Thursday, November 20, 2008

Understanding Sexual Abuse

Understanding Sexual Abuse
by Shawn Corkery

The subject of abuse has skyrocketed in the American consciousness over the past few years. It seems every month another scandal, court case, or testimony fills the airwaves. Such media saturation shocks us, and can eventually make us numb to the destruction accrued in so many people's lives.

No matter how overwhelming it may seem, abuse will not go away. The cork on denial has been lifted off, and will probably continue to saturate until our society.

Sadly, the secular world has little power to stop abuse or to provide powerful healing for victims. Social service agencies can provide some immediate help for victims but affords them no long-term solutions.

The good news for Christians is that we have a healing answer! Though not quick or simplistic, we have the real capacity to heal abuse. The answer is in the person and power of Jesus Christ. Unlike the world, which can rely only on human means, followers of Christ have One greater than themselves to help heal abuse. He enters into our pain and despair then leads us out of the destruction accrued from abuse. Jesus, whose divine nature and desire redeems humanity, can heal victims of abuse. Victimization can come to an end through Christ's intervention.

Defining Abuse

To help apply the Lord's power to this problem, we need to understand abuse better. Childhood abuse, in all forms, can be defined as any act of power that is forced upon a child that leaves destruction. A good image for this would be a weapon (a bullet, spear, arrow, etc.). A weapon's capacity for destruction can be determined by the amount of power behind it. A weapon first makes contact with a person's body at the skin - our outside defense. The weapon then makes its way inside the body where it leaves destruction (tears flesh, breaks bones). If a wound is not addressed properly, infection will eventually set in.

Abuse is like a weapon to the soul (body and spirit). It is any act - physical, sexual, emotional, spiritual, or neglect - with a force of power behind it, which penetrates personal safety and boundary, then enters the soul where it causes destruction. Because secrecy is usually needed for abuse to occur, most wounds go untreated, and become infected with shame, self-hatred, and spiritual oppression.

The power behind the act (or weapon) is the key factor. Abuse is measured not by the act itself, but by the destruction it leaves. It is very easy for adults to minimize their own childhood experiences of abuse by saying "Oh, it wasn't that bad. A lot of people had it worse than me." The problem is focusing on the event, not on the effects that it left in their hearts and souls. It would be like saying "I was only wounded by a pinprick," but the pin entered the body and punctured major nerves and arteries.

Part 2 to be continued...

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