As I drove home from class today, mindlessly singing along to the words playing from the radio, I was a little taken aback when I paused to consider what the words were actually saying. Not to name any names, but the song very blatantly discusses tying someone to a bed and then lighting the house on fire. Maybe I'm confused, but none of those actions sound like anything close to what should be considered a healthy relationship.
It led me to think of far too many people in my life who have been victims of abuse.
*Case #1: A friend who had been sexually abused as a child by someone they had once loved and trusted. Now, as an adult, they were struggling with their identity, their relationship with themselves and their understanding of who God was.
*Case #2: A friend talked to me about their past, tears absent from their eyes, as they relayed a past of physical and mental abuse from both parents, and now after leaving one mentally abusive relationship, they were enduring a physical relationship. "That's just my life," is how they justified living a nightmare.
*Case #3: Stopped mid-sentence a friend told me they couldn't get over a history of abuse from a member of their family. They already felt overwhelmed with the the things going on in their life at the moment...they didn't have time or the mental capacity to deal with the past.
*Case #4: Several individuals stay with spouses that are mentally abusive -- manipulating their spouse's emotions to satisfy their whims and selfish carnal desires. Sometimes, the couple splits and othertimes they do not. Regardless, it's an all too common story that never feels anything but sad.
*Case #5: For years a friend played at a neighbor's house who happened to be a family friend. Recent allegations accuse the father of the house of molesting a little girl in the neighborhood. This person has a younger sibling who also plays at the house. Feeling guilty, they racked their mind for warning signs and hoped beyond hope allegations were only allegations.
Case #6: Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her home by a man who justified mental, physical and sexual abuse towards Smart by declaring that God commanded him to. Smart has testified in court she couldn't believe her abductor was ever communicating with God.
Even after the abuse is in the past, victims of abuse are still left with lifelong scars -- be it, physical, mental or spiritual. You can't romanticize abuse by calling it a "tornado meeting a volcano." Abuse in any form is not love. It's not exciting or romantic. It's a nightmare that an individual is forced to live because of the selfish actions of another person. Abuse cannot be justified by religion, personal beliefs, feelings of superiority, or "love." It's wrong and that's the bottom line.
Too often we think of abuse as being something that only happens in the media -- something that is sanitized and packaged so as to not disturb our everyday lives too greatly. This is not reality. Abuse is dirty, messy, nasty and long-lasting. Abuse comes in many different forms, and affects many different people's lives -- the victims, the abusers, and family and friends of both victims and abusers.
Unfortunately, many abuse victims feel crippled by their past of abuse, and often judge themselves as being to blame. Too often victims are silent, and onlookers are silent, as well. Too often we leave victims without any hope of resolution or the resources to move on to a life of forgiveness and fullness.
Fortunately, though any abusive situation is serious and not to be taken lightly, their is hope.
"The damage caused by abuse is extensive and is not easily cured. Many victims continue to struggle with unresolved feelings even after receiving many hours of spiritual direction and professional counseling. But learning to resolve deep-seated anger and forgiving the perpetrator can, with the Lord's help, release victims from their past.
For those who bear the deep scars of sexual abuse, the gospel of Jesus Christ offers sure hope and healing. A deepening understanding of the atonement and power of the Lord bring a willingness to rely on his power, and on his wisdom, justice, and mercy. Many testimonies witness of the Lord's power to help victims relinquish feelings of bitterness and revenge and help them forgive. When these blessings come, an individual's love for God and ability to live each day joyfully are once again very real opportunities."
I don't care how often I see blatant abuse portrayed in a romantic/exciting/passionate light in the media. It's wrong. I'm no counselor, but if you think that you or someone you know is a victim of abuse seek help immediately. The National Center for Victims of Crime website provides amble information on different forms of victimization and help resources.
*Vague to conceal identity.
Elizabeth Smart is now serving a full-time mission for the LDS church in Paris, France. I think that is heroic.