The Good Neighbor sheds light on caring for abuse victims – video

Recently, I took a day and went to the woods. I hiked a new trail, drank in new views, and then sat down to hear from a familiar book. There on the hillside, an old story spoke to me in a new way. I was so moved by it that I recorded a video about it on the spot. If you know someone who is struggling with abuse from their near or distant past, and you wonder how you might help them, take a few minutes to watch the video below. If you have wondered how we, who make up the church, can stop wounding (or ignoring) and start reaching out to those who have been taken advantage of, this is for you.

I’ve read the Parable of the Good Samaritan before – many times. But I’ve never seen it through the lenses I did that day. I saw the victim as a victim of childhood sexual abuse. As I read through the story all the pieces (good and bad) fell into place. I asked a friend to preview this and she suggested that the most hurtful difference between the Good Samaritan and the other religious people was their attitude. No one has time/resources to get deeply involved with every trauma victim they meet. But the story gives the impression that the religious people regarded the trauma victim with some element of contempt and superiority while the Good Samaritan validated the injuries with an attitude of compassion.

She also wondered if the oil and wine might represent grace and truth – since John 1 says that Jesus was full of grace and truth – and those two things show up together a lot. It also fits with what we know of recovery. Grace without truth is license, but truth without grace is brutal. Combined, they offer both direction and fuel for growth and healing. Thanks to my friend for those insights.

Could this story be a road map for re-thinking the way we interact with abuse victims? You decide.

-Richie

How can we become neighbors to those who have experienced physical and emotional abuse? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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  1. Katrina
    6 years ago

    I want to thank you for this new insight into the story of the good samaritan. I especially appreciate the comments of your friend. I have someone in my life who struggles emotionally as a victim of abuse, and I struggle to know how to relate to them. I agree that grace and truth are needed together, because I have seen how both of these by themselves do not work with this particular individual. I have been praying that God would help me to know how to relate in love and still have boundaries to prevent the spread of victimizing onto those who care. I think truth can create the boundaries when clothed in love and grace. Thank you for sharing this.


    • Richie
      6 years ago

      You’re welcome Katrina. It has been my experience that many struggle to know how to relate to victims of abuse. It’s hard to even listen to the stories sometimes, much less know how to be an agent of God’s mercy and healing to them. The process requires a lot of humility and the willingness to work things out when we inadvertently offend each other. (Because we will!) Thanks for caring. The need is so great. I believe it’s also important for those who have not experienced abuse to recognize that they do not and cannot fully understand the truth of the victim’s experience. But they can care.


  2. Dawn
    6 years ago

    Wow! The Lord is good. I needed to hear that today. I have been a victim and have just learned that both of my brothers were as will when they were young. It has been harder for them I think being boys. Now tragedy has happened and they have become abusers. One of my brothers is feeling the consequences for those actions. But he is feeling like it is because of what happened to him that caused his actions. This is very hard for me. I feel guilty for not being there for my brothers and very sad for what has happened to them. His kids have been taken away (as they should be) and he has asked if I would be able to take his two girls into my home and raise them. Even though I also was abused I got help and my brother hates that I am now stable in my life. Maybe hate is to strong of a word but resentful would be better.
    I am telling you this as a backdrop of why I have been thinking about this very question you posed. I have always thought first they need to be taken out of the situation and then be allowed to talk about what happened and how they feel. They need to be told that is was not their fault they need to be shown Jesus and all that He endured and how He too was abused. He knows their pain. They need to know that God did cause or want this bad thing to happen to them. That there is an enemy who seeks to destroy and if he can get to them as children they maybe scared and not turn to God. Only God can truly heal and restore to life what He intended to be for good and not for evil. All of this takes time. What can we do we can help those organizations that help those who are victims. We can become advocates. We can help break the silence and help these kids not become adults who live with pain and become so confused that they turn to drugs to hide and sex as a normal thing that happens to you instead of learning the real joy of true intimacy that God created to be for us to bring our families closer and not to destroy them. Kids are so scared to tell and lets face it parents have a hard time with hearing it. If just talking about sex is hard for parents hearing about abuse is even worse it has a stigma of being a disgusting and shameful thing that kids sense from parents and turn toward themselves as that they are shameful and disgusting. Lets face it parents do not know how to handle this conversation, that very well can happen to anybody, with their children. Maybe that is a place to start. Educating parents on how to talk to their kids about sex in a healthy way, and about appropriate touching and non-appropriate. How they should handle themselves when a child, their child, comes to them. Keeping open communication with their children. Reminding them that shame comes from the enemy and not from God and He can heal and restore. Teach that forgiveness is key to healing as well and it is OK if it takes time. Guilt is a big part as well, for children and parents, and that needs to be dealt with with prayer asking for forgiveness and the Holy Spirit to heal.
    My brother asked me if I could or would be willing to take his girls in our home if he is not allowed to have them again. It is a hard decision. I have four children to protect. I do not want to sacrifice my own children”s welfare. But part of me wants to help these girls and break this chain of abuse. I have tried hard to break that chain with my choices for my family and I pray that I have done my job right so far. Please pray for me and my brothers and my mother and these children caught in sins of adults.


    • Richie
      6 years ago

      Thanks Dawn for sharing so deeply. This is tough and often messy stuff. I am pausing to pray for you and your family this morning.


  3. Dawn
    6 years ago

    Thank you!


  4. Barb
    6 years ago

    I was abused when I was about 11 yrs old. It was only once or twice, but it did change my life forever. At that time, it was not talked about like it is now. I felt by not telling my parents, I was protecting them. But they should have been protecting me. By protecting everyone else, I felt no one cared and I was invisible. Part of my feeling invisible was that both of my brothers were involved in very risky behavior at the time, and again I did not want to be a third problem child. So, not only are the abused ashamed, but some of us feel responsible for protecting friends and family. If the abused child is threatened that adds a whole different level of feeling responsible.

    The last 40 years I have been living with depression. I am sure that depression and stress has been part of the reason that I have lived with many other health problems. I think when abuse is discovered today, the mental health community deals with it quite well. As Dawn said, we still need to help parents to know how to deal with it when one of their children has been abused. Also, I think parents underestimate their own family members ability to abuse, as I have often heard people say, “My child/spouse/brother would never do that.” From my own experience I have to say, under certain circumstances anyone can do anything. Mental health is a very fragile thing. For me it was hormone imbalances (PMDD) that turned me from a very patient caring person into an irritable, distraught, suicidal mother and spouse who was on the borderline of physically abusing my children, in fact I was verbally abusive very often. My husband, who lived through all this with me did not even think I was capable of abusing. I could not allow myself to be alone this them all day while he was working, I had to find someone to visit everyday because that took the pressure off.

    I think one thing the church could do for many mental health issues is to train those who are naturally nurturing to be support and peer counsel for anyone who needs it. Often we just need to talk to someone, and so many people today are lonely and don’t have any friends that they feel they can confide in. Often what people of abuse, or any other issue just need someone to listen. I would like to start something like this, but would not know where to start. I have heard of other churches (non SDA) that have done this, but it was quite a while ago.

    Every time I have had another health issue come up, I feel like I want to prevent anyone else from suffering and hurting Iike I have. Thank you so much for sharing this.


    • Richie
      6 years ago

      Barb I am so sorry to hear your story and the years of suffering that have resulted from those instances of abuse. Thank you for your courage in sharing this part of your journey as well as your heart. It hard to comprehend how destructive abuse can be to the heart and mind of a child. Most victims carry scars into adulthood and many experience serious mental and physical health issues as a result of their trauma.

      I love your idea of peer counseling or mentoring. As you know, we’re big fans of that!