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Creflo Dollar - The Empty Seat: The Trauma Of Abuse



Welcome to a very special edition of "Your World". Today's program focuses on an empty seat, the one behind me, symbolic of a single guest who wasn't ready to step forward and deal with a very serious issue: abuse. Whether sexual, emotional, or other forms of physical or mental abuse, in its many forms abuse is tearing at the fabric of this country and perhaps something that you have been running from for some time. Now, why is this seat empty? Is it fear that causes the one abused to fail to step forward? Is it shame or guilt? It is a trap that so many of those who have been abused fall into, believing they deserve the abuse, and they are at fault.

Today, we are dealing with this empty seat symbolic of literally millions of people worldwide who face abuse every day and until this very moment haven't had the opportunity to say, "Please help". We're going to be looking at the world of abuse through the lens of something called trauma, what experts believe can lead to a very limited, lonely, and painful life. I'm Creflo Dollar. You do not want to miss a single minute of this program. Call someone, text them, and invite them to sit in with us today as we deal with this empty seat. And if this seat represents you, then allow me to encourage you. Your world is about to change.

Our scheduled guest today suffered horrible abuse since he was a child, and he was beaten, sliced by a knife, constant torture, and even electrocution at the hands of his adoptive parents, who were finally caught and imprisoned. Now, since then he has been unable to cope with the nightmare of his past and had agreed to let us help, but he decided he was not yet ready to face his trauma. I have invited a clinical trauma expert who works closely with people of all ages who have suffered abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and trauma-related disorders. Would you please welcome Dr. Darren Cooper to "Your World" today?

Yes, sir. Thank you so much for coming. God bless you. Dr. Cooper, I'm really excited about this show today. You heard me making reference to the empty seat.

Dr. Darren Cooper: Yes.

Creflo: Maybe you can give us some explanation of why someone who has suffered this type of trauma probably at the last minute decided, "I'm just not ready to deal with this". What's the real deal with that?

Dr. Cooper: Well, he might possibly have had some kind of, you know, just stress and anxiety over wanting to come and sit before the whole world. Sometimes stress and anxiety is a symptom of trauma. If he has traumatic memories or flashbacks from his experience, it might be a little bit too much to deal with at one time.

Creflo: And undealt with what are the consequences of not dealing with that childhood drama?

Dr. Cooper: So, if you don't deal with the trauma chances are that you'll feel like you're stuck in that place, so they may want to more or less run and hide or just avoid, and so you see a lot of avoiding behaviors in people who have experienced trauma. They want to avoid any reminders of the trauma, which is hard to do, because a lotta times they will have flashbacks or things in the environment that trigger them.

Creflo: So, I guess one of the things we could expect is I call it a false identity, a false person, and that normally occurs when you have these wounds that are covered up, and so we really never get the real person. How does one deal with helping that individual remove the cover and starting to deal with the real you rather than continuing with that false identity?

Dr. Cooper: Yeah, so in trauma work a lotta times what we do is we get them to face the trauma, essentially, the traumatic experience. What we do is have them do something like a trauma narrative, you know, where it's therapeutic for a person to maybe write the story down, okay? Creating something of a timeline, and then in detail just kinda going over it so that we in a sense desensitize them to what has happened, because so many times they avoid the details of what happened because it's just too painful to remember.

Creflo: You know, when I look at the guest that didn't show up today, I started reading over his situation. I don't even have a word to describe, you know, the type of abuse at eight years of age, the physical abuse, the mental trauma, the sexual abuse.

Dr. Cooper: Pretty horrific.

Creflo: And even one situation where his real mother who was on drugs, he went over to grandmother's house to see the grandmother and ran into the mother and when he ran towards the mother she pushed him away. That's his last memory of her. Do you think that a lotta times the abusers are suffering with childhood trauma that was never resolved in their own lives?

Dr. Cooper: Oh, no doubt. A lotta times there is what we call attachment disorders that stem from parents or caregivers who have not dealt with their own trauma and don't know how to connect with their own child, and so we do see some kind of a generational trauma where their trauma inadvertently affects the child, as well.

Creflo: I guess my biggest concern right now are those who wear the cover well, and you don't really see it until you, you know, you get a more private time with them, or maybe you hit a trigger. Or maybe a couple who's gotten engaged, and this person wore the cover very well and, you know, a day before the wedding she hit a trigger she didn't know anything about. So, do you agree that the wounds that you fail to acknowledge, it'd be difficult for those to heal, those wounds to heal if you don't acknowledge 'em, deal with 'em, get some therapy?

Dr. Cooper: Yeah, in those cases, a lotta times, intimacy is very difficult, because a person who has experienced trauma, they find it difficult to connect with other people. There is a lotta isolation and withdrawal, social-type withdrawal. Even with the young man who was your guest, that was gonna be here today, no doubt this would be definitely a trigger for somebody who has not had any treatment and who's not really dealt with their traumatic history for any length of time, and that's a very uncomfortable feeling, you know, especially in a social setting, so.

Creflo: Well, on television with millions of people watching you on a show. I mean, I could talk to you forever about this 'cause I'm constantly meeting people who we label as, well, they're just troubled folks, and you know how blacks are where therapy is concerned. "I ain't got no problems. I don't need to talk about it". It's almost like men going to get a checkup so they don't die of prostate cancer. Just go and get a checkup for that. And those of you watching programs on this Christian station, I want you to know that, you know, if you get sick and you have to go to a doctor, that doesn't mean you don't have no faith, you know? And if you have trauma in your life and you choose to go see a therapist, that doesn't mean you have little faith or bad faith. It means that you're taking advantage of everything that God has made available where healing is concerned. Satan wants you sick. He wants you confused, depressed, and he wants you to blow your brains out, and anything that is for healing I think God will endorse, okay? We're gonna take a very short break and when we come back we're going to meet a guest who's going to help us explore through her story how trauma from abuse can spill over into every part of someone's life. We'll be right back.


Creflo: I want you to meet a young lady who, before this show, was in tears about the trauma she had experienced and her issues since and is brave enough to sit in this empty seat. Would you please welcome a very special lady? Lourdes. You know about trauma. You've experienced it. You know the result of it. Dr. Cooper here is a trauma expert, and he's gonna help us walk through this situation, but tell us your story.

Lourdes: Well, at the age of six years old I started to go to church. I knew Christ at the age of six and, well, I had an uncle that lived with us in our home. He would take me to the laundry room, and he would put his pants down, and when that would happen I had my Sunday dress on. And when he took me in the laundry room and I would get out my dress was wet, and my mom would ask me, "Why is your dress wet"? And, of course, I wouldn't know how to react about it. I had to tell my mother that I got it wet myself, and my mother didn't know about what happened with me, what was going on. Never did I tell my mother and...

Creflo: And how old were you then?

Lourdes: I was six years old.

Creflo: And how old are you now?

Lourdes: I'm 24. Yeah, and since then I struggled with sexual thoughts, sexual desires, for a very long time, and that's what had happened when I was a kid.

Creflo: Yeah, Dr. Cooper, bring us to a place where we can make the connection between, you know, obviously that very traumatic event to where she ended up with now the sexual thoughts and all of the things that proceeded after that.

Dr. Cooper: So, you know, my mind goes to a couple of things when you talk about early childhood development, you know? She may be stuck at that developmental stage in a sense where, you know, there is like shame and guilt over something that really had nothing to do with, you know, it wasn't her. It wasn't your fault, first of all. I want you to know that and, obviously, it was a crime that was committed against you, but, again, sometimes children don't understand that something is not their fault, and they may harbor some feelings of shame and guilt around bad things that happened to them. You know, there's a lotta confusion around what is safe boundaries or what is acceptable boundaries when a person has been violated in that way at such a young age, so it's not uncommon or unusual for a person to become more promiscuous later on. And depending on how much you may have given yourself over to those desires and those practices, then, again, you know, in a sense you're, kind of, reinforcing something within yourself, so.

Creflo: How was your relationship with your mother, your parents, relationships with people that were coming up? I see the relationship with the uncle.

Lourdes: My relationship with my parents was great. Maybe Mom wasn't there much because she was, like, working, and she had two kids and everything, and the crazy thing is that I never told my mom that it happened. My mom actually found out through her sister. I thought my mom knew this long, for, like, knowing that this happened to me. And, well, my mom found out that news and another bad news with it, so it's like that's how my mother found out, through my aunt. So, she found out, like, too many bad news that day when she found out that I had been mentally abused by my own uncle and...

Creflo: You said mentally abused.

Lourdes: Yeah, well, I don't know really what to characterize it. Like, is it really abuse or is it really like... 'cause, I mean, it wasn't that I was, like, literally, like, raped or anything. I wasn't raped, so it was more like if he was masturbating on me. It's kinda like that. I don't know what you would call that.

Creflo: So, Dr. Cooper, tell her what we call that?

Dr. Cooper: Well, that is still sexual abuse. Yes, even though there might not have been any penetration, but still, you know, for him to have exposed himself to you. Again, you're a child, and he's an adult, so basically, you know, in this country, our culture, we consider that that's wrong. That's a crime, right? Basically, had he been turned in he would have been prosecuted. He probably would have gone to jail, so, it was wrong on that level, but, yes, indeed, we call that sexual abuse. Yeah, it's not mental. It's sexual.

Creflo: Not just mental. It's sexual abuse, sexual assault, and I think it's typical of someone who has experienced trauma to try to look for ways to try to downplay it. "Maybe this didn't really happen," and I think the most important part about your healing is to come to the place of recognizing that this happened, and this is exactly what happened. It was sexual assault and abuse and trauma, and it happened by an adult. It was a crime that was committed. All of these realities are so important for you to recognize and to settle in your thinking as you make progress, you know, towards you healing, 'cause if not you'll somehow start blaming yourself for things that you are not responsible for at all.

Lourdes: And I actually have. So, I'm considered one of the worship leaders at my church and sometimes I feel guilty because I'm like, "Why did it happen? Why did it have to happen to me? Why couldn't it have been someone else? Why me"? And currently I don't sing at church, but one of my desires has been that I would love to come back to sing and worship God. You know, when God has called you to ministry and called you to worship, he's called you for one thing, but it's like something that's still holding you me back. It's like you're afraid that what if you fail God? What if something happens to you or, like, something like that? So, it's come to the point where, like, I want to go back to worshiping God, but I feel so guilty because I feel like it's my fault. Like, did I do something wrong?

Creflo: You didn't do anything wrong. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Period. None. God's not mad at you. He's not in a bad mood where you're concerned. You did not do anything. You have no reason to walk in the condemnation, and if shame tries to continue to knock at the door the Scripture says those that believe in Jesus shall not be put to shame. It is the enemy that's trying to stop you from using your gift that will be a blessing to other people. The way he does that is through condemnation, guilt, and shame. Be free from that guilt and shame and know you did not do anything to offend God whatsoever. His grace and mercy is on you, but, please, from this day forward you walk outta this studio today knowing, "I didn't do anything wrong".

In fact, you're the righteousness of God. You're highly forgiven. You're the apple of God's eye and all heaven's been like, "Where she at? Where she been? It's like what happened"? And look what guilt does and condemnation does. It moves you out of the very purpose for your life and causes you to focus on something that's not even true and now the biggest lie in the Garden of Eden was you feel like I gotta do something to become what you already are. That's the biggest lie. Because of what Jesus has done for you, hey, you're straight. You're ready to go. You get back involved in that music ministry pronto, immediately, right away, with no condemnation.

Creflo: You hear me? I need you to do something for me. I want you to say that. I need you to say it out loud. "It is not my fault".

Lourdes: It is not my fault.

Creflo: I am not responsible.

Lourdes: I am not responsible.

Creflo: For the abuse.

Lourdes: For the abuse.

Creflo: That happened to me.

Lourdes: That happened to me.

Creflo: That's it. No more condemnation. No more fear, Honey. Get back in that praise. You call your music director up. Tell him you're coming back this weekend. No more condemnation. Now, you know, the little thought comes up, but you're not responsible for that. That is a result of trauma and an abuser who committed a crime on you that should have known better. You do not look bad at yourself. Don't look down at yourself. You're the apple of God's eye. Always have been, always will be, but now what you wanna do is continue to walk away from this trauma so that this trauma is not used to keep you down, keep you back, and cause you to stay in guilt and fear.

And I can imagine getting up there singing thinking that you're responsible for it, that a panic came in, and panic is just groundless fear. "Oh, my God. I'm up here singing, and I feel like a hypocrite". All of those things that happen because, you know, there's unresolved issue where this trauma is concerned. And imagine there are people right now who are watching the program who have been beating themselves up day in and day out, making 'em feel, "Oh, I feel nasty. I feel like I'm not worthy. I feel". That's just the devil trying to play you, and I'm telling you that ends today. Over, amen?

Yep, I was looking for that smile. She like, "Oh", and you should really wear him out. The very first Sunday back at praise service, you should sing like you're Jennifer Holliday. You understand what I'm saying? You ought to beat the snot outta him. You know what I'm saying? Let him know, "Look, you almost got me". I remember there was a little kid who died under my watch. He drowned and a lotta things around that, but I blamed myself for that to the point where I was getting ready to become a atheist, 'cause I don't wanna have anything to do with God 'cause he let this kid die.

And, man, I tell you God, he jacked me up and changed my attire and he said, "Boy, you are being deceived". It took a guy from overseas to come over and prophesy that "there is somebody in here who's mad at God". And then he said, he said, "That little boy knows more about God than you'll ever know until you get there," and he didn't even know what the situation was. Man, I ran out that room, went down to a empty parking lot, and I said, "Oh, my God. He almost did it to me. I'm sitting up here". That was a traumatic situation, to see that person die, and I didn't deal with the trauma. The first thing I wanted to do is to blame myself. "It's got to be my fault," and it was not my fault at all, and I'm telling you I'm free from it, and I've been busting his head wide open for over 40 years making him pay for that. Now you do the same thing. You do the same thing.

Listen, abuse and betrayal during our childhood years or even later can leave lasting scars that can affect you in every area of your lives. Now, if you have deep-seated pain you can turn your hurt into wholeness by trusting in God and when you place your trust in him he can displace worry, hurt, or any other negative emotion as the center of your life and leave you free from the bondage of your past. I would like to thank the studio audience for their participation and let's hear it again for the brave young woman who came forward, Lourdes. Let's give her a big hand. And also, a big handclap and a big thanks to Dr. Darren Cooper to come here and to give us the insight and take us through some of the things that we learned today. Don't we appreciate, Dr. Cooper?
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