Nov

27

2012

Trillia Newbell|10:00 PM CT

Remember the Victims---Like Me

Last Sunday was the U.N. International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The web was streaming with articles in support of women experiencing abuse, highlighting God's love for women and hatred for abuse and rebuking men who abuse.

The message is desperately needed. Last week, The Daily Herald reported that an Illinois high school soccer team had sodomized rookie players as part of a hazing ritual that had apparently been going on for many years. In my hometown, Knoxville, Tennessee, we are awaiting the retrials of the men who, in 2007, carjacked, kidnapped, violently raped, and murdered a young couple while out in the early morning hours.

It's rampant.

I'm thankful the issues of rape and sexual assault are being addressed, especially on Christian sites like The Gospel Coalition. But I have noticed the influx of articles is generally written by men. And though many men are assaulted, the majority remains female. I wondered why fewer women addressed this topic. The truth is it's difficult to write about sexual assault. First, there's the potential for becoming the perpetual victim. Then there's the real shame of being violated by another human being.

Unfortunately, a seemingly innocent situation can quickly turn criminal and painful. That was the case for me.

I was sexually assaulted in college. I was not raped, but I was assaulted by a stranger. I was with a group of friends on a trip. We were "straight laced," and many were Christians. We all slept in a hotel room together (male and female), but the ladies had the bed and the guys had the floor. An older man who was on the trip but in another room came in to visit. We thought it would be fine (we were naive and young). To say the least, it wasn't okay. He did something inappropriate to me during the night that startled and woke me. Thankfully I was in a room with many people. Others woke up and confronted him immediately. He was kicked out of school and went to jail. During the court hearing I learned that he had a wife and had molested his kids. Just awful.

I was young (18) and immature and found myself in court helping convict a sex offender for jail time. The aftermath in my life was nothing compared to what I imagined for his family's life. I struggled with fear at night and didn't trust men for possibly one full year. God did a work of grace in my heart to forgive the perpetrator, pray for his family, and begin to trust God for my safety and security.

Addressing Abuse

We know sex abuse, rape, and assault are widespread. But did you know that one out of six women in the United States has been raped at some time in her life? Do we realize that our sisters and brothers in Christ may have been victims?

In Rid of My Disgrace, Justin Holcomb addresses these and many other staggering statistics: "According to the Bureau of Justice, women sixteen to nineteen years old have the highest rate of sexual victimization of any age group."

It is easy to throw out statistics or share raw facts. But we must remember that victims are reading---even right now. There is someone, some sister- or brother in-Christ, who, like me, might be struggling with fear or anxiety. And many are struggling alone. No one knows.

Holcomb shares: "According to the FBI, sexual assault is 'one of the most underreported crimes due primarily to fear and/or embarrassment on the part of the victim.' One research report claims that only between 5 percent and 20 percent of sexual assaults may actually be reported." He continues, "Because sexual assault is a form of victimization that is particularly stigmatized in American society, many victims suffer in silence, which only intensifies their distress and disgrace."

Giving Grace

We must address these issues in a way that expresses the love of God for the victims. This includes the debate about abortion for rape victims. We know abortion is wrong, but we must communicate in a loving and gentle way. Communicating in a way that overflows with the grace and the love of Christ may allow a silent victim to come forward. Christ's blood washes away shame. Abuse victims who may feel a sense of dirtiness brought on by another can experience the real power of knowing they are white as snow before the Lord (Isaiah 1:18).

Embracing the victim allows us to emulate God in a tangible way. We who worship the God who draws near to the suffering must embrace the brokenhearted.

There is no better news for a suffering brother or sister than the Good News that Jesus Christ walked this earth perfectly, hung on a Cross, bearing the full weight of shame, sin, and wrath on his back, and defeated death, rising from the grave! Jesus is now---right now---seated on the throne at the right hand of the Father. He is interceding for you and for me (Romans 8:34).

As you challenge others to take action against abuse, remember that victims are reading and listening. They need amazing grace.

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed over him," lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me." (Psalm 13 emphasis mine)

Trillia Newbell is a wife, mom, and writer who loves Jesus. She is the author of United: Captured by God's Vision for Diversity (Moody, 2014). You can follow her on Twitter.

Categories: Noteworthy, Testimony
  • Chris Taylor

    Trillia,

    Thank you for giving voice to so many suffering from sexual abuse. The number 1 in 6 is just staggering and should shake us to the core. The section, 'Addressing Abuse' could be followed with, 'Demanding Justice'.

    If the numbers you share are accurate, then it is well past time for preachers to address these things from the pulpit. I fear the abuse in churches is also high because pastors have not sufficeintly declared the wrath of God against such things. The heart is deceitful and young men can too easily believe that if an issue isn't important enough to be addressed in the pulpit, then maybe it not on God's radar either.

    Be strong and very courageous,

    CT

  • Annie

    Trillia,

    Thank you so much for your courage and honesty in this post. Praise God for the healing that you've experienced and the hope that you are offering to others. This is a much needed message from both genders.

    I love your writing. You are a lamp on a stand, lighting up the whole room.

    Carry on sister.

  • http://www.bill.eccles.net/bills_words Bill Eccles

    Trillia,

    It's worth mentioning that the statistic you quote is specifically for rape--1 in 6--and that the rate of sexual abuse is substantially higher--1 in 3. I.e., there are even more women in the US who, like you, suffered abuse than is perhaps realized.

    Worse, when you couple the abuse rates of both men (1 in 6, often thought to be substantially underreported) and women (1 in 3, also underreported), the statistical likelihood of a marriage where one or both partners have suffered abuse is unbelievable: 4 in 9. I suspect this is a major factor in the high divorce rate here in the US, but have no other data to back that up.

    Keep sharing the message,
    Bill

  • Marlena

    Thank you for giving me a voice.

    • T.Newbell

      Thank you for writing, Marlena. This brought me to tears. I pray God would comfort you. I'm praise God that he has given you strength to have a voice. I'm thinking of Psalm 23:4- Even as you walk through trials and pain (or a valley of the shadow of death), I pray God's presence would bring you peace and comfort.

  • John Murdoch

    Let me caution you about throwing around that "1 in 6 women will be raped" number. You should carefully read the documents of the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, and their studies of rape and sexual assault. In particular, you should note that their summary figures include rape, sexual assault, and unwanted sexual advances--of any kind.

    The BJS revised their statistical survey in 1993--when they did so, they increased their survey questions regarding unwanted sexual advances. They recognize that including questions about unwanted sexual advances would increase their total number of "rape and sexual assault" cases by four times. Put another way, 75% of "rape and sexual assault" in the BJS statistics are cases of unwanted sexual advances.

    That's a big chunk--and a very broad range of activity. A 13-year-old putting his hand in my daughter's back pocket in the lunch line? Certainly grounds to slap him, or to scream. (And then slap him.) Definitely an unwanted sexual advance. But including that in statistics of rape or sexual assault inflates the statistics to the point that they simply do not pass the laugh test.

    The Bible instructs the nation of Israel to maintain honest weights and measures--and punishes violators with death. Would that the church today demanded the same accuracy and fidelity (well, perhaps not to the point of stoning) from our government officials.

    • Phil

      John,

      I rarely scream in comments, but THANK YOU!!!

      I appreciate the exhortation to maintain honest weights and measure, as maintain honest witness in all our dealings. The problem is, the church is using the world's numbers, which have massive political pollution due to radicalized agendas fueling the definitions and methods used.

      The risk is this: in raising serious concerns about the use of manipulated/hyper-inflated statistics, many will have the knee-jerk reaction that we're saying that sexual abuse isn't that serious problem. Nothing could be further from the truth! Worse, I've heard is said (paraphrased), "Well, even if the numbers aren't that high, it raises awareness." In other words, little pious white lies to get attention. Of course, that's exactly why the radicalized force behind the inflated statistics disseminated them in the first place.

      Let me be clear: I have a background handling sexual abuse; specifically early childhood sexual abuse, though only occasionally handling adult-on-adult sexual assault. I've been on the receiving end many "I almost never tell anyone this, but..." sort of confessions to sexual abuse of various types. Because I've had the honor of knowing, and praying for, sexual abuse victims, I therefore speak out all the more against false statistics like this. Why??!!? Because, as it's been said, "if everything is 'rape' then nothing is rape." In other words, by lowering the standard of what is considered "sexual assault" it's demeaning to the victims of sexual assault. My dear friend who was wrecked by a drunken gang rape in high school is NOT on the same grounds as a woman who got smacked on the butt coming out of gym class. No where close. I know all too well. To equate the two adds insult to injury. Just don't go there.

      • Brian

        Well said, John!

    • Brian

      Thanks for saving me the trouble of bring the truth (concerning these statistics) to light. One in six women being raped is not accurate by any stretch. What's worse is that these types of inflated figures come from the feminist movement and are intentionally inflated to deepen hatred of men.

      • T.Newbell

        Hi Guys,

        Thanks for your tips and warning regarding the stats. In the book I refer to he mentions the various definitions of rape and sexual assault. I found that helpful. That is also why I thought I would be as specific as possible regarding my experience, so that it's clear that it was assault without being overly and unnecessarily specific.

        With that said, I do appreciate what you have to say. I hope though that we can see that the purpose of the article is really about giving victims grace and sharing the best news they'll ever hear. I'm not all that concerned about the statistics but if one of my brothers or sisters-in Christ have been troubled by various trials I want to come along side them and love them. I'm simply encouraging us all to be aware of those suffering in silent (from the emails I've received please believe me, people suffer quietly).

        Thanks again--I will heed your warnings for the next time I use stats.

        Blessings,

        Trillia

        • JR

          Trillia, Thank you for your gracious example and for this article. I pray that we all - men and women - will read it in the spririt it was intended. You are a blessing.

        • Phil

          Trillia,

          Gracious of you to respond, thank you. I know you got the stats from Holcomb's book, so my concern wasn't anything personal per se. Your personal experience put a human face to the magnitude of this sin. That, not the statistics, is what should rend our hearts and motivate us. Thank you, again, for taking the time to reply and for your openness in writing.

  • Adelaide

    Trilla, thank you. I needed this.

    To the men on the feed... tread lightly on this topic concerning what is considered sexual assault and what isn't. I understand the arguments and I'm well versed in the statistics and psychology of the subject matter. But the experience of one woman does not invalidate the experience of another. When a woman is looked upon as an object to be possessed, dominated, humiliated, or used for personal pleasure is not an insignificant matter to that woman or to her Father who created her to be reflect His image and to be cherished, loved, and protected. Please don't delineate what constitutes as something to grieve over and what is insignificant. Allow there to be solidarity between victims/survivors no matter the experience; the trauma is real and we need each other.

    In Christ,

    A.

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  • http://bgbcsurvivors.blogspot.com Julie Anne

    Does anyone else notice that men as opposed to women are having difficulty with the statistics above? Saying that the feminist agenda is manipulating the statistics does not remove the reality that real abuse is taking place. That is a distraction to what this article is about.

    I find it very disturbing that some are hung up on analyzing the specifics of the statistics rather than looking at the full picture. Comparing gang-rape to being slapped on the butt? The issue is BOTH are wrong. This is like saying to someone who was sexually violated: did he penetrate - as if that will make it a "legitimate" violation. It is a false notion to imply that if there was no penetration, then the assault was not "as bad". To look at sexual assault appropriately requires that we look at the whole person: what do these crimes do to a woman physically, emotionally, and spiritually?

    The physical trauma lasts but a moment. The emotional and spiritual effects can last a lifetime. The focus ought not be on statistics. If ONE woman was violated, that is one too many.

    • survivor

      Thank you, Julie Anne. As a woman who is fighting to survive the trauma of sexual assault, I really appreciate the sensitivity in your words. I'm all for accurately representing statistics. Unfortunately, because this brave author used the incorrect word to state the statistic, her very real story and very real message will be tuned out by some. It was a mistake. While I'm totally behind those who state their cases for statistical truth, in some instances, when the subject matter is so raw and so painful, sometimes the best response is simply, "I'm concerned about the way you've used your statistics and I'd like to hear more. But most importantly, I am just so sorry for what you've been through. What can I do?" Just my perspective.

      • http://bgbcsurvivors.blogspot.com Julie Anne

        Hi survivor:

        Thank you for your comment. I'm very sorry to hear about the abuse you have endured. I know the healing doesn't happen overnight. You represent so many. I pray that God will give you strength as you recover from your abuse - that you surround yourself with sensitive and compassionate people who care for you and your soul. There is healing and there is joy after the pain of abuse. God does not leave the abused abandoned. I hope the response you suggested at the end of your comment is taken to heart by those who have not experienced abuse. That really is a very practical and helpful response. Thank you!

    • http://mzellen.com MzEllen

      I'm a woman and I have problems with the statistics. Please don't make this a men vs. women issue.

      My best friend was brutally raped at age 13 by three young men. I was "pantsed" (pants yanked down to my ankles) by a neighbor boy at the same age.

      It's not in the same ballpark.

      when *everything* is "sexual assault" - then the criteria is so broad as to be meaningless.

      • T.Newbell

        I'm so sorry about what happened to your friend. Those are definitely two different things. I do pray for victims like her and others who have experienced the full range of abuse. Thanks for weighing in. -Trillia

  • John Murdoch

    I'm the husband of one wife, the father of three daughters, and a recovering church deacon. And once upon a time I was a particularly fetching little blond-haired choirboy. Suffice it to say that (a) I'm acutely aware of the subject of rape, and the distinction between rape and unwanted sexual advances; and (b) not all sexual assault victims are women.

    For all that, though, I am deeply committed to stating, disseminating, and defending our propositions with *truth*--and that means being extremely careful about the assertions we present as factual. The article above flatly states that, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, one out of six women will be raped in their lifetimes.

    This is simply not true. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics claims that one of six women will be the victim of rape, sexual assault, or an unwanted sexual advance at some point in their lifetime. And--if you look at the actual paper where that assertion is made, the authors spell out that the longitudinal study on which that claim is based revised their methodology in June of 1993 to include "unwanted sexual advances" in their survey. The effect of that was to quadruple the reported number of women being victimized. The math is pretty straightforward: 75% of that "one out of every six" cohort were victims of unwanted sexual advances.

    Not sexual assault. Not rape.

    That does not mean I'm disputing that rape exists. It does not mean that I'm disputing the validity--or the anguish--of sexual assault. (Go ahead--ask me why I left that church choir.)

    But the anguish of sexual assault does not free us from the responsibility to accurately, honestly report factual data. One out of six women are not raped. At best, one out of twenty-four are the victims of rape or sexual assault. There's a larger group who have been subjected to unwanted advances--but an unwanted advance is a far, far, far cry from rape.

    The world uses ginned-up statistics to bolster their causes--in this, as in so many areas, we should avoid the world's mores.

  • Mark G

    Trillia, thanks for bringing attention to the problem of sexual abuse. I suspect that there are more people in church who suffer the scars of abuse than one might imagine. I know it has detrimental effects on marriages, families and individuals. It's not about the government's statistics or sampling methods. It's about the church being equipped to deal with saints who have all kinds of struggles. Unfortunately, some issues get ignored for a variety of reasons and this is one that needs more attention.

    By the way, there can also be victimizers in the church, even a very biblical church. I knew a former elder who was later on an offender website.

    • Mark G

      A few years ago I was doing genealogy research and discovered my mom was raped and had a child when she was 14 by one of her mother's boyfriends. It explained some things about why my mom was so emotionally needy. You think that didn't affect my childhood (i.e., in a Christian home)? My parents eventually got divorced (dad was an elder and sunday school teacher both before and after), while he'd been busy producing a half brother. I regret having never understood why my mom was such an emotional mess. Now she has Alzheimer's and it's all just so sad.

      A few years after I got married my wife told me that she was raped in a vacant lot by a "friend" who offered to walk her home from the pool. She was only 14. He went to school the next day and told everyone she was a slut. She never told anyone what happened. This has life-long consequences on her.

      Just last week my 18 year old daughter had a facebook fight with a boy from church who was claiming if a girl got pregnant it was entirely her responsibility since only she has to bear the consequences. That's not rape but there's something seriously wrong with that picture.

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