Some further thoughts from Barbara Glasson’s A Spirituality of Survival: Enabling a Response to Trauma and Abuse:
Relationships should never be traps; they should hold and not bind. […] abuse is about the misuse of power and to ‘sur vivre‘ is to emerge from underneath the story of oppression.
We are most likely to ‘sur vivre‘ if we know that someone is searching for us, that there is a longing for us to re-surface among those who realize we are missing.
Abuse is not just a blip in an otherwise normal life, it is a total disruption of normality. What is perceived to be normal is in fact destructive.
However, the problem is that a woman suffering abuse:
believes that her experience is ‘just how it is’ and so fails to speak out for fear of destruction on the one hand and ridicule on the other.
In many ways a victim of … abuse does not have choices. Abuse happens to them, they are trapped, silenced, damaged … by others who have taken away any sense of their autonomy or self-worth, they are made into objects.
Those … whose lives have been violated, subsumed and stolen … are called to find freedom, safe enough space in which to claim life and flourish. They are not obliged to submit to repressive, self-denying demands but to find strength and authenticity through the bringing to light of the truth.
Belief in a God of infinite mercy and transforming love means [to] hold on to the belief that there is no place from which God is absent. […] God’s silence signifies not absence, but total engagement. God becomes silent in order to be with the silenced. It is an ultimate act of love to be able to enter the awful silence and suffer together.
This, once again, is from Barbara Glasson, A Spirituality of Survival: Enabling a Response to Trauma and Abuse.
I believe in a gospel that calls us to ‘life in all its fullness’. This is not just divine wishful thinking but the call to live our lives on top of oppression and abuse and enable others to do the same. If abuse is about the deadly effect of misappropriated power, then I believe that God calls forth life, life from under the oppressions that seek to crush us, and begins to give voice to another way. God desires us to live in a way that subverts abuses. God’s way is not a way of death, but a way to flourish.
Barbara Glasson, A Spirituality of Survival: Enabling a Response to Trauma and Abuse
Following up a friend’s recommendation, I am currently reading Barbara Glasson’s A Spirituality of Survival: Enabling a Response to Trauma and Abuse, a book that I am finding increasingly insightful, the more I am getting into it. Taking Miroslav Volf’s definition of exclusion from Exclusion and Embrace as her point of departure, Glasson rephrases this from the perspective of the victim, suggesting that:
… exclusion is being made invisible by someone who assumes superior power over us. We are rendered irrelevant and of no consequence. We are therefore pushed to the edges of … relationship to a place of silence, worthlessness and loneliness. … it can mean being owned or manipulated by someone who assumes power over us to such an extent that we lose any sense of autonomy.
Glasson describes this as ‘a double bind of silencing and isolation’, noting that victims are ‘simultaneously completely related to “the other” but also rendered totally irrelevant by “the other”.
Regardless of the motives of the abuser, a victim experiences this double bind of exclusion; this is why it renders them feeling unable to make easy changes. Whatever choice they make, they will be compounded in one cycle or another, of isolation or of ridicule, rendering them simultaneously more dependent and more isolated.
In order to not be a victim of either oppression or invisibility … the structures of power [need to be reversed] in such a way that boundaries become liberating rather than controlling.
And she suggests:
The abused person is unable to unbind herself from the knot of victimization without the solidarity of others. These “others in solidarity” need to be prepared to enter into the bind and release it on behalf of the victim. Victims rarely move out of the cycles of abuse on their own but rather need the support, insight and understanding of those who “stand in solidarity”.