy spaces to protect and shield us from many of life’s hardships. They are meant to be holy ground that reviles the sickness and brokenness of the world. They are intended to allow the freedom to share life’s deepest hurts. They stand as places of healing and comfort that lead us into becoming the healed and whole people God wants us to be.

—Contact Phil at pwleftwich (at) yahoo (dot) com or Dr. Max Haskett at m44haskett (at) comcast (dot) net.

1 comment:

Heather Marsten said...

Thank you for this post. The author is so right, people do not want to hear the pain, pass it over, or want to push it out of the way. Sometimes when I tell my story I find people pulling back, the pain seems to be too intense for them. I pray that these support groups really help people. I am so glad to see more coming forward to share. I have to be honest, your site really informed me about the sexual abuse that men faced. I never realized how prevalent. I am so glad we serve a healing God.

One thing I have noticed is that if we can be open about our experiences it encourages others. Today in a coffee shop I was sharing with someone and she was able to then talk about the abuse she and her brother received. They had blocked it so much that it seemed unreal to them, but when they spoke openly it affirmed their memories.

God bless you and this site!