A hard pill to swallow about sexual abuse.

We care more about offending adults than protecting kids. I’ve wanted to write about this topic for awhile, but just like the sentence above, I was worried about offending adults.

The past six months that I’ve been researching for my blog, reading, talking with, and watching survivor stories, the one same theme in all of the stories is… most people would rather be wrong about a possible victim, than be wrong about a possible predator.

Here’s just a couple of stories ( but there is countless) that support predators over victims this year. A bus driver pleaded guilty to raping a 14 year-old-girl and he only got probation, because he had no prior arrests and there was only one victim according to the judge. The judge was more concerned for the rapists future, then the innocent child’s future. And to be clear, one victim is too many. Here’s a list of some of the challenges this girl may have to endure because of this horrendous sin and crime committed against her.

  • Feelings of guilt and shame
  • Feeling different or alone
  • Confusion
  • Anger
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Dissociation
  • Fear
  • Hatred
  • Depression
  • Promiscuity
  • Eating Disorders
  • Body Image issues
  • Anxiety
  • Substance Abuse
  • Self Injurious Behavior
  • PTSD
  • Flashbacks

Another story, Church hired pastor without checking criminal record-then said it didn’t matter. This pastor pleaded guilty to two crimes against children and served a year in prison and his church is defending him, meanwhile putting the children at the church at risk as well as showing no regards to how other adult survivors would feel with him in this position. Jesus can save anyone, even pedophiles, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have consequences for their sins, and one of their consequences is they don’t get to be in a position of authority over children, and if they are truly repentant they wouldn’t even try to be.

Parents, caregivers, and adults in general please, ask the hard questions, be okay with offending someone and lean always on the side of protecting children over protecting an adults ego when it comes to who we allow to be around our children.

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 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

Beneta was my safe person.

We all need a safe person, and Beneta was mine. Beneta was my mom’s best friend. They met at church while my mom was pregnant with me and my twin brother. Even while writing this, I realized God’s grace in bringing her into my life while I was still in the womb, knowing that He would use her in such a huge way in my life.

Beneta was so many wonderful things, a truly uniquely gifted woman in almost every way. But what always stood out to me the most was what a godly, compassionate women she was.

Beneta was a survivor of sexual assault from a family member. She became a Christian counselor and helped a lot of people, including myself.

One of the biggest lies I believed when I was younger, was that I was dirty and washed up, and that no Christian man would ever want me. The thought of having to explain to my future husband that my dad was my abuser just shackled me with shame. I felt hopeless.

Beneta’s life made me feel hopeful, she was married to a godly man, was a wonderful mother, and was using her hardships to help others- all in the name of Jesus. I admired her so much and wanted my life to be like hers.

Beneta passed away in 1999. I was 19 years old at that time, and weeks before she passed, she helped me write one of the hardest letters of my life. I miss her so much, and cherish the time I had with her. I’m so thankful God used her to bring me closer to Him.

I wrote her a letter after her passing and I’ll end this the same way I did when I was 19.

I can’t wait to sing with you heaven.

A weighty issue on abuse.

I was recently listening to a popular podcast and they were talking about how overweight people just lacked discipline and if they could just figure that out for 90 days, losing weight would be no problem. It made me cringe thinking about the overweight people listening and being put in this “you must be lazy” box if you’re overweight. When I personally know that a lot of the reason comes from horrific pain and trauma.

I’ve struggled with weight my whole life and it’s the worst. It’s a struggle that not only you have to deal with, but everyone else gets to see and judge as well.

I’m a survivor of sexual assault and my abuser was my Dad. In his eyes, the worst thing that you could ever be was overweight, so that’s exactly what I wanted to be. I remember gaining weight on purpose around the age 15 just to stick it to him; I was so full of anger and hate towards him. Looking back now as an adult, I also see that it was a way to protect myself from him and make myself unattractive to him and any other man that was like him.

Jesus has healed and freed me so much from this abuse and feeling like a victim, but this food issue I have is still something I need to fully surrender. Even as I started this blog, knowing that I was going to have to talk about hard subjects, I noticed my bad habits of turning to food for comfort and protection was in full force.

We are all made in God’s image, there is no one perfect body type. If someone is struggling with over eating, or not eating enough, please be kind. You never know what they are trying to heal from.

3 helpful ways to respond to a survivors story.

This post is meant for adults who have been abused in the past. If someone is a minor or is currently being abused, they need help immediately. http://rain.org  has great resources on how to help. Their hotline is available 24/7 at 800.656.4673.

When a survivor is telling you their story, they are letting you in on a very private part of their life. It’s an incredibly vulnerable and hard thing to share. It’s also a hard thing to hear and often hard to know how to respond appropriately. I’ve recieved some hurtful responses by well-meaning people who just had a lack of understanding on this subject. Here are some of my insights on helpful responses.

1. Just listen.

Let them lead the conversation and reveal the details they are comfortable with sharing. It’s human nature to want to know all the details, but don’t ask for them. When a survivor is telling you any part of their story they are reliving a very traumatic event. The most helpful response is listening without prying.

2. Tell them you believe them.

If someone says they have been a victim, just believe them. The majority of victims truly have nothing to gain by opening up and, for most, it’s an embarrassing and shameful thing to admit. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, false reporting on sexual assault is between 2% and 10%. Every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted and every 11 minutes, that victim is a child. Please just believe them.

3. Ask them how you can support them.

Everyone feels supported differently and by simply asking that question, they can share how they want to be supported. A few of the ways I’ve felt most supported have been a simple “Thank you for sharing” or “How can I pray for you?” Encouraging words go along way and have made me feel heard, believed, and cared for.