(Photo by Selma Komisky)
Stepping out of Denial and Breaking the Silence of Abuse
By Brittney Perez
In our world today, abuse is something that is prevalent. People all over the country and around the world are being abused, whether it be physical, emotion, or verbal, but at the same time the topic of abuse isn’t really talked about a whole lot. It’s interesting to me because I’ve come to find that people don’t mind openly talking about or giving their opinions about topics such as politics, religion, women’s rights, etc., but abuse, though talked about here and there via the media, isn’t a topic I generally hear people discuss or debate. I will say that while the topic of abuse has become more openly discussed than in past decades, it’s not uncommon to see in the media cases opening up about abuse that took place years ago. Why is that? Why is it that some abuse cases seem to surface years after the actual incident occurred? It’s baffling to me, but at the same time it makes sense and I’ll explain.
Now before I begin I just want to clarify that I am not claiming to know all the aspects of abuse or the different emotions or long term affects that come with being abused. I understand that every situation of abuse is complex and sensitive in it’s own right. With that being said, I am simply speaking from what I have learned from classes I have taken and from people I know and have met that have suffered from abuse.
For those who have been mistreated in any way there are many reasons why they might remain silent on the issue. It could be for reasons such as shame, guilt, confusion, fear, and even denial. I would go as far as to say that reasons such as guilt, shame, fear, etc. can encapsulate this feeling of denial or the need to protect oneself from harm whether that be mental, emotional, or physical. Let’s be real, no one LIKES feelings of shame, guilt, or fear. All these feelings are not good feelings, and so it makes sense that our natural response would be to push away those memories and feelings of which cause us pain or sadness. It’s almost like if we deny these feelings or tell ourselves a situation never occurred we can begin to believe it regardless if it’s the truth or not. For a while, denial may work in helping us cope with an issue or situation, but, in the long run it never truly brings us that comfort and peace we desire or need to heal. Denial is like a covering. You can use it to mask the pain and hurt you have experienced, but it doesn’t actually get rid of the issue; the issue is still there under the surface with it’s pain, unsettling feelings, and darkness. When we allow feelings of denial to settle in our hearts and minds it can cause problems in the long run for us. As mentioned, denial can be a way we may seek to cope with a traumatic event(s) and while choosing to deny situations that have occurred may seem like a good way to help us to some degree in the present, it can cause us emotional, mental, and even physical damage The definition of denial is as follows: refusal to admit the truth or reality of something (such as a statement or charge). Allowing denial to settle in our hearts can cause us to experience more trauma later on because what we are doing is essentially denying the truth. When we deny the truth we inevitably harm ourselves even if it doesn’t seem like it. By denying abuse we can bottle up emotions that need to be released and by doing so we can experience emotional and mental distress, which can lead to physical crippling as well. Living in denial never allows you to get the help or support you need to gain healing and freedom from the pain you are carrying. While it may be hard to talk about something so traumatic it will be beneficial in the long run to do so.
When you have been harmed by someone it hurts. It can cause all these feelings to arise that maybe you didn’t even know you were capable of feeling. You may experience feelings of hate toward the person who wronged you, shame/guilt as if you did something to “deserve” what occurred, fear that someone may seek to harm you again, confusion as to why a situation occurred, etc. Whatever emotions you may feel toward abuse or being abused one thing that can cripple you and even hinder justice is denial. In Ephesians 5:11 NIV it says, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” In this Scripture we are told to expose darkness; to shed light on it and when we allow denial to set in it can prevent us from doing this very thing. Essentially what denial can do is allow people, whose wicked deeds deserve light to be shed on them, to potentially get away with their wicked behavior and they may end up harming someone else the same way they harmed us. Proverbs 25:26 NLT states, “If the godly give in to the wicked, it’s like polluting a fountain or muddying a spring.” In other words, when we don’t shed light on evil, but rather conceal it, we’re allowing evil to prevail and we are also damaging ourselves.
Now, I understand every situation is different and maybe even in some cases people may fear exposing evil because they are afraid of repercussions. If that has been the case with you or someone you know I want to remind you that while we are told to expose the fruitless deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11), know that God ultimately knows every deed committed on the earth as it says in Ecclesiastes 12:14 NIV, ” For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” Even in distress and pain, when we place our trust in the Lord we can be assured that His Word is true and that He will do the things He says He will, for, “The Righteous One knows what is going on in the homes of the wicked; he will bring disaster on them.” Proverbs 21:12 NLT. He sees the wickedness being done on the earth and in the lives of His children, nothing is hidden from His sight. In Isaiah 29:15 NIV it says, “Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the LORD, who do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us? Who will know?” When I read this verse alone it makes me want to quiver inside because wicked people have this mindset. They think they can hide their evil deeds and that they won’t be found out, but they will be found out eventually even if it takes awhile (Numbers 32:23 NIV). Even in cases where people shed light on abuse years later, I’m sure the person who committed wickedness “thought” they wouldn’t be found out, but regardless of duration of time, Luke 12:2 NIV tells us that, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.”
Breaking the silence of abuse is important. It enables justice and can prevent future mistreatment or harm to another person. Whether it is you who has suffered from mistreatment or someone you know, I want to encourage you to break the silence. I understand it may be really difficult for you, but know that God will reveal all things in His perfect timing. By disclosing the darkness and allowing God to be your strength you can find healing from your pain. You can also be a voice for someone else who has gone through or is going through the same pain and suffering as you. Maybe you can’t see how shedding light on your situation will help someone else, but we can fight evil by exposing it one situation at a time. I want to leave you with these two verses:
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
– Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
– John 1:5 (NIV)
Be a voice for yourself, be a voice for someone else, and may God give you clarity, peace, and healing.