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Sexual Abuse Scandal

Tim Jackson —  November 16, 2011 — Leave a comment

It has been hard to miss the top news story of the past 14 days on US media outlets–the child sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the campus of Penn State University, engulfing a prestigious football program, it’s coaches, and administration. The University has come under fire for how the current coaches and staff handled the alleged sexual abuse of young boys by a former PSU coach.

As a boy, I grew up an hour away from State College, Pennsylvania. I’ve rooted for Penn State football for the last 50 years. It’s hard to describe the thoughts and feelings that have been pulsating through me for the past two weeks.

Disbelief. Disgust. Grief. Outrage. Shock. To name a few.

But primarily? Heartache.

As a counselor who has spent hundreds of hours helping many men and women work through their past of childhood sexual abuse–dealing with the trauma, the pain, the shame, the secrets, and the long-term devastation of abuse–to rebuild productive lives, I am angry.

Angry that anyone–no matter what their status is within any organization–from janitors to presidents–would allow any form of suspected child abusive behavior to go on without it being quickly exposed to the proper authorities and decisively addressed, so that first and foremost the children are protected and those responsible are held accountable.

But, in spite of how I feel, I must reserve judgment for those who know all the evidence in the case. I simply don’t know what really happened. What I do know is the allegations I hear reported in the media and the published grand jury report. And, make no mistake about it, the allegations are bad.

But, there is a process that cannot be hijacked in the media’s court of public opinion. I can quickly jump to conclusions about what has happened and what should or shouldn’t be done to those involved without knowing the full details of the case. That’s what trials are for.

My concern is that in the media feeding frenzy for the most salacious story out there, that what gets whipped up in the watching audience is a lynch mob mentality that is dangerous.

It’s clear what is needed: protection for children and justice for those who abuse them.

I know my own weakness and my snap judgement without ample evidence can quickly cross the invisible ethical line between seeking justice and justifying revenge. God reminds me that none of us are qualified for the task of vengeance–not by a long shot. That’s His realm exclusively. Mortals need not apply.

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Rom. 12:19, 20)

James 1:19, 20 also provides a well heeded warning:

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

But lest we think that God takes abuse lightly, consider Jesus’ own words in Luke 17:1, 2 regarding those who would dare to harm a child:

“Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.”

The allegations and charges of child abuse are serious. The coverup is evidence that something is seriously broken and needs to be fixed. The power and money that the big business of college sports wields is a challenging force that must be harnessed lest it run wild and unbridled. Hopefully, this scandal will bring that conversation to the forefront as well.

And finally, I’ve heard more public appeals and witnessed more examples of public prayer for all the victims involved in this situation than I’ve seen since 9/11. That is telling. In times of pain and desperation when we need wisdom to know how to respond to a tragic situation that is unimaginable in it’s scope and destruction, we naturally turn to the only true source of comfort, strength, and wisdom.

Let’s pray together that we will all strive  . . . “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8). If we do, then something good will begin to take root and grow out of a horribly destructive and dark situation.


I’ve been away from Internet access for a few weeks so I didn’t have a chance to weigh in on the recent posts discussing the issue of abuse in marriage.

This post contains some of what nearly 20 years of counseling experience has taught me about the serious issue of marital abuse. It’s a bit on the long side, but I hope what I’ve learned will be of some help.

Martial abuse, whatever form it takes, is ultimately about a husband or a wife who makes it all about him/herself. The common thread that runs through just about every controlling, unreasonable, petty, hurtful, and frustrating thing they do is their demand to have everything revolve around them. We’re not talking about lower case selfishness that is in every last one of us. What I’m referring to here is capital letter SELFISHNESS.

Abusive spouses employ controlling tactics such as bullying, punishing, whining, belittling, complaining, accusing, and threatening to get their own way and keep their spouse from doing anything that unimportant or threatening to selfish agenda. They are not interested in being a mutually considerate partner. Whatever it is that is important to them—their pain, their needs, their wants, their opinions, their schedules, etc.,—that is what occupies their interest. Everything else, at least in their eyes, is irrelevant. And they are very persistent and clever at conditioning their spouses (and others) to see life exclusively through their self-absorbed lenses.

If you’re married to someone with a serious case of Me-ism you know first hand just how maddening, oppressive, and wearing it can be. No matter how accommodating you try to be, it’s never enough. And good luck trying to speak with your spouse about how he/she is treating you. Some may back down now and again, even say they are sorry, but mostly because they are afraid they have upset you too much. Most, however, will typically respond by going on the attack or playing the victim. Many abusive spouses are capable of attacking and playing the persecuted one at the same time. Whether they are aware of it or not, they are masters at twisting things around, blaming you for what their selfishness created and making you look bad and feel bad for “pressing” them too hard. They are never wrong. It’s never their fault. And they are typically full of excuses. They are generally victims of something, whether it be another “bad day” or your impatience or lack of understanding them.

Remember—it’s all about them.

Experience has also taught me that it’s pointless for anyone to try to reason or debate with an abusive spouse. You’ll drive yourself crazy trying to. They are not interested in being reasonable or honestly evaluating why they act the way they do. They are not serious about taking a hard look at themselves and how their selfishness is tearing apart the marriage and family. They generally don’t care what they put their spouses or others through. Again, they are mostly interested in what’s important to them. And about the only way you can be right or have a valid thought or feeling is if you are accommodating their needs or requiring nothing of them. And if you do get frustrated and blow up at them, they get to play the victim of your anger.

Another thing I’ve learned about abuse in marriage is that it gets worse over time. Accommodating and cooperating with your spouse’s subtle and no so subtle demands may buy you some temporary peace and sanity, perhaps even some affection, but it doesn’t last. Because of the extreme levels of selfishness at work in the heart of your abusive spouse, marital abuse, if not confronted, will return and continue to escalate and slowly suck the life out of you.

I’ve also learned that most abusive spouses will not deal with their capital letter SELFISHNESS as long as they know they can get away with it. They need to experience serious and consistent consequences for making it all about them. Drawing lines and giving consequences are some of the most loving actions an abused spouse can take as it gives their spouse a chance to admit they have a serious problem and begin to deal with their heart. I don’t say this lightly, for this is hardly easy. It’s disruptive, messy, and can be potentially dangerous. That’s why addressing marital abuse requires outside help from those who understand the selfish and dangerous dynamics of abuse and can provide guidance, support, and protection for an abused spouse as the abuser is confronted and held accountable.

That brings me to another important point experience has shown me. Over the years I’ve seen well-meaning family members, friends, church leaders, and even other counselors attempt to step in and help, only to make things worse–especially for the abused spouse.  Many lack the experience or reference point to recognize and confront the subtle yet extreme “all about me” dynamics in the abusive spouse that are destroying the relationship. They themselves are frequently manipulated and or intimidated by an abusive spouse, and they tend to offer counsel and advice that mistakenly assumes both spouses are willing to be mutually considerate.  These are unfortunate errors that unintentionally enables the abuse to continue.

One last thing experience has taught me is this: while most abusive spouses will insist on joint-marital counseling once their pattern of control and making it all about them is exposed, this is the last place to begin addressing marital abuse. Neither spouse is typically ready for the level of honest vulnerability that is needed for marital counseling to beneficial. Until abusive spouses are able to become self-ware of how they make it all about them and own the extent and harm of their abusive behavior, they will try to make the counseling process all about them too, which will undermine it. Further, abused spouses will not feel free to openly share their thoughts and concerns in the presence of their abusive partners. They are understandably afraid that their spouse will later make them pay for saying what they truly think and feel.

Abusive spouses who are truly interested in dealing with their Me-ism will not only be willing to accept consequences for their selfish behavior, but they will agree to pursue a path of individual counseling (separate from their spouse) where they will take an honest and hard look at themselves and explore how and why they feel such a deep and pressing need to be so self-absorbed and controlling. Joint-marital counseling only becomes a possibility once abusive spouses have consistently demonstrated over a lengthy period time a genuine, no excuses repentance/sorrow over making it all about them and the nightmare that it has put their spouse and family through.

More on abuse

Allison Stevens —  July 12, 2010 — 14 Comments

I hope you don’t mind that I continue to blog a while about abusive marriages.  It’s just that after I read some of the responses, I wanted to say more.

First, thank you for sharing your stories. It’s so important that we have a safe place to talk about what is happening.

Many mothers worry about how a divorce will affect their children. It’s so important to know that living in an abusive home can be more damaging and hurtful to a child than living through a divorce, if the divorce protects the children as well.  Children are emotionally and psychologically hurt when they live in a home of domestic violence. If you pursue a divorce, find an attorney who will do all he or she can to also protect the children.

If you choose to try and work things out with an abusive spouse, please understand that you have chosen a long and difficult path.  Part of the difficulty is that an abuser may try to rush and jump through all the hoops just to get back into the home.  Often, he puts pressure on the abused wife to take him back. If he’s doing that, he’s not ready to come back home. Putting pressure on a spouse, no matter what it looks like, is manipulation and has been one of the ways he’s controlled you in the first place. He must get a grasp of what his manipulation looks like and why he’s doing it. Repentance means that he understands fully what he’s done, he’s broken up over it and he has a clear picture of the damage he’s done. Therefore, he will know how much work it’s going to take to rebuild your relationship and he won’t rush the process.

I see a lot of women feel obligated to take back a man who says he’s sorry. He cries and tells the pastor how sorry he is. He brings you flowers and tells you it will never happen again. You are not obligated to walk back into abuse. You and your children should feel safe in your own home. Without safety, you have no home; just four walls that can soon feel like a prison.

No one should make you feel that getting out of an abusive marriage is the wrong thing to do.

Abuse of all kinds is rampant today. For far too long society at large and the church especially has been willing to settle for looking at life superficially. But the current conversations about abuse seem to be more honest and less superficial. There is a genuine desire to meet people where they’re struggling and not to ignore the pain and shame of past or present abuse.

Words can be either a wonderful source of encouragement and blessing or they can be a devastating source of pain, shame, and blame. The old saying that “words will never hurt me” just isn’t true. How we use our words with one another can be life giving or abusive.

History is not only an important topic that we study in school, but also when it comes to understanding our personal stories as well. We look back and remember our past not to change it but to understand the influence that it has on how we live in the present. Without understanding our past, we’re doomed to repeat the same patterns in the present.

One of the last effects of abuse on its victims is that they often allow the abuse to define them. They retreat into living as abuse victims rather than seeing themselves as people who had this horrible thing done to them and for which they are not responsible.

Disagreements are normal and can even be a sign of a healthy marriage—if dealt with in an appropriate manner. Join us as Gene Getz shares a biblical guideline for distinguishing between abuse and disagreements.

Spiritual leaders have an incredible power to influence others under their care for good. But there are some who exploit their positions of power to control others for their own purposes. This is one of the most heinous forms of betrayal because it is done in the name of God.

All too often, people who have been abused often feel like their voices go unheard in the church. But that should not be true of the family of God. A healthy church can teach its members what it means to be equipped as a listening community by encouraging conversations that matter about the difficult struggles of abuse and the hope for meaningful healing from the damage of abuse.