Ok, first things first. My last name is Tchividjian. Some of you may just be wondering how in the world to pronounce a name with so many consonants. I wondered that for years, until one day my parents taught me that Tchividjian simply Rhymes with Religion.
It was not until I was a young prosecutor in central Florida that I encountered the profound evil and devastation of child sexual abuse. Though I had previously heard about sexual abuse, I had never taken the time to listen, truly listen, to the voices of those who had been so deeply wounded by this profoundly wicked offense.
As a prosecutor, I became gravely disheartened to learn how the faith community was so often associated with child sexual abuse. All too often perpetrators were pastors, staff, or church members. In other cases, victims were either ignored or accused of lying after reporting their abuse to a church leader. Sadly, in all my years as a child sexual abuse prosecutor, I can count on only one hand the number of times pastors came to court to support an abuse victim, compared to the numerous times they showed up to support an alleged perpetrator. Upon noticing her pastor in court to support the man who had sexually abused her, [tweetable] a child victim asked a prosecutor friend of mine, “Does this mean that God is against me too?” [/tweetable] The failure of so many faith communities to respond to abuse disclosures in a manner that demonstrates love, support, and great value to victims is one of the tragic successes of evil that so deeply wounds scores of precious souls made in the image of God.
I decided during those early days that these survivors and their supporting families are the real heroes of life, and their voices must be heard beyond the courtroom or the prosecutor’s office. In 2004, I helped to start an organization called GRACE. During the past ten years, we have focused on training and educating the Christian community on this very dark issue, as well as reaching out and loving those who have been victimized by both perpetrators and institutions. I have been so honored to play a small role in helping many of these amazing people find their voices after suffering for so many years in silence. These are the voices that teach us so much about how this grave offense eviscerates the bodies and souls of God’s children. These are the voices that are often the life preservers for survivors who have lost all hope and find themselves alone and drowning. These are the voices that empower those suffering in silence to begin finding their own voice. These are the voices that help to expose the deceitful and dark lives of perpetrators. These are the voices of light. These are the voices of Jesus.
Perhaps this blog can help to transform suffering silence into beautiful music and despair into authentic hope. That is my prayer.
his blog was originally published on Jan. 2, 2014. It is reposted here with permission from RNS.