Julie glanced at her phone; her heart stopped.
The text message read: “There’s no way he abused you. You’re lying, and you need to stop.”
Julie’s mouth opened. Her eyes, shocked by the language, the tone, the continued assault; all the while, her children deliriously jumped from bed to bed, laughing and giggling and snorting—free from the burden of their mama’s abuse.
Finally, she breathes.
Through her exhale Julie’s heart she cries out, unable to place words to what was in her heart: “How long, O Lord, until people believe me?! When are You going to show up and prove to people, in this situation, that You are God—El Roi—the One Who Sees, and that You saw EVERYTHING?! Show them that nothing will go without being scrutinized, not even his actions against me.”
As an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I relate to Julie’s cry unto the Lord, “How long, O Lord, do survivors have to go to such great lengths to tell their story?”
His reply, “Until they listen,” startled me.
So I’ve found my calling, to speak out about childhood sexual abuse until no child ever suffers shame, humiliation, and pain ever again.
In a recent article in Mature Living, Josh McDowell states: “You don’t get past [childhood sexual abuse] on your own. If you try to get past it by yourself, you won’t make it. I hear people say all the time, ‘All you need is Jesus,’ but that is just not true. You need the body of Christ…”
Each survivor needs Jesus and to relate to Him as a healer, a provider, and a protector.
Yet, each survivor needs the body of Christ to put flesh to that healing process. Each survivor needs mature believers who can listen, weep, and pray with each survivor, all the while, pointing the survivor to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The body of Christ needs confess its sin of ignorance and denial.
As a universal church, we cannot claim ignorance. How can we say, “I didn’t know it was a problem,” when so many in our midst, in our communities, in our families suffer? What’s worse, how can we know and be aware, yet do nothing?
The reality of the prevalence rests in the statistics: One in four girls and one in seven boys experience sexual abuse during childhood (The National Child Traumatic Stress Network).
Being a person of faith does not protect a child from abuse, as documented in McDowell’s article mentioned above: “…two Christian psychologists [McDowell] has worked with say the percentage of children who are sexually abused is the same in the secular and non-secular world – about 30 to 40 percent.”
The facts are the same across the believing board. The problem is widespread.
Additionally, the body of Christ needs confess its sin of defending the guilty.
Countless articles and news reports reveal how, time and time again, different churches or denominations have worked diligently to keep childhood sexual abuse quiet; all the while, they silence the victims, often categorized as a form of forgiveness on the victim’s part.
Make no mistake, forgiveness does need to take place for the health and wellness of all parties involved, but forgiveness does not negate responsibility, repentance, and appropriate boundaries.
What, then, shall we do?
- Pray. Ask the Lord for clarity, vision, and courage before engaging in any efforts to stop abuse or to engage in the healing process.
- Ask questions. How does your church protect itself from child abuse? What policies are in place, protecting its children and its Sunday school teachers? Does your church offer a recovery group for abuse survivors?
- Listen. Listen to the Holy Spirit. What is God speaking to you about this issue? How has God gifted you, strengthened you, or educated you in such a way to educate others around you.
- Act upon God’s guidance. After you ask the Lord to help you how you are to involve yourself, do it. Talk to your pastor and seek counsel on how to proceed for the betterment of the congregation. Consider asking mature believers to begin a prayer ministry where they pray for you as a leader, for those who need healing, and for those who are stuck in despair.
Only the Lord can specify how you are to involve yourself in the church regarding childhood sexual abuse.
However, when Julie and I come face-to-face, I do not want to be the one who says, “I’m so sorry that has happened to you,” and then dodge her at future congregational events.
Yes, I am only one person, and I can’t do everything. But so is Julie: she’s just one person.
Be that as it may, I want every Julie to find me as a safe place to share her heart, knowing that I will lift her sorrow up in prayer to the One Who Sees–El Roi.
I will speak up because He listens.
What’s your next step?
If you are a survivor, are you healed enough to participate in the healing journey of others? If not, what actions will you take in order to heal so that, one day, the Lord might use your story to assist others in their journey?
If you’re not a survivor, how might the Lord be calling you to work with other survivors in their healing journey? Could the Lord be asking you to speak up against childhood sexual abuse in some other fashion? Ask Him. He will answer.