“Michael Reagan here…”

Those were the first words of a short email I receive about a year ago from a person identifying himself as  Michael Reagan,  and who informed me that it was time for Christians to finally begin acknowledging the existence of child abuse.  At first, I had no idea who this man was and why he was writing me.  A short Google investigation later led me to discover that this email was from the son of my childhood hero, Ronald Reagan!  That correspondence was the beginning of a dear friendship with a man that has deeply moved and inspired me in so many amazing ways.

As a child of two famous actors, Michael Reagan was not immune from the dark and destructive offense of child sexual abuse.  As a young boy, Mike was sexually abused for over a year by a perpetrator who owned an exclusive after school care program and whose actions and threats shamed a little boy into silence for decades.   As all sexual abuse survivors, my friend Mike has spent a lifetime processing this horrific offense as he walks along this long and difficult journey of healing.   He has graciously taught me so much about an issue that I thought I knew so much about.  Last week, I had the privilege of introducing Mike to students at Liberty University School of Law and then sat down and listened to him spend the next hour opening up his heart in such a raw and transparent way about this incredibly difficult and personal issue.  Though what I heard cannot be adequately described in written words, I want to share just a snapshot of what this brave man taught me during that hour.

My friend Mike taught me that child sexual abuse shames survivors into silence. A shame fueled by one’s own confusion and pain.  A shame fueled by a fear of what those around will think and say.  A child who is taken to an isolated place and told to take off his clothes as the perpetrator takes pictures, and then later shown those pictures as the  perpetrator says,  “Wouldn’t you mother like a copy of this?”, will be shamed into silence.  A boy who is being victimized by a male perpetrator and sits in church listening to a pastor preach that homosexuals are going to hell, will be shamed into silence. A teenage survivor of sexual abuse who is sent away to boarding school and finds himself wetting his bed each night due to the abuse trauma will be shamed into silently getting up early each morning to discreetly change his sheets before anyone else notices. An abuse survivor who finally gains enough courage to tell his stepmother only to have her initial response be concern about her own reputation, will be shamed into silence.   The list could go on and on. Michael Reagan has helped me understand the destructive power of shame and that its source comes from perpetrators, loved ones, friends, and even inside our churches.

Boz Tchividjian and Michael Reagan

Boz Tchividjian and Michael Reagan

My friend Mike taught me that child sexual abuse picks apart the self-esteem of its victims and slowly destroys them along with causing immeasurable harm to those who love them most.  A teenage boy sexually victimized as a child steals money from his father’s wallet and buys prostitutes in a desperate attempt to try and clear up any confusion about his sexual identity.  An abuse victim convinced that he is worthless and unlovable spends decades sabotaging the relationship with his parents by acting out in anger and hatred towards them.  A father abused as a child tears down his child in a desperate attempt to build up his own self-esteem.   A grown man who was sexually abused as a child finds himself taken back to being a helpless child whenever faced with challenges where he feels helpless or exploited. This list could go on and on.  Michael Reagan has helped me grasp that putting the pieces of self-esteem back together is a difficult and painstaking part of the abuse survivor’s lifelong journey.

Perhaps most importantly, my friend Mike taught me that there is authentic hope for the many who have suffered from the ravages of this horrific offense.  A hope illuminated by the amazing people who walk alongside the suffering and never leave. A hope illuminated by years of professional counseling.  A hope illuminated each time light is borough to the dark places of the heart. A hope ultimately illuminated by a pursuing God who so clearly demonstrates that we are anything but worthless.  My friend Mike is the first person to tell you that he has a long way to go on his journey and that there are undoubtedly many difficult days ahead.  However, he will also tell you that he’s made some progress and that he continues to press forward comforted by the realization that the God of hope will never let him go.

In his book, The Hammer of God, Bo Giertz writes, “The heart is a rusty old can on a junk heap. A fine birthday gift indeed! But a wonderful Lord passes by, and has mercy on the wretched tin can, sticks his walking cane through it and rescues it from the junk pile and takes it home with Him. That is how it is.”   After years of walking in shame and battling against self-esteem, God is carrying my friend Mike to a place where he is finally realizing that he is no rusty tin can, but a rescued and beautiful child of God.

Though Ronald Reagan was a childhood hero, I can say with great joy that Michael Regan is one of my life heroes.  At great cost, he is taking a deeply painful life and is allowing it to be transformed into something beautiful as he provides a voice to the voiceless and courage to the scores of survivors who are drowning in shame and fear.  Michael Reagan is not alone.  There are untold numbers of Michael Reagans out there who are serving, loving and walking alongside hurting souls without attention or fanfare, but simply because they care.  They look a lot like Jesus.

“Mike Reagan here…”  I am so grateful that you are.

 

 

Categories: Beliefs, Culture

Beliefs: , , , ,

Tags: , , , ,

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.

15 Comments

  1. Survivors carry so much shame- compounded by others who may, unknowingly or knowingly, shame us into silence. I remember reading an interview with Elizabeth Smart where she talked about the problems with focusing on purity. That the Church often emphasises that losing your virginity makes you used goods. That no good, Christian person would want used goods. What does that tell survivor? As if we need anymore shaming. I read a romance novel once by Mary Balogh about a rape survivor who is told that it is the perpetrator who carries the shame- not those of us who are survivors. It was a pretty radical and freeing statement to me, and oh so true.

    • Boz Tchividjian

      Thank you for your note. So often the source of the darkest shame doesn’t come from the perpetrators, but from those who had hoped would be most safe and supportive. You are exactly right, the perpetrator and those that cover up are the carriers of real shame – as it should be.

  2. Thanks you for posting this, and thanks to Michael Reagan for be so open. Sexual abuse and incest has ravenged several generations of my family. Healing only comes when we can discuss the problem and reject the shame that wants to crush us.

  3. Shary Hauber

    Thank you Boz and Michael for sharing Michael’s story. A story of terrible hurt and heartache and tremendous courage. So glad he contacted you Boz.
    Keep up the good fight.

  4. Thank you Michael Reagan. Thank you Boz. Over the last couple of years I’ve shared about my parents’ anger at me for exposing my former minister Langworthy’s child sex crimes. He was convicted last year in Mississippi where he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing 5 boys ages 6-13 from 1980-84, just before his job at Prestonwood Baptist. He is a serial child predator. He is not in jail, though he received a 50 year prison sentence. We hope anyone else who has seen, suspected or suffered child sex crimes by Langworthy will come forward to the police, begin to heal and protect other kids. My parents have said repeatedly that they never want to see me again. A few months ago, my dad left a message at our home stating that “Amy’s hurt too many people for too long.” I’m going on the offensive.” The light of truth and knowledge is our greatest tool to protect kids. Share it. Speak it. Know you are not alone. Though the pain is awful, healing comes from rising up and shining the light of truth.

    • Dear Amy,
      My heart and my prayers go out to you. When I went back to my hometown to prosecute my brother-in-law for sexually assaulting my two younger sisters, (I was a victim but the statute of limitations had run out) I faced great opposition from some family members. I had a sister yell and scream at me for making trouble, and another say she would never give me a ride from the airport. I know you are doing the right thing. I know it is so hard. May you have comfort and peace.
      Best regards,
      Heidi

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

    maggie crehan

    A website is being developed…a very amateur one to be sure..that will hopefully offer support and apology to those who were abused. It will be called operation we are sorry. It already has a few songs on it. I am looking for any messages of support..they will be kept anonymous at first…just send to mgtugboat@email.com

    Here is one song for boys of Mt. Cashel Nfld..will be on website soon, sung by a Newfoundlander. It talks about wetting the bed, which is a quite common response I believe to abuse.

    Tune is patriot game. There are no copyrights on it so feel free to sing or pass on. Any Irish singer will know the tune or you can google on you tube.

    BOYS OF MOUNT CASHEL

    The boys of Mount Cashel lie wetting their beds
    They wait in the dark for the footsteps they dread
    Too stunned and ashamed to show where they have bled
    The boys of Mount Cashel are crying tonight

    The fine Christian Brothers so saintly we thought
    Some really were and some really not
    They’d have gone on forever except they got caught
    The boys of Mount Cashel are crying tonight

    The men of Mount Cashel are going berserk
    Raring to throttle each pitiful jerk
    But the magistrates say let the law do its work
    The boys of Mount Cashel are crying tonight

    Lives without promise lives without hope
    How they must hate us how will they cope
    I will follow this trail if it leads to the pope
    The boys of Mount Cashel are crying tonight

    I want to be there when the blame comes around
    Sure there’s plenty enough for us all to be found
    And I pray to high heavens that God hears the sound
    Of the boys of Mount Cashel who are crying tonight

  6. learning to be a survivr

    I find this specific comment very helpful.
    “A grown man who was sexually abused as a child finds himself taken back to being a helpless child whenever faced with challenges where he feels helpless or exploited”
    I have experienced this, but never knew it was normal. When certain memories, especially childhood memories come up, I FEEL like I am still that child. I don’t have access to the coping mechanism I have been taught as an adult. They aren’t really available, as I am that small child again, helpless, confusing, hurting, knowing that i MUST keep the secrets or others will “go to hell”.
    Although I know differently now, it takes an almost impossible attempt to go back to those memories. I don’t want them to real or remember more. When those early years are threatened with questions or probing, I react like a young kid. The reaction alone, terrifies me

  7. Thank you Michael and Boz
    Those are MY Private Parts
    This book helps children open healthy communication about what is okay and what is not okay when it comes to touching private parts of the body. It uses child-friendly rhyming and colorful illustrations by a four-year-old to incorporate messages about sexual abuse prevention. Statistics and information on childhood sexual abuse are included for parents and educators.
    Massachusetts Department of Public Health: Healthy Relationships, Sexuality and Disability Resource Sexual Health and Human Rights Guide 2011 page 20
    Now in Spanish “Esas Son Mis Partes Privadas!”
    Order on Amazon. Quantity discounts available at www.dianerhansen.com
    #childsexualabuseprevention #childsexualabuse #sexabuse @dianerenehansen
    #CranioSacral Therapy www.upledger.com helping survivors heal the emotional scars left in their body from childhood traumas. The ACE Study www.acestudy.org is powerful research linking childhood trauma to long-term health and social consequences. The body just doesn’t “get over” trauma. This traumatic energy could actually manifest itself into disease.
    #TAALK Talk About Abuse to Liberate Kids www.taalk.org Darkness 2 Light www.d2l.org

  8. Thank you so much Boz for speaking to us, and also for speaking out FOR us. Every time I read someone else’s story of shame, fear, hurt & grief I feel that my experience is validated, and a little bit of my own shame falls away. I am hungry for this validation, since my whole life I’ve been given the message that I “shouldn’t feel so upset”, by my family, including extended family, who are protecting the one who abused me (who is also in my family), and blaming me for “causing trouble” (ie. talking about the abuse). Thank you. Please keep going.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments with many links may be automatically held for moderation.