Healing from the Emotional Scars of Sexual Abuse

God has given me a strong desire to reach out to others who are struggling from the trauma of sexual abuse. I say “others” because although I am 51 years old, I still struggle with emotional scars from the abuse I went through as a child. Unlike physical scars, someone traumatized by sexual abuse doesn’t “look” like he or she is hurting. Those who have been abused are often left with emotional scars that transcend all areas of their lives. Most of us have learned how to hide our secrets, our struggles and even our feelings, so we end up being numb and silent. Unfortunately, this silence exacerbates many of the unhealthy consequences of abuse.

I was 28 years old before I spoke of the abuse to anyone. Doing so was the beginning of a healing process that is still ongoing. Since then I have learned many things about sexual abuse, not only from my own journey but from that of others I have met. For one, the person abused is not the only “victim” of the sexual abuse. Sexual intimacy in marriage is one of the most common issues encountered by someone who was sexually abused. Because of this, spouses of those who were abused may also become “victims” of the abuser. At 51 years old I still struggle from this emotional scar. I have been married for eleven years to a man I love and adore. But my brain still can’t convince my emotions to relax and not tense up every time my husband wishes to be intimate.

Being a member of the LDS Church made my years of sexual abuse much worse. President Kimball’s words in his book “The Miracle of Forgiveness” haunted me for years: “It is better to die in defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.” One of the most difficult consequences of my abuse was being overwhelmed by feelings of guilt and shame. Even though I was four or five when the abuse started, I still couldn’t convince my emotions I wasn’t at least partly at fault. For most of my life I was driven by my desire to be washed clean, forgiven, to somehow be restored to normal. But, deep down, I knew that I could never be normal. (To read how Jesus healed me from the shame of abuse, read the Post “God Doesn’t Lie–You Have Been Forgiven!!!” In the Topical Guide on the left, click on the Topic “Sexual Abuse”.)

I am very thankful that I no longer believe in the words of LDS prophets and apostles. But at the same time, my heart cries out for members of the Church who do. “The Miracle of Forgiveness” is still one of the more prominent books in Mormonism. As well, one of the Twelve Apostles gave a talk in General Conference that actually heaps more abuse on those who have been abused! Elder Richard G. Scott claims

“These are some of the principles of healing you will come to understand more fully: Recognize that you are a beloved child of your Heavenly Father. He loves you perfectly and can help you as no earthly parent, spouse, or devoted friend can. His Son gave his life so that by faith in him and obedience to his teachings you can be made whole.” (Link to talk:)

Telling someone who has been sexually abused that they can be “made whole” through obedience is just another form of abuse! Don’t you believe him! Not only do Elder Scott’s words expose the fact that he knows nothing about those who have been abused—it also shows that he doesn’t know the true mission of the Savior! Isaiah prophesied of our Savior’s mission—and it’s not through our obedience that we receive His healing:

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5)

There is a parallel between being healed from sexual abuse and being healed from sin. “With His stripes we are healed!” Elder Scott would hold this healing ransom—to gain your obedience, before being healed. But he has it backwards. Jesus already gained both my and your healing—through His obedience. Those who hope in the Lord and Savior living a life of thanksgiving, in part by being obedient.

The Savior of the world does not use obedience as a bargaining tool to heal the abused! When I found out I had been washed clean through Christ’s atonement, I gave my life to my Savior. It is because of my love for Him and gratitude for His forgiveness that I am obedient.

Being sexually abused as a child is the most traumatic thing that has happened in my life. But, amazingly, God used what happened to me as a child to draw me to the Savior whose blood covered not only my shame, but most importantly, my sin!

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My niece Kristina designed and created this beautiful stained glass panel to help raise money at a local shelter for abused women. The colors symbolize the various emotions that victims of abuse go though—from pain, rage and eventually to peace. Unfortunately, this healing process is something that she is also dealing with personally.

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