I was 18 years old when I learned of the sexual abuse that had occurred, and was continuing to occur, within the Christian community. Presently, I am 24 years old. I do not write as a direct victim of sexual abuse, but on behalf of the eight women in my family who have been raped or sexually abused.
In my group of girlfriends alone, several girls have been sexually abused by fathers, brothers, cousins, and men in their churches. I was shocked when I found out that this story was repeated throughout my family, over a span of multiple generations--uncles sexually abusing their nieces, and cousins raping their younger cousins.
To preface, I was super lucky. I remember my cousin telling me, "This breaks your heart because you have a good father, mother, and brothers who raised you up in a way that you knew this was wrong." I came to find out that the same people who stood up in church, prayed, and shared the gospel, were also the ones sexually abusing little girls. This affected my relationship with God. How could the all-loving, all-powerful Lord of the universe allow this to happen? Why would he protect me from this, but not my cousins and friends?
I remember when I was a little girl, my mom sat down with me and instructed me that if anyone touched me inappropriately, I should run, kick, and scream. She told me that she would always believe me if anything happened to me. It wasn't until I was 19 years old, when she shared her story with me, that I realized she had reminded me over and over that she would believe me because she didn't think that anyone would believe her when she was repeatedly raped at the age of eight.
What should the church have done, and what can we do better? I think the first thing we can do is believe that this happens to our children, girls and boys alike. Once we understand that this is a problem, we need to understand that it is our responsibility to protect the children in the church. It is on us if we allow this to continue to happen. We need to teach our men and women how to handle their sexual desires and how to heal from their own abuse. We need to remove the stigma in talking about this issue. We need to create a space for abusers to heal from their own abuse, as well as the pain they have inflicted on their victims. Before we can do any of that, we need to hold our leaders, church goers, and congregation accountable for their actions. Sweeping this issue under the rug does not make this problem go away--it allows it to continue to happen. We need to be better than that.
It's kind of funny to think that I needed to heal from this situation, because it never directly happened to me. I was so affected by it, though, that I hated men for a while. I remember walking into my church being so disgusted by all of the men there. How many more men in that room had touched our little girls? How many more of the other girls were sitting there quietly suffering?
Thank God that was not the end of the story. The Lord brought really great friends into my life to do life with me and teach me about the character of God. Who He really is, and what He wants for us. Thank God that we do not serve the elders of our church, or the men in our community, but the God of the universe. His plans and purposes are far greater than our own. He loves us more than we can ever imagine. I thought I was a Christian because I recited these promises of God on Sunday mornings and during Friday night Bible study. It wasn't until much later that I realized that I became a Christian when these truths about God became my battle cry. Praise God.