Just Zoë, Just Life

Monthly Archives: July 2012

“The system is wrong. I had hoped they would continue to improve the system for victims. But it only improves for criminals.”  

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/belgium/9440462/Fury-as-ex-wife-of-Belgian-paedophile-killer-Marc-Dutroux-is-paroled-to-convent.html

This utterance really hit home for me.

Thwack!

It echoes all I have been through, and still struggle with.

In the early 90s my parents went to the police. They told them of the horrific abuse I had disclosed, that I had suffered at the hands of my half-brother. For my family, and especially for me, the result of his actions was devastating.

The police did nothing. They did not even interview me. I was supposedly assigned a social worker. I never met him.

The abuse taught me that I did not matter; that I was worthless. The lack of interest from the police and social services taught me the same thing: that it did not matter who hurt me. Not even the police cared.

My school reinforced this, too. I attended a special unit for kids who had missed a lot of school either through expulsion, emotional difficulties or illness. My mother told the head of the special unit about the abuse (though what she actually said I don’t know) and the head apparently decided that because my parents were a lot better off than the other kids’ parents, and because I was clever, I therefore had no problems. She said this to my face, not in so many words, but it was enough. Of course (silly me!) the reason I sat in the corner and didn’t talk to anyone was because I was fine. So even at a school where they were supposedly there to help kids, it was made clear to me that my problems couldn’t possibly be all that bad. The headmistress once told me that during her daughter’s ballet exam, her feet had begun to bleed, but that she had ‘danced through the pain’. At the time, I was just confused. I had no way to answer. Was my pain not enough? Once again, I learned I was worthless.

With self-esteem at about the same depth as the Mariana Trench, at 21 I married my first boyfriend, who was by turns manipulative, coercive and abusive. It doesn’t take a genius to see that my (then) rock-bottom self-esteem was the magnet for his manipulation, does it?

That man, the ex-husband (he does not deserve to even be called that much)  is now a convicted paedophile. Yet on his release, the so-called justice system saw fit to send him back to the same town that we lived in.

Now this convicted paedophile is claiming legal aid so that he can ‘seek contact’ with my children. He continues to claim legal aid, and will likely want to go before a judge for the judge to decide whether he can have ‘supervised contact’.  In essence, he gets legal aid to put us through more trauma. We have to pay £175/hour for a solicitor. We are by no means wealthy. My lovely Frank makes a heck of a lot less than £175/hour.

I finally spoke to the police myself, about two months ago, regarding the abuse I suffered as a child. They are currently investigating. So far, so good. My fear is that, after twenty years, they will not be able to uncover enough evidence for a prosecution. If they had done their job properly in the first place, how much pain and suffering could have been avoided?

This is a broad subject and I could go into a lot more detail about crime in general, its impact on victims, the paltry sentences criminals receive, etc., etc., but it is too vast a topic for a blog post. Nevertheless, given what one reads in the link above, about the release of the accomplice of a serial killer and paedophile, and given all the things that have happened in my own life, I have this question:

Does justice exist for victims of crime, especially serious crime, or is it just criminals whose ‘rights’ are respected?

If you would like to learn more, or would like to talk to someone about the issues raised in this blog post, please contact http://www.stopitnow.org.uk/

For me, when it seems as if all else fails, and the world is so unfailingly horrible that it is just too far gone, I remember the words in Luke’s gospel:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’

Luke 4:18-21

I know I have said this before, but the word translated as ‘oppressed’ also means ‘broken’ or ‘shattered’. That means me. Jesus says his purpose was to set me free. And what an uproar there was when he said it! He did nothing but cause trouble wherever he went. The ‘authorities’ hated him for what he was doing.

I might be disillusioned with the world, but I can never be disillusioned when I look at Jesus.  I am also reminded to keep up the fight, for me and for all victims, whether they’re victims of abuse, of violence, of poverty, of corruption, etc.

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter –
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
… Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: here am I.

Isaiah 58:6-9

Here am I, by grace. What a privilege.

Advertisements

I don’t know how your mind works, but I can only deal with me. 

If I have deliberately hurt or upset you (or through wilful inaction hurt or upset you) then I am responsible for your resulting emotional response. If you have deliberately hurt or upset me (or through wilful inaction hurt or upset me), then you are responsible for my resulting emotional response.

Other than that, I am responsible for my own emotions, and you are responsible for yours. People like me, who are recovering from abuse and co-dependency, consider other people’s feelings, opinions and emotions by default. We have to remind ourselves to consider our own emotions and opinions. We have to remind ourselves to put ourselves first, to love ourselves first.

I cannot give love away unless I know how to love myself first.

The diametric opposite of co-dependents exist. They like to take advantage of the fact that co-dependents consider others’ emotions before their own, because these opposites always consider their own feelings first, before they can ever be bothered to consider anyone else’s (if, in fact, they ever do).

I am not responsible for your feelings. I will be responsible for no one else’s feelings but my own. I will play that game no longer. If an individual persists in wanting me to be responsible for his or her feelings, I will have no choice but to move away, emotionally and possibly physically.

This is, in fact, biblical. If your eye offends, cut it out, says Jesus. In other words, if anything makes me continue a negative behaviour, I must cut it out. If that something is a person, I will ‘cut them out’ (if they don’t respond when I gently confront them over their behaviour). I have no choice. Making myself sad or upset in order to avoid making him or her sad or upset is wrong. If I continue to allow myself to be treated in this way I allow and perpetuate sin.

I am responsible for my own feelings. You are responsible for your own feelings. I have said sorry (and meant it) for the things I needed forgiveness for.

Have you?

It’s not just feelings, it is actions too. I cannot judge you. I have no place to judge you. In the same way you cannot judge me. You have no place to judge me. I can observe. You can observe. But judgement belongs to God.

Justice, too, belongs to God. Which is just as well, because if you got what you deserved, you’d be burning as I write. Me too. Grace cannot be earned; it is given. If I have grown in love, it is only by grace. My own efforts amount to naught. The only one qualified to judge is one without sin.

So why do so many Christians think it is their place to judge? Are they really without sin? What happened to love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

Lord, forgive our foolish ways :-/


Today is the first anniversary of the terrible attacks in Norway, perpetrated by a man with deeply fascist views. It is also the 70th anniversary of the day the Nazis began sending Jews from the Warsaw ghetto to the death camps. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18924842

Extremism has many faces. Its motivation is hatred, ignorance and fear. We tell ourselves that if we were Germans in the time of WWII we would not have been party to the horrors. We tell ourselves that we would never have turned a blind eye as the world changed, gradually worsening until evil spiralled out of control. We would have done something.

But is that really true? Can any of us ever really know how we would react? If you knew your dearest friend was being tortured by the authorities, would you deny that you even knew him? Would you realise, too late, that you had betrayed him, left him to the most cruel death? Peter did. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2026:69-75&version=GNT

Extremism is born of a hard-hearted fundamentalism that refuses to question, insisting its own world-view is correct. Those who question are deemed traitors, heretics, etc.

If we are seeking the truth, we must always question. Sometimes there may not be any answers, in which instance we must recognise our human limitations, the constraints of our brains. A thinking person knows it’s ok to say ‘I don’t know’.

In our society we have prominent ‘religious’ thinkers insisting they have all the answers, seemingly embattled against prominent ‘atheist’ thinkers insisting science has all the answers. They both end up looking  fanatical, with more than a whiff of fascist-like single-mindedness. Certainly rings warning bells for me.

70 years since the beginning of the Warsaw trains to Treblinka, and the estimated deaths of 6,000,000 Jews, along with the deaths of millions of mentally or physically disabled people, homosexuals, gypsies and ‘traitors’. My own son is ‘mentally disabled’. It sends a shiver down my spine. The words themselves are heart-sinking.

I have read a lot of different books about the holocaust over the years, in an attempt I suppose (in hindsight), to somehow categorise my own experiences of evil. I had no answers and I thought that by studying evil on a grand scale, maybe some kind of pattern, or reason, would result. It didn’t. One is left with a sense of how awful it all was, but with no real answers as to how it happened, or why. How can human beings do that? For the same reason I have read about the transatlantic slave trade (which caused an estimated 10,000,000 deaths and untold suffering for those who survived).

In the end, there is only one lesson that can be learned: WWII brought out the absolute worst of humanity, but it also brought out the absolute best, in the actions of those who risked everything to avert fascist world domination.

WWII is by no means an isolated incident. Stalin was responsible for an estimated 20,000,000 deaths in the Soviet era, and Chairman Mao is reckoned to be responsible for 40,000,000 deaths, incidentally both in the name of pro-atheist communism, so the oft-quoted ‘religion is responsible…’ is entirely false* (for clarification, see comments below). The less palatable truth is that a wolf in sheep’s clothing hides among the sheep, especially sheep who are too scared to think for themselves lest they become victims of the wolf too. 

Every November we say ‘lest we forget’ and then we do forget, and carry on about our lives in the same unthinking way. Extremism is born of hatred, ignorance and fear. Jesus said that if you even look at someone with hatred, you have committed murder in your heart. He demonstrated time and again that one must question the perceived status quo (throughout the gospels!). If fear is your motivation, then your motivation is wrong. 1 John 4:18 says

 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

So where do we begin?

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

1 John 3:18

In the light of all the above, all I have left is a quiet ‘Amen’.


I’ve been busy lately. Some not-so-good stuff is happening, but we are trusting God to work it all out. Maybe it will all work out for the best, in the end, by bringing a sense of ‘closure’. Maybe. Whatever happens, may it be for God’s glory.

Moving on… I took my non-Christian mother to Scargill House in the Yorkshire Dales for the weekend.  It is a Christian community living out ‘new monasticism’ (not as weird as it sounds). All are welcome, and all are allowed to simply be themselves. No one is told what to say, or do, or believe. And that makes it all the more powerful, because when egos are left out, God is able to speak.

I wrote a while ago in a post entitled ‘The Upside Down Kingdom’

https://justzoejustlife.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/the-upside-down-kingdom/

questioning why we don’t always see gentleness as a quality evident in our Christian leaders – yet I would say that the leaders I have met at Scargill all display gentleness. Interestingly. My mum left not having had a Damascus-like conversion experience, but definitely with a sense of peace that she had not had before she arrived. God is good.

I had a marvellous conversation with the chaplain, and although it didn’t answer any questions, it certainly made me think in ways I had not before (there are a dozen blog posts I could write as the result of that conversation!).

Twice in the last week (including once at Scargill) I have been in situations where we sung the old favourite ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’. It was written as a poem by a man called John Greenleaf Whittier, a 19th century Quaker. A poem of his was also read at the Scargill weekend and I began thinking about the beautiful, thoughtful words of the well-known hymn. Sometimes when things are so well known, and with such beautiful lyrics, we don’t fully consider what the words mean.

‘Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.’
God is our Father as well as our Lord. He is our Daddy. The idea of God as Daddy was introduced by Jesus. And it was revolutionary.
Here is the radical Jesus. He doesn’t fit into our neat little boxes.
Before Jesus, no one had ever considered that God could be so close, so present, so capable of having a relationship with us mere (fallen) humans, as to be considered ‘Daddy’ (the Greek word used in the New Testament is ‘Abba’, which translates best as ‘Daddy’, though it is usually rendered ‘Father’).
The next lines echo the verse from Romans 12:2 ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.’  
This transformation of mind is something which I have been seeking over many years. It is a journey, a process. But this renewing of mind is the only way I have overcome my battles, my past hurts. It happens by the meeting of my will with God’s (which undoubtedly takes will on my part – though this is far exceeded by grace) gradually weeding out all the bad bits, until one day, when I make my way home, only God is left. For now, I know that God loves me. And I know that He will never let go. In the words of Julian of Norwich
‘What is he indeed that is maker and lover and keeper? I cannot find words to tell. For until I am one with him I can never have true rest nor peace. I can never know it until I am held so close to Him that there is nothing in between.’
I feel a hallelujah coming on… 😉
 

In light of the numerous recent banking scandals I thought I’d write a post about ethical banking and how easy it is to switch bank accounts. I switched from Barclays to the Co-operative last year, after I learned of Barclays’ paltry amount of corporation tax they paid for 2009  http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/feb/18/barclays-bank-113m-corporation-tax. ‘Barclays Bank has been forced to admit it paid just £113m in UK corporation tax in 2009 – a year when it rang up a record £11.6bn of profits.’

As if that wasn’t bad enough, I then read that Barclays, RBS, Lloyds TSB and HSBC ‘have all provided funding to the makers of cluster bombs, even as international opinion turns against a weapons system that is inherently indiscriminate and routinely maims or kills civilians.’ http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/uk-banks-fund-deadly-clusterbomb-industry-2338168.html

Barclays, RBS, Lloyds TSB and HSBC clearly think profits are more important than losing limbs (or your life) because you happened to be a civilian who got in the way. Like the little boy on the right.

I don’t know about you but I don’t want my money being used to kill and maim children.

So I did some research. Frank was already with the Co-operative Bank, which is owned by its members, who are ordinary people like you and me (as opposed to fat-cat bankers whose only priority is lining their pockets). They ensure all investments they make are ethical, they promote  and contribute to community and charitable projects,  and they promote co-operatives as a means of trading, allowing smaller businesses to group together. All profits are shared by the members (i.e. you and me!).

As a bank, they’ve been super. All I did was phone them, after which they sent a document for me to sign which stated that all my standing orders and direct debits could be automatically transferred as well as my balance. I made a few phone calls to get my income paid into the right place, etc.,  and I have not looked back since. I now have a Co-op bank account, insurance and credit card and shop in the local Co-op. When the time comes I will apply for a Co-op mortgage.

Given the latest scandal –

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/jul/11/barclays-bob-diamond-congress?newsfeed=true ‘Washington politicians considering asking former Barclays chief executive to testify as Libor-fixing controversy crosses to US’

– do you want to change banks? Have you considered the Co-op?

http://www.co-operative.coop/


“Mummy,” asks Squidge, “how do babies get born?”

“They grow in the mummy’s tummy.” I say.

“But how do they get in there?” She asks, wrinkling her nose.

“The daddy puts a seed in and it grows.” Simultaneously thinking: Oh good. This’ll be fun. Squidge is nearly seven years old. She was bound to ask this sort of thing sooner or later.

“But how? Does the mummy swallow it like sunflower seeds, or what?” She shrugs and screws up her face. She sounds perplexed.

“No,” I laugh, “you know how boys and girls are different, don’t you?”

“Yes,” she says, rolling her eyes and lowering her voice, “boys have willies.”

“Ok. And what’s the proper name for that?”

She tells me. I tell her, matter-of-factly, where the daddy puts the properly-named body part so that the ‘seed’ goes into the mummy’s tummy.

She looks at me, aghast. Then she eyes me shrewdly.

“No!” She cries. “You’re tricking me!”

I assure her I am not. She stares at me, curling her hair round her finger. Then asks, in the same, direct way, “So, can I do that and get a baby?”

I choke. “Um… When you’re grown-up and you get married, yes.”

“I don’t want to!”

“Good.” I laugh again. “But when you grow up you might change your mind. Babies are nice.”

“So can I do it with HRH?”

I choke again. “NO!” Regaining my composure, “He’s your brother. You can’t marry your brother.”

“Can I do it with Tom?”

I am very aware how inappropriate it feels to discuss possible sexual partners with my six-year-old.

“Tom is your cousin. You have to choose someone else.”

“Oh,” Squidge continues, blithely, “what about James?”

“Well, if he wants to marry you when you grow up, yes you can have babies.”

“Oh good. I’d like to marry James.”

‘Awww,’ I think. ‘How sweet.’ I say, “Why’s that, poppet?”

She gazes up at me with those big blue eyes, still twirling a strand of hair around her finger, innocence personified. “Because he’s littler than me and asks me lots of questions. I like telling him what to do.”

o_O

Out of the mouths of babes, and all that…