I am excited to have guest blogger and frequent contributor to Emerging from Broken, Shanyn Silinski from “the Scarred Seeker” blog sharing with my readers today on the topic of Spiritual abuse and Church abuse. Please help me welcome Shanyn and as always, please feel free to contribute your comments and feedback in the comments section of this blog post. ~ Darlene Ouimet, founder of Emerging from Broken
Sexual Abuse at the Hands of a Youth Pastor by Shanyn Silinski
Mark 9:42 “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.
For years it was me who wore the millstone of being dirty, whorish, asking for it, trash and I wore it silently because my abuse at the hands of a youth pastor was a secret for years. He knew, of course, and because of the shame I didn’t tell. I paid the price for his secret desires, and his willingness to touch a child. I look back on the photos of that weekend. I was just a kid. Not ‘blooming early’.
When I finally did tell someone, I was told, don’t be so dramatic, it wasn’t you he wanted but me (my mother). Take it as a compliment. This was years later, and I realized that she knew he lusted after her, and she thought somehow, in hindsight, that it was okay to have your daughter serve as substitute.
I remember it so clearly, driving in the truck, finally breaking the silence. Hoping and praying for something more than that. I was worried what if he hurt other girls and was ‘assured’ I was the only one, after all there was only one her, and I looked just like her.
Shockingly, it didn’t horrify me that someone could think that was a compliment and that they would be okay with their child as a substitute. I was more worried about another voiceless child. And my own voice was once again silenced.
Looking back, I can see how this shook me. My faith, still young and fragile, was shaken to the core. The folded fifty dollar bill had more power to a senior pastor than a tear stained face. The abuse of power which created an atmosphere of mistrust drove me first away and then seeking to be redeemed I came back in.
Only to find the only difference between a stranger abusing you and someone you know is their access. The stranger took what he wanted and left. Left me bruised, scarred and scared. He was gone. The blame, the laughter of the witnesses stayed but it faded.
Seeing my abuser in church and around other young women was a slap. It made it my fault. It seemed it was my sin that was screaming scarlet in the sanctuary. I wanted some where save where I could rush to confess my sins that made it possible for him to hurt me. Not knowing it wasn’t me!
The assumption of blame on the victim especially in the church, seems to come from a belief that there are no thieves in God’s house. (hello, Judas was a the money keeper for Jesus – and he was a thief, betrayer and sneak). It cannot be the trusted youth pastor or the choir leader or the __________who has been there for years. Therefore it must be me and you and everyone but them.
The blame is always on the one who it is assumed has caused temptation and never on the one who gives into temptation. Because of an under the surface assumption that cripples us, it demeans us, it steals us away from grace. That assumption is that a) there really was temptation, b) the temptress (or tempter) was doing it on purpose and c) that the one who gives in has no choice.
I was no where near the adult woman my mother was. Budding, sure, but no blooms. Not grand roses. Perhaps a slight whisper of physical maturity. I was not her substitute. I couldn’t be. I was barely a teenager. He was a married man, with a child and was a youth pastor. Even if he was an older teen, single and available it was still abuse. It was still abuse in the church.
As to being a temptation – who could possibly think that violating a child in the dark is somehow a substitute for an adult interaction? She was unattainable, of course she was, but that didn’t have to consign me to the position of this will do.
He could have stayed away from children. Someone could have noticed that bad things were going on in my life after that. They couldn’t hardly miss them! But they chose to. He had a choice, and adult always has a choice. I did not but I paid the price. I carried that for years.
Last year, looking for some closure, I reached out to my old pastor. My old betrayer who would rather be friends with my parents than be a shepherd to a lost lamb. They got to him first. They always impressed him with their style and whatever it was and do you think this man would call me back? Respond to an email? Acknowledge a prayer request? Another cry ignored.
The reach of my parents in their sphere of influence is frightening. I’ve lost friends and have been ignored by people solely on their say so. I’m outcast because I won’t come back under their conditions. I’m denominationally challenged and I tend to challenge pastors because I know they are human. They make mistakes. But as teachers, as leaders, they have a higher standard to adhere to. I expect that. I have the right to. Just as I had the right to be safe in church. Having a right doesn’t mean it won’t be violated but violating it doesn’t remove it either.
I speak up for children, I stick up for the elderly, I advocate for welfare and safety for all creatures – I’ve found my voice and I’m gonna use it as long as God blesses me with it!
Matthew 18:5 “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.
Shanyn Silinski is an outspoken survivor who writes, creates and lives life as fully as she can with her husband, son and the animals on their small ranch in Manitoba. The author of a number of blogs, a book of poetry with two more in the works, Shanyn also sculpts, scrapbooks and loves having fun with photography. Please visit her recovery blog “The Scarred Seeker”