1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experience some form of abuse from their partners in their lifetimes.-Source: Intimate Partner Violence Surveillance Version 2.0, Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”), 2015.
1 in 3 teens experience sexual or physical abuse or threats from a boyfriend or girlfriend in one year- Source: Family Violence Prevention Fund, Teen Dating Abuse, 2009.
On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.- Source: Naitonal Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 2010.
The cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $8.3 billion per year. Source: Journal of Occupational Health Psychology Article Title: How employment helps female victims of intimate partner violence: A qualitative study. 2007.
137 women around the world are killed every day by a family member or partner. Source: U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime – 2018- Report for UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Nearly 80% of girls who have been victims of physical abuse in their dating relationships continue to date the abuser. Source: National Domestic Violence Hotline.
We at The M3ND Project have found that what is true and extremely damaging for most victims of Original Abuse (adult, adolescent, or child physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, workplace abuse, any form of domestic violence, sex trafficking, bullying) is the traumatic event of Double Abuse® which occurs in victims when they finally find the courage to speak up or reach out for help. Rather than being believed, victims are criticized, judged, interrogated, given wrong instructions, or ostracized by family, friends, therapists, faith-based organizations or professional communities. Here are some examples:
Persons of authority who have no idea how to handle trauma or abuse. For instance, forcing a rape victim to explain, usually more than once, why they walked somewhere alone or went on a date with the perpetrator as though they deserved the crime against them. Victims begin to doubt themselves and their experiences. Another example is when a child or adolescent is molested or raped and subsequently ostracized from peers by their friends’ parents because they are now considered tainted.
Therapists who misdirect, downplay, breach protocol, or do not disclose they are outside their scope of training. Or, if therapists do not stand with surviving victims entrusted to their care in matters of abuse, the survivors are then re-victimized, re-traumatized and further abused by someone of authority whom they trusted.
Uninformed spiritual leaders with judgmental, narrow, or patriarchal prejudices. When victims reach out for help to faith-based leaders or religious small groups and are not believed, or instructed to “stick it out,” “be better,” or simply “submit,” they are being pushed down into further oppression and encouraged to remain in the abuse by the very circle that is called to help, empower, build, heal and restore them.
In any of these examples, whether intentional or unintentional, the harm it causes the victim is impossible to overemphasize.
One of the most impactful forms of Double Abuse® occurs when uneducated, ill-informed family and friends ignore the voice of the victim, instead defining the situation through their own faulty ideas, perspectives or biases. Many times, this leads family and friends to impose harsh expectations on the victim about how they should react and respond, even giving them further consequences if they do not comply.
Double Abuse® is responsible for causing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to exacerbate into Complex PTSD, a much more difficult and serious form of trauma to heal. PTSD is the result of either an acute event or cumulative and/or recurring trauma, usually via troubled relationships, which does not get processed or resolved (G. Erwin, 2000). Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) is defined by Judith Herman, M.D., as an ongoing psychological stress injury resulting from repeated trauma, which the victim has little or no control over, and from which there is no real or perceived hope of escape .
Author and psychotherapist, Belleruth Naparstek, found in her research of over 70 studies on trauma, that individuals who escaped suffering from PTSD, were those who were believed, supported, respected, and even exalted for their sacrifice and experience. According to Naparstek, one thing is certain: victims and survivors of trauma deserve the utmost respect.
If this is true, what happens when the opposite takes place? The cost to the victim is added cruelty, hopelessness and despair.
Trauma sets in motion serious emotional and physiological reactions that can themselves be debilitating or terrorizing. This means trauma goes on to negatively affect a person’s physical health and psychological wellbeing. There is a biochemical and involuntary muscular skeletal chain of events that can result in an unusual number of medical problems. Belleruth Naparstek explains it this way: “ PTSD presents some sort of conflated disturbance in the regulation of our neurobiological [the mind], endocrinological [hormonal, developmental, sleep, mood, sexual function, growth, metabolism, and tissue function] and immunological systems” (Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal).
We also love this quote from Judith Herman’s renowned work on trauma;
Traumatic events destroy the sustaining bonds between individual and community. Those who have survived learn that their sense of self, of worth, of humanity, depends upon a feeling of connection to others. The solidarity of a group provides the strongest protection against terror and despair, and the strongest antidote to traumatic experience. Trauma isolates; the group recreates a sense belonging. Trauma shames and stigmatizes; the group bears witness and affirms. Trauma degrades the victim; the group exalts her. Trauma dehumanizes the victim; the group restores her humanity.
(Herman, Trauma and Recovery, p 214)
It is critical to recognize the pivotal role we play to victim’s seeking help. We can either be the one who exacerbates their trauma or the one providing them life-giving power through connection. When coming alongside a victim of abuse you may be able to prevent the damaging transition from PTSD to C-PTSD. There is a pathway where you can shift their mindset from trauma and despair to hope and restoration.
If the victim comes to you for help or support, it is important that you not cast blame or responsibility on them. They have chosen to come to you for clarity and empathy. Listen to them. Set yourself and your experience, upbringing, or predisposed biases aside, and be with them in their pain. Remind them that emotional, physical, or sexual abuse are not their fault.
Special Note to Faith-Based Leaders & Organizations
The M3ND Project is especially dedicated to training faith-based institutions (pastors, rabbis, lay-leaders, staff, and congregants) as likely first responders regarding abuse and how to interface properly with victims. Studies show that a majority of victims are most likely to first disclose the details of their abuse or traumatic experiences to spiritual leaders. Accordingly, the M3ND Project is intentional in its effort to train faith-based organizations regarding the various forms of Original Abuse, especially the hidden forms of mental abuse, such as Covert Emotional Abuse. The M3ND Project training prepares them to identify and respond to emotional abuse when a victim discloses their experience. During the training, we also seek to unveil and address cultural baises and the harm it can cause to victims seeking help. M3ND views its role as a partner with faith-based institutions in combatting Original Abuse and preventing Double Abuse® by ensuring their response to individuals in their care creates a path of healing to victims and abusers.
While we focus on caring for the victim, we do not ignore the abuser, who is likely to be in your care as well. We believe abusers can find healing if they are willing. We can provide you with effective and appropriate accountability protocols for responders to use with an abuser who desires change.
Why focus on Faith-based Organizations? Spiritual institutions are likely to minister to over half of our population when in crisis because they regularly interface with victims of abuse. Although we believe the majority of spiritual leaders hold both the desire and heart to help, they are likely ill-equipped to do that well. When spiritual leaders do not respond correctly, they actually do more harm to the victim, significantly exacerbating the victim’s trauma. The M3ND Project believes that with the right training and tools, faith-based organizations can and will prevent Double Abuse®, becoming safe places for victims to disclose their stories and begin the healing process.
- The Church is a Likely First Responder to Victims of Abuse. 85% of people polled by LifeWay in 2017 agreed that spiritual institutions should be a safe place for those enduring abuse. In fact, more than 42% of persons with mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD, seek help from a member of spiritual organizations. Health Services Research (2003).
- Many Faith-Based Organizations Do Not Currently Have a Plan for Responding to Abuse. Only 1/2 of all Protestant Christian churches have a plan in place for how to respond if someone shares they are experiencing Domestic Violence. Lifeway (2017).
- The M3ND Project Wants to Equip Spiritual Leaders Successfully Respond to Abuse. Over half of senior pastors polled do not have sufficient training to address cases of domestic or sexual violence. About 81% say they would take action to reduce domestic violence if they had more training. LifeWay (2014). Of 1000 pastors surveyed, only 45% of Protestant pastors have been trained in domestic violence issues. Only 18% of them believe it is a problem within their own church. 74% misjudged how prevalent sexual and domestic violence was within their congregations. FreedomRoad.us Press Release (2017). 47% are totally unaware of its existence in their congregations. LifeWay (2017, 2018).
If you are reading our website, you are taking an important step toward making a difference. Reviewing our materials throughout our website, including those directed towards victims, will help you to learn critical information that will make a difference when caring for all those affected by abuse. Please consider taking the next step and schedule a training for you and your team with M3ND today.