It is not your fault. Sexual abuse is not your fault when you are the victim.
The climate is slowly changing and there are now more avenues to receive help from sexual abuse.
Humans will never catch up with the depth of purity of Jesus himself, but the more we support others in their healing from sexual abuse the closer we get as a community in true fellowship.
Statistics are Staggering
- Women: 1 out of 4 have encountered sexual violence
- Men: 1 out of 6 have encountered sexual violence
Please do not forget the men who are struggling just as much as women.
Churches Supporting Victims
Churches need to be safe for victims, not perpetrators.
Not all churches take this view and certainly not all churches will actually take action in this manner. There is a lot of lip-service in a lot of churches. There are also many churches who take this issue with the seriousness and depth it deserves.
Don’t get stuck in a church that refuses to deal with the issue, move on, find another church. And don’t let others shame you for moving on in search of a church that will hear you and help you.
Simply walking out is an option. Ask the Holy Spirit who knows your exact set of complications.
Impact On Victims
The impact of sexual abuse on victims can be like walking through life blindfolded while being exposed and shamed at every turn, shoved into a brick wall and never knowing when the next attack is coming.
Depending on when the initial event took place, our worldview gets changed. It distorts our true reality. It simply messes the heck out of life and living.
- If we were initially sexually abused as a young child it creates a worldview that is not what it should be
- If we were initially sexually abused later than childhood then it can shatter a worldview
- As we continue to be abused, we have a difficult time gaining a healthy Godly worldview
The intensity of this twisted worldview experience can lead us to self-doubt, self-destruction, and even suicidal thoughts. “Rethinking like a victor” is how Beth Moore has described it. With support, love, and Jesus there can be healing.
Let me say this again, it is not your fault. Do not let this lead you down the path of suicide. You are the victim in this and there is hope for healing. You were created by God himself. You have value beyond what you can see with your own eyes.
In time, you will see that there is victory through this mess. Jesus gets the glory but you will see the victor in yourself. Just hang on, it will come.
Impact On The Perpetrator
Effects of sexual abuse are severe. That is why God judges it and punishes it severely.
“Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” ~ Luke 17: 1-2
God knows our pain and the severe harm that has come to us. He will judge and punish, in his time, in his own way, not ours.
Do not misunderstand what I am saying.
- I am NOT saying to let others abuse us and we should let God take care of it
- I am NOT saying that we do not deserve to be safe
- I am NOT saying that we should not expose abusers
- I am NOT saying that the laws of our land should not be sought out for the abuser
What am I saying? Sometimes it is within our ability to assist with the righteous punishment of the perpetrator and sometimes that is not within our ability. If not, God will make all things right, in his time and in his ways.
- Reach out for support
- Reach out for help
- Reach out for safety
- Reach out for legal measures when appropriate
- Reach out for rooting out evil and taking action
- Reach out for healing
- Reach out for God’s original design for your life
- Accept that it is not your fault
- Accept that you are worthy of healing
- Accept that you are precious, no matter how you feel about yourself today, no matter how you view your body (or cannot view it), you are worthy and precious
There is a healthy forgiveness of a perpetrator that does not include shoving the crime under the rug. Read God’s word again and again until you hear that one. Human beings are not doormats. Yet part of healing comes with true forgiveness of the perpetrator. He/she will pay in whatever way. That punishment will be taken care of one way or another.
Sometimes realizing that it takes hurt people to hurt others can help us get closer to forgiveness. Forgiveness can come in stages, over a long period of time, or can be instantaneous. Don’t put rules on it, just allow for it. The Lord will guide you through it. Listen to others stories of how they came to forgiveness.
Here is a definition of forgiveness that is usually difficult for a victim of sexual abuse:
Forgiveness = Giving up the right, power, and desire to punish others.
Whew, tough one. I had to slow down and really think that out. Took a bit of prayer and some bible reading as well. It is not saying that others do not deserve to be punished. It is saying that our burning desire to punish out of revenge dissipates. Huge difference between pursuing righteous justice and desire to punish.
Most of all find forgiveness for yourself, you are the victim. It is not your fault. The mess that came after the initial assault has a reason behind it. It is usually the “why” behind all of the messiness of life, at least a big part of it.
We are still held responsible for all of our sins and the consequences are insurmountable at times. Yet, you can forgive yourself for being human, for not being able to heal the moment you were injured so that life did not get so messy. Whether you were a child when at the initial abuse or you were older, it is not your fault. You are so worthy of forgiving yourself. God says so, so that is that.
Trust has been broken, completely shattered. I get it. I agree. It has been hard enough to endure the act/acts of sexual abuse. Adding the effects of abuse with all of the shattered relationships and it feels overbearing at times. Then to have to face the church itself and be shamed further is retraumatization. I get it, there is nothing easy about the process of healing from sexual abuse.
Keep opening doors until you find help and support and the love of Christ through humans.
Remember that it is hard to tell the story and get help. We will jumble our words and at first, the story will just simply not come out of us coherently. That is okay. When you finally find someone who has been through it as well, and who has the ability to be supportive, they will understand your jumbled words. Someone with the true love of Christ will also rely on the Holy Spirit to understand your jumbled words.
Sometimes while we try to get support and help and we reach out all we can do is cry. It is so painful and shameful that words cannot even come out of our mouths, just tears out of our eyes. Find someone who will sit with you, as long as it takes, to gently move through those tears so you can even begin to try to ask for help.
Years of Tears
It might take years of tears before you can get a word of your story to come out of your mouth coherently. It is okay. Remember that, because of the abuse, it is most likely jumbled up in your mind and needs a slow release valve to safely let it out.
Jumbled up means just that, cannot get all of the story out coherently. It does not mean: you are crazy, you really do not know what happened, you are dumb, etc. Our minds are fragile and powerful at the same time. Mixing truth, your reality and your emotions can create a “jumble,” that’s okay. Allow yourself to get jumbled up as long as it takes. Allow yourself as many tears as it takes.
It is okay to have moments when you want to talk and moments when you just need to cry. It is okay to take breaks and crawl in a hole until you are ready to come out and try again. Find your own way through it. You are the victim, all of these tears are not your fault.
When you find the right people to support you, they will remind you it is okay. They will hand you tissue after tissue and they will cry with you. They will offer more and more tearful hand-holding while you try to feel safe enough to tell your story.
Remember the story of Job? Oh my, everything victims do not need in life. Sometimes we need true friends and family who will just sit with us until we are ready to get up and try again. We do not always need the jabber of good-intentioned clueless people. It does not make them bad or evil, they just cannot handle this particular situation and that is also okay. Find someone else!!
Twists & Turns
Sometimes life (sometimes God) provides us with our exact needs even though it is hard to see it at the time. After 25 years in the “church” and banging my head up against walls, I fell so ill that I could not go church. Physically, it was impossible. For two stinking years. Sounds like a curse but it was truly a blessing.
It allowed me to be quiet in my thoughts and my relationship with Christ on this exact subject. What am I doing wrong? How am I so broken that no one will hear me? Do I not deserve help? Okay, so it took some pitty-parties to sort through it all.
In time, I stopped focusing on what others were NOT doing to help me and instead started focusing on what all was being handed to me on a silver platter. Wow, was that a rough and painful transition.
It no longer is about blaming others and churches for their lack of whatever. Instead, I see it as a direct road to healing, getting out of incapable churches and find ones that can handle such situations. It was like I had my very own traffic cop waving me through all of traffic/noise/pollution and straight to where I personally needed to be. That is a blessing beyond what I can describe.
This direct path has led me fast and furious to where I needed to be to heal more and even be in a position to help others while on my own lifelong journey of healing. How awesome is THAT!!! God is good no matter what. Even in our very darkest of days (heck, what about YEARS), he is right there directing traffic for us. He already has our specific path designed for us and is making it happen even when we don’t see it.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
For me, I had to slow down to be able to speed my healing.
Never give up, move on, move forward, keep searching for the right fit so that you feel supported in your healing journey.
The Church’s Role
Let me say this clearly, it is NOT righteous for a “Christian” to shame the victim.
Victims sin. I have no clue why this is so hard to understand. It takes less than 5 minutes to abuse a human who will have lifetime consequences of another’s actions. As we reel out-of-control at times, we are going to sin, that simple. Victims also have to endure the consequences of our own sins on top of the consequences of the perpetrator’s sins.
We do not need more shaming, it is not Godly to shame another for reeling out-of-control from abuse. We need to find a safe place to heal.
There is no better place than in Jesus Christ. Even better is the sweet combination of Jesus AND the support of humans who truly have Jesus living in them, through them, and shining out of them.
As a victim, we want to feel the oozing love of Jesus, however we can get it, safely. Through appropriate hugs, listening, understanding, and through true compassion. Usually, we don’t want pity, we want something real, something deep and meaningful we can sink our teeth into. A real live connection with a safe human being.
For our own sake, we have to speak up to get support and safety. Please reach out. Please tell someone trustworthy. If you have spoken up before and not received help or support, try someone else. Not all pastors are safe people, not all friends or family are safe, not all counselors are safe people. Don’t give up.
No But’s Allowed
I have said for decades, “but… this or but that.” I know the brick walls that victims face and endure, especially with “church” and “Christians.” I know the bravery it takes to reach out yet another time for Godly healing with other humans.
Testing the waters: try again.
- Say something about sexual abuse and see what the response is
- Ask for examples from members of a church that have received support, and go talk to them, did they truly feel supported or not
- Remember that talk is not action – just because a church says they will help does not make it so – ask to see the ACTIONS
- Keep moving on until you find help and support
- Don’t blame yourself for others not stepping up, just dust off your sandals and move on
There are healthy Godly resources out there. Yes, it is very hard to find the sincere ones. It is YOUR healing that is the priority so you can fulfill God’s will in your particular life.
“Revealing your feeling is the beginning of healing!” ~ Pastor Rick Warren
Pastor Rick Warren has such a good point, “you don’t have to tell everyone, just tell someone who will support you.”
To get from fake community/fellowship through the journey of truth can be rough at times. There are so many phony people that it is frightening to take this journey, especially after all of the disappointments and abuse you have already endured.
You might even feel like you are the losing your mind. Instead, as Beth Moore discovered, we can FIND our minds, find our sanity, because we sought out healing. To me, this is the most enlightening stage of healing. YOU are not the crazy one. YOU do not have things mixed up or confused. YOU are so much saner than you even realize.
You can get healing with the help of other people and Jesus. The “church” is supposed to be a place of healing and hope, reflecting Jesus at every turn. Remember that churches are made up of humans, sinful broken human beings who hurt others. Keep searching for Godly sincere support.
Suggested by Kay Warren:
Watch this powerful video…
Most of my clients have been sexually abused and are now dealing with the health ramifications of the emotional struggles of it. It is linked. It is complicated. It can be healed.
Maribeth Baxter, MBEC (Contact me for support if you are comfortable doing so)