Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Five Ways to Protect Abusers & Foster Abuse

I've been out of the blogging world for years. Although I would love to chronicle my adventures from the intervening time, the purpose of this post is to lend my voice to a topic that has become very important to me. So, here you go: how to protect abusers and foster abuse—in five easy steps!

1. Do nothing. Abuse in its many forms—physical, verbal, sexual, emotional, spiritual, etc.—are all around us in our churches, schools, neighborhoods, workplaces, and often our own homes. If you would like to protect abusers and provide a flourishing environment for abuse, your task is very simple: Do nothing. (It's the abuse victims that need friendship, counseling, affirmation, support groups, listening ears, recovery programs, and the like.)

2. Say nothing. To best protect abuse perpetrators, say nothing. That's the easiest thing to do, anyway—especially since abuse is such an awkward, taboo topic in most polite circles. So keep your quiet. After all, it's really the victims of abuse that need courageous pastors to preach, authors to write, neighbors to report, friends to speak out, and teachers to educate on this uncomfortable topic.

If you must speak out for the abusers, be sure you minimize their crimes and exhort all around you to show a spirit of amnesty and acceptance (which you will artfully term "forgiveness") for even the most unrepentant.

3. Stay out of it. Skip the articles in your news feed addressing the issue. Avoid educational programs that alert you to the signs of abuse and give you the tools and information you need to speak out and help. If you hear that someone you know has been abused, shrug and move on. And by all means, if you hear of a potential abuser in your community, ignore the tip-off and ask the informant not to tell you any more about the situation.

4. Don't believe it. If someone who trusts you tells you that they have been or are being abused, the best way to protect the abuser is to doubt the story of the person who has come to you for help—or at least ask them to keep quiet about it. If you hear that someone in your church has been abused, and that the abuser is also a church member, you mustn't believe it. To protect abusers, you need to believe that all innocent-looking people are indeed trustworthy, and you must trust them when they claim to be innocent of the charges. You must never think of upsetting an abuser's peaceful life by breaking the stifling silence they have cast about their victims. Just think about it: All an abuser really needs is silence. All they want is to avoid consequences for their actions. These are easy needs to provide. It's we abuse victims who have many messy needs for shoulders to cry on, friends to lean on, advocates to speak out, counselors and good listeners to help us process, safe places to flee to, tangible help to get us back on our feet, safe churches to grow in, and so on. That takes a lot of effort, and it's detrimental to the protection of abusers. So just don't believe the victims' stories.

5. Be neutral. If you find your church, workplace, circle of friends, family, or any other social group caught in a controversy about an abuse issue, just be neutral. Especially if a specific victim and abuser has been named, by all means be neutral—especially if you know the accused to be guilty. Even if you don't openly support the abuser, you give them all the protection they need by not standing boldly on the side of the victim. Don't get it backwards: It is abuse victims who need you to stand up and support them in times of crisis. Abusers need nothing but your neutrality.

Disclaimer: The author of this blog does not recommend protecting abusers. Instead, the intent is to point out the many ways in which we as church members, neighbors, family members, and citizens of the world do it every day.