Acknowledging victims, survivors and thrivers

"Labels are for Jars."

Since 2002, I have been using the phrase, "victims/survivors/thrivers" for lack of any other terms to describe those who have been sexually abused by clergy or anyone else, for that matter. People looked at me funny when I tried to explain the terms. Labels, no matter how carefully thought out, how inclusively planned or politically corrected, are not for people. Labels are for jars. Terms don't adequately describe or cannot fully describe a person who has been sexually abused. Words fail,  yet, we do the very best we can.

The journey for wholeness for any victim/survivor/thriver of sexual abuse can be long and arduous and is certainly not orderly. It is messy, difficult and it can ebb and flow and slide back on a moment's notice. Working with victims/survivors/thrivers has been a great blessing in my life, and it also has been a challenge. I worry much about those with whom I journey. I carry them in my heart and thoughts. I know that all people who work with Victims/Survivors/Thrivers feel the same. We try everything within our power to work within a system to bring healing and forgiveness, and the obstacles are great. We suffer with them and feel their pain and isolation, but we never forget that we are charged with offering them a hand to help lead them over the bridge from darkness into the light, from fear to courage and from isolation into right relationship.

Many times, thank God, we see persons who have been sexually abused as children thriving in adulthood! We rejoice with them. Many times we see them falling back to using coping skills to survive post-traumatic stress and triggering episodes. Many times, we see them suffering as victims, not believing in themselves and trying to move baby steps forward. We are and will remain with them. We call them by the name they wish be addressed. We walk shoulder-to-shoulder with them and we celebrate their wholeness, brokenness and despair with joy and confidence. Because we know that God knows them intimately by their actual names.

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