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My Observations about Society’s Lingering Silence on Abuse

Silence on Sexual Abuse

My blogs primarily address husbands whose wives are survivors of childhood sexual abuse. It is my hope that this blog reaches a broader audience. My question for many individuals and institutions is “Why does it take a #MeToo trend for people to begin discussing the problem of sexual abuse, particularly childhood sexual abuse?” Is our society still ignorant of its prevalence? Worse yet, are we indifferent to the fact that at least 25% of women have been sexually abused before reaching the age of 18?

Is our society still ignorant of the prevalence

of childhood sexual abuse? Worse yet,

are we indifferent?

I’ve explored and speculated for months why there is still silence regarding this plight in our society and this plague that has invaded the lives of so many women.

In this blog, I offer two observations as to why the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse in our society goes unnoticed and unmentioned. The first observation applies especially to institutions such as churches. The second observation was brought to my awareness by another observer. As a follow-up, my next blog will offer positive steps we can take to counter the silence.

Two observations on why the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse in our society goes unnoticed and unmentioned:

1. The myth of “We don’t have this problem.”

A woman approached my wife and me after we spoke at a recent conference.  She informed us that she attends a church of a specific ethnicity and then said, “Go to one of the churches in your Minnesota community (speaking of her ethnic church), talk to the pastor and offer your seminar to him. You will hear him say, ‘We don’t have this problem.’”

Her assessment is not limited to her own ethnicity. People, in general, prefer to believe childhood sexual abuse does not happen within their own community or church. Neither do they want to believe any of their friends are affected by having been sexually abused. Sadly, sexual sin

People, in general, prefer to believe childhood

sexual abuse does not happen within their

own community or church.

It is so important to recognize that childhood sexual abuse silences its victims. Survivors of abuse worship with us in church, play tennis with us at the club, and work with us in the office. But threats and shame silence them. Occasionally, when it is deemed relatively safe to say so, they disclose, “MeToo.” Sadly, sexual abuse thrives in silence and secrecy.

2. Guilt over our own sexual sin.

The high percentage of men (and the growing percentage of women) who indulge in pornography is staggering. Fortunately, some churches acknowledge pornography’s existence within the church community and are offering ministries to address this need.

Discerning people realize pornography denies truth.  We must also recognize how pornography distorts perspective by causing those entrapped by it to think, “How can I speak out against sexual abuse when I know sexual sin is in my own life?” Some might even support this distorted perspective with scripture (Matthew 7:3). 

Beth Moore recently addressed this issue at the GC2 Summit hosted by the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton, IL. She emphasized, “We must differentiate between sexual immorality and sexual criminality.” Childhood sexual abuse is criminal. Her conclusion: “How can we speak out?” needs to be changed to “We’d better speak out!” Yes, we’d better speak out because God condemns injustice.

“How can we speak out?” needs to be changed to:

“We’d better speak out!”

Holocaust survivor Ellie Wiesel drew the same conclusion about the dastardly victimization that occurred in his time: “We’d better speak out.”

In my next blog, I’ll identify positive steps that can be taken by the church in order to minister to survivors and to marriages affected by sexual abuse.

6 Responses on “My Observations about Society’s Lingering Silence on Abuse

  1. Thanks for this, Bill. Speaking out is so important, even when those of us who do get pejoratively labelled as “social justice warriors.”

    Yes, the problem is absolutely rampant, and I don’t see any improvement in the big picture, to be honest. I think for real change to happen will take a movement of the Holy Spirit bringing many to their faces and knees.

    Those in the church who have said #MeToo need to see the rest of the church saying #MeaCulpa.

  2. Sue Mocker says:

    I will speak out! Shining light on this topic is so important. Thank you for your work.

  3. Sara I Guerrero says:

    ” We’d better speak out! ” I will keep in mind.

    1. Sara, I’m so glad you are among those willing to speak. Brene Brown states that shame needs secrecy and silence in order to exist. Speaking out can break the shame of its power. Blessings on you.

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