The “tender topic” of sexual abuse in churches is a bitter pill to swallow. However, the existence of it must be faced, and our children need to be mentally prepared for the possibility of needing to say “no!” to an abuser. We are careful to teach our children about “stranger danger” but don’t realize that some dangers can come from people our kids may know and respect.
When our church announced that it would be hosting a seminar on the topic of sexual abuse, I recoiled at the idea. I wanted to put my head right into the sand. I talked with a friend who attended the seminar, and she told me that abuse within the bounds of a Christian organization does occur. And this is nothing new! While the availability of porn on the internet today fans the fire of the perverse and leads to incidences of abuse, the problem has been lurking and hiding through the decades, leaving behind damaged and voiceless victims.
I was sickened to learn that child predators join churches because Christians tend to be trusting of fellow churchgoers. Also, we teach our children to respect and obey adults. As an older person, the abuser has a positional power, which enables him/her to convince a child that to tell of the molestations would lead to something terrible such as one’s family being put out of the church or that everyone will blame the child for what happened.
A discussion question I inserted into my second book Johanna’s Journey: In the Shadow of the Mountain is, “What should we do if an adult wants us to do something wrong?” It follows the chapter about the Golden Calf scenario which shows that adults can and do sometimes choose to do wrong. Children must be prepared for this possibility in life.
I hope the discussion question will bring about helpful dialogue between a girl and a parent. One doesn’t need to talk about sexual abuse…one could say, “If an adult asked you to rob a bank, what would you do?” “If an adult asked you to steal something, what would you do?” And then tell a child that if she/he ever feels down inside that something an adult is saying or doing isn’t right, she/he should leave! They don’t have to stay and obey that adult or older child! You want them to leave and tell you about it. They won’t get into trouble with you or be scolded. You will listen to them and will protect them.
Tear Down This Wall of Silence: Dealing with Sexual Abuse in Our Churches is an informative and compelling book which helps one to face the monster of abuse. It includes victim’s stories and the lies their abusers told them which caused them to keep silent. It also shares ways to minister to victims and what the church in particular must do to help them.
While Scripture tells us to be harmless as doves, it also says to be wise as serpents.
While reading a book about this “tender topic” is not fun, it’s certainly better than possibly looking back one day and wishing one had done so. There may be several helpful books out there, but this is the one I have read, and so I share its name with you. Be wise, be forewarned, and strengthen your girls!