By Pastor Keith Myer
Harvest Baptist Church, Salisbury, Maryland
The statistics on sexual abuse are staggering. This should give pastors pause as they consider how to care for people who have experienced sexual trauma.
Fifty percent of women and one out of three men have experienced an unwanted or traumatic sexual violation.
Studies show that many who have been sexually abused do not disclose until they are adults, and the average age of disclosure is 52!
As shepherds, pastors are called to care for others in the Lord (1 Thess. 5:12), comforting and encouraging them in their grief and struggles.
Here are three action steps you can take to move towards developing an action plan for caring well for victims of sexual abuse.
- Victims of abuse are often protective of their stories and vigilant toward possible threats. They may reveal their story in small pieces to test if you can be trusted or if you will believe them.
Hurrying them along or minimizing the pain of their experience can communicate that you don’t care.
Rachael Denhollander, author of “What is a Girl Worth?” says, “The most important thing you can do for a survivor is let them know that what they are suffering matters to you, and it matters to God.”
Take time to listen with compassion and empathy. You may need to act depending on the situation, but separate what’s happening into two distinct moments: Listen well and then act.
- Put a caring well team in place.
So often as pastors we have to move quickly from task to task, solving problems. If we approach abuse in a similar way, we’ll miss what the victim needs most: someone who will listen, believe and help them take the next steps toward healing.
Oppressive trauma can lead to feelings of isolation. Churches are excellent at responding to the death of a loved one, the birth of a new baby and other hardships.
Enact those same practices for victims and survivors of trauma.
They, too, may need help with meals, transportation and child care. They also need to hear frequent messages of encouragement and hope.
Responding well is a long haul, not a one and done. Providing this type of support communicates that they matter and are valuable.
- Educate yourself and identify resources. Familiarizing yourself and any church staff with local and community resources that can help is a good start.
Visiting your local child advocacy center (every county has one), talking with local counselors and asking for referrals to those specialized in dealing with trauma is a good way to begin to build your list of resources.
Encourage your church to be generous and give to a benevolence fund and reserve some of those funds to help people pay for counseling.
Counseling is expensive, and the people who need it most often refuse to pursue it due to cost and the risk of being vulnerable.
As pastors educate themselves on abuse and familiarize themselves with local resources, they can help their people take steps forward in the most painful experiences of their lives.
There are no easy answers and no simple solutions, but the image of the Shepherd displays the skills needed — patiently guiding those in His care to cool water and places of safety.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This article is reprinted from Baptist Press and adapted for space. Find more resources at tabonline.org/sexual-abuse-resources.
Thoughts from the-scroll.com
Be intentional and seek out friendships that encourage you and energize you in your faith. Nurture those friendships and don’t shy away from asking hard questions or having hard conversations. Deep relationships with fellow believers will only deepen your love and knowledge of God.
“The beauty of fellowship”
I don’t know why I feel a need to hold on to everything myself, but it’s something I have to remind myself of hourly, it seems like. I don’t have to. He tells us to give everything to Him.
“Lay it all at His feet”
It’s always beneficial to reflect on why you did something and think about the difference it has made in your life. Do you remember when you gave your heart to Jesus?
“Like little children”
Let’s plan and pray and think and hope with the presence and glory of God in full view.
“God with us forever”
Getting the job done
The 1954 Chevrolet Deluxe fit my needs fine as a high school senior. Especially at a cool $100.
That two-tone green coupe was my first vehicle with four wheels.
My friends called it “the turtle.” It was old, ugly and slow.
But she got the job done. To school, church, houses of friends.
How are you at getting the job done? Do you possess the trait of perseverance?
The opposite would be a don’t care, uncertain, indecisive, give up kind of person.
Jesus observed the difference between a disciple and a would-be disciple.
He saw some “fall away,” others follow “false prophets” and many people whose love grew “cold.”
A few latched on to Him, but they didn’t stick. Not that they lost their salvation. They just never had it.
What was the proof in the pudding to Jesus? “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved” (Matt. 24:13).
God appeals to all believers to serve Him. He doesn’t care how pretty you are, whether you’re the smartest cookie in the jar or how fast you move.
He just wants you to get the job done.
“A personal word from a retread pastor”
They’ve been together 70-plus years. They also know that they’re not in charge. … Their faith is really grounding in this moment. In that way, it’s as good as it can be.
Jason Carter, speaking in a May 23 interview about his parents, former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, now 98 and 95 years old
If you can think of a way to volunteer and spread the Word of the Lord, chances are Campers on Mission can do it.
Walt Miller, president
Alabama Campers on Mission
There’s so much hate going on that we have to remind ourselves with these films that there’s some goodness out there too. … If you look for it, you’ll find it.
Sean McNamara, director
“On a Wing and a Prayer”
An event like the Olympics could really catalyze the church forward in terms of confidence in the gospel.
IMB missionary in Paris, home of the 2024 Summer Olympics
Prevention is the most pro-life thing we can do. … If we can prevent someone from even having to consider what they’re going to do about a pregnancy, we’ve done the best thing.
Marty Carrell, CEO
Women’s Resource Center
One of the reasons Disaster Relief is such an important ministry is we find people at very bad times in their lives and are able to provide practical help and spiritual help.
I’ve heard stories of people … who were literally on their knees praying, “God, I don’t know what to do,” and a volunteer rang their doorbell.
Disaster Relief strategist
Alabama Baptist SBOM
Social ministry is an organized process of Christlike concern for the physical, mental, emotional and relational well-being of persons and groups both inside and outside the Christian community of faith.
Morris Murray Jr.
Just finished Elijah study by
@priscillashirer and my goodness!
- “Sometimes the most strategic place is not the center of the action.”
- Discernment and dependence happen in the quiet. Ambitions get purified. Backbone forms.
- Seasons of solitude force us to press into God’s presence.
- God does deep work when He gets us alone. Isolation and separation can be a gift…
- When it’s time to stand boldly or alone, none of us will be able to do it if we’ve short-circuited that deep work.
- When we fabricate our own fire or pretend like we’re on fire through self-promotion or religious activity, there is zero chance others’ lives will be changed.
- The fire we generate through our abilities rises. “God’s fire falls.”
- “Faith is acting like God is telling the truth.”
Worship doesn’t remove your problems, but it does put them in their proper perspective.
“We can preach the Gospel of Christ no further than we have experienced the power of it in our own hearts.” —George Whitefield
Social media has become a public platform to attack people, specific people. At the same time, I doubt if those throwing the accusations have called and requested a one-on-one meeting. Maybe we should go back to what the Bible says in dealing with conflict.
As a Christian, I can be a good or bad witness. I want to be a good witness. … I’m open with my faith, and I love to learn from others. I pray that I’ve opened the idea of Christ to them. And they’ll know I’m a Christian by my love.
Cheryl Sloan Wray