Writing “heal” with black marker on her fingertips will not heal her heart. Nor will her heart heal from stuffing or ignoring her memories of sexual abuse, telling herself that the memories are really not there.
It’s a silly thought to think a heart can heal so quickly or to think that abusive memories are of no consequence.
Real damage requires real work toward restoration and wellness.
For the record, I’m not a counselor.
I am, however, an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse who desires to encourage others on their healing journey. You can read my story here.
One beginning step in healing from childhood sexual abuse is to give it a name.
Define what happened in the past by classifying it with the appropriate label: sexual abuse. Downgrading the significance of what took place prevents healing to reach every corner of your heart, soul, and mind.
Unfortunately, many people don’t understand all the levels of sexual abuse and aren’t able to experience complete healing as a result.
Over the past few years, I’ve heard these “downgrades” of sexual abuse, kinda sound something like this:
“He used to play panty games with me. I didn’t like it. I wish I had never played along with the game. “
“You know, my neighbor used to invite me in to his house to eat a snack after I got off the bus. Porn played on the television every time I went in there. I only watched it a couple of times.”
The first example given cannot possibly be classified as just a game. Competitive play for mutual amusement should not develop shame, fear, or ambivalence in the soul of any party. These emotive responses classically follow incidents of sexual abuse.
The second example doesn’t include actual physical contact between neighbor and child. However, interaction stimulating sexual arousal within the adult at the child’s expense leaves little room for excuse as the interaction being accidental.
When I was beginning my healing journey, I remember the shock and horror I experienced after I realized what I had experienced with a family member was called rape. My classic understanding of rape meant that a penis enters a vagina.
To my knowledge, I have no memory of a rape, classically speaking. However when I explored my state law and realized that any kind of penetration to the genitals is considered rape, I gasped air, felt my stomach drop, and blurred went my vision. I had been raped.
Attributing this definition to my experience snapped me to attention, and, instantly, the label as a sexual violation helped me realize the seriousness of what had taken place against me. It wasn’t an innocent exploration of bodies.
Why does it matter to call it sexual abuse?
Definitively sexual abuse is the violation of anyone’s person, sexually, including physical touch and sexual exposure. By recognizing the ill-intent of the child-abuser, it highlights the goodness God intended.
Let me explain.
The sexual abuser uses the victim to satisfy his or her lust for sex or power. This is sin. However, God intended sexual relations between one man and one woman to function as a marriage gift, creating union, intimacy, and delight. This is good.
Calling the sin “sin,” highlights the goodness of the “good” gift.
Refusal to call sexual abuse “sexual abuse” not only prevents healing, but also generates a false-pretense of what happened. He is an abuser: not a friend. As a result, the victim re-patterns future relationships after the abuser–even on a miniature scale.
Softening the name of sexual abuse permits evil to pervade even more. When we refuse to label our sin accurately, we quiet any conversation that would prevent calling out perversion. We silence victims. Perpetrators, then, continue on, damaging more and more innocent souls.
So, label it sin.
Scripture does not avoid God’s hatred of sin. Any, and all sin cannot exist within God’s holy presence.
Yet, the pattern God has given us is that of grace, love, and provision. Through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ, we have been set free from our sin and the sins committed against us.
This is why healing is important.
If our identity is in Christ, we can live in freedom. If we fail to call the sin that happened against us as sexual abuse, we cannot experience the fullness of God’s freedom He has predestined for us.
And, oh, how He desires us to walk in His freedom.
My prayer is that this post will function in one of two ways.
I hope that it will allow those of you at the beginning of your healing journey to feel encouraged, supported, and challenged to pursue Jesus. You’ve been sexually abused. The abuse damaged you, and God desires to heal you through His Son, Jesus.
I pray that my words would become a resource you may forward to family, friends, and social-media connections, who may benefit from this discussion
What’s your next step?
Where are you in your healing journey? In what ways have you experienced the freedom and joy of Christ through calling your sexual abuse “sexual abuse”?
Read about the next leg of the healing journey:
Join me on the healing journey.
Subscribe to She Dares to Voice and have the next leg of the journey delivered right to your inbox.