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Counseling the Shattered Lives of Sexual Sin – Part 3

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Helping your Child heal from sexual abuse

The unimaginable has happened…  You have been very careful to watch your children; you know there are many dangers they face.  You were very careful with babysitter selections, you did not let your children play unattended, etc. and yet…  Your daughter has been sexually abused.

You are her protector and this happened while she was in your care and there is nothing you would not have done to protect her.  Her perpetrator is a well-known family member.  How could this happen?  Why would someone do this to your child?  Will she be ruined for life?  How can we ever be a whole family again?  How do I protect her now?  What do we do to the perpetrator?  Do we get counseling?  Do we call the police?  How does this fit into the Lord’s plans, seriously?  How bad of a parent am I?  Do I need to go to parenting school? 

These are just some of the many questions that flood a parent’s mind after there has been discovery of sexual abuse. 

Why would someone do this?

Parents could be very vigilant in watching and protecting their children.  The most common perpetrator is someone very familiar and trusted within the family circle.  Some of the most common responses from parents post discovery are, “Who could… do this?”  “We trusted him or her.”  “How could we be so stupid?” 

Many people mistakenly think that they ought to be able to look at someone and be able to tell if they are a sexual predator.  This is simply not the case.  Scripture reminds us that man is capable of being double minded, giving the appearance of a godly person, but does not apply God’s Word to himself (James 1:22-25; Jude 4; 2 Timothy 3:1-5).  We live in a sin cursed world (Genesis 3; Ephesians 2:1-3), and with this knowledge we are reminded that sin is rampant and we are all in desperate need of a Savior/Friend.  Based on a framework of remembrance, it is essential that we understand that the ground is level at the cross.

Is she ruined for life?

This is the question that many parents wrestle with.  Will she be scarred forever?  Will she always be fearful?  Will she have paranoia; long term, short term?  How will this affect school work and friendships?  Will this affect her sexually?  How will this affect her marriage?

Of course there are many different answers to questions depending on each child’s experience, age, and temperament.  The journey forward often takes different turns, making it more difficult for parents to understand what is happening.  This is where having an advocate/friend walking alongside becomes crucial.  The goal is to work together to assist each family member as healing is taking place. 

At Twelve Stones, when I counsel someone who is sexually abused, my personal story of walking through sexual abuse as a child helps in a number of ways. It is helpful to talk to someone else who has lived through the same experiences and has been refined through the trial for God’s glory (James 1:2-4).  It is also helpful for them to understand that the inward and confusing feelings they are experiencing post abuse are normal and can be redemptively worked through.  When family members understand what the abused is going through, they have a much better ability to come alongside and encourage.

God delights in bringing beauty out of ashes (Isaiah 61:3).  Throughout the book of Isaiah God judges nations repeatedly based on their treatment of the oppressed and downtrodden.  This gives a very clear picture of what God’s heart is toward the oppressed.  Never doubt He is very tender hearted toward the sexually abused!

Questions, questions, questions…

Do we talk about it?  Do we talk about it now or wait until they are older?  Do we press charges?  It will be very public and humiliating if we do.  Do we get counseling?  Who do we get counseling from?  Who do we listen to and not listen to?  What family members do we tell? 

Many parents feel a sense of urgency to fix their children.  But where do we start?  Since transformation and healing is going to take place in the context of community, it will be important to involve church eldership and close trusted friends as you seek to untangle all of the various aspects of the situation.

Establishing an open line of communication with the child is a paramount concern.  Children feel guilty for the abuse and have many other confusing emotions.  Parents play a key role in helping their children process these feelings.  The primary focus should always be the heart, not just behaviors.  Parents should be aware that their children are watching and listening to their interactions to gauge their responses. 

Many parents want to address the legal issue first.  I would caution parents to start counseling before making any decisions regarding legal issues.  Great wisdom is required in deciding the possible risks and gains.  The court process is not a friendly process for children and can be very traumatic.  This is a great topic to discuss with your counselor.

Speaking as one who has lived through these questions being decided for me, I can tell you each parent is going to make mistakes throughout the journey going forward, but God has a plan.  I have a great deal of grace for my parents as I look back and remember all the decisions they faced and having no idea what to do.  Despite all the retrospective thoughts and convictions, I am absolutely persuaded that God has used every part of the experience just the way it unfolded for my good and His glory. 

Am I ruined for life?  Absolutely NOT!  I cannot imagine my life any other way.  God has been especially sweet and tender to me.  On this journey He has provided everything I have needed.  He has been amazingly faithful!

Posted on February 7, 2011