Weep with Those Who Weep
I remember sitting in a car a couple months ago with some people on staff at CoaH talking about a recent report on priests in the Catholic church in Pennsylvania. Over 300 priests were credibly accused of sexually abusing over 1,000 children... And those were only the reported cases.
We all felt a number of things- anger, disgust, pain for the victims and their families. We also expressed a discontent that so many might associate this report with other branches of the church. We were painfully wrong to think that this evil sin wasn’t also lurking in the churches with DNA similar to ours at such a massive level.
On Sunday a newspaper based in Houston released a report on sexual abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention. Upon opening up this report I found myself disturbed at the title alone, "Abuse of Faith- 20 Years. 700 Victims..." 700 victims... And those were only the reported cases. As I read the report I found myself weeping for the victims, and in disgust that myself and our church is somehow connected to the same kinds of churches that these child predators were. How do we care for victims of sexual abuse? What do we do? How do we respond?
Weep with those who weep
It doesn't matter if you do not know someone who has been sexually abused (statistics say you actually do), weep when you read the stories in the report. Weep when you see pictures of the girls and boys that have been abused. Their innocence taken too young, and exposed to the evils of sin in the people they trusted. Weep for those whose voice has not been heard, trauma has not been listened to, whose pain has been dismissed. Weep with the one who confides their trauma and pain with you and then comfort them. A simple "I believe you, it's not your fault, and you're not alone. I'm here to help any way I can." is a good start. Continue to walk alongside them and be a strong supporter, but know that doesn't necessarily mean you can see them all the way through to healing without professional help. Walk with them and encourage them to seek this.
Abhor what is Evil
It is painfully obvious in the report that church leadership, specifically SBC leadership, has been dismissive and numb to sexual abuse accusations in the past. They did not uphold what we are commanded to do in Romans 12, "Abhor what is evil". Be disgusted, hate what you're reading, hate that sin manifests itself this way in the hearts of people. Be incredibly clear- we as a church wholeheartedly, without a doubt, rebuke these sins as evil and twisted.
Pray for healing for those affected, victims and their families, by sexual abuse. Pray that those who have yet to share their trauma would seek healing and hope in Christ. Pray the church would be a beacon of light to those who are hurting in the dark and care for those that were wronged by people of the church. Lord Jesus come quickly and bring final healing of all trauma, hurt, pain, and destroy the effects of sin.
Local sexual assault service provider/counseling- https://centers.rainn.org/
Steps you can take after sexual assault- https://www.rainn.org/articles/steps-you-can-take-after-sexual-assault
National Sexual Assault Hotline- 800-656-4673
Biblical counseling- https://www.bostonbiblicalcounseling.org/