One of the most devastating forms of power inflicted on children is sexual abuse. Molestation is any act of sexual power (overt or covert) that is forced upon a child under 18 years old. For too long our culture has defined sexual abuse in terms of genital contact. Sexual abuse can encompass any act of sexual power - from intercourse to voyeurism (being sexually leered at). Children were never designed by God to contain within their souls (and bodies) any form of adult sexual energy. This sexual power can leave different forms or intensities of destruction. This is manifested in how a child feels about his or her body, sense of protection, ability to trust, and personal safety.
Many adults who experienced sexual abuse as teenagers feel guilty and personally responsible, especially if pleasurable feelings arose in them. Also devastating can be the sad truth that legitimate longings for love, concern, and attention were met perversely by the abuser. Adults are solely responsible for their sexual energies and are accountable for misusing their power by crossing boundaries with children.
Defining abuse is much easier than summarizing the process of healing. That's because abuse affects every facet of one's being and there is no simplistic process to the healing of the soul. At the same time, healing is simple. It involves applying the restorative power of Jesus to the destruction, and calling the victim to live out of his or her true personhood.
I see healing of the soul as two simultaneous processes. The first is allowing the Presence of Christ to enter the injured places - the memories, feelings, and beliefs that formed around the wound. An abusive experience untreated will have some form of defense around it. It can be a conscious or unconscious mechanism attempting to keep unbearable pain to a minimum, but the defense ironically keeps the wound from being healed. The Holy Spirit's desire is to enter the memory (the wound) and begin to heal the damage. This usually involves a time of grieving over the event. Most victims need a "season" of mourning the fact that a very bad thing happened. This is especially true when the person has repressed or suppressed memories and feelings.
As the pain is submitted to Christ, He takes it into Himself on the cross. With a consistent practice of bringing memories and feelings into the presence of the Lord, Jesus can begin to fill them in with truth, joy, objectivity, authority, and victory. The memory doesn't disappear - Jesus doesn't rewrite history - but the destructive residue left from the force of the abuse is cleansed out and replaced with His presence and healing intention.
The second process of healing (ironically the area we wish not to face) is our defensive and/or sinful reactions to abuse. These are areas of personal responsibility. When fearlessly and humbly faced, the victim can choose to give them up. These defense mechanisms once served a purpose in childhood by covering the wounds. But like a cheap bandage, they have outlived their purpose and must be removed. Without their removal, the Lord will not have complete access to the injury. His desire to heal will be hindered, and we will continue to use the defenses to block future pain.
Some of these defenses are denial (not remembering or feeling), passivity and fear, taking personal responsibility where that responsibility belonged to another, secrecy, inner vows, compulsive behaviors and addictions, and not forgiving. Each of these areas must be soberly recognized in our lives and brought into the Lord's light. In the security of His presence, we can find the courage to let go of our old ways of defending ourselves.
The Long Road
God's love and faithfulness won't stop until He's finished with us. All the wounding from the past can find its end at the foot of the cross. To our amazement, like a sunrise overtaking darkness, the good things of life which were always an arms reach away can become our own. Life won't be perfect, but very good, filled with the joy and the fruit of the Spirit. Best of all, we become holy and obedient people of God.