Motivations to stay silent

The fall out related to my sharing of sexual harassment I experienced from a beloved, well known pastor and leader in the church has been heartbreaking- for me and for my family. The trauma of the process the organization put me through has led me to some complex PTSD, something I’ve found is common when those reporting aren’t believed. The secondary abuse of invalidating someone else’s trauma creates more trauma, it’s hurtful and abusive. I had no clue of the roller coaster I was boarding when I stepped forward. I wouldn’t have believed you it you told me what the last ten months would consist of. I’m grateful for voices like Wade Mullen, Diane Langberg, Boz Tchividjian as well as countless survivors that have shined a bright light for me to navigate this darkness. Their resources have educated me and given language for what I was experiencing. I’m thankful for the language that has equipped me to engage in ongoing dialogue with the church. Inviting them to do better and partner on the side of redemption. Below is a list from Wade Mullen, sharing 12 motivations for victims to stay silent. Sadly, I have experience with each one of them. My hope for sharing is that we can learn together so that our churches and organizations can do better.

 

When victims decide to go public with their story of abuse, people can be quick to question their motivations, especially if the accused is a powerful and popular person. However, the number of motivations for never telling that victims have to overcome in order to come forward are often unknown or ignored. Here are 12 of those motivations that I’ve observed in my own work and research:

1. A major reason victims remain silent is their understandable belief that the credibility of their story will be called into question. If the story threatens the identity, power, or position of a well-known and loved individual, then many might discredit victims to protect the more powerful individual.

2. Some victims feel they have a moral responsibility to remain loyal. Revealing information about an abusive person or organization might cause others to blame victims for betraying that loyalty. Victims are then manipulated into feeling their actions brought undeserved harm to another.

3. Victims are often very close to their abuser. The abuser might be a family member, boss, friend, or co-worker. Therefore, victims have a natural concern for the well-being of the abuser and might feel a need to protect. They also know many will suggest they lack compassion, mercy, forgiveness, or love for exposing the abuser.

4. In contexts where the accused is considered an important contributor to a religious belief system or cause, victim’s might be condemned for bringing public shame upon the spiritual community by giving a reason for outsiders to look upon the people and their beliefs with suspicion.

5. Fear of being blamed for the abuse can easily outweigh any motivation to tell. Many victims have tragically been made to believe their abuse was self-inflicted or deserved, either through their attire, attractiveness, assertive personality, or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

6. Telling a story of abuse requires tremendous courage and vulnerability because it is impossible to know how others will respond. Some simply distance themselves because they lack the emotional maturity needed to hear ugly truths. Others go so far as to make victims feel ashamed for their involvement with the abuser.

7. If the abuse took place years ago, victims might believe they will be condemned for not coming forward sooner. When people ask, “Why did it take so long for this to be told?” they are suggesting the victim is at fault for not reporting the abuse. The sheep, now bloodied from the attack of the wolf, is somehow expected to bear the responsibility of exposing the wolf to others.

8. Victims almost always suffer relational loss after their story is made known. Friends and family may abandon them over what they perceive as a betrayal, especially if they are hearing other narratives being spread by the accused. In some cases, victims have had to relocate to another school, church, or community to escape harassment.

9. Victims are sometimes threatened with defamation lawsuits after they go public with their story. Some have even been told that they will be “destroyed” if they blow the whistle. For good reasons then, victims fear losing their jobs, facing legal expenses, and ruining future job opportunities.

10. Victims risk losing their reputation if they go public, especially if the accused is a powerful individual. The abuser can easily use that power to spread a narrative in which victims are made to appear vindictive, selfish, confused, mentally ill, bitter, or in need of attention.

11. In some cases, victims are intimidated with threats against their safety. The fear of physical or emotional abuse as retaliation is a strong (and sometimes necessary) deterrent to exposing the abuser. Victims who are trying to tell their story of abuse might know that great effort will have to go into creating a safety plan if they ever decide to tell.

12. Some victims face condemnation for not following procedures designed to keep matters internal. People ask, “Why did they have to go public?” Few understand the many unsuccessful attempts victims often make to confront their abuser. Some simply want victims to continue appealing to the wolves from inside the den of the wolves if it means keeping the world from any knowledge of the wolves.

Any one of these barriers can cause a great deal of stress. Usually there are multiple motivations that exist for never telling. This also produces despair. Victims begin believing that telling others will never accomplish anything because the barriers are too many and too great. Some victims even retract their story after meeting these powerful silencing influences.

It is no wonder then that false accusations are rare. Choosing to expose an abuser, especially one with power, carries tremendous risk. Nevertheless, we tend to be quick to question the motivations of victims and we are not so quick to consider the many strong motivations that exist for never telling.

Check out Wade Mullen on twitter:

@wad3mullen

 

A time to mourn

The last two weeks have been heavy, I felt so much sadness I was almost numb. For me that can come with the desire to numb, but I’ve been working on staying present in my pain this year. I’m familiar with the scripture in Ecclesiastes 3 that tells us there is a season for everything under the sun: A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. But, the faith tradition I’m familiar with tends to fly through the grief and mourning seasons and return quickly to the laughing and joy. My prayer has been that we resist the urge to fly through this season. We’re seeing quite a reckoning happen around us within the faith many of us ascribe to, the matters at willow are just one part of that.

For me, these hit closest to home. I found myself earlier this week weeping over what I read in the recent NYT article. It began as I cried for Pat and how difficult it must have been for her to carry for all those years. I can imagine the false narratives she must have dealt with regarding damage to the church, loyalty and betrayal. I’m sure she has paid the price for Bill’s abuse in ways none of us can imagine. I felt the weight of what that story means about a church and a leader that has influenced how most of us do church. I felt the weight personally, as I thought about the precarious situations Bill invited me into. At times, I feared backlash when I declined his invitations, because he was my boss and not an easy person to say no to.

More than that I couldn’t get past how her story displayed the calculated, predatory behavior I experienced.  That we’ve now read multiple accounts of. And his blatant disregard for the damage of it. I’m sad for everyone who learned about this duplicitous life of their pastor. I’m distraught for how this reflects on the Gospel of Jesus. For many pastors I work with who are asking what this means for them as they and their ministries were impacted by Bill in profound ways. It also made me sad for Bill in many ways- that nobody loved him enough to hold him accountable all these years. That he hasn’t experienced the fullness of freedom that comes with living in the light. My heart breaks for Bill’s family.

I found myself grieved for the ever-damaging pendulum swing of church leadership. A swing that will now impact how our churches are led and governed. In situations like this we often see the response swing too far, likely leading to elder boards wanting full power and control, leaving pastors without the appropriate authority to lead their churches. It was after all a misinformed definition of power in the church that led to this. A pendulum swing that will also likely lead to enforcing more rules and regulations for how men and women engage- bringing more consequences to this already damaging situation. Consequences that can unintentionally sideline more women and could further hold our churches back from seeing their full redemptive potential.

My prayer is that we won’t rush past the mourning season. That each of us as congregants, leaders, pastors and Christ followers will allow ourselves to feel the weight of this reality. We read about mourning throughout the Bible, described as the manifestation of sorrow and grief over the loss, by death or otherwise, of a relative, a friend, an honored leader or prophet. There are different rituals to the mourning: shaving heads, tearing clothes, weeping for days. My practices lately have been to try to name my feelings and to hold space for people I’m closest to as they do the same. I’m hopeful the feeling and processing will prepare me to usher in a new season- in God’s timing. But not without learnings from this one. Throughout my story I’ve seen God do incredible healing, I’m certain He can usher that same healing in if we allow ourselves to be broken in ways we need to now.

The reason the mourning feels so important for all of us to sit in, to grapple with, is because I believe the ushering in of God’s Kingdom invites our participation. Mourning encourages us to seek God’s heart, to allow our hearts to break as His does so that we find the conviction and the passion to help mend what has been broken. We read in Revelation – about the Lord making everything new, actively. I believe we are seeing new ways that His Kingdom has the potential to break in around us. As light continues to penetrate darkness. I fear if we respond with the quick fix- more rules- we will rebuild the regulatory ways of the religious people in Jesus’ time. The very rules Christ died to abolish. Christ’s invitation to His followers is to partner with Him in establishing the Kingdom He came to bring. If we skip to dancing and joy instead of sitting in the mourning for as long as He wants to shape us, we might miss His invitation to shape the world around us.

 

I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.” Revelation 21:4-5 (MSG)

The weight of grief

Featured

klgriefpicThe thing I know about trauma- is it comes in many forms. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the impact of trauma from peacemaking work on the seemingly intractable conflict in the middle east. I’ve also seen it’s damaging effects when left undealt with. The long-term impact of pain and trauma going unnamed, or when experienced undealt with, will always be detrimental in ways we can’t imagine.

When I shared my experiences with the leadership of Willow, I thought I was in a pretty good place. Having navigated the layers of implications stemming from Bill’s abuse, I thought I was on a good path to healing. I naively thought the truth would be welcomed and responded to. I did months of counseling to reconcile the layers of complexities with his role as my boss and mentor and pastor. I went through my own process of deconstruction, came close to some serious self-destruction along that path, and eventually made it to a place of acceptance.

I had to wade through devastation on so many levels: what this meant for God’s Kingdom, what it meant for willow, for Bill and for his family. For his influence on the global church. The values Bill shaped have impacted most of our churches in more ways than one, including empowerment of women in leadership. Bill has had a profound impact on my life personally- not just as a leader in the church but as my pastor, my boss, my mentor, my friend. I’ve been shaped by people who’ve been shaped by him. However, he was also inappropriate with me- on multiple occasions. Despite what I was told by an investigator about the inability for those two realities to coexist, they do.

I cried until I couldn’t breathe, the day the scales fell from my eyes. The afternoon it all sank in- I was driving and had to pull over because I couldn’t catch my breath. I knew several times that things were “off” but it wasn’t until I did my inventory work with a counselor that I could articulate how badly. It was heartbreaking as I read the stories of other women come out with very similar patterns. I was grieved at the gravity of Bill’s intentions- of the cumulative behavior I experienced and reported as it was confirmed in the stories we read.  I spent many hours in counseling, reading and journaling to work through my experiences and their implications. I wrestled through the symptoms and patterns of power abuse, and because of the nature of his role and the sexual harassment- spiritual abuse. Not just what I experienced but what the organization perpetuated. It’s all so difficult to accept.

I had no idea of the trauma I would endure after speaking up. It’s added more layers for me- for all of us as more stories surfaced. It was compounded as we’ve seen how they were responded to, the multiple narratives and attempts to spin things. It’s difficult to see through the fog when it’s dark out. I hope as our eyes begin to adjust to the light that is breaking in, we’ll be ready to see things more clearly. I’m working on the words to share my own story in a graciously disruptive, not destructive way. I’m not sure we can handle the weight of more stories at this moment. If we’re going to shine the flood lights that are needed, we should be prepared to name what we see. If we’re not, we may be tempted to just say “everyone falls short of the glory of God” and move on. I don’t mean that to be trite because it is absolutely true. But we need to look deeper so we don’t miss naming the root issues here. It’s necessary to gain the resolve to deal with them. I’m hopeful now that the leaders at willow are committed to this.

Whether we realize it or not, I think that trauma is where most of us are right now. Trauma as the truth of Bill’s abuse sinks in. The realities that there are likely more stories and for many of us the gut-wrenching revelations about the organization’s complicity are hard to swallow. We have experienced trauma at the hands of leaders we love, at a church we love and where most of us have experienced life altering transformation. I’ve learned, when you are disappointed or hurt by the church, it becomes difficult to separate your feelings of disappointment from God himself. The church is meant to be the body of Christ, His extension of Jesus to a hurting world.

So many went quickly to the defense of Bill and the church, on social media and in their circles. The narrative the church presented was somewhat believable, and more palatable than the truth of the stories we brought forth. I have friends who said they feel stupid for not only believing it but for defending it. I had former colleagues at willow drive to my city to “set me straight” because of what they were told about me. While my name was kept out of the public unraveling of this story, it was not kept out of circles around Willow. These former colleagues apologized for the names they were calling me on their way to meet with me. As painful as that experience was, I have to believe there is something well-meaning at the core of it. These guys were trying to defend their church, their beloved leader, maybe in some subtle way God. Now that we’ve heard the narratives were deceiving, our confusion is real. But I want to believe at the core of all of this- those on stage at that family meeting and all involved in the processes preceding it were trying to defend their church. Sadly, in a terribly misguided way.

This is not just superficial damage, the wounds are deep. It will require a bit of a taking a part, before it can be put back together. Not just for the church but within our faith, and how we understand God. For now, as the shock wears off I think we need to allow ourselves to feel the weight of what we need to feel. In my experience that’s been a wide range: fear, anger, sadness, rage, numb. A friend just told me they feel like someone they love died. If I’ve learned anything in this season it’s that God meets us in our pain.

I have heard him speak to me and experienced His presence more in my pain than in any other season of my life. What I know about pain is that we either transform it or we’re transformed by it. Either way, we’re stuck with who we become through it. If it isn’t dealt with, it will rear it’s ugly consequences in disastrous ways, most likely inflicting our own unprocessed pain on those we love most. If you’re feeling anger or grief- you’re not weak, you’re not crazy, you’re not stuck and if you’re not heartbroken, you’re not paying attention. I believe today more than ever that God’s business is restoration. He wants to rebuild what has been broken if you’ll let him.

 

“If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.” Psalm 34:18

Give Hope and Healing

Featured

 

I have been blown away at the audacity of the church in many ways the last few months. I’ve witnessed enormous destruction AND experienced glimpses of the enormity of her redemptive potential.

Several friends, pastors and churches have asked how they can help with hope and healing. Others reached out to see if they could create a way for others to give, and well, here you go: THIS is the church, being the body of Christ, extending Jesus in helping mend what is broken.

If abuse means to misuse according to one’s purpose, I’m inspired by the idea that those who’ve been abused in the church could find healing through the body of the One who gives purpose.


Please Click to Donate

Upon Clicking another tab will open in your browser for the I Believe You official Go Fund Me Page. The Page is Organized By Keri Ladouceur and Sarah Carter. The Fundraising Page shares the same logo as the one within this post. For your safety please take a moment to confirm this details before giving. Thank You Kindly!

 

I Believe You

 

I believe you. Perhaps the most powerful words for a victim of any kind to hear. My experience of reporting the truth about sexual harassment and power abuse by Bill Hybels as well as the systemic power abuse of the organization trying to cover it up was met with unbelief, blaming, shaming, and more deceptive cover-up. I’m still processing my own trauma and grief of the last nine months, and hope that writing about what I have learned can help others as they navigate their own deconstruction. I know for sure God’s word invites us to bind up the brokenhearted, defend the oppressed, advocate for the marginalized against the powerful and to partner with Jesus in healing their wounds. I long hoped this would be the church’s response. As Christ’s followers we are called to partner with God in the redemption and restoration of all things, including the hearts of the perpetrators- inviting them into truth and light and freedom as well.

Our churches should reflect Jesus’ call to be a refuge, not an impenetrable empire. I’d propose as Christ’s followers the only image repair work we should ever be concerned with is actual damage repair. To that end, my husband and I are doing what we long hoped Willow Creek and the Willow Creek Association would have done. I begged them to hire a power abuse specialist, knowing that with the inappropriate comments and invitations, the multiple grooming attempts I reported, there would be many more victims suffering in silence. I’m tremendously grateful to the brave women who wrestled this darkness into the light, we owe them a great deal.

My husband and I are partnering with a counseling group that specializes in the areas of power, clergy and sexual abuse to provide services to anyone who has been a victim of these things at willow creek. You do not need to participate in an investigation or share with anyone else about your experiences. Your name and sessions will be kept confidential, but we will cover the costs. We believe you.

May you receive healing and wholeness in Christ as you bear witness in a safe environment to the devastating things you have experienced. May the love of Christ redeem and restore what has been destroyed far beyond what you could ask or imagine. I’ve experienced God’s presence more in my pain than ever before. Despite what you may have been told or what might have been said about you: you didn’t ask for it, you didn’t do anything to deserve it, you weren’t the pursuer, you aren’t being divisive or harming God’s Kingdom. By living out scripture’s invitation to bring into the light what has been kept in the dark you are partnering in His redemptive work.

To schedule, call Diane Langberg’s office: 215-885-1835

For pastors, elders and anyone wanting to learn more, explore her resources: http://www.dianelangberg.com

#IBelieveYou

#Churchtoo

#Metoo

Deconstruction

To all of my pastor friends who are hurting right now, to my brothers and sisters at willow who are hurting right now: trust that the Lord is tender towards you. Know that He sees you and grieves with you. I’ve been navigating a sense of deconstruction myself for over a year now. My deep disappointment and discouragement in a pastor and leader I followed and respected, who invested a great deal in me shattered my worldview. At first I thought it distorted my view of faith, of God, of the church and of leadership. But then as I sought to put the pieces back together I realized the journey has clarified my view of those things. I’m walking with a limp but also with a refined faith, a new sense of God’s presence – especially in pain, a renewed lense of the church and of leadership. These things I know for sure:

God is near to the broken hearted. Those whose hearts are broken AND those causing the heartbreak.

The spiral in the deconstruction is real – I came close to some serious self destruction on my journey. Don’t allow your disappointment or the pain to lead to self harm in any way.

Sin will take you farther than you ever thought you’d go. But trust that it is never too late, we are never too far gone to turn back to the one whose love is great enough to forgive and to set us free.

Don’t hold back on lamenting, God laments for His church with you. There’s no emotion or language that is too strong for him to handle. There is also no distance He won’t go to, no depth or height he won’t scale to pursue your heart. Even if that means dismantling what you’ve built, a reputation or platform, even organizations that were built to bring him glory.

Finally, what does the level of self deception we’re seeing play out mean for you? Where are you justifying? Hiding? Holding back? Where is God inviting you to run to Him and lay it all down? To put down what you’ve been holding onto and to pick up what He has for you?

I’m praying for you friends, for all of my brothers and sisters in Christ who are grieving. Psalm 9:9 reminds us: God’s a safe-house for the battered, a sanctuary during bad times.
Much love from your sister,

Keri