Saturday, March 16, 2013

I Do NOT Agree to Disagree

I had a discussion with a friend recently, and when I hung up with him, I was more irritated than when I began.  I think he left the discussion saying we agree to disagree.

I'm not sure we do.  I strongly disagree.  I don't passively agree to disagree.

It is about "Dick".  The Dick who chose not to believe me when I asked for help, and kept asking for help for the last eight years.  The Dick who ignored me and told me that I was exaggerating or that I was simply lying.

Actually, I'll let you in on a little secret.  It isn't Dick that I have such a problem with.  I've forgiven Dick... the type of forgiveness where there is not a restoring of a close relationship through the mutual solving of a problem.  More the type of forgiving where there is a writing off of a debt.  Where you realize that he will never pay, and you can not afford to carry that debt on the books.  So you write it off.  I will likely never be good friends with Dick.  But I am quite capable of being cordial, of working together with him in the mission, of seeking his good.  I honestly doubt that Dick is actually capable of realizing that he did wrong and should have done better.  Interpersonal skills, especially those which involve women are not his strong point - not because he doesn't have a brilliant head knowledge of interpersonal skills, but because he lacks the ability to pick up on the feelings of others in situations.

So what DO I have a problem with?

I have a problem with people saying that what Dick did was not a problem.  Or more exactly them saying that stepping in to help was not his responsibility.

Ok, now I actually want you to weigh in on this topic.  Tell me what you think.  Tell me what your mission's policy.  Tell me what your experiences have been - what have you seen as practice on the field.  What do you wish practice would be.

I had someone say that Dick, the team leader of our team, and his cohort "Harry", the director of our field are not responsible if someone under them is asking for help because that is a "personal problem" and not a work thing.


Ok, perhaps if I was selling Coca-Cola, I should not expect my boss to care if I was living in an abusive situation and was asking for help.

But I wouldn't be at all surprised if even then, they offered some help.

 I'm not selling Coca-Cola.  We're serving God.  We're trying to disciple others.  We're trying to live out the Christian life.

And I came asking for help.  Telling them that we - the kids and I - were suffering.  That we were living under anger that was abusive.

I'm angry that I am being told that it wasn't their responsibility to step in.  It was a personal problem.

Who is supposed to step in and help those being abused if not God's people??!!!

But they didn't help.  For eight years we suffered.  For eight years, my children grew under anger.  For eight years, my mission leaders turned a deaf ear to our cries.

I have less problem with Dick himself, because I can see his limitations in picking up on emotions in others... it is as if he has to be prompted to how people feel.  But I have a problem with people and a mission who can say what Dick did was normal practice or acceptable.

As if people's use is more valuable than their spirits.  My husband was useful.  Despite what was happening at home, he was a "good missionary", so why care what is happening at home.  They are only the family.

Dick doesn't anger me much anymore.  What angers me is the attitude that this is ok in missions.  It's late and I'm being lazy, but there is a verse somewhere that says something about if you hear of or see evil happening and you don't step in to defend, then you become guilty, too.  Sharing in the guilt.

Other verses talk so much about defending the weak, speaking up for the helpless.

It's taken me eight years in this to grow enough to be strong enough to speak up for myself.  Living in emotional abuse is crippling.  What would have life been like if people were not so willing to say, "well, it's not my problem.... it's not work, it's personal"?

I have a problem with a Christianity that can sit by and not help the abused.  Who else is supposed to do it?  Perhaps it is a pacifistic mentality that can say, "well, I wouldn't defend myself if someone was hurting me, so why would I defend others?"  I don't know.  But it angers me.  I do not want to be part of a Christianity that can watch abuse and say "It is not really my job to step in."

But I admit I am biased.  I would have liked to be believed, to be helped, to be protected eight years ago.  I would have.

I am sure that in it all, God has a beautiful plan, and He will use my scars to comfort others.

But that does not excuse either the making of the scars or the ignoring of my pain!  It doesn't.

So, I'm asking you to crawl out of your woodwork, anyone reading this blog, and help me out here.  Tell me how cases of abuse are handled in your organization.  What is the "protocol" if you know it, and what is the practice?  I've heard some horrible things about how child abuse has been mishandled.  But what would happen in your mission if a wife came with a request for help for severe emotional abuse.  I'm not talking about the husband who occasionally has a bad day and loses his temper and shouts for five minutes and then sulks for a day. No.  Real, serious, emotionally abusive situation.  How has it been handled?  And what do we tell people when we hear this type of story?  How can we get help.... even with surrounded by "Dicks"?

See, I somehow, somehow have maintained my belief in God, at times despite His people, and I firmly believe that God will see me through this and I will still be valuable in His eyes despite what happens, and that I will choose to take my hurt and instead of looking for others to hurt, I will choose to take my hurt and look for others who hurt in order to comfort.  Only I don't want to bring the "soft" comfort that sits beside and holds a hand.  No.  I am more like the comfort of having a trained guard dog beside you.  I am an advocate, and whatever has hurt me, I am all the more determined that I will not sit by and let the same happen to any other.  I can be gentle, too, but I'm not afraid to speak.

You see, it is so much easier to speak up for others than it is to speak up for yourself.

Only people chose not to speak up for me.  And that hurt.  What hurts even more is that people defend that position.  I don't agree to disagree with that.  I vehemently disagree with that.  And my disagreement is not with "Dick".  He is only a person who was an idiot once.  We've all been idiots once.  We've all done things that you look back and say, "wow.  I was an idiot."  My disagreement is with people in missions who say that what he did was fine.  That it wasn't any of their business, it was personal.

(excuse his nickname, but I've learned that a bit of humor goes a long way in enabling me to cope with severe pain, so if I have to choose a name, at least I will chose one that makes me laugh.)


junglewife said...

I really am not sure how things would be handled in our org. We do have a member care department, and I think they take it seriously because they have just added another couple to the department. If I was in my org, in your situation, I would have contacted our member care department. After that, I am not sure what the protocol is. We do have a child sexual abuse policy (includes contacting member care, an investigation being done, etc) but I am not aware of any domestic abuse (emotional or otherwise) policy. I would *hope* that it would be handled well,and thoroughly, but you never know.

I do agree with you - you can't agree to disagree in this situation. Leadership *should* have stepped in. It IS their responsibility, especially in a Christian workers organization.

Ellie said...

Thanks, Junglewife. We do have a member care department, and I did contact them, but they defaulted to the immediate supervision to ascertain if the need was real, and the duo of Dick and Harry told them that I was only exaggerating.

Later I have found out there is supposedly an office you can call in to go over the heads of immediate leadership, but even though I have asked about it for two years, I have not been able to find out what/where that is.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the things that I so appreciate about our organization. Of course the mission is important... but really, truly, I feel that our leadership cares more about my relationship with God, my family and those around me than how "good" my work is or how many people are reached by my ministry. I know without a shadow of a doubt that our leaders believe that fruit can only come from a hear that is right with God and others and they are working tirelessly to that end. I am grateful, and honestly it saddens me that others who are in the same kind of work don't have that same support and accountability. It's actually something my husband and I have discussed as we have been following your story the past few years... I really think it's a tragedy the things you've been through without the support and care of your organization... and to be perfectly honest, I think if you had been in our org your family would have been pulled out of the field for the healing, mending, counseling that it seems you so desperately need. (Forgive me if I'm speaking out of line, but I gather from your posts that you feel the same way...?)

Shan in Japan said...

I am not sure what our mission policy is, but I do know that my field director would not step away and say that it is a personal problem. He and my fellow missionaries would be willing to step in and do what is necessary for healing and restoration.
You will be in my prayers this week as you go for help.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what our mission's policy is. I do know it has changed over the years depending on who is "in power." There have been times where we have had wise, caring men in charge who would prayerfully try to confront and help. At other times there have been short-sighted selfish men in charge who are completely clueless. We have now gone to a team structure and I could confidently say that our team would do their utmost to help, but I would not trust many other teams in our mission.

We, also, have a member-care department. There are times when they have been super good at what they do and others when they would have dropped the ball. Right now, we have good, wise men in that department who would jump to help.

I have a lot more to say about your situation, but I'm trying hard not to have a "knee-jerk" reaction to the incompetence above you. I will continue to pray for you.


Ellie said...

Hi Nicolette, yes, I do feel that way. I think I believe that if we had been somewhere else, our mission would have responded... I hope so.

The problem is compounded by the fact that we were moved "here" where the field is more of a sending or short term office and are not well equiped to handle long-term people. Also we are not at the office. True, we are only hours away, but we are not there. We are a group that works separately, and in that, my husband is the immediate supervisor where he is. So there was no one who called him to account. People saw the problems, but those people were under him and functioning in a culture where you do not correct those over you. The only one over him was a man, Dick, who is his best friend, who is not good at picking up on feelings, and who lived so far away that he came only a few times a year.

I think, I hope that my mission in general would be better than this. I have to believe so.

Ellie said...

Beth, yes, people over me have some areas that they are incompetent. I've come to an acceptance of that. People have limitations, and Dick's limitations influenced how he acted. I will drive myself crazy if I try to change that.

I had to get to a place where I don't keep hanging on to that. What I am strongly objecting to is not what happened, but people saying that what happened is ok. That it is not the job of a mission to step in in cases of abuse - that is someone else's job.

It does seem that member care is largely dependent on who are in those positions. That's sad, but likely going to continue to be a reality.

I only hope we can speak up. That no one has to suffer like I have again. First of all, I need to get help. That's been hard because of what my husband's public persona is. He's so sweet and loveable and caring. You'd love him. Really. So no one believed me, and he managed to convince them for years that I was just psychologically imbalanced.

I think that in a mission, just like in other circles, an accusation of abuse should be taken seriously, despite who made it or who it is made against, and investigated by people who are not emotionally involved or dependent on the person accused for work or projects. An accusation of abuse should automatically be reported to a team who can respond... that spousal abuse should be also a mandatory reporting.

If we don't help.... as missionaries... who will? And now I have to explain somehow to my children why missionaries ignored their pain and somehow keep their hearts tender towards God. That is one of my biggest challenges.

Ellie said...

I think another reason that I think I believe this is not so much a mission-wide problem and a localized problem is that when we received new people on our team, people sort of retiring from another field, who used to be team leaders and they saw the anger, they were shocked that nothing had been done and acted immediately. As in immediately that very same morning. From them I saw the reaction that I had been hoping the mission should have had.

I hope that in my case it was more of a comedy (or tragedy) of errors that allowed this to happen. I hope so, but comments by some that it is a personal problem and not a work problem really shake that faith.

I haven't figured it all out yet. I just know that personally, I could not stand by while I knew someone was being abused or even routinely badly treated, do nothing to stop it, and continue to work with and promote the aggressor and live with a clean conscience. I wouldn't want to be capable of that.