There is No Neutrality, No “Innocent” Bystander When We See Abuse

John 7:12-13  And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.

Let us hear what Judith Lewis Herman says about this kind of silence which is, in practice, a kind of neutrality:

The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma. . . . When the truth is finally recognized, survivors can begin their recovery.  But far too often secrecy prevails. . . . Witnesses as well as victims are subject to the dialectic of trauma. . . . When the traumatic events are of human design, those who bear witness are caught in the conflict between victim and perpetrator.  

It is morally impossible to remain neutral in this conflict. The bystander is forced to take sides. It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering. . . The weakest one remains the losing party in this silent and unequal dialogue.  

In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. Secrecy and silence are the perpetrator’s first line of defense. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure that no one listens. To this end he marshals an impressive array of arguments, from the most blatant denial to the most sophisticated and elegant rationalization. After every atrocity one can expect to hear the same predictable apologies: it never happened; the victim lies; the victim exaggerates; the victim brought it upon herself; and in any case it is time to forget the past and move on. The more powerful the perpetrator, the greater is his prerogative to name and define reality, and the more completely his arguments prevail.”
Trauma and Recovery: The aftermath of violence – from domestic abuse to political terror [*affiliate link]. Judith Herman, Basic Books: 1997].

So there it is.  Whether the abuser is a raging husband or a raging political dictator, each one works his own scale of terror upon his victims, and the tactics are remarkably similar. Judith Herman’s book is excellent and one that should help abuse victims recover.

As Herman notes, there is no neutrality in the trauma of abuse.  The bystander — that’s you and me — cannot merely by-stand.  To do so is to choose, and the choice is for the abuser.  Evil only asks that we remain quiet and still.  Divert our eye and go on about our business.  This is at least part of the explanation for the blank stare and tic of discomfort we see in people when we talk to them about abuse.  Bystanders know that to acknowledge the reality of abuse and the plight of the victim is to force a choice between good and evil, right and wrong.  To stand with the victim on the other hand is to be required to take action, to pay a price, to take on a share of the victim’s burden.  Normally, the perpetrator wins as bystanders choose for him by turning away and just forgetting.  This is why an innocent person can be mugged or even murdered on a public street in front of witnesses, and no one does anything.

Christians do not have the option of remaining neutral and thus choosing the side of evil.  Our King has not given us that option.  If we will not confess Jesus and his cause before men, then He will deny us before the Father.  Here all around us are victims, usually women, being terrorized, beaten, treated like slaves or worse, raped and sodomized – here they are.  That is what we are saying in this blog.  That is what more and more Christians who have suffered at the hands of abusers are saying — and they are beginning to shout it.  It is enough.  Enough of the church turning a blind eye, choosing the side of the abuser, and sending the victim away into the hinterlands.  The King is sick of it.  He calls us to repent, and if we will not, He will spew us out of His mouth like lukewarm, putrid milk.

*Amazon affiliate link:  See top menu bar for Amazon disclaimer

14 thoughts on “There is No Neutrality, No “Innocent” Bystander When We See Abuse

  1. Amy

    Amen!!!!
    I shared this on my Facebook page.
    I was not believed and was dismissed by my former church, but now I stand up for the injustice towards abuse victims and am not shy about encouraging them to leave those marriages, and churches, and find freedom in Christ.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Praying Lady

    POWERFUL post, Pastor Crippen!

    The last section says volumes:

    “Christians do not have the option of remaining neutral and thus choosing the side of evil. Our King has not given us that option. If we will not confess Jesus and his cause before men, then He will deny us before the Father. Here all around us are victims, usually women, being terrorized, beaten, treated like slaves or worse, raped and sodomized – here they are. That is what we are saying in this blog. That is what more and more Christians who have suffered at the hands of abusers are saying — and they are beginning to shout it. It is enough. Enough of the church turning a blind eye, choosing the side of the abuser, and sending the victim away into the hinterlands. The King is sick of it. He calls us to repent, and if we will not, He will spew us out of His mouth like lukewarm, putrid milk.”

    I saw 2 ladies out in public who attended the church I was attending at the time who also knew that my ex had been arrested for strangling me in front of a law enforcement officer. When one of the ladies asked me how I was doing, I said, “Not good.” She just turned and walked away, not saying another word! I stopped attending that church due to the overwhelming amount of apathy that the people who knew what happened, including the pastor, assistant pastor, and their wives, showed regarding my situation.

    THANK YOU again, Pastor Crippen, for continuing to speak about this evil in the church!!!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Z

    Excellent post Pastor. Some of us victims have had to acknowledge that “neutrality” is complicity in evil and not only had to go to “No Contact” with the dangerously UNSAFE-physically and mentally-abusers, but also have No Contact with those who side with their evil by their choosing of “neutrality”-the more comfortable, less costly option for them. Some even choose open support of the evil of abusers. It pays off better for them in many wicked, ungodly, worldly ways.
    But! As you say, THE KING IS SICK OF IT!! He commands holiness and obedience before comfort and ease of course for abusers, but ALSO for those who choose to ally themselves with abusers’ unrepentant evil. They ALL need to repent or He deny He ever knew them and will spew them out.
    When that happens, the only justice some victims may ever get WILL be realized. Jesus will be the Hero in our horror stories. Our Beautiful, Mighty, Holy, Righteous & Just Jesus!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. walkinginlight

    Wow! This is it exactly Pastor Crippen. The witness’es do not want to be uncomfortable with dealing with evil so they turn a blind eye and like the author stated see, hear and speak no evil. After all is too “costly” to show support to the victim. In other words these people are COWARDS!! They do not want to be persecuted for righteousness sake. Let the victim be slandered, abused, stolen from etc. we will just look the other way. This is not our Lord’s calling for true Christians. As Z stated above, it may pay off in the world while they are still here but I do not envy them when it comes to this scripture.
    “But for the COWARDLY and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. Rev. 21:8
    As the dictionary states: cowardly- one who lacks courage, one given to fear.
    MARANATHA!!!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. anonymous

    Isn’t Judith Herman’s book excellent?

    And the advantages are stacked in the perp’s favor. People don’t want to get involved. People don’t think it’s their business. People have their own problems, worries, and cares. People want to assume the best about others and perhaps the incident they saw was a one-off thing.

    And so many in conservative Christian circles, especially the girls and women, have been brought up to fear conflict and to be ‘submissive’ and ‘peace-keepers’ and don’t make waves….. which also makes them terrible bystanders, as they’re prone to side with the perp (by not intervening, not doing anything, which helps the perp and harms the victim).

    Women and girls in the Christian church circles need to be raised to be WARRIORS, not nicey-nice, easy prey, victims. And the men need to be raised up to not be the next generation of wifebeaters, perps, and rapists, sexual harassers, misogynists, male chauvinists, and so forth.

    As to what perps argue:

    “After every atrocity one can expect to hear the same predictable apologies: it never happened; the victim lies; the victim exaggerates; the victim brought it upon herself; and in any case it is time to forget the past and move on. ”

    This happens over and over and over again. Judith Herman knew what she was talking about when she wrote her book. It’s full of dead-on stuff like this. Every pastor out there, every judge, every bystander needs to know these standard lies used by perps caught in their evildoing.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. anonymous

    Perhaps we can put together a series of tips, of ideas, as to how to ensure you are not a bystander, and by doing nothing, you don’t side with and help support evil (because doing nothing is siding with the perp, helping the abuser, being complicit).

    The care and support needs to always go to the abused person. The heck with the abuser. They don’t need counseling, understanding, or support. The concern should always be focused on the victim, the abused woman. Doing whatever a person can to support the battered woman, show her that she is a human being, worthy, not garbage, deserving of dignity, respect, and support.

    There is absolutely no neutrality possible with abuse, If you look to be ‘fair’, you’re siding with the perp. The inherent imbalance of power cannot be overlooked. It’s like the schoolyard bully who is twice the size of the kid he is beating to a pulp. Pull the bully off the kid. Care for the kid. Walking by and not doing anything to help the victim is supporting the bully. Punishing them both is supporting the bully. It is not “conflict” or “misunderstanding” or an “argument” but it is power-tripping, abuse, and predation.

    If you aren’t supporting the victim, you’re supporting the abuser. That’s the end result. No 2 ways about it. It’s an important truth to realize.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. GrayRock

    Very helpful post.

    Actually, in the Church, it is even worse. People are actively indoctrinated to revictimize abuse victims by the teaching that whoever says anything negative about anyone for any reason whatsoever is sinning. Therefore, when an abuse victim dares to open up about her suffering, churchgoers’ knee-jerk reaction is to silence her immediately with words such as “You must forgive!” or “Forgive and forget!”. Complaining about abuse by someone “in authority” over the victim, e.g. her husband or a church leader, is even worse. Then she is additionally rebelling against the authority God set over her. Those same professing Christians might readily try to console someone who was hurt in an accident. Being hurt by an evil person, however, is much harder emotionally, particularly since the abuser often has a God-given responsibility to protect the one(s) he is abusing.

    Due to their indoctrination churchgoers believe they are doing the will of God and the abuse victim is the sinner. Some professing Christians indeed appear entirely brainwashed and incapable of thinking on their own. Therefore an abuse victim is more likely to find empathy outside of the church than among Christians.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Jeff Crippen

      I like to modify that: False Christians kill their wounded. On the other hand, the statement “Christians kill their wounded” is often used to justify the wicked. It can be the old “we are all sinners and no matter what someone does we must love them and forgive them.” And so the wicked skate.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. walkinginlight

    You are right Pastor Jeff. The saying should be changed to FALSE CHRISTIANS kill their wounded. A true born again Christian is filled with the compassion, empathy and love of Jesus and would never turn their back and support of someone in emotional or physical pain, and without the love of Christ in the heart one is just a clanging cymbal.
    MARANATHA!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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