When Grooming is Mistaken for Love

This poignant image of a precious little girl on her way to have fun in the company of a wolf stirs me deeply. As she glances over her shoulder, she is unaware of the menacing look in the wolf’s eyes. The image captures for me both the innocence and vulnerability of a child being “groomed” by a sexual predator.

Yesterday I saw an old photograph that troubled me even more. It was a group photo that included my older sister as a small child. She was holding the hand of an uncle who I now know sexually abused his own children.  Other relatives, whose abusive histories I also learned about later in life, were in the photo too. Many years after that photo was taken, my sister confided in me that one of those men had sexually abused her when she was just four-years-old. Incest was a tradition in our family even before I was born, and grooming was unwittingly accepted as “love.”

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Unexpected Doorways to Healing

This past week I read a book that stirred feelings deep in my soul again.  The book, A Serial Killer’s Daughter, by Kerri Rawson chronicled the journey Kerri has been on since learning at the age of 26 that her dad was the notorious BTK serial killer in Kansas. All the years prior to that, she simply knew and loved him as “Dad.” The duplicity, betrayal, shock, and shame she experienced were in some ways similar to my own. As I reflected upon her story, I realized I have faced similar hurdles on my own journey toward healing.

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The Journey from Impacted to Becoming Impactful

Happy New Year everyone! Today is a day we often think about new beginnings as we plan for the future. However, those of us who have been impacted by sexual abuse often feel so weighed down by the wounds inflicted upon us yesterday that it’s hard to imagine a better tomorrow. The holidays often bring hurtful memories to the surface, or sometimes it’s a present-day reality that challenges us as we interact with our families of origin. Christmas was like that for me this year. There was a death in our family that brought me in close contact with family members who had contributed to my pain either through their outright denial or complicit behavior that implied it was “no big deal.” Although the abuser had passed away earlier, the dysfunctional family dynamics continued to confuse and confound me. How does a follower of Jesus respond at such times?

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What if the Improbable Was Somehow Possible?

Coming to terms with the concept of forgiveness in relation to sexual abuse.

Many of us think of sexual abuse as an unpardonable sin. Its effects are so far-reaching. We have been told repeatedly that abusers can’t change, and recovery means acknowledging that fact while no longer permitting what happened to control us. We hold on to the hope that change is possible for us, but we believe that it is impossible for them. And, somehow we suspect that a just God agrees with us. So, victims become survivors after years of recovery, while we imagine perpetrators eventually end up in hell.  What they did to us and those we love is so evil, we would never want that to happen again to another living soul. Society needs to be free from people who abuse the innocent, we reason; justice demands it!

Now close your eyes and imagine God saying that He wants to give your abuser a new heart and a new start. This new heart would enable him or her to respond to you and the world differently from now on. He or she would never abuse anyone again. What type of thoughts flood your mind? Do you hear, “Hell no!” Do words like “impossible” demand a hearing? Do you feel panic, not wanting that to happen? Does it interfere with your sense of justice? Could you trust a God who allowed that? Continue reading

Can Anger Lead to Breakthrough?

Anger is a very interesting emotion, especially in the life of a sexual abuse survivor.  I have met many survivors whose reactions were defined by anger; it seems to be the only emotion they were in touch with. Others don’t allow themselves to feel anger, as if it is somehow bad. The question is what role can anger actually play in our healing, and as Christians, how can we deal with it most effectively? Continue reading

How Knowing God as “Father” Informs My Understanding of Prayer

Father Knows Best was a popular television show when I was a child. It was about the Anderson family whose dad offered sage advice whenever one of his children encountered a problem. The image of a caring father who acts in the best interest of his children is an anomaly for victims of sexual abuse who knew their abusers as “dad.” For them, dad was a self-serving man they dared not trust. It is no wonder that abuse victims sometimes struggle with the image of God as a Heavenly Father. Even those of us whose perpetrators were not our dads, can still struggle to relate to a good God. Trust can be difficult, especially if safety was lacking in our formative years. Rather than trust anyone to care for us, we have often fought for some illusion of control.

Even though I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior as a teenager, my walk with God has been a long journey. Even now, forty years later, I am still learning to really trust Him. As a young Christian, the discipline of prayer became very important to me.  I was so excited to see all the ways God answers prayer! Now I also recognize there were times I trusted more in the power of my prayers than in the One I prayed to. It’s a subtle distinction.  Continue reading

Remembering Mama and How Mother’s Day was Restored for Us

For many years Mother’s Day was difficult for me. I had a hard time picking out a card for my Mama. For reasons I didn’t understand, I shied away from ones that talked about how great she was or how she had always been there for me. I searched for more generic cards that simply said “I love you” or “hope your day is great.” Inevitably, Mama would still declare that I picked out the nicest cards, and I would feel guilty. For some reason, I felt angry with her much of the time. Those who know me will be surprised to read this because everyone agreed that my mom was such a sweet lady. Continue reading

The Impact of Sexual Abuse on the Fragrance of Life

What is the first thing you do with a beautiful flower? If you’re anything like me, you smell it. Why? Because we expect flowers to smell good! Many flowers produce a pleasant scent to attract pollinators that aid in their reproduction. In II Corinthians 2:14-15, the Apostle Paul says that Christians produce a fragrance too:

“But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

The fragrances of flowers and Christians are both connected to reproduction. You can imagine my surprise on a mission trip several years ago when a group leader said to me, “You are like a beautiful flower without a smell!” Continue reading