Suffer the Little Children: Healing for Sex Abuse Survivors
Warning: Don’t read this if you can’t take it or don’t want to know.
The sad statistics:
National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (quoting government statistics)
1 in 5 of America’s youth, 20-25% of the population, were sexually abused.
There are over 42 million survivors of sexual abuse in America.
Somewhere between 50-90% of sexual abuse victims never tell.
90% are abused by someone they know, love or trust.
If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would’ve lived in the land of silence.”
There are all kinds of trauma that can wound a soul. Violence, grief, loss and humiliation abound in this fallen world. But many misfits were wounded in an area that combines all these types of trauma in an area of such crooked, deep roots, we hate to talk about it in public. We can say “sex abuse” when we discuss “issues.” But tell the story? Receive the healing in the light? Rarely.
Because children don’t tell. Everybody always acts so surprised, even unbelieving, when the grown child remembers. But something in us was broken then. We painted over it with gauzy watercolors, great rolling clouds of fog.
“Did it really happen?”
“Why didn’t anyone protect me?”
“Was that love?”
Because we were children, we didn’t know. And stay confused.
“You are only as sick as your secrets,” therapists say. Yes, we think. And still don’t tell. We’d rather be sick.
Why do we let our secrets poison our lives? Know enough, even as small children, to feel shame, seal them away in the basement of the soul we are building? A soul damaged at its foundation. Maybe even complicated by the love being mixed with the abuse. Too confusing for a child to sort out.
We need to tell our stories. Hurts to even say. Childhood taboos rise up to stop us. Yet nothing else heals us. Only truth ever set anyone free. And for many of us, only God is safe to tell.
“Speak the truth in the inner being,” Psalm 51 says. God’s truth can only come and settle there when the nest of lies we’ve hidden in the basement of our soul is cleared away. Like draining a swamp before planting a garden.
Our secrets are not something to be discussed in polite society. We grow, always pretending, posing, performing, acting out. So many false starts and bad choices. While the innocent wounded child in the basement cries for healing.
Other people do not know; how could they? We don’t even want our own children to know. Love wouldn’t. But we ache for someone to reach into the pain. Long to be known and loved just like we are. Long to be loved in a pure way that knows, accepts, transcends.
I myself never “told”. And recently watched a VERY brave and godly video of a well-known preacher doing so on YouTube and someone right below smearing them for staying in their home as a child. Accused them of “fornication,” said they could have told someone and gotten out.
Which is why we don’t tell. We know it’s not safe. Think they won’t believe us or will say it’s our fault.
My adoptive brother was raped by older neighborhood boys as a child while his drunken mother watched. She dressed him in a scarf and called him a girl. Belittled him.
Another Beloved was violently sodomized by an older boy in front of a bunch of bullies. Repeatedly. Threatened and beaten if he didn’t go along or if he told anyone.
Our birth mother let men abuse my sister and me if they brought her booze. Abandoned, then adopted, nobody had to tell us not to tell.
Another Beloved was raised as her father’s “little woman” instead of his wife. There for all Daddy’s needs, including bringing other girls into his circle for his perversions.
NONE of us ever “told.” Had to be grown to even be able to whisper it to each other. To this day, we all suffer the effects. Our brains and bodies remember, even if we have managed to block it out.
In a better world, victims need the freedom to talk about it instead of the burden of shame. But explain that to a nervous system firing irrationally with fear.
“I’ll kill your mother,” some abusers threaten. Or your pets. Or your siblings.
Or, later, “How could you let that happen? Why didn’t you tell someone?” when you finally do.
Or “I know you are making that up. What do you really want?” When sex abuse is the last thing a child would “make up.”
No one ever says that to victims of a beating or stabbing or robbery or hit by a car.
Because 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually molested before they are 18 years old, if it didn’t happen to you, it happened to someone you know and care about.
And it casts a shadow over your whole life. Boyfriends and husbands and wives and children will suffer along with the victims many years later.
When we tell our stories we begin to heal a little. When someone cares for us enough to hear them, we heal a little more. When we learn God’s story, we begin to heal a lot. “I love you,” He whispers, if we ask Him, “You are safe.” The very thing we were always so desperate to hear. Not alone anymore. Seen. Heard. Known. And loved.
Science has found ways to demonstrate the wounds, label them, but not a way to heal them.
Only God has the Big Medicine. He has the bigger story.
NO MEDICINE WORKS BUT GOD’S. We know, because we have tried all the other ones. It wasn’t that we don’t know, or that we didn’t like God. More like we were afraid that He must not like us.
That is what God means when He says “The truth will make you free.” His perfect love is the only thing that can crack those walls to the basement of our souls. Make us His innocent children again.
We line up what we think:
We are worthless, different.
Always ashamed, for no discernible reason.
We battle addictions: food, sex, drugs, gambling, whatever makes us feel better for a while.
We feel lonely, are afraid of being abandoned.
We give up too easy, wonder why we are here, even consider suicide.
We think we are ugly, no matter who compliments us.
We think nobody ever really loved us.
We think the “bad thing” must have been our fault somehow.
Then He tells us the Truth:
I am holy and without blame before Him in love (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:16).
I am alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5).
I have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5).
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. Ephesians 1:4
I can do all things through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:13).
I am God’s child (1 Peter 1:23).
I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ unto good works (Ephesians 2:10).
I am a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
I am a joint-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17).
I am more than a conqueror through Him Who loves me (Romans 8:37).
I am a partaker of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4).
I am the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
I am the head and not the tail; I am above only and not beneath (Deuteronomy 28:13).
I am forgiven of all my sins and washed in the Blood (Ephesians 1:7).
I am delivered from the power of darkness and translated into God’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13).
I am raised up with Christ and seated in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12).
I am greatly loved by God (Romans 1:7; Ephesians 2:4; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4).
It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20).
It takes time, because when nobody else really loved us, it is really hard to believe that the Creator of the universe does.
But He is a very patient teacher. If we sit still. Ask. Listen. Instead of looking everywhere else. And the “shadow of His wings” will eventually cast a larger shadow than the childhood pain and confusion.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
There are many good resources all over the internet, but here are a few that are helpful:
Mary Demuth’s book, “Not Marked.”
Joyce Meyer’s book, “Beauty for Ashes.”
Dan Allender’s book “The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse”
RAINN: The nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization. One of “America’s 100 Best Charities” —Worth magazine
Many www.YouTube.com videos of other sex abuse survivors