I just finished reading Mary Demuth’s book We Too, to help gather some insight for the fiction book I am writing. In my book the main character was sexually abused by her youth minister when she was in high school. While my book is fiction, the fact is there is more sexual abuse being covered up in the church than one can even imagine. If you happen to be familiar with the work of Julie Roys, Boz Tchividjian, Rachel Denhollander, or Mary DeMuth, you will be given some insights into the need for the church to be transparent about sexual abuse and how it is handled.
Little did I realize that Me Too was more than just a book to help me understand the need for the church to respond in an appropriate way, but it was also a book that was painful to read based on my own personal experience and years of working with women in the church.
In my roles in both youth ministry and women’s ministry I have heard heartbreaking stories of women and children abused by the ones who were supposed to be safe and care for them. From the misuse by fathers and stepfathers, to date rape, to clerical sexual abuse, to stalking, and more, it never seems to stop. Not just women, but men (especially young boys) are the target for increasingly common sexual abuse. We are living in a culture where sin abounds and Satan has a special fondness for sexual abuse. All we need to do is look at the pornography statistics and at the number of trafficked individuals that is on the rise.
When I headed an organization called Christian Women’s Resource Network (which no longer exists), we sponsored a program geared for women’s ministers to help identify abuse, and provide resources for the abused. We had speakers from organizations who talked about sexual abuse, physical abuse, and verbal abuse. We talked about how the church needs to respond and support those who have been abused. I only wish We Too had been written when we had the program.
The stories shared by women after the program were heart-wrenching. I will never forget the 80-year-old woman who shared that she had been sexually abused by a family member in her early teens. She had never told anyone until the day of the program. I cannot imagine carrying that burden around for as long as she did. I honestly wish I could say I have never heard one complaint about abuse at the hands of a self-professing Christian. Unfortunately, I cannot.
It would be nice to categorically say that the church is a safe place to bring accusations of abuse, especially at the hands of another Christian. Unfortunately, fact does not back that up. If you wonder why a victim has not come forward, you only need to look at the instances of victim blaming and shaming that occur when they do.
I would like to encourage you to stay informed. Research the topic for yourself. Do not just take my word for it that this is an issue in the worldwide church. It is not just a Catholic issue–it is across all denominations and “non-denominations” as well. You can order We Too by Mary Demuth at any local bookstore or on Amazon.
I want to leave you with this thought. Jesus loved the outcast and marginalized throughout the gospels.. He saw the people who had a great need for his love. So many who have been abused in the church yearn to have their voice heard and believed. They long for justice. Let us be the eyes, ears, and hands of Jesus as we minister to them.