Friday, December 9, 2011

Why wear red if Chuck Phelps resigned from the board?

I'm going to try to explain why the Do Right BJU movement is a good idea from another prospective because the negativity surrounding it has continued to bother me. If this were just about "getting rid of Chuck Phelps", the group would have served it's purpose. But the idea was never to "get rid" of Chuck Phelps. It was to see a genuine heart change out of Chuck Phelps as well as an attitude change around the campus of BJU towards abuse.

As backwards as this seems, for a few minutes just forget about Ernie Willis, Tina Anderson and Chuck Phelps.

Think about the crisis that rape is. Think about having all control taken from you. Imagine if what you thought or wanted didn't matter at all. Imagine not being able to stop it...not with your words and not with your physical strength. Imagine feeling like you are completely worthless and thinking that there must be something horribly wrong with you to attract such evil. Imagine feeling like your mind has been completely taken over and violated....all of your interests and hobbies don't matter to you anymore, in fact you feel stupid and foolish for ever being able to enjoy such simple things. Most of your friendships and relationships have been drastically changed because they were built on the basis of knowing your friends and being known by them and now those same friends don't even understand how you work anymore. In fact, you don't even understand how you work. Sometimes things upset you and you can't even consciously figure out why. A smell, a texture, a song, a small thing can be all it takes to make you incredibly anxious or irrationally angry. You just feel utterly broken and it feels like no matter where you look, you can't find comfort.

But these are just common feelings for any rape situation. What if it gets a little more specific? What if you knew your rapist and trusted them? After all, approximately two thirds of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. How messed up in the head do you think you'd be then? You feel naive and stupid just for trusting the person. I mean, what does it say about you as a person if you were capable of letting your guard down around a rapist? Or you could take the thought train in a different direction and ask yourself what you'd done to make the rapist think you wanted that? I mean, they seemed like such a nice and trustworthy person. Surely it can't be that they were just so cruel. You must have done something to encourage them. In fact, you didn't even do enough to stop them while they were raping you! You should have been more clear about the fact that you didn't want it. You should have fought harder. Wow. Now you need to re-evaluate yourself entirely as a person. Obviously there's a lot wrong with you. I mean, you were stupid enough to give the rapist information that they later used to hurt you, you put your trust in them as a friend/mentor, you enjoyed your time with them up until the rape, and you let yourself be put into a situation where you were alone with them so that the rape could happen in the first place! These are just some of the *tame* thought patterns someone who has been raped goes through.

But let's take this just even a little bit further. Let's bring God into it. Whether you're a Christian or not, you still tend to struggle with why God would let this happen to you. Did He just passively allow it to happen? Well then why did He choose to let it happen to *you*? Maybe it wasn't so passive...maybe He didn't just "allow" it...maybe He *made* it happen. Maybe He was punishing you. What have you done that would make God so put out with you that He'd let someone rape you, anyways? Why didn't He stop it from happening? How could He just so callously sit up in heaven and watch that happen? God isn't so heartless, right? Well then that just further proves the problem is with you. After all, if God is a just God then you must have done something to deserve this. What kind of thoughts will go through your head when you read verses like Deuteronomy 22: 23-24 (23"If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, 24then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.) or Deuteronomy 22:28-29 ( 28 "If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, 29then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.). So if you're raped and you freeze up out of shock or you comply because you're afraid for your life you'll be stoned? Or worse, forced to marry your rapist? How could God be so heartless and cruel? If you follow this thought train, then you're left to either believe that God is cruel and He hates you, or He's a just God but you're just so worthless that it's nothing to Him to let something like this happen to you because it was your fault in the first place.

These are just some of the torturous thoughts that go through the head of someone who's been raped. In fact, most of what I wrote down is very tame. Obviously, that's bad. It shouldn't be that way. But what happens if you get stuck at that place in your head? How far will you get when your friends and family don't understand you? Or if they dismiss your pain and your questions? You need help, not judgement. You already think poorly enough of yourself, you don't need their judgement. How much worse is it when your family/friends start echoing some of the questions in your own head? What if they doubt you did your best to stop the rape? What if they think you were stupid to ever be around the rapist in the first place and thus they think that you put yourself in a compromising situation? What if they think you must have secretly wanted it/enjoyed? What if they don't even believe you were raped at all? What if they shy away from your questions/concerns about God? What if they condemn you for questioning instead of helping you work through your fears/hang ups? Or what if they ignore you altogether? What if they just dismiss the entire situation?

Sadly, it's not that uncommon for people to respond to rape victims in some of the ways I listed above. It really is a huge problem in society to blame the victim. There is a preconceived notion about rape victims. People seem to think they just instinctively know how a rape victim would/should respond and they judge them off of that basis. This is a huge problem. As I've said before, it's even sadder when this kind of judgement/treatment comes from those who are Christians. They claim to represent Christ. When they treat rape victims this way, it just further confirms that God thinks so poorly of you as well.

People need to educate themselves about rape and the ripple effect it has on lives. Instead, many people would rather ignore the epidemic that is rape altogether. I can only hope that they just don't understand how that feels.

When you've been abused, you begin to see everything through the filter of your abuse. You feel like your abuse has become part of you. After all, it significantly changes you as a person. It colors all of your thoughts and perceptions. You certainly feel damaged by it. When people dismiss what has happened to you because they'd rather not think about it or talk about it, it feels like they are dismissing you as a person. When you've been abused/raped, you equate yourself with your abuse/rape. You cannot simply just dismiss abuse and still have a relationship with someone who has been abused. Think about this, please. When someone is raped, all control is taken from them. They have no voice. How they feel is worthless to the rapist. So what happens when they need help and those around them won't let them talk about it, won't support them, won't listen? Their voice is taken again. By definition, when you ignore someone who has been raped, you tell them that how they feel is not important. You tell them that you don't care what they are going through or how it has affected them. You tell them that they are not important enough to be listened to. That it would be a waste of time to try and help them. You essentially tell them that they are a lost cause. This is not okay. And yet, it happens far far too often.

Okay, now you can go back to remembering that Ernie Willis, Tina Anderson and Chuck Phelps exist. I don't care whether or not you think Chuck Phelps did everything he could. If you think calling the police was all he needed to do, you dismissed the rape victim a long time ago. Having Chuck Phelps on the board was just one more of those things that comes across as a slap in the face to anyone who has been raped. Chuck Phelps, as a pastor, made the mistake of mistreating a victim. He has continued to mistreat her with his words. By having him on the board, BJU sends out a message that it's not a big deal to them that a rape victim was mistreated. But you know what? I'm really really not here to argue specifically about Chuck Phelps and if you disagree with me because you're caught up in the idea of defending him as a person, fine, maybe one day you'll understand. For now, just move on to the next paragraph and try to keep an open mind.

As I've said time and time again, there is a huge lack of knowledge about the way rape destroys lives. There is a lack of communication and understanding between people who have been raped and people who have not been raped. This is a huge problem in Christian circles because Christians especially need to be showing the love of Christ to rape victims if they want to help them work past their problems. The biggest problem seems to be dismissing the abuse. Ignoring it. Pretending it doesn't exist or that it's not a big deal. The Do Right BJU movement is the first large group of people I've seen speaking out against a lack of knowledge about abuse/rape in Christian circles and the mistreatment that victims receive. It's a group of people saying "This happens and it's not okay and you can't continue to ignore this". I've said it before and I'll say it again....there has been genuine immaturity, judgement and bitterness in that group. You cannot let those people drown out the bigger cause. Even if you don't want to get caught up in the situation between Tina Anderson and Chuck Phelps in particular, please understand this. Understand this is about spreading awareness and demanding that abuse victims be treated right.

And understand that when you criticize the Do Right movement and dismiss it, it just feels like a further slap in the face to those who have been raped. I understand that some of you are just upset to see the immaturity that goes on, but most of us in the group are thinking about it from the prospective of the fact that the group is about defending abuse victims. So when you say the group is stupid, it comes across like you are suggesting that the idea of spreading awareness about the mistreatment of victims as stupid. That might not be what you mean, but please understand that that's how it comes across. If you're going to criticize immaturity, criticize both sides because there have been an equal amount of BJU "defenders" who have viciously attacked the members of the group.

Please, if there are things you don't understand or questions you have, just ask them. Maybe you hesitate because you don't want to sound like you're blaming the victim, but it's better to ask your questions and work through them than to just harbor the judging thoughts. Do some research independently on how rape victims respond and try to apply it to the personal situations you have questions about. If that doesn't get rid of the questions, ask them. I've had person after person come to me privately via messages asking me questions about how rape victims respond and expressing a lack of understanding. I appreciate those people more than I can say and I've been able to help them work through their questions. ***THAT*** is how I think the body of Christ should work, for those of you who express concerns about whether or not this movement is Christlike. People who don't understand the effects of rape can get answers to their questions and once they can be more understanding and loving, they can help rape victims get the help, support and answers they need.

This is why it's important to wear red on Monday. It is irrelevant that Chuck Phelps isn't on the board. This is about demanding proper treatment of victims. It's not so much of an "attack" against the school, but a support to those who have been mistreated. Whether or not you plan to wear red, I hope you can at least understand this and respect it. And if you have questions, please ask them.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for writing this. This helps to get to the heart of the matter. That was a beautifully written note Ash. People need to realize that this is about the victims, not just about Chuck Phelps and BJU. I love you, you've made me proud over and over again with your support. I was looking at writing a summary of why I'm wearing red on Monday, but you've written a beautiful summary. People need to pay attention to this, discuss it and act on it. Thank you.