Outing Victims Is Just Victimizing Them All Over Again
I have thought about sitting down several time and putting my thoughts to keys here on the recent talk about the son of a well-known TLC show family who has been accused of molesting underage girls when he was a teenager.
This is not an easy topic to write about.
Honestly, no sin should be easy or cavalier to share feelings or write about. However, I think it's safe to say that most people consider sexual sin to have greater weight to it than your garden variety of gossip, adultery or lying.
As a Christ-follower, I know that in His eyes, sin is sin. There is no quantification or degree involved.
That is both humbling for those who have blown it big, and disturbing for those who have not. The idea that my ugly words could be seen as "murdering" someone's character is a hard pill to swallow. But this non-distinction keeps us from becoming proud and uttering the obvious, "well, I would NEVER ....", because honestly, in God's eyes, it's all the same.
That being said, I do believe that the fall-out, damage and consequences of some sins is greater than others. A child who loses their father to a violent murder has to grow up and spend a life with a father-shaped-hole in his or her heart. That's a tremendous amount of pain for a long span of time.
Likewise, victims of sexual abuse are not only traumatized, used and abused in that very moment (or sadly moments), but they continue to be haunted by that event over and over. It effects every aspect of their life and spills over into their relationships, their self-confidence and trust in humanity.
Suffice it to say, they have a very long road ahead of them. The healing takes place in tiny micro steps and it's multi-layered. They are faced daily with the choice of whether to forgive and move forward. It burns and stings and cuts.
But eventually, life comes back into focus. Years pass and it doesn't hurt as much. Progress is made and the world feels less menacing.
Unless something happens to put you right back there in that place and time.
And this is what is breaking my heart about this ongoing "scandal" that the media, social media and bloggers are so aggressively trying to "crack wide open."
The victims. These young women who are now being victimized all over again.
Except now they are being victimized on a public platform and their faces and names are being published with the labels, "victim," "incest," "sexual abuse," and more. These words will be forever cached on the world wide web for their children and grandchildren to find on Google.
What ever happened to protecting the identity of the victim?
Or did that pass out of fashion along with good manners and finding out the entire story before publishing it?
Believe me, I am not condoning sexual abuse in any form --whether it be rape by a stranger or fondling by a sibling. It's wrong and harmful either way.
However, I do know that there can be healing and restoration after experiencing a hurt like this. It is possible. It's not easy. It's something that has to be fought for and cried over. But it is possible.
What this young man did was wrong. I'm sure he is grieved even now to see his sin splashed out for the world to see. I know he is now a father of daughters and I am sure he feels the weight of what he did when he looks at their sweet faces.
What would I do if my worst sin was published on Facebook for all to see? What kind of integrity and strength of character would I have then?
I hope I never have to find out.
I also don't profess to know the situation and whether or not anything was covered up or swept under the rug. I don't know if lines were crossed with the police and if records were in fact shredded.
However, I do know that sometimes victims of sexual abuse do not wish to proclaim it to the world. They would rather not go to the authorities or turn someone in because they do not want to expose the incident to public scrutiny. They do not want to live with the label: victim.
Or it could simply be that even though they have been hurt by their abuser, they still love him. And not in a sick twisted way, but in this difficult ugly-beautiful life where we are all sinners and guilty of something.
Because you can love someone and still hurt them. And you can also love someone and still be hurt by them.
And then what?
Some may choose to cut off all communication and contact for awhile...or forever.
Some may choose to bury it deep and never speak of it again and go on as if nothing happened.
Some may choose to forgive and try to restore a broken relationship because of love and grace and all the things that Christ asks of us to do that are really, really hard to do when we are in pain and have been hurt.
I don't know the situation.
And if that is true. And if it is true that somehow by the grace of God this family has walked through this pain together and wrongs have been acknowledged and pain has been acknowledged and tears have been shed and relationships have started to be mended...if all of this is true, then this must truly be a nightmare for all involved.
Maybe the way I hope it happened isn't the way it actually happened. It could be pure conjecture on my part.
However, regardless, I do emphatically believe that no matter your feelings on whether or not this young man "got away with it," or the young women "need justice," or the authorities "participated in a cover up scheme,"...no matter your feelings on the matter, I hope we can all agree that these young women deserve their privacy.
These young women deserve to live their lives without fear of being forever labeled or forced to re-live their deepest pain.
No journalist or blogger should think they are simply "fighting for the victims" and are not contributing to the hurt when they publish these young women's photos with labels that they have continuously fought against in their own heart and soul.
In my opinion, this is sensationalist and only serves to highlight the author's profile or bump their page views.
We have a great responsibility to give these young women and all victims privacy and respect and stay out of their business. Because ultimately, it is their business. Although they have opened up their lives on television, and it makes us feel like we know them and can therefore weigh in.
We don't know.
We can't know it all.
But we can know and do know what it is like to be human. And to be hurt and be hurting. To feel exposed and a little raw.
And although these young women may not have been safe or protected in that singular moment, we can offer them safety and protection now by keeping their names and faces out of the news and news feeds.
It's the very least we can do....