Surviving Abusive Families

Abuse in family setups has become far too common. This is evident in our local news. Lately, there has been hardly a day without an item on the local news about abuse and violence amongst family members. Categories of family abuse include both gender-based violence and child abuse. These can be in the forms of physical violence, emotional abuse, sexual violation, or all of the above. 

Physical violence is the most common form of child abuse, affecting nearly two out of five girls and one out of two boys. Sadly, it is most commonly perpetrated by parents and caregivers. Because of these, the Kenya government has enacted The National Prevention and Response Plan on Violence against Children 2019–2023. Their plan consists of six strategic areas: laws and policies, family support, parenting skills and economic strengthening, education and life skills, community norms and values, response and support services, and coordination with relevant organisations and governmental agencies. 

Despite all these government measures, many children are still suffering in abusive families. Due to this, many young men and women are left traumatised by the abuse they experienced when young. For example, a 2019 survey on violence against children shows that 46% of young women aged 18-24 faced at least one type of abuse (physical violence, emotional or sexual abuse) compared to 52% of young men. In light of all these findings, we ask, is there hope for those living in abusive families? Can the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ still shine on those living in abusive families?

Personal Story 

I was raised by verbally and physically violent parents. There were days when my father would beat my mum, and there were also days when my mum could not sift anything that came out of her mouth. Both would not only hurl insults at each other but also us. One day, my dad and elder brother ganged up against me and violently beat me up. No one could stop them, and I couldn’t defend myself since they were too strong for me. Also, I could not fight with my father. The abuse wasn’t just directed at me but at my brother and sisters too. Therefore, we all grew up very violent and aggressive with our words. By God’s grace, I noticed the similarity in my behaviour and that of my parents in my twenties. This reality helped me to understand the sinfulness of sin. From this point, I got on the path toward healing. 

Despite the memories and scars left, a lot has changed, and for the better. Today, I love my parents and siblings dearly. You, too, might be in a similar or even worse situation. Maybe your family is at a breaking point, and perhaps you harbour hatred towards a family member. I hope that this article will point you towards a hope that transcends the pain and scars you have endured. 

God Instituted the Family

In God’s original design for humanity, he first instituted a family. God saw that Adam was without a companion. He was lonely, and as such, he needed someone. So God made a wife, Eve, for him (Genesis 1:28). For the first time, Adam had someone to talk to, hold hands with and walk around the beautiful garden of Eden. When God saw them, He said it was good (Genesis 1:31). When a man and a woman come together, it is pleasing to the Lord, and God wants them to enjoy each other (Genesis 2:24). This God-established union is the beginning of a family; and the foundation of society. We must also clarify that a man and his wife do not need to have children to become a family. 

However, a good number of families have children. First, children are a blessing and a gift from God (Psalms 127:3). He gives them as he pleases. Since God initiated the family, only God can give instruction concerning the institution. Secondly, the Bible speaks clearly of God being our Father and us, his children; this happens once we believe in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ (1John 3:1-2). Though you may have gone through traumatic experiences with your family, remind yourself that you belong to a much greater family. God does not and will not abuse his children. For that is against his nature. Do you belong to God’s family?

God Cares About You 

Thankfully, our God is not distant. On the contrary, he delights in close contact with his people. Our God is both transcendent and immanent; that is to say, he is beyond us, yet he is with us, here. His name is Emanuel, which means God with us (Isaiah 7:14). 

When Sarah dealt with Hagar harshly, God appeared to her (Hagai) and took care of her (Genesis 16:6-7). God blessed Ishmael though he was born out of wedlock (Genesis 17:20). Later, When Sarah sent Ishmael and Hagar away, the two went only with a water bottle into the wilderness. At some point, even the water they had was done, and they were on the verge of death. Even though they were treated unjustly and, in a way, abused and neglected, God was with them all through. He heard the cry of Ishmael and provided them with water from a spring in the wilderness (Genesis 21:19-20).

If you are in a situation like Sarah and Ishmael’s, know that God is with you, and he cares about you. So cease not to call out on him. He will surely hear you, just as he heard Ishmael, for God is a Father, even to the fatherless (Psalm 28:16).

Seek Help 

Many times people suffer in secret. Most of us did not even know that we were suffering abuse from our parents when we were young. My friend was raped severally by her two uncles and sexually abused by her aunties. When I asked her why she didn’t seek help, she told me that at the time of the assault, she just assumed that her experience was common to girls her age. After talking to the school nurse about her situation, that was when she learned that she had been abused. If she hadn’t shared her story, she wouldn’t have gotten help. 

Many of us have suffered abuse. As the statistics from the survey shared earlier show, one out of two adults have suffered some form of abuse when they were kids. Speaking to one another about our pains and abuse can help us find healing, forgiveness, and maybe even justice for the pain we have gone through. The Bible instructs us to speak to each other, and in so doing, we pray for one another because the prayer of a righteous person heals the ailing (James 5:14-16). Therefore, find a friend or group of friends who can walk with you. At Kuzaapp, we would love to be that friend, please get in touch with us, and we will be happy to help the best way we can. Just send us a message through our website. 

Forgive

An Eastern saying goes this way: bitterness and hatred are like drinking poison and hoping someone else dies. Jesus said that anyone who hates his brother has murdered in his heart (Matthew 5:22; 1 John 5:15). For every wrong we have suffered from our family, we owe God, ourselves, and them (family members) forgiveness and love, just as Christ forgave us (Colossian 3:13). Forgiveness is a deliberate choice to love someone and never hold any pain they have caused you against them, no matter how gruesome the suffering was. 

However, forgiveness does not negate justice. For example, if someone has been abused, the law requires them to report the abuser to the authorities. This they should do not only for their protection but also for others who might be at risk. 

Naturally, we are bent on seeking vengeance and inflicting the pain inflicted on us, if possible, in double measure. Hence, genuinely forgiving, contrary to our nature, is only possible when we have a renewed heart (Romans 12:2). Only God can change us from the inside out (2 Corinthians 5:17). Hence we must look to God for help to forgive our abusers, hard as it may be. This new nature that God gives us through Christ will enable us to love our abusers, pray for them, and live free from the trauma they caused us.

If you are not a Christian and would want to experience this freedom, please click the receive Jesus button, and you will be guided on how to be a Christian. 

References

https://www.unicef.org/kenya/reports/The-2019-Violence-Against-Children-Survey

https://www.unicef.org/kenya/press-releases/Action-urged-as-national-survey-finds-half-of-Kenyan-children-suffer-violence

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