Finding the courage to voice your story of sexual abuse can feel impossible: too exposing, too embarrassing, too painful, too taboo. Tragically, sometimes the hardest place to share such stories is within the church. "Why is this so," asks Scotty Smith, "and how can the church do a better job of giving men and women the voice to tell their stories of shame?"
In this eight-minute video, Smith is joined by Justin Holcomb and Trillia Newbell to discuss how congregations can practically recognize, love, and care for victims of sexual abuse. For example, "The power of the pulpit shouldn't be overlooked," Holcomb observes. When preaching, he simply lists sexual abuse among the many sins Calvary addresses. "Just naming it can go a long way."
"When you are violated, you feel alone," explains Newbell, who shared her own story last year in a piece titled "Remember the Victims—Like Me." "It took me until  to tell more than five people." One of the problems, Smith suggests, is that we often do a far better job of understanding guilt than shame. But the gospel is not just about clearing a record of guilt; it's about disarming the power of shame. Our divine older Brother and Friend identifies with us in our pain and embraces us in our dirt. As Holcomb remarks: "'Without spot, wrinkle, or blemish'—Christians are called what Jesus was."
It's imperative in our churches not only to openly recognize the prevalence of sexual abuse, but also to "connect the dots" to the person and work of Jesus. "We are all victims and agents of sin," Smith observes, "and the gospel alone gives us the means of finding freedom in view of the day when Jesus returns to finish making all things new."
Caring for Victims of Sexual Abuse from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.
Holcomb is the author of Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault (Crossway, 2011). In the video he recommends Edward Welch's Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection (New Growth, 2012).
Matt Smethurst serves as associate editor for The Gospel Coalition. He and his wife Maghan have two children and live in Louisville, Kentucky, where they belong to Third Avenue Baptist Church. You can follow him on Twitter.