My friend Bethany was sexually abused by her pastor. When I first heard Bethany’s story, I was horrified—sickened. But, in reality, it wasn’t my first exposure to a story like hers. It wasn’t the first time I’d experienced that gut-wrenching, appalling reaction. Every single time I’ve heard a story of sexual abuse that occurred at the hands of a parent, teacher or member of the clergy, I’ve been incensed by the horrific behavior of the very adults children were designed, and should be able, to trust.
In my research on the topic of sexual abuse within the church, I stumbled across an informative and helpful resource, GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) http://www.netgrace.org/. “Boz” Tchividjian, a grandson of Dr. Billy Graham, is the founder and director of GRACE. A former child abuse prosecutor and a Professor of Law at Liberty University School of Law, Tchividjian sheds credible light on not only the problem of child sexual abuse but also steps the faith community can take to fight this problem. The issue of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church received much publicity, but it’s important to know that same kind of abuse occurs in all faith traditions, including Protestant Evangelical churches.
One of the “voices” who spoke truth into Bethany’s journey of healing was Laura Landgraf. Laura shared a bit of her story with the congregation at Lake City Church during a two-week sermon series on healthy sexuality. In all my over-fifty years of regular church attendance, I’d never heard the topic of sexuality addressed in such a healthy, shame-releasing, God-honoring way. I feel privileged to serve on staff with a group of pastoral leaders who aren’t afraid to tackle issues, previously considered taboo. Certainly, the matter of sexual abuse in the church is a very tough issue!
Laura’s father was a well-respected member of the clergy, and yet, behind the closed doors of the family home, he abused sexually all five of his daughters. Laura is a passionate voice against child sexual abuse and has spoken throughout the world about the topic. She is the author of The Fifth Sister, From Victim to Victor – Overcoming Child Abuse. Her memoir includes not only being a victim of incest and abuse, but about overcoming the abuse to embrace a life of victory and joy. To learn more about Laura, visit her website www.lauralandgraf.com.
Laura understands healing for victims of childhood sexual abuse—the process of remembering, exposing and peeling back layer upon layer of emotional pain—is one that is complicated and takes time. Yet, she has outlined six steps to healing I found profound in their simplicity. When I asked her permission to share them with Listening on the Journey readers, Laura’s response was, “Of course! Let’s help as many people as we can find healing.”
The inner you that went into hiding, as a child, needs to know the “adult” you is safe. Treat the wounded “you” the way you would have liked to be treated when you were little.
Validate you by acknowledging that these things wounded you, clear to your soul. Your response to being wounded was completely normal under abnormal circumstances.
Be angry –
It’s okay to be angry. In fact, be enraged at the injustice. You have to get angry before you can get well. Think of your anger as a healthy response.
Mourn your betrayal, of what ‘might have been,’ what your family could have looked like, what a carefree childhood should have felt like. Grieve your loss.
Allow sorrow –
Feel sadness for your inner child’s pain. It was so lonely – this feeling that there was something, somehow, wrong with you
Face forward –
Acknowledge your history – but do not let it define you. Believe you’re strong enough. You are – you survived.
Blessings on your journey of healing into wholeness…
Each spring, my husband, Ron, engages in a battle of mortal combat with dandelions that pop up in our yard. Those sweet yellow blooms don’t stand a chance against my warrior hubby! A few days ago Ron set off on a photo expedition—something he enjoys far more than dealing with dandelions—and happened on a yard filled with the colorful weeds. He captured this lovely shot, which in many ways illustrates today’s blog post. Unfortunately, life is filled with troubling weeds—none, I believe, more troublesome than childhood sexual abuse—and, yet, beauty can be found even in the weeds that mar our stories when we are willing to embark on the Journey of Healing into Wholeness.