It’s been a long, terrible, stressful three months since I was promoted to the Service Deli. I’ve spent those three months trying to put my finger on it so I could change things. Until Saturday, I was really only grasping at straws. But Saturday, everything came into focus, and it wasn’t the way I expected.
I’m not going to go into the exact situation, it’s my work and I doubt they’d take kindly to naming names, besides, it’s been resolved, so that’s that. But it was pretty bad. I spent most of Saturday at work on the edge of a panic attack. My stutter came back (it has been getting worse at work) so intensely that I was beginning to think that by the end of the night I wouldn’t be able to speak. Lunch came and I was going to go sit in my car and cry the whole time just to try to release some of the tension.
On my way to lunch one of the key carriers talked with me. He told me he’d stood up for me directly to the people who were involved, told me exactly what he’d said in my defense, and if there were anymore problems regarding this incident he’d go to bat for me with management.
People ask me often, “How can Christians support abuse victims?” Well, this wasn’t an entirely abusive situation, it was mostly just stupidity and assumptions, but it had elements worth comparing.
If I want to torture myself, I can bring back the fear of two years ago. I don’t, I have enough on my plate. But the fear I felt on Saturday was as close to it as I’ve come in a while. The fear and stress I’ve had since starting in the Service Deli were definitely leading in that direction. The reasons why are clear now after my conversation with the key carrier, that, coupled with his putting himself out there for me directly, have completely altered everything. The stress is gone. Are there still issues? Duh, there are still people. 😉 But that fear and dread I had each day going into work are gone because someone tangibly stood with me completely. But not just anyone, someone who could do something about the situation.
I will be perfectly frank, if you are a layperson, this only applies to you slightly. Physical presence and support to help the abused woman is greatly appreciated, even if it’s just meeting over coffee to chat. Even more if it’s showing up to support her at times she has to face her ex. Lay people ARE important in these situations, but they lack the authority to *do* something. And, while it’s true that an abuser hardly cares what a pastor says, he’ll at least feel less comfortable if the pastor gives a regular dose of anti-abuse in his or her sermons, if the pastor acknowledges that there ARE abusive marriages in his or her own church, that these marriages are not “fixable” by the victims actions, and that most Christian marriage advice plays into the hands of the abuser and re-victimizes the abused.
These things will not stop the abuse, but they will enable the victim.
If a pastor will stop preaching the lie that divorce is the worst thing that can happen and start preaching the truth that abuse is evil and a clear reason for divorce, the victim is strengthened.
If a pastor learns there is an abusive marriage he must, in no uncertain terms, stand wholeheartedly with the victim and tell the husband if necessary that the wife does NOT have to put up with that abuse. That there are no extenuating circumstances, there is no therapy that will help, that the husband needs to leave, and then the pastor must encourage the church to stand with the victim.
I know there are pastors who do this. I read the three blogs of conservative pastors who do. Three, out of thousands of conservative pastors blogging, three stand with the victims. The rest offer excuses for the abuser and admonishment to the victim.
I am working on a list of things to look for in a safe church. This is number two, so far. I’ll write about number one the next time I have a day off. That’s in almost two weeks. Work is stressful, but I go into this holiday madness relieved.
I imagine that this is the sort of relief a woman would feel if her pastor would stop telling the congregation how evil divorce is and start preaching the evils of abuse and explain the steps the church will take to make it a safe place for victims. I imagine, I don’t really know. It’s never happened to me.