In Faith Communities Like the Duggars, Abuse Victims are Encouraged to be Filled with Grace

It’s not that simple.

Easy “forgivism” may gloss over the terrible situation in the short term, but it reinforces to everyone that the egregious, soul-siphoning sin committed against the victim was trivial, easy to get over. It forgets Jesus’ strong admonition that “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

 

It’s never simply over.

Yesterday was hard for me. I opened my computer to the news of several instances of sexual abuse reported (within the church), including the claims about Josh Duggar’s gross indiscretions and his subsequent confession. And something in me sunk, particularly because of this statement by his parents: “Even though we would never choose to go through something so terrible, each one of our family members drew closer to God.”

While I’m grateful that this travesty produced fruit and closeness, as a victim of sexual abuse, I am skeptical. Though we may not know the details of recovery during these years, it’s easy to sweep something away by pointing to God in a statement.

But it’s not so simple to get over sexual violation. Recovery takes years of stops and starts, and forgiveness is not a one-time easy decision, particularly if it’s demanded or expected right away for the sake of peace and putting something shameful behind you.

Often we see in communities of faith that victims are admonished to be grace-like, offering instant forgiveness to their abuser as if it could be doled out like a trinket or candy. And when someone is pressured to “be like Jesus” and forgive swiftly, often this pressure causes harm.

Sexual violation cuts deeply. It eats away at worth, esteem and personhood. I believe it is one of Satan’s greatest weapons against humanity, paving the road for future self-destructive behavior, suicidal thoughts, feelings of utter worthlessness, sexual dysfunction, guilt, shame and any manner of disorders. And moving beyond it is excruciating, long and sometimes debilitating.

Instant forgiveness and “putting it behind you” only delays the healing process, a journey that only begins by stating the awfulness of the violation.

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