Susie made an appointment with her Christian therapist after experiencing distress from the sexual harassment inflicted by the counseling pastor of a large church. The therapist, whom the counseling pastor recommended, told Susie, “Don’t say anything because you will hurt his ministry.” Read what Susie said about her experience talking with clergy. She wrote,
“They wanted to silence me and for me to go away. On my healing journey, I’ve found this type of injustice and treatment of survivors of sexual abuse and sexual harassment to be so very common.”[i]
Sixteen years after Larry Nassar first sexually abused her, former Olympic Gymnast Rachael Denhollander decided to publicly disclose the abuse. In her court statement, she mentioned that it took her a long time to reveal her abuse to other people. Christianity Today asked Denhollander if the church was included in her reluctance to disclose her abuse. Her answer gives cause for self-examination.
“Yes. Church is one of the least safe places to acknowledge abuse because the way it is counseled is, more often than not, damaging to the victim. There is an abhorrent lack of knowledge for the damage and devastation that sexual assault brings. It is with deep regret that I say the church is one of the worst places to go for help. That’s a hard thing to say, because I am a very conservative evangelical, but that is the truth. There are very, very few who have ever found true help in the church.”[ii]
Marriage Reconstruction Ministries announces the release of a 3-part video series titled How to Respond to Disclosures of Sexual Abuse.
I invite you to learn what it is to be in the shoes of a sexual abuse survivor and to love as Christ loves so that we are not among the individuals and institutions who bring further wounds to survivors of sexual abuse.
This video series will help you to understand:
- Why survivors are silenced.
- How disclosures have distinct characteristics.
- How we can respond with compassion.
I served as a pastor for over 40 years. I love the church and believe it is God’s chosen community to bring the Good News of Jesus to the world and to instruct and inspire His followers. The church is also called to “Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone” (I Thessalonians 5:14 NLT).
The statistics consistently indicate that at least one-in-four women and one-in-six men were sexually abused before age 18. These men and women attend our churches, work in our workplace, shop at Costco, and serve in volunteer organizations. The societal ill of sexual abuse touches and infects every segment of our society.
May those who have been silenced and robbed of so much see Christ’s compassion and hope through us as we learn and love together.
[ii] Christianity Today, January 31, 2018, interview by Morgan Lee. Retrieved from http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/january-web-only/rachael-denhollander-larry-nassar-forgiveness-gospel.html