Guilt and Secrecy: Discouraging Abuse Victims from Coming Forward

There are many reasons why SIM MKs are reluctant to come forward and tell their stories of past abuse at boarding schools.   SIM gives lip service to wanting to reconcile with abused MKs and find the perpetrators, but they have created an environment that makes it difficult for victims to come forward.  Here are some of the things that, in my opinion, contribute to this environment.  For what its worth, I have told SIM about these concerns already.  I passed this on to Dorothy Haile at SIM in October of 2010, while I was corresponding with her.  I have never received any acknowledgment or feedback.

MKs are told to “forgive and forget.”

We are admonished, through many articles in Simroots and other conversations, that we should forgive and forget wrongs by other people.  There is even an implication that it is sinful not to do this.  Of course it would be very convenient for SIM if all MKs would forget the abuse they suffered, and then the Mission would never have to deal with it.  When a victim is told they should forgive the perpetrator, and this is backed up with a few Bible verses on forgiveness, it shifts the blame and guilt over to the victim and puts the responsibility on them to “fix” the situation.  Lets keep the blame and guilt where they belong, with the perpetrators and with the Mission that did not protect children under their care.  Certainly forgiveness would be a long term goal, but a victim also deserves to have his or her case brought to justice.  I hope you will read the page Thoughts on Forgiveness, for another perspective on this topic.

A policy of secrecy keeps victims isolated.

SIM keeps all records and results of investigations sealed up in a confidential file.  That means if a Mission personnel is found guilty of abuse, no one is going to know about it.  How do these abusers earn the right to such confidentiality?  In the real world, child abusers names are publicized, for the safety of the community.  SIM should make the names of people found to be guilty of abuse available to any MK who requests that information, and they should publicize the process involved in seeing this list.  I have heard of several people who had a common perpetrator, but none of them knows the others’ story, so they think they are the only one.  In reality, most perpetrators are going to have more than one victim.

According to the SIM’s Child Safety Policy an employee found guilty of child abuse will be dismissed.   Therefore a check of the list of perpetrators should not show anyone who is still employed by SIM.  With the results of investigations being kept a secret, there is no way to know if SIM actually follows up with dismissing these people or not.

Victim’s pain is trivialized.

It seems that for every article that an MK writes to Simroots telling of a painful experience at boarding school, there is someone ready to chime in and tell us that we should be grateful, count our blessings and not complain.  That may be true of things like homesickness or just having a hard time adjusting to the constant moves.  However for MKs that suffered serious physical, sexual, emotional and physical abuse, it is very unfair to trivialize their pain in this way and make them feel guilty for their feelings.  You can read about some of the long range consequences of sexual abuse in  The Impact of Sexual Abuse.

We do not know what to expect from an investigation.

If an MK comes forward with accusations, what will happen during the investigation?  The Child Safety Policy is very vague about this, just stating that formal procedures will be followed.  What exactly are those procedures for abuse that happened in the past? 

SIM has not provided a forum for victims to report abuse.

If you remember being abused at an SIM boarding school and want to bring this to the attention of SIM, where do you start and who do you call?  You won’t find any of that information on the SIM web site.  I have seen that several other Missions and churches actually post an abuse hotline on their site for people to call.  At a minimum SIM might give a name and email address for the person who handles abuse situations.  The fact that they ignore this whole area drives home the point that they would rather we all just kept quiet and didn’t mention it.

The fact that they don’t have a specific person currently employed at SIM in charge of dealing with past abuse of adult MKs drives home the point that it is a low priority for them. As far as I can see it is delegated to the retired USA Director, who can only make suggestions to the Board and hasn’t been given the resources to really provide an outreach to abused MKs.

If you go to SIM’s web site you will find a list of priority ministries.  Wouldn’t it be great if one of their priorities was investigating past abuse and ministering to the many MKs who are suffering the legacy of abuse at SIM boarding schools?

How should SIM be helping MKs with a history of past abuse?  I welcome comments from MKs and from SIM.

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14 thoughts on “Guilt and Secrecy: Discouraging Abuse Victims from Coming Forward

  1. Liz you might want to start a FB site or blog that is closed. We have Remembering Mamou where only former students can join. We have found we can be very open with each other, after all we were made siblings and that is how we feel about each other. Our site isn’t just about the abuse we received but also a lot of good things. You can have good and very bad memories from the same place even the abuser. Sometimes abusers were nice and as children we “forgot” the bad. Those confusing emotions stay with us as we deal with this as adults. But in the closed group we talk about all these things and it helps us to sort them out.

    Yes healing takes a long time, a life time. I am 67 and just now really getting to the place where I am looking at scars not open wounds. Scars in the physical can bother in certain weather conditions. Scars of the heart and emotions often hurt when memories are brought back.

    Anger is a legitimate emotion, just use it to fight evil not destroy yourself.

    • Thank you so much Shary, it is so funny how comforting it is to hear some one say it takes a lifetime. When at first I started on the road to recovery I hoped I’d be done in ten minutes and here 23 and half years later I’m still enjoying the journey!!!! You also give me hope because I also have a lot of scars but I hope by the time I’m your age I will be able to say the same thing, ‘Most of the wounds have turned to scars’. Remember all of you who still suffer we might think that the saying ‘Well done thou good and faithful servant!” is for big Evangelists and missionaries, but maybe it is also for abuse victims of all sorts who started on a road to recovery and over the years picked up stragglers on the journey. That might be what we’re doing for each other here.

  2. I would like to say to Nancy that the SIM leader should have expected the rage and disrespect toward him at the meeting with the abused MK. The reaction probably was not directed at him personally, but at what and who he represented– “the abuser and the climate of secrecy and hypocrisy”. A visit from the leader is a beginning of acknowledgment but the suggestions that Liz makes about policies to deal with these issues is very valid. Sacrificing the children may have let the work continue in the eyes of the governing board, but it doesn’t seem logical that God would bless this way of conducting His business. And YES, the MKs should be heard and the perpetrators fired and the files opened. Dirty secrets eventually overwhelm, the children do grow up and attain power of their own.

  3. Nancy, It is important that the issue not remain hidden, because the Evil One holds power over hidden issues. It is important because the issue continues to happen even to this day …so it is not necessarily about revenge or justice, but that the “system” which allows this must be held accountable.

    • @ Mark and Elizabeth………thanks for joining in on this blog. And Mark, you are right that the abuse continues through generations. During the course of the past two years, I have experienced some of the worst kind of abuse from MK’s that were abused at boarding school. Sadly, because of the response of churches, missions, other family members, healing never takes place.

  4. We are only as sick as our secrets!

    Thank you for posting this article. Recently I was reminded of how abuse spreads from generation to generation. Then I watched the documentary, “Holy Water Gate”, on the abuse scandals and the fight for justice to bring into the light the abuse in the Catholic Church. My first reaction was to wonder and hope there were not people saying, “Well I’m glad that is not in my church”.

    For me the most poignant part of that documentary was the story of a priest that is fighting for healing and is a victim himself. While he was talking openly about the problem of sexual abuse in the church, he was being threatened with being kicked out of the church. By the time I watched the documentary I believe he had successfully been kicked out of the church for talking about sexual abuse and exposing it. He said that even Bishops would come to him and say “I was abused and I have never told anyone”. This priest shared that it was wonderful that these individuals had told him, but he wished for their sakes that they would be able to come forward, bringing their abuse to light, so they could find healing.

    What contributes much to the proliferation of molestation and the damage that molestation does to the family for generations is the shame and fear. Most likely when adults who were victims as children first tell someone it is often demanded “You better keep this secret at all costs”. Sometimes the victim states they are sharing the secret for the first and only time, indicating they have no intention of getting help.

    Even when the person who is a victim of sexual abuse does not abuse sexually if they don’t get healing they can in many cases pass on abuse in other ways. Rage and many other dysfunctions may damage the next generation. Telling a victim that they need healing and forgiveness doesn’t mean that they don’t call the police, take every action to protect themselves from further abuse, and recognize that they may need years of healing. Service to others can be leading by exposing the evil lies the abuser wants the victim to believe, the secret must be kept at all cost, and the shame lies on the victim. Could molestation continue to hold so many hostage because we believe that it is selfish to spend hours on a persons own healing? It seems that we believe we should be saving many people but at what cost if we are not healing ourselves and if our children then get the brunt of our rage and pain.

    The reason it is so disappointing for victims to hear a message of getting over it and forgiveness is because that message often comes at a time where there is a freedom that the secret no longer needs to be kept. The story needs to be told to help people come forward and protect some still in abuse. Victims often continue sharing in the hope of helping the next generation, or affecting any one that is compassionate enough to respond to truth and do something. Many victims believe if they don’t speak up and walk through the pain of grieving and healing, the abuse will continue and increase. Some say it like this, “If it is to be it is up to me!” Even though the very process of staying in the pain by sharing, sharing, sharing, instead of keeping the secret is the most difficult thing these victims have to do, they do it anyway! Though totally contrary to the churches message for years, these heroes walk through the pain and slowly start to unveil the anger and hate that the abuse spreads through the family and the church generation after generation.

    • Thank you, Mark, for acknowledging how hard it is for victims to come forward and tell about their abuse. I’ve been told it is like reliving the experience, reopening a wound every day. It takes a great deal of courage for victims to come forward, especially when they are being ignored by the mission and discouraged by their peers. I pray that those who have come forward will find justice and healing. Let them move forward to a place where God is going to take their experiences and turn them into great things.

      • Yes it is very hard even talking about things and reading about them on your site here. Recently I’ve been told recovery takes one look inward and ten looks upward. The darkness is just to much for any reasonable person. Lets remember that even Mother Teresa talked about the Hitler inside of her. Two things I must remember are ‘Easy does it!’ and ‘There but for the grace of God go I’.

        This blog is the most fantastic thing I’ve seen in years. Its creator and all who take part are saints. Lets keep this up! It is picking up steam.

  5. Nancy, revenge is God’s way, in fact He owns vengeance, and will, in His time, unleash us like yearlings to stomp out the wicked. If needed I can quote you that scripture. In the meantime, we are to hold each other accountable, confess to one another, and keep the wicked from our midst. Yes, we are to go out into the world because we cannot avoid ‘them’ on a daily basis, but we are commanded to keep ‘them’ at a distance. If abusers are employed by God’s mission, then of course they must go. Unless God doesn’t own the mission; then they can stay and burn like everything else false.
    Nancy, you sound like you’re attempting to stick up for someone, so, can you tell us their name? And if you are, did they confess to you their sin? And, if they did, why are we having this conversation? Complete disclosure is necessary as we are to commanded to confess to one another. We could all walk away from this if people were honest about it, and willing to make things right, but they aren’t, so, here we are. Better it comes to a head here on earth and we attempt to rescue someone’s soul, than let them continue on their way, unconfessed, and completely arrogant about the whole situation. Pride is a brother to Lies, and all who suscribe to them will burn.

  6. What is it that you want? It sounds to me that nothing short of revenge will satisfy you. If that is your need, I cannot support you in that, as I do not believe that is Scriptural. I DO applaud SIM for their efforts, while not perfect, go far beyond most misson organizations and certainly far beyond what you would find in the corporate world!

    I have seen with my own eyes, their genuine concern for victims of past abuse. I have seen the sacrifice many individuals in positions of authority at SIM have made to reach out to those who have suffered abuse. Yes – in some cases they have sacrificed their own family time to physically go to the abused, who does not wish to go to SIM HQ. They (the SIM leader) has been treated with great disrespect during the process of reaching out to try to comfort and heal.

    There are TWO sides to this — and I think both have valid points. At the bottom of it all, is the desire to attempt to heal the wounds from the past. But it is also true – there is a point when the abused has to allow God to heal, and to do so, they must let go of their desire to seek revenge – or make sure someone pays! That is not God’s way! nor is it really even heathly for you who have been abused. YOU must let it go, nobody can wrangle the pain out of your hands!

    God bless you and please, Jesus, heal the pain of all your children who suffered abuse.

    • @ Nancy

      This blog was created because there have been some issues that have been discussed with SIM without a resolution….issues that have been discussed for months. As you stated, there are 2 sides to every story and to “go after” individuals that are seeking healing and accusing them of revenge does nothing more than continue the abuse.

      I am an MK with SIM, went to boarding school, applaud SIM’s efforts as well, however, there are some ongoing issues that need to be addressed that I personally have been to SIM’ s headquarters about. I spoke with leadership on behalf of several abused that just want their pain acknowledged. Don’t make assumptions that individuals are out for revenge unless you know and possess the entire story. Telling children that have been abused sexually, physically, emotionally, verbally since the time they were tiny to “get over it” is wrong.

      I suggest you go to fandaeagles.com and read up on their forum then you will understand why this blog was created. It is to show compassion and allow victims to have a voice in an appropriate setting. Also, I would suggest that you read up on sexual abuse and its affects on young children before you start “blogging” in an accusatory fashion.

    • Thanks for writing, Nancy. No, I am not looking for revenge, and I am not sure why you feel “nothing short of revenge will satisfy me” when I mention several ways I think SIM could improve this situation. For example, they could provide an easy way for abuse victims to contact them to report abuse. They could provide an electronic forum themselves for people to discuss this, rather than remaining silent. They could start using an independent agency to handle investigations rather than their own personnel. They could make abused MKs a priority ministry, acknowledge that publicly, and create a position for a caring person who could handle this outreach. Just a few months ago some SIM people at Charlotte said they do not know how to reach the abused MKs. This is a mission whose purpose is spreading the gospel, communications! They could throw some of their best people at this problem and come up with a way to reach them. They could publish their formal policy for investigating past cases of abuse, so that victims could know what to expect going into an investigation. They could follow through with their policy and dismiss those employees who have been found guilty of abuse. I am not posting all this publicly out of the blue, I have already presented these ideas to SIM and received no feedback at all, only silence.

      I don’t see it as seeking revenge, I see it as seeking justice. And I believe justice IS God’s way. Justice is required for some people in order for them to heal. It is unfair to those victims that require justice that we do nothing and just let them continue to suffer. And that is what is happening now – we are doing nothing.

    • When a victim of molestation gets through their four to five decades of rage and denial we want SIM to create a village for them to run too. Why would you deny this of your children? Some of us were victims of the decades of the denial and rage that is the disease of molestation. SIM your children cry out. The revenge we cry out for is healing. How loud do we have to get? Just because the victim is not going to say anything for decades, don’t deny your children when they do. If a person is raped or molested under the umbrella of the mission they will act as if Jesus molested them. Expect nothing less. A victim of the rage will respond, as if it was Jesus that raged at them. The victims will direct the rage at you SIM because we see you as the Jesus that abused us. It takes time and healing for this to change. It doesn’t come with out a lot of hard work. Many of us who have worked hard for this healing are asking our previous generation to pick up shovels and jump in. It is scary and it hurts looking at the past, when you would like to feel Gods grace has washed it clean. When science and psychology have proven methods that can be very effective, why would you not try to use them, especially when the biggest benefactors may be “the weaker of these”?

      • All great questions to ask of SIM, Mark. Why aren’t they creating a support system for abused MKs? What have they done in the past ten years since the Task Force was disbanded? They are in the business of spreading the Gospel, so I am guessing they must have experts in communication, outreach and counseling. Why can’t some of those resources be put to use to minister to MKs who were abused?

        It may be true that in the past there was an outreach to MKs, but it was a very selective outreach, where MKs were “invited” based on referrals, and the fact is that some of the MKs who attended those meetings are the very ones who are still hurting today. When they reach out to MKs SIM needs to include ALL of them, even the “messy” and complicated cases, not just a small sampling of the “safe” ones.

        Here is an excerpt from the PC (USA) report (that I link to elsewhere on this blog). “Sharing the traumatic experience with others is a precondition for the restitution of a sense of a meaningful world. In this process, the survivor seeks assistance
        not only from those closest to her but also from the wider community. The response of the community has a powerful influence on the ultimate resolution of the trauma. Restoration of the breach between the traumatized person and the
        community depends, first, upon public acknowledgment of the traumatic event and, second, upon some form of community action. Once it is publicly recognized that a person has been harmed, the community must take action to assign responsibility for the harm and to repair the injury. These two responses – recognition and restitution – are necessary to rebuild the survivor’s sense of order and justice.”

        MKs have had to create their own community to meet these needs of the abused to share their experiences. It is the Mission’s responsibility to do the second half, which is to assign responsibility and do what they can to repair the injury. Does anyone at SIM have enough concern for MKs to step up and do these things?

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