Writing or talking about sexual abuse is certainly not my favorite subject. But I love God, I love people, and I love the church. We have to talk about it. It is the right and holy thing to do. The church is way behind on these matters. Now is the time to mature.
"Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it." James 4:17
If you or someone you know has been harmed by sexual abuse, I am deeply sorry. If what happened was diminished, overlooked, shoved under the rug, or you were shamed, I am so sorry. You are not alone. I see you. I hurt alongside you. No two stories are alike, but each evil encounter ravishes and mars the human body, soul, mind, heart, and spirit. When that abuse comes from clergy, a whole new complex dimension opens up of spiritual abuse.
I echo these words of truth by author Mary DeMuth:
The church has been guilty of being so uncomfortable with trauma that we cannot sit with people, cannot lament alongside. It’s too raw. If we do, we have to admit that bad things happen on this earth, and sometimes those bad things happen within the church.
I have been shut down too many times to count with (well meaning) platitude and cliche sledgehammers, some laced with un-contexted Scripture. God DOES allow for more than we can bear. He doesn’t always rescue. Forgiveness is not a simple formula. In fact, trauma and its aftermath is messy.
Here’s what I would love to see: Empathy. Active listening. Getting angry at the injustice alongside. Prayer.
This is a tender, heartbreaking world, where people have done awful things to each other. We can no longer deny the reality of that, especially in the church.
Remember, too, that looks can be deceiving. Everyone bears a heavy story. Be kind. Bear burdens.
If you are a victim of trauma, I hear you. I ache alongside. I wish I could take it all away. I will not whisper a platitude over you about how that was so long ago, and time heals all wounds, and God has good plans for all this. I see your tears. I receive your emails and feel the weight of your stories in my gut, the same gut that couldn’t control its trauma on that fateful day.
I am a hurting healer. But I do see you. I join you in your story.
I believe it happened–even when others push against the truth of it all, or ask questions about what you were wearing, or why you took so long to report it or fight back in the moment (as if they would do it differently), or question whether your memory is accurate, or point to the fact that we all sin, we just need to forgive and forget, or proudly proclaim the fact that they never experienced predation by that person, so it must not be true.
I am so sorry someone made it their priority to shame, harm, and steal from you. I am so sorry the church has played a role in secondary exploitation by trying to silence your story for the sake of their “reputation.”
All that to say: You are not alone. Your story matters. Even if the world chooses to shun you or try to silence your story, the truth has a pesky way of forcing out darkness. Keep your light. Keep shining. Keep bravely telling your story.
You are loved. I’m sorry you weren’t protected. I’m amazed at your tenacity and grit.
I hope you can rest there for a moment, friend, knowing that you probably have no earthly idea that you have helped others find the light even as you’ve fought the darkness with uncanny bravery.
Though lasting healing and transformation seem impossible, I have come to believe a wounded heart can heal. I am living proof. I am healing still. And I believe you can, too. I will not promise it will be easy. It is not. But it IS worth it. You are worth it.
RESOURCES that help:
The Hope of Survivors, on clergy sexual abuse
Healing the Wounded Heart, The Heartache of Sexual Abuse and the Hope of Transformation, by Dan B. Allender
Healing the Wounded Heart Workbook, by Dan B. Allender
Thin Places, by Mary DeMuth
We Too, by Mary DeMuth
The Wounded Heart, by Dan B. Allender
Things Pondered, by Beth Moore (especially the section Fragile Places)
The Body Keeps The Score, by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
Captivating, by John and Stasi Eldredge
Twist of Faith: The Story of Anne Beiler, by Anne F. Beiler