“There is a natural reluctance to face the problem. Christians seem to despise reality. We tend to be squeamish when looking at the destructive effects of sin. It is unpleasant to face the consequences of sin – our own and others’. To do so seems to discount the finished and sufficient work of our Savior. And so we pretend we’re fine, when, in fact, we know that something is troubling our soul.”1
While this applies to many areas of sin, I think this quote from Dan Allender hits the nail on the head when it comes to responding to sexual abuse. For those who have been sexually abused and for those who are called to journey alongside someone who has, it is tempting to just pretend that it never happened because often it seems that would be easier.
But sexual abuse does happen. And when it happens, it forever changes the lives of those it touches.
Far more than just rape, sexual abuse includes any type of sexual contact that is non-consensual for both parties involved. This extends to forced viewing of pornography or forced exposure. Also, since a minor is not considered able to give consent, any sexual contact with a minor is considered sexual abuse.2 Any of these forms of sexual abuse are traumatizing and should be taken seriously.
As I wrote this article, I communicated with a few women who have their own story of sexual abuse. They are choosing to remain anonymous, but their words have greatly impacted what I write here. Anonymous or not, their voice matters. And if you have been sexually abused, your voice matters too.
It is also important to mention that while most people think of women and girls as the victims of abuse, it does happen to many boys as well. If you are a guy who has been abused, this article applies to you just as much as to the female abuse victims.
To Those Who Have Been Abused
So you have been sexually abused. Now what? For some of you, it happened many years ago. For others, it happened recently or perhaps is still happening now. No matter what situation you find yourself in, these words are for you.
Dear Survivor, I can’t fix the pain of your abuse or offer you a magic formula for sudden healing. But if you are reading this as a victim of sexual abuse and don’t remember anything else that I write, please know that in Jesus Christ there is hope for healing. As one young lady put it, “The evil will never be good, but YOU will become ok again.” If nothing else, may these words provide a glimmer of hope to any of you who feel like something deep within you is cold and dead as a result of abuse.
The truths I write here may not feel true, but my prayer is that as you reach out to trust the God who created you, you will experience these truths in a powerful way. Sometimes we know things in our heads – even say we believe them – but our thoughts and actions reveal that perhaps, deep down, we don’t.
You are not alone. Satan wants us to believe that we are alone in our suffering, that we are the only one who has walked this journey. Yes, each person’s story is unique, but the suffering you are facing is one that has been faced by countless numbers of people throughout history. And no matter where you find yourself, there are people who are willing to walk this journey with you.
Healing is a journey and a process, not an event or a destination. You need to know that healing will not be easy. One survivor put it this way: “It will get messier as you start dealing with it, but that’s okay. It has to get worse before it can get better…We need to be willing to face the intensity of the pain in order to eventually experience His healing.” Don’t expect healing to happen overnight, but do expect that a journey of healing is possible.
God did not create you to live in bondage to someone else’s sin. You are in no way responsible for the horrible sin committed against you. What your abuser did was unfair and very wrong, but you do not have to live defined by it.
My pastor often talks about how Jesus died not only for the sins that we commit, but also for the sins committed against us. God wants us to bring our deepest areas of pain to Him because that is part of why Christ died – to offer us healing. Isaiah 53 is a beautifully descriptive passage that speaks of all that Christ bore for us on the cross. Verse 4 says, “He carried our pains.” Survivor, put your name into this verse and realize that Christ carried your pain on that cross. And verse 5 says, “we are healed by His wounds.” He understands your pain in a way that no one else ever will. He carried that pain and was wounded for it. And now He wants to offer healing to you through the wounds that He suffered.
Silence keeps victims in bondage. Speaking about the abuse you have experienced feels vulnerable. It won’t be easy and, unfortunately, there might be people who don’t believe you. But ultimately, silence breeds despair because there is so much aloneness and so little hope in keeping these things silent.
Seek out trustworthy people who will be willing to walk with you on the journey of healing. A trustworthy person is someone who will listen to your story and allow you to process the things you have experienced, but who will also speak the hard truth that you need to hear. They will acknowledge the pain and the struggle, but will not allow you to wallow there. Trustworthy people will push you on towards healing. I have not heard a single story of healing that does not include other people who are willing to enter the survivor’s journey and walk through the mess with them.
You may feel like finding a trustworthy person is impossible – especially because of violated trust you experienced in the abuse. Look for people who listen well and who take truth seriously. One young woman I corresponded with mentioned that she chose to go to Bible School because she knew people would be there to listen and journey with her. Ask God to lead you to trustworthy people because He can provide in unexpected ways.
Honesty is imperative to the healing process. This includes being honest with yourself, with trustworthy people around you, and with God. In her book Not Marked, Mary DeMuth points out that we can’t forgive something we haven’t first acknowledged.3 Healing comes in the process of honestly facing the truth of what was done to you, the way it has affected you, and the ways you have responded. It is ok to feel anger and to ask God hard questions. To deny or ignore the truth is to avoid healing.
Psalm 51:17 says, “The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, you will not despise a broken and humbled heart.” Does your heart feel crushed by the sexual abuse you have suffered? God wants you to bring that to Him. He will not despise you or turn you away. Instead, He promises to heal you and bind up your wounds (Psalm 34:18; Psalm 147:3).
If you would like more resources for your healing journey, we at Radi-Call would be happy to send you some more information. You can contact us through our email address: email@example.com.
|Ranita Reitz currently resides in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Northern Virginia. She has a burden for seeing young women find freedom in Christ as they learn to trust in His promises and apply the principles of God’s Word to everyday life. Some of the things she enjoys most are connecting with people, reading, baking, taking pictures of God’s beautiful creation, and traveling to new places.|
- Allender, Dan B. The Wounded Heart. NavPress, 1995.
- “What Is Sexual Abuse?” Articles about Rape, Sexual Abuse, & Sexual Violence | Pandora’s Project, Pandora’s Project, pandys.org/whatissexualabuse.html.
- DeMuth, Mary E. Not Marked: Finding Hope & Healing after Sexual Abuse. Uncaged Publishing, 2013.