Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Vicitims of Abuse Need No Repentance

A friend told me once about an older woman in his ward who said the following:

Abuse and rape victims have to suffer as much pain as the abuser or rapist in order to fulfill the requirements of repentance.

First, I abhor that statement.  It is wrong - so wrong that it's hard to express how wrong it is.  To even think that those who suffer abuse of any kind, especially rape, need to repent in any way is . . . abominable.  I hear something like that, and I want to grab the person who said it, shake them and, somehow, make them understand how horrible and damaging such a statement is.  Such beliefs deny the Atonement of Jesus Christ in a real, fundamental way. 

Second, it's interesting and instructive to me that those who are the most vocal about blaming the victim to any degree almost always have not been victims of the type of abuse being discussed (or are victims of what they see as completely random instances of such abuse and, as a result, suffered terribly themselves) - and they generally are the strongest proponents of near total personal control if they have not endured such suffering. When someone's illusions of control have not been shattered (or only violated with regard to what they see as random occurrences), it's easy to assume everyone has more control than they really do and that what they see as not random cases are the result of lower self-control. Blaming the victim increases one's sense of security, and that is important to some people who desperately need to feel secure and in control, and there is a strong element of, "If I had to suffer, so do others - as much as I did."  That is true especially for those who blamed themselves for the abuse - and such an attitude was far more common in generations past than it is now. 

I understand those tendencies and rationales, so I can't condemn people like the woman my friend mentioned - even as I can condemn completely the statement she made and others like it. I need forgiveness and mercy as much as she does, so, while I can't sit quietly when something like that is said, I also can't condemn her for saying it. I need to act as charitably and mercifully toward her as I can while condemning the statement as forcefully as necessary.
That's an incredibly hard line to walk, and I've failed at it numerous times, but it's important to me to keep trying. 


David said...

The people in that statement should be reversed to get closer to reality; any time we've wronged another, part of the restitution process is to develop deeper empathy for the victims of our sin.
The only way to do that is to come to understand the situation from their viewpoint.

I'm convinced more and more that one of the central purposes of our own suffering--regardless of the cause--is to allow us to develop empathy (a clinical term for Charity) for others.

The greater our need for (perceived) control, the less our capacity for empathy, and quite often the greater our chance of having our fantasy of control implode.

Anonymous said...

A wondrous 'Amen' to this post. I have a hard time controlloing my abhorrence for those who seek to heap guilt upon the abused, and I accept that is not an acceptable reaction on my part. I've spent most of my adult life working with victims of abuse one way or another, and have been shocked by what I have come to see as a cultural misconception that has grown up within many religions.
I should understand how difficult it is to bear the feelings or even the knowledge of what has been done to those who are abused, and we find various ways to defend ourselves against that knowledge.
I look forward to the day when no-one could think of saying such things.