I guess one of the most shocking things that ever happened to me was to discover that I have rights. Sad, considering all I’ve lived through. It was such a foreign concept. I have rights…. The thought didn’t even begin to occur to me until I was well into adulthood.
I have rights.
That thought doesn’t seem that shocking to most people, of course they have rights. Why wouldn’t they have rights? Everyone has rights. But for an abuse victim, it’s not all that easy a thought to grasp. I—me, the one others lie to, lie about, abuse, yell at, curse out, hurt, ignore, blame—I have rights. Such a thought is shocking and utterly life changing.
When I was growing up, I believed that other people’s wants far outweighed my needs. Because I believed that, that broken-down, mixed-up, bad-to-the-core, false-as-could-be belief enabled others to wield power over me. Now, due to the grace of God in opening my eyes, I finally realize that I really do have rights and that it matters that I have rights.
Please know these things: What your abuser does, or has done, to you isn’t about you—it’s about him. There is no way you can ever be enough to fix it. You aren’t, and never will be, enough for your abuser. No matter what they tell you, your abuser doesn’t have the right to define you. Only God can do that. I just wish it hadn’t taken me so long to figure that out.
Abusers will tell you that you have no rights. They will treat you as if you have no rights. They will yell, stomp, scream, hit, threaten you, and ignore you. They will destroy what you love, lie about you, and give you the silent treatment in order to prove you have no rights.
My abuser used to tell me that I had no rights that he didn’t give me—none at all. By God’s grace, I’ve discovered that it’s not our abusers who have the power to grant us rights. It is the Lord Himself. Because we are precious in His sight, though man may abuse us, we have the right to stand up for ourselves because we do have rights, rights granted by God Himself, and nobody has the right to rob us of them.
Understanding that she has rights may seem to be a normal and natural part of life to an emotionally healthy woman but to one who has been abused, coming to realize that she has rights is an amazing discovery—one equal in impact, at least for me, to the discovery of electricity or gravity.
Understood rightly, the truths on this list have the power to change your world. They certainly did mine.
Here’s just some of my—and your—rights:
- I have the right to know the Lord as Scripture, not man, presents Him.
- I have the right to worship God, attend church, and serve Him without fear.
- I have the right to not have Scripture twisted in order that it may be used against me or to subjugate me.
- I have the right to not be abused.
- I have the right to be safe in my own home.
- I have the right to have rights.
- I have the right to stand up for my rights.
- I have the right to say “No”.
- I have the right to make decisions about things that affect me or my children and to do so without fear.
- I have the right to my own thoughts and feelings, and the right to express them.
- I have the right to not be perfect.
- I have the right to be treated with respect.
- I have the right to be treated as an adult.
- I have the right to not be a caretaker for one who could, but will not, take care of themselves.
- I have the right to not be responsible for another person’s faults, failures, or actions.
- I have the right to refuse to do anything that violates my conscience.
- I have the right to live in peace.
- I have the right to learn and to grow.
- I have the right to have friends and maintain relationships with my family.
- I have the right to see family and friends both out of my home and in my home.
- I have the right to have others over without fear of mistreatment or acting out by others in my home.
- I have the right to teach my children to grow into responsible adults who will treat me, and others, with respect.
- I have the right to not be lied about to my children or to others.
- I have the right to be righteously angry over abuse and mistreatment.
- I have the right to have an understanding of our finances, to make informed financial decisions, and to have my, and my children’s, financial needs met.
- I have the right to privacy.
- I have the right to seek help.
- I have the right to admit the truth about the abuse to myself and to others who can help me.
- I have the right to legally prosecute my abuser if the situation warrants it.
What rights would you add to the list?