One of the reasons we made this move to Louisiana was to have the ability to see family on a routine basis, something that was difficult when you live 2500+ miles away. This past weekend, we made the drive up to Alexandria to spend some time with my in-laws, and as is usually the custom, on Sunday morning we got up and went off the church with them. This particular Sunday was youth Sunday, and the pastor explained to us, as newcomers, that things would be a bit different, with the youth group really leading the service.
So there was a small group of kids who sang, then a couple who talked about a recent mission trip, and a few even shared their testimony. Pretty much what you’d expect, with one exception. There was one young lady, maybe 13 or 14, who I will simply refer to as A, who gave her testimony and began to talk about growing up in what seemed like a very chaotic and abusive household. It was very emotional, and obviously, as a survivor myself, it touched me. It also made me think of a few things.
- Why was A able to stand in front of a church and talk about surviving abuse when so many kids don’t even disclose to anyone until well into adulthood? No question to me it was all about the support. Yes, she was nervous. (Public speaking at that age is nerve-racking enough, let’s be honest.). But I don’t believe she thought for a second that she wasn’t surrounded by leaders and other kids who supported her. Not that I want to diminish how brave it was for her to open up about it, but I don’t think that happens without that support. She was so far ahead when it comes to healing than many of us because we didn’t have a safe place to disclose and start getting help until years later. She was also safe, she and her mother were away from their abuser. She could focus on being a kid and learning how to handle life as she grew up instead of just surviving. That will help her tremendously and is something that we too often lose sight of. Our initial reaction often is about justice or retribution, and while seeking those things is fine, we always must first focus on helping the child. I don’t know anything at all about her, her mom or whether there was any legal case filed, and I don’t need to know, but it made me happy to know that her well-being was the focus at church at least.
- There truly are survivors all around us. I did not go to church on Sunday looking for survivors of abuse. It was the furthest thing from my mind. Yet, by being there and listening to some kids share their stories, I found one. I’ve said it time and time again, given the statistics about child abuse, it is almost a mathematical impossibility that you don’t know any survivors of child abuse. Given the size of that church, it was almost statistically impossible that I was the only one there, though again, it wasn’t something I spent much time thinking about. Heck, it is highly unlikely that A and I were the only ones there. Survivors are truly everywhere in our society, if we just take the time to listen and support people, we might even learn that simple truth.
So while it is very unlikely that she will ever know that her testimony inspired this blog post, I’m very glad that she mustered up the courage to share her story, and remind us, once again, that we are not alone. I hope she continues to do well and gets the support she needs. That all survivors need.