A March 1, 2014 conference, “Sanctuary for the Sexually Abused: An Introduction to Pastoral Care, at the Duke Divinity School provided current and future pastors and other spiritual care providers with an introduction to the pastoral care of survivors of sexual abuse.
Organized by student Adam Baker, M.Div. ’14, a former child and adolescent therapist the conference addressed the prevalence of sexual abuse, its effect on the mind and body, it’s impact on one’s relationship with God and others, and how to care and advocate for survivors of sexual assault.
“For current and future pastoral care providers, it’s not a question of if one will encounter a survivor of sexual abuse; rather, it’s a question of when,” said Baker. “This conference was intended to begin a conversation about the necessity of knowing how to support, walk with, and advocate for survivors of sexual abuse. Survivors are likely a part of every congregation, and frequently, they are also preaching in the pulpit. The church doesn’t talk about sex well, and we certainly don’t speak well concerning matters of sexual trauma. That needs to change. Thu church needs to be a safe place for survivors.”(1)
AWARENESS of the prevalence of sexual abuse is gaining momentum. The news media is drawing attention to the issue with more frequency and the Duke Conference highlights the alarm that is growing in the faith communities. Just last week, the well-known Christian leader Bill Gothard resigned his position after over 35 years at the helm. While it is a crushing blow for the Christian community time may well demonstrate that this needed to be addressed many years ago and the shame surrounding this intimate issue perpetuates the silence. I am encouraged that AWARENESS is growing and gaining legitimate attention.
With AWARENESS comes the next important step in addressing sexual abuse, HEALING. Jillian and I have learned that the HEALING portion demands time and patience. The damage from sexual abuse goes to the very core of who we are as image bearers of God. Our sexuality is God’s greatest gift and the silence enveloping this must cease. The HEALING process is long, arduous, and painful. There are no models out there that adequately address the intervention it requires. One on one survivors and advocates will travel the course mourning the losses, changing the thinking, and acknowledging the pain. It is wonderful to experience the movement of AWARENESS…it is frustrating to know that prepared advocates will be woefully inadequate to intervene for the wave that is coming.
Keep spreading the word. It is now acceptable to admit there is an issue. Encourage your community to address this in their churches, Sunday schools, and youth groups. Holding onto Hope is determined to keep sounding the alarm, and we are committed to continuing to develop a HEALING model. Walk with us. www.holdingontohope.org.
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