Emotional Abuse Vs Repentant Sinner
A girl has sex.
For men, that seems to be the important fact. She had sex, it doesn’t matter how it came to be, so she must ‘repent.’ And that is how it is for a man (and some women who have had the privilege of never knowing abuse).
But, for a woman, the situation is more complicated.
There are wolves out there. They are in the church- oh are they in the church! They pray on the naïve and the girl who was raised to believe that her highest calling was to be the wife of a man. They twist words and play with emotions. They make the girl feel like she can’t say ‘no.’ They push, then back off, then push some more. The girl believes the boy loves her, and desperately wants a life with him. She has been taught that this is her ‘calling.’ He uses this to get her to do things she never wished to, under the guise of lies. He makes her believe that they will be together for life so everything will be ‘okay.’ She is looking for a strong man to ‘lead,’ and ‘lead’ this boy does! He leads her right into his bed, and she thinks it is because she has captured his heart. Then she is crushed. He no longer treats her right. He ‘has her.’ Because she has ‘fallen,’ she will do anything to continue the relationship. She does not want to be a ‘whore,’ but a woman who is appreciated and she does not know how to get back to the ‘status’ she thought she had with him. She is confused, and does more to please him, thinking it is somehow her fault, not realizing that it was lies from the start.
These girls are hurt. They are destroyed by what happened. But when they tell what they did they are condemned. ‘Caring’ people tell them that there is forgiveness in Christ, but what they need is healing. They need someone to tell them that what the boy did was wrong. Someone to explain what happened, and strengthen them so they will not be a victim of this type of manipulation again. Often, this is not what happens. The church tells them to ‘repent’ and treats them like a ‘sinner’ who willfully rebelled and needs to be ashamed of what she has done. But the girl is already ashamed, and hurt, and devastated. It is a time to comfort her, to raise her up, to improve her self-esteem so she can fend off the wolves in the future. But the branding of her as a ‘whore’ (though no one actually calls her this) tears her down and makes her more likely to be the ‘victim’ again. The wolves know who they are looking for. They are looking for the girl who aches for love, and wants so much to be cherished by someone that it hurts. They are looking for a girl who will believe that they love them just because they said so, and who will forgive easily because that is what she was taught. They avoid the girls who know how to set firm boundaries, and realize that actions (like pushing them to do more than they want) show that all the ‘I love you’s’ are lies.
But the church is not producing women who set good boundaries. Typically, women are told that men are ‘visual,’ so they must be modest, and that being a mother is the greatest thing a daughter can become. This gives the girl the impression that she is at fault when the boy ‘cannot help himself because she is so beautiful’ (a common ‘wolf’ line). It also keeps her in the relationship when he says that he loved her, because acquiring the love of a man is her ultimate goal. Men pursue careers; ‘good’ Christian women pursue marriage. Men have paths and plans laid out to achieve their goals. ‘Good girls’ must wait until their man magically arrives. They have no way of making it happen. They too want to achieve their goals, and this desperateness to ‘do something valuable’ makes them vulnerable. So when a seemingly good man, who says he loves them arrives, the girls are willing to do anything to keep him so they can be ‘complete,’ ‘adult,’ ‘fulfilled’ and all of the other promises that go with their idea of what marriage will do for them.
When a boy hurts a girl she must therefore be handled carefully. She needs to know that others believe he did wrong in hurting her. It hurts enough already. She does not need to be told that she did wrong. She is so ashamed and embarrassed that she is not planning on doing it again, but she does not know how to avoid it. She does not know how to recognize the ‘wolf,’ nor does she have the maturity and self-esteem to fend one off. Supportive, caring people may help her learn this. Typically though, she is judged. She feels worse and wants all the more to be loved and validated- told that she has worth and is a special, unique creation that deserves to be loved, and loved deeply. No one does this for her, and the second wolf enters. He will give her the words she needs to hear, but they are lies…
Most women gain maturity, not from being a product of supportive, nurturing environments, but by getting so sick of being hurt by the wolves that they finally learn the game. This is not the best way to grow.
Some women have the privilege of being from a family that supported and nurtured their girls in a way that gave her the ability to see the wolves for what they are. This is rare. Unfortunately they did not give their girls the ability to see that their ‘sister’ did not have the same defenses. They judge and look down on her, when she needs lifting up. They have no compassion, not because they are ‘mean,’ but because they cannot imagine what it is like to not feel secure and loved.
Men too judge. They know the wolves are out there, but do nothing about it. They do not understand why the girls fall for it because they were not raised the same way. They never tied their self-worth to being ‘loved’ by someone. This training was reserved for the girls, when they were taught to be the ‘perfect’ wife, while the boys were encouraged to succeed in the world. The ‘wolves’ are their friends. They are not shunned for what they have done, and are tolerated. The men know they have sex, and assume that the girls are ‘willing.’ They may even realize that their friends lie to women, but do nothing to stop it. Their friends are ‘players,’ and there is an underlying assumption that the girl should be able to see that she is being played. They do not understand how deep the game goes, nor do they understand that almost every time the women separated from the men in their church the speaker was making the girl more likely to believe his lies and be desperate for what he was offering. Love. The ultimate goal. A goal the ends in marriage and the perfect, clean, orderly household that tells a ‘good’ girl she has success.
So what are we, as Christians, to do?
We must shut down the wolves in our midst. It can no longer be ‘okay’ to tell a girl that you love her in order to get her in bed. The line ‘but you know we are going to be married’ must be a warning bell that causes the men to come at this boy with the righteous indignation typically given to the girl who falls for it. The boys can no longer be given a ‘pass.’ The men must realize that by treating these boys as if they are ‘good’ the girls assume that they have the men’s approval and feel free to let their guards down around them. By doing nothing, and worse, putting your arm around the boy and joking with him, you are like Paul holding the coats while Stephen is murdered. You did not do anything to hurt the person, but you stood by and ‘approved’ of someone who would.
We must also love, support and educate our girls so that they do not fall for the wolves. Blunt discussions on the things some men try combined with opportunities to succeed and gain respect outside of marriage are a must.
The irony: I gained my self-esteem and knowledge from a pack of wolves. I was the only consistent girl in a group of non-Christian guys in a martial arts do-jang. They knew what the wolves looked like because they were the wolves, but they loved me enough to talk to me over and over (and over) about what some guys are like. I knew they loved me for who I was, and not for what I could give them. Although they were wolves, I was ‘theirs,’ and they were extremely protective of me. They would run off any guy they didn’t like if he got too close. This taught me it was okay to cause a guy to run. (An important lesson.) When I was alone, I remembered the fierceness they displayed when the wolf approached. It allowed me to literally (and I mean literally) kick a guy out of my dorm room. (Long story, but he did hit the wall as he left. If he had been bigger, calling for help would have been necessary, but I had the confidence to yell, something most girls do not have.) If a pack of wolves can do this for a woman, why can’t a group of great Christian guys?
By the way- for those of you who are going to say that a guy should not have been in my dorm room anyways, this is exactly the type of thinking that keeps girls from getting help. They do not want anyone to know how ‘stupid’ they were, and be humiliated. In my case, the guy was brought by a friend and then the friend ‘went to the bathroom’ and never returned. It was a set-up because he ‘liked’ me. When he started turning off lights and locking the door (no kidding) it was time for him to leave.
Some scenarios a ‘wolf’ preys upon…
(these are all adapted from ‘real life.’)
– A girl loses her mother. Her father is grief stricken. She has no one who truly understands and feels so alone and vulnerable. Enter the wolf.
– Dad is abusive. While some suspect, no one really knows. Mom has twisted scripture to justify why she stays. She teaches her version of ‘forgiveness,’ ‘love’ and ‘submission’ to her daughter. Her daughter isn’t sure Mom is right, but doesn’t know because the church rarely covers this topic, and she loves her mother so. Her father’s love is painful, so when a slick talking, say anything guy enters the picture she is hooked.
– The girl has been abused. No one knows. She is older and cannot sleep through the night because of the nightmares that have begun. She goes to a friend’s house to sleep, knowing the friend will watch over her. She just wants someone to care, but no one old enough to help knows her problems. Enter the wolf.
– The girl has been diagnosed with a disease. It is not fatal, but it is life-altering. She is scared and unsure. She has distanced herself from her parents and they do not know what to do. She feels so alone. Enter the wolf.
– Dad is a strong leader in the family. He has a list of rules for dating his daughter and he firmly adheres to them. No boy has made it through the gauntlet so far, and he is proud of that. His daughter does not know that many have tried. She feels undesirable and is beginning to believe no one will ever want her for a wife. The wolf somehow senses this. Since he is not ‘upright’ he has no problem lying and convincing the father that he is the man dad has been waiting for. The girl is so grateful that she is finally ‘loved’ that she is willing to do anything to make this last…
– The girl is not ‘pretty’ or ‘popular.’ She is a good girl, but longs to have the adventures the other girls appear to be having, not realizing that reality is nothing like the Christian novels she has been reading. The only guy who can sweep her off her feet in the way she desires is a boy who lies. He is not afraid to say, ‘I love you,’ because it means nothing to him. He can text her day and night because he is not a ‘responsible’ person who has a job that would prohibit him from having that much freedom. He doesn’t mind sneaking, so he can see her whenever and wherever she wants. While other boys obey the rules, he is at her window at night being silly, or texting her things he shouldn’t at 2 am. He has no problem buying her things because he is irresponsible with money as well, so he can take her places others don’t, putting it all on a credit card until his parents pay it off in an attempt to ‘help him out.’ He encourages her to sneak and lie, not caring that if she is caught by her family, there will be hell for her to pay.
– Truthfully, any girl who has a low opinion of herself, is naïve or feels alone in the world… (During the teen years, this covers most of them at some time or another.)
The problem: When a ‘wolf’ gets a girl pregnant, the girl thinks she will be alright because he ‘loves’ her and they were going to be married anyways. This is what the ‘wolf’ has led her to believe. The typical ‘wolf’ response however is, ‘I don’t know if I am ready for this,’ ‘We were only dating, I am not sure I want a commitment.’ (The worst I have heard is, ‘We weren’t even dating; I never asked her out, and now I am supposed to marry her?’ What the heck did you think you were doing with her!?!?) The girl is devastated. She is alone and pregnant waiting for him to decide what he wants to do. She did not see this coming. She thought he loved her and that their love would last forever. The only reason they were not getting married was that he did not yet have a job to support her, he needed to finish college, they were still too young etc. She did not see that he just wanted sex, because he told her everything she wanted to hear. If they do marry, the chances he will cheat on her and treat her poorly are high, because that is who he truly is. He was not treating her well because he loved her, but to get what he wanted. Now that he feels ‘forced’ into a relationship (to him, there was no ‘relationship’ before this) he has no motivation to love and care for her as he should.
The other problem with the wolves: They ruin it for the good guys. They use lines that should be reserved for serious intentions so that, by the time the ‘good guy’ gets around to saying them (because he means it) the girl has learned not to believe it. The good guy will not show up on a girl’s doorstep at two in the morning just to give her a kiss just because he was thinking about her because he is responsible and knows he needs his sleep to do his job well. He also respects her parents too much to violate their trust. He does not text every five minutes (or more) because he has other things to do and he takes his responsibilities seriously. He also does not take her to as many extravagant places, or buy her as many things because he is good with money and knows what he can, and cannot afford. Living within his means also means that there are things a ‘good’ guy cannot do, even though he would like to. But, he will work hard to make sure one day he can, and that is a day worth waiting for!