The goal for this week is to recognize and accept that if you have been sexually abused, your life includes personal and relational tendencies that are similar to those of other survivors of sexual abuse.
Life for someone who has been sexually abused often resembles living in a storm. Things might feel out of control, hopeless, chaotic, never-ending, devastating and completely messy. Many struggle with depression, a drive to prove ourselves or earn someone's approval, or a need to be in control of all things. You may be feeling inappropriately guilty or ashamed. And some survivors feel absolutely nothing at all.
This lesson begins with one of the book's authors sharing part of her story. Here is what Cindy Kubetin writes: (Make note of any words or phrases that describe your experience too. Is there any part of Cindy's story that you would like to have in your life?)
"From personal experience, I know that healing from sexual abuse is possible. The process may be slow and will include pain, setbacks and frustrations. The awesome power of God is available to overcome these obstacles. Isaiah 57:18 describes how God restores, heals and gives comfort. Many years elapsed before I felt the comfort or received the wholeness, however. As a very young child, I began to isolate myself from others because of sexual abuse from someone I loved and believed was there for me. My memory is too sketchy for me to be sure of the extent of the abuse prior to age seven. I don't know if more than one person abused me in those early years. I do know that at least ten people had sexually abused me by the time I reached adulthood.
"To fix vividly in my mind that I had been a victim took many years. Somehow the abuses just seemed like something that happened to me. I felt devastated when I actually recognized that I had been a victim of childhood sexual abuse. I felt more shame than ever. My flashbacks became more frequent, and I felt despicable and worthless. As God's restorative power began to take hold of me, however, I not only saw myself as a victim but I began to see that to become a survivor was possible. I even began to feel a joy in having survived so much. I saw more positive things about myself than I ever had, and even learned to risk myself a little more. I liked this stage, but there was still too much pain inside, too much anxiety and fear. Also, I continued making grave mistakes in my life. It seemed so obvious that I didn't have it together yet!
"By this time, I had begun to seek God in my life. I wanted the mental torment to stop, not just for a day, but for a lifetime. But when I read the Bible's wonderful promises, I was sure that they applied to someone else; surely this book couldn't have been written to help me. I couldn't yet see the Bible as a resource for me. I hadn't begun to understand the way of Jesus - that He wanted me to have good things in life, not just bad things. I didn't understand that God wanted to redeem my life. But I kept reading, and for me Psalm 103:4-5 explained the Lord's way quite well. As I read these words my heart pounded with hope. A real and personal God was still difficult to believe, but I knew that even a little faith was better than none."
"I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him." Isaiah 57:18
"Who redeems your life from the pit; who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; who satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle." Psalm 103:4-5
Spend some time reflecting on this part of Cindy's story and answer the questions posed earlier.
As we more forward on our recovery journey, it is important to understand what sexual abuse is. Many people think that sexual abuse is limited to intercourse, but there are many other behaviors that can result in the same damage to the victim.
Any sexual activity carried out in an inappropriate context is abusive. A complete definition of sexual abuse would be as broad as the range of human activity. But, with a narrow definition, both victims and perpetrators tend to minimize the harmful results or even deny that sexual abuse has occurred. Therefore, we will define sexual abuse as any sexual activity - verbal, visual or physical - engaged in without consent, which may be emotionally or physically harmful and which exploits a person in order to meet another person's sexual or emotional needs. The person does not consent if he or she cannot reasonably choose to consent or refuse because of age, circumstances, level of understanding, and dependency or relationship to the offender.
During unit 2 we will discuss some different types of abuse, we will go into detail about the many ways sexual abuse can impact our lives, and we will close with the affirmation that restoration is possible.
This week's memory verse is from Psalm 103:5 (NASB), "Who satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle." The NLT puts it this way, "He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle's." I've said before that I am not a Bible scholar, but when I reflect on this scripture I believe it's telling me that God wants to replace the junk with his good stuff ... he wants to replace my pain with His peace, and my sorrow with His joy, and my hopelessness with His expectation and wonder. He wants to mend my broken wing so that I might fly again like the eagle.
The work we will do this week will affirm for you that you were, in fact, sexually abused. When we discuss the "symptoms" of abuse, you will clearly see that you are not alone and will see just how deeply impacted you have been by sexual abuse. In recognizing that, it is my hope that you will also see every reason to recover and not allow the abuse to control your life.
I love so much what one survivor recently told me... "I have been recovering from sexual abuse for over 30 years. Some days are still really hard, but it doesn't ruin my life anymore." I want that for all of us - that it won't ruin our lives anymore.