With society’s current focus on the Duggars, maybe it’d be a good idea to look into general principles of how to help the victims of sexual abuse.
What does a victim deal with?
“She feels more shunned and rejected than the criminal,”1 explains Dr Dan B Allender in his book The Wounded Heart: Hope For Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse.
A victim’s shame, betrayal and powerlessness can manifest outwardly in lack of trust, self-contempt, depression, self-harm and self-protection by living life behind a facade. In order to survive, the victim frantically pushes down deep the ugly forces that were set in motion – to become like a boil that festers and poisons.
The pain and consequences are worse if the authority in her life knew about the abuse but swept the incident(s) under the rug to protect public image. Her parents had a God-given duty to protect her, yet they left her vulnerable to further attacks. What does that say about her value as a person? What further damage is done if she is blamed for the abuse (a very common approach in people holding to the Quiverfull and Bill Gothard’s philosophies)?!
Definition of sexual abuse
Is it just rape?
Sexual Abuse is any contact or interaction (visual, verbal or psychological) between a child/adolescent and an adult when the child/adolescent is being used for the sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or any other person. 2
The abuser has the balance of power tipped in his favour.
Dr. Allender portrays the 4 intentional steps to prime the victim. First the perpetrator creates/affirms intimacy in their relationship, resulting in secrecy. Then comes the physical touch that appears appropriate before the actual sexual abuse with it’s different levels of severity. Lastly there are the threats and privileges to maintain abuse and secrecy.
An overall view
Briefly, 3 things should happen concurrently:
She should have a physical exam quickly, especially if she has been raped.
She should meet with a Christian female counsellor (experienced in abuse) to get help from a Biblical perspective.
She should meet with a professional therapist to get help from those who have studied how the mind works in these situations from hundreds of similar cases and can spot immediately what is going on and how to help.
Elements to include
Healing comes differently and in a period of time unique to each person. There is no step-by-step process, but here are some ideas.
Assure her that what happened was not her fault – because you can guarantee that, to some extent, she believes this. Statistically, the abuser was someone she trusted and she has trouble reconciling his betrayal. She may have been taught that what she wore caused him to lust. Or she blames herself for some degree of enjoyment. Or the perpetrator himself blamed her. But . . . no one can force another person to choose sin.
Her painful experience must be validated. Shame, the abuser (and parents!) attempting to mute her voice, plus her belief in a God who did not intervene will cause denial. Her mind must battle to label the truth by expressing her experience/s verbally to someone she trusts to believe her. As a boil, every detail of the whole nightmare must be painfully re-lived and drawn out. Allow as much time as it takes for the storm to subside. The hot tears must gush and the anger explode. Just listen.
First fleshing out her story on paper would be a good suggestion, allowing it to become real. Ask questions to ‘prime the pump” – what was worn, where she was, who is in this photo, etc.
Honesty/remembering, at first, produces shock. Next, “rage is the thrashing of the soul when it fully awakens from the nightmare lie.”4 Rage toward self, the abuser, family or spouse leads “either toward:
A more radical denial and plastic functioning
B deep change through an internal shift . . . a hungry, broken return to God . . . for strength to live a God-glorifying, other-centred life.”5
Choice B comes about through sorrow and grief that melts her “callused hatred toward herself and others.”6 She must fight the urge to develop a case against her abuser, the wicked world and a God who did not intervene.6
Healing involves her willingness to “trade death for life . . . to embrace life as it was meant to be lived: in humble dependence on God and passionate involvement with others.”3 Owning her feelings, committing to the other person’s good, and setting boundaries are all elements to start absorbing.
Final healing involves understanding love in light of the cross – love that voluntarily cancels the debt. It is not pretending everything is fine or forgetting the hurt. It is “revoked revenge.” Conquering evil today.7
1 The Wounded Heart: Hope For Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse by Dr. Dan B. Allender, NavPress, 1990, p 43
2 Ibid. p 47
3 Ibid. p 174
4 Ibid. p 198
5 Ibid. p198-9
6 Ibid. p 198
7 Ibid. p 221