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Abuse - Woman Why are you Weeping

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Woman, Why are you Weeping

 

Did you know that within the group of people you rub shoulders with, shake hands with, exchange the peace with, that is to say – in your church – there are those who carry dark shadows from the past? Experiences suffered as children and young people still haunt them, inhibit them, and prevent them from being all God created them to be. You might not guess it from looking at them – some have become excellent actors, hiding the pain with a bright smile, a helping hand for others.      

         Perhaps you are one of those people that have been told, "But that was years ago! Put it behind you – it’s all under the blood anyway! You shouldn’t feel that way now you’re a Christian.

So often, such words bring the abused person further into defeat, feeling that they "should" and "ought" to do/feel/say something different. They cover up the pain, bury it, pretend it doesn’t matter – but it does!

One day years ago as I read John 20:15, “‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ God began to ask me, “Why are you crying?”

I then remembered the scripture, Luke 4: 18, 19 that God spoke to me when I was 16 years old; “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind; to set free the oppressed and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people.” [1]

This began my personal journey to walk into complete healing from years of sexual abuse as a young girl. I began to understand that my call to ministry was to bring hope and healing to those who have experienced any form of abuse; verbal, emotional, sexual, physical, ritual and/or spiritual.

Today, one of the most endemic atrocities in our world today is the sexual abuse of boys and girls. Statistics show that by age 18, one of every four girls and one of every six boys has been sexually abused.

A Finnish survey done in 1994 by Sariola and Uutela of 7349 randomly picked; 15 and 16 year olds states, that 8% of the girls and 3% of the boys had experienced some form of sexual abuse.[2]

What is child sexual abuse?

         First we must understand that Abuse is described as; misuse, to use wrongly, to hurt by treating badly, excessive use, a bad or corrupt custom or practice.

         There are many definitions for Child Sexual Abuse. Child Sexual Abuse consists of activities which expose children to sexual stimulation inappropriate to their age. Sexual abuse is any contact or interaction (visual, verbal or psychological) between a child/adolescent and an adult or older child; when the child/adolescent is being used for sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or any other person.

Eighty-five percent of sexual assaults on children are committed by someone the child knows and usually trusts—an immediate family member, a relative, a neighbor, or a friend of the family. We see this in Psalm 55:12 & 13, “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend…” [3]

         The majority of offenders are male. They are all ages, income, and educational groups. Their approach is usually not violent, although it often involves a threat or a bribe. The child might hear, “I won’t like you anymore,” or “I’ll give you, If you tell, I’ll ...” The abuser relies on the child’s ignorance, helplessness, and a lack of a clear understanding that they are being hurt.  

         Gradually the climate is changing. People are prepared to believe that larger numbers of boys, girls and young people are abused than previously thought.

Possible Effects of Abuse  

         These can be divided into three parts: physical, emotional, and spiritual.

         The effects will vary from one person to another. What you may regard as something very minor; may have a profound effect on the abused person. That is because everybody is different, each will have had different life-experiences, different kinds of families. Some people may display many symptoms of the effects of abuse.

Physical Effects

         Sexual abuse may also cause damage to the genital area, or internal reproductive organs which can be serious problems as adults. Sexual abuse can also be responsible for sexually-transmitted diseases and bladder infections. Women may be unable to have babies because of the damage/infection.

         Adults can have difficulty in sexual relationships – they may experience pain, or find love-making very unsatisfactory because of memories flooding back of past abuse.

Some adults may hate their bodies so much that they try to commit suicide or inflict harm on themselves – cutting, burning, eating disorders, drug/alcohol/solvent abuse, prostitution and a promiscuous life-style.

Emotional

         When a person has been abused it will have an effect on their emotional life and thinking because abuse hurts every part of our being.

         They may suffer confusion, not understanding what has happened or why it happened. Young people often cannot concentrate on school work or studying because of what has happened to them. They feel isolated and different from everyone else. They may wonder who they are because the abuser has not allowed them to make choices in the past.

         The abused person may think they are very wicked – "I shouldn’t have let it happen. It’s my fault". People don’t understand that as children they are not responsible for what adults or older children have done to them.

         People who have been abused may find it hard to say ‘no’ to others who make unreasonable demands of them, or who seek to abuse them again. They may find it hard to make lasting relationships, suffer recurring "flashbacks" (sudden glimpses of past abuse). They may be anxious or depressed.

Spiritual Effects

         Abuse can have a crushing effect on the spirit. That is why God is so angry when He sees what is done to His "little ones". The abused person can feel unable to trust God as a loving father because people in places of authority – parents, policemen, ministers – have frightened them, ignored their cries for help; made them feel "dirty" or sinful; have abused them.

         People who have been abused may relate better to Jesus as God’s son or The Good Shepherd. They may fear the power of the Holy Spirit – being prayed for may be very frightening because they will not be "in control". They may fear being touched when being prayed for so be sensitive to their feelings.

         They may feel they are "too bad" for God to want to have anything to do with them when the truth is that God loves each one of us so much that He sent Jesus to die for us.!

 

Helping the Abused Person

         Each of us is a person for whom Christ died. We are chosen, valued, respected and loved by God. In ministering to the abused person, we must keep those values in mind.  

         The most important thing we can do, initially, is to listen to what the person has to say. We may find it hard to believe, we may be shocked or disgusted. We may feel a sense of panic – "What am I going to do now?" However, don’t let those feelings show or you may stop the person from telling you.

         Try not to ask questions because people will often not want to answer them. Also you may put things into their mind that were not there e.g. "Did he do this?" Other unhelpful questions are "Why didn’t you say no?", and "Why didn’t you tell anyone?” (They may have tried to or been so frightened that they could not).

         Encourage them to believe that things can change – however hopeless things seem at present, God can do miracles in their life.  

         Pray with them for God to bring peace, healing and justice into their situation.  

         Act! You may need to take action to ensure that children are protected from further harm. You may need to contact the authorities about crimes that have been committed.  

         Don’t expect the abused person to forgive what has been done to them immediately. God wants us to forgive those who offend against us. He also wants those who offend to seek forgiveness to accept responsibility for what has happened. They may realise only a little at a time, just what damage has been done to them. They may forgive a little at a time.

         Don’t ever promise to keep what has been told you secret because you may not be able to keep your promise if action needs to be taken. You shouldn’t tell ‘everyone’ – only those who need to know and that does not include the abuser.  

         If you need to seek further help for the abused person, don’t be afraid to refer them. Keep praying for them!

Healing and Restoration

         Isaiah 42: 22 says, “But this is a people robbed (stolen from) and plundered (violated); All of them are snared in holes, And they are hidden in prison houses; They are for prey (stalked, to be devoured), and no one delivers; For plunder, and no one says, “Restore!” [4]

         The faith community is an integral part of the healing process by surrounding the victim with prayer, love, and practical support. As the love of God is manifested in acts of kindness and encouragement, the healing journey - is augmented.

         The words spoken by Jesus to Mary Magdalene are some of the most powerful spoken to a woman by a man…”

         …it is Christ who stood beside the death tomb long ago and spoke gently to an anguished woman, and it is He who still stands beside the weeping women of this generation in the mourning places of their lives. He still asks, with deepest concern, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

         It is the male Christ who is a woman’s greatest Advocate, Healer and Sympathizer.

         It is Christ who is present at the death scenes of our pasts. It is He who heals the memories. It is He who rolls away the gravestones which seal in all the decaying carnage of our human degradation. It is He who speaks our names so we can look up and see that their resurrection day is dawning.

         Along with Christ, I say, “Restore!”


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[1]American Bible Society. (1992). The Holy Bible : The Good news Translation (2nd ed.) (Lk 4:18-19). New York: American Bible Society.

[2] Sariola, H., and Uutela, A (1994) The prevalence of child sexual abuse in Finland. Child Abuse and Neglect, 18: 827-835

[3] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Ps 55:12). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[4]The New King James Version. 1996, c1982 (Is 42:21). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

 - Italic notes added by Dr Vervaecke

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