My Review: I would highly recommend this book to any church leader or anyone in the situation of counseling someone who is hurting from abuse. This book is a comprehensive guide to some of the areas that are hard to understand about this very common, sad problem. This book is however based on people’s opinions and experiences and there were certain things I thought were a little odd, like some of the stories, but overall, I would highly recommend this book. I think that pastors should especially get and read this book so they know how to reach out and help. There was one letter from a hurting victim who explained how she reached out for help to other christians, they felt bad, wanted to help and yet in each case whether it was from lack of knowledge or simply ignoring her as they did not know what to do, she went without help and lived in pain, and was hurt more by people who said they wanted to help. It was a very touching story and one that the church really needs to hear as it is a very common problem. This book can help to address some of those things and hopefully help those who love and want to help the vctims to heal, actually do so and not be victims anymore.- Martha
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Healing Victims of Sexual Abuse
Charisma House (August 4, 2009)
***Special thanks to LeAnn Hamby of the Strang Book Group for sending me a review copy.***
Paula Sandford is cofounder of Elijah House ministries. Throughout the past fifty years, she has ministered to countless number of people in the areas of inner healing and transformation as an ordained minister and counselor. Many around the world consider her to be their personal counselor and spiritual mother. With her husband, John, she has coauthored more than twenty books. Paula and John have been married for over fifty years. They have six children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Visit the author’s website.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 146 pages
Publisher: Charisma House (August 4, 2009)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Eyes to See and Ears to Hear
Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
We . . . shall assure our heart before Him, in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
1 John 3:1920
can’t believe it!” “How could I have been so blind?” “How
can I ever forgive myself for letting such a thing go on? I left my child so vulnerable!” “Where was I? How could I have failed
Questions such as these have arisen from the bleeding and bewildered hearts of thousands of parents who have just discovered that their child, who they felt had been so safe in their love, nurture, and protection, has been sexually molested by one they trusted. There are no simple answers that can instantly take away the pain.
Dealing With Self-Condemnation
As parents or loved ones of an abused child, we must begin by dealing with our own self-condemnation for our failure to be what we so desperately wanted to be and overcome the need to punish ourselves by wallowing in the misery of “what-ifs” and “if-onlys.” It is a fact that Jesus bears our grief and carries our sorrows (Isa. 53:4), but we have to release to Him the burden of our woundedness, anger, and hate. The first step is to choose to forgive ourselves. With the support and, if needed, the coaching of a prayer partner or prayer minister, we should pray, confessing both our feelings and our faith:
Lord, I am overwhelmed by my grief. My heart condemns me for my failure to protect my child. I don’t know what to do; it seems like the whole world is crashing in on me, and I’m spinning in confusion. O God, I need some answers! I know that in You there is no condemnation at all. I don’t know how to forgive myself, but by an act of my will I make that choice. And I choose to trust You to deal with my heart and set me free from condemning self-accusation or any other way in which I might punish myself.
The prayer minister or prayer partner needs to respond, strongly affirming:
Thank You, Lord, that You weep with and for Your children. You have heard this prayer, and Your heart is full of compassion. Thank You for Your forgiveness, love, and healing balm that You are pouring into this wounded and repentant heart right now. (Person’s name), in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, you are forgiven. Receive that forgiveness. Lord, lift off the weight of guilt. Bring all thoughts and feelings of condemnation to death on Your cross. Quiet the inner storms, and comfort (person’s name) in this time of fear. Lord, we stand together in the strength of Your Spirit and choose to put our trust in You. We invite You to take charge of us and every aspect of this difficult situation we face. Let us do all things in Your wisdom, according to Your grace, love, and power.
Following the prayer, we need to walk in a continual discipline of reckoning self-accusation and condemnation as dead on the cross each time we recognize that we are beginning to entertain such thoughts and feelings. If we do not, the process of healing stops. Each time we can say to the Lord, “Here I go again, putting myself under guilt. In Your name, Jesus, I renounce that and choose to walk in Your forgiveness.” And then go on with whatever tasks we have to do.
Understanding Why We Had No Eyes to See
Beyond choosing to forgive ourselves, we need answers to the question, “How could I have been so blind?”
By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches. A wise man is strong, and a man of knowledge increases power.
The first answer is that we did not want to believe it possible that a trusted friend or loved one, especially a father or stepfather, could have abused our child. If we suspected at all, we probably resisted the idea, feeling guilty that such a thing would even cross our mind. If suspicion persisted, fear of possible consequences of discovering truth overcame our ability to confront the issue. And so we suppressed our thoughts and feelings to the point of total denial. Unwittingly we became literally blind, deaf, and insensitive to reality.
Linda was a lovely, gentle woman whom John and I had known well for many years. Her marriage to Bill was written in tension, dictated by his frequent explosions of violent, unexplainable temper and punctuated by her tearful but persistent and often placating attempts to gather the broken but still workable pieces of their home life together for the sake of their children. Though Bill professed to be a born-again, Spirit-filled Christian, he had fallen into adultery numerous times. He had begged for forgiveness and had declared vehemently on each occasion that he was truly repentant, had learned his lesson, and would never fall again.
Finally, when he was caught seducing a teenage babysitter, Linda recognized that he could never change until he dealt with deep issues in his heart. But he stubbornly avoided taking the initiative to submit himself to a prayer minister, even though friends and family strongly encouraged him to do so. It was not until Linda obtained a legal separation that he relented by agreeing to receive extensive prayer ministry, that being the prerequisite for any thought of reconciliation. John and I had ministered to the two of them from time to time as much as Bill had been able to allow. But we had seen that he was always more interested in patching a quarrel than in truly healing his marriage or transforming his life. Knowing that we were too close to Linda to minister to them with sufficient objectivity, we recommended that they go to a couple we knew who are among the finest counselors available in either the Christian or secular community.
During the ensuing seven months, Bill faced many of the root causes for his insecurities and for his need to defile women. He dealt with a number of basic sources for his anger. His counselors determined that he had progressed far enough to return to his family. For a period of time he was able to manifest the effects of his healing, and Linda for the first time began to celebrate real hope for a stable marriage. It was at this point that Bill decided he could sustain his new life on his ownwithout counseling or a support groupand the healing process was aborted. He continued to play the role of the new man, making all the right sounds, but allowed no one to relate closely enough to know him or to haul him to account when he began to fall back periodically into former patterns of irritability and temper.
Bill’s and Linda’s fourteen-year-old daughter, Karen, who had always been a responsible, sensitive, loving child and good student, began to exhibit rebellious, irresponsible behavior. Truancy and unexplained absences from home grew in frequency. Often Linda would arrive home from work to discover that Karen was nowhere to be found. Attempts to enforce discipline elicited angry, defensive outbursts. When anyone invited Karen to talk about her problems, she defiantly rejected every attempt to reach her and retreated into sullen moodiness.
Finally and with great difficulty she came to her mother with a horrible story of sexual abuse. Her father had been molesting her since the time of her parents’ separation, which meant that she was being abused all during the time of their counseling and reconciliation!
Shattered, torn, fearful, and confused, Linda confronted her husband. Bill adamantly denied all accusations, claiming that Karen’s imagination was running away with her, that she had been unduly influenced by the stories of friends who had been abused. He went on, dramatically playing the role of the injured party. Linda didn’t know whom or what to believe. Finally, after repeated questioning, he confessed to having “touched” her “once or twice.” As Karen’s behavior progressed more and more to the extreme, however, it became evident that he was guilty of much more than he had been willing to confess.
Realization of what had been taking place for years within her home overwhelmed Linda with the force of a tidal wave. She had wanted so desperately to believe that Bill was changing and had so set herself to celebrate every little sign of his improvement that she had shut out the little signals that might otherwise have alerted her to the presence of trouble. Now she had no alternative but to put him out of the home in an effort to protect Karen. If she had not, the state would likely have taken her children from her. She and the children proceeded with family counseling throughout most of the next year and received a great deal of healing from that source as well as through support groups within her church.
Bill received counseling for sexual rehabilitation while serving a term in prison. He and Linda are divorced. She and the children have rebonded, and the Lord is blessing and redeeming their lives as only He can.
Equipping Our Eyes to Recognize Symptoms of Sexual Abuse
A second answer to parental blindness may lie in the simple fact that few people have either the experience or the knowledge that would equip them to identify (in the behavior of their children) the symptoms that commonly result from sexual abuse.
Educating oneself to recognize sexual abuse symptoms “after the fact” might seem to some to be too late and somewhat useless. This is not the case at all. An important part of healing begins as we are enabled to identify in right perspective the painfully mystifying behaviors of our children. As we realize clearly and specifically that their strange, out-of-control, and often hurtful responses proceed from woundedness and fear, we can begin to relate to them easily with tenderness and compassion rather than with frustration and anger. We can seek their forgiveness not only for our failure to protect them but also for many wounds and unbearable pressures we inflicted on them in the blindness of our desperation to rescue them from self-destructive patterns.
Most victims of sexual abuse have worried about themselves and have struggled with feelings of guilt they haven’t known how to handle. Children have felt they were “bad”; teenagers have seen the bewilderment and hurt in their mother’s eyes and have felt responsible for injury to younger siblings; they may have wanted to stop running, cease punishing, and ask for help but couldn’t. An enlightened and empathetic parent can help them to know that their feelings and behavior were normal reactions to the abuse they experienced, that they were not terrible or crazy. A prayer minister can help victims to see these things, but a parent who is an affirming part of the process can lay an effective foundation for reconciliation and rebonding.
An informed parent of an abused child can also help to provide immeasurable encouragement and healing to others who suffer similar heartbreak.
The following lists of symptoms are not intended to be comprehensive or exhaustive. Rather they serve to provide signposts that point to possible abuse. It is important to realize that children who exhibit some of these behaviors might not be victims of abuse but could be acting out other pressures, upsets, and influences in their lives. This information is a composite of John’s and my own experiences in prayer ministry that we found confirmed in varieties of written material and in conversations with parents, other prayer ministers, and preschool instructors.
Behavioral Symptoms in Toddlers and Preschool Children
Anxiety in the presence of persons with whom they used to be comfortable; being ill at ease around particular people or types of people; for instance, tense and/or tearful withdrawal from the presence of men and boys
Sudden unaccustomed fear of bathrooms or shower rooms, or nervous resistance to being undressed
Masturbation that exceeds curious exploration and discovery: preoccupation with excessive sexual manipulation or rubbing themselves against chair arms, pillows, dolls, etc.; sex play with other children beyond the normal “playing doctor” games: inserting objects into the ****** or anus, imitating aspects of adult love play. (In some homes pornographic movie scenes will have made disturbing impressions.) One preschool teacher reported that she had observed several children who tended to group together in a corner of the schoolyard playing a game of pulling down one another’s pants. On one occasion she discovered a child trying to initiate oral genital stimulation.
Sleeplessness, disturbed sleep, nightmares
Excessive crying, clinging to a parent, not wanting to leave the house, unusually fearful responses to being left with a babysitter
Sudden personality changes: i.e., a normally quiet child becomes hyperactive or negatively aggressive toward other children.
Excessive and chronic itching and/or tenderness in genital areas
Behavioral Symptoms in Children From Primary School Age to Preteens
Decline in consistency and quality of schoolwork: inability to concentrate, assignments not completed, truancy, tardiness, falling grades
Disturbed sleep, nightmarish dreams, inability to sleep; wearing multiple layers of clothing to bed
Decline in energy level due to anxiety, exhaustion, and/or lack of sleep
Fear of being alone with men or boys; avoidance of particular people with whom the child used to be comfortable; withdrawal from friends and activities previously enjoyed
Change in eating habits: nervous or distracted picking at food, compulsive overeating for comfort
In girls: poor personal hygiene in a girl who normally cares about her appearance (attempting to make herself unattractive)
Exaggeration of normal personality traits: i.e., a daydreamer becomes even more out of touch with the world, an energetic child becomes hyperactive, etc.; sudden dramatic swings to opposite personality poles
Invention of irrational excuses not to participate in school or extracurricular activities that formerly inspired enthusiasm
Sudden inordinate modesty, self-consciousness about the body; fear of restrooms and showers
Sudden cessation of conversational sharing
Bed-wetting when it was not a problem previously. A child can be so wounded by sexual abuse that he/she suppresses awareness of sex organs, and thus fails to respond to the body’s signals that would normally awaken the one who needs to urinate.
Increasing inability to relate well to peers
Unexplained anger and aggressive behavior
Reluctance to go home after school
Running away: boys tend more to run by withdrawing. Girls tend to literally run away from home.
Behavioral Symptoms in Adolescents
Running: A girl may leave school in the middle of the day to go riding with a friend. She may go to a friend’s home, fail to notify her family of her whereabouts, and perhaps spend the night. She may disappear for a number of days, fleeing from the home of one friend to another. When she returns, it is with irrational excuses or often with no excuse at all. When challenged, she “can’t remember” what her friend’s address is, or she “doesn’t have a phone.” She may exit by a window in the middle of the night.
She tends to keep company with friends who are several years older than she, and many of the crowd she chooses are dropouts with no responsibility to occupy their time, with no visible parental support or supervision.
She may take with her no change of clothes, no cosmetics, not even a coat for her periodic excursions.
When questioned or confronted, her response is evasive and emphatic: “I’m OK. I can take care of myself.”
We have observed such behavior in girls as early as the seventh or eighth grades, intensifying wherever molestation continues to be a threat. Usually the abuser is the father or stepfather, though similar responses may be made to avoid someone in the home who is not that closely related.
The victim may have experienced the initial molestation several years earlier. The first violation inflicted the deepest wounding and established a base of confusion and fear. Subsequent experiences reinforce the wounding, even though the child may have learned to fantasize in an effort to shut them out of her consciousness. If the molestation consisted only of fondling, she may have sensed in her spirit the wrongness and uncleanness of the act, but the one who touched her was Daddy (or some other trusted adult). Children are trained not to say no to adults, especially to their parents. She needed to be loved and affirmed. He represented authority. He said everything was all right. But it didn’t feel right. She struggled with conflicting emotions and began to manifest avoidance patterns. She no longer wanted to sit on his lap. She resisted his hugs that earlier she had sought. She no longer wanted her daddy to tuck her in at night. She wanted to sleep with her door closed. If her mother worked, the girl would play at a neighbor’s house until she was sure her mother had returned home. These changed patterns develop gradually into more easily recognizable running patterns as she grows to adolescence.
The true reasons for an abused child’s behavior are seldom obvious. In the story I shared earlier (Bill, Linda, and Karen), it was easy to attribute Karen’s earlier rebellious actions to her father’s increasing temper tantrums. Teenagers will not stay around to be yelled at if they can help it! In the best of circumstances, neither do teenagers respond as well to the responsibility of chores, rules, and regulations as they did when they were children. Even well-adjusted teenagers naturally become self-centeredly involved in their own world of activity and forget to come home on time. Unfortunately, Karen’s behavior was ascribed to a normal process of individuation aggravated and exaggerated by her father’s temperamentuntil it exploded into frantic rebellion out of all proportion to the known facts of the father’s temper and tension in the home.
Drug and alcohol abuse
Inability to sleep: desperate attempts to crowd out anxious thoughts by reading in bed until the early hours of morning; futile attempts to lose self in the sound of loud rock music through earphones; nightmares; exhaustion
Inability to concentrate or stay awake in class; unfinished school assignments; failing grades
Increasing disrespect of authority; intolerance of normal flaws in adult behavior; spasmodic acting out of parental roles, as if to “show them” how they should conduct themselves
Going to bed fully dressed
Self-mutilation; suicidal talk or attempts
Notifying the Authorities
When a sexual abuser has been identified, he must be reported to the proper authorities. This is not to be understood as taking revenge. In most states it is a requirement of law. It is also a matter of facing facts. Abusers are compulsive and will repeat the crime until the root causes for their propensity to act in such a way have been brought to death on the cross and they have been completely healed. If an abuser is the father or the stepfather of the abused, he must be separated from the home until he has been declared safe by those who are qualified to discern. Even then, he needs continuing supportive counsel until resurrection life in the Lord Jesus Christ has been securely built into the fiber and structure of his being. Let the Christian understand that such wisdom and love are for the abuser’s sake as well as for the victim’s. “The advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the lives of its possessors” (Eccles. 7:12).
There are undoubtedly hundreds of thousands of cases of childhood sexual abuse that have never been reported. What has happened in the lives of those people? I have seen a great deal of what I call “crippled coping” in many we have ministered to. Some who have sought out ministry were already aware that their present problems were rooted in early experiences of molestation. But a large number have come, having only perplexing symptoms. Suppressed memories then spontaneously surfaced in the prayer ministry process.
The following list from an article titled “Long-Term Effects of Unresolved Sexual Trauma” is a valuable and, for us, a confirming diagnostic guide I wish we had discovered long ago:1
Characteristics of Women Who Were Victims of Childhood Sexual Trauma
Recurrent and intrusive recollections, dreams, or “reliving” of experiences
Generalized anxiety, mistrust, and/or social isolation
Difficulty forming or maintaining nonexploitive intimate relationships
Sexual dysfunction (aversion, anorgasmia [inability to achieve orgasm], vaginismus [******l tightness that can prevent intercourse])
Chronic depression, self-blame, and poor self-esteem
Acute anxiety or depression related to symbolically important life changes or anniversaries
Dissociative features (memory problems, confusion, depersonalization)
Vague somatic complaints without objective findings
Phobic avoidance, often generalized to apparently unrelated situations
Diminished self-protection, masochistic strivings, and repeated victimization
Identity focused on a sense of “badness” and stigmatization
Contempt for women, including themselves
Tendency to fear men yet overvalue and idealize them as well
Tumultuous adolescence (early pregnancy, running away, substance abuse)
Pseudoresponsible, caretaking role applied inflexibly (“parental child”)
Passivity and unassertiveness
History of promiscuity or prostitution
Impulsive or self-injurious behavior (suicide attempts, self-mutilation, substance abuse)
Chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (emotional numbing, hyperalertness, etc.)
Inappropriate guilt, underlying resentment
Intergenerational transmission (abusing own children or marrying a man who does)
Defection from family’s religion
History of childhood learning problems
In our years of ministry we have observed all of the above characteristics in people who experienced sexual abuse as children. We have also seen that helping women to identify their hurts, understand and express their feelings, and develop ways of coping are only the beginnings of healing.
Fullness of healing is accomplished by the person of the Lord Jesus Christ as He is invited through prayer to enable forgiveness, to transform the inner man, and to do a work of renewal in the mind (Rom. 12:2). Whether diagnosis is made and healing is begun in childhood or many years later, no one has to be consigned to live in a wounded, crippled state forever. “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).