Listening to anyone tell you their story of childhood sexual abuse is not easy. The first time someone told me their story, I remember feeling a mixture of disgust, rage and disbelief. I could hardly imagine that a parent could do such a thing to a young child. I’m not alone. Most of us would rather turn our eyes away from gazing upon the life ravaged by evil.
I’ve heard numerous victims of childhood sexual abuse try to explain how the abuse began by saying they were “too sexy” or “seductive” for their father to resist. They felt that, as a three-, four-, five-, or six-year-old twirling around in the living room with skirts flaring, they were too much of a sexual temptation for their abuser to resist.
I hope you are appalled by the last paragraph. You should be. Unfortunately, even more appalling is the reality that victims of sexual abuse (and other abuse or neglect) are often made to feel responsible for what happened to them.
And sometimes the churches, or sincere Christians, increase the pain with their misguided responses. Once, someone said to me that sexual abuse happened to children because they didn’t pray and ask God to stop it. The individual went on to say that if the children had prayed, God would have intervened and stopped the abuse. In contrast, most victims I have spoken with share that at some point in their childhood they did ask God to stop the abuse. When the abuse didn’t stop, they either assumed they “deserved it,” or that God really didn’t care about them. As adults, even as Christians, they are haunted by these unanswered prayers, and doubt that God really does love them. I’ve talked with hundreds of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse and I know of only one person who, as a child, prayed for the abuse to stop, and it did. Does that mean God loved this one child more than all the others or that somehow he got the prayer right? That it’s the child’s own fault that she was abused? Of course not.