Child abuse is something that I am aware went on but until recently had little understanding of the impact it has on the individuals affected and the wider society. Breaking the Silence on child abuse by Robert Stevens greatly helped my understanding and is essential reading for anyone who has been abused and anyone in pastoral ministry.
Nobody really knows how many adults were abused as children, either sexually, physically or emotionally. Estimates range from 5 to 25% of the population. The devastating long-term impact of child abuse is only beginning to be widely understood, Robert Stevens was himself abused as a child, but it took around 40 years for him to come to terms with its impact.
Being a workaholic, or perfectionist, alcoholic, drug addict, self-harmer, or even helping others, fighting for a cause, hiding in a community can all being common coping mechanisms. But until the underlying symptoms have been addressed, these coping mechanisms simply keep a lid on the trauma caused by abuse.
Not everyone who suffers in this way has been abused, but for many the root cause is abuse. Until that abuse has been dealt with battles with addiction will never be won.
Robert describes the symptoms he suffered,
There is a reoccurring deep-seated fear of being controlled again and a fight never to allow that to happen. When it is not fear of being controlled it is an anxiety of being abandoned…… hopelessness of no way out… anger of injustice of it all…… being odd one out, different from normal people. Fear, anxiety, hopelessness, depression, self-loathing and more….. At times, it is overwhelming.
It is a struggle with the distrust of people and often those who are an authority figure or who are loved ones…..
He also gives clues as to how to deal with the feelings and even walk free. The common theme seems to be changing how we view ourselves and the world.
When a wave of emotions sweeps over us like a tsunami tell yourself – don’t expect anyone else to do anything; step aside and ask what is happening; do something constructive.
Changed emotions are a side effect from a change in thinking.
Accept from the Master-Creator that I am an awesome creation because God is an awesome Creator. It is tough for survivors to accept that they are awesome. I have been given a life which God has prepared and permitted in every part. I am chosen by God, made holy by Him and dearly loved by Him.
Desperate lows can be turned into determined highs. Distrusting our emotions can lead to a deeper dependence on the Lord.
We need rest from all the sin that has been done to us. My scars are displaying his grace and his power. I have always thought that those who shine the brightest have been polished up by past suffering.
It is not an overnight transformation but a time-consuming restoration through the different stages.
Healthy mourning. I was not responsible for the injury to me as a boy. It was their sin not mine. I am not responsible for being abandoned. I am responsible for my own journey of restoration. I should grieve the loss as if I were grieving the death of a close friend. Claim back the emotions of my loss and the emotions of my freedom.
Having worked through these issues over years Robert is very honest about the issues he still faces,
I still experience feelings of rejection because I still catch myself thinking that I am different. Battle for right thoughts. Can’t do anything with feelings but thoughts can be arrested.
Can be over-sensitive and harsh words slip out of our mouths on a daily basis.
I have found it difficult to forgive what I see as needless offences of a few Christians.
He realistically admits, Others can shoot us in the back, but we can also shoot ourselves in the foot when we misinterpret what someone has said.
There are also warnings for those who seek to help,
Victims of trauma are not helped by well-meaning people who want to organise life for them or dictate a road of recovery to them. They need to take control themselves.
Work in a team so that you do not become depended upon (or worse you depend on them), and so that you yourself have the support and wise counsel from others.
Keep Jesus and people, not projects central.
These are just some of the highlights. All in all, a very important and helpful book. I have ordered copies for all our leaders.
Written by Tony Thompson