Sexual abuse carries with it the potential to deeply affect a person throughout his or her life, especially when the abuse happened in childhood. The effects are deep and long-lasting.
Those of us who have never experienced sexual abuse have difficulty understanding its enduring effects in the lives of abuse survivors. We can gain understanding by considering an example of the barbaric guerillas in the country of Colombia. They sometimes took Christian pastors and sawed off their limbs and left them to die.
Imagine now that one of these men survived. Years later, every time he looks in the mirror he sees what he perceives as a shapeless mass of a man. Every time he tries to sleep, he wakes up with screaming nightmares.
Now what if his godly counselor said, “That happened years ago. The fact that you’re still dreaming about it means you haven’t forgiven the ones who hurt you. You must just be bitter.”
It’s hard to imagine someone saying that because his wounds are clearly visible and one can readily see how he has been fundamentally affected by them. Any reasonable person who loves God would be moved to compassion for him.
Sexual abuse can shatter a person in a similar way. A sexually abused person might struggle all his life with nightmares and flashbacks, shame and even despair. He might look in the mirror and see the ghost of a man (or woman).
A person’s inability to understand this truth does not make it any less true.
Another important point to consider is that though one person’s abuse may have taken place years ago, if the perpetrator of the abuse has never been brought to justice, there is a very real possibility that he may still be currently abusing others. This possibility often weighs very heavy on the consciences of abuse survivors who feel as if they’re responsible for others.