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When It's 'Our Turn'?

Feb 18, 2016 — Categories:

I have spoken with hundreds of victims, survivors and perpetrators of sexual and domestic violence over the forty years of my ministry. Teenagers, adults abused as children, young and old adults abused by a spouse, assaulted by a co-worker, a pastor, an acquaintance, or a stranger. What I had not yet realized was how many of my senior peers are now facing the abuse of their adult daughters and sons by a spouse or partner.

I have spoken with hundreds of victims, survivors and perpetrators of sexual and domestic violence over the forty years of my ministry. Teenagers, adults abused as children, young and old adults abused by a spouse, assaulted by a co-worker, a pastor, an acquaintance, or a stranger.  What I had not yet realized was how many of my senior peers are now facing the abuse of their adult daughters and sons by a spouse or partner.

My friend Roy sits behind me in church.  He’s an 80-something retired pastor and comes to church regularly with his wife. He called me last week to ask for my help. He said that his son-in-law had been in a 25 hour stand-off, holed up in his house, finally arrested by the police.  His daughter and her two teenage children had escaped unharmed. The abuse that his daughter suffered at the hand of her husband had gone on for a long time, but this was the worst. Now Roy is deeply worried about her and wanted to know how best to try to help.

My advice at this point: listen to her, stand by her, don’t tell her what to do but do tell her that you are concerned for her and the children’s safety. Remind her that there are resources in her community—ask her to connect with a domestic violence victim advocate for help for herself and her children. And pray for her.

Roy said that he knew these things happened but, of course, like most of us, he never thought it would happen in his family. His daughter is a professional manager, an accomplished woman.  Roy knew there were problems, but not this. What parent ever assumes that they have raised a daughter (or a son) who will end up in an abusive, life-threatening relationship?

I saw Roy at church this morning. He looked very down. As I approached him, he simply said, “He’s dead.” I asked what happened. His son-in-law, the abuser, died in jail. They don’t know any details yet. “How’s your daughter?”  She’s alive and that’s good, he said, but really struggling.

With deep sadness and defeat in his eyes, he said, “Well, I guess it was just our turn.” No, it should never be anyone’s “turn.” We must not accept that domestic violence is an inevitable fact that sadly may touch our family.

Where do Roy and his family turn now?  Do they go to the Psalms to express their anger and despair: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? . . . O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.” (22:1-2)  Or do they turn to these familiar words of reassurance: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff —- they comfort me.” (23:4)

Or can they find solace in the prophet Jeremiah who, in God’s voice, acknowledges Rachel’s weeping for her children: “Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for there is a reward for your work, says the Lord:  they shall come back from the land of the enemy; there is hope for your future, says the Lord; your children shall come back to their own country.” (31:16-17)

Our pastor prayed for Roy and his family during worship. She laid it out in detail without hesitating to say what had occurred. That was an important step towards our faith community being able to rally around Roy and his wife at this painful time. It is also an important step in our faith community recognizing that domestic violence happens right here among us. This public naming of domestic violence in our midst opens doors for others to share their private pain and for us as a congregation to respond.

We can’t prevent every situation of domestic violence and we can’t always protect our children from harm. At least we can be a balm in Gilead “to make the wounded whole.”  For the church, this basically means we follow the lead of Mother Jones: “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”

So we fight on for Roy’s daughter and her children, and every other person who has experienced sexual and domestic violence.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
www.FaithTrustInstitute.org
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The courage to speak truth

Posted by Catherine Thiemann at Feb 19, 2016 01:33 PM
Thank God for the courage of your pastor. Her truth-telling is a service not only to Roy and his family, but to the families other victims in your congregation.
Prayers for healing for Roy's daughter and her children, for Roy and his wife, and for the family of Roy's late son-in-law.