Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Victim or Victor?

As a child, I could have easily become a victim of abuse. One day while riding my bike home alone from swimming lessons, I was approached on the side of the road by a man in a car who asked me about swimming in the nearby lake down the street from my house. I noticed he was sitting in his car naked. I quickly answered his question then rode my bike home in the opposite direction. I never did tell my parents until I was an adult.

Statistics have shown us all that sexual abuse is a major problem in our sin filled culture. One out of every 4 women have at some time been sexually abused, often as children. Sexual abuse has increased 350% since 1980. When we speak of sexual abuse, sometimes the church tends to stick its head in the sand in hope that the problem will go away and we won’t have to deal with it. But my experiences in ministry has taught me that as believers, we need to not only be aware of this sin problem that is so prevalent—we also need to be prepared to help those who have been victims of it. Men have also been sexually abused. The rapid rise of homosexuality in the last century in this country is often the result of sexual abuse.

All too often, there have been myths that have developed about this subject. If we as a church are going to help this hurting group of people in our churches we need to look at some of the myths, as well as how we as a church can help them through the resulting pain. I tend to see them all, abused and abusers as victims. They have all fallen prey to Satan’s attack. We know the Bible teaches us that our enemy, Satan, is like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. His goal is to kill, steal and destroy. The result of abuse causes people to be angry at God, because they think He allowed an abuser to steal their sacred sexuality and destroy their self-worth, their relationships, their sexual identities, and their very relationship to God. In many ways, you can see how Satan loves this area. It has devastated not only the Catholic church, but spiritual people across all denominational lines. I believe there are frustrated victims of sexual abuse who suffer in silence from post traumatic stress disorder, sexual identity confusion, and who spend time on the internet, involved in pornography, chat-rooms, and other questionable activities. If the church does not raise the standard from the pulpit, and learn to deal with all this in appropriate ways to help with prevention, we will all stand before God one day to give an accounting. So lets begin by debunking some of the myths many believe.

Myth #1. Normal appearing, well-educated, middle class people don’t abuse children. The Bible tells me that all have sinned and come short of God’s glory. Because we are all sinners, the potential to sin and be tempted by the enemy is in every human being, no matter how nice or educated they are. It is all the more important that we as transformed believers become protectors of the innocent, educators of the ignorant, and healers to the wounded.

Myth # 2 Children cannot be believed. Most stories are ‘planted’ by another adult with a motive of revenge or the child is just seeking attention. Most child victims of sexual abuse have little or no knowledge of what sexual abuse is or how it will affect them. It is extremely rare for children to invent such stories. Sometimes when children ‘recant’ their stories, it is out of pure fear, fearing they will loose those they love, or because the pain of their confession begins to cause so much hurt in their family. They fear abandonment, further abuse, rage of siblings, and they fear being blamed as the cause rather than accepted as the victim. Remember Jesus came to heal the broken hearted and set the captives free.

Myth #3 Good parents can always protect their children from abuse through education. In reality, even though we teach our children carefully, they can still be victims. Too often we trust those who are closest to us...our friends, our extended family members. Abusers take advantage of that trust. They are excellent manipulators. It’s important to teach our children the difference between good touches and bad ones. It’s important they learn to say “No!” and run or scream if they feel threatened in any way. Abusers will seek occasions when they are alone with their victim and have control over them. Keeping your kids in groups helps prevent this kind of abuse. But even though we teach them, they are still children, pushing the boundaries, discovering, and learning. They will learn some things they never wanted to learn—the hard way. Even when they make mistakes, Christ is always there with open arms to love and forgive them, and will heal the broken heart.

Myth # 4 The majority of children are abused by strangers. We hear of pedophiles and sexual deviants on the prowl in the community, but we should be even more cautious about friends and family. It is people the children and parents know and trust (80%) who often do the majority of all abuse. If a child tells you of abuse, listen carefully to them. If you have any doubts, trust your child first before you believe the adult. Teach your child that any area covered by a bathing suit is out of bounds for others to touch.

Myth #5 It is not abuse unless rape occurs. Wrong! We know the Bible teaches that it is even sinful to look upon a woman and lust. So touching in any inappropriate way is far beyond just looking. It damages the child. Sometimes they suffer from unresolved guilt feelings, post traumatic stress, eating disorders, flash-backs and feelings that cripple relationships with others. Jesus said in Matthew 8:16 But if you give them a hard time, bullying them or taking advantage of their simple trust, you’ll soon wish you hadn’t. You’d be better off dropped in the middle of the lake, with a millstone around your neck. Doom to the world for giving these God-believing children a hard time. Hard times are inevitable, but you don’t have to make it worse. Dooms day for you! (The Message Bible)

Myth #6 They wanted or asked for it. The abuser often subdues his guilt with this thought. Sexual abuse is about power. We must always remember that children are children, not understanding the power of adults or of sexuality. It is always the responsibility of an adult to say “no” to his own temptations...never the child’s. Children who appear seductive may already have been abused. If you are now an adult, and you failed to say “NO” as a child, you may feel like it is your fault. It is not your fault. You were a victim of the abuser and of Satan.

Myth #7 Children can stop the abuse by just saying “no.” We must remember—these are children and there is a huge difference in this power ratio. Abusers will often fail to listen to or obey the ‘NO” of a child. They often pick on a child that is weak and vulnerable. They use fear and intimidation tactics to control their victim. Maintain a healthy relationship with your kids so they can tell you anything without feeling rejection!

Myth # 8 The abused will always become abusers as well. No! There is One who wants to break the chains of sin and violence. His name is Jesus. He heals the broken in both abused and abusers. He is in the business of life transformation. He conquered sin, Satan, death, disease and fear when he rose from the dead. He desires to make all things new again. Oh, there may be scars. Even Jesus has scars. But those scars will be testimonies of the healing power of God. They will help Satan’s victims discover hope as they see you victorious in Christ Jesus. He makes victims into victors!


The real solution to the problem of sin is the blood of Jesus Christ. His blood cleanses us from all sin. Because of the cleansing power, we can become new creations...made just as if we had never sinned. When we fall into the trap of abuse, we often tend to feel all alone. We feel confused and traumatized.

The apostle Paul knew all about abuse. What was his solution to the pain? As he traveled the world telling about Jesus, he tells us We've been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we're not demoralized; we're not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we've been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn't left our side; we've been thrown down, but we haven't broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 The Message Bible) Persecution was the daily norm for early church saints. Paul never denied the pain. He just refused to be defined by the pain. He was more than ‘persecuted’—-he was God’s masterpiece! “10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Eph 2:10 (NLV) When you know Christ and his forgiving power, you become His temple (2 Cor 6:16) and you become part of His family—sons and daughters (2 Cor 6:18). So just think of it, no matter what you have done, no matter what others have done to you, you are still His ‘masterpiece’ His ‘temple’, his ‘sons and daughters’. Let His identity define who you are! If you have repented of your sin, you are not damaged goods, but you are a blessed Child of the Almighty God, a masterpiece of His grace— a victor—that’s who you are!          J. Johnson