Brave-Part one here-
I have a gone a long time in my life without careening into my old nemesis, sexual abuse. But perhaps in part because my own daughters have reached an age where their experience splits drastically from my own, and in part because I am deliberately writing about the subject, I am again confronted almost daily by benign events which elicit a fair amount of trauma. It can get rough in this heart of mine.
But the thing is, I know this experience is normal. While I live a life full of both freedom and joy, these decades-old wounds sometimes still send out their signals of pain–as all old wounds will–telling me there’s more healing to be had. Because of this reality I really want to emphasize the following:
1) The Consequences Of Abuse Can Last A Lifetime.
It must be underscored that even minor brushes with abuse have long-reaching consequences. We must all understand that when we talk about sexual abuse, we are not talking about events in a person’s life that stand alone. Rather, we are discussing something that, once having occurred, will affect the survivor’s life as long as they live. In varying measures, dependent largely upon the nature and severity of the abuse and the nature and means of healing, a survivor of sexual abuse will relive the trauma again and again. That’s because sexual abuse is a trauma. And traumas of all shapes and sizes imprint themselves irrevocably on our brains. Our hearts and minds will forever be undoing the damage, untangling the lies, and seeking out truth and restoration.
2) Christian Believers Are Not Exempt From Abuse’s Consequences
People of faith are not removed from the long-reaching consequences of any trauma, including sexual abuse. Yes, we believers in Jesus have experienced salvation, redemption, and healing. Yes, in a million ways we have been set free. I have experienced first-hand the amazing work of Christ in my life, the sweet ministry of his spirit to the broken places in my past, and the glorious joy that buoys my spirit and allows me to laugh at the days ahead. I am not bound to the sins I once committed nor to the sins that have been committed against me. But because I am human, because I live in a fallen world, then even as a believer in Christ I will confront sins’s ugly consequences.
We who look to Jesus to be the author and finisher of our faith will learn to walk with him through the body of the story he’s writing in our lives. God can miraculously and instantaneously remove abuse’s scars, and often he does. But more frequently the healing he offers is by means of the slow and life-long journey. There is no shame in this. None at all. It is an exciting cause for hope and rejoicing.
3) You Really Don’t Want This To Happen To Your Children
Yes, God heals, but we do not want our children to need such healing. Sexual abuse is a pain we desperately want them to do without. (If it does happen, then we move forward with God from there; Satan is a roaring lion seeking whom he can devour, and none of us are exempt. God is Savior and Healer yet.) Please become aware of the prevalence and reality of childhood sexual abuse in our world today. Be on guard. Make wise decisions. Prepare your kids. And take the subject very, very seriously. I write more about protecting and preparing children in this post.
4) But If It Does Happen, Here Is Some Encouragement
If you are on the outside, looking in on someone affected by sexual abuse, please allow both grace and time for that person to heal. Support them when their battles come. Encourage, and cheer them on. Choose your interferences prayerfully; I am referring primarily to they ways we approach adult survivors. Your perspective is valuable for it comes from a place less clouded by hurt and emotion. But if you have not experienced trauma, particularly the same trauma as the person you love, be very, very careful not to condemn or assume. Gentleness and a teachable spirit must be your watchwords at all times.
And finally, if you yourself are the survivor of childhood sexual abuse, do not be ashamed if your healing is slow to come. Do not despair if the dragon you thought was slain again lifts his fiery head. God is on the move, and always on your side. Go with him to those dark places, again, and again, and again; go as often as he calls. He is always leading you to Light.