Support for parents of abuse victims.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the parents of abuse victims, and how hard it must be for them, and the lack of support they often have. Now that I’m a Mom it hits me even harder, even just the thought of this happening to my daughter breaks my heart into a million pieces. Im so thankful I had a Mom who believed me, fought for me, and supported me when I told, and continues to support me today. I want to publicly thank her and let her know what it meant to me, I hope this will also bring encouragement to other parents as well.

Thank you Mom,

For believing me immediately, and for fighting for me, even when it wasn’t the outcome we wanted. That helped me to know I was valued and worth fighting for.

Thank you for putting me in counseling and always encouraging me to continue to seek healing as an adult. That helped me to be hopeful, believe healing was possible, and that I wasn’t a lost cause or damaged beyond repair.

Thank you for allowing me to heal on my own terms and timeline. That helped me to be ok with not being ok, and that I was loved unconditionally.

Thank you for continuing to stand up and fight for me, even when you were being attacked and lied about by my abuser. This taught me to stand up for what’s right, even when it’s hard and scary, and people are against me. This made me brave.

Thank you for honoring my boundaries. This helped me to stick up for myself, and my boundaries without shame.

Thank you for being strong for me when I’m sure all you wanted to do was fall apart. This made my healing possible.

You are my hero, and I love you so much.

When abuse is in the family.

I can remember the exact day I realized that I was an incest victim, I was in 8th grade at the movies with a group of friends, it was part of the plot in the movie. My heart sank, I felt exposed and if you could die of embarrassment and shame, I would have dropped dead in my seat. I felt shattered in that moment and none of my friends had a single clue any of that was going on inside of me. Because my abuser was my biological father the layers and family dynamics have and still are so complicated. As I’m writing this as a 39 year old, my father is still trying to convince people that I am a liar, and made all this up, and that he is the actual victim. If you are a victim of incest, you are not alone, it’s not your fault and you didn’t deserve it. I understand the many more layers this adds to your healing and the never ending family drama this can cause when you refuse to be silent about it. You are not responsible for any of the mess this may bring to your family, ALL of the resposibilty belongs to the abuser.

Here is what I would have told my 8th grade self now.

You get through it. You are not alone, you are not the only one who has been through incest. None of the shame or embarrassment falls on you, all of that belongs to your dad. You don’t owe anyone, especially family, any proof or explanation for any of the the abuse you had to go through, the right and helpful ones will believe you automatically. healing comes, you are not dirty, used, unlovable or guilty for any of this. You will actually become incredibly strong and God uses you to help others who are hurting in some amazing ways. You will never get the apology you wanted so bad, but God frees you from needing that, and that is one of the best gifts you will ever receive. You become a wife and a mother and you feel so incredibly loved by Jesus. You don’t have to stay quiet just to keep the peace in the family,  and even though it’s a hard thing for people to hear, you aren’t responsible for the drama is causes, you will be believed and supported by most. This is only a part of your story, and this doesn’t define who you are, or hold you back from fufilling the purpose God has for your life.

Sexual assault and the God and church struggle.

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?” C.S. Lewis

Many survivors struggle with God ,and or church. Sexual assault is a horrendous sin and crime, and It’s completely normal and understandable to have this struggle. One of my counselors told me that sexual abuse is an attack on your soul, and that put words to something I felt so deeply. I personally never struggled with God, I felt like God was my only safe place, but I had a huge struggle with the church and pastors specifically.

The church for me, has been a place of pain and a place of comfort. I’m hoping my stories of both will help with supporting survivors better.

When I was at 6th grade church camp, I told my counselor I was being abused by my dad, she rightfully told the pastor who happened to also be my uncle. He did nothing about it, and told no one. At that point the Justice system had already failed me and now a Pastor and family member also did the same. That was when I finally stopped telling.

Another time I was hurt by the church was at another church camp, I was 17, they separated the boys and the girls and they had us sign a paper that we would stay virgins until we were married, and if we had already messed up we had to sign the secondary virgin paper. This was awful for many reasons, but especially for a young girl who was abused, this made my shame and guilt a million times worse. I loved Jesus deeply but both of these experiences drove me away from the church for a long time, I felt like pastors and christians just couldn’t be trusted and I wanted nothing to do with them.

Thankfully I also had incredibly helpful and loving christians in my life as well, that helped me along the way. My Mom who fought and did all that she could to help me, believed me and loved me. My Grandma who always pointed me to Jesus and talked to me endlesly about Him and all of the millions of questions I had about Him and the Bible. Beneta, my safe person and counselor who taught me that Jesus sees me as pure, beautiful and innocent and helped me properly see Gods grace and love for me. My Seattle church pastors and community who redeemed the hurt I felt by my previous experience and helped nurture my love of Gods people again, and a joy for serving the church. My current San Diego church and community who have been so incredibly supportive of me, and my blog, and who want to be better educated on this subject.

I’ve learned along the way to fight against the lies that we can believe with Gods truths. And the truth is, God loves you even if you don’t love him back. He grieves with you, seeks justice for you and wants healing for you. The most beautiful depiction of this is the cross. ” All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” Romans 3:23-25

Healing is a long journey, with many struggles along the way, but there is hope for your healing.

My highlight reel on the Valued Conference.

I attended this conference last week, and it was chalked full of insightful, helpful and life giving information. It left me feeling incredibly hopeful for the future in and out of the church. Here is my personal highlight reel on this two day conference. Here is the live stream

Powerful quotes from Valued

“ Your son has a much higher chance of being sexually assaulted than he does of being falsely accused of sexual assault. A much, much higher chance.”

Rachael Denhollander

“Justice is always done. It either falls on the abuser or, if he repents, it falls on the Redeemer. But Justice is always done because evil is real and it matters to God, and it should matter to us.”

Rachael Denhollander

“The grace of God is not proven by the foolishness of allowing perpetrators to serve in places where they can abuse again.”

Justin Holcomb

“I have never had to tell a Christian abuse survivor ‘you need to start thinking about forgiveness.’ Why on earth would I cut down a wounded person like that?”

Justin Holcomb

“You are not guilty for the sin and crime done to you.”

Justin Holcomb

“I’m tired of abusive Christian leaders getting away with abuse for years because of the ‘great things they’ve done for God.’ Enough!

Boz Tchividjian

“Anger is not a sin. It’s actually a really good response to being sinned against…Justice and holiness is who God is…God is angrier than you are.”

Justin Holcomb

“For more than a decade, with the exception of last year…the number one reason that churches are found liable in the federal court system is for sexual assault on church property.”

Rachael Denhollander

“It’s proper to use the word trauma for sexual abuse. Sexual abuse survivors are second only to war vets in suffering from PTSD.”

Justin Holcomb

Things Parents and Caregivers can do to Protect Children.

Statistics

  • 1 in 5 children will be sexualy assaulted before 18.
  • Most children know their attacker.
  • 34% are family members.
  • 59% are acquaintances.
  • 7% are strangers.
  • 40% of children who are sexually abused are abused by older, or more powerful children.

9 helpful tips to teach children.

  1. Explain to your child that God made their body. God made them and called them very good. Their body has integrity.
  2. Teach proper names for private parts.
  3. Inviting Communication on this subject
  4. Teaching about touch. Inappropriate and appropriate.
  5. Don’t ask a child to maintain emotions.
  6. Throw out the word secret and replace it with surprise.
  7. Clarify rules for playing doctor. Use stuffed animals or broken toys not people. Your body is not a game.
  8. Identify who to trust.
  9. Report suspected abuse immediately. Don’t investigate.

A helpful book

“God Made All of Me: Helping Children Protect Their Bodies.” by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb

Child Safeguarding

Preventing with Excellence

Churches should have policies and procedures that will protect children, along  with providing child-protection training to all its members. At minimum, these policies should address such basic issues such as the following.

  • Background screenings for all church workers and volunteers; this must not be limited to simply a criminal background check.
  • Parameters related to adult-child on and off church property, including physical contact, in-person interactions, electronic communications, and privacy issues.
  • Similar type of parameters related to child-on-child contact.

Offer personal safety classes to children and youth. Such classes should

  • Teach younger children the parts of their body covered by a bathing suit are not to be touched by an adult.
  • Teach older youth ways to guard against becoming too “attached” to a non-parental adult, including, but not limited to, being alone with adults.
  • Educate older youth about how sexual offenders think and act.
  • Instruct children of all ages what to do if they are inappropriately touched or simply uncomfortable around a certain adult or peer.
  • Explain to all youth the difference between sinning and being the victim of sin.
  • Identify and make available qualified resources for youth who have been abused.

Responding with Excellence

  • Rejecting the culture of rebuke and silence.
  • Being prepared to respond. Develop a policy that provides a specific protocol for the way the institution will address abuse disclosures.
  • Make sure that the allegations have been reported to law enforcement.
  • Make sure that the child does not have contact with the alleged perpetrator while on church property or at church events.

Resources on safeguarding your church

Recommended Resources

Books

“Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault.” by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb

“God Made All of Me: Helping Children Protect Their Bodies.” by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb

“Is it My Fault? Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence.” by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb

“Caring for Survivors of Sexual Abuse” by Basyle Tchividjian and Justin Holcomb

“The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide for Churches and Ministries” by Basyle Tchividjian and Shira M. Berkovits

“Protecting Children From Abuse in The Church” by Basyle Tchividjian

“On This Rock: A Call to Center the Christian Response to Child Abuse on the Life and Words of Jesus.” by Victor Vieth

“What the Bible Says to Abuse Survivors and Those Who Hurt Them” by Victor Vieth

“Suffering and the Heart of God: Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores” by Diane Langberg

“On the Threshold of Hope” by Diane Langberg

“Counseling Survivors of Sexual Abuse” by Diane Langberg

The Spiritual Impact of Sexual Abuse” by Diane Langberg

“Not Marked: Hope & Healing After Sexual Abuse’ by Mary DeMuth

“A Place for Weakness: Preparing Yourself for Suffering” by Michael S. Horton

Websites

Brad Hambrick’s lecture series: bradhambrick.com/sexualabuse/

Netgrace.org


The importance of survivor stories.

“I’m continually blown away at the strength of survivors telling their stories. After years of abuse they know that telling their story will garner attacks by ignorant people, and they still tell. All the more reason we need to encourage and honor survivors. ” Jimmy Hinton

Survivor stories will play a huge role in decreasing the statistics on sexual assault. I’m thankful our culture is starting to listen and want to be educated on this epidemic. Here are a few ways Survivor stories will play a powerful role in that.

They will help us understand and identify all the different type predators and the methods they use to abuse.

A great example of two different ways predators operate have been shown recently in the two documentaries, Surviving R Kelly and Leaving Neverland. R Kelly used his fame and young girls wanting to make it in the music industry. Then once he got them isolated from their families he was controlling, cruel and used fear to abuse them. Micheal Jackson also used his fame to his advantage, but instead of using fear to control he convinced his victims that he was the victim, and needed them to help him not be lonely and to make up for his lost childhood. He used love and gifts to abuse them.

Survivors telling their stories also help other survivors begin their healing process. No matter what your story is, it’s important and helpful. I think often times people shy away from sharing their story because they think they didn’t have it as bad as someone else, and that is absolutely untrue. If you remember everything or if your memories are fuzzy both of your stories are important. If your abuse occurred over years or it was only once, both stories are valid and helpful. If you knew your abuser or it was a stranger, both stories need to be heard. If you told and turned your abuser in or you have never told a single soul, both stories will be relatable to someone. If you are healed or just starting the process both stories can help save lives. Both men and and women’s stories are equally as important and desperately need to be heard. All stories matter.

Survivors stories help us better educate and teach our children how to protect themselves, as well as making it harder for predators to operate.

I pray that our world will be a kinder and safer space for these stories to be told, and for those telling their stories now, I stand with you, and respect you pushing through the evil for the greater good.

Narrative change

One of the biggest narratives I would love to be a part of changing is that if you are a survivor of childhood sexual assault, then your future is doomed and you forever will be a mess. That simply is not true. I don’t want to downplay the trauma and the trials that do come along with being a survivor, but no one is ever hopeless because of any trauma they have gone through. I know many survivors who are incredibly successful, heathy, loving people, who went through hell and came through it with more compassion, strength and love for others than most. Let’s stop this lie and be a part of rooting people on for healing and hope. Here are some of my thoughts on how to start changing this narrative.

Encourage survivors to seek professional help. I have been in counseling most of my life off and on and it has been huge on helping me to be able to recover from my trauma and flourish in the way God intended my life to be. It is never too late to seek help and start the healing process.

Correct people when they make negative or hopeless comments. I know this one is kinda scary, but it’s something that I have been doing that last couple of years, and if you do it in a kind way I have found they appreciate the honesty and perspective.

Listen to survivors stories, they are incredibly powerful, insightful and bring so much truth on this subject and can really help change some people’s assumptions about survivors.

This world can be hard, and unfortunately no one gets out without some type of pain or hardship, but no one is ever too far gone or defined by it. Let’s help people find hope.

The book that helped me heal.

Have you ever read a book you wish everyone would read, not just because it’s written well but because it’s gonna help save lives? That’s exactly how I feel about Rid Of My Disgrace by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb. This book was crucial in my healing from sexual assault. The book has a wealth of knowledge, not only for survivors but for anyone who wants to help in the prevention, education, and support of sexual assault victims. I’m going to highlight some of my favorite parts of the book, and what was particularly helpful for me. But do yourself a favor and read this book.

“Disgrace destroys, causes pain, deforms, and wounds. It alienates and isolates.” “Grace is love that seeks you out even if you have nothing to give in return.” The book starts off with these two definitions and immediately I was hooked. Unlike the millions of the books I had read on this subject, I could tell this one was going toget to the heart of the issue and be a tool for real healing.

The first part of the book really goes into detail defining what sexual assault is and the effects it has on the victim. One quote that really struck a chord with me was, “Many victims feel the effects of sexual assault but are isolated or confused because they believed a popular misconception of what sexual assault entails.” One of the ways I would cope with being a survivor was to minimize the traumas that happened to me, and this lengthy explanation helped me to fully understand and grieve the sins committed against me.

The last part of the book has survivors stories, which is such a powerful, helpful, and hard thing to hear, but it really made me feel less alone and more understood. The book ends on healing and handing over your wounds to Jesus, our healer. This book left me feeling so loved by God, and so hopeful for my future. I’ll end this with another beautiful truth from the book. “Grace re-creates what violence destroyed.”

I hope this book is as helpful to you as it was to me.

Freaked out about childcare.

I knew that the day I became a Mom, childcare, sleepovers, church camps, and all of the fun childhood events would be a serious struggle. I prayed and prayed while I was pregnant for help to hand this worry over to God.

When my baby was five months old, I found out the most heartbreaking news- my abuser had other victims. After this, my fear for putting my daughter in childcare grew immensely and I found myself dropping out of commitments that involved childcare. I was one of the rare victims that actually told and turned in my abuser while it was happening, but unfortunately, our system has failed children and sexual assault victims for far too long, and he was free to continue to abuse. And he did.

I was talking to a friend and fellow survivor about how she handled childcare with her kids and how she’s not in a constant panic. She wisely told me that the same grace that God gave us to get through it, will be the same grace God will give our kids with whatever hardships they go through, and the best things we can do as parents is to talk and educate our kids on this subject from a young age.

One incredibly helpful book for kids on this subject is God Made All of Me by Justin and Lindsay Holcomb. I have already read this to my one- and a half-year-old, and will continue to read and discuss this with her as she gets older. The entire book is helpful, but I especially like the last page where they talk about nine ways to protect your children from sexual abuse.

  1. Explain to your child that God made their body.
  2. Teach proper names for private body parts.
  3. Invite your child’s communication.
  4. Talk about touches.
  5. Don’t ask your child to maintain your emotions.
  6. Throw out the word “secret.”
  7. Clarify rules for playing “doctor.”
  8. Identify whom to trust.
  9. Report suspected abuse immediately.

I’m incredibly thankful for wise friendships and great educational books on this subject to help with the prevention of abuse and to help ease this worried Mama’s heart.

It gets better.

It gets better,

little by little and day by day.

It gets better,

you find your voice and the shame fades away.

It gets better,

you’re freed from the anger and love takes its place.

It gets better,

lies lose their power and truth finds its way.

It gets better,

you find hope in the hopeless and help others do the same.

Forgiveness

“To forgive is to “swallow” evil and prevent it from going further.” Tolstoy

2010 was a huge year for me, I turned 30, went to Africa and London, but nothing would compare to the miraculous gift God gave me that year.

While I was in Africa, we were talking one evening with some of the people of the village and they were telling us there were a lot of young girls pregnant because the men in that village were raping them. Because they were pregnant they were kicked out of school and the men were not being held accountable in any way. They were understandably outraged as was I. I couldn’t talk or hear another word, I went to my room and cried all night. That was the angriest I have ever felt, I truly hated those men and felt I could have killed them in that moment.

After that trip, I was still completely heartbroken for those girls and processing a lot. I was in a church service and the topic was on forgiveness. I felt God nudge me to write a letter to my dad ( my abuser).

I wanted nothing to do with that. I told God I wouldn’t do it unless it was sincere, and the only thing I was sincere about with my dad was how much I hated him. God kept nudging me to just write. I finally started and as I began to type the first word the Holy Spirit overwhelmed me and completely melted my hard heart towards my dad. Jesus wrecked me with his grace and forgiveness for me. I felt free and so completely loved by God. I was free from being enslaved to my anger, I was freed from being a victim and I was free to let God handle and judge the sins of abusers. Forgiveness for my abuser was a miracle that only God could perform and was a life changing amazing gift to receive.

The LORD reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment. He rules the world in righteousness and judges the people with equity. The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:7-10