Out of My Comfort Zone

IMG_6524I have never been abused or molested. I have not been mistreated by men close to me, or put in a position that made someone else’s sin feel like my own and haunt me like a shadow for years. But I want to write to those of you who are victims, who do carry this kind of shame or anger or guilt or fear with you every day.

I know that I am walking into a subject that is full of emotions that I do not know personally, and honestly, that is the reason that I do not usually talk about them. All that said, it is on my heart to write about this right now, and I hope that you may find it helpful.  Give me some grace here as I try to bring the beauty of the Gospel into a dark and difficult part of some of your lives.

First of all, if you were abused or molested in a way or at a time of life when you absolutely could not resist, did not understand what was happening, or were otherwise completely innocent, someone sinned dramatically against you. And the message that I want you to hear is that you are in good company. Jesus Christ was a sinless victim – and the weight of the sin that He bore was the weight of the sin of the world. That darkness, that fear, that heaviness that you know – that is the weight of having been close to sin that did not belong to you. Think on the Savior who did more than be with us in our sin – He took the sin from us. He shouldered the whole burden of the sin, and the terrifying consequence of it – separation from the Father. Jesus Christ is no stranger to the weight of sin, although He himself never sinned. Our sin destroyed a sinless relationship. That Son and that Father were torn apart by other peoples’ sins.

Identifying with the Savior in this is having company in your sorrow, but never being left there. Jesus did not remain separated from the Father. He was victorious.The Father not only brought justice on the sin, He brought salvation to the sinners. Identify with Him in your grief, and identify with Him in your victory. He is sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and He is not afraid. If you are in Him, you do not need to be afraid. If you are in Him, there is no eternal sorrow, no wounds that cannot be healed, no guilt that cannot be taken away. Keep your eyes on Him, and you are safe.

If you were complicit in the sin in some way, this Savior is still yours. That sin that He shouldered was yours, it was ours. But it is finished. It is gone. If you have repented and turned to Him, you can know peace. Jesus Christ is sufficient. Give it to Him.

But what about the people who have sinned against us? What about the people who molested little children, or beat your aunt up, or cornered your cousin in a church bathroom? What about the people who committed the sins that you remember in nightmares? What about the people who talked you into an abortion? The sins that have changed the way you see the world? How are we and the church to see these people? What are we to do with them? How are we to think about them?

I have talked with women who have been through things that should scare anyone. I have friends who have been molested, have known victims of brutal rape, and talked with women who still feel some kind of vague guilty haze resting on their lives. Sometimes even the straight facts of someone’s memory can make you sick, make you feel like the whole world is death itself. And that is partly the truth. Right now in the wake of the Vision Forum horror show, you can easily find accounts of Christian girls getting misused and abused and wronged all over the place – the kind of accounts that make you think we should throw the world away and start over somewhere without sinners. This is part of living the body life – we bear one another’s burdens. But we can also be deceived. We can start buying into lies. We can get what my sister-in-law so aptly calls the emotional flu. We can start to wallow in the darkness in the name of bringing in the light. We can slip into a lynch mob mentality – someone must pay for this.

But here is the good news for sinners and the bad news for lynch mobs. Someone already has. Jesus Christ died with the sins of repentant pedophiles. He became not only our sins, but the sins of the people whom we are looking on with hatred. Jesus Christ is the One True Perfect Sacrifice. His blood is sufficient. And here is the hardest part of what I want to say – and I truly hope you will be willing to listen and not be offended. Even if you are a victim, you and I and the entire race of Adam are also the offenders. This sin, all of it, was our inheritance in Adam. It belongs to us, and we to it. I don’t have to have molested anyone to share in the guilt of the sin we have all inherited from our father. We are in Adam by birth, and in the new Adam by the new birth. If you are saved, then in Adam you are filthy, and in Christ you are pure. And by being born new in Christ, I am not sinless, but I can be blameless. The sin is both oppressively ours, and it is as far from us as the East is from the West.

But what if a person who was not the victim but rather the abuser is converted? What if they were abusers, but they repent? What if the weight of their sin drives them to the Cross? What if Christ opens His arms to them and takes that burden on Himself? Then what?

Where I think we are stumbling is that we want to identify the “sinners” by their sins instead of by their Savior.  We have been heavily influenced by the world in this – wanting to believe that you can be born with a certain “identity” in sin that cannot be overcome. Well guess what? We were all born with that identity in sin, and we can all be reborn with a new identity in Christ. Do you really believe that there is a sin that the blood of Christ cannot wash away? Do you believe that there is a sin so bad that it has come through the death and burial and resurrection of the Son of God and is still strong enough to be the identity of the sinner? When God claims a sinner, He doesn’t do it half way. His blood is sufficient.

Sin is a destructive mess. And sexual abusive sin is one of the most destructive kinds of sin. There is no clean and smart and perfect way to deal with it after the fact.  It does not help that our civil justice system is seriously confused, and “justice” will often not be seen here in this life. Do churches often screw this up? Absolutely. Does Christ? Never.

This is the thing – we are to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves at the same time. But we can be – because we are children of Adam and children of God at the same time. We have to believe, and remember that we are capable of grotesque sin, because in Adam we have done it all. And we have to believe that Christ is capable of a greater righteousness that can and has swallowed that sin up.

When Christians make messes of situations like this – like being foolish enough to bring an abuser back to church with his abuse, or acting as though forgiveness and trust are the same thing, pretending not to know something terrible about someone they respect, or  simply forgetting what people are capable of – it is fundamentally a problem with what we believe about ourselves and about Christ.

Lately I have seen many Christians with an anger against this kind of sin, which is right. What is wrong is to forget the solution.  We cannot save ourselves by trying to separate ourselves out from the sinners. We cannot banish sinners from us and remain pure. We cannot save ourselves with the blood of a perpetrator. We are the sinners, all of us, and He is the Savior, whose blood is sufficient for all. Do not let fear or guilt or sexual confusion or brokenness or anger become your identity. Your identity is in Christ. A victorious, conquering, joyful, rejoicing, steadfast, merciful, just, holy, true and faithful Christ. He has taken our sin so that we might never have to be apart from Him. Praise Him. Love Him. Worship Him. Be His.

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49 thoughts on “Out of My Comfort Zone

  1. Good words! I always think back on your Dad’s (I think he’s the originator, anyway, and if I’m misappropriating then he has to forgive me :)) charge that we are called to forgive, not to forget. Though we’d all like to.

  2. Remember when Corrie TenBoom runs into one of her Nazi persecutors post War. The scene still makes my eyes well up. Her immediate hatred and aversion to him. His plea for mercy and forgiveness. Her extending her hand to shake his. A Beautiful, painful, shocking, wonder.

  3. Hi Rachel, Another well-written article. Do you have an e-mail address where I could send you a private note? THANKS,
    Lisa Van Deventer

  4. “Do not let fear or guilt or sexual confusion or brokenness or anger become your identity. Your identity is in Christ.”
    Amen! That says it all.

  5. “First of all, if you were abused or molested in a way or at a time of life when you absolutely could not resist, did not understand what was happening, or were otherwise completely innocent, someone sinned dramatically against you.”

    Amen!

    Can I add, though, that abuse is rarely that cut and dried – where one ‘absolutely’ could not have resisted and is ‘completely’ innocent. Predators often prey on victims who technically can resist, but who practically can not resist because of fear or lack of friends who would believe them or because the abuser has convinced them of their own complicity.

    Such people also need to have acknowledged that they were sinned against greatly. If you limit acknowledgement of great wrong done to only the completely pure, there won’t be much acknowledgement of wrong at all.

  6. I read this to an 85year old lady who doesn’t do computers. Her family, German American , was scooped up into an internment camp and deported in January 1945 to Germany for the last months of the war.she had a bomb go off right where she was standing moments before. Ruth loved your post. She couldn’t have agreed with you more. She has no resentment. No anger. No bitterness at her family losing everything. She still marvels at, while interned, she had the opportunity to take a typing class. After the war, at 16, she got a job working as a secretary for an American General. Which helped put food on the table.

  7. ” We cannot save ourselves by trying to separate ourselves out from the sinners. We cannot banish sinners from us and remain pure. We cannot save ourselves with the blood of a perpetrator. We are the sinners, all of us, and He is the Savior, whose blood is sufficient for all. Do not let fear or guilt or sexual confusion or brokenness or anger become your identity. Your identity is in Christ.”

    What needs to be crystal clear here is that abusers are not welcome into the general worship service or other gatherings. It is a shepherds duty to protect his sheep, the abusers victims and potential future victims. Abusers who are truly repentant will agree to a separate worship time with the pastor and other select men in the church.
    My pastor says it well. http://uribrito.com/pedophiles-church/

  8. This is the message I share with women wounded by abuse on a regular basis. Thank you for acknowledging the truth of the struggle and the importance of understanding ALL things through the ultimate Truth of Christ. Your tenderness toward these wounded people is so needed! As is the reminder that there is nothing Christ cannot redeem, whether sin we commit, or sin committed against us! Thank you!

  9. I am doubting this comment will be posted. But I feel it needs to be said. As a fellow follower of Christ, as a woman who was date raped, and as someone who has helped abuse victims, I think that you shouldn’t speak on this subject. Abuse is complicated and is not black and white. The fact that you hinted that someone could resist abuse shows that you clearly do not understand the anatomy of abuse. Please educate yourself on the effects of abuse on the brain that our LORD so miraculously created before you try to speak on it. Your comments can be found detrimental to those women trying to heal from their abuse and coming to a place where they can acknowledge it is not their fault. I have one final question for you. Why do we give people more time to heal from the physical effects of cancer then we do from the emotional effects of the cancer of abuse?

  10. As someone who lived through abuse from more than one adult male, I’d like to make a couple of comments. One, I do appreciate much of what you’ve said, such as, “Do not let fear or guilt or sexual confusion or brokenness or anger become your identity. Your identity is in Christ.” And, ” Even if you are a victim, you and I and the entire race of Adam are also the offenders. This sin, all of it, was our inheritance in Adam. It belongs to us, and we to it. I don’t have to have molested anyone to share in the guilt of the sin we have all inherited from our father. We are in Adam by birth, and in the new Adam by the new birth. If you are saved, then in Adam you are filthy, and in Christ you are pure.” This is wonderful, and with time it is something a victim can internalize.

    Yet, I hope that you can clarify the idea that the victim might be partially responsible. If you mean that any child or woman who was physically abused could have fought their way out of the situation, then you really don’t understand the paralysis/shock/fear/ that can strike when something like this happens, whether you think they deserve it or not. The fight or flight syndrome has been found to be a primarily male response, and females tend to go into a paralysis mode when in such situations.

    Also, no sexual abuse victim, especially children, should ever have to sit in church with their abuser. Yes, sin is sin, but children should feel safe at church, period. As an adult you have the choice of going to church with your abuser or not, but a child has no such choice.

  11. Hi Ladies – (Simone, Anastasia, Jen F)

    Thanks for your comments. I am not making an argument here for how different kinds of abuse should be categorized. So for instance, I would include paralyzing fear as a reason that you could not resist. I am not intending to get that deep. That said, I have talked with victims who do believe they were partially responsible, so I think it is fair to consider that a class of abuse.

    I agree that no one should make a child sit in church with their known abusers. I do not believe that we can simply remove the known sinners from the service and have that remove the sin. I am specifically not trying to write a policy for elders or churches. I would hope that they would show sensitivity and wisdom in a given case. I know that they don’t always, but we all agree that they should.

    As to whether or not I can write about this topic – I am certainly not hoping to set myself up as a professional, and I have not pretended to know this from the inside. I hoped in this article to write about the Gospel, not the details of abuse, and the gospel is something that I know from the inside.

    Many Blessings,
    Rachel

  12. Oh- I missed one thing! Anastasia- As far as the time frame for recovery, I have none.

    Part of the reason that I wrote this was for friends of mine who continue to struggle with things long past.
    I don’t believe that this is news to any of them, but I hope it is encouragement to continue on the path of healing that they are on – honoring God, forgiving sinners, and being made new in Christ.

  13. Maybe I can make it more real for you. I don’t think you understand the damage this post could do. It took almost 10 years from the incident of sexual assualt until I realized that I was not a willing participant. You see often the abuser is playing head games before during and after and you don’t know up from down. If I had read this post right after I came to that realization and got to the point “absolutely couldn’t resist” I would have gone right back to the place where i was to blame. I had lured him in I had made him do it. Because you see these were all the things he had said to me. These were all the lies that I had believed for years. The sin that was committed against me I will live with forever. I am much better then i once was and so much healing has taken place. But our LORD is gentle and he pulls one band-aid off at a time slowly exposing the wound and lovingly healing it. So here I am begging you to please consider that this post that is set our onto the worldwide web may not be helpful and is very possible harmful for those on this path.

  14. Anastasia-,
    Best wishes on your continued recovery. I sincerely hope that God will pour out his love and kindness on you, and that He will use your insights to minister to others.
    I do hope that this post does not become a stumbling block to anyone like you think it might, but I stand by the declaration of the gospel. And while I know I did not reach everyone with it, I hope that God will use it for some good.

  15. You have spoken the truth in love. Christ died for all kinds of sin, and heals all kinds of wounds. Most abusers have themselves been abused. It is a sad, sinful cycle. Thank you for reminding us that even though what they did was horrible, they are not beneath his forgiveness. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. Thank you for your courage to remind us of this truth.

  16. I think you have completely missed the point and that is what is sad about this whole thing. I have pointed out something very specific to you on a subject that you admired you are not an expert on. Please please take a step back and think of how this could hurt people.

  17. Thank you Rachel. This is helping me to pray for Christ’s healing in this sad world. Especially for those who have been so hurt in this way to find a path through the confusion to refuge in Him.

  18. (I tried to comment last night and it got lost in moderation)

    Rachel, this post named for taking you out of your comfort zone? Would learning about abuse and what that means move you more out of your comfort zone? I understand that it is hard to empathize with something that you don’t know much about. So, perhaps a public writing forum is a poor idea, when you don’t understand the subject which you are addressing.

    A big thing that makes abuse different from bad (imperfect) treatment of others is that, the abuser is justifying themselves, blaming the abused, and/or in denial. A public piece like this can help keep abused people from speaking up, because they wonder if it is their fault, and it gives more fuel to the fires of justifying abuse by the abuser.

    It can also be very hard to know if an abuser is repentant, because they know how to apologize (and manipulate) very well.

    I am not calling for a lynch mob. Yes, we are all in need of the same Savior. I know that people who hurt people are hurt people. We are all hurting people. Abusers are people, too. Shedding the light of the Gospel into the dark corners and exposing abuse for what it is, it NOT wallowing in the darkness. That’s the point, the ones who speak up don’t want to live in the dark places anymore. If the dark is not brought to light, how will the abuser ever know repentance and have the freedom to walk in the light of Jesus and His truth?

  19. Thanks for the clarification. I do think God can use this post for good. He does that with almost everything, right? Even when we get it all wrong, He makes it all right.

  20. Hi Erin-
    Thanks for the comment. I didn’t actually mean that much by the title, having written it before the post. It was intended more as a “not my usual subject matter” kind of thing.
    I am not uncomfortable talking to people about abuse, or with the subject matter itself.
    I knew that if I wrote on this topic, I would get negative feedback from people saying that I shouldn’t. But we get negative feedback about not writing about it too – so I am not making my decision to do it based on the feedback, but based on what I believe needs to be said by christians.
    I sincerely hope that my post doesn’t shame anyone into not talking, but I know that it hasn’t done that across the board, based on the amount of texts and emails and conversations I have had since writing it, from abused people thanking me or telling me a little more about what they have learned as they walk with God through this sort of trial.
    I am hoping that God will use my imperfect effort to help some people, and if there are people who would not be helped by it, I hope that they will find help elsewhere.
    Thanks again for your comment,
    Rachel

  21. Thank Rachel. by this – “so I am not making my decision to do it based on the feedback, but based on what I believe needs to be said by christians.” – are saying that your post is based on Christian thought & the negative feedback is not? I think we are all agreeing that the Gospel is for all, and we are all in need of a Savior. We agree that Jesus came to heal. Jesus gives new life.
    The wisdom of many things in this post is questionable to many. I know you disagree. But, I hope you will consider the negative feedback & understand that no one here is opposed to declaring the Gospel.

  22. Rachel.

    I will join the voices encouraging you to take a deep breath and put these sort of posts on hold for awhile. Ask your Father to slow down your train of thought so you can hear Him speak. He will probably have a sweet word for your heart. He will probably open your heart and your eyes to depths you’ve never known.

    I was, like you, simply unaware of the depths of the pain people know. There are depths you and I don’t circumstancialy know. But others do. But by His power, we can know. We pray and we ask courageous women questions and we wait and we read beautiful books like the Holcombs’. And we humbly take te advice of our courageous sisters who entreat us to slow down and reconsider.

    God loves to show us new things. These new things increase our worship and increase our sisterly love and respect. But the require that we slow down and open up out hands anew.

    Thankful to you for the many ways you have blessed me these past years.

  23. As a sexual child abuse, teenage rape, and young adult assault survivor I think you handled the topic well. Keep up the good work.

    I must say that without Christ I would be hopelessly lost and drowning in a sea of bitterness and fear. Because Christ sets the captives free He leaves no room for shame nor the need to wallow in self-pity. I pray all survivors are willing to allow the dark chapters in their lives to bring glory to God as they walk along side others that are working through the healing process.

  24. As a sexual child abuse, teenage rape, and young adult assault survivor I thank you for handled the topic well. Keep up the good work.

    I must say that without Christ I would be hopelessly lost and drowning in a sea of bitterness and fear. Because Christ sets the captives free He leaves no room for shame nor the need to wallow in self-pity. I pray all survivors are willing to allow the dark chapters in their lives to bring glory to God as they walk along side others that are working through the healing process.

  25. Dear Rachel,

    I have thought long and hard about what to say offer here. My heart is telling me to offer another side to what you have written, as a victim of childhood, ongoing sexual abuse. I in no way want to discourage you from trying to be understanding of the pain people endure in life.

    When you have been sexually abused, things happen in your brain that influence every area of your life until you experience deep heart healing and understanding of how your ‘sinful’ behavior is connected to what you experienced as a child.

    For me, it came out as a lot of misdirected anger and resentment. I worked very hard for 25 years to rid myself of it. But, the problem is that the root of it was very subconscious. You see, when you have been abused, you have a very warped sense of reality and of who you are. Stopping the sin that results is never going to transform the heart, and I’m not saying that you said it will.

    As a victim of abuse, you end up with all sorts of beliefs that you must take on in order to handle life in a dysfunctional environment and as a child, these beliefs can save you. For me, one way I distracted my own pain was to focus on trying to rescue others and save them from their pain. I became a people pleaser and I also was on a constant search for others to rescue me. I learned to fanaticize, but I didn’t know this was the case. And I had a lot of resentment about not being rescued and I fantacized a lot about my life being different. I would have fantacized about having your life had I known you. Fantacizing saved me as a little girl with no where to turn and no one to protect me. As an adult, people truly tried to help me, but to no avail. I imagine it is difficult to understand what I am saying, but my point is, that we take on all kinds of very unhealthy beliefs and behaviors and these must be undone in a very safe environment where there is deep understanding and acceptance and a knowledge of what is actually happening in the mind that needs to be undone. Believing requires much unlearning.

    I understand you are trying to encourage those who have been abused, but what you might not get is that just b/c we believe in the Gospel, and that we are washed clean, those subconscious programings don’t go away so reading this can leave a victim with a lot of shame about why they just can’t quite believe hard enough to make all their misdirected anger, resentment, etc..go away, and why they just can’t stop ‘sinning.’ For me, I would have read this and felt so much shame about not being able to be as faithful as you and just believe and praise and worship and see that life is good. No, my behavior towards my children and husband was terrible, often. I was scared and ashamed and I was unhealed and I didn’t know it.

    It feels to me like you are offering to feed the poor by telling them to be full instead of giving them food. I know it’s not intentional on your part. I just struggled for so many years, getting up before dawn to pray and seek and read the Bible and I was never able to overcome and heal until I understood the dynamics of it all. Please don’t lead anyone to believe that if they just believe a little more, they will be washed and life will be good. It is just not that simple.

    I am speaking from experience of a transformed life after going through deep, heart healing recovery. I can now believe that the love of Christ penetrates into the depths of my wounds and I no longer need to act out my fears and shame in the form of anger towards others. But it took time and therapy and it is much more than just believing some more. I know many woman who would just be more discouraged by reading this b/c it does not give answers to the complexity of healing from abuse, but oversimplifies that loving Jesus will just heal everything. It can make them feel like they probably just don’t believe at all, like I did.

    I only write this as an encouragement to one who may be stuck in the bondage of shame and wonder why they just can’t change and why they keep struggling so much. Have hope, sister, there is more to it than Praise, Worship, Delight, Love, and all the other false remedies for your very deep and very real pain that keeps bringing out your ‘sin’ and making you feel like the one person that just can’t get over yourself. Healing is available, but it is much more than simply believing and yes, those things you mention are good, but they aren’t going to undo what needs to be undone.

    I’m sure you believe this and know this as well, Rachel, you just might want to mention these things in your next post about a topic that many women in the church are stuck in shame about.

    Thank you for considering another side of the coin.

  26. I feel a need to respond to this post. While I very much appreciate your heart behind it and your desire to speak healing into the lives of abuse victims, I feel that some of the statements you’ve made are actually hurtful or damaging. I feel like sharing some of my story here might help you understand where I, and potentially others, are coming from.

    I was a victim of rape at the age of 13. I was raped by a young man I did not know, at someone’s house when I should have been at school. I cut class to “help” my step sister out by going with her to a young man’s house who was interested in her. I put myself in a precarious situation. I was taken advantage of by a 24 year old young man, as I was vulnerable and alone in an unfamiliar place when my step sister abandoned me to be with her interest. I will not go into details, but I did not scream or shout or bite or kick. It was not particularly violent. I felt far away from myself for the whole ordeal, unable to act and slightly in shock. I did say “no, please don’t” and “stop” several times. But I was ignored.

    What is hard for me to swallow is this: “First of all, if you were abused or molested in a way or at a time of life when you absolutely could not resist, did not understand what was happening, or were otherwise completely innocent, someone sinned dramatically against you.” Well. I was old enough to know what was happening. I had done something foolish and was stuck in a bad situation. So, perhaps I was not completely innocent. I feel like you have put unattainable parameters on innocence of a victim here. And comparing us to a sinless Jesus doesn’t help. And then you suggested a victim’s guilt by saying “if you were complicit in some way.” This is a form of victim blaming, though I am very sure that this was not your intention at all.

    Do you know that I had NO IDEA I was raped? When I shared what happened with my (blood) sister (not the one I was with that day) during the fallout that came along with being left on the side of the road in an unfamiliar neighborhood after skipping school, she had to insist and tell me repeatedly that I was raped. Surely, surely, rape only happened to women who had been violently assaulted and were covered in bruises. Not to me, not like that. I had obviously done so many things wrong to end up there.

    I was hurt by some of this message because there is a guilt that comes along with being a victim that is hard to understand for someone who hasn’t been there. It took me a very long time to understand that though I made foolish decisions to get to that place, what happened to me was not my fault. I was not responsible for having my virginity stolen from me. I was a victim. It is 14 years, a court case, and a conversion later; and after speaking with my husband tonight about why this post irked me I still struggle to say “I was raped”. You see, rape is not black and white. There can be a lot of gray. And though Jesus can heal, and his sacrifice is enough, it is not so easy to just move past the feelings of guilt and self blame. The shame. And when others victim blame it is even harder.

    That being said, Rachel you have been a huge encouragement to my heart as a young mom of little ones, and I feel like part of the reason you speak so well to encourage other women in similar fashion is because you are speaking from experience. From “the trenches”. Judging from some of the other comments, I am not the only one who felt there were some undertones of blame in this post. I do appreciate you trying to speak healing and bring the gospel to the darkest of places. Everyone needs Jesus, and his message is for everyone.

    And thank you Maria for sharing. I think, after reading what you wrote, that I still have a ways to go before saying that I have been truly healed.

  27. Alex,

    Wow, thank you for sharing and being so courageous as to be so vulnerable!

    When you’ve been abused you feel like the sinner, PERIOD. You carry the shame that you did do something wrong. Your judgment gets very off-balance, especially your self-judgment. You have a very warped sense of who you are and you go through life, looking to be rescued or to rescue others to somehow heal the pain you still hold inside, only you don’t know you are going through life looking to be rescued or to rescue. And if someone were to sit you down and tell you, ‘look honey, you are living your whole life looking to be rescued and you are in sin,” this would be detrimental and would only add to the shame that plagues every victim of abuse.

    There is no possible way to judge whether you were fully innocent when you’ve been abused. I am not sure why Rachel brings that up and I realize she didn’t mean to say that we need to figure this out, but that we are forgiven no matter what our role was. You see, before I went through deep heart healing I couldn’t even believe that the love of Christ could possibly cover this experience, and heal this wound, I had to experience human love and acceptance with NO JUDGMENT over a long period of time. There was a whole lot of undoing to be done. If you had been my well-meaning friend, and had asked me whether I had been innocent, or tell me that I just need to believe and praise and worship and that Christ’s love will cover it, that would have caused me to hide even more in my own shame. NO victim of abuse believes they are innocent and they all carry deep, deep unconscious shame that runs their life, unknowingly, and they continue to bring abuse or chaos or helplessness into their lives until this pattern is healed. Bringing up innocence and culpability is missing the entire point even if you are bringing it up in order to say there is no difference. This can’t even be part of the conversation when dealing with abuse.

    Many people have not grown up in a protected environment. When a person feels unloved, often they will do anything to feel love even if it’s very dysfunctional love, even if it’s not love at all. As humans, we have to at least believe somehow that we are lovable. Very often that means putting ourselves in harm’s way. It doesn’t mean we want to be harmed it just means we don’t know how to feel loved or feel acceptable, any other way. So does that make us “culpable” even if we did have a part in the abuse?

    This is such a deep topic and in order to help people free themselves, our understanding of the topic is crucial b/c otherwise we can easily create more shame for the victim, even if we are doing it ‘innocently’.

    Alex, I am happy to talk if you feel to, you can reach me at maria@mariarippo.com

  28. Just an FYI for Alex, I wasn’t speaking directly to you that what I said above is true your case, but meant that to explain why bringing up ‘innocence’ could really trigger any abuse victim. :) and I know it wasn’t your intention, Rachel and that it would be hard to know that if you haven’t experienced the shame of abuse.

  29. Rachel,
    Thank you for sharing these truths. Abuse is hard and all the sins that come along with it are hard as well. I agree with all that you’ve said. To think that victims of abuse can somehow help themselves is a ridiculous thought. Only Christ can do this work in us through His word, work on the cross, and the help if the Holy Spirit. As you said, we are born into sin through one man and we are reborn into righteousness through one man. The difficulty in forgiving and coming to a point of praying for God to restore the perpetrators of sexual abuse is thinking about spending eternity in heaven with them. This takes trust and a great deal of faith and yet we are required by Christ to pray for our enemies. Only God can grant that kind of faith and it doesn’t come easily but it’s still a command. For those who find fault with Rachel’s words, I encourage you to search your hearts and see why you are offended. Perhaps that is something that Christ desires to continue healing?

    Again, well done speaking the truth in love Rachel.

    Warmly,
    Amber

  30. Maria and Alex – thank you both for speaking up here and telling a little bit about your story publicly. I hope you will help others, because of your willingness to share!

    No one deserves to be abused, at any age, or any level of attractiveness, or in any sort of “being in the wrong place” situation.
    The abuse is the fault of the abuser. Isn’t that the end of the “who’s guilty” question?

    May God continue to make His great love known to you!!

  31. Hi Rachel!
    I was molested by my stepfather from around the age of 4 until I reached puberty. I found your post beautiful and encouraging. What sweet words to read! There truly is no mess that Christ cannot clean up. You may not understand it (as I don’t understand the experiences of others) but you have reminded me of the beauty and freedom and peace and grace that we find in knowing the Saviour. Some things I had never thought of before! So thank you, very very much. You and your family have been an incredible blessing to me, and in turn to my husband and girls for a number of years now. Thanking the Lord for you:-)

  32. I would have to join those who have already commented and ask you not to leave this post up. I am also a survivor of sexual abuse and this really triggered something terrible in me. I think it’s admirable that you want to talk this through, but I wonder if it wouldn’t be better done one on one? This feels a little bit like being preached to, and being told how to feel about something that you know absolutely nothing about and couldn’t possibly begin to understand…My mother, when finding out that I had been raped at 14 by a 22 year old man, called me a slut and a whore, then proceeded to pray over me and for me, and tried to get me to “find Jesus” so this wouldn’t happen again. Nevermind the fact that it had already been happening underneath her own roof for years, at the hands of her very “Christian” husband. When she found out about that, it was again because I hadn’t “found Jesus.”

    I have a relationship with God now and it took many, many years to be ok with God, with myself and what happened to me (as ok as one can expect to be, anyway). I can tell you that a post like this, while well intended, would not have served any purpose when I was in my darkest moments. It would only have served to drive me deeper into my shame and farther away from God. Even now, after years of therapy and years of distance between the events, this post offered no healing, only damage. You yourself claim to have no personal experience with sexual abuse – wouldn’t it make sense to listen to what the victims of these crimes are telling you? The very best intentions are sometimes unintentionally very harmful.

    I do appreciate your intentions. I just think this is a discussion that’s far healthier held in person, one on one. This is not something that I feel like you, as someone with no knowledge of what this feels like and what it’s like to live with, should be writing about in such a public forum.

  33. Rachelle, I have to strongly disagree with your pastor, mainly because he assumes that “sex offenders” and “pedophiles”/”child molesters” are synonymous. They are not.

    We need to recognize that the vast majority of men who are labelled “sex offenders” (now over 800,000) are not pedophiles, child molesters, or forcible rapists. Of those 800,000 men, less than 15% committed either 1) an offense of any kind against a child 13 or under, 2) a forcible or violent offense of any kind against a person of any age, or 3) more than one offense of any kid. The other 85%+ committed a single statutory or victimless offense. One-third of those 800K men were under 18 at the time of their offense.

    Most “sex offenders” are not child molesters or pedophiles. Many are men who, when they were 18-25, made a mistake with a willing girlfriend who was less than a year below the age of consent. Many are boys who, at 11 or 12, did something sexually inappropriate at school. Many are men who are 22 or 23 who exchanged explicit texts and/or images with a post-pubescent teen girl who was a willing participant in the exchange. Many are men who, in the course of a long-term pornography addiction, eventually descended into looking at images of teens or even children but never touched or had any inclination to touch an actual child.

    And the vast majority of these men will never reoffend. The reoffense rate for all sex offenders is less than 5%, the lowest for any crime. Yes, actual pedophiles and serial child molesters have high receidivism rates, but they are a small minority of those who carry the label sex offender.

    So, no, I do not believe that the man who, while engaging in compulsive online sexual behavior at 24, made the bad choice to talk to an undercover officer pretending to be a sexually experienced and eager 15 year old in an adult sex chat room, should be forced into “adults only” worship services for the rest of his life, especially since, at 35 or 40 or 45, he may very well be married, have children of his own, and be a safe, law-abiding citizen who poses no danger to anybody. The guy who, at 20, slept with his 15 year old girlfriend poses no threat to me or my family, and I don’t think he should be ostracized by the church for life. The man who downloaded a dozen images of teens in the course of a long-term pornography addiction that he has sought treatment for and is being held accountable for should not be stigmatized forever by the church.

    The church must show grace. They need to show good sense, too, when we’re talking about men who pose an actual danger. But, most registered sex offenders do not. Most have committed a single statutory offense (usually when they were 18-25 themselves) or a single non-contact, online offense (generally as part of a long-term internet pornography addiction). They pose no threat to children. They pose no threat to a church. They are burdened with the public label of “sex offender” for decades or life, long after they have done their time, and their families–yes, many of these men have or go on to have wives and children–bear the burden of that stigma, too. If there is any place they can find genuine love and grace and acceptance, it should be the church.

    So let’s not be sloppy and conflate everything we today label “sexual abuse” (which includes everything from a 50 year old man who rapes a small child to a drunken college guy having sex with an equally drunken college girl who is legally, because of her intoxication, considered unable to consent, everything from a priest molesting an altar boy to a college freshman taking a nude picture of his 17 year old girlfriend) with “child abuse” or “pedophilia.” Every situation should be considered on a case-by-case basis. In many cases, if not most, full integration into the church community is probably both safe and wise.

  34. Anonymous mom said, “Every situation should be considered on a case-by-case basis. In many cases, if not most, full integration into the church community is probably both safe and wise.”

    YIKES. Just. Wow. :/

  35. @anonymous Mom
    I am aware that not everyone on a sex offender registry is a pedophile, but I have never seen the statistics you have presented. Where are you getting your statistics? I would like to look at the numbers.

  36. Hi Rachel!
    Firstly, I so appreciate your writings and they have blessed me so much! Your wise perspective often speaks to my heart very very clearly. I overall appreciated this article as well… though to be honest, I shared some of the concerns that a few commenters have made. (I am, like you, fortunate enough to be inexperienced in this area personally so I’m no expert and maybe writing this won’t clarify anything more than any other comments have.) I am just putting together the pieces of what I’m reading, wonder if I may summarize “briefly”? Your original article says “First of all, if you were abused or molested in a way or at a time of life when you absolutely could not resist, did not understand what was happening, or were otherwise completely innocent, someone sinned dramatically against you.” Further down it says “If you were complicit in the sin in some way, this Savior is still yours.” I think that what we readers are hearing here due to the wording and the early emphasis on the “completely innocent” is that you were only dramatically sinned against if you were “completely innocent.” Maybe you intended to communicate this, or maybe that was an accidental implication. But I think it is the implication coming through very strongly to many of us. You clarify in the comments that you might hold a wider window of complete innocence than it sounds like, admitting paralyzing fear as possibly in the “could not resist” category. I guess I just think that a couple of simple wording changes in the original article would clarify a lot of the worst of the concerns about the whole article. I guess I think, someday, if my daughter were to go to a party I had advised against, be drugged and raped (please God forbid!), and tell me about it, I would tell her she had been dramatically sinned against, whether or not she should have been there in the first place. She may have sinned in a way that created some potential of the situation, but still no way was she not sinned against (dramatically). Maybe you disagree here, or maybe I am misreading your words… but it seems like a lot of other people are too? Just wondering if you might consider editing the original in a way that would clarify a lot of the concerns. Maybe not something you do, I don’t know.

  37. I’m going to agree with Cara. I think a lot of people missed or overlooked a great message because of a few issues with strong wording. And understandably, I’m sure people who have been through this awful stuff are probably sensitive to those things. Thanks for this post – I thought it was great!

  38. Thanks Rachel,

    Thank you so much for your post and for pointing to Christ. I think that we have to keep pointing to him. I have been convinced that if we keep praying and speaking the truth that the truth will set us free. We should feel free from evil in our lives and I’ve been a victim of abuse and have prayed for the evil that I still felt to leave and praise God it has! I’m not a psychologist or a pastor, but through faith and praying I feel released of the false guilt. Also ladies, don’t underestimate your physical well-being and your normal ups and downs. Abuse spreads confusion, but Christ shines the light of truth. Don’t forget to enjoy the blessings bestown on us as children of God.

  39. Rachel, Are you willing to say that there are pieces of you post that stumbling blocks to some people, because they are not the Gospel message? No one here is missing the Gospel message. But, you have not recanted from some of the painful, non-Gospel statements.
    I see you have answered Anastasia (a very close personal friend of mine) as – “I do hope that this post does not become a stumbling block to anyone like you think it might, but I stand by the declaration of the gospel. And while I know I did not reach everyone with it, I hope that God will use it for some good.”
    Is that the best you can give? Hoping that unwise words are not a stumbling block? Anastasia knows and lives according to the grace of the Gospel. The declaration that Jesus came to save sinners is absolutely not in question here.
    Is there anything you wish you had not said here? If so, perhaps you should let people know.

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