posted by Rebecca
By the end of October of 2012, I had been aware of the issue of sexual abuse (sometimes beyond my imaginings!) in “good Christian families” and from “good Christian leaders” for only about four months. This period of time constituted—I was and am painfully aware—only the barest blip on the timeline of suffering of the lives of many people.
In October of 2012, I hadn’t yet begun speaking out, but I had spent those months learning and praying. I often felt overwhelmed.
One day that month I wrote a letter and sent it to the people I knew at that time who I thought would be interested. I didn’t tell them, but the small group of people I sent it to consisted of only eight
But this letter reflected my heart desire, which hasn’t changed. So, with the blessing of my fellow administrators, who join me in prayer, I offer it here now.
To my friends who care about sexual abuse:
Today I prayed.
First I read II Corinthians chapters 6 and 7 (because I’m in II Corinthians) and I asked the Lord to speak to me through His written Word, to show me His Living Word. I didn’t anticipate much, because these chapters are all about Paul defending his apostleship. But ah, how wrong I was.
As I read, I was struck by several things. I was struck by the overwhelming kindness and gentleness of Paul toward people who trusted Jesus but scorned him, the apostle. I was struck (because I was reading the Amplified Bible) by Paul’s awareness of the spiritual battle, that we hold our weapons in our right hand (for attack) and in our left hand (for defense). I was struck that right there, when I least expected, the Amplified Bible talked about “incest.”
Today I prayed.
As I prayed in desperation, crying out for the glory of God, crying out against horrors that I don’t understand, as so often happens, my prayers settled into order. I saw four categories.
I prayed for the Perpetrators, those in our churches who are doing such terrible things, often to their own daughters, that the details have caused me to cry out to God with sleepless nights. True repentance! Or, and here I tremble, millstones.
I prayed for the Enablers/Victim-Blamers, a category of people, mostly pastors and other leaders, with significant overlap into the Perpetrator category. Though they don’t commit the actual physical assaults, they cover for the perps, they make excuses, they blame the victims, they give sadistic “counselling,” the details of which would cause you to cry out to God with sleepless nights. I prayed for true repentance, and a true seeking of restoration for the victims and proper legal proceedings and church discipline for the accused. Or . . . I tremble . . . judgment.
I prayed for the Clueless. These people overlap with the Enablers/Victim-Blamers because some of them are so clueless that they tell you “we all have sin, so you can’t judge” and “you must be bitter because you can’t just forgive and forget.” But many of the people in this category are truly simply unaware of the terrible situation of sexual abuses in our churches and colleges and seminaries and camps and Christian schools and youth groups. They’re clueless—as I was—about the devastating long-term effects of sexual abuse on a victim. They need to be alerted, need to become aware, need to see the desperation of the situation, and they’ll respond. They’ll rise up. They’ll join the small army.
I prayed for the Victims. I wish I could say Former Victims, but I understand enough now that I know that often through “counseling” and continued harsh treatment from Christians who don’t understand, and especially through the flashbacks and PTSD, these souls continue to be victimized. (I’m learning more and more that recovery from sexual abuse is not necessarily by the faith of a moment, but by faith that is exercised moment by moment even in the midst of terrible darkness that seems like it won’t end.) Unfortunately, the Victim category can overlap with the Clueless, because there are Victims who have been told “let the past be the past” and “all sins are equally heinous and you know you’ve had a proud thought,” so they try to stuff it and tell others to do so too, even though their own nightmares need to be confronted. Even though criminal behavior needs to be prosecuted.
And when I had finished praying and returned to the car, I realized that there was another category. It was the category I myself am in, and some of the people I’m writing to.
It’s the Aware, the former Clueless who have been alerted. For me, this journey is just beginning, but some of us have already been traveling the road of Victim Advocacy in fundamentalist churches for years, with great passion, and have learned what persecution means. Some of us have sacrificed of our health and our loved ones.
So I prayed for us. We’re opening our hearts, opening our ears, listening to what it means to be a victim of sexual abuse and victim-blaming, especially from those who claim to love God. We’re seeking God for understanding. We all want very much to do something, to move forward against this monstrous sin, as God directs. God will direct different ones of us in different ways, but we’ll move forward without fear. We’re wearing the armor of God, through the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We carry the sword of the Spirit. We fight for the weak, the helpless, the children. We fight not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers of darkness in high places.
This is a spiritual battle. So today I prayed.
In the confidence of victory, with outpourings of love and joy,