Lyvonne Picou’s Research on Black Christian Women Survivors of Male Sexual Violence

by Brad Sargent, aka brad/futuristguy,

and cross-posted at Spiritual Sounding Board.

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I am fiercely committed to addressing the taboo and stigma attached to childhood sexual abuse (CSA) in the Black community.”
~ Lyvonne Proverbs Picou

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Occasionally, I find out about surveys or other research related to specific groups in survivor communities. When I do, I encourage people to participate if they’re part of the group under consideration. Even if they’re not, such research findings always contribute to our greater understanding of dynamics involved in various aspects of abuse, violence, sexual misconduct, etc. So, I want to make people aware of Lyvonne’s important research work.

Mutual friends in the social entrepreneurship world of Do Good X recently connected me with Lyvonne “Proverbs” Picou, whose research focuses on African-American women survivors of male sexual violence. Her 13-question confidential survey is posted here:

https://goo.gl/Z42XwA

We got together this past week for coffee and conversation. She shared about her work in African-American churches to bring awareness about male sexual violence against women, about becoming “surthrivors” (a term she coined in 2009), and about how the church needs to shift its culture and language. Lyvonne has a lot of insight into personal recovery and how the arts can play into that, plus ideas and practices local churches can implement to make a positive difference.

Plus I asked Lyvonne to share some of her spoken word work (“Proverbs” is her handle for poetry slams and preaching). She performed a stunning piece about Rahab that I could only describe as “elegant”!

Lyvonne had asked me to share some about my work on systems and systemic abuse in Christian organizations. So, I talked about vastly different types of control systems I’d experienced in various churches, how these can interlock with other organizations to create a Christian industrial complex, and different roles people end up playing, from perpetrators to pawns, in getting an abusive system up and running, or keeping it going.

Then she asked about case studies I knew of on spiritual abuse or sexual misconduct in predominantly African-American churches and ministries. I could only come up with two situations at the time, and in the days since have come up with a few more that I’ve seen addressed on survivor-type blogs. I know there are more – I’ve seen blurbs in news reports or social media. Which leads me to a lot of questions:

  • Why don’t these seem to receive much coverage on survivor blogs?
  • Are we overlooking them?
  • Do we not attract a racially diverse readership, and if so, why?
  • Do we tend to focus on certain theologies, and so are missing some that may be more prominent in African-American churches?

Much to learn … So, I’m looking forward to hearing more from Lyvonne as she continues her research, because the communities she’s in touch with are ones we need to know more about. For instance, I’ve been aware of long-standing general estimates that one out of three girls will be the victims of sexual abuse before age 18. But from one of Lyvonne’s posts, It’s Not a Scandal, It’s a System, I learned of this specific research:

The Black Women’s Blueprint has an ongoing study that found 60% of Black women are sexually abused before they turn 18-years-old. Sixty. Percent. And, since the Black church is 85% women, that means that half of Black church congregations have been sexually abused.

If you’re interested in more about Lyvonne’s educational and theological training, “beautiful scars” ministry, and research work, you’ll find her website here: Lyvonne. The About page has links to her social media accounts plus YouTube videos of her as preacher, poet, and educator.

Meanwhile, thanks for considering participation in this important study – and please share the survey link!

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Survivor Blogging Trends 2017: Part Four – Challenge #2

Continuing Challenges in Survivor Blog Communities

Challenge #2 – Listen for the Natural Limits

of Crowd-Sourced Fact Gathering.

A few years ago, I posted an article entitled, Is It Time to Tell My Story? It included suggestions and questions for working through our experiences as survivors of abuse. The two main goals behind doing this were (1) to gain insight by processing what happened to us, (2) so we could share it and hopefully help prevent others from likewise experiencing abuse or help them recover if they’ve been victimized.

One of the frameworks I presented was on different kinds of information. This is important for social media, because – as we’ve seen the trend increasing over recent years – it is full of inaccuracies and outright falsehoods. Some people naively post alt.facts as if they were accurate and legitimate, or disinformation that mixes a bit of truth but the rest is askew, or intentionally inflammatory theories designed to poke people and get a reaction out of them.

Bottom line: If we accept whatever we read at face value, we’re going to absorb a lot of garbage. We need to think critically so we can respond with discernment. Here is what I posted about differences between various kinds of evidences and critical thinking skills: Continue reading

A “Systems Approach” and Some Historical Background on Dealing with Abuse and Violence

To deal with “systemic abuse,” we must understand systems, victimization, and what makes individuals and institutions vulnerable.

By Brad Sargent with input from Julie Anne Smith.

Cross-posted as a guest post at Spiritual Sounding Board.

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How will our church serve those who’ve suffered the harm of childhood sexual abuse, and seek to prevent it from happening to others? On this difficult but foundational issue of human dignity and care, will we choose conscience and compassion – or corrosion and complacency? The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide and the range of other resources from GRACE equip us with clear definitions, well-organized knowledge, and practical skills to follow a right and righteous path on these global problems of violence and abuse.

In the previous post, I gave a brief preview of key features for The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide from a systems perspective, and listed other resources from GRACE and New Growth Press. In this post, I will add my thoughts on the big picture of systemic abuse, why we’ve needed a set of resources to deal with it, and share some personal and historical perspectives on how the Policy Guide and other books produced by GRACE represent answers to some longstanding prayers. Continue reading

Book Review: The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide, by Boz Tchividjian and Shira Berkovits

Key component in a system of resources on child sexual abuse for policy makers, survivors, educators, and advocates.

By Brad Sargent with input from Julie Anne Smith.

Cross-posted as a guest post at Spiritual Sounding Board.

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Spiritual Sounding Board was invited to participate in the Litfuse “blog tour” for the recently released Child Safeguarding Policy Guide. They asked us to post a one-paragraph summary of our overall response to this resource book, so that could be used as an excerpt on other sites. Here is what I wrote:

How will our church serve those who’ve suffered the harm of childhood sexual abuse, and seek to prevent it from happening to others? On this difficult but foundational issue of human dignity and care, will we choose conscience and compassion – or corrosion and complacency? The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide and the range of other resources from GRACE equip us with clear definitions, well-organized knowledge, and practical skills to follow a right and righteous path on these global problems of violence and abuse.

Available reviews of the Policy Guide share about its concepts and content from a variety of angles. Already posted on Amazon are great summaries, detailed insights from church leaders, poignant personal accounts from survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Litfuse Publicity Group has review excerpts and links to full posts, and New Growth Press, which published this book, has additional endorsements.

In this post, I will give a brief preview of key features from a systems perspective, and list other resources from GRACE and New Growth Press. In a follow-up post, I will add my thoughts on the big picture of systemic abuse, why we’ve needed a set of resources to deal with it, and share some personal perspectives on how the Policy Guide and other books produced by GRACE represent answers to some longstanding prayers. Continue reading

Opportunity to Participate in Research Study on Clergy Misconduct

I occasionally hear through the survivor community grapevine about academic-level research being done on issues related to survivors of spiritual abuse. When I do, I encourage people to participate. The resulting research data and descriptions have proven valuable to our communities. Here is an opportunity to respond to a doctoral research project on clergy misconduct.

This research focuses on clergy misconduct of a nonsexual nature. Case study participants are needed for a detailed online survey about what they experienced. It’s an anonymous survey using SurveyMonkey, and participants from any country worldwide are welcomed!

The requirements for participants:

  1. At least 20 years old.
  2. The person had something happen that reflects wrongdoing by a specific pastor (misuse of authority, breaking confidentiality, crossing boundaries, something financial, etc.).
  3. The wrongdoing was not sexual.
  4. It happened more than one year ago.
  5. The church where this happened was Protestant (Lutheran, Baptist, Alliance, United, Pentecostal, etc.).
  6. The person was a member of the church or a regular attender.
  7. The person was an adult when this happened.

The SurveyMonkey link for the study is:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/N5D8N2W.

The opening pages explain more about the survey, its purposes, and its length.

The study is being done by Marlis Krueger through California Southern University. Results will be accessible on the university website in approximately six months.

Thanks for considering participation in this important study!

~ brad/futuristguy

Five Reasons Why *5Q* by Alan Hirsch is a Need-to-Read Book

NOTE: The beginning section of this review is cross-posted on the Amazon site for 5Q: Reactivating the Original Intelligence and Capacity of the Body of Christ, by Alan Hirsch (2017; published by 5Q).

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I know it’s not normal to write a review before finishing the book. However, in this rare case of Alan Hirsch’s *5Q*, I am. That’s because I’ve read enough to know that I WILL finish it, because the first quarter of the book (preface, intro, and first two chapters) provided more than enough threshold details for me to recommend specifically why I believe you should read it, too.

In a nutshell: I am convinced from a combination of constructive and destructive experiences in 40-plus years working with non-profits, church plants, and social change activism that applying paradigm systems theory is essential to successful, sustainable transformation. And, the way I see it, *5Q* provides a conceptual framework for identifying deficiencies in our system compared to the revealed ideal, and a set of practical skills and tools for filling in gaps and filing off excesses in our systems.

This means 5Q can drive both context-based intervention when things have gone toxic, and prevention of problems in our start-up and sustainability efforts. So, 5Q is valuable to those working in situations that focus on Kingdom embodiment and personal discipleship: churches, church plants, social transformation endeavors, community development, missional impact metrics, and spiritual abuse survivor advocacy.

For those not yet acquainted with the core concepts of 5Q, here’s the kernel of the system. Ephesians 4:11-13 specifies a fivefold structure of giftedness in the Body of Christ. Using the acronym of APEST, these are: Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, and Teachers. The APEST giftings are meant to work together. Christ manifests all five and they are key to the Church universal’s genetic code. As with any genetic aberrations, a deficiency or duplication of any fivefold chromosomal element can lead to chronic illnesses, sterility, or even premature death of a body.

*5Q* is an intermediate introduction to Alan’s lifetime work in missional ministry. In it, he presents (1) the revelational and incarnational bases for the APEST typology as the Body of Christ’s genetic system, (2) practical outworkings of the system for individuals and organizations, and (3) solutions for addressing related problems. Additional component trainings and tools are available from “5Qcentral,” making this a robust, holistic system for context-sensitive ministry movements.

Here are my five observations from the first 25% of the book that convinced me to read the rest. I hope you’ll find reasons to read it in these as well! Continue reading

Response to Ben Reed’s Article on “Post-Traumatic Church Disorder”

Introduction

One of my long-time friends who is a serial survivor of spiritual abuse in churches, contacted me about Ben Reed’s article on ChurchLeaders, about “Post-Traumatic Church Disorder.” He asked me what I thought about it. This post is the result of my spending the morning, working through the article.

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Overall Impressions

Since 2007, I’ve written extensively on spiritually abusive systems. This portfolio includes a dozen case studies (for links, see the navigation sidebar, 2 CASE STUDIES AND ARTICLES), content analysis of books on abuse and personal recovery, sets of indicators for identifying malignant leaders and toxic systems, and practical how-to’s for when rehabilitation is/isn’t appropriate. I’m currently completing the first of four volumes in a training course on how to deal with toxic systems and how to set up healthy systems (see Futuristguy’s Field Guides site).

Toxic systems are complex phenomena that can involve multiple sources (e.g., malignant leaders, troublesome congregants, toxic infrastructures) and sequels (staying when you should leave, leaving when you could stay, PTSD, “nones, dones, and gones”). In comparing Ben Reed’s article at ChurchLeaders on “Post-Traumatic Church Disorder” with those categories, I found some helpful points, but felt it was more problematic than not.

I do believe the article embodies his well-meaning attempt to address some very real problems in churches, and it does include some accurate indicators of sick leadership. However, in my opinion, Mr. Reed oversimplifies both causes and correctives. He also mixes up categories of people involved; there is a significant difference between a “troubled” congregant (who is being crushed by those in leadership) and “troublesome congregants” (who are attempting to override those in leadership). He seems to put the weight of change on those who genuinely experience misuse of power/authority in a Christian church or ministry context – rather than on those responsible to remove unqualified and disqualified leaders.

And, from all I’ve personally experienced and heard from other survivors of spiritual abuse, that flip of the responsibility script will inevitably bring more harm than help to congregants. I’m concerned that his article can easily leave conscientious people feeling guilty, as if they’re causing dissension in the church, when in fact they’re discerning overlording by those who should be removed from leadership in the church.

Also, Mr. Reed apparently recommends that people stay and try to change themselves and the toxic church they’re in. However, in my long-term readings of books and blogs on recovery from spiritual abuse, the overwhelming pattern suggests the wisest general course of action is to leave a church where there are indicators of overlording leadership. Here are details on my conclusions and why I find this article problematic … Continue reading