My name is Sherin Thomas, I am 24 years old, and I grew up in one of the Indian Brethren assemblies in Chicago. I, too, like my sister in Christ above, was never a direct victim of sexual abuse, and have chosen to write this piece on behalf of the dozen more women and men who have chosen to not come forward about their abuse. Although they are not yet ready to speak openly about their experiences, I do not want them to be forgotten.
My sister is Merin Minch, who publicly shared her testimony of sexual abuse on the Come Awake Blog. After she published her testimony, she and I received up to 40 responses from other men and women who were, or knew those who had been, sexually abused via text message, social media, phone calls, or in person. Listening to these men and women who were confiding in us, some for the very first time, of how they were suffering in silence was nothing short of heartbreaking. And as we can see from these brave statements above, each of these survivors is aware of the rampancy of abuse occurring across the board in the Indian and American Brethren assemblies, as well as the Pentecostal and nondenominational churches.
I wish it was not this way. I still remember witnessing several instances in which Merin was being sexually abused. Her abuser had no issue reaching under her shirt or groping her chest in plain sight of me. Because he figured that he would not get caught. They know Indian girls have been taught that silence will save us, except it won't. This mentality allows for abuse to run rampant in our Indian community, as well as others. For a church denomination that prides itself on being so doctrinally sound, I can only weep at what those assemblies, specifically the Indian assemblies, have allowed to occur for so long.
I weep because our Indian brothers and sisters are not ignorant--they know that abuse has occurred and is occurring, but have chosen to look the other way. Even when the abusers are elders and leaders of the church. Why? I will only be repeating what has already been stated by so many above. You are unmarriageable, the shame will ruin the family, and sex is taboo and uncomfortable to discuss. I still remember the day a prominent leader from the Indian church passed away. The comments made by aunties and uncles when told that he had a history of having committed unconfessed sexual abuse included, "maybe it was only one or two girls" and "he still did so much for the Lord." I have asked more than once, do we value girls at all? Do we value young boys AT ALL?
It is scary to rock the boat in a community as tight-knit as ours. In the end, we will all stand before God one day, and for that reason, we must speak up.
Yes, I was never a direct victim of sexual abuse. Some would say I didn't have a right to be traumatized. I thought so, too, for the longest time. As I got older, I wondered, why did I become paralyzed with fear every time someone tried to touch me, even if it was just an innocent hug? Why did I yell at my older cousin for reaching around me to show me how to use a video game controller? Why did I only wear XL clothes over my size small body? Why was I so mean to my younger brother, and why did I hate my dad? Why could I not shake my fear of men? Why did I walk down a destructive path of sexual sin, which warped my view of men and sex even more? Why did I think I was a lesbian? These were all protective measures and the consequences of living in constant fear. And even then I had it easy.
While what man meant for evil, God has and will continue to use for good, His heart grieves that those representing Him have chosen to turn a deaf ear to this. So many are walking away from the faith as a result. As much as I want to state that it is our responsibility to address sin, and that we must let go of the fear of rocking the boat that is keeping us in bondage, and that something must be done, I have only one plea: Please help us.
God has been gracious. God is kind. His heart is one of compassion, and He is close to sorrow. As we weep over this sin, He also weeps. I would have never learned about grace, or the heart of God, had I not gone through this at the age of 10. But is this how God intended for the church to operate?
Please help us.