When are you going to write about sexual abuse? they ask me.
I don’t know, I say. I know so little about abuse. I’ve lived such a sheltered, coddled life. Yes, I’ve had my share of pain, but life has been kind to me in that area. What would I say that would not be trivial, meaningless, devoid of true empathy? Besides, who of us wants to touch such a dark subject with a 30-foot pole?
The request bothers me nonetheless. Because I hear it from time to time…the cry of women who don’t know what to do with the wreckage they see and experience.
The cry unearths a question burning deep within me. How can a church cover up something so terribly wrong?
It can’t be that covering up sin will make the church look better. People often know if sexual abuse is a problem in their church, even if they don’t admit it. Smoothing over what people know exists is no way to make a church look good. In fact, it’s a sure way to make it look very bad.
Reports of abuse are hush-hushed. “Its a conspiracy,” the preachers say when an upstanding man in the church is accused. But the community can’t possibly believe that, can they? What motivation would a woman, a girl, a child have to fabricate a story that almost certainly will never be taken seriously?
Hiding sin can’t be for the sake of the children. In many cases, the children are the ones most affected. How does hushing up about what is ruining their lives be protective?
Ignoring abuse won’t make it disappear. It only enables the gangrene to fester.
“Be quiet!” the leaders threaten. Then when a brave soul, desperate to save, turns in the abuser to the law she knows that she very well might get kicked out of the church. The person who rescues the children gets kicked out, and the abuser of children smugly stays?
How can the church do this?
I don’t have an answer.
To all you beautiful women who have been hurt so badly: Jesus is on your side. Be brave, and know that you are loved.
22 thoughts on “A Question Without an Answer”
“why does the abuser smugly stay in the church and the victim always leaves?” Of the countless abuse stories I’ve heard that has always been the case. Could it be that people in the church find it much easier to preach forgiveness to the victim than to step up and deal with evil? Im always amazed that after something like that becomes general knowledge, the abuser tends to break down and cry and beg forgiveness and possibly run off for counselling. And then return and expect the entire church to welcome him with open arms which is exactly what tends to happen. While you and I both know that if his sins wouldn’t have been brought to light through an avenue other than himself he would be no more apologetic than a pig wallowing in mud is sorry for being dirty. Thank you for a thought provoking blog!
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While forgiveness is a very important part of any Christian’s life, I’m not sure we really understand what it means. Too often we think it means ignoring sin and doing nothing. Does forgiveness mean refusing to report so that little children keep getting abused? Is that what God really wants?
Without the power of the Holy Spirit, I don’t think church discipline and/or counseling brings about a true heart change. Until our churches fully embrace the Holy Spirit, this will continue to be a problem.
Thank you, Rosina.
While I haven’t experienced sexual abuse, I have experienced emotional abuse, and so many of the things you said relate to that as well.
It means so much that someone is stepping up and talking about the hard things.
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You’re right, there are different kinds of abuse and they are all devastating. I’m sorry you were hurt like that…it makes me very sad. God be with you! Hugs!
Thank you for speaking what my heart is crying! I do not understand how people who claim the name of Christ can cover up and hide the abuse and abuser who also claims to be a Christian. Something is very wrong. Oh that people would see Jesus! I pray that our eyes would be opened before it is too late for our souls and the souls of our children.
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Thanks for commenting, Ann. If many of us join in prayer, I believe we will see God work!
I also wanted to thank you for tackling a horrible, sticky subject with such a beautiful, redemptive spirit. I recently started blogging about this too, because I’ve been experienced the devastating effects of sexual abuse and, thank God, His abundant redemption. It is encouraging to see others who are willing to stand up and talk about hard things. Thank you and God bless your writing!
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Rosina, my sister, you make me proud. Really really really proud. I’ve been one of the people asking for this post. You said you didn’t know enough to write about it. But you’ve written poignantly about it. You’ve hit it spot on, once again. See, maybe you were never sexually abused, but you know and are willing to say it is WRONG, and the church covering it up is WRONG too. You get that. You really get that. That makes me cry. I just got a glimpse of Jesus here.
I don’t know why the church goes on covering up. I simply don’t know why. Don’t people realize that if they would just allow God’s light to shine on everything and clean out all this horrible icky darkness, that there would be so much healing for all involved-both the victims and perpetrators? Is there any wonder the church is so often so sick and so stuck in its rituals when they are covering this kind of sin, and protecting those who are committing it, rather than the children who God has given them? I have my own experience of sexual abuse in the Mennonite church. I’ve worked through so much of that and have found so much healing. But my story aside, the kind of thing I deal with as a Victim Advocate, and the church’s responses to my clients, is enough to make me completely lose faith in the church in general. In fact, right now I don’t really have any. So much so, that recently I came to the point where I realized that I really would be done with Christianity, if it only was about what is happening right now in the church at large. I had to realize that Jesus is completely separated from a lot of Christianity, and it is he who has rescued and redeemed me, and he who I follow. That, and my own small church is an amazing living body of believers who cares passionately for the broken and who gives itself to share Jesus with so many wounded people. My church has made a huge impact on my life, and the life of my community even though it’s a small church. But sadly, in my line of work, and in my life’s experiences, it’s one of the exceptions. I have grieved so much, so bitterly over this. I’ve come to the conclusion that I cannot reform the church. Only Jesus can. Meanwhile, he equips me to share hope and healing and life to many many victims day by day. And so I get up in the face of bleak despair, and go out, and share Jesus. Because, as you said, Jesus is on their side. Jesus loves them. He does.
Thank you sis. You mean more than words to me!
Thank you, Victoria! God bless your work with the battered women you see every day. You are showing them Jesus!
I have no words either, and you already know that. Brian and I both don’t understand the secrecy and protection of abuse.
We have been in situations where we said what a licensed professional said (who works with tons of these cases) that it is not a secret even in the secular counseling world that the Amish and Mennonites have the highest rates of sexual abuse in the U.S. (And went on to say that they know the rates are much higher than what is reported because the plain people are the least likely to talk about it.) And in every case we were quickly or sarcastically met with unbelief and written off.
Brian said recently again that if he ever does something like that to our girls or anyone for that matter to call the police first and then call the church. For one, it IS breaking the law and for another the church doesn’t seem to want to learn about how to deal with it, (there ARE many who do want to learn!!!) and so it gives no real hope or help to abuser or victim.
We LONG for that day–Jesus CAME to heal those who are sick! And I have been blessed with beautiful Christians within and without the Menno world who want to heal with all their hearts!
And I had wanted to say too, that I just love you, my sister! This just makes my heart simply ache…
Thank you, Sherilyn! I’m with you in longing for healing for EVERYONE, the person who abuses, the one who is abused, their family members and friends…everyone in this sin-sick world needs Christ’s redemption.
Rosina, thanks so much for tackling this subject. It’s a big, festering sore within the church that no one wants to admit. Especially the conservative churches, in my experience, because they’re supposed to be the upstanding, moral people. Unfortunately, the truth is that multiple surveys have shown that, after alcohol and drug abuse, the second-biggest “red flag” for potential sexual abuse is if the person comes from a conservative home, especially one in which traditional gender roles are emphasized. (Sexual Abuse in Christian Homes and Churches by Carolyn Holderread Heggen, p. 73)
Oh, may the people of God wake up and deal with the huge, stinking elephant in their midst!
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This is so sad! 😥
Thank you Rosina for your courage in listening to the Lord’s prompting in your writing! If anyone reading this needs help, I have a friend, herself a former victim, who has started an organization to address this and other concerns in a Christian foundation. Victoria above talked about the darkness and the light. My friend Heather’s organization is called “Light Up the Dark”. http://Www.lightupthedark.live. Many blessings to you Rosina.
Thank you! That is a helpful resource!
You are most welcome!!
this. so so true. Something my mind has not and never will be able to grasp. We can tell people to leave the church if they don’t want to follow the dress code, but we can’t push them out for sexual abuse. Dear people, Satan has his foot in our doors and we are so blind to it. We focus and focus on the outward and how we appear, but our insides can be dirty and black. And how do you help open eyes to that? It’s a desperate feeling. Desperate to make them see we are living a religion by focusing on the wrong things instead of striving for a real relationship with Jesus. Abuse is one of the most damaging things a child can experience, and I know. Yet we allow perpetrators to taint our churches. blows my mind. Lord, help us all. Thanks for writing this Rosina!
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When we ignore sin instead of confronting it, we are denying the sinner a chance to be made whole. That is unspeakably sad.
And yes, I struggle with the fact that a person can be black as night inside, but as long as he practices certain favorite rules he is treated as an upstanding member of the church. He is allowed to disobey direct commands of Jesus (not to offend the little ones, evangelism, etc.) and not be bothered at all.
I’ve also been thinking about the need for true spiritual authority in our churches. So many of our leaders are not adequately equipped to deal with spiritual problems. Sometimes the lack of action could at least partly be because of a lack of experience and training in spiritual warfare.
Yes, thanks Rosina, for writing about this subject; one that we so desperately need to hear about! May Jesus bring healing and redemption to all the abused ones!
Thanks for your encouragement, Ruth Anna! I’m praying for that healing for both the abused ones and the ones who abuse! 😉
Thank-you, Rosina, for bravely addressing this! Jesus wishes to heal each individual and restore His spotless bride. How He must weep!