According to the National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, one in six male children and one in four female children will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18 years old. Fifty-five percent of North Americans are reported victims of sexual abuse of some kind.
Nearly 20 people in the United States are physically abused by an intimate partner every single minute, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
According to a report done by the United States Department of Justice, 25 to 25 percent of college women and 15 percent of college men become rape victims during their time in college. With these staggering statistics, we may assume that the Christian community is not immune from this epidemic of abuse and assault of all kinds.
A multitude of emotions and serious, difficult questions face those suffering abuse or assault. We as Christians should be willing and ready to help, equipped with love and compassion. Above all, victims need to know that God cares for them deeply and personally. Isaiah 43:4 affirms God’s infinite care: “Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee.”
Second, we should reassure victims that they did not deserve the abuse they received and that it was never “their fault.” Judging or blaming victims for their abuse, even unintentionally, is a dangerous way to cause further emotional damage to a victim. Victims should never feel like they cannot talk to people they trust about the situation without being judged.
As believers, we should also support victims through listening and allowing them talk about their experience. This welcoming support is part of the “bearing” that Galatians 6:2 instructs us to do: “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” Deep emotional and spiritual struggles that result from abuse deserve deep biblical answers, especially regarding God’s care for victims and God’s justice for abuses.
Many times we might be tempted to give a pithy, reassuring response that may sound empty or even insulting to victims. Simply attempting to placate the victim can many times hurt rather than help. We should also encourage the victim to seek the help they may need that is beyond our personal expertise. Experts in trauma and abuse, trained biblical counselors and caring pastors are all good sources of advice and assistance. If the situation calls for it, encourage the victim to talk to law enforcement or seek medical help.
Of all people, we as Christians should be ready with open arms to comfort and care for those who come forward about sexual abuse. Bob Jones University partners with MinistrySafe to provide Sexual Abuse Awareness training to students, faculty and staff. Training sessions are available today at 9–10:30 a.m. in Levinson Hall, 1–2:30 p.m. in Levinson Hall and 3–4:30 p.m. in Stratton Hall.