This is one of those books I wish Crossway didn’t have to publish. Which is different from saying that I wish Crossway didn’t publish it. I am, in fact, deeply grateful.

I’m referring to Justin and Lindsey Holcomb’s new book, Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault, due out this month.

This husband-and-wife team has spent countless hours in counseling victims and poring over God’s work, applying the gospel into the lives of people by sexual sin against them. If you’ve ever wondered what the gospel has to say to the victims of sexual assault, you’ll see it in this book. They labor to show that “the gospel applies grace to disgrace and redeems what is destroyed,” that “one-way love heals and replaces the destruction caused by one-way violence.”

You can read Mark Driscoll’s foreword, the table of contents, and the first chapter online for free.

Below are some endorsements, followed by a 15-minute conversation I had with the Holcombs about the book:

“I can’t express how grateful I am that someone is tackling this subject with both a pastoral heart and an understanding of how the devastating effects of sexual assault can wreak havoc for decades after the abuse. It is an epidemic issue where resources are scarce. There isn’t a weekend that goes by where we aren’t told a gut-wrenching tale of innocence stolen and left trying to help a man or woman make sense of their pain. I praise God for the gospel that can heal and restore and for the Holcombs that had the courage and wisdom to write this book for us.”
—Matt Chandler, Lead Pastor, The Village Church, Highland Village, Texas

“Having experienced much sexual brokenness in my own life and now having pastored a church that ministers to thousands of broken people, I can say with confidence that this book is desperately needed. Justin and Lindsey write to help the abused and to help those who help the abused. It is a must-read for all those who live and minister in this sexually broken world.”
—Darrin Patrick, Founding Pastor of The Journey Church, St Louis, MO; author, Church Planter

“God sees, knows, heals, restores, and redeems. This is the message of hope this book offers, to all who have suffered from abuse. How desperately needed this message is in our culture today! In my interaction with teens and young adults, I have heard many stories of sexual abuse. I am so thrilled that there is a resource like this book that offers relevant, practical, biblical hope and healing words of life.”
—Rebecca St. James, singer; author; actress

“Jesus says, ‘Blessed are those who mourn.’ Rid of My Disgrace gives sexual assault victims, and those who love and serve them, the freedom to grieve the violence against them and the tools to experience healing and hope in Jesus. I am so thankful for this major contribution to my life and the people I love.”
—Grace Driscoll, pastor’s wife, mother of five, conference speaker, author

“The world—and too often the church—encourages victims of sexual assault to do more. Self-help advice just adds more layers of guilt and a sense of powerlessness. The authors of this excellent book have good news: literally, a gospel that answers our disgrace with the grace of God in Christ. For anyone who suffers from abuse—as well as those who minister to them—Rid of My Disgrace is powerful, healing medicine.”
—Michael S. Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California

“Some books are easy to read, but this isn’t one of them. Its difficulty, however, is not a matter of style or prose but of substance. We don’t like thinking about sexual assault and abuse. We’d rather pretend they don’t exist. But the church can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to the extent of this problem or to ignore the devastation it brings to both body and soul. What makes this book so worthy of your attention, notwithstanding the discomfort it may cause you to feel, is the wealth of wisdom, gospel grace, and pastoral sensitivity that the Holcombs bring to bear on those affected by this experience. No matter how deep the pain or sense of loss endured by the victims of sexual assault, God’s healing grace and power are greater still. Highly recommended!”
—Sam Storms, Pastor, Bridgeway Church, Oklahoma City, OK; Founder, Enjoying God Ministries

“Careful research, lots of Scripture, and a demonstration that the work of Christ says ‘you are washed clean’ to those who feel like outcasts, which will speak to victims of sexual abuse.”
—Ed Welch, Counselor and Faculty, The Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation

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Comments:


36 thoughts on “Gospel Grace and Sexual Assault”

  1. Tom says:

    Thank you for this. It’s what I’ve been waiting for. God bless.

  2. mjvt says:

    I’ve recently been asked to find some good resources for a mom of a child who was sexually abused by a neighbor. She is, understandably, dealing with a great deal of anger. And the anger is hurting her relationships with other family members. Does this book speak to the parents of children who have been abused?

    1. Justin Holcomb says:

      We wrote a chapter on anger. The book is written to victims and also to those you love and support them. We had some parents of a young boy who was abused read it and they both said it was helpful for them in dealing with their own emotions. They ended up writing an endorsement for it.

      I think our book could help. Also look up Mike Wilkerson’s Redemption.

  3. JT,

    I am very thankful for this book and for this interview. I am also extremely thankful for this couple who have invested their lives in helping victims of sexual assault. I praise God that they are able to bring the truth of the gospel into the lives of people who are experiencing such terrible pain. I pray that Crossway will continue to publish materials that will help people see the gospel of Christ and how it triumphs over every evil. Thank you for what you do, brother.

  4. sad says:

    The interview is very disturbing to listen to. Silence and intimidation, and being made to live out one’s life with one’s predator, and be asked to accept the authority of the predator and being asked to believe that one is in the image of God through the authority of that predator. As these two say it is truly filthy. How can anyone listen to this and not be broken for women who are oppressed not only by fathers and brothers but also in marriage. Any intimidation within marriage is a terrible thing. Please, wake up. This interview excludes husbands as perpetrators of violent crime. Are wives not worthy of rescue, not worthy of God’s love?

    I hope that this book could be used for wives as well. If women are to be in the image of God only through male headship, wives have been given a life without hope. Do they offer only despair to wives?

    Dirt, filth, anger, shame, and despair, who will offer help to wives? Clearly wives are not important, this deepens sadness, removes identity, horrible, dirty and despairing. These are the words in the interview but this book has nothing to offer unless they can say that God loves women regardless of whether a woman is in a male headship relationship or not. If women cannot be loved of God without living under male authority, there is no salvation for wives.

    This is not the end of the story. Please wake up, and tell wives that they deserve to live also.

    1. Justin Holcomb says:

      We talk about sexual assault in marriage in the book frequently. Sadly, 10-15% of married women experience sexual assault by their husbands. We asked 6 victims who are friends if ours to write their stories. One woman tells about her feeling of disgrace because her husband raped and abused her for years. our book was written with wives in mind.

      1. Eloquorius says:

        Mr. Holcomb, while the statistics aren’t the point of helping people, the stats are important. Does the book explain how you arrived at these figures? What I mean is, what question(s) did you ask to determine if “rape” had occurred? This is not an unimportant question; the integrity of our claims matters.

        1. Justin Holcomb says:

          Eloquorius, good question. We arrived at the figures though years of research from credible sources. We didn’t determine those stats on our own. However, they have been verified through years of counseling victims.

          I like your line, “the integrity of our claims matter.” That’s a huge for people to learn. Sexual assault has the lowest instances of false reporting out of all crimes: under 2% of reports are false. Victims have so much shame and fear from he experience of assault, so it takes courage to tell anyone.

          1. Dave says:

            “Eloquorius, good question. We arrived at the figures though years of research from credible sources. We didn’t determine those stats on our own. However, they have been verified through years of counseling victims.”

            Statistics are not verified by “years of counselling victims” … that’s merely anecdotal evidence.

            “Sexual assault has the lowest instances of false reporting out of all crimes: under 2% of reports are false. ”

            Again a dubious statistics. As mentioned, there’s a lot of political maneuvering related to this claim, and you again have gone for the lowest-of-the-low figures. A scholarly, peer-reviewed article analyzing false reporting of rape (Rumney, N.S., “False Allegations of Rape”, Cambridge Law Journal, 65, March, 2006, pp.128-158) notes numerous attempts to track down the data on which the low-end claim was based have been unsuccessful. This appear to be typical for the sort of research making such claims, and the article also notes numerous other studies conducted with significantly higher false reporting rates (I’ve seen estimates as high as 50%).

            1. Laurie says:

              Dave,
              You reference one peer-reviewed study. Have you ever looked at the FBI’s materials on this? I think their stats which also included child porn possession are reasonable as a standard. The FBI agrees with the stats included in the article and the book. Sounds like you have your own ax to grind.

              1. Dave says:

                Let me just append that of the 3 reports showing estimates offalse claims at 2% or lower, 2 of the 3 were based on testimony in course cases (without showing that evidentiary basis for their claims) and the last one was from a non-US jurisdiction. Hence that final statement.

        2. Eloquorius says:

          Hi, Justin, thanks for the prompt response. With all those possibilities (rape, incest, molestation, etc.) include, yes, the figures broaden tragically.

          It was the figure of 10%-15% for rape within marriage that made me curious. Sometimes I’ve seen vague questions like, “Have you ever had sex when you didn’t want to?” that are sometimes asked to determine if “rape” had occurred, when in fact it has not occurred either legally or Biblically. Since adult-on-adult rapes are almost always male perpetrators, you’re essentially saying that 1 in 7 wives will be raped or otherwise sexually assaulted by their husbands — a figure I find hard to swallow. Think of the implications for singles ministry. Yikes.

          I look forward to your book (Kindle please!!!!) and the stats/citations. Thanks for all your work even bringing up this difficult issue; loaded with politics, drama, pain, shame, and the aw-can’t-we-just-talk-about-nice-things-in-church crowd who just as soon see us sweep it back under the rug.

  5. Dave says:

    The claim that 20% of women have been raped shows up nice and near the beginning.

    That’s seems rather like the sort of the legendary 1-in-4 statistic, and one that leads to the other sort of funny data such as the studies suggesting that the majority of “rape victims” will explicitly tell you that they weren’t raped when asked even after admitting whatever sort of behaviour got classified as raped. See The Campus Rape Myth for a start.

    Yes, rape happens. Yes, it’s tragic. But starting off with a claim like 20% leaves me rather skeptical about this book even though I’ve been happy with a lot of the other stuff that Crossway is doing.

    1. John says:

      dave, i think your missing the point of the book. the church hasn’t done a great job overall in helping those abused sexually and this is a book to help those like me better love those who have been wronged. this book is about help not stats. and this book is helpful even if only.000001% of people have been raped or 99.9 %

      1. Dave says:

        Help though is something that needs to be based in reality not fantasy.

        If they’re echoing statistics like that, it suggests that they haven’t invested enough in studying the problem, and are hence likely unequipped to properly deal with it.

        1. Justin Holcomb says:

          Dave, we never said 20% were “raped.” Listen again…it is at 4:30. That’s an important point to get straight. We said 20% are or will be victims of sexual assault. “Sexual assault” includes non-consensual sexual intercourse (rape), non-consensual sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, exposure, voyeurism, or attempts to commit these acts.

          Rape is a very specific form of sexual assault and that changes the stats drastically. Here is our definition of sexual assault.

          Heather MacDonald’s Campus Rape Myth is hardly an authoritative voice on the issue. She is so motivated by political and idealogical commitments that she neglects well-researched statistics in order to rant against feminist victimology. Not the most helpful approach for getting to truth.

          In our book, we used the Department of Justice studies along with peer-reviewed scholarly research done over decades. Also, my wife worked as a sexual assault crisis center near the University of Virginia, where I was a professor and campus minister. We talked to hundred of victims. Those aren’t hard numbers, but I was shocked at how many of my students (women and men) who talked to us about their experience of sexual assault (as a child, teen, or young adult).

          1. Dave says:

            Citations please. My experience has been that scholarship of this sort has tended to be extraordinary low quality.

            I’m perfectly willing to admit that Heather MacDonald isn’t a neutral figure, but that hardly distinguishes her from those that I’ve heard speaking on the opposite side of the issue arguing for massive epidemic of sexual assault.

          2. Dave says:

            For comparison purposes, the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics has a report on Victims of Sexual Violence. This report attempts to estimate incidents of sexual assault – including rape, attempted rape, and other categories of the same.

            They estimate an annual average of 366470 incidents of this against American women per year – both reported and unreported. Compare to the size of the female population of the United States (155.6 million), and you wind up with 1 of every 425 women being victimized every year.

            1. Dave says:

              To adjust those figures slightly, during the period under study, there were and average of about 140 million women.

              You could make some assumptions that don’t appear all that unreasonable:
              e.g. assuming that each women is halfway through their lifespan and is equally likely to be raped at any age

              However, to get to 20% of the church (let alone the estimate at 4:30 seems higher at 1 in 4 in the church), you also need to make some assumptions that appear to be quite unrealistic:
              1. No woman is ever sexually assaulted twice.
              2. The average woman attending a church is at average risk.

              In practice this problem seem to be much more prevalent in a small subset of the population with drug addicts, prostitues, etc. at much higher risk relative to the female population at large. The high end estimates that I’ve seen has street prostitues getting raped over 50 times per year. The more cautious estimates seem to put the prevalence of this at about 60-90% lower, but that would still mean that this subset of the female population is still being raped an average of 5-15 times per year, providing a significant distorting factor to those statistics.

              1. Dave says:

                To adjust once again, I realized that I’ve overcompensated in my earlier that analysis, assuming not that 20% of women in the pews had been sexually assaulted, but that they either had or would be at a future point in their lives sexually assaulted. Even under the extremely unrealistic assumptions mentioned, I can only figure out how to push the numbers up to 1 in 10.

                You’ve mentioned “credible sources”, but haven’t given me any specific, concrete references.

                Again, the U.S. Department of Justice appears to think that there’s a significantly lower rate of sexual violence in society which, even under the extremely unrealistic assumptions cited above wouldn’t push the victimization rate to the levels you suggest.

                Also similarly, as I’ve pointed out in regards to a peer-reviewed publication, which in turn cites numerous other peer-reviewed publications, the statistic regarding false rape accusuation being a max of 2%, is closer to a lower bound, with a number of studies mentioned in the paper often coming up with significantly higher figures.

  6. sad says:

    Justin H.

    Thank you for answering. I listened very carefully to the interview and a dozen different perpretrators were listed but not husbands. Wives can never be loved by a God that demands their submission to male headship. To be violated under the guise of God’s will is the ultimate despair.

    1. BJ Stockman says:

      Sad:

      The God that calls for male headship in the husband-wife relationship (Eph. 5:23) demands from the same husband’s a life of loving self-sacrifice for their wive’s (Eph. 5:25).

      If any man uses his headship to sexually violate his wife under the guise of God’s will he is unloving, self-seeking and worse than an unbeliever. Headship is self-sacrificial leadership. Jesus exercises his headship over his bride by dying for her, husbands are called to do the same.

      Though the interview may not, the book addresses this horrific issue of husbands raping their wives: look at “Barbara’s Story” on p. 85-87. You should be able to view it via Amazon’s preview.

  7. Broken-hearted Mom says:

    As the mother of a 9-year-old girl who was raped by a convicted pedophile (on parole for good behavior) 7 years ago, I look forward to reading this book. The pain goes on and on. And, yes, we are reformed. We love God. We love His word. The man asked forgiveness before he was kicked out of the country, so as Christians we were compelled to forgive him. But the fall-out from his gross violation of our daughter continues. Just this week she has begun therapy yet again to deal with her feelings of shame, despair, hopelessness, and rage. The harm not only to the body but the soul of a child is incalculable.

    1. Justin Holcomb says:

      Broken-hearted Mom,

      I am so sorry for what your daughter and family has been through. We wrote the book hoping to communicate the good news of Jesus to that pain that goes on and on. As I have thought about responding to your comment I’ve been praying for your daughter. May the peace of God guard her heart and mind.

      If you have not ordered the book already, please contact me and my wife and I would like to mail you a copy for free. Can you send me a message on Facebook? http://www.facebook.com/justinholcomb

      If not, reply in this thread and we’ll find a way.

      1. Broken-hearted Mom says:

        Thanks so much, Justin. That’s very generous, but I’ll just order your book. In the past few years I’ve read almost every book (mostly Christian, but even a few secular) I could find on this topic. Some were helpful, some not so much. Your prayer on her behalf is the best possible thing you can do for her. I’ll be sure to contact you with my thoughts after I read your book.

  8. sad says:

    If any man uses his headship to sexually violate his wife under the guise of God’s will he is unloving, self-seeking and worse than an unbeliever.

    I don’t think there is much difference in the behaviour of Christians and non-Christians, statistically. There is nothing to prevent a husband (or a wife) from using threats, intimidation, “the bible says you have to” and other forms of coercion which make life in the home a dirty filthy experience. Teaching that men have the right to exert leadership is questionable ethics.

    1. Eloquorius says:

      @sad: I think we see you around these places pretty often. You seem to pop up under various names (or as “Anonymous”) to chime in — using the same wording — to attack the same points and beat the same drum. I hope you’re seeking the help you need. Honestly, it’s sad to see that you return time and again to the same online haunts, only to pipe up every single time submission or headship is mentioned. You were abused, clearly, and of an unusual sort. I’m sorry for your pain, both past and present, and pray that the LORD bind your wound and heal your heart completely. Please know that the headship/leadership being espoused here is exactly the kind that protects, not abuses. Evil people will be evil, whether in authority or not, and whether they’re married or not. Anti-authoritarianism is going to save anyone from abuse. Jettisoning the Scriptures is not a solution for abuse — quite the opposite! Christ, and living life in Him crucified, is the only solution for abuse. Modeling that humble, Christ-like leadership is what is promoted here.

  9. Justin Holcomb says:

    There have been really good questions regarding sexual assault stats. It is important to note that we are discussing “sexual assault” not “rape” (forced sex). Stats on rape are significantly lower as it is a specific form of sexual assault.

    We define sexual assault as “any type of sexual behavior or contact where consent is not freely given or obtained, and it is accomplished through force, intimidation, violence, coercion, manipulation, threat, deception, or abuse of authority.” Sexual assault includes acts such as non-consensual sexual intercourse (rape), non-consensual sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, exposure, voyeurism, or attempts to commit these acts.”

    Our scope of analysis is more broad than “rape.” It is also important to note that we are using a definition that some think is too narrow.

    When all these types of forms of assault are accounted for, the numbers are heartbreaking.

    Statistics on sexual assault of college students: http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/182369.pdf

    Martial sexual assault: R. K. Bergen, Wife Rape: Understanding the Response of Survivors and Service Providers (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage), D. Finkelhor and K. Yllo, License to Rape: Sexual Abuse of Wives (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston), D. E. H. Russell, Rape in Marriage (Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press), P. Mahoney and L. Williams, L, “Sexual Assault in Marriage: Prevalence, Consequences and Treatment for Wife Rape,” in Partner Violence: A Comprehensive Review of 20 years of Research, eds., J. Jasinski & L.M. Williams (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage).

    For statistics regarding the age breakdown of sexual assault (15% of sexual assault victims are under age 12, 29% are age 12-17, and 80% are under age 30) see the U.S. Department of Justice, 2004 National Crime Victimization Survey (2004).

    Hope this helps.

    1. Dave says:

      I took a quick look at the National Institute of Justice survey you mentioned. As the study itself notes, there’s some debate over whether or not what they’re measuring is actually rape – i.e. the students themselves appear to disagree more often than not that they were raped – and whether or not the statistics are accurate is also uncertain (see ref [27]).

      Look also at this paragraph:

      At first glance, one might conclude that the risk of rape victimization for college women is not high; “only” about 1 in 36 college women (2.8 percent)
      experience a completed rape or attempted rape in an academic year. Such a conclusion, however, misses critical, and potentially disquieting, implications. The figures measure victimization for slightly more than half a year (6.91 months). Projecting results beyond this reference period is problematic for a number of reasons, such as assuming that the risk of victimization is the same during summer months and remains stable over a person’s time in college. However, if the 2.8 percent victimization figure is calculated for a 1-year period, the data suggest that nearly 5 percent (4.9 percent) of college women are victimized in any given calendar year. Over the course of a college career—which now lasts an average of 5 years—the percentage of completed or attempted rape victimization among women in higher educational institutions might climb to between one-fifth and one-quarter

      Here again it appears that they’re trying to push their rates higher. If college is such an unsafe place, why are they assuming that in the non-campus months rates are the same? Why are they again performing this addition, rather than the probably case that there’s overlap (i.e. amongst the more promiscuous and/or heavily partying students).

      Is this consistent with statistics reported elsewhere, as in the Department of Justice estimates? The study that you linked to itself suggests large-scale inconsistencies – see p. 21 / Exhibit 4.

      It notes that “In the main component of NCWSV, the respondents were instructed in an initial contact letter and in instructions during the interview that the survey was focusing on ‘unwanted sexual experiences.’ In contrast, the comparison component was patterned after NCVS, which is a crime survey.” Again, whether an “unwanted sexual experience” is rape or not seems a bit questionable. What are the questions the women were asked – I haven’t managed to find them yet? (i.e. in these studies in the past included buying a woman a beer and then later sleeping with her are considered rape.”, without any indication of intoxication or intent – <ref:
      p. 212 of this book).

      For statistics regarding the age breakdown of sexual assault (15% of sexual assault victims are under age 12, 29% are age 12-17, and 80% are under age 30) see the U.S. Department of Justice, 2004 National Crime Victimization Survey (2004).

      On this particular issue you would appear to be correct, and me to be wrong. I was getting confused there with intimate partner violence statistics as far as the age breakdown went.

      1. Justin Holcomb says:

        Dave,

        We only spent 2 pages in the book on stats, which was an entire chapter at one point). Our goal was to write to victims and those that support them and not write about them. Our central goal is to apply the gospel to their experience. Because of your questions, I’ve re-read the section on statistics and am happy with what we have in the book. However, your questions have motivated me to be even more clear in revised editions of the book regarding stats.

  10. sad says:

    Eloquorius,

    In reality you are anonymous and I am not. Let’s keep things truthful.

  11. Dave says:

    Fair enough – the target is a bit different. So are you then saying you’d reccomend this to victims and their acquaintences, but not others looking to get more involved in fighting this problem?

    e.g. Is sexual assault a big problem on campuses or elsewhere. It’s actually not that difficult to get actual data on the number of sexual assaults reported connected to college students – schools are required to report this data by the Clery Act and the data is available and searchable online. Taking the highest possible figures there (summing up every single category, both forcible and nonforcible sexual assult) gives you a rape rate of 1.37 per 1000 female students in 2009, given assumptions based on the U.S. Department of Justice survey (90.9% of victims of sexual assault are female, and roughly 3.14 sexual assaults occur per reported incident). That seems to suggest that college campuses aren’t the places to look for sexual assault victims – as the national rate seems to be about double the college reported rate.

    “Unwanted sexual contact” seems flawed in so many ways … e.g. if you go to visit your spouses’ family even if you don’t get along that well with them because (s)he wants to spent time with then and you care about him/her, should you be considered to be a victim of some form of criminal assault?

  12. Ginny says:

    THank you SO much for posting this book… and the Holcombs for writing it. Every small group of women I’ve been in always has at least one, but usually more of these painful stories that comes out as we grow closer (often they are already seeking counseling or have sought it). I just feel so helpless in how to really care for them in it… so thankful for this book… and planning to link it on facebook so others may get it too.

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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