The recent reported moral failure by Christianity Today within the Southern Baptist Convention’s former leadership is absolutely heart wrenching. The National Center for Victims of Crime reports that approximately 1 in 5 girls are subjected to childhood sexual abuse. The number is based on cases that are disclosed. Many cases go undisclosed so this statistic is bound to be on the low side. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center states that an astounding 81% of women report experiencing some sort of sexual abuse, assault or harassment. Eighty-one percent is mind boggling.
A list of effects of sexual abuse include depression, isolation, hyper-independence, substance abuse, mental illness, panic attacks, eating disorders, low self esteem, sleep disorders, inappropriate relational attachments and suicide. When a victim is intimidated into keeping their abuse silent, they are subjected to further emotional abuse. When it happens at the hand of a mentor, pastor, minister, or clergy it is also spiritual abuse. The time and effort it takes to recover from this type of abuse is extensive, sometimes taking years, sometimes taking decades. It’s a process that extremely difficult but healing can be attained.
I speak from experience. My sister, Tammy, and I both were sexually abused as children, and while our abuse did not happen at the hands of those in ministry, it was devastating. The sense of false shame sexual abuse survivors experience is crushing. When abuse victims claims are hushed up, minimized or denounced they suffer all over again, often feeling like what was done to them and what was someone else’s responsibility and failure is their own.
This experience of false shame leads one to believe they are unworthy, which often makes them withdraw even further from God than they might already be. I know because Tammy and I both walked this path. I walked away from God for a decade. Tammy struggled with bipolar depression, drug addiction, unhealthy relationships, and low self esteem. I am so grateful that God pursued me all those years, that I found Him and that he created me to persevere. My healing has taken DECADES, and Tammy’s did too. About 2 years before she passed away, I took her to a retreat where she finally understood what the love of a father was supposed to look like. She completely surrendered her life to Jesus and was healed from multiple personality disorder, her addiction issues and her depression.
Over the years God has delivered me from unforgiveness, fear, false shame, hopelessness and despair. It is only by His grace that I experience a life of healing and wholeness, a life of joy in Him.
I can’t imagine how much more difficult it would have been to come to a place of surrendering to God if my abuse had been at the hands of someone in ministry. My heart aches for all of those who have been abused by not only what happened to them but also by how they were treated when they attempted to bring the truth to light. They have been sexually, emotionally & spiritually abused. Please pray with me that they can find their healing in Christ, and that the damage they have experienced is not permanent.
And, if you have suffered similar abuse, please find someone you can confide in and that can help you find the freedom, identity and purpose God has for you. You are worthy of His love, He is grieved by the atrocities committed against you and He longs to show you what His love really looks like.
If you don’t have anyone to talk, I am here for you!! I’d love to support you, encourage you, and pray with you. There is abundant life after abuse if you allow yourself to do the hard work of dealing with your trauma. Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org I am a Certified Life Coach with an Associates Degree and in Christian Ministry and training in crisis and trauma care offering coaching and crisis care.