If you’re alive and breathing, chances are, you know a survivor of childhood sexual abuse—even if you don’t know it. Next time you’re in a crowd start counting off the females. One, two, three, FOUR. Then count off the males. One, two, three, four, five, SIX. You’ll get the visual on the statistics, the statistics based on reported cases of sexual abuse. Then remember, it is estimated that only 1 in 10 survivors ever tell. Startling. I know.
Why don’t survivors tell? A myriad of reasons, ranging from undeserved disgrace inflicted by their abuser to an undue burden to protect others from their pain, can keep their mouths wired shut. Tight.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigiitalImages.net
I received an email recently from a woman who was concerned about a fellow sister in pain. I can’t give you the details, but it was clear from the message that this young woman was/is in significant pain.
Why the tears? Abuse survivor? Maybe.
What to do? How to help? All good questions. Beautiful questions.
Helping others with their burdens. This is good. Very good.
I shared some advice based on my years of loving on survivors.
The woman messaged me back. “ You've just written your next blog post.”
So in case you’re ever in a situation, and I pray you are (this world needs more survivor lovers), where you don’t know what to do, I humbly share my response.
I assume you're asking me about this because of my work with sexual abuse survivors. Could she be one? Just based on statistics, yes. Is it common for survivors to be distant/have walls? Yes.
I love that you're trying to reach out to her. That's beautiful! My heart weeps for this woman, and I've never met her. I can only tell you what I would do if I believed Jesus wanted me to reach out to her.
I would choose a time where we could be alone, invite her to lunch or something. I would be very vulnerable regarding my own struggles. Survivors must know you're human and understand pain, and they will only disclose under safe conditions where they know the conversation won't go beyond you. I would be a bit more direct in telling her that I'm concerned about her. "I've seen your tears, and I want you to know I care. If you need to talk, I'm here."
Then it is important to pursue them by spending time with them. They won't pursue you unless they are at a breaking point. They will test your "safety level", whether you’re someone who can handle their disclosure, at every turn. I once had a survivor say to me, "I keep trying to say things that will make you fall off your chair. You just won't budge." She had much to disclose. And although it was heavy, it was an honor to help her carry her burden.
This woman obviously has a story to tell. There are probably very few, if any, who know what that is. I will pray she can tell it.
A story to tell. There are 42 million adult survivors of sexual abuse in the US. I pray we will stay on our chairs, be slow to speak and quick to listen. And listen. And listen.