Ever since Target enlightened the public on their stance on the use of restrooms by transgender individuals, Christians have been in an uproar. While I understand their concerns, I am also concerned about their handling of the issue. Quite frankly, transgenders have been using the restrooms they identify with for years. And before you start lambasting me and assuming I absolutely approve of this, please remember that kindness and mercy is far better in our dealing with non-Christians than hate and destructive rhetoric.
Here are my questions for all of you who are so passionate about this issue: Where have you been through the years when sex abuse by church leaders has occurred and even been enabled by your silence? Where have you been in being vigilant about protecting your daughters AND sons from that trusted relative, friend, and neighbor? Why have you taught your daughters to dress modestly and be pure but have neglected to teach your sons about their responsibility for purity and modesty? Why is the statistic for pornography as high in the church as outside of the church?
Does anyone else have a concern for this? I can tell you from statistics and personal experience that sexual abuse is far more likely to happen by a trusted family member, friend, or neighbor than by a stranger on the street. (And before you go off on me about that, yes, it does happen but statistically not nearly as frequently.)
I never shared about my childhood sexual abuse until a trusted college friend talked about being raped by her fiance. My husband knew about the abuse, but I was in my sixties before I ever shared this with a family member, and it was not until the death of my mother, that I finally shared this with my children. I shared with them because I decided the time for silence was over and I need to speak out on an issue that is a burden on my heart. I was abused by a family member, who I have learned was abused by his family member in a deeply pervasive, generational cycle of abuse.
I am one of the lucky ones. When I heard about Jesus as a young 12-year-old, I found healing and wholeness in His love. I did not turn to drugs, alcohol, or permissive sexuality simply because I found the one who loves me enough to die for me. Not everyone is so lucky.
The statistics are sobering and I have linked to a couple of articles that have them. But I can tell you from my work with Christian women over the years, that there is a multitude of them carrying the scars from their abuse. I have heard horrifying stories of abuse from fathers, step-fathers, brothers, and yes, even mothers, as well as ministers, youth ministers, elders, family members, and trusted family friends. They are all unique stories with an eerily underlying sameness. They are victims of someone’s lust, greed, and SIN.
I am begging you, the church, to step forward and demand accountability from those who are abusers. No matter how much they need to be forgiven, they also need to be held accountable. I am begging you, the church, to protect your children (male and female) by giving them the tools and self-confidence to say no, and to tell someone if they have been abused. I am begging you, the church, to treat women who have been abused with tenderness and love instead of judgment and condemnation so that they can sit at the feet of a Savior who loves them. I am begging you, the church, to stop victim blaming and pointing fingers at someone who “deserved what they got.” NO ONE deserves being sexually abused and raped. I am begging you, the church, to see people through Jesus’ eyes. Unfortunately begging isn’t enough. Only through our actions will we make a difference.
It is time that we have openness and transparency in our lives to expose these sins so that healing can begin. I cannot speak for the men, but I can tell you that in every row of chairs in your church, there is certainly a woman who has been abused, most of them before the age of 18. I suspect some men are there, too. Isn’t it time for us to help them heal by offering them a chance to speak freely about their abuse? Yes, they are hard stories to hear and sometimes we want to remain in our ignorance. But it is time we stop hiding in the darkness and come into the light. Jesus offers hope and wholeness. It is time for us to let the victims of sexual abuse know that.
Studies by David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, show that:
- 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse;
- Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;
- During a one-year period in the U.S., 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
- Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
- Children are most vulnerable to CSA between the ages of 7 and 13.¹
¹From Child Sexual Abuse Statistics.