There’s an old saying that goes like this: “Silence is golden.” But is it always? Is there ever a time when silence is not a good option?
Silence may be golden in some cases. But I question whether our silence on sexual abuse in our Anabaptist churches has done anything other than cultivate more abuse. Most of us would like to think that we are pretty good – that this kind of stuff doesn’t happen all that often. Yet many of us personally know people who’ve either been abused or who have abused.
Though abuse is often gossiped about in our communities, we hear very little about it over the pulpit. Anabaptist periodicals rarely publish articles concerning it. It’s almost like there’s an unspoken rule that claims we “shouldn’t talk about such things.”
That sentence highlights a major part of the problem and also part of the solution.
By failing to bring sexual sin and abuse to light, we as Anabaptists have become bound in generational strongholds. For the most part, the older generation thought it wrong to “talk about such things.” But refusing to open up about the issues in their generation has only caused the sin and abuse to be passed on to their children and grandchildren. Today, the younger generation faces an enormous epidemic of sexual abuse.
Thankfully, there are some people who are finally realizing that “not going there” has only multiplied the problem. Our eyes are being opened by Jesus, Who loves children.
Of course, when anyone starts messing with the devil’s agenda to take back the ground that sexual abuse destroyed, they are in for some serious spiritual battles. The people who are hiding behind the culture of secrets suddenly become wolves in sheep’s clothing. People you thought highly of, suddenly “turn and rend you.” All hell breaks loose, trying to distract you from the work God has given you to do – exposing the sin, helping the sinner, and bringing healing to the weak and hurting.
And yet, in the midst of the chaos and flying darts meant to forever shut you up, Jesus gives His blessing. His Voice guides you through the battle. He comforts. He gives confirmation after confirmation. His Hand in the battle to expose sexual sin in the conservative church is unmistakable.
Everywhere in His Word, I find His heart. From Genesis to Revelation, His heart is the same. He cares about the broken. (Ps. 147:3) His ear is tuned to the weak, the vulnerable, and the hurting. (Ps. 10:17-18) He hears the cries of the children. (Gen. 21:17) He defends the innocent. (Ps. 82:3) He sets the captives free. He binds up the brokenhearted. He gives them beauty instead of ashes. (Isaiah 61:1-3)
If we are honest, we as Anabaptists have failed miserably when it comes to hearing the cries of the children. Instead of listening, we have been “shutting them up.” Instead of caring, we’ve been stomping out the last little bit of life they had. And the sick thing is, we do in the name of “forgive and forget”. We take Scripture out of context to “prove” that “talking about such things” is sin. Sometimes we tell them to “get over it.”
Worse yet, we blame the hurting for leaving our church. We talk about them behind their backs. We think they are rebellious, not realizing that WE might be to blame for their distrust and disgust for God and His Word.
Judgement is coming. God does not deal kindly with those who trample the weak and needy. (Ps. 109:16) He has little mercy for people who claim to know Him and offend children. (Matt. 18:6) To God, this is serious stuff.
What should we do and where do we start? How can we shatter the silence and shed the Light on the sin?
I beg you to start by reading the Word of God with an open heart. Put all your preconceived ideas aside and ask the Holy Spirit to show you what God’s Word means. Ask God to show you what He thinks about sexual sin and sexual abuse. Seek His face. He has the answers.
About a year ago, my husband and I began to ask God those same questions. We started studying His Word, specifically paying attention to passages that pertained to sexual sin and sexual abuse. We prayed a lot, and asked Him to guide us into all Truth. Our view and perspective on what God thinks of abuse and how we should deal with it changed dramatically.
I can talk and write all I want, but I cannot change the hearts of “my people”. But I know Someone Who can. In fact, He already is, and I believe He will continue to do so.
If each of us would seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways, it would be the start of a great Revival in our communities and churches. It starts with you. It starts with me. Together with God, we can change our children and grandchildren’s destiny, so that they can be free from the generational strongholds that have plagued us.
13 thoughts on “Shattering a Culture of Silence”
“It is a shame to speak of things that are done in secret..” is the vein repetition I keep hearing. It’s just an excuse to not talk about things preachers are uncomfortable talking about. As long as they are uncomfortable talking about it, the problem will persist.
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I’ve heard that excuse too, but I find it really sad that they use that verse (Eph. 5:12) to justify concealment of sin (particularly sexual sin). Clearly, it is taken out of context. The passage there in Ephesians is talking specifically about sexual sin and the verses around it indicate that sexual sin should not be discussed unless it is discussed in a reproving way. Eph. 5:3-14 is actually one of the Scriptures that God brought to our attention as my husband and I studied to find out what God thinks of abuse and what we should be doing about it.
Yes, when you look at the context, it says not to have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, BUT RATHER reprove them. It’s disgusting and shameful to talk about sexual abuse because sexual abuse is disgusting and shameful. But that’s all the more reason to reprove it, not walk by like the priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Speaking of which, that parable is so sadly applicable. While the church leaders have been ignoring sexual abuse and helping to cover it up, it’s the “despised liberals” and “despised feminists” and “wicked, ungodly people” who have been talking about abuse and bringing it to light. So sad.
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Typical progression with details omitted:
1) Victim confides in someone
2) Pastors get involved and question both parties to “figure things out”
3) The perpetrator spins a believable line, feigns repentance, and gains the good graces of the pastors
4) Mandatory reporting laws are usually broken
5) The perpetrator is free to continue life as normal
6)The abused is scarred for life and the whole things effects relationships, and as statistics show, becomes an abuser and thus the cycle continues
I firmly believe the traditional approach to sexual abuse is incorrect. It frequently causes more harm to the victims, and is a form of abuse in itself (spiritual abuse, emotional abuse) because it minimizes the victim, their feelings, their integrity, and more (removing the victim from the home, and sending the victim to counseling away from home only further abuses the victim – this is emotional abuse because to the victim, it feels like they were at fault since they are the ones needing to go somewhere )
The church leaders responsibilities are not to determine what happened. That’s a perfect recipe for disaster. They include, but are not limited to the following:
1) Follow mandatory reporting laws (leave the investigation to the professionals)
2) Provide appropriate counseling resources to the victim (not some crash course counseling session – more like 1-2 years and longer if needed)
3) Provide spiritual input for the perpetrator (and provide appropriate counseling resources)
There is so much more that could be said, and likely should. But the traditional approach has only exacerbated the problem. Perpetrators have no reason to expect any consequences with this approach. Victims have no reason to hope to get the help they need. What a colossal mess, to put it mildly.
You made some excellent points here. Thank you for your comments. I totally agree with the statement you made about church leaders. It seems churches have to prove it happened or didn’t happen and like you said- that’s not our job. The other problem with the traditional way of deal with abuse is that the perpetrator doesn’t always get help either and keeps abusing. Oh, he/she may go to counseling for a week, but that is likely not enough time to work through the hurts that caused him/her to perpetrate. We like “quick fixes” but the truth is that abuse really doesn’t have one. It often takes years to heal. It takes a community of people who are willing to walk with the victim and perpetrator (and it shouldn’t be the same people counseling both parties) and they should be familiar with trauma and the effects of abuse as well as sexual addictions.
Thank you again for commenting!
Yes. This has been on my heart for years and I have actively worked to expose this great wickedness in our midst. I’ve never read your blog before, but I shared this post on my FB page. I would love to talk with you further on this. Please contact me via FB.
I have been in Menno education since 1983. I am now 70 years old. This subject has been heavy on my heart. The pain and agony of victims I have seen and heard first-hand. With little exception, Church leaders have had little interest and almost no response to cries for help. Very recently I confronted a Menno church leader about his responsibility in a matter about which I know personally. He would not accept responsibility and down-played the situation.
Other situations over the years have been dealt with that same way. Victims are made to feel guilty and perpetrators are made to feel like victims. This is so wrong and sinful.
Pornography in lives of Anabaptist men (and now women) is bringing destruction to men and women and families. Where are the men? Where are the real men who will not do this sin against God and their sisters? Girls are turning to feminism to protect themselves from unsafe men. We are seeing the destruction of our culture not to mention the Biblical view of life and the world.
By the grace of God and the power of God, my life has been clean of this sin. Romans 8:11 is true. I am not bragging. I want to make God famous and His power known to everyone. What can we do? Where are a group of pure-hearted men who will join with me and stand to respect and protect our daughters and sisters and all other women in our lives?
Leaders are either naive or guilty or both. It is time to rise up o men of God, be done with lesser things give heart and mind and soul and strength and serve the King of Kings and His beautiful daughters!
My husband just came across your blog post and I am weeping! Our daughter was dating a young man who forced her against her will to be sexually active. She has been seeing a counselor for the past year but the perpetrator so far has pretty much walked away Scott free. The counselor wanted our daughter to report him but she didn’t want to. Just today I was talking with another counselor friend and who told me why the counselor herself didn’t want to report it and if our daughter does it carries alot more water. But our flesh is shrinking…can we hold up against the darts and accusations that are going to be thrown if we go to the authorities? Will we get support?
I’m so sorry. The questions you asked are heart breaking ones – ones that many parents have asked. If your daughter was under 18 at the time of the incident, you may be required to report it (depends on the laws of they state you live in). However, if your daughter was 18 or older, she should be the one to make that decision of whether or not to report it.
I cannot promise everyone’s support. I’ve heard enough of stories and seen enough myself that I know there will be opposition no matter what you decide. There’s much more that could be said about this, but I’d prefer to email instead of comment on a public blog. My email address is on my contact page.
God bless you with wisdom and discernment and I pray for healing for your daughter.
I’m sorry but after searching and searching I have not been able to find your contact information! 😦
Sorry Lisa, I’ll fix that. You can shoot me an email at email@example.com