Women, victimization, & fear

Sarah Lipp (HarvestUSA, Chattanooga, TN office) gave a presentation with the above title. Her focus: What is the experience of women victimized by men; How do such women relate to God as a male being? She started us out with a review of the kinds of victimization experienced (abuse of all kinds (including nagging for sex and/or punishment for not being willing to give more), dehumanization, oppression rooted in the inherent power in masculinity, distortion of the image of God that of females (being treated as only sexual or only trouble). She gave just a couple of stats from the CDC. 18% of women are raped in their lifetime. 51% have been abused. Of those raped, 83% are raped prior to age 25 and 54% before age 18.

So, how do we help?

1. Affirmation. Permission to feel upset and victimized. What happened was wrong. She needs permission to define what happened and own it (name it for what it is). Educate about the patterns and symptoms of past abuse as they impact her life now. Educate on how abuse effects the brain (especially the amygdala’s work in generalizing emotions from the past to present situations).  Yes, the brain is plastic and can be changed but it may be that triggers remain. Teach on PTSD symptoms (re-experiencing, avoidance tendencies, increased arousal). Teach that she is not alone but 40 million others also fit these criteria.
2. Explore how this impacts her experience of her earthly father and males in general (and as a result God). What reactions does she have when she thinks of words such as man/men, daddy, father, husband, etc. What did she learn about herself and men from her family, from her community, from her church, her culture? What has she come to believe? Sarah says that the danger for counselors is to try to fix it. Tell them to think differently. Have compassion
3. Healing gender images. One of the images God gives of himself is female. Sarah isn’t arguing for a feminine God. However, she lists Mt 23:37, Is 51:12, Psalm 131; Acts 9:31; 1 Cor. 1; Isaiah 66:13 as images of the feminine side of God. God images himself in male AND female. Therefore, Sarah argues for starting with (not stopping with) some of the female images of God to see that he cares for her desires and needs as well. God does give maternal pictures of himself and these may be good places to start. To do this, you may have to explore what images she has of women, mothers, feminine. Healthy relationships with same sex members will help here. Once here, you will also need to heal the masculine images of the world and of God. Male is redeemable. This may take a lifetime of relationships with men, 1 at a time.
4. Grief & Redemption. Now that she is not living in denial, she will begin to grieve dashed or unfulfilled desires.  Sitting with the realization of the loss of love and men and women are fallen. This moves us to the possibility of redemption and the transforming power of Christ in men.
5. Dealing with the here and now. How does she discern her past from present. Begin re-writing her story and rewriting facts and feelings from her present perspective. This re-writing actually does change the brain and reduce traumatic fear. Counselor and counselee co-construct a new narrative and speak back into flashbacks. Her re-written story speaks into those flashbacks and in doing so mentally pictures something different. She is free to walk away from that flashback.
6.  Coping with past in constructive ways. Address the destructive means. Yes, repentance necessary but be aware of the body’s impact (look up info on the Endorphin Compensation Hypothesis (ECH) as why many become addicts). Work to avoid seeing destructive patterns as only sin or only body.

Healing must also include faithfully embracing Christ and her vulnerability as a woman.

Suggested reading: Brenda Hunter’s, In the Company of Women; Louis Cozolino’s, The Neuroscience of human relationships.  


Filed under Abuse, Anxiety, biblical counseling, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

13 responses to “Women, victimization, & fear

  1. Okay, why have I have never heard of this Endorphin Compensation Hypothesis?

    Oh. My. Word.

    What’s the cure? 🙂

  2. Here’s a quote from an internet article:
    Similarly, the “endorphin compensation hypothesis” states that endorpbin levels increase in response to an uncontrollable event and helps numb the pain experienced with trauma. However, after a traumatic event, a “rebound endorphin withdrawal” occurs, causing lower-than-normal levels of endorphin activity, which may contribute to symptoms of emotional distress. When this occurs, it increases the probability of drug and/or alcohol consumption to restore the endorphin levels.

  3. judi lemay-lusk

    i was quite impressed with what sarah had to say. she gave people a lot of food for thought for entering into a relationship with someone who has been abused. what she did leave out – and i’m not sure if there was a place for this or not – was that because of the abuse, the abused will sometimes develop sinful responses to people and life situations. i’ve also seen abused women go into ‘victim mode’ and stay there. hopefully those areas can be covered at another time.

  4. I like Sarah said but she did not talk about the emotional detachment that victims experience. Sometimes therapy is difficult because the patient is emotionally shut down. The hardest thing to do is to get them to open up and trust and feel.

  5. Sarah Lipp

    It is encouraging to read these reactions and very helpful suggestions…thank you all for being honest and edifying both. I wanted to respond to Dr. Radke and Judi – I agree with both of your suggestions…my hope was that just giving a skeleton of 5 practical counseling tactics that one could “run with those” and fit in those areas that need addressing such as living in ‘victim mode’ and suffering from emotional detachment. The former can fit in the counseling tactic #5 – dealing with the here and now and tackling issues such as how one is sinfuly continuing to live in response to their victimization and the later, emotional detachment, can be broached in tactic 1, 2, and 3 really. There are many, many things that I left out and had a very hard time picking what to bring in and what to leave out…so it is great to hear suggestions and how I can improve and what more I can mention. Thank you again for sharing these comments!

  6. Sarah, thanks for “stopping by.” I sat in the back and watched your audience (1st session) and observed your audience being quite on board with what you were saying. Thanks again for your hard work and fitting as much as you did in 1 brief hour. I encourage you to do some more work in the area of the feminine imagery of God. I think you are on to something here and should apologize too much to your audience, though I understand that you wanted to avoid misunderstandings.

  7. Pingback: i like shiny things » Blog Archive » Women, Victimization, & Fear

  8. S. Nowacki-Butzen

    I have looked at your blog a few times and always enjoy reading your musings. I thought I would tell you about a new online community that just started in order to provide a forum for people to discuss the integration of psychology and Christianity. Anyways, the address is below if you are interested – if not, thats okay, too!


  9. Thanks for your comments. I’m on that forum already. But others may be interested as well.


  10. S. Nowacki-Butzen

    Yeah, I was just informed by Mark that you are already a member! =)

  11. Pingback: Women, Victimization, & Fear at i like shiny things

  12. Ify

    Excellent point. She needs to be able to define the experience her way.

  13. Pingback: ultraspy.org » Blog Archive » Women, Victimization, & Fear

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