by L. Eve Engelbrite
SUGGESTIONS FOR ABUSE SURVIVORS
David was the youngest son, and considered unimportant by his father Jesse; yet God exalted him. David was sinned against by those in authority and by his own family. Incest, adultery, murder, rape and rebellion were in his household. David committed grievous sins, yet repented when confronted. God delighted in him. as many with pain-filled lives do, David expressed himself through art, and his psalms bring much healing.
1. If you haven't already been ostracized (Luke 6:22), separate yourself from the source(s) of abuse. read 1 Cor. 5:9-11 and 2 Cor. 6:14-18 (which is not about marriage, but about all relationships). Read Psalms 3 and 55 when David fled from his rebellious son Absalom.
2. Abuse (sin) is not God's will. God is not abusive. Exchange your distorted view of God for the person named Jesus in the gospels. Jesus is the true representation of His Father in heaven. Get a new Bible with Jesus' words in red letters, and focus on His words and actions. Read Psalms 18-23, 61-63 and 86.
3. You did not deserve the abuse. Exchange your distorted view of yourself with God's view of how precious you are to Him. Read Psalms 8, 17 and 138-140; Isaiah 43 and Ephesians 1-2.
4. If you have become abusive yourself, you are responsible to take whatever drastic measures (short of suicide) to stop abusing people (Matthew 18:6-9). If you are suicidal, call a hot-line or seek spiritual, judicial, mental, and/or medical intervention. Read Psalms 51-57, 65-66, 101-103 and 140-145.
5. If you have large memory gaps, ask God to prepare you for the painful, shocking truth to be revealed about yourself and others. read Psalms 7 and 10 in KJV and NIV; John 16:13 and Ephesians 4:17-5:20. If you need help in recovering the memories, ask God to direct you to appropriate tools (books, people, mental or medical intervention, etc.).
6. Cling to the Lord when family and friends withdraw their support. Read Psalms 11, 28, 35-41 and 68-71.
7. Do not sin by using your anger to avenge yourself, or by holding it in and embittering yourself. Express your anger to the Lord (shout, stomp, hit pillows), expecting Him to avenge you and then you'll be able to sleep in peace. Read Psalms 4-5, 26-28, 58-59, 64, 94 and 109. Anger is an emotion and is not a sin; it's a part of God's image.
8. Grieve your losses (relationships, trust, jobs, opportunities, health, childhood, virginity, personal boundaries, emotional stability, etc.). Read Psalms 6, 12-13 and 116-118.
9. Find your security and hope of healing in God and His Word. Read Psalms 16-21.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THOSE ASSISTING ABUSE SURVIVORS
In movies after a woman has been raped and a male (officer, doctor, etc.) approaches her, her first words are, "Don't touch me." Even though a childhood incest survivor might not have recently been raped, the memories of the nerves in her skin and muscles haven't forgotten what it felt like. (Like muscle memory for instrumentalists who play a piece repetitively until their fingers have the movements memorized.) Even a simple hug could literally make a survivor's skin crawl.
When someone has a broken leg, you don't go up and kick their cast. You might ask to sign their cast and hold the door open for them. The only "cast" a childhood incest survivor can put on is a mental and emotional one (or sometimes a physical one of extra fat for protection against the lust of others). A survivor's "cast" is more like a shield, because it just shields one from further harm, but does not promote healing; instead it eventually causes more damage. The survivor must choose to drop the shield in order to allow healing. The family of God should be equipped to bring about God's justice and healing (1 Cor. 5:9-11 and 2 Cor. 6:14-18). Call the authorities; sexual abusers rarely stop their behavior without intervention (Matthew 18:6-9). If the abuser is claiming to be a Christian in your midst, expel the abuser immediately to protect the survivor. David's family was rife with sexual sins including incest (2 Samuel 13); his psalms are very comforting and instructive.
If a childhood incest survivor finds enough faith in God to become vulnerable to you:
1. Do not offer physical touch, but a listening ear and a compassionate heart to "weep with those who weep". The survivor may be mourning the loss of childhood innocence for the first time. Ask the survivor how you can best be of help. Read Psalms 6, 12-13, 116-118.
2. Diffuse the abuser's lie that the survivor deserved or wanted the abuse by restoring God's view of precious childhood. Read Psalms 8, 17, 138-140; Isaiah 43, and Eph. 1-2.
3. Diffuse the lie that abuse was God's will for their life (thereby making God abusive) with the truth that Jesus represented His Father on earth, doing nothing but what He saw His Father doing -- strongly opposing hypocrites and gently caring for honest sinners. Sin is not God's will; sin is man's will in opposition to God's will. Abuse is not God's will. Yes, God can still bring about good in a life which has been sorely sinned against, but don't use Rom. 8:28 as a bandage so you can walk away from the continuing process of healing. Read Psalms 18-23, 61-63 and 86.
4. Childhood incest survivors often have blocked portions of their painful childhood memory. Pray with them that God will remind them of what is necessary to assure them that the abuse was real, so that they can endure the pain and anger with Jesus in the process toward forgiving the abuser. Read Psalms 7 and 10; John 16:13 and Ephesians 4:17-5:20.
5. Encourage the survivor to express the anger safely (shout, stomp, hit pillows, scream in a room isolated from others), expecting the Lord to avenge if the abuser does not repent. Anger is an emotion and is not a sin; anger is a characteristic of God's image. Read Psalms 4-5, 26-28, 58-59, 64, 94 and 109.
6. Survivors sometimes become abusive. Assure them that if they confess and repent of abusing others, God will forgive them and you will accept them and expect them to live according to the power of the Holy Spirit who will help them put their sins to death (not their "selves" to death - victims/abusers often get suicidal). Read Psalms 51-57, 65-66, 101-103, and 140-145.
7. Survivors who share the family secret are often ostracized by their family and friends. They should not be further ostracized by the church. The human "survivor - counselor" relationship is unhealthy. The survivor should be accepted in the family of God because of faith in Jesus, able to function as the Spirit leads. The family of God should continually point the survivor to the Wonderful Counselor, Jesus, and the healing of His Word. They should be supportive and help bear the burden, but should also expect the survivor to bear their burdens as well. Hurting people need friends more than professionals. Read Psalms 11, 16-21, 28, 35-41, and 68-71.
These steps also work well with spouse abuse (which often stems from child abuse). Sexual abuse is often combined with spiritual and /or substance abuse. In my house it was alcohol and witchcraft (called spiritism then and "new age" now). Help survivors "clean house".
1 John 3:8b "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil."
Mark 10:45 "For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."
Luke 19:10 "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."
May Jesus fulfill His purpose in your life.
(c) Copyright 1997 L. Eve Engelbrite All Rights Reserved