What breaks my heart most about childhood sexual abuse, besides the abuse itself, is that very few mothers are willing to come to the aid of their child after discovering he/she has been sexually abused. After hearing countless testimonies of victims, it is obvious that this parental betrayal becomes more difficult of a wound to heal than the sexual abuse itself. We are the number one person, designed specifically by God, to nurture, care for, and protect our young. The rejection of a parent, especially the mother, is the largest stumbling block toward healing. I am in awe of the power of our position as mothers.
Moms/Dads, I know that your heart is breaking too. You have been victimized along with your child. The sanctity of your home has been violated. You’ve been robbed of something so priceless, so intimate that it can never be replaced or retrieved. However, you and your child can be healed. And, both of you can be used by God to bring hope and healing to others. It won’t be easy. It’s not the road anyone would choose. But, I can also say that ignoring it will not make it go away. Ignoring it will only allow it to eat a hole in your soul. Ignoring it will create a lifetime of emotional pain and unhealthy coping strategies for your child. Ignoring it will create a huge chasm of bitterness to destroy your relationship.
So, how do we move on from this trauma? Here are three areas that may help you regain your focus on life.
Cleansing the Temple
Picture your home as a crime scene: vandalized, personal belongings scattered and broken. The carpet is soiled. Maybe there is writing on the walls. It’s obvious that in order to reclaim this space as your own, you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and get busy. Cleaning up the mess, the debris. Painting, redecorating, getting a fresh new start.
This was one of the first decisions I made as Nicole’s mom. It was a powerful step forward for both of us. We painted every room and prayed through every room, cleansing it from the filth that had taken place there. New carpet in our bedrooms, even new furniture, were tangible ways of announcing, “We refuse to live in the ruins and remains of this crime. We are moving on!”
A new environment created space for cleansing our inner temple: our hearts, our minds. But our inner healing required us to look back and to look ahead.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking: “Who wants to look back? Let’s just get on with it!”
But, if you’re very far along in this journey, you know that just trying to forget and move on does not work. It doesn’t go away that easily. Instead, you’re just delaying the process. Ten, twenty, thirty years later it will come back to bite you. Then you will be forced to look back and it won’t be as fresh in your mind and you’ll also have that many more years of self-inflicted pain and denial to process. Soooo…you get the point, right?
Review your journey, Mom. How did you get here? What was it about your specific situation that may have allowed this to happen? Don’t be afraid to ask the deep questions of the heart. Retrace your steps. For me, the steps took me back to my own childhood, discovering that I had been sexually abused. I was still a wounded child.
Make an honest assessment of your life. This not the blame game or a guilt trip. It’s a journey of self-discovery. What can I learn from my past? How can I change the outcome of my life story now that this has happened?
Learn from Hindsight. Where was God in this? Ask Him! He can handle your questions. He wants you to come to Him. He wants to heal you. Allow Him to. List steps that you can take toward healing, reclaiming your life, starting anew.
You have been cheated, lied to, deceived. But you can move on. You can heal. Your trust can be restored. In that first year, I clung to this promise in Proverbs 3:5-6:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on our own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”
I was fortunate that I knew and trusted God. It was a giant leap in my healing and in Nicole’s also. This was a time when the only one I trusted was God. But that turned out to be a good thing. It created my need to totally trust Him; and that allowed Him to fill my heart with the love I had always craved.
Keep God first. He sees your past, your present situation, and He knows your future. He loves you and forgives you. Receive all that He has to offer.
Chart a new path. What are your dreams? Your goals? What do you love to do? How do you want to spend the rest of your life? Don’t lose sight of who you are and what you want to become. Be adventurous. Hang on to hope.
Keep Growing and Keep Going! You’ve experienced an incredible loss. Realize that you will go through the stages of grief. Life as you knew it has died. Your bubble has been burst. Your heart broken. But you must learn from this and move on. Determine that this will grow you into a better person, not a bitter person.
Honestly? You should go buy yourself about a dozen journals! The best way to unload all of this baggage is to write, write, write, and keep writing. I know you’ll want to burn it. You’re worried that someone, somewhere, someday will read it. But, who knows? It may be just what someone else needs to know in order to embark on their journey of healing too.
Mom, if you are reading this and living with the guilt of not having believed your child or not having done the right thing: do it now. Pray for your child. Seek God’s timing and go to him/her. Tell your child you are sorry; that you believe her. Ask how you can help him/her to heal.