Authors: June Hunt
Abusers typically look for specific things in their potential victims that indicate susceptibility to being abused. In this sense, victims don’t become victims by chance but by the choice of the victimizer:
“He [the victimizer] lies in wait near the villages;
from ambush…watching in secret for his victims”
The Profile of Victims
—open to attack, susceptible to injury, weak, defenseless, at risk, helpless
—anxious, timid, lacking confidence, self-doubting, apprehensive, ill at ease
—acquiescent, obedient, submissive, amenable, accommodating, yielding
—gullible, credulous, naïve, unquestioning, susceptible, unthinking
—frightened, scared, unsettled, panicky, nervous, worried
—influenced, controlled, maneuvered, used, managed, persuaded
—contained, concealed, held back, stifled, restrained, bottled up
For years D.D. Harvey had felt that something was wrong with Marilyn but couldn’t put his finger on why. Over time, the pieces of the puzzle slowly…eventually…started falling into place. One day this former youth minister—whom Marilyn greatly esteemed—arranged a visit with her.
With no warm-up, no small talk, D.D. looked Marilyn squarely in the eyes and uttered two words: “father…bedroom.”
Marilyn broke down into deep, gut-wrenching sobs, and finally at the point of exhaustion she managed to whisper back, “Don’t…tell…anyone.”
Compassionately, D.D. steered Marilyn onto the road to recovery, which, in turn, enabled her to tell
about her tumultuous journey. She spoke out in the hopes of helping other victims and their families. Victims of child abuse need to hear truth over and over and over. That is why victims who still grapple with fear will benefit greatly by reading this scripture repeatedly:
“God has not given us a spirit of fear,
but of power and of love and of a sound mind”
For a number of reasons, most abused children never share “the secret” of their abuse. And if they do, it’s usually many years after the abuse took place. Typically they feel they must protect their perpetrators—or at least the secret—because…
They feel immense shame and guilt—
—and assume it’s all their fault.
They fear going to jail.
They feel love for and loyalty toward the abuser.
They fear the one they tell will respond with disbelief, denial, or disgust.
They feel no need to tell because the trauma caused dissociation, resulting in no memory of abuse.
They fear the abuser’s authority and power.
They feel threatened by the abuser.
They fear what will happen to the abuser.
They feel obligated to the abuser.
They fear no one will love them anymore.
They fear being taken away from their family.
They feel no one cares because no one asks!
Denial of Abuse Contradicted by Behavior
“What can I do if I suspect my child has been sexually abused but she repeatedly denies it?”
Regardless of her denial, if you suspect abuse has occurred or is presently occurring:
Take your daughter to the doctor for a checkup.
Privately explain to the doctor that your purpose for bringing your daughter in is to find out whether sexual activity is presently occurring or has previously occurred.
Describe the signs you have seen in your daughter that led you to form your opinion and request to be present during her exam.
Retrace your daughter’s recent activities and write a list of all the people she has been around and which ones may have had opportunity to violate her without anyone else knowing.
Go through the list of people one by one with your daughter, asking which ones she enjoys spending time with and would want to spend more time with in the future.
Observe which people your daughter verbally says no to and especially which ones she nonverbally says no to.
Be diligent to watch your daughter closely and to keep her safe
around each person you now have any reason to suspect might be abusing her.
Remember the protective words of Jesus:
“When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house,
his possessions are safe”
As long as the child is afraid of the abuser, the child is kept captive. However, the truth of this scripture will set the captive free:
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare,
but whoever trusts in the L
is kept safe”
The Guilt Game
After sexually abusing a child, victimizers fear being found out, so they shift the blame for the abuse to the victim by unloading a truckload of guilt. This strategy is known as the perverted guilt game.
Most games are fun, and most games require some level of strategy. In the case of child abuse, perpetrators use one of the most powerful strategies in existence—guilt. In fact, most perpetrators possess an expertise at playing the guilt game—a game of deceit. For victims, this game is not fun—it is cruel. The Bible says,
“The words of his mouth are wicked and deceitful;
he has ceased to be wise and to do good”
“If you share our secret, it will break my heart.”
“If you share our secret, Mother’s feelings will be hurt.”
“If you share our secret, they won’t let me see you again.”
“If you share our secret, Mommy won’t understand and will leave us.”
“If you share our secret, your mother will divorce me.”
“If you share our secret, our family will be destroyed.”
“If you share our secret, no one will believe you. I’ll say you started it.”
“If you share our secret, I’ll tell them you wanted it. It’s your fault.”
“If you share our secret, I won’t love you anymore.”
“If you share our secret, I’ll kill you. I’ll kill myself.”
Never try to protect the perpetrator.
And never, ever blame the victim—
the guilt lies solely in the hands of the victimizer.
Unhealed victims of childhood sexual abuse walk around in darkness with unsettled fear. They begin to heal as truth is brought into the light. As they yield the pain of their past to the Lord, He will reveal what is hidden in the shadows…and what is necessary to be shared. Job 12:22 says, “He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light.”
Victims should share the secret…
To protect other children from being abused by the perpetrator
To break the power “the secret” holds over them as victims
To enable skilled professionals to identify the lies victims believe as a result of being abused—lies about themselves, God, and others—and replace each lie with the truth
To stop victims from living a lie in order to cover up the truth
To enable victims to face the facts, process the pain, and work toward becoming an overcomer
To free each victim of false guilt and unwarranted shame
To encourage other victims to reveal they are being abused
To give the victim a sense of personal power
To open the door for victims to receive support from others
To break the power of darkness with the light of truth
because truth is paramount to Jesus, who said,
“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”
The root causes of perpetrations of childhood sexual abuse run so deep that without the transforming power of Jesus Christ in a person’s life, statistics show that most abusers
. Marilyn explains, “They don’t look like monsters. No one suspects that the charismatic gymnastics coach, or the gentle priest, or the fun grandfather is a sexual predator.”
Sadly, repeat abusers tend to be either “family members or highly regarded people in positions of trust.”
But abusers never are worthy of trust. Unless they experience a changed life through Christ, every one of them will receive the judgment of God, according to Scripture:
“Woe to those who plan iniquity,
to those who plot evil on their beds!
At morning’s light they carry it out
because it is in their power to do it”
To understand the emotional makeup of a child abuser, we must keep in mind every person’s three God-given inner needs for love, significance, and security.
Victimizers typically struggle with an overwhelming sense of insignificance. They will do whatever is necessary to obtain a sense of power and significance.
As children, they had no control; as adults, they abuse children in order to be in control. Their sexual dominance makes them feel significant, even superior. They like having these feelings of power replace their feelings of insignificance or having no control over their circumstances.
ELIEF OF THE
“Having sex with a child meets my needs. I have the right to get my needs met, and this gives me a sense of power and significance and relieves the intense stress and anger I feel.”
ELIEF FOR THE
“I don’t need to exert power over a child to get my needs met. My need for significance is already met because God chose to create me, and He has a plan and purpose for me. By giving Jesus control of my life, I can see children as His precious creations and desire to protect every child at all costs.”
Jesus specifically said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these…you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
Even small children instinctively recognize inappropriate behavior. A young child’s great needs for love and security are immensely threatened by fear of disapproval and rejection. Young, sensitive hearts feel that “keeping the secret” is the safest way to be loved and accepted. Children who live in terror of their abusers feel that keeping the secret is the only way to stay safe.
ELIEF OF THE
“I can’t stop what’s going on, and I can’t tell anyone—I’ve got to keep it a secret. God must really hate me because I’m so bad. I know it’s my fault. I am so dirty…I can never be clean again.”