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.

"Silence" on a wall of a monastery

“Silence” on a wall of a monastery photo courtesy of sleepinyourhat via Flickr

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, a child victim asked a prosecutor friend of mine, “Does this mean that God is against me too?”  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.

 

    

Categories: Beliefs, Culture, Ethics, Institutions

Beliefs: , , , , , ,

Boz Tchividjian

Boz Tchividjian

“Boz” Tchividjian is a former child abuse chief prosecutor and is the founder and executive director of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment). Boz is also an Associate Professor of Law at Liberty University School of Law, and is a published author who speaks and writes extensively on issues related to abuse within the faith community. He is the 3rd-eldest grandchild of the Rev. Billy Graham.

35 Comments

  1. Shary Hauber

    Thank you Boz. You have helped so many of us who have been abused. Those abused in mission boarding schools especially thank you for exposing the cover ups by mission organizations.

  2. Thank you Boz for all you do. For survivors of abuse like myself, thank you for helping us find a voice and for helping the church see the need to be a voice to those who have not yet found theirs. The silence that we have kept does not protect us or the ones we love as we have been taught, it allows evil to roam free and destroy countless future lives as well. Thank you for being a voice of God’s love and healing.

  3. Boz, it is so great that you are working in this arena. I’ve not seen any of this type of behavior firsthand but hear of it over and over in the news. It is clearly a problem and victims are in desperate need of somewhere to turn. I love your blog, love your heart, and know you have and will continue to bless others with your dedication to this need. Take care and happy new year.

  4. Boz,
    Such important words you share. As a Clinical Psychologist, advocating for victims from a psychological perspective is weaved into my work. As a former prosecutor it would have been easier for you to distance yourself from your clients on a feeling level in order to focus on the facts of your cases as many prosecutors do in order to survive their work. What has always been remarkable about you, Boz are the breadth and depth of your empathy for the victims of abuse and your mission to advocate for them beyond your excellent advocy in the courtroom. Your mission to bring justice and prevention to the dark world of child abuse is greatly appreciated by those of us who seek to help heal the victims of such crimes.

  5. I’m encouraged by a rising tide of awareness, honesty, and empathy within the Christian community on this issue. There’s still much to be done and every day brings new frustrations, but thank you for being a catalyst for change.

  6. Learning to be a survivor

    Until encountering GRACE, I didn’t even realize it was good to have a voice. While I had left the abusive realities from my years growing up and as a young adult, I still believed I was to be silent about it all. I strongly believed that I would be despised and shunned among Christians if anyone were to find out.
    I am learning that subconsciously, I believed the same about God, so I tried to push the past so far back that it seemed that it was someone else’s life, not my own.
    Now, as I face the past, as I learn to speak, I am realizing just how much my thoughts, beliefs and fears were formed by offending religious leaders who needed my silence for their own benefit. It makes me sick to realize how my silence played right into their world of ongoing abuse.
    The journey to become a survivor, and not just a victim, is difficult yet also freeing.
    I have often felt that speaking the truth would completely destroy me. Perhaps speaking it all at once would have been too much, but through time, with support, it is instead, very freeing. The hold the abusers had on me is breaking. I am coming out of it bit by bit and healing is happening.
    Boz, thank you for all you and the GRACE team has done to bring freedom to so many of us!

  7. Thank you for starting this blog, Boz Rhymes-with-Religion, Many of us no longer trust religion. But we do trust you. Thank you for your voice, and for raising it courageously. Authentic hope. Yes, please give us hope.

  8. You have seen survivors and their families as heroes. However, the abused are often invisible in their own families, in their churches and in society at large. Even heroes need champions, not only to fight for them, but to make the world sit up and take notice. You, my friend, have done that and we thank you.

  9. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment

    To rescue and protect those who have truly been abused in such a horrific way, I applaud every individual in the quest! Let us always be absolutely sure that the allegations are based in truth rather than via memory regression therapy as is conducted by particular therapy programs. (false) memories that destroy not only the young woman but her family .. as in our case. thank you and may God bless you in the realm of rescue set (truly) by Him.

    (for more information the article author is welcome to email me)

    • Learning to be a survivor

      I grew up surrounded by abuses done in the name of Christianity. Of my peers, almost none ever told. They just endured, broke and one day escaped. I look at each of them now and see the destruction that the abuse began and my heart breaks. The abuses we each endured did NOT come up based on some strange memory regression technique. Sure, when one is abused, often they do what they can to survive. Often that means pushing it out of daily conscious memory, but it is never really gone. It requires constant tremendous effort to keep the memories pushed back.
      I always remembered, but pushed very hard against the memories, trying to block them out, trying to keep them from destroying the new life I was trying to live.
      It brings me fear when people bring up the idea that perhaps we shouldn’t be believed. That is one of the tactics that was used to keep us silent and it worked. Why would anyone want to be labeled a victim? Do you realize the deep shame that comes with that label?
      I don’t know what happened in your situation. I don’t want to outright dismiss that false allegations never happen, but at the same time, I don’t see it as common. I can’t. I know many who went through abuse that perhaps will never be able to face it. Most don’t seem to ever be able to tell. Personally, I have told little. I don’t think I would ever tell it all. It is just too much. I have told only what seemed absolutely essential to protecting others. Why would I endure more by telling more?? The cost of telling is too high.

      • I am but one parent of a growing group (sadly) whose daughters have alleged atrocities via memory regression therapy. This is very real. The memories were, by element of suggestion and not based on reality nor confirmed in any stretch. There are more and more former ‘members’ of this therapy practice who are realizing their memories to be false.

        Those people who truly were terribly hurt are to be rescued and protected. I’ve been careful to not blur the lines of the two groups but rather, to designate the reality of unconfirmed and delusional allegations.

  10. Thank you Boz,
    Wonderful to read about your mission and passion to help those who have been a victim of this kind of abuse. It affects everyone in the victim’s family as well as the victim and sometimes leads to a lifetime of pain. The loving support of your organization makes a healing difference in these lives. Someone that believes their stories and can help them legally is amazing. I love this blog! Thank you for doing it!

  11. Thank you for your direct work in this area, and for influencing the students in your classes. May God keep you near Him and use you for this important work of justice and mercy.

  12. Thank you for the comfort you have brought to me and so many by accurately representing the Principle of active SovereignLove. For those who have experienced the variance from our Creator’s expressed will, the rebellion against the purposes of Love, been dishonored and disrespected, it is a source of blessing for you to raise your strong voice in our behalf, demonstrating that GOD is NOT against us, but for us, and has raised up a friend.

  13. For my friends who are MK survivors, for those who sit next to me in church who are survivors, for people like me who want to do more to awaken the church–thank you, Boz.

  14. I began to truly listen only a year and a half ago, and then I began to gain some insight into why some of my friends from the past hadn’t been able to move forward. Understanding, for me, has included a lot of reading online, and G.R.A.C.E. has so graciously helped in providing resources. I pray that more people in the larger Christian community will begin to acknowledge that it really is possible for a horrific accusation against “such a nice man” to be true. Yes, it’s horrible, but let’s not say it’s unspeakable. Because we have GOT to speak about it.

  15. Great you have started a blog Boz. I hope Religion News is willing to stand with you and not back down or soft pedal if the blog ruffles some people’s feathers. Abuse in the Christian community needs to be exposed and addressed much more astutely and your voice in this and your experiences as a lawyer are an important part of this work. May the Lord strenghten your arm and keep your fingers typing!

    I hope that a ‘follow this blog by email’ option gets put in the sidebar as I don’t use Twitter and I don’t like RSS feed because it bewilders me and I forget to check it. I understand your tech people are getting onto this, so this is just a kind reminder to them. :)

    I know your biggest focus has alwasy been child sexual abuse, and I’m wordering whether that will still be the case or whether you are going to be addressing other types of abuse such as spouse abuse (domestic abuse), or clergy sexual abuse of their adult congregants, or ? ? ?

    Also, one of our writing-team at our blog A Cry For Justice is in the process of reviewing a book that is being used in at least one seminary which ***YIKES*** tells pastors that there is no need to report an allegation of child sexual abuse to the police if the offender is sincerely repentant and says he is not going to repeat the behaviour. That seems to me to be in violation of many state laws that make clergy mandated reporters. Maybe you would like to give input to the lady who is reviewing this book?

    cheers
    Barb

  16. Thank you Boz. Your prayer is so close to my own heart.
    This is a poem that I wrote about ten years ago.

    All my life I could not speak
    When I was five I would not speak
    When I was ten I should have spoke
    When I was 30 I first awoke
    I wrote and wrote right through the dark
    The words poured out and broke my heart
    Trapped deep inside there was a girl
    A lonely, sad, lost little girl
    who cried and cried without a voice
    She never knew she had that choice
    She put the shame upon herself
    then put her soul upon a shelf
    She acted out her daily role
    She got good grades and acted whole
    Her spirit, being, meaning died
    Stage took its toll – no where to hide
    Come free this child! Do you not care?
    For only you can truly spare
    the child who lives in silent doom
    born inside that unspoken room
    He crossed the lines within her heart
    and took away the spirit part
    No self-esteem, no will to live
    no real life with love to give
    Yet on she goes to save them pain
    But in the end what will remain?
    So please climb down from that void stage
    and free yourself from all the rage
    You must get up break open that door
    Don’t live in sadness anymore
    Let Jesus in. It’s not too late
    Don’t let hopeless sorrow seal your fate
    His light shines through your darkness now
    Trust in Him. He will show you how
    to love, to live, to free your smile
    how to get up and dance a while
    I hope you can forgive the sin
    Let peace be with you every day
    and know that you can speak, I Pray.

  17. As a Forensic Social Worker and member of an Apostolic church I am impressed with what you are doing and am motivated to ensure sensitization of Ministers and church workers towards mandated reporting .
    Best regards

  18. Thanks for a marvelous posting! I definitely enjoyed reading it, you are a great author.
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  20. I'm a Survivor

    I appreciate this blog. I have spent hours today reading between here and the GRACE website. I actually felt I had to make sure this was for real. My father was very prominent in our church growing up. Then a missionary shortly after I graduated from high school. He molested me starting at the age of 9 and it eventually moved to rape by the time I was 12 and didn’t stop until I was 15 or 16. No one noticed. I was too ashamed to tell. When I was 17 I became pregnant and was shamed by the Southern Baptist Church I attended. I had a miscarriage at 8 wks and after that I was required to stand before the church and tell them of my “sin” and ask the church to forgive me. If I didn’t do this, I would be excommunicated from the church. I was humiliated!!! All the while, my father never faced any consequences. I was labeled the “troubled teen”. I shamed my family, my church and my God. I couldn’t quiet understand how all of this became my fault. The church didn’t protect me, nor did they show loving compassion.
    Forgive me for being untrusting, of the church and religious organizations. This is something that is so needed in the church. It is my prayer that the message and education that GRACE promotes will infiltrate all Christian environments and the overlooking, hiding, and shaming of abuse will stop. I am a believer and I know that God loves me unconditionally and he is my protector. He is where I run for refuge. The church can harm me and shame me, but my love of God will always be with me.

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