An excerpt and hope for victims of sexual abuse
Day 26 – Rid Of My
Disgrace (For Victims Of Sexual Abuse)
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.
—2 COR. 1:3-4
On the final run of Vans Warped Tour in 2018, we created a giant “Support Wall” where each day our staff wrote the personal stories of men and women who needed encouragement and support. People at Warped Tour overwhelmingly responded by sharing their heart, hopes, and personal demons.
As I saw the responses each day, I noticed something that rattled me. There were several responses in which people shared about their sexual assault or rape. For several years we gave out a book written by a personal friend of mine named Justin Holcomb. It’s a book for victims of sexual assault and abuse entitled, Rid of My
DisGrace, (which I highly recommend and helped me). Yet, as movements like #MeToo and #ChurchToo have grown, so has our awareness as victims come forward with their stories.
So it’s time I came forward too.
I was sexually assaulted as a child, but it wouldn’t be the only incident in my life. Later in life, I had a traumatic event in college where I was touched inappropriately. I won’t go into details, but both events messed me up. As a kid, the assault confused me. I didn’t know what to do with the experience, and I certainly didn’t want to tell anyone. Assault seemed like something that didn’t happen to men. Years later, I would discover I wasn’t alone. Statistically, one in six men have been sexually assaulted, as have one in four women.
I carried the shame from my sexual assault for years when I was younger, and it was difficult for me to be intimate with anyone. I felt ashamed and like I “wasn’t a man.” Men and women can react in one of two ways to their sexual assault either avoiding all contact or acting out because of what happened. I was the latter case in which I slept around a lot, trying to prove I was man enough.
The voice in my head always told me, “tell no one about this.” Far too often when a victim comes forward they’re met with blame, disbelief, suspicious questions, shallow platitudes, bad advice, or toxic theology. We’re met with comments like, “No, that didn’t really happen,” or “you deserved it because you put yourself in that situation.” I can’t tell you how crushing this is for those of us who’ve endured the abuse. No one “deserves” to be assaulted.
Processing everything I had to rely heavily on God’s comfort once I was ready to move forward. There were times of mourning and weeping, loneliness, or trying to use sex to fill the void, but God came along to comfort me. The thing about sexual abuse is that when you don’t feel you can talk to anyone about it, God already knows and wants to comfort you. Any time I wanted to process or talk about what happened, God always showed up. He was sympathetic and nurturing throughout the entire process of healing while I reflected on the wrong done to me. My wounds healed with time and today I’m able to share about my assault to comfort others and say, “I know. It happened to me too.”
That’s what this verse in 2nd Corinthians reminds me of. That God comforted me in my darkest times so I could comfort others in theirs. Whether or not you’ve been a victim of sexual assault, you still have the same Holy Spirit in you that can comfort others when they’re troubled or hurting. Maybe you’ve been an addict and can help other addicts. Maybe you’ve been depressed or anxious and can help others who are. Maybe you’ve never experienced what other people have? You can still be a source of comfort and love for them.
God taught me through my pain that I’d been hurt by hurting people. Evil will always try to use flawed people for its purposes to destroy this world. Once I discovered forgiveness, however, I became a person who began to heal, and healing people heal other people.
So today, if you feel hurt, confused, exhausted, or lonely, lean into God’s great comfort. Allow him to walk in the pain with you especially if you’ve been a victim of sexual abuse like I have. Your future is waiting in his hands where he gently wants to restore you.
And when that happens? You’ll know how to comfort others.
- Where have you been wounded in the past? Is it still difficult to process or move forward? Why?
- How can you lean into God and the comfort he promises? How can you comfort others with His love?
- If you feel God pressing on you to reach out, perhaps an action step looks like sharing with a safe friend or family member an event that still haunts you. What would keep you from doing so? Why? How can you combat that and trust God?