Being a male survivor of abuse puts me in a peculiar position. In the patriarchal society I find myself in, I am an anomaly, an outcast, a liar, or not as masculine as other men. There are certain sects of feminists that have told me I’m occupying a woman’s place by claiming to label of an abuse survivor or that abuse by a woman is impossible against a man. We are taught from a young age that men are brutes who exhibit no emotion, experience no pain, and are mighty warriors. We are then thought that women are timid, inferior, weak, and incapable of harming men. The resulting narrative from this is the continual spotlight on women as the only possible victims of domestic violence while men are mentioned as victims in a passing statement (because people say women make up the majority) even when statistics tell us that when it comes to reported cases of abuse, it’s 52% women and 48% men. That’s far from a majority, I’d say that’s about even.
I can handle the brokenness of society and the pitfalls of it. I can accept that society has work to do and strides to make in taking abuse seriously across the board. Why? Because society is reeling from the centuries of patriarchal narrative. That much is true. What I cannot accept is the narrative of church activism and liturgy when it comes to abuse.
It’s likely you’ve never noticed an issue. For those who have never been abused or who are women that have been abused, there is little issue in what is said. But for someone like me, liturgy on abuse is frightening, ancient, and if I’m honest: pathetic.
Examples of church liturgy on abuse:
“Help us mend the harm done to women by men”
“Forgive us for not protecting women while men view them as objects”
“We have not taken care of our sisters in the face of domestic violence”
And the list goes on.
Don’t get me wrong, these things are certainly worth lamenting over. My point isn’t that they should be done away with. My point is that they need to be updated, expanded on, and be made inclusive of males who are abused by women and other men. It is rare for me to come across a bold statement of solidarity with male victims and survivors and when I do, it is done briefly and in passing.
In my honest assessment, we have done much harm in our efforts to level the playing field between men and women. This is understandable because we are human and are hands are flawed. Anyone who would say that any movement started by a human being and carried through by human beings is “perfect” is part of the problem.
Somewhere along the path to leveling the scales, we have switched gears to flipping them. When I question this, I am told that I am just reacting to my privilege as a straight white male being challenged. These cute little catch all quips are absurd, ridiculous, and dehumanizing.
When it comes to our churches, liturgy should not gender exclusive. For all the talk we hear about the need to be more inclusive in our language in regards to gender, we sure do a horrible job when it comes to our discussions over abuse. When we focus on one gender, we paint the other as beastly, demonic, and violent psychopaths.
More than any of this, we make males who have been abused feel unwelcome among us. I was recently invited to a service which focused on abuse in the Christian home. I walked in, sat down, read the liturgy, and promptly stormed out. Why? Because the liturgy was vile, disgusting, and slanderous to me. There was no room for the male survivor, no true acknowledgement of the male victims in our midst.
There were prayers to the God of Sarah, Deborah, and Mary. There were no prayers to the God of Moses, Abraham, or David. None. Zero. There was absolutely no room for a male to find healing, support, or nurturing.
There was only bastardization of men. And that’s the typical liturgy we are given.
We ought to be ashamed of the way we make males who have encountered abuse feel. We ought to be mindful of our marginalization of them, our mocking of them, and our refusal to honor their stories. We need to stop bastardizing men (and women too) and uplift the experiences we bring to the Table.
We have failed and we continue to fail every time we focus on one gender over another on the topic of abuse. We have turned abuse into a one sided issue that is clean cut when the reality is that abuse is messy, complicated, and disgusting.
I, personally, am done allowing society and the church to paint an inaccurate picture of abuse, silence men, push men to the margins, and bastardize men. I am done with my story not being held as equally as that of my sisters who have been hurt. I stand in solidarity with them and my brothers who aren’t welcomed in their church’s liturgies and services. Enough is enough.