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Kay Warren, an author and co-founder of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, recently opened about about the devastating effects of sexual abuse and shared why the Church must be on the frontline helping people heal.
Referencing the rise of the #MeToo movement and the toppling of numerous powerful men due to sexual assault allegations, Warren said this is the “cultural moment” for the Church to address sexual assault.
“It’s been shocking,” she said in a Facebook live video last week. “I’ve been talking about my own story of abuse for about 25 years, so it’s not a new topic for me, but to see it culturally and see it in every level of government, entertainment — and it slowly has trickled its way toward the Church … this was not the moment for the Church to be silent, but the moment for the Church to speak up … and actually go beyond silence to exposing those who have done wrong.”
The first step in healing from sexual abuse, Warren said, is establishing a safe place and opening up about the abuse to another individual.
“It’s not just the importance of revealing it, it’s to whom they reveal it,” she said, explaining that many people who open up about sexual assault aren’t believed.
“When they’re not believed or it’s discounted … it’s a way of re-victimizing the person, it’s a way of extending the abuse. And so, those of us who have been abused, we learn pretty quickly that there’s actually danger in telling our story,” she said. “There’s so much risk in telling the story, so to have safety … is critical to actually beginning the process of healing.”
Often, those who are sexually abused are told it’s their fault, Warren lamented.
“The lie that the enemy would have us believe is that it is somehow our fault,” she said. “When you are abused or assaulted, the enemy steps into that vulnerable place and says, ‘This wouldn’t have happened if you weren’t like you are.’ There’s so many ways for the enemy to heap blame on the person who’s been abused, and you start to believe that lie and you start to operate out of that lie.”
It’s important to come alongside those who have been sexually abused and tell them, “It’s not your fault,” she stressed.
“That in itself can begin to set us freed in ways that almost nothing else can. The shame belongs to the abuser, not to the abused.”
Culture “doesn’t help” the rampant nature of sexual abuse, Warren said, because it presents a distorted view of sex and sexuality.
“We are sexual beings, that’s one of the aspects of humanity, but we’re whole beings, we’re body, mind, spirit and soul,” she said. “Our sexuality is good. But what happens is, particularly if we aren’t careful and look at each other through brother-sister eyes, we start playing the same games that is out in the world where it really is all about sex; it’s not about necessarily commitment, it’s not about mutuality of honor and caring.
The Church must be different and look at sexuality through a “different lens,” Warren said.
“We’ve gotten pretty lax and lazy about that and wholesale bought into looking at the same things, looking at things through the same lens as people who don’t know Jesus Christ, and it’s sad.”
Women aren’t the only ones who experience sexual abuse; Warren cited statistics revealing that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men have experienced such assault in some form. Often, males who have been sexually abused question their sexuality, she said.
“If a little boy experiences sexual abuse, he’s going to have, for his whole life, at least until he starts getting help and treatment and recovery for the abuse, he’s likely to wonder about his own sexuality just because of the way that our physiology is,” Warren said.
“I just think that that effect on boys has a different kind of effect, and we don’t talk about it enough. Sexual abuse doesn’t make someone homosexual or bisexual, that’s not an automatic, but I think that’s one of the parts of us that can be damaged.”
When asked how parents can protect their children from sexual abuse when proper authorities aren’t cooperating, Warren pointed viewers to the Saddleback website that includes a number of resources and advised parents, “don’t give up.”
“Don’t be passive, be very active,” she said. “If your children are experiencing abuse, take them out of that situation to the best of your ability. Don’t give up pushing on authorities to recognize it for what it was. Don’t give up.”
Earlier this month, Rick and Kay Warren, along with speaker and author Beth Moore, addressed the topic of sexual abuse and assault from the pulpit of Saddleback Church. Kay Warren told her story, shared how the abuse has impacted her life, and opened up about the road to healing.
“It’s a long journey, it’s not fast,” she admitted.
In turn, Rick Warren reminded audiences of the hope and healing found only in Christ and concluded by praying a prayer of salvation for perpetrators of sexual assault, and one of healing for victims of such abuse.
“We cheapen what Jesus Christ did on the cross, all that suffering, all that pain, all that shame, we cheapen it, when we imply that it’s only about forgiveness and about the grace of God,” he said. “Of course it’s about the grace and forgiveness of God because Jesus died for your sins, so you don’t have to die for them, you don’t have to pay for them.
“But the cross also shows how much God hates evil and how much He is angry at sin. Why? Because sin damages the people He created. It damages both the offender and the offended. It warps both the peperpator and the victim.”