Who are you to think you have the right or responsibility to speak about these things?
Rebecca answers: For about four years I walked with a friend through a domestic abuse situation which involved a difficult court case. That was my introduction to hypocrisy whereby a man can be a respected elder in his church while living a life of manipulation, intimidation, and abuse at home.
Not long after this friend’s condition stabilized somewhat, through a series of divine appointments I was brought to a sudden and acute awareness of the sexual abuse situation at Bob Jones University. I began researching, reading many blogs and online articles, ordering books and reading them, watching online lectures, and talking with experts in the field and others who had been advocating for abuse survivors for many years. My learning curve has been steep in what was to me the new world of sexual abuse within “good Christian families” and “good Christian churches,” but my education was advanced perhaps the most through interaction with a few abuse survivors themselves, who have been kind and patient teachers. My abuse survivor friends are some of the most admirable people I know, struggling on in the face of abuse that, for many of them, continues to haunt them daily in their flashbacks and nightly in their nightmares. They keep going. They are heroes.
In the fall of 2012 I began posting about the matter of sexual abuse on various sites via social media. If anyone else who was never abused has made the decision to begin speaking out, you may be able to relate to the sense I had when I made my first post: “This is going to change my life.” One result is that I’ve connected with more and more abuse survivors. Many of them have told me only a little of their situation, others have told more details. A few I’ve had the privilege of walking with on their healing journey.
Kristi answers: Bob Jones University was where I met my husband, and it was the place of our employment for twelve years. Since we have remained in Greenville, we have maintained connections with alumni as well as students, faculty, and staff at BJU. We’ve stayed interested in BJU events, on occasion attending celebrations, plays, concerts, and the Living Gallery Easter programs. The influence of the University in our lives and the lives of many in this community has been profound. Therefore, as an alumna and former faculty member, I am tuned in to notice what’s happening there
Like Rebecca, there are situations in life that have opened my eyes to the very horrible reality of various types of abuse. Despite the personal discomfort and sorrow that has accompanied learning about these things, for the last several years now, I’ve pursued educating myself about all categories of abuse. I’ve read many articles and books by experts describing how abusers operate. I’ve spent time listening to counselors share godly wisdom regarding how to recognize and respond to abuse. Furthermore, through searching the Bible, I’ve seen that God has a lot to say about abusers and those who are afflicted by them.
In the last year (2014), I’ve had the opportunity to attend two conferences which have specifically addressed childhood sexual abuse in Christian communities. All of the speakers I’ve heard—pastors, psychologists, police detectives, social workers, and attorneys—without exception, every single one of them has simply and humbly allowed God to show them how to use their specific gifts to help the hurting and pursue justice. However, as persuasive as these conference speakers have been, nothing has moved me more than to hear accounts from survivors of childhood sexual abuse who have experienced betrayal on top of betrayal for as far back as they can remember. This knowledge—this education that I never knew I wanted—has broken my heart, and there is no turning back.
I am deeply burdened to pray for those who have been or still are a part of our community who have been violated and grossly misunderstood, shunned, shamed, blamed, and silenced. Their wounds are deep, and their healing journey is often slow, confusing, and painful. Part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ is to show compassion to those who are hurting by the way we respond to them. Another equally important aspect of being a disciple of Christ is to speak out against evil. I am a follower of Jesus Christ first and foremost, and following Him has brought me here.
Dale answers: In my book Tear Down this Wall of Silence: Dealing with Sexual Abuse in Our Churches (an introduction for those who will hear), I tell the story of my initiation into the dark world of sexual abuse, through my wife Faith, who was an incest victim of her independent Baptist pastor father for nine years when she was growing up. In 2005 Faith’s father was arrested for molesting another child, and as a result Faith and I began to learn the truths about abuse and replace the lies we had lived with for so many years. In 2008 we incorporated our nonprofit ministry Speaking Truth in Love, to help Christians be alerted to the truths about this issue in order to replace their own wrong thinking. I want to help do that in the situation with Bob Jones University as well.