Finding Healing after Sexual Abuse
- Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have a problem and don't know how to help myself. When I was about 6 or 7-years-old, I was sexually molested. For a long time, I did not think of it. It was like I blocked it out of my mind, but now it is affecting me and my marriage. I finally told my husband about it and he wants to help me with this, but doesn’t know how and neither do I. I just want it to go away before my marriage does. Can you help me, please?
Dear Name Withheld,
My youngest daughter was sexually abused by an Argentine exchange student when she was 16. Like so many victims, she kept the experience hidden. Some years later we noticed that she occasionally acted strangely around boys. We never figured out why until she joined the fencing team in college.
One evening she told us how she sometimes liked to aim her rapier (fencing sword) at her opponent's (male) private parts and thrust hard. It wasn't long until the whole, ugly, devastating story spilled out all over the kitchen table.
Thank God for Anne. Anne specialized in helping sexually abused women find healing and wellness. Today, our youngest is happily married, has a great job and is enjoying life.
I can’t tell you how much I grieve for you. What happened was so unfair and ugly. I’m not surprised that you banished the memories from your mind.
Several years ago one of our counselors and I surveyed a women’s Bible class of over 100 women and were shocked by the results. Fully 42% of the women in the room reported some form of sexual abuse before the age of 16.
You are not alone.
Fortunately, healing and relief are available.
Like my daughter who "acted out," many sexual abuse victims discover a number of feelings and emotions that will need healing along the way.
Before we talk about strategies for healing, let me share a few of the struggles you may encounter.
When we get hurt, the next emotion we feel is always anger. The hurt of your abuse is merciless. Somebody has stolen your happiness, and part of your life is missing. Don’t be surprised when you struggle in both of these areas.
You may find yourself angry with God. Once I was counseling a young rape victim who spit out the question: “Where was Jesus Christ when I was being raped at 14?" The abuse began with her father and expanded to include several of his friends.
If her question is not answered properly she may find herself unable or not wanting to look for God’s help as she works on her healing---or wanting nothing to do with him at all.
I looked at her with compassion and said, “We live in a fallen world and you were betrayed by the very persons Jesus brought into your life to care for and protect you. In a fallen world people do dastardly things. Fortunately, Jesus is in the business of helping us pick up the pieces, get healed, and get on with our lives.
Many counselors discover that almost all victims feel responsible and guilty for the abuse—especially those abused as children. These feelings often result in tremendous shame accompanied with a deep sense of worthlessness and self-condemnation.
You may discover your trust in men begins eroding away. Either consciously or subconsciously, all men are potential threats.
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