How you can help protect children and support survivors.
Some statistics are so staggering you just can’t un-see them. That’s how I felt at a conference two years ago on child protection. The main speaker revealed two facts that were so astounding that, after hearing them, I knew that I would never be the same.
1 out of every 4 women and 1 out of every 6 men have been or will be abused. At first, I couldn’t wrap my head around those numbers. That meant that about a quarter of my congregation were probably survivors, a quarter of my friends and neighbors were probably survivors, and a quarter of my community were probably survivors. And now I know that probably a quarter of you reading this are survivors.
But how could that be? If those numbers are accurate (and they are probably low), then why is nobody talking about this? Well, here is another statistic: almost 100% of survivors are suffering in silence.
Survivors of abuse are much more likely to become addicted to drugs and alcohol, live sexually promiscuous lives, and suffer from a myriad of other mental, emotional, and physical problems. (See ACE study). When a child is abused they are told the most sinister lie: You are nothing but a tool for my pleasure. That lie implants a feeling of unquenchable shame. Shame is different from guilt. Recently, I listened to a psychologist explain the difference. She said, “Guilt is feeling bad because I made a mistake. Shame, on the other hand, is feeling bad because I believe I am a mistake.”
Shame is such a debilitating feeling that we will do almost anything to silence it.
After hearing this statistic, I was convinced I had been doing much of my ministry all wrong. Some of the people that I was serving were running to drugs, sex, and alcohol, not to escape God, but to escape and cope with shame. In most of those cases, they needed to hear about the love of God, not the law of God.
The world is a dark place, but with the help of God, you can be a light in the midst of darkness.
How to protect children and help survivors?
1. Establish and enforce a child protection policy at your church.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14). He also said, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6)
Jesus is serious about caring for and protecting children, so should we. One way your church can do that is through a child protection policy, making sure everyone who has significant contact with children has had a background check, and make sure no child is ever left with just one adult.
2. Support survivors in your circle of influence
In John 4, Jesus speaks to a Samaritan woman at the well. Her checkered past seems to resemble someone who had been abused or harmed. Look at how Jesus treated her. He showed patience and love as he pointed her to the living waters of God’s love. Then he spent time addressing her besetting sins.
Most survivors are suffering in silence. So what if you followed Jesus’ example by being open to the hurting around you, and then listen with patience and care? There is probably more to the story of your friend and relatives that you don’t know about. If you are looking for tools to help survivors check out freedomforcaptives.com.
3. Support and volunteer with organizations who protect children and help survivors
Many worthy organizations that protect children and help survivors already exist. You or your church can partner with them. Our congregation works with an organization called “Care in Action”. Through this program, we have adopted a social worker. The social worker filters needs to our church so we can help families with children in our own community.
Another example of partnership: we heard of an organization that helps troubled teenage girls who have been exposed to abuse. The group was looking to open a home for girls in our city to help them move forward. We told people about their work and encouraged people to help them open this resource. We may be able to share resources from Freedom for the Captives with them.
Finally, if you are a survivor…
Odds are that either you or someone very close to you is suffering in silence. It doesn’t have to be this way. Stuffing the trauma will not make it go away. It will keep rising to the surface like a balloon that’s push to the bottom of a pool. So I encourage you to take the bold step of speaking to a Christian Counselor or seeking out an understanding pastor today. You don’t need to be scared anymore, and if the first person you talk to doesn’t help, find someone who will.
You need to know: It was not your fault. You matter. Your pain matters to God. He is here to lead you on the path of healing.
That truth will begin to set you free.