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.