If someone opens up to you and tells you about their abuse, be prepared to hear the above statement. I’ve heard it many times. It is a lie that is embedded in most survivors’ hearts.
As a friend to many survivors of sexual abuse, I have found that I can’t just blow past that lie by telling them, “It’s just a lie. You need to believe the truth. It wasn’t your fault.” It may sound absurd to you and to me; we know that a child, no matter what age, is never responsible for sexual abuse. But just telling a survivor that it’s a lie won’t change their feelings. What is truth to the mind doesn’t directly translate to the heart. And chances are, our survivor friend has believed this lie for years, and the lie has gone undetected and unchallenged for just as long.
It takes patience to love a survivor well in their area of abuse and shame. We may spend hours having marvelous conversations about life and enjoying their company, but when they move the conversation to reveal their deepest wound, we must be filled with the patience to listen and listen some more. It is only after we’ve earned the right to speak by listening, and they invite us to share our thoughts, that we need to pray for the wisdom of Nathan.
Nathan was a counselor in the Old Testament to King David. When he advised David, he did so in such a way as to reach David’s heart. Nathan knew that the King David was compassionate toward others and he used this understanding to move David’s heart. Nathan used a story of injustice done to someone else to help David embrace truth.
I’ve never met a survivor who isn’t compassionate. They know pain. They care deeply for others. One of my friends was struggling with her participation in the abuse, so when my thoughts were welcomed, I told her a story about another survivor. And when I was finished, I asked if it was the child in the story’s fault. I got a resounding NO! Another’s pain touched her heart. Did it make the lie disappear? No. But she understands that the lie is in her heart, and that in her heart, is where the battle rages.
I am determined to remain a faithful, patient friend to her. I will do what I can to help her lift her sword toward the lie, not because I’m an amazing person filled with knowledge and wisdom, but because I rely on a God who is.