PART 1: Warning – This article may be inappropriate for younger readers. Please seek the permission of a parent or guardian before reading further.
Lately, I’m hearing a lot about suicide or suicide attempts. It’s becoming increasingly clear to me, however, that what I’m hearing about even more often is childhood sexual abuse.
Some might say this epidemic of childhood sexual abuse is another “sign of the Apocalypse.” After all, the Scriptures declare: “…in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away,” (2 Timothy 3:1-5). Hmmm…lovers of selves…disobedient to parents…without natural affection…lovers of pleasure…they may even have a form of godliness. Wow. Certainly, with Satan’s track record for hating and murdering children throughout history, it’s a pretty good guess that he could have his hand in this current epidemic, too.
Epidemic? Perhaps. Based on reported cases, US Justice Department statistics reveal that one in every four girls and one in every six boys (2.78 million guys) will be sexually abused before the age of eighteen.
JESUS: LORD OF THE SEXUAL PREDATORS?
The media is filled with stories about childhood sexual abuse involving everyone from ministers to siblings. Just this morning, a headline screamed that an Abilene minister was sentenced for sexually abusing a foster child. Though most Christians will likely find quite appalling the stories and statistics I’ve recently been pouring over, one thing we cannot forget – one thing that we absolutely MUST bear in mind – is that Jesus died for sex offenders, too.
I know. I know. I cringed as I was reminded of that fact. I recall a man angrily declaring, “I hope there’s an exceedingly hot place in Hell for child abusers!” Even within our prisons, child sex offenders are looked upon as being the worst of the worst. But let’s remember, in most cases, child abusers were once sexually molested, precious little children, too.
The cycle must be broken.
I firmly believe that there are some God-fearing Christians reading this right now who are struggling with personally sexually abusing children and that he – or she (about 60% of male survivors report at least one of their perpetrators was/is female) – needs to know that God loves them with an everlasting love and NOTHING can separate them from that love.
Jesus is the way out. Friends, you CAN get help. Your life is a struggle and you’ve known all along that something just wasn’t “right” in your life. Let’s deal with it. NOW! There’s a reason why every one of us is the way we are. We are receptacles but yours is NOT an insurmountable problem. In the same way your problem has gotten gradually worse, it really CAN get better.
In addition, I am certain that there are scores of readers who were victims of childhood sexual abuse. You need to know that there is no shame. You are not guilty. You are not “damaged goods” and God desires to empower you and use the story of your life to encourage many, many others who have believed the devil’s lies. There is an army just like you – an army looking for leadership – who needs to know the way out. Jesus is the WAY, working through you. Lead them out, back onto the battlefield where you can all make a difference as wounded, yet overcoming, soldiers. The planet is covered with people like you who need help. Go on and break the cycle. Yes, YOU!
To those who are neither sex offenders (who may even disdain those who commit these acts), or victims of childhood sexual abuse (who cannot relate to the emotional suffering they are experiencing that is impacting virtually every other aspect of their lives), I ask that you read this article, gather the facts, and ask that God would break your heart for both the abusers and the abused. This issue DOES involve you.
According to Ephesians Chapter 6 in the Holy Bible, our battle is NEVER against people, but against demonic forces at work in people’s lives. We must see those who hurt people as hurting people. Let us perceive them as we would a child playing on a playground, oblivious to the rabid dog approaching. Do we get angry at the child or run to their defense with prayer, encouragement and counsel?
WHAT ONE SURVIVOR SAYS
Here’s what one survivor of childhood sexual abuse had to say about her journey toward victory after being abused by a minister in her church: …abuse touched every aspect of my life – emotional, physical, relational and spiritual. I lived with a victim mentality for over thirty years until I learned to be a survivor.
I was angry with everyone, and afraid to trust anyone. Shame and guilt became my constant companions, convincing me that I somehow encouraged the abusers’ advances. I built protective barriers to avoid loving and being loved.
It seemed as though my body defied me by bringing unsolicited sexual advances, thus becoming my own worst enemy. I took revenge against my body, forcing it to make restitution for its disloyalty as I smoked, drank, and over-ate my way to false comfort.
Because adults betrayed and humiliated me, I became rebellious, refusing to submit to authority. I kept intimate relationships at bay for fear someone I cared about would learn my secret.
Because some of my abusers were “upstanding” members in the church clergy, I couldn’t trust a God who seemed indifferent to my suffering and who allowed adults to abuse me. I was afraid of that kind of love, so I rejected God and the counsel of the church.
I suffered silently for more than thirty years before it became imperative that I face the issues of sexual abuse in my life. I couldn’t carry the burden and pain alone. I had to face the past, deal with the hurts and learn to live in the present. The “protective tools” I selected as a twelve-year old abused child – anger, bitterness and refusal to forgive – caused me more pain rather than relief, since I longed for love, acceptance and affirmation.
I didn’t want to forgive, however, because forgiving my abusers seemed to reduce the significance of the crime and their need for punishment…I felt warranted in my desire for justice… I did nothing to cause the abuse – it wasn’t my fault. However, I was responsible for my refusal to forgive and my willingness to hate and harm rather than to love using healthy boundaries. I was wrong for judging all people as evil because of the crimes of a few. Refusing to forgive, to accept and receive love and to constructively deal with my anger and fear was hurting me, not my abusers. I had to stop running from my longings for loving relationships.
This realization sent me into a fierce battle – a matter of life and death. I felt I was teetering on the ledge of sanity versus insanity by the tips of my fingers, my body dangling above the abyss of despair. I was afraid of change, but even more afraid of the pain I carried. But I didn’t try to hide from the truth this time.
I understood the abuse was so invasive it would be a lifelong recovery process. Just the thought of letting go of the anger and the grief was hard to bear so I prayed…Eventually, God eliminated the pain from my past, but I’m yet learning to deal with the present, which is strongly influenced by my past.
DEFINING CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE
Here’s one appropriate definition: “Any sexual activity initiated by a peer or adult without consent is abuse, including physical, visual or verbal stimuli.” As a rule of thumb, it’s when a person invades the physical or psychological realm of a child or touches them sexually. This invasion results in the child suffering physical and/or psychological damage.
I talked with the father of three young daughters who, after viewing a pornographic video while his girls were sleeping, hit ‘rewind’ and went to bed. He was horrified the next morning as he walked in on his innocent little girls, still in their pajamas, huddled around the TV, eating Lucky Charms, watching daddy’s erotic film. Twenty years later, the girls have had multitudes of unnecessary personal, sexual and relational burdens to bear, including teen pregnancy and other psychological issues. Granted, they may have wound up that way anyway, but as I relay that story to you, I cannot help but wonder if we, as a society, aren’t just as guilty of the sexual abuse of our nation’s children as we expose them to all sorts of off-color, even blatantly sexual examples from the immodest fashions of pop-singers to adult sit-coms and sexual content in films and printed subject matter. Children should not have to try and process the garbage we feed them by way of the media. We adults are having a hard enough time processing all the junk we’re exposed to.
Many people don’t realize that they have, in actuality – by definition – been sexually abused. See, the term ‘sexual abuse’ encompasses a wide variety of inappropriate actions from so-called “victimless” crimes like voyeurism and indecent exposure, to child molestation, incest and rape. Voyeurism and indecent exposure are often “gateway crimes” that can start an offender down the path to more serious action.
Here’s a myth-buster: Contrary to popular belief, the perpetrators of sex offenses are NOT acting out of sexual desires; their primary motive is simply POWER. Child abusers may become so demonically oppressed that they give way to a stronghold and begin to seek domination – CONTROL – over others who are easy prey. When one abusive act fails to satisfy, they find themselves wanting more. The acts can often become so dangerous that nothing short of taking a human life will stop the urge. To sex offenders, victims are not seen as being real people, but as OBJECTS to be dominated.
A MAJOR SOCIAL ISSUE
How pervasive is sexual abuse of children? It’s estimated that there are 60 million child rape survivors in the USA today. Children with disabilities are 4 to 10 times more vulnerable to sexual abuse than their non-disabled peers (Source: National Resource Center on Child Sexual Abuse, 1992). Long term effects of child abuse include fear, anxiety, depression, anger, hostility, inappropriate sexual behavior, poor self esteem, tendency toward substance abuse and difficulty with close relationships. (Source: Browne & Finkelhor, 1986).
Adolescents with a history of sexual abuse are significantly more likely than their counterparts to engage in sexual behavior that puts them at risk for HIV infection, according to Dr. Larry K. Brown, Rhode Island Hospital. According to Dr. Brown, “These results suggest two things. Abused kids need adequate counseling around abuse issues. A lot of these kids keep re-experiencing the anxiety and trauma for years.” The second issue, he said, is that “most therapy does not address current sexual behavior” and the anxieties that sexually abused adolescents experience. (Source: Larry K. Brown, M.D., et al, American Journal of Psychiatry 2000).
Did you know that, among both adolescent girls and boys, a history of sexual or physical abuse appears to increase the risk of eating disorders? Abused girls were more dissatisfied with their weight and more likely to diet and purge their food by vomiting or using laxatives and diuretics. These girls were also more likely to restrict their eating when they were bored or emotionally upset. This finding suggests that abused girls might experience higher levels of emotional distress, possibly linked to their abuse, and have trouble coping. Food restriction and perhaps other eating disorder behaviors may (reflect) efforts to cope with such experiences. (Source: Stephen A. Wonderlich, M.D., et al, University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Fargo, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 2000).