I was reminded this weekend that there are still those in my life that would prefer I remain silent. They would rather I stay silent so that they can go on believing a lie. But I can not remain silent. I will not.
I speak, not to destroy their perfect painted picture of what they think is reality or out of some vengeance of the crime committed. No, I speak for those whose voices are still silent. I speak that others might know that just because things seem right, or good on the outside doesn’t mean an injustice isn’t happening. Just because there is an adult that does good and seems to live a good life it doesn’t mean they could never, would never, hurt a child.
I speak because to be silent is to abuse the victim again. Silence allows others to pretend it didn’t happen, that it doesn’t happen. Silence tells the victim she (or he) doesn’t matter and they need to erase it from their minds.
Erase it. If only you could erase the memory of the body, the emotions, the hurt. We can forgive. We can walk in wholeness and healing as we allow God to minister to the broken pieces, but we can not pretend it didn’t happen. We can not remain in silence so that others can feel better about themselves.
I speak, not because I want to rehash the past but because there are those whose future relies on knowing the truth. We can not go on pretending that evil is not happening. We can not go on trying to cover up the abuse and slapping a band-aid on the victim and praying it will all go away.
It will not go away until we confront it head on. I am speaking to those who would rather not hear of the hundreds of boys and girls who are being abused, some even in their own families. But mostly I am speaking to the church, God’s people.
I understand, I truly do get how hard it must be to have to come face to face with a beloved teacher, deacon, elder, coach, leader or pastor who is causing harm to a child. I know how difficult it must be to face that father or step-father who seems to be a wonderful example of a God loving, honoring man. I also understand the damage that has been caused by those who have been falsely accused. But why does it seem that we so often act in the best interest of the perpetrator and not the victim?
Why does the church insist that it can cover it up with silence from the victim and forgiveness for the perpetrator? How long will we remain silent? Daily it seems, there is another religious leader or church that is being “caught” mishandling sexual abuse. Leaders are slapped on the wrist. Victims told they need to forgive and then be silent. You don’t believe me? Do a quick Google search on sexual abuse in the church or statistics on sexual abuse in the church and see the hundreds of cases. It’s happening and not just in the Catholic churches.
Why is child abuse so prevalent in the church? In a recent article1 written by “Boz” Tchividjian, a former child abuse chief prosecutor, a convicted child molester told him,
“I considered church people easy to fool…they have a trust that comes from being Christians. They tend to be better folks all around and seem to want to believe in the good that exists in people.”
This same article goes on to give some startling statistics that should open the eyes of everyone sitting in the pew. He writes about the adult survivors that “if approximately 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men have been sexually abuse as children that means that our churches are filled with abuse survivors. For example, a church of 200 members (100 women and 100 men) will have at least 41 child sexual abuse survivors! Yet, sexual abuse is still too seldom talked about inside our churches.”1
And yet we will speak out against many other evils of the world. We will speak out against prostitution and those who are sold into sex slavery, but we would prefer to ignore those who are being “prostituted” right in their own homes.
That may sound harsh to some, but when we continue to remain silent about what is currently happening and what has happened in the pews of our church then we continue to allow evil to happen. But even worse, we become a part of the evil when we do not speak up.
The church of Christ should be a place of safety for the victims and ultimately for every child. It should never be a place for the perpetrator to find easy prey. The church should be a place of healing for the victims. A place where their voices can be heard and believed. But the church must also be a place where perpetrators can find healing too. We must be willing to preach the gospel of forgiveness to both the victim and the perpetrator. I realize it’s a fine line to walk, but if the church and ultimately the cross of Jesus Christ isn’t the place for the victim to find healing and for the perpetrator to find healing and forgiveness then what hope is there?
I am reminded of Martin Luther King, Jr. who spoke out on complacency and inaction in equal rights for all man when he said, “Those who do nothing while witnessing injustice and wrong-doing do worse than those who commit acts of injustice. The privileged have a responsibility to do what they know is right.” I think this applies here also. For the church to continue to do nothing is committing acts of injustice.
So what can YOU do? Where do you begin?
1. Gain a greater understanding of sexual abuse. It’s effects and the statistics. http://netgrace.org/ is a good place to start.
2. Speak out for those who can’t speak. Begin conversations with your church leaders. Find out what safe guards your church has in place.
3. Be a place of safety for those who need to share their stories. Listen and believe them. Be willing to walk a long with them toward healing.
There is much work to be done. Much healing needed. This is only a start. It may, at times, seem an impossible task but our “Redeemer is strong, the Lord of host is His name; He will vigorously plead their case, so that He may bring rest. (Jer 50:34 NASB)
I know this Redeemer. I know that He too is a man of sorrows and is intimate with grief. (Is 53:3) He was innocent and yet they crushed, stripped and hung Him on a tree. This Redeemer knows suffering. He knows the mark of suffering, the pain of suffering.
It is in knowing this Redeemer that we find healing.
If you do not know this Redeemer email me, I would be happy to discuss it further with you. You can also check out my resource page for a place to start healing.
I also hope to do a couple follow up post to this one.
1 See more at: http://boz.religionnews.com/2014/01/09/startling-statistics/#sthash.XiW0VGva.dpuf
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