Childhood Sexual Abuse and the God of Redemption
By: Lisa Robertson
Everyone has a filter. You have one, even if you don’t know it. I definitely own one.
All of our filters began to be constructed in childhood, and if we are lucky, our filter is the experience of living in a nurturing and loving home. For the first seven years of my life, I filtered every experience through the knowledge that my father was a loving and kind man who would protect me from all harm. And he would have — if he’d known.
Unfortunately, he didn’t know. He never knew. So from that age until I was well into my adult years, every thought and every action and every relationship first had to pass through the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. From the day that my close relative began to use me as his personal sex toy, my life was permanently altered. On that day, I ceased to be the innocent and naïve little girl my daddy had raised me to be and assumed a new identity that was far different. At that point, I had a new job, and that job was to please men. From that moment on, I knew that the one thing that pleases men more than anything else is sex.
I know now that I was never guilty of anything. Instead, it was the predator relative who stalked me and used me for his sick pleasure who was guilty. He’s the one who groomed me. He’s the one who made me a sexual prisoner long before I should have even known the intricacies of sexual behavior. I was just a little girl, but he was a grown man. He’s the one who introduced me to that monster that lived rent-free in my mind for years – the evil demon that reminded me that I was damaged goods, that I was no good. No matter that it was all a satanic lie, it seemed true enough to me.
Of course, I realize now that this was never God’s plan for my life. He had a much greater plan for my life that did not include me being touched and used as another person’s personal toy. But what did I know at seven years old? The only thing I knew is that what was happening to me was unnatural and that, according to my abuser, my precious daddy would be heartbroken if he found out what I’d done. At this stage of my life, I wish I could travel in time to tell seven-year-old Lisa, “Honey, you haven’t ‘done’ anything! Something was done to you. Now run, tell your father. Quickly! Rather than being disappointed in you, he will defend you. Trust me on this.”
Not knowing that both my earthly daddy and my heavenly father would come to my defense if I had taken my broken heart to them, I squirreled away my guilt and shame deep within the recesses of my heart. Thus, began the avalanche of self-condemnation that became my life. I wondered if it was my fault. Did I wear the wrong clothing? Did my friendliness seem like flirting to him? Why did he choose me? Was there some hidden flaw in me that inflamed his passion for my undeveloped body? Is this all I am? A piece of human flesh?
Some may wonder why I “air my dirty laundry” (as an older relative said as she rebuked me for giving my testimony). That’s a fair question, I suppose. And to be honest with you, I don’t enjoy telling it. It conjures up old feelings that I would rather leave in the distant past. But I found out years ago that there is liberty in testimony because Satan can no longer dangle the threat of exposure over my head. In “going public,” I have disarmed him. I’ve told as many as would listen what ugly work Satan did in my little heart.
As important as it is to confess your heart in order to cleanse it and disarm the powers of darkness, I also tell my story in the hopes that someone will listen and so be armed for the predator that lingers around their precious sons and daughters. Unfortunately, the chances are enormous that a similar abuser is looking at your child right now plotting for ways to groom him or her to become what I became to my abuser – an object to be consumed. The problem is, we often don’t know who these people are. It may be a teacher, a pastor, a youth worker in your church, a family member, or the parent of your child’s best friend. That’s why I tell my story. I want everyone to be aware that these people lurk around young children, often manipulating their way into settings where they can have access to children.
In light of what I believe is a growing number of these predators, I want to give you some advice, some things to be on your guard about.
- Listen to your child. If your son or daughter tells you that someone has been inappropriate with them, believe them. I suppose it’s possible for a child to lie about something this serious, but not usually. At the very least, take what they tell you seriously and investigate.
- If an adult (or older teenager) shows an abnormal interest in your child, take notice. Don’t give them access.
- Do not allow your child to spend a great deal of unsupervised time with an adult who you aren’t absolutely certain is above reproach. Just because someone attends your church or is employed by the local school board doesn’t mean that they are incapable of harming your child.
- Be very careful about allowing your child to attend sleepovers.
- Don’t feel guilty for being suspicious. I’d rather be wrong about the intentions of an adult than to expose my child to life-changing sexual exploitation.
- Finally, tell your child over and over that it’s okay to tell mom and dad (or other trusted adults) and share what has happened to them. They need to know who the safe people are. Make sure that they understand that they should bear no shame for what an adult does to them.
Earlier, I talked about God’s original plan for my life and that his plan did not include being sexually abused. Even though his plan for me was derailed by my abuser, it didn’t mean that God was through with me yet. I thank God daily that he picked me up from the mud bog that had become my life, washed the filth from my body, and restored me to the place he had intended me to be all along. Yes, sexual abuse is devastating to young children because when a child is victimized, the person they would have been has been murdered. I thank God, however, that he is the god who raises the dead. God didn’t go to plan B when my abuser destroyed who I would have been. Instead, he just went back to plan A. His purpose all along was to rescue me from sin and give me new life. He’s certainly been faithful at doing that.
If you or your child has been victimized by abuse, life isn’t over for you. God has a plan A for you too. That never changes. If he healed me, he can heal you too. Trust the one who raises the dead.