Sexual Assault

Mandy’s Story from Rid of My Disgrace

Mandy’s Story from Rid of My Disgrace

This is a real account from our friend regarding her experience of being a victim of sexual assault. This story contains graphic, descriptive details of sin done against her. If you are a victim, please consider whether you are ready to read a story like this as it may trigger intense emotions or memories. 

We are grateful for the courage it took to share this story and hope it will give a picture of hope and healing for you or those you love and care for. And for those who haven’t been harmed in this way, it’s still important that church leaders have an awareness so they can be prepared to care for victims well.”

 ~ Justin and Lindsey Holcomb

 


 

MANDY’S STORY

 

By the time I was twenty-one it seemed like sexual abuse, sexual assault, and sexual addiction would always somehow be a part of my life. But by that age I had found comfort knowing that I was the one in control of sex; it wouldn’t be used against me, but rather I would use it to manipulate and toy with men the way I had been “toyed” with for years. But that sense of control was exposed as a lie the week before my twenty-second birthday. I was out dancing at a night club and after the bar closed I was invited into the VIP room. It was in that room where four or five men raped me and left me in tears on the floor. I was never in control.

Separate and Apart

For the next three years I remained emotionally disconnected from the event, numbing the pain with various types of escape like drugs, alcohol, and extreme behaviors. I became cold toward men. I left my childhood faith in Jesus, allowing my heart to become hardened and bitter against life and against God. After all, it seemed as though I had been abandoned by God anyway, so I relied on myself for comfort, protection, and direction.

Not Abandoned, Pursued

But God had not abandoned me. In fact, he pursued me in a number of different ways. Eventually I was brought to my knees, crying out for him to explain himself! If it was true that he loved me, how could he let such harm befall me? I don’t remember waiting for him to actually answer me. It was in Christian counseling that I found some solace in this idea: God did not want me to be raped, but he will use it to bring about something good. At the time, I accepted that as truth, and as I grieved over the rape and all the pain I endured, God was softening my heart, changing my desires, and redeeming many areas of my life. I figured that I had “gotten over it” and was healed.

It seemed as though I had been abandoned by God anyway, so I relied on myself for comfort, protection, and direction.

But if I was to be truly honest, something seemed forced. When I would tell my story, there was still a disconnect between my head and my heart in acknowledging God in the midst of that horrific crime. Even though it seemed my life was full of joy, there was still a lingering resentment toward the men who raped me. I did not feel angry toward them, but I refused to see them in my mind. They were the bad guys, my enemies. I wanted nothing to do with them. As time passed I believed that was where God wanted me, and I thought he even agreed with me. It was “us” against “them.”

Pain, Finally Experienced

Then, seven years after the rape had passed, God said through some life circumstances that there was more to be done. I was reminded of the rape and God plunged me back into the pain, asking me to go deeper than I had gone before. I was terrified yet willing. The first time I asked him what he wanted to show me, he led me to Psalm 54 and told me that he is my vindication, that he knows my suffering, and that someday I will look upon my enemies in triumph. I felt comforted and validated. But he didn’t leave it at that. He was also reminding me of his goodness, reminding me that he upholds my life, and that even in the midst of being raped he loved me and had good in mind for me. That’s when I realized my greatest fear—could I really enter into the deepest part of this pain and still believe that God is good? Is it really possible to taste the searing agony of intense destruction and at the same time taste and see that the Lord is good? Would I trust him to find out? With apprehension and fear I slowly said, “Yes.”

As I walked through each moment of that night, acknowledging the many ways I was harmed by those men, bringing into present reality what I had kept in a distant past, I cried out and God comforted me, showing me that even then I was in his hands. He held me in that deepest darkest moment, just as he holds me now. As he taught me to stop minimizing the pain associated with the rape, I began to see the fullness of the evil done against me. Progressively, as the magnitude of the evil grew in my awareness, it was amazing for me to realize that God is even bigger. His love encompassed that whole night. Following him through that dark valley and resting in his real promises rather than my own ideas became the true healing that I needed. I came to know the true God, sovereign over all, who is ultimately good. And I was his daughter, cherished and loved by him even in the midst of being raped.

Reconciliation

When I reached that point, my heart was soft toward God, and I asked him what else he had for me. I remember driving to work saying, “Is there more, here?” And that’s when it hit me. I saw their faces. I saw the men who raped me and felt a surprising compassion towards them. I began to cry out for them, “God save them.” Just as I was an enemy of God in need of reconciliation, so they need to be reconciled by the blood of Christ. I wept for them for quite a while and still often find myself tearing up on their behalf, wishing that I could see them face- to-face and tell them of a great God who is bigger than their harmful acts of violence, who loves them to the point of crushing his own Son to deliver them from death. This forgiveness was a miracle. I have found freedom in loving them with the love of Christ. My anger, bitterness, resentment, escape, numbness, denial, self-pity, or any other response is not capable of removing their sin. Nothing but the blood of Christ will pay their debt.

And so I can look back on that night, recognizing the fullness of the pain God counted me worthy to suffer, and also look on it with the joy of knowing my God in a more intimate and magnificent way. It has become a mark of God’s help in my life, a place where he ordained healing for me… and possibly even for those men. I would be overjoyed to someday raise our hands together in worship of the God who brings life out of darkness.

 


 

Taken from Rid of My Disgrace, by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb, © 2011. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

Are You Prepared to Minister to Victims of Sexual Assault?

Are You Prepared to Minister to Victims of Sexual Assault?

There is an epidemic of sexual assault and the statistics are jarring. One in four women and one in six men are or will be victims of sexual assault in their lifetime. As sobering as the statistics are, they don’t begin to speak to the darkness and grief experienced by these victims. Because sexual assault causes physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual pain, victims need the kind of hope and help that only the gospel of Jesus Christ can provide.


Do you know how to help?

Tragically, many churches and Christians are woefully unprepared to help those have been assaulted. Worse still, many Christian leaders (including parents) are ignorant of this epidemic because ashamed victims are reticent to simply declare what has been done to them, and untrained leaders do not recognize the signs of sexual assault or know how to inquire lovingly of victims.

Victims want and need a clear explanation of how the gospel applies to their experience of sexual assault and its effects in their lives. Many parents, spouses, ministers, and friends are looking for solid, gospel-based information that would be helpful in serving victims. Informed supporters are needed for the healing process.


Care Compassionately, Not Shallowly 

We wrote Rid of My Disgrace to help equip pastors and ministry staff as well as family members and friends of victims. As you read what we are saying to victims, you will become better prepared to respond and care for victims in ways that are compassionate, practical, and informed. While avoiding platitudes and shallow theology, we combine biblical and theological depth with up-to-date research.

Much of the literature on sexual assault employs self-help approaches that do not offer the full-orbed good news of the gospel—that it is God’s one-way love replacing self-love that is the true path to healing.


Jesus vs. Sexual Assault

It is important to address the effects of sexual assault with the biblical message of grace and redemption. Jesus responds to victims’ pain and past. The message of the gospel redeems what has been destroyed and applies grace to disgrace. It is our hope you will be equipped to provide accessible gospel-based help, hope, and healing to sexual assault victims who know too well the depths of destruction and the overwhelming sense of disgrace.

 


 

For more on hope and healing for victims of sexual assault, check out Justin and Lindsey’s gospel-centered approach in their Re:lit book, Rid of My Disgrace

Sexual Assault Awareness Month Comes to an End

Sexual Assault Awareness Month Comes to an End

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center designated April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so to end the month we wanted to give a recap of some resources.


 

Caring for Victims

Because of the jarring statistics — one in four women and one in six men have been or will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime — resources that apply the gospel to the reality of sexual assault are both necessary and relevant to the church today.

The goal of this is to raise awareness about sexual assault and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence and to care for victims of sexual assault. We want Christians to learn how to care for victims in ways that are compassionate, practical, and informed.

 

The Gospel and Sexual Assault

The disgrace that results from sexual assault has a way of grinding people down and heaping huge burdens on them.  Because of it people feel lonely, filthy, worthless, repulsive, hopeless, and unwanted.  Our hope is that God will use the clear Gospel message of our book, Rid of My Disgrace, to eliminate that disgrace and its effects.  What victims need is for God to be strong when they are weak and to be close to the brokenhearted.  We want people to experience God fulfilling his promises to them.  We pray that God uses the book and these resources to apply the grace from Jesus deeper than the wounds people have experienced.

The only thing that gets to the depth of the devastation of sexual assault is God’s one-way, unconditional love expressed through, and founded on, the person and redemptive work of Jesus Christ. God’s radi­cal grace and redemption are at the center of responding to the pain and needs brought on by a victim’s experiences.

 

Resource Recap

Rid of My Disgrace

Free chapter from Rid of My Disgrace

Allen’s Story & Mandy’s Story

Jared Wilson Interviews the Holcombs

Justin Taylor Interviews the Holcombs

BJ Stockman Interviews the Holcombs

Mockingbird Interviews the Holcombs

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Allen’s Story from Rid of My Disgrace

Allen’s Story from Rid of My Disgrace

This is a real account from our friend regarding his experience of being a victim of sexual assault. This story contains graphic, descriptive details of sin done against him. If you are a victim, please consider whether you are ready to read a story like this as it may trigger intense emotions or memories.

We are grateful for the courage it took to share this story and hope it will give a picture of hope and healing for you or those you love and care for. And for those who haven’t been harmed in this way, it’s still important that church leaders have an awareness so they can be prepared to care for victims well.

 – Justin and Lindsey Holcomb 

 

 


ALLEN’S STORY

 

My name is Allen. It wasn’t until my mid-thirties that I finally discovered something that had happened to me, something I had suspected but kept denying. I’d been molested as a little boy.

When I was eight years old I had what I thought was a recurring nightmare—a large dark figure coming into my room in the middle of the night. I remember it happening several times—screaming for help and crying in fear, with no one ever coming to help. The rest I had blanked out. These “nightmares” stopped when I moved into a different bedroom a year or so later.

Something wasn’t right

Over the next twenty years life went on; I experienced the typical joys and challenges of adolescence and young adulthood. I got married at twenty-one, and my wife and I started a family of our own. Four daughters came along within six years—I felt so blessed, so fortunate.

During all those years there had been recurring signs that I had been molested as a child. I was hypervigilant, had bouts of insomnia, depression, and an obsession with appearing strong and tough (lifting weights like crazy) and, something rather embarrassing, the absolute inability to have a rectal exam.

When I was eighteen I underwent a physical as part of applying for an ROTC scholarship, and when it came time for the rectal exam I started shaking and crying uncontrollably. I was humiliated and embarrassed, and the doctor ended up not doing it. The exact same thing happened about ten years later when I underwent a routine physical exam. Another similar incident occurred when I was on a cruise with my wife after we had been married for years. I got food poisoning, and after a horrendous night I went to the infirmary on board for a shot to stop the nausea. When I pulled my pants down to receive the shot, I started shaking and crying again, just as I had years earlier at my ROTC physical. My wife and I eventually had our fifth child, a son who joined his four sisters. Once he started getting older, I began having massive anxiety attacks and bouts of depression, which felt like they had come out of left field. At times I found myself literally shaking in my office at work for no reason. I had no idea what was happening or why.

The nightmare come to light

Finally in my mid-thirties I started seeing a Christian counselor, and he helped me put the pieces together of something I had been denying for over twenty years: being molested as a little boy. The perpetrator was my grandfather. He had come to visit us at the exact time of my recurring “nightmares.” I later learned he had also molested my two sisters. When it all came together, I just shook and sobbed in the counselor’s office. But at least now it all made sense, and the truth of what I had been denying all those years finally came out. After all those years of suspecting that something had happened to me but denying it, it all became clear. It hurt so badly. It still does sometimes. After all, how could a grown man do that to a trusting, helpless little boy, especially his own grandson?

Truth is more healing than denial

All the years of denial solved nothing. Time did not heal those wounds. Facing the reality of what actually happened was the beginning of the healing process, a process that continues and will not be complete until we are in heaven. What has given me comfort is the fact that the truth is now clear, and while the truth hurts, it also sets us free (John 8:32). I know God wept when I was molested, and I know that he cared for me as an eight-year-old kid, and he still cares for me. I know that through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ there is forgiveness available for all of us, including me, and including my grandfather. My grandfather died years before everything became clear, but I have forgiven him; Scripture is clear that we need to forgive others as God forgives us (Matthew 6:14–15; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). There are still traces of lingering hurt and anger in my heart—I won’t deny that—but the anxiety attacks and the bouts of depression have stopped. I still have insomnia sometimes, with the accompanying hypervigilance, but markedly less than before. I still lift weights regularly, but as a way to relieve stress and stay in shape, not out of a compulsion to appear strong and tough.

More compassion for others

One benefit of all this is that it has made me extra careful and protective of my own kids—in a healthy and not controlling way—so that hopefully they will not experience what I did. As an ordained minister, it has also given me a deeper sense of compassion for those in our church who have been traumatized by sexual assault or in other ways. And while I am gradually experiencing the healing power of the grace of God as related to this, I look forward with hope to the day when the healing will be complete. In the meantime, I am grateful that the denial has stopped and that God cares for me.

 


 

Taken from Rid of My Disgrace, by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb, © 2011. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

 

 

 

 

What to Say, and Not Say, to a Victim of Sexual Assault

What to Say, and Not Say, to a Victim of Sexual Assault

Because sexual assault is a form of victimization that is particularly stigmatized in American society, many victims suffer in silence, which only intensifies their distress and disgrace. There is a societal impulse to blame traumatized individuals for their suffering. Research findings suggest blaming victims for post-traumatic symptoms is not only wrong but also contributes to the vicious cycle of traumatization. Victims experiencing negative social reactions have poorer adjustment. Research has proven that the only social reactions related to better adjustment by victims are being believed and being listened to by others.

What to say

Below is a list of things to say that would support and encourage a victim:

  • I believe you.
  • Thank you for telling me.
  • How can I help?
  • I’m glad you’re talking with me.
  • I’m glad you’re safe now.
  • It wasn’t your fault.
  • Your reaction is not an uncommon response.
  • It’s understandable you feel that way.
  • You’re not going crazy; these are normal reactions following an assault.
  • Things may not ever be the same, but they can get better.
  • It’s OK to cry.
  • I can’t imagine how terrible your experience must have been.
  • I’m sorry this happened to you.

 

What not to say

Hurtful reactions toward victims may be intentional (victim blaming) or they may arise from ineffective attempts to show compassion by people who mean well (like asking invasive questions regarding the assault, which can cause revictimization and more suffering for the victim).

Below is a list of things not to say, because they shame, blame, or doubt the victim:

  • I know how you feel.
  • I understand.
  • You’re lucky that ___________.
  • It’ll take some time, but you’ll get over it.
  • Why don’t you tell me more details about what happened.
  • I can imagine how you feel.
  • Don’t worry, it’s going to be all right.
  • Try to be strong.
  • Out of tragedies, good things happen.
  • Time heals all wounds.
  • It was God’s will.
  • You need to forgive and move on. 
  • Calm down and try to relax.
  • You should get on with your life.

 

Ways you can help a victim

  • Listen. Don’t be judgmental. 
  • Let them know the assault(s) was not their fault.
  • Let them know they did what was necessary to prevent further harm.
  • Reassure the survivor that he or she is cared for and loved.
  • Be patient. Remember, it will take him or her some time to deal with the crime.
  • Encourage the sexual assault victim to seek medical attention.
  • Empower the victim. Don’t tell them what they should do or make decisions on their behalf, but present the options and help them think through them.
  • Encourage the survivor to talk about the assault(s) with an advocate, pastor, mental health professional, law-enforcement officer, or someone they trust.
  • Let them know they do not have to manage this crisis alone.
  • Remember that sexual assault victims have different needs (what may have been beneficial for one person might not work for another).
  • Remember not to ask for probing questions about the assault. Probing questions can cause revictimization. Follow the victim’s lead and listen.

 

Adapted from Justin and Lindsey Holcomb’s book Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault.

Myth and Misconceptions about Sexual Assault

Myth and Misconceptions about Sexual Assault

Research on attitudes toward sexual assault has demonstrated that individuals in our society hold many prejudices about and negative views of sexual assault victims. Thus, victims often suffer not only from the trauma of the assault itself, but also from the effects of these negative stereotypes. The result is that victims feel socially derogated and blamed following their sexual assault, which can prolong, continue, and intensify the substantial psychological and emotional distress the victim experiences. It is clear that negative reactions have a harmful effect on victims.

Counter the myths

Unchallenged sexual assault myths perpetuate feelings of guilt, shame, and self-blaming tendencies for victims. Refusal to accept these myths may help victims to assign different meaning to the experience instead of society’s stereotypical ideas regarding sexual assault.

Myth: Sexual assault results from an uncontrollable sexual urge of biological origin. Men assault impulsively and out of biological need.

Fact: Sexual assault is a criminal act of violence, using sex as a weapon. Men assault to express hostility and to dominate. Men assault because it allows them to express anger and to feel powerful by controlling another person. Studies show that 50% of sexual assaults are premeditated and well-planned, not impulsive, spontaneous, uncontrollable sexual acts. This supports the view that sexual assault is learned behavior and does not arise from just biological need.


Myth: Sexual assaults are usually reported.

Fact: Sexual assault is probably one of the most under-reported crimes; researchers estimate that 50–90% of sexual assault cases go unreported.

Myth: Husbands cannot sexually assault their wives.

Fact: Sexual assault occurs whenever sexual contact is not mutual/consensual, when choice is taken away. Any person who disregards another’s “no” is assaulting them. Researchers have estimated that sexual assault occurs in 10–14% of all marriages.


Myth: Because of a few violent incidents, the issue of sexual assault tends to be over-dramatized.

Fact: At least 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men are or will be victims of sexual assault in their lifetime. According to the most recent statistics, every two minutes someone in the United States is sexually assaulted. The statistics are staggering. Only more staggering are the effects from the trauma of sexual assault.


Myth: Most sexual assaults occur in dark alleys or to hitchhikers.

Fact: Most sexual assaults (60%) occur in a private home, and the largest percentage of these assaults (38%) occurs in the victim’s own home. The idea that most sexual assaults fit the “stranger-in-a-dark-alley” stereotype can lead to a false sense of security.


Myth: Men cannot be sexually assaulted.

Fact: Men, both heterosexual and homosexual, are sexually assaulted, and usually by other men. 1 in 6 men are or will be victims of sexual assault in their lifetime.

Myth: Sexual assault happens to careless people who are “asking for it” by the way they dress or where they are.

Fact: No one asks to be assaulted. All kinds of people, young and old, are sexually assaulted in all kinds of places and at all times. The idea that victims provoke assault by “being in the wrong place at the wrong time” assumes they have no right to be as free as you. This myth shifts the blame from the perpetrator to the victim of this crime. No one “deserves” to be sexually assaulted. No one “asks for it.”


Myth: People often lie about being sexually assaulted.

Fact: Police statistics show that the number of falsely reported sexual assaults is less than that of other crimes — only two percent.


Myth: A prostitute will not be traumatized by a sexual assault. After all, having sex is her/his job.

Fact: A sexual assault can be just as traumatic to an experienced prostitute as to anyone else, and she or he has as much right to treatment, protection, and justice. Rape is a crime of violence, not simply a sexual act.

Myth: With sexual assault, the person who is sexually assaulted is the only one who suffers.

Fact: Sexual assault affects the victim’s family, friends, and others who care for them. The fear of sexual assault affects almost all women. The economic costs of sexual assault affect us all. Sexual assault is an epidemic societal problem.


Myth: If someone agrees to some degree of sexual intimacy, they want to have sexual intercourse.

Fact: A person may feel comfortable with one kind of sexual activity but not wish another — or they may decide they are not really ready for further intimacy. A person has the right not to go any further if they do not wish to. 


Myth: It’s only sexual assault if physical violence or weapons are used.

Fact: Sexual assault is any unwanted act of a sexual nature imposed by one person upon another. Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior where consent is not freely given or obtained and is accomplished through force, intimidation, violence, coercion, manipulation, threat, deception, or abuse of authority.


Myth: The greatest danger is from a stranger.

Fact: Most sexual assaults, 80%, are committed by someone the victim knows (family member, friend, dating partner, spouse, neighbor, coach, teacher, doctor, therapist, etc.).


Myth: Most sexual perpetrators are “insane.”

Fact: Although sexual perpetrators have been shown to have poor self-images and a tendency toward violence, they are average in other aspects of their lives. Most sexual assault perpetrators are white, educated, middle-class men. Men who commit sexual assault come from every economic, ethnic, racial, age, and social group.


Myth: Men who rape other men are homosexual.

Fact: The vast majority of males who sexually assault other males (including children) are heterosexual. Men and women are assaulted for basically the same reasons: so the assailant can vent hostility and feel a sense of power. Fear of homosexuality ironically leads some men to sexually assault gay men. The motivations for same-sex assault are power and anger. Sexual orientation is not a motivation for sexual assault.


Myth: If the “victim” is aroused during the “assault” it is not really assault.

Fact:  No-one ever enjoys sexual assault. In some cases a person may respond sexually during the assault, but this is purely a reflex physiological response—it does not indicate that the abuse was welcome. 

Myth: Sexually assaulting a woman is a sign of how masculine a man is and of how sexually potent he is.

Fact: Studies have shown that many (58%) perpetrators suffer from sexual dysfunctions such as impotence and premature ejaculation.

Myth: Rapists are sexually unfulfilled men.

Fact: 30% of rapists are married and having sex regularly.


–This is a supplement to Justin and Lindsey Holcomb’s book Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault

What Does the Bible Say About Sexual Assault?

What Does the Bible Say About Sexual Assault?

Far from being a peripheral issue in the Bible, sexual assault is:

  • clearly depicted as a sin against the victim and God
  • mentioned frequently throughout the Bible
  • referred to as a symbol of how badly sin has corrupted God’s good creation
  • understood as a severe distortion of God’s plan for sex 

Sexual assault is sin against people

It is clear in the Bible that sexual assault is a sin against another person involving a physical, psychological, and emotionally violation. Marie Fortune describes sexual assault four different ways:

  1. It is a bodily sin. Sexual assault is a violation of bodily boundaries and distorts one’s sense of body image.
  2. It is a sin against relationship, violating the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself.
  3. It is a sin betraying trust and destroying relationships between victims and those who should have cared for them but instead caused them harm. The consequence of this sin is that it can create barriers of distrust between victims in their future relationships.
  4. It is a sin not only against the victims but the community surrounding that victim.

Sexual assault is a sin against God 

Sexual assault is a sin against God because the blessing of sexuality is used to destroy instead of build intimacy and because it is an attack against his image in his image-bearers. The ability of sexual assault to obscure internal and external relationships makes it a cosmic affront to the Creator and the order of his creation (Genesis 6:1-3). Sexual assault is a sin against God because it violates his most sacred creation—human beings made in his image.

Biblical evidence against sexual assault

There are explicit passages calling sexual assault sin—a violation of God’s law. Deuteronomy 22:25-29 addresses non-consensual sexual acts and show concern for the welfare of the violated woman. The perpetrator is put to death by stoning, and it is stressed in the text the woman is innocent of any wrongdoing and no harm should come to her.

The victim’s experience of assault is not ignored by God, minimized by the Bible, or outside of the scope of healing and hope found in redemption.

There are also depictions of sexual acts that the Bible characterizes as sexual assault resulting in emotional trauma. Passages such as 2 Samuel 13, Hosea 2:1-13, Jeremiah 13:20-27, and Ezekiel 16 and 23 demonstrate an understanding that such acts of sexual assault result not only in emotional trauma for the victim, but also in humiliation and a debilitating loss of sense of self. These passages depict sexual assault as deeply traumatizing and resulting in devastating emotional and psychological consequences for the victim.

Sexual assault is a symbol of sin

Sexual assault is a common and disturbing symbol of sin in the Bible. It is a complete distortion of relationship, a mockery of the original intent of being made for relationships with God and others. References to sexual violence is a way that God, through the biblical authors, communicates that sin and depravity have progressed so far that sex, an expression of union, peace, and love, is now used as a tool for violence.

God’s intent for sex

God intended humankind to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28), spreading divine image-bearers throughout his good world. This multiplying of offspring and exercising of dominion was to happen through the God-ordained sexual union between husband and wife (Genesis 2:24-25).

God meant for sexual feelings, thoughts, and activity to be pleasurable and intimacy-building in marriage. In the Bible, sexual intimacy is also a reflection of unity and peace between man and woman. It is a picture of two becoming one. 

Sexual assault is a distortion

But sin inverts mutual love and harmony into domination of and violence against each other. Sex, the very expression of human union and peace, becomes a weapon of power and control against others after the Fall. Sexual assault is uniquely devastating precisely because it distorts the foundational realities of what it means to be human: sexual expression is perverted and used for violence, intra-personal trust is shattered, and disgrace and shame are heaped on the victim. Sexual assault creates in the victim’s mind a tragic and perverse linkage between sex, intimacy, and shame.  

God has the last word

By calling sexual assault sin, we know God is against it. He is also active in healing the effects victims experience.

The victim’s experience of assault is not ignored by God, minimized by the Bible, or outside of the scope of healing and hope found in redemption. God’s response to evil and violence is redemption, renewal, and re-creation. God’s response to the victim is to impart grace and brings peace.


Justin and Lindsey Holcomb are the authors of Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault.

6 Devastating Effects of Sexual Assault—And How the Gospel Answers Them

6 Devastating Effects of Sexual Assault—And How the Gospel Answers Them

Victims of sexual assault experience many devastating physical, psychological, and emotional effects. The most prevalent responses include denial, distorted self-image, shame, guilt, anger, and despair. If this is you (or someone you love), you need to understand that the gospel of Jesus applies to each of these.

1. Denial

Sexual assault makes you feel alone, unimportant, and unworthy of sympathy. It tempts you to deny and minimize what happened to you to cope with the pain and trauma. It might initially help to create a buffer while you start dealing with the difficult emotions, but eventually denial and minimization will actually increase the pain, because it keeps you from dealing with the psychological destruction and trauma of the assault. 

God does not deny, minimize, or ignore what happened to you. Through Jesus he identifies with you, and he has compassion. He knows your suffering. He does not want you to stay silent or deny, but to feel and express your emotions, to grieve the destruction you experienced. The cross shows that God understands pain and does not judge you for feeling grief. The resurrection shows that God conquered sin—that he is reversing sin’s destruction and restoring peace.

Because of Jesus, you have the privilege to confidently go to God and receive grace and mercy. Your need and your cries don’t make God shun you. He has compassion on you (Hebrew 4:14-16).

2. Identity

Sexual assault attacks your sense of identity and tells you that you are filthy, foolish, defiled, and worthless. It makes you feel that you are nothing. 

The gospel gives you a new identity through the redemptive work of Jesus. Through faith in Christ, you are adopted into God’s family. You are given the most amazing identity: child of God (1 John 3:1–2). God adopted you and accepted you because he loves you. You didn’t do anything to deserve his love. He loved you when you were unlovable.

The gospel also tells you that through faith in Christ, his righteousness, blamelessness, and holiness is attributed to you (2 Cor. 5:21). If you are in Christ, your identity is deeper than any of your wounds. You can be secure in this new identity because it was achieved for you by God—you are his, and he cannot disown himself. 

3. Shame

Sexual assault is shameful and burdens you with feelings of nakedness, rejection, and dirtiness. Shame is a painfully confusing experience—it makes you acutely aware of inadequacy, shortcoming, and failure.

Jesus reveals God’s love for his people by covering their nakedness, identifying with those who are rejected, cleansing their defilement, and conquering their enemy who shames them. God extends his compassion and his mighty, rescuing arm to take away your shame. Jesus both experienced shame and took your shame on himself. Jesus, of all people, did not deserve to be shamed. Yet he took on your shame, so it no longer defines you nor has power over you. 

Because of the cross, we can be fully exposed, because God no longer identifies us by what we have done or by what has been done to us. In Jesus, you are made completely new.

4. Guilt

Sexual assault attacks you with guilt that leads to feelings of condemnation, judgment, and self-blame. 

You are not guilty for the sin that was committed against you—and this realization alone can bring great freedom. Yet the reality is that your sense of guilt goes deeper than what was done to you. You know that you have sinned against God and others—both before your assault and in response to what happened to you.

The shocking message of grace is that Jesus was forsaken for us so we could be forgiven. God turned his wrath away from you and toward Christ on the cross. If you trust in Christ, all your sins—past, present, and future—are forgiven. All of them. All threat of punishment, or sense of judgment, is canceled. Through faith in Christ you are loved, accepted, and declared innocent.

5. Anger

Sexual assault creates anger at what has been done to you. While anger can be a natural and healthy response to the unquestionable evil of sexual assault, most victims express it poorly or feel they have to suppress it. You have probably been discouraged from expressing your anger, but suppressed anger holds you hostage and leaves you vindictive, addicted, embittered, immoral, and unbelieving. 

God is angrier over the sin committed against you than you are. He is angry because what happened to you was evil and it harmed you. Godly anger is participating in God’s anger against injustice and sin, crying out to him to do what he promised: destroy evil and demolish everything that harms others and defames God’s name. 

Anger expressed to God is the cry of the weak one who trusts the strong One, the hurting person who trusts the One who will make it all better. Because vengeance is God’s, you can be free from the exhaustive cycle of vindictive anger.

6. Despair

Sexual assault can fill you with despair. Feeling that you’ve lost something, whether it’s your innocence, youth, health, trust, confidence, or security, can deepen into hopelessness and despair. And then depression can add seemingly inescapable weight to the experience of despair.

The gospel gives you hope. Biblical hope is sure because God is behind his promise of a future for you. The hope you need right now is grounded in God’s faithfulness in the past and anticipation of it in the future. 

Because of Jesus’ resurrection, all threats against you are tamed if you trust in Christ. Jesus conquered death and evil, so evil done to you is not the end of the story and you can have hope. Because Jesus rose from the dead, he ascended to heaven and is “making all things new.” Your God is strong, and he, not the evil done to you, will have the final say about you. That hope animates the “groans within ourselves” that everything will someday be renewed. We will be delivered from all sin and misery. Every tear will be wiped away when evil is no more.

 


 

These are developed from Justin & Lindsey Holcomb’s book, Rid of My Disgrace. For more in-depth analysis of sexual assault and gospel application, pick up the book here

Sexual Assault: Trauma and Healing

Sexual Assault: Trauma and Healing

During a sexual assault, most victims feel terrified, fearful, helpless, humiliated, and confused. Afterward, any of these feelings can persist and intensify, especially terror and fear.

Sexual assault is not simply an event that happened, ended, and now is over. It can have an impact on every aspect of life—faith, daily attitudes and emotions, self-image, relationships, and sexuality. These are not just past issues, but remain very real and current. Regardless of how long ago the assault took place, the traces of an assault can reach into the present life of a victim and trigger ongoing problems.


Trauma

A sexual assault is a traumatic event. “Trauma” is a state of being negatively overwhelmed. It is the experience of terror, loss of control, of helplessness during a stressful event that threatens one’s physical or psychological integrity. 

While some victims eventually experience a gradual decrease in the intensity of emotions and memories surrounding the assault, others re-experience the traumatic memories as though the original assault were presently occurring. Subsequently, they develop a host of responses now identified as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, which is usually associated with combat war veterans.

Because sexual assault is traumatizing, victims arethree times more likely to suffer from depression, six times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, thirteen times more likely to abuse alcohol, twenty-six times more likely to abuse drugs, and four times more likely to contemplate suicide. 

As one expert said, many sexual assault victims suffer from a feeling of “total helplessness, profound emptiness, or total dislocation.”


Healing

In response to these emotions, victims can look to the gospel of Jesus in order to investigate the new emotions available to them and how they relate to the current emotions of their experience.

What grace offers to the victim experiencing disgrace is the gift of refuting distortions and faulty thinking and replacing those counter-factual beliefs with more accurate ones that reflect the truths about God, themselves, and God’s grace-filled response to their disgrace. Grace brings healing to where they are harmed.

 

Self-Help Harms

Unfortunately, instead of the message of grace, the message victims hear most often is self-heal, self-love, and self-help. Research shows that self-help statements have been found to be ineffective and even harmful because they may backfire and make some feel worse rather than better. If the positive self-statement does not “stick,” the result is to return to one’s original negative self-perception and hold it more strongly.

The consequences are that positive self-statements are likely to backfire and cause harm for the very people they are meant to benefit: people with low self-esteem.

Our powerlessness to heal ourselves is evident. Victims don’t need platitudes and shallow theology. They need accessible gospel-based help, hope, and healing.

 

Grace Re-Creates   

Internal trauma is not only done to, but also experienced by, victims. These internal—and deeply personal—places of a victim’s heart, will, and emotions need a clear application of the gospel of redemption.

What victims need are not self-produced positive statements, but God’s statements about his response to their pain. How can you be rid of your disgrace? God’s grace to you dismantles the beliefs that give disgrace life. Grace re-creates what violence destroyed. One-way love is the change agent you need. Grace transforms and heals; and healing comes by hearing God’s statements to you, not speaking your own statements to yourself.

 

Justin and Lindsey Holcomb are the authors of Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault