Shut Up in the Aftermath of Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse often leaves survivors feeling as if they can't put words to the pain they've endured, whether a recent event, or a decades long trauma that hides in the dark corners of the heart. Here is a place where we can help them, in proper settings, prayerfully bring what has often been kept secret out into the light of Gospel-driven hope.
This process shouldn't be thought of as a "one and done" excercise, nor as a magical counseling tactic that brings the story to a close. Instead, it is a biblically oriented process whereby the victim learns, progressively and as slowly as necessary, to trust another person with their deepest hurt, allowing the spiritual and emotional weight to be shouldered by someone other than themselves, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ, in and through a biblically faithful friend (Gal. 6:2).
Dr. Diane Langberg has well captured the experience of many survivors in her book, "On the Threshold of Hope." In it, she writes:
If you have suffered from sexual abuse, one of the results in your life is that you have been shut up. Your voice has been crushed. Fear has made you inarticulate. Perhaps the denial or deafness of others has silenced you. You may be silenced by the threat of rejection, which you are certain will come if you tell the truth. You have known voices that lie, distort, and deceive.
In an attempt to survive, you, too, have learned to lie, distort, and deceive. You pretend you are all right when you are dying inside. You say it was no big deal when your insides were ripped apart. You distort the facts to make it seem not so bad. You say, "At least I wasn't killed," when, in fact, you feel dead...
Our God is a God of truth and light. Lies are exposed when truth is spoken. Darkness is banished when light is allowed to shine. Telling your story is not an exercise in futility. It is a means to an end. In and of itself, simply telling your story will not bring healing. However, giving voice to the truth of your life so that the light of God can shine in all its spaces will bring healing. (Kindle Location 338-348)
Langberg helps those of us who provide care at any level to understand the survivor's journey a little better than we did before. There are very profound answers to the question, "Why didn't she/he ever say something?"
Indeed, the above question fails to comprehend the explosive power of sexual sin and victimization, and too often has paved the way for some type of secondary trauma, where the survivor feels shamed for not responding to their trauma in a manner that the unfamiliar world deems appropriate.
This compounding trauma of failed expectations only drives home in the survivor's heart the many false gospels and false narratives that sexual abuse has both preached and written in their minds. With patient and humble understanding, those of us who provide comfort and care can help undo the damage, and restore hope and dignity by helping our neighbor see that there is something better than suffering in silence.
If you've been hurt, we want to encourage you to consider that now may be the time to seek a trusted resource for biblical soul care, and begin the journey of restoration and redemption. Your suffering will not have been without meaning, purpose, and value. As Dr. Langberg has written:
Let your God-given voice join the voices of those who know the experience of oppression, violence, and abuse. It is a frightening step, I know, but as you take it, God will meet you there. He is the Redeemer, and he will bring you out. (Threshold of Hope, Kindle Location 348-353)