Did you know that,
- 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse.
- A quarter of male victims of sexual assault were under 10 years of age.
- Rape Statistics show that less than 20% of rapes are reported.
- Women and men with disabilities face twice the risk of sexual assault than able-bodied individuals.
- Approximately 70 women commit suicide every day in the US following an act of sexual violence.
- Over 25% of male sexual assault victims will experience their first assault before 10 years of age.
- Over 80% of sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance.
- Almost 95% of child victims knew their sexual attacker.
- The majority (90%) of rape victims are female.
- Girls and women between the ages of 16 and 19 are 4x more likely than girls and women in other age groups to be assaulted or raped.
Did you also know that,
In 2019 over 1,700 priests and clergy were accused of sexual abuse. Before 2018, over 1,000 children in Pennsylvania alone were found to be victims of sexual abuse under the Roman Catholic Faith. In 2019, 380 Southern Baptist leaders and volunteers faced allegations of sexual misconduct. Influential leaders like Brian Houston were found concealing child sexual abuse by his father. There’s Ravi Zacharias who has been accused of rape and sexual misconduct. In 2021, Micahn Carter resigned after rape allegations.
Sexual abuse occurs in religious schools, orphanages and missions, churches, presbyteries and rectories, confessionals, and various other settings. Aside from these, sexual abuse in the form of rape, molestation, and emotional abuse occurs in 1,691 different religious institutions around the world. According to the National Congregational Study Survey, there are an estimated 380,000 churches in the U.S. alone not factoring those around the world that house the grounds for some form of sexual abuse.
Often when sexual abuse allegations are exposed, religious institutional members are left in disbelief towards the abuse claims. This has left many wondering why members have greater loyalty to the institution than to the abused victim. The abusers, predators, and sex offenders, they are only human, right? While the claims leave devout followers awestruck, claims eventually turn to whispers and are eventually forgotten.
While I cannot fully articulate the damage any form of abuse can inflict on your mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical psyche, what I do hope to provide is hope. The complexity of navigating life and faith after these situations is nearly impossible, but God’s justice is like no other and proves the nearly impossible is possible.
Back home in Belize...
I was midway through my teenage years when I got hurt by the church. Shortly after worship practice, I was given a ride home by the worship pastor. I hopped in the back seat looking through the window, heart full sitting next to my fellow worship singer friends. There were three of us who were being taken home that night. The first two were safely taken to their home and I was last. I remember saying goodnight to my friends with no care in the world. Little did I know, things would not pan out the way I had ever imagined. Rather than driving towards my house, the worship pastor drove the opposite direction and parked in a dark location. Things like "I've been thinking about you a lot," "You are beautiful," "I've always wanted someone like you," "Don't be scared," were said as he made his way to the backseat. He forced my body on his and his hands explored areas that I had promised myself would be reserved for my husband someday. I remember being stiff, repeating the words "please stop," and my eyes blurred from tears. He started unbuttoning my pants when the door to the truck flung open, and there standing was a man whose face I could not see. He stood tall with a gun in his hand pointing it right at my predator.
The worship pastor pushed the man, jumped to the front seat, and sped off. I remember sitting in the back seat shaking, holding myself while I kept my crying to a whisper. The truck stopped again. I looked up hopeful thinking I was home only to be in a dark area once more, far from home. The worship pastor hopped to the back seat once more of which I assume to finish what he started. I ignored where his hands went and angrily listened to him saying, "You wanted this," "This is okay," "I've always wanted you," "I've been dreaming about you." He started unbuttoning again. This time I didn't fight where his hands were going. I simply sat numb questioning everything I ever knew. It was then for the second time, the door to the truck flung open and who I presume is the same man as before stood with a gun in his hand pointing at my predator. The man with the gun didn't say a word. I still could not see his face. I saw fear in the worship pastors face and he sped off and drove me home. The car ride was silent. The entire ride home not a word was said. And before he unlocked the car doors to my freedom, he warned me to tell no one and that if I did tell anyone, especially my parents, they would never believe me. No one would ever believe me. That night I lost respect for men.
Three days after this event, I went to the lead pastors of the church thinking they would believe me. I was told my parents wouldn't so maybe the pastors would. I met with the lead pastors and tearfully explained what had happened just a couple nights prior. Bluntly I was told, "You need to take a cold shower," (at the time I didn’t understand what that phrase meant; it wasn’t until I was in counseling did I find out the insult meant by that phrase). I was also told, "You brought this on yourself," "Things like this happen because people like you bring it on yourself," "He struggles with lusting, but you are to blame too." They told me to never tell anyone, especially my parents because I will cause my parent's marriage to end, I will break up the worship pastor's family and I will break up the church. I would be to blame for the destruction. At the end of their "advising," they prayed over me and I left. I left disgusted, overwhelmed with guilt and shame. I left hopeless and confused. I was alone. That day, I lost respect for the church.
I am sorry the church hurt you. I am sorry if reading this brings up old wounds. I am sorry if it brings up pain and resurfaces hurt that was once buried. I am sorry for what you or a loved one experienced. I truly am sorry.
Interesting isn’t it? That all it takes is one life-changing moment to shift the way we think and live. There are many days I wish it never happened. I still wish it never did. Have I healed? Yes (still am). Do I still hurt? Absolutely (I often do). Getting married has recently opened a new side of how this trauma has affected me. Learning to love my husband, learning how to enjoy physical touch and understanding to appreciate the gift of sex without thinking about the day things shifted in my life as a teenager has been difficult.
The “church” failed me and I hated them for it. After the sexual assault, I still went to church because quite frankly I had no choice. No one knew what happened except for myself, the predator, and the lead pastors. I somehow convinced my mom I didn’t want to be on the worship team any longer and volunteered elsewhere. Eventually, my family ended up moving. I had hoped moving far away would leave the past where it was but it followed me. It followed me for years. The hate for the church followed. The hate for men followed. The hate I inflicted on myself intensified. The “church” failed me. For some of you, the church failed you too and I am sorry they did.
In another blog, I will write about how I eventually told my parents, counseling and the healing process, but what I do want to address is you. You and your feelings towards the church. It’s baffling to think one would dedicate loyalty to an institution that failed them, right? It is nonsensical even. But the church didn’t fail you. Before you quit reading, just give me a couple more minutes of your time. Yes, the church on the broader side of things fails by covering up sin, but you know who really failed you? Man. In order to walk back into the church, I had to shift blame from an institution founded on Christ’s love and target the root. The root wasn’t the church. The root was humans. Three of them for that matter. The worship pastor and the lead pastor and his wife. The church didn’t do anything to me, rather the people who led the church violated and stripped away the confidence I placed in God’s people. They convinced me that I was to blame for the violation, and they convinced me that I would be the cause of the destruction of my family, the predator’s family and more so the destruction of the church had I spoken out. And I listened. I believed it for a very long time.
The church didn’t fail you. Man did. Humans did, and humans are awful great at sinning, covering their sin and living boldly in their sin as if nothing ever happened. I am talking to you who refuse to step into a church. I am talking to you who refuse to see God as loving and true. I am talking to you who hate Christianity because of occurrences like mine. I am talking to you because I believed just as you are believing. The church didn’t fail you. Man did.
Let’s get back to basics. What was God’s original intent for the church in the first place? The church is where God’s people unite in diversity as one body. It’s a compilation of unique entities that follow the Biblical instruction and example of Christ. In the church are apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, gifts of healing, helping, guidance, and the dwelling of the Holy Spirit. The church is where individuals who want to be more like Christ communion to do exactly that. There’s of course more to this, but you get the point. The church was founded on Christ’s love and example, but as we’ve seen in centuries past, humans do a pretty crappy job at doing just that. We’ve made it about self and we entertained and covered up sin. We’ve made the church about appearance rather than authenticity. In some occasions, the church has become the modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah, where correction is absent and “freedom in Christ” is misrepresented with gratifying desires contrary to who Christ is.
I blamed the church for quite some time that I lost trust in pastors and leaders. I was always on guard and for a while never able to engage in corporate worship without reflecting on how the church failed me. This mindset shifted one night when I asked God why He would allow bad things to happen and why did His people fail me. That’s a story for another time, but let me tell you, God met me exactly where I was.
How far I’ve come has been no easy road to walk. Somedays I get overwhelmed. Somedays I feel fear creeping in and the events of the night where everything changed replays in my head haunting my thoughts. There are nights I wake up sweating from nightmares as if I relived that night for the first time. There are days I walk filled with insecurity. I don’t trust well. I am more on guard than I probably should be. I’ve had to learn that my husband’s love for me is pure and not evil. In the dark days, I remember, God healed and God restored what has once been stripped away. God reassured and keeps reassuring.
Before I conclude, if you are or know someone that has been a victim of sexual assault, rape, or abuse, I urge you to seek help and expose the truth. Don’t believe the lie that no one will believe you, you are to blame, and that you will be the reason for destruction. If there’s anything I wish I could tell myself back then, it would be – don’t be afraid to speak out!
I guess in some way that’s exactly what I’m doing right now. After many years of being too scared and ashamed carrying guilt that was never mine in the first place, I have learned the power of exposing. No, not for me. Rather, to bring awareness of the hidden darkness that is present even in the church.
Parents, if you’re reading this, regularly ask your children how life is going inside and outside the church. Listen and watch for signs. Ask the questions and create a healthy environment for honesty. Be especially aware of grooming done by men or women who have taken a special liking to your child. This by no means is a reflection of poor parenting on my parent’s part. I would never in a million years blame them. Simply, just be aware.
And friend,…the church didn’t hurt you. Man did. And I am sorry. Fight the urge to not blame God for a man’s choice. Man’s failure is no reflection of the Father’s heart. In your suffering God is present and He grieves when you do.
Speak out and forget not…
He saved them from the hand of the one who hated them,
And redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.