On not being a victim

bouquetI know that everyone in the world right now is freaking out about the Doug Philips scandal, and to be honest, the whole thing grosses me out so much that I don’t even want to read about it. And given that I don’t even want to read about it, I’m certainly not going to pull up my socks and start writing about it. But the whole situation has given me some food for thought, and that is on the question of how to raise our daughters so that they don’t fall prey to the manipulations of that kind of man – because those kind of men are found the world over, not merely in patriarchal conservative groups. Is your daughter ever likely to encounter more than three men in the course of her life? Then she will encounter this kind of man. So how do we teach our daughters to be submissive but also strong? To be gracious but also quick to say no?

I have three daughters, all of whom are are now closer to “young lady” than “little girl,” so this isn’t a hypothetical question for me! Here are some of the things that have been bouncing around in my head on this question, in no particular order – things that are very much at the front of my mind as I watch these lovely girls grow up.

1. Christian women should be characterized by submission. No matter how much cool-shaming is thrown at the concept of headship and submission by the hipper-than-thou crowd, we can’t get around it that the Bible teaches this. Some people scream and run when they hear the word submission, and men like Doug Philips make that reaction understandable. Then over amongst the crowd that’s all gung-ho about submission there is frequently a scary lack of nuance. On the two sides of this question you find people waving their flags saying either, “submission is terrible,” or “submission is wonderful.” But submit is a a word like love. Is love good or bad? Well of course that all depends. What do you love? Whom do you love? Do you love God, or do you love the world? Do you love your children, or do you love your best friend’s husband? Obviously those details make all the difference in the world.  It’s all good and well to say that we Christian women should submit . . . but whom do we submit to? Do we submit to God or do we submit to Nebuchadnezzar? One is a great act of faith, the other a great act of cowardice. The word submission, on its own, holds no moral value whatsoever. Submission could be noble, submission could be treacherous. It all depends. So as we teach our daughters to “be submissive,” the ever-important question is “submissive to whom?” And the only no-fail answer to that question is “God.” We teach our daughters to be submissive to God – and that may mean being the extremely un-cool person who believes that wives should submit to their own husbands . . . and that also may mean being the wife who calls the cops on her husband, or the woman who calls the cops on her pastor, or the girl who calls the pastor on her dad. Submission certainly doesn’t always mean saying yes – sometimes submission means saying no, and that can take an awful lot of strength and bravery. Submission always has a backbone – and that backbone is the Word of God. Every human authority requiring our submission should be examined in the light of that. Do I owe this person my submission? If the answer to that quesion is yes, then it is because I submit ultimately to God and He has asked me to submit to this particular man. As a mother, I want my girls to know and understand this, and I want it to be deep in their bones. Ultimately, a heart submissive to God can stand up and resist someone who attempts to exploit that submission for their own ends.
2. Working through those questions is not easy. Girls need to know how think, how to study, how to pray, how to engage, how to take every thought captive, how to understand a principle and then make application in their own lives. That means teaching them how to think, and that means an education. It’s not at all surprising that men who get infatuated with the idea of male headship frequently don’t think that women need much of an education. (They’re easier to manipulate that way – you can get them to do whatever you want and they’ll think you’re smart at the same time. Win win!) As a mother, I want my girls to know how to hold their own in a debate, how to not be intimidated, how to follow an argument, how to spot flaws in an argument, and how to tell a boy or a man where to get off. I want my girls to be intimidating to the wrong kind of guy. I want my daughters to see right through the stupid posturing of machismo just as much as I want them to see right through the sorry pleas to be let into the cool group by women like Rachel Held Evans.
3. Frequently, women are successfully victimized because of their own fear. Fear of their abuser, fear of anyone finding out, fear that maybe this is all their fault. I want my daughters to understand that fear is like quicksand. It will pull you down, paralyze you, and swallow you up – and that is just as true of mothers who fear for the safety of their children. In 1 Peter, a gentle and quiet spirit is described as being very precious in the sight of God – and then a second later we are told that this spirit is not afraid with any terror. So rather than being told to hush up, which is what many people seem to assume, we are being told to be BRAVE. A quiet spirit is a brave spirit. I need to model that for my girls – by not stressing out and wringing my hands over them, by not letting my thoughts and conversation be dominated by worry, and by not falling prey to any of the fear-driven fads on facebook that sweep through in a flurry of comments and likes about every ten minutes.
4. I want my girls to know that if they ever needed help they could turn straight to me. If they’re facing a terrifying situation, I want them to know they can tell me anything. If it’s a problem at work, I will help them get help from HKM.  And if I want them to do that with the big things, then I need to let them know by listening to them in all the little things. He who is faithful with little will be faithful with much – and she who is faithful to listen to her daughters in all the trivial things is showing that she will be faithful to listen to them in the big things. If I want them to believe that I would help them work through something big, then I need to be there to help them work through all the small little issues they’re facing right now.


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30 thoughts on “On not being a victim

  1. An addendum to #4. It is not just a matter do listening to your kids. You need to have a reputation for listening without blowing up at them. If children are being abused, it is not uncommon for an abuser to threaten the safety of the child’s family. That is what happened to that Mormon girl who was abducted ten years ago. Not a pleasant thought, but it needs to be addressed with your children in advance.

  2. Love this. Great, great stuff Bekah. (And I really appreciate when you write about daughters, with my own little gals to shepherd.)

  3. “…and that also may mean being the wife who calls the cops on her husband, or the woman who calls the cops on her pastor, or the girl who calls the pastor on her dad.”

    Not only is submission good when rightly placed, it’s good when rightly placed in multiple directions. You’ve pointed to three spheres — family, church, and civil government — ordained by God to keep watch over each other in various ways.

    Beware any authority that demands exclusive allegiance. Beware any authority that has no authority to which it gladly submits. Beware any authority that shrugs when it sees its counterparts being abusive because, “Oh well, they have authority, so I shouldn’t interfere.” (I heard the cops tell my mother, “We can’t do anything unless we see him hit you.” I watched a pastor counsel a woman back to her philandering, STD-ridden, unrepentant husband because “God hates divorce, and you should submit.”)

    But when lawful authority bends its knees to Ultimate Authority, and calls its brothers to do likewise, and stands up to abusers in whatever sphere…gladly, gladly submit to authority like that. God gave you that for safety and strength. It’s a gift that can be hard to find, so don’t despise it. Don’t throw out all authority with the filthy bathwater of the abuse, because that just (to mix a metaphor) opens wide the door to more and worse abusers.

  4. So many great things in here! Thanks so much for sharing! What a big calling we have as mothers. May the Lord give MUCH grace as we seek to model this for our girls.

  5. That is a fabulous article. Thank you for fleshing out things that we know, but dont always have the words to express.

    A quick request – could you put some sort of photo or image in your articles? I keep great articles like this one for reference on Pinterest, but if there isnt an image for it to attach to, I cant save it there!


  6. To Anonymous: Building trust with our children I understand and agree is important, but what does that have to do with my child being afraid “the bad guy” is going to hurt me or the rest of her family? The best remedy for that fear I know is a combination of two things: make sure she knows to her toenails that God is good, He loves her and is absolutely sovereign; and to take her out shooting with me so she knows what a good shot her Daddy and I are (and to teach her how to shoot straight as well). My fierceness is not a terror to her if she knows I love her with it and would give my life for her gladly.

    Rebekah, thank you for this wonderful clarification and exhortation. Well done!

  7. Your suggestions will only work in a healthy church environment where there is a high level of accountability by the leadership. Sociopathic narcissists surround themselves with “yes” men desiring power. The only way a patriarchal system can keep from descending into a congregation full of snakes in suits is for there to be an open and accountable board that is open to outside inspection.

  8. Years ago there were hard times. Not the same as what you have mentioned non-the-less very difficult times. As a result I as a wife chose to call the cops. I had always been told that this is the right thing to do when one gets to the point that I was at. I write to caution the use of turning to secular societies “protection”. Instead of helping, my decision took an already difficult situation and made it one million times worse. Our nation is no longer founded on the scripture. There is no justice trying to be performed just an absurd tangle of paperwork, lawyers, lies, judges and money.
    Before you call the cops, exhaust every other resource you have available. The church, family, friends and most importantly God should provide you with far more help than the local jail system.
    Sorry, this sounds rambly but I am not the first of my acquaintances to have “Calling the cops” blow up in their face.
    I am grateful to report that all this time later God has been faithful through hard times. I know…surprise! Thank you for writing about this difficult topic. Especially appreciate you talking about the importance of not living in fear. I am embarrassed to admit the fear I lived in during those
    dark days of my life.
    My rant is complete. 🙂

  9. I think these are great principles. I hope you guys are planning on writing a book on raising daughters.

    Just to throw my 2 cents in, years ago I was with a man who promised to marry me but was actually a gross sexual predator, and it puts me in the awkward position of not quite victim, not quite fornicator. It’s a position that there aren’t many resources for.

    The big lesson for me was that if your spiritual and emotional needs aren’t being met in the right way, you are extra vulnerable to predatory behavior, so perhaps to add another principle to Bekah’s list is to make sure that you are not emotionally vulnerable.

    So Femina ladies, please please write a book about raising daughters!

  10. Probably this goes along with #4–and that’s to pay attention. If someone comes to you expressing the fact that someone/some sort of situation bothers them, take it seriously (but don’t go off the deep end about it unless you’re sure that’s what’s needed…). Some individuals are asking for help in a quiet voice and are being overlooked, or they’ve been dismissed as being whiny or fussy and overblowing an issue—until it is too late to avoid deep and lasting damage.

  11. “Christian women should be characterized by submission.” True. But so should all Christians, including Christian men. Female submission only makes sense the broader scope of submission as described throughout all the Bible. As Christians we’re all to submit to one another, our employers, our pastors, to civil leaders and governments. But there is ALWAYS a caveat. And that caveat is if what you’re submitting to lines up with God’s word. And that submission is always voluntary and given, never forced.

    “Ultimately, a heart submissive to God can stand up and resist someone who attempts to exploit that submission for their own ends.” This should be true, but isn’t often taught to women. Rarely have I heard actual credible examples given by pastors or teachers that give positive examples of a woman doing this.

    In the Doug Phillips example, having known him during his HSLDA years, I am not surprised at this outcome, sad as it is. Women in his circle were constantly taught to not gain more education but stay home and help with their many siblings. My friend was told at the age of 18, instead of higher education she should learn upholstery, because that could save her future family money someday. They were not taught to think through God’s word for themselves. Many young women couldn’t even be a missionary if they wanted because they’d be out from under their “head” i.e. their father. Such women were instead taught the only way to please God is absolute obedience to earthly authorities. No grace given.

  12. I hope you don’t might that I add an additional note about modeling for our girls the kind of strength discussed here. I live in a state that just opened the door for same sex mirage. This is no friendly place for children.

    I once faced a homosexual store clerk who, as I handed him my credit card, looked at my 2 yr. old son and said, “I hate kids.” God gave me the grace to ask the clerk to apologize to my child and then reminded him that he was himself once a child. I have faced many situations of this kind with my four littles (in parks, stores, libraries – you name it).

    My husband once forbade my return to a public library because the children’s section was often staffed by mean homosexuals. He didn’t have to convince me, of course, but his reasoning was, “If there’s a fire in the library, who’s going to save the women and children?” My kids needed to see their father put his foot down and they needed to know the reasons. They needed to watch me submit to him because the right submission keeps them safe. The situations we face are difficult at times. Knowing in the moment how to respond to a precarious situation is not easy – it takes me by surprise while I’m shuffling kiddos past the candy aisle. It often takes wisdom beyond what I have at most given moments.

    Our children need to see us model for them the strength and response we want them to have. We have to be prepared to put into action what we want them to do – in my context this takes constant vigilance. It’s wearying. But my children must learn from me how and when to speak up. It is too easy to be a quiet mom who smiles meekly and shuffles my kids out of potential harm’s path. Of course this is certainly the right choice at times. But sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes you’re just standing in line in the grocery store. Sometimes it’s “please don’t be rude to my kids.”

    I once watched a fellow Christian mother – a small and quite-voiced lovely – stand up to a greasy hot-dog stand smoozer when he spoke rudely to her young daughters. This woman deeply impressed me. She is a gentle, submissive woman who knew when to put a man in his place. And she put him in his place just at the point when her daughters needed to see her do it. In that moment, she was their covering – her voice was their shield. They needed her to be their covering and shield.

  13. Good post Bekah. Its good to discuss these things. One thing I would add is that the love of Christ and of loving earthly fathers give women the inner confidence and sense of self respect that is needed to have no patience with perverts.

  14. Along with your teachings,I would strongly suggest self defense classes.All to often women need to defend thenselves physically.Some role playing with your girls would also give them practice on how to handle different situations,so that if anyone ever tried anything their response would second nature.It could also help keep them from freezing or feeling helpless.

  15. I can’t tell if you are recommending for or against Rachel Held Evans? I’m not familiar with her. Thank you for the article!

  16. And if you get ‘eewww’ vibes its OK to make a mental note of that & do whateve it takes to. . clear out now! As for people who are rude to children! Its unbelievable! I get ‘boy you’ve got your hands full’ ALL the time! I had to pre think a comment to make back. One that stands up for my children. My latest response is to grin and tell them ‘But I love it!’ cos i do!

  17. First, thanks so much for writing about this at all. It’s such a hard topic to think about, let alone talk openly and constructively about.

    Second, I’m always reluctant to comment because wow, there’s only so much that can be reasonably covered in a blog post, right? So this is all written in the hopes that this isn’t that doozy of a comment that populates every blog comment section.

    1. Yep.
    2. So definitely yes.
    3. Yeah, that’s true.
    4. Uh-huh.

    I guess in the end, the title is just at conflict with the content, because the meat here is what we can do to love and equip our daughters. Because we want to be able to do something (other than look askance at everyone as a potential predator), we want to forge with them the best armor, shield and sword.

    (and I realize this post was largely in response to the weird Vision Forum situation, which is pretty specific, so what follows is where I run the risk of “doozy comment” territory)

    Sexual abuse is a topic that is, unfortunately, one I have experience with and so I know I’m a bit sensitive to what’s said. Because this girl, the well-equipped girl, she is the one that feels that much more of a failure. A failure as a preteen and those years of molestation in toddlerhood come rushing back. A failure when violent rape strikes in young adulthood. Because I had all the tools, I was loved, I was prepared, I was *smart*! And in those moments, I was a victim, a victim with a thousand tons of guilt and shame, because I was prepared to not submit to scum, to recognize a loser at 100 paces, and how did I screw this up?

    And all this preparation will not prevent her from “being a victim” – but I hope it prevents her from letting “victim” become her identity.

  18. Hi Cat – thanks so very much for the comment. And you’re right – the title needs a footnote! I certainly don’t want to imply that if you do everything right then you won’t ever end up as a victim. Because we live in a fallen world, we can sometimes do everything right and still get hurt. People can buckle up diligently and still be killed in a car crash. I guess the title could be, “On not letting our daughters unnecessarily end up as victims when there are reasonable ways to avoid it.” In the end, we need to equip our daughters as best we can and then we PRAY for God to protect them and give them wisdom, discernment, bravery, and safety. And that’s a great qualification you made about not letting “victim” become an identity. Thanks.

  19. You have clearly NOT been a victim, trapped in an abusive marriage by the constraints of the “submissive wife” culture. I have. When I followed what *God* told me to do, and left now-ex, I was criticized by the church for not being “submissive.” You’re either submissive – and therefore a victim if you’re unlucky enough to have married a bad man – or you unsubmissively stand up for what is RIGHT and SAFE and GOOD.

    You can’t tell a woman to submit to God but be willing to call the cops on her husband. If she claims to be a Christian, then unless she goes to a “cool” church which you obviously despise, then she’s told that submitting to God means submitting to her husband. I don’t care what “nuance” you claim to put on it – “submission” in that world = submission TO YOUR HUSBAND. (Or father if you aren’t married yet.) When you’re told that GOD SPEAKS THROUGH YOUR FATHER/HUSBAND, then how are you supposed to somehow submit to God but *not* your husband?!

    This article is the most convoluted, victim-shaming, holier-than-thou rant that I’ve been unfortunate to read in a long time. I’m commenting only so that any other readers who are also caught in this system will know that they are NOT ALONE! This post is NOT helpful, so PLEASE don’t let it make you feel guilty if you’re stuck in a bad situation!

  20. Lisa Joy, would you point out the parts of this article that are victim-shaming and holier-than-thou? I think I may have read it wrong.

  21. Lisa Joy,
    If I’ve ever heard anything coming out clearly in listening to/reading resources by complementarian types, it’s that it is our DUTY to disobey authority when it contradicts the revealed law of God. If your church was not teaching that, then they were not teaching the whole counsel of God.
    I’ve had both Christian and secular friends who’ve been manipulated by lecherous men for years. These kinds of men are more than willing to use any theme (submission or sexual liberation, for example) that will work.

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