Sexual abuse thrives in the darkness of secrets and silence. Bringing it into the light brings healing and hope. We have to talk about sexual abuse in church.Michelle Viscuse, Founder of Journey PINK
I remember watching the trial of Larry Nassar when Rachael Denhollander gave her closing statements. It was powerful and full of Truth. She referenced the Bible, evil, repentance, and forgiveness. Tears spilled as each eloquent word left her mouth.
I watched it again for the little girl in me.
I thought, “Surely, they will talk about it in church now.”
I experienced sexual abuse throughout my childhood. I wondered what the Bible said about what was happening to me. What did Jesus think about me?
Did he make me this way?
Did he love me?
Did he create me for this?
I longed to hear someone say something about sexual abuse in Church.
But it never happened. Ever.
So, every Sunday, I had to draw my own conclusions as I listened to sermons on purity, submission, sin, and obedience. Sexual abuse made me feel dirty, like a piece of trash.
I finally landed on one conclusion – I was bad. Something was wrong with me.
I broke away from the abuse in college and felt even more broken. I coped with the pain by drinking and doing drugs, leading to more sin and shame. Maybe it was me? Perhaps this is who God made me to be.
In desperation, I sought help and started briefly seeing a campus counselor. I remember asking her what the Bible said about what happened to me. She told me she didn’t know what the Bible said about it.
After college, I started going to Church again. I decided to go to my first women’s conference with several ladies from my Church. The speaker made us laugh, and then she was very serious. After sharing about her past, she mentioned she was sexually abused by her neighbor when she was a child.
I vividly remember alarms blaring in every cell of my body. My heart pounded, and my gaze fixed straight ahead. I could do nothing except push it all down, close the boxes of trauma, and throw away the key. I somehow managed to smile, and as I left, I resolved to keep my lips sealed, as always.
Who could I tell? What would I say? The secret was too big to disclose, and there was no safe place to say it.
Twenty years later, desperation once again landed me on the sofa of a counselor’s office. This time it was a Christian Counselor who helped me find the answers to the questions that had plagued me my entire life.
Does God love me? Yes
Did He create me to be abused? No
Is He okay with it? Absolutely not.
She met with me weekly for over three years to help me to unravel all the lies and replace them with the Truth. When I was 40, I confronted my abuser and shared my story with others.
I know He can do the same for others. I recently celebrated my 50th birthday and published my memoir of healing from sexual abuse (Journey PINK: The Story of a Princess in Need of a King) to inspire other victims to find courage, hope, and freedom in Jesus.
My passion is to talk about sexual abuse in as many churches as possible. One Church at a time. When the news about sexual abuse in churches broke, I assumed it would be a big topic on Sunday. Surely, they will talk about sexual abuse now.
Let me ask you. Have you ever heard a sermon or message in Church on sexual abuse?
Here are ten reasons why we must talk about sexual abuse in Church:
- Survivors are in Church every Sunday. Even if we use conservative statistics and say that one in ten has experienced sexual abuse, that is a lot of people. And those numbers reflect what gets reported. Many do not report sexual abuse, so that number is likely higher. Survivors need to hear that Jesus loves them and it was never their fault. Who is going to tell them?
- Abusers are in Church every Sunday. They need to hear that what they are doing is a crime and should be reported. It should be evident to everyone that the Church strongly opposes the abuse of children and has policies and procedures in place to protect children. Who will share what the Bible says about the severe consequences of causing a child to stumble? Who is going to use a millstone in their illustration?
- We talk about everything else. We talk about all the sins, but not this one. The trauma of sexual abuse causes so much pain and suffering for victims, and the pain can last a lifetime. Victims may cope by drinking or being promiscuous. When we talk about sins, please include sexual abuse. When we talk about purity, let’s consider than some had no choice.
- Silence perpetuates the abuse. The shame keeps victims silent. It is a taboo topic that no one wants to talk about or admit, so most don’t, especially if they don’t have a safe and compassionate place to share. Talking about sexual abuse in Church shows compassion and can make survivors feel safe enough to say something.
- We have a problem. Scan the news. Sexual abuse happens in Church. There are #metoo and #churchtoo hashtags. We know there is a problem, so we must address it. We are complicit if we know we have a problem and do nothing. Talking about it shows we care.
- Jesus left 99 for one, and so should we. Chances are, many members of the congregation have suffered from sexual abuse, and that should make us want to address it. But, even if there was only one member, it is still worth bringing it up.
- Jesus didn’t shy away from complex topics, nor should we. It is difficult to talk about sexual abuse, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible. Invite someone else to speak if it is a complex topic for you. Jesus healed the woman with the bleeding issue and asked her to share it with everyone. He could have healed her quietly, but He wanted others to know what He did for her. Menstruation may have been an uncomfortable topic, and it may have only applied to a few, but Jesus didn’t shy away. Someone needed to know there was hope and healing for them, too!
- We must love our neighbor. Jesus tells us to be like the Good Samaritan. We must notice those who are in pain and go to them. We can’t look the other way and walk around them. It may be messy and require time, money, energy, and effort to care for them. The Good Samaritan modeled that well for us.
- If not us, then who? Some of the most profound questions a survivor has are about God. Why did He allow it? Where was He? Didn’t He care? Where will they find the answers to those questions? Who is going to tell them?
- Why not? Sexual abuse is a crime, and it is a sin. Why would we not address it? Why would we talk about other sins but not this one? If we are not learning about it and sharing hope and Truth with survivors, we must ask ourselves – why? What is holding us back?
In all my 50 years, I can count the number of sermons I have heard on sexual abuse on one hand.
I wonder what would have happened when I was a little girl if someone in Church said it was wrong. Maybe I would’ve said something then, and it could’ve stopped. My abuser was in Church with me. Perhaps he would’ve stopped.
But no one said anything.
Thankfully God healed me in His perfect timing. How can I not share what He has done?
If you are ready to make a difference in survivors’ lives, please start talking about sexual abuse. If it makes you uncomfortable, please get in touch with me. I am willing and available to speak in your Church or small group to share my powerful testimony of healing.
Are you ready to offer the hope of Jesus to survivors of sexual abuse?
We have to talk about it. It is time.