From victim to victor

From victim to victor

So easy to become a victim

In our country with its high crime rate it is nearly impossible not to be a victim. You don’t choose to become a victim, you are made one. Worst of all is that you feel unsafe, live in fear, perhaps harbour feelings of revenge, or suffer financially and emotionally. Even though you might not be a victim yourself, but through something that happened to a family member or a friend, even in another town, you may be an indirect victim. Just think how traumatised and upset you are when you hear about something that has happened to someone you know.

The bad thing about being a victim, in telling your story to others, you sometimes get the impression that they wonder whether perhaps you are not partly to blame. Have you locked the gate, why did you walk there, why have you done this or that?

What if I become a victim?

To be a victim is traumatic. It doesn’t matter whether they have broken into your home while you were out, whether they have stolen something from your car, whether you have been attacked or assaulted or if somebody stole money from your bank account. It is traumatic. It turns your whole world upside down. You are confused. Sometimes it becomes like a TV that switches back to the same channel all the time, whether you want to think about something else or not.

Sometimes you experience extreme emotions that you are unable to control, or you don’t feel anything at all. Your behaviour changes, you don’t sleep well any more, you lose your appetite or you eat too much.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I want you to know that this is quite normal after a traumatic experience. There is nothing wrong with you. You are simply somebody who has been affected by trauma.

It is important that you talk to people about what happened to you. Tell them about your thoughts and emotions. The more you talk about this, the sooner you will heal, become whole again. By talking you can conquer the trauma. Sometimes it takes a long time, but talking definitely helps. Find somebody you trust – a best friend or your minister, psychologist or social worker. The main thing is that you have to talk to somebody about what you have experienced and still experience.

What can we do?

When I ask what we can do, I mean what we as Christians, people who belong to a church or congregation, can do.

In Galatians 6:2 we read: Carry each other’s burdens. A victim is somebody who carries a heavy load. It is resting heavily on his or her shoulders. Let us help to carry the burden. We can do the following:

Be willing to listen when somebody tells his or her story. I know we can be very eager to hear other people’s stories, but a Christian has to be able to listen. This means not interrupting someone trying to tell my own story. Listen, listen and listen until they have told you everything what happened, what they felt and how it is still affecting their lives. It is very tempting to share our own emotions and to talk about how bad things are in our country, how pathetic we think the police is, etc. Remember that the victim is the important person here. It is our responsibility to listen. By listening we give the victim a chance to regain control over what happened, about what he or she is experiencing at the moment. Also give people a chance to ask their questions, questions like: Why did God let it happen? and don’t try to give any answers. Just accompany them through their own journey of acceptance and peace. If we succeed in doing this, we have helped people on the road to become victors and to deal with their trauma.

Our church services: Our church services form the point of contact between our daily life and a meeting with God. Perhaps we should ask ourselves in church whether our services are an escape from the cruel reality, or whether people receive hope for the reality of their lives in this meeting with God. From a pastoral involvement with people who are victims of violence and crime there is ample material for a pastor to address people’s needs and distress during their services.
Perhaps we should preach less for the government and more for people who are affected by crime and violence. My personal experience is that when you offer Christians who are victims of crime and violence the opportunity to tell their stories during the service, as well as relate how they have dealt with it through their faith, you give other victims a voice too. It offers a chance and hope to those who remain silent and carry the scars inside. One person who talks about sexual abuse or harassment during the service helps to break the silence and gives victims the opportunity to ask for help. This is crucial because victims, and especially children, often become the future transgressors.

We often preach about and ask intercession for those who are sick, so why not by name for the victims of crime and violence? This is the way to carry each other’s burdens, according to Galatians 6 verse 2.

Caring for the victims

Not everybody in church has the gift of serving people who are victims of crime and violence. With the necessary training, however, any congregation can empower people to be part of ministering to victims. Ministers do not need to, neither are they able, to be everywhere, but willing church members with the necessary experience and skills can do wonders. Perhaps you can report and offer yourself willing to be trained.

Break the cycle

By helping victims we make them feel that they are important. We help them to become whole again and to continue with their lives. Research has shown that many lawbreakers have once been victims themselves and that there had been nobody who cared.
Child molesters are often people who have been sexually molested as children and who had nobody who would listen. Later on they do the same to others. People who become violent sometimes are people who have experienced violence personally and could never deal with it. I can go on and on. By helping a victim to become a victor, we break the cycle. This is what Christ wants us to do. Help to create a new beginning.

Carry each other’s burdens and become part of the process of turning victims into victors!

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