This is a guest post by Audrey Martin.
My name is Audrey Martin and I attended a boarding school in East Africa in my childhood in the late sixties. My parents were not career missionaries but I felt the entire MK experience, but at the same time was able to see the issues a step apart. I have watched my peers walk out many of those positive and negative aspects of the MK background and since I was in my twenties have taken the initiative to support with first, re-entry, and then other issues of identity and sadly, abuse. Here’s my take on what is happening regarding boarding school and abuse issues.
At the very end of the film, “The Help,” the protagonist talks about the importance of telling her stories and how doing that can bring freedom. Various female characters were afraid to tell their stories, afraid of the kickback. But they found that telling them and having them written down helped them leave the place of victim and move forward. That’s what those who suffered at boarding schools need to do today – tell their stories and write them down, the good, the bad and the ugly.
Currently, mission boarding school stories are dribbling out, often when some kind of legal action is taken. I use the word “dribbling” advisedly. But I think it’s time for one of those Southern Hemisphere downpours – the kind that blast down rain, clean the air and then clear up.
The time has come to shake off fear in order to tell the stories. These stories have strength and power in and of themselves. They don’t require finger-pointing or blame. The events, the impact and the emotions are real, as is the ensuing healing journey. The focus for many seems to be on obtaining acknowledgement of the wrongdoing and to find someone to pay the debt. It somehow seems overwhelmingly important to nab a perpetrator and pin them to the wall.
But a better position of strength is to acknowledge that there was wrongdoing whether or not anyone acknowledges it or pays for it, and that in fact, no one could make it right. As an adult, one accepts the life given them and makes the best they can of it. Of course it’s important to seek accountability from individuals and agencies, but this in itself does not bring healing. Telling the stories for their own sake, however, can bring healing not just for oneself but for others.
It’s time for abuse victims to come out of hiding and lay it all out in as straightforward a manner as possible. My call is for no more “dribbling,” no more whispering or hiding in paranoia. It’s time to stop the fear cycle. The choice to put oneself supposedly at the mercy of a missions agency and its policies and decisions is in itself continuing the victim mentality when one no longer is a victim. And often the greater fear, of offending parents, can only be addressed from a position of strength. It is not our place to protect our parents’ sense of call and their worthy contributions. That is their place. Silence has always aided and abetted abuse. In telling our stories we help to dismantle the pain and bring truth and healing to light. But when we speak out, it needs to be in a strong, self-confident adult voice, not the fearful small one inside that is on the healing journey or the strident one seeking reparation or retribution.
When this voice speaks, whether verbally, online or on paper, more people will hear, and more importantly, more will listen.