Friday, February 6, 2009

Blaming the Victim

Last week, there was a suicide in the prison where I work. I didn't know the young man but the incident has affected me deeply. We disn't know a lot about the victim because he was new to our prison but, as in all suicides, the staff is asking what we could have done differently.

I've gone through the gamut of emotions this week - from sadness to anger to guilt to grief. My husband tells me that I can't control the whole world - I am not responsible for the young man's actions and yet there's a part of me that says, "if only" and "what if." My control fantasies are enormous, I guess. I need to let it go.

In the Way, we were taught that suicides were caused by devil spirits possessing the despairing person. There was no understanding that they may be clinically depressed and caught in the vortex of hopelessness, causing them to feel so desperate and helpless that they take their own life. Unfortunately it's not uncommon in prison.

But devil spirits? This young man was an addict. But he was also a son and a father, a brother and a boyfriend. He had witnessed the tragic death of his brother when he was sixteen. Before that he was an honor student - after that, he turned to drugs. Did the devil spirit cause the brother's death? The Way would say "yes." That's an easy answer to the hardest question. Why do bad things happen to good people?

I don't know whether the man was "good" or "bad", "possessed" or not. I am not here to judge. But I do know that being alive means to grapple with these unknowns and to live in spite of the uncertainty. To live. Blaming the victim is the easy way out - as is blaming myself or blaming the system or blaming anyone for that matter.

What can we learn from this incident? That is the important question- not who is to blame, especially the victim.


Billy said...

I suppose doctors face the same problem at times; "What can we learn?" without "Who do we blame?" I don't have the magic formula on how to do the first without the second. But I know it can't mean numbing your own hurt at someone else's hurts. If you're in a helping profession and you don't hurt when someone is hurt or lost, you are in the wrong profession.If you didn't "run through the gamut of emotions", you would be included. There is a big difference between hurt and blame. But I can't pretend to say it is easy to seprate the two. Or, to say it simply. you're job ain't easy.

You're right; the devil spirit answer is the easy one. That way you can absolve yourself or someone else of blame without feeling the hurt. But if you have no feeling for someone's hurt, you have no motivation to help him/her or to help anyone else.

I remember when my mother died in 1994; my older sister made it clear to our mom's long time doctor that she knew he did all he could. I concurred.

Kristen Skedgell said...

thanks, Billy. I always appreciate your comments, this one especially.

Shellon Fockler-North said...

Haven't seen you around, Kristen, how are things.

I read Losing The Way again recently, actually the third time, as well as finally sent to my eldest daughter to read.

I have truly enjoyed it every time, related to it.

Shellon North

Allan Erickson said...

so there ARE people who "escaped" the Way... I had my life turned topsy turvy by them. Not that I got sucked in but that the woman I had lived with for seven years did... and that ended us. We were a good pair too... I was stepdad to her daughter for all those years, providing a stability she (the daughter) hadn't had.

Good luck on your writing career!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kristen,
I was in the way for 10 years, Indiana and Florida. I went wow in 1986 however, left the field. I was told to go and if I didnt my marriage wouldnt last. I went, during that time, my dad died. I was then told let the dead bury the dead and that my ommittment to the wow field was greater. I was married with two children. I went to the funeral and never returned to the field and instead went to another state. Picked up again but thats another long post. I read your book and am thankful for it. After all these years Im still dealing with the whole of it. I plan on getting some help but wnated to let you know your book helps. Ms. Clark. P.S.( By the way my marriage didnt survive.)I was possessed and all.

Bob Hammond said...

I took PFAL in 1976 and left the ministry in 1990. I was not abused, did not feel like I was under mind control and am thankful for what I learned. I became a Christian in The Way.

Others, and I know many personally, were abused by many of the leaders in a number of ways, including sexually, and I am disappointed to say that Dr. Wierwille was one of them. I don't know for sure where he went wrong.

I haven't read the book but I have read The Cult that Snapped.

My spiritual life has thrived since leaving the ministry. I have participated in many miracles of healing and give glory to God for them. In addition I recently earned a Bible Theology degree and am close to a Masters in Biblical Studies from Liberty University.

So, unlike others, I am thankful for what The Way taught me for the most part although I don't agree with everything. But then, I don't agree with everything from any group or denomination. I read the Word and decide for myself, something Dr. Wierwille taught us.

I'm not sure but I might buy the book...I do like to keep up with things about former Way people.

God bless

Billy said...

Bob, As one who had the evils of mind control and cults shoved down my throat in a deprogramming years ago, I am very sensitive to people doing that, even without considering whether they are right or wrong. Unlike many other books and articles about The Way, Kristen doesn't do that in her book; she simply tells what happened to her. It was really the only way she could have convinced me; though recognizing several things she gives account of (I was also in Indiana and in the 8th corps) didn't hurt.

Billy said...

The end of my first response to this blog post will come into play again, after my oldest son passed away early Sunday morning. I feel his doctor did all he could, and will say so to him.

I can't honstly say that I will never sue anyone under any circumstances, but it seems obvious our world is full to the brim with blame, so much so that we could drown in it.