Please welcome our guest writer, Nancy Manassero from Washington State. Nancy is the author of Heartmending: God Can Heal Your Heartbreak from Sexual Abuse.
In 2006, the hashtag #metoo flooded social media over 19 million times in its first year. The world woke up and became aware that sexual trauma is a BIG deal. Abuse survivors realized they weren’t alone. Friends and relatives who had known each other for years—decades even—saw each other’s #metoo and said, “You too?”
In a sense, a camaraderie exists between sexual trauma survivors. We understand each other’s deep soul wound. No words need to be said for us to know we’re in this fight together—a fight to survive, to heal, to find joy and freedom, and to do the hardest thing: forgive our abuser.
God gives us a bounty of “one anothers” in His Word because He knows we simply cannot do life alone. We’re meant for community and carrying each other’s burdens. When we find another abuse survivor, we empower one another to keep on going one more step, one more day. We link arms as we push back the darkness together and march toward victory over the impact of our abuse.
My own healing journey went from a crawl to a dynamic growth season when I found a support group for sexual abuse survivors at my church. We cried, laughed, prayed, and encouraged one another. I coined the term “trauma-raderie” to express the bond we felt. With Jesus walking alongside us, we faced our pain, applied biblical truth to combat lies we had believed, and found hope for healing. At times it felt like a mountain to climb, the top unreachable. At other times it felt like a dark, scary valley to run from, but the only way was through. It’s the “with-ness” of Jesus that sustains us during such seemingly impossible journeys.
If you’ve experienced sexual trauma, I promise you that you are not alone. Statistics claim that 30-40% of women have experienced some type of sexual trauma, but this is based only on what is reported. From my own research and my conversations with other victims, I’d estimate the statistic to be closer to 50%. Many victims have carried their pain for decades, hoping to take their shame and brokenness to their graves.
It’s important to understand that sexual trauma entails more than rape, molestation, or any touching without consent. Examples of non-touch trauma include exposure to porn, nudity, or being observed while showering or undressing. And the younger the victim, the more traumatic the abuse. If we currently struggle with anxiety, relationships, or addictions, we may not connect the dots to a past disturbing event. We need help and support to unravel these mysteries that keep us stuck, unhealed.
In my ministry to other survivors, only about one of every ten of them have reported their abuse. Why? Shame and (false) guilt are the main reasons, but also concerns exist about breaking up the family or church. We believe lies such as (1) it was my fault, (2) no one will believe me, (3) I should toughen up and get over it, (4) I must forgive and forget. These lies prevent us from seeking help, leaving us trapped in victimhood, anger, and bitterness. But Jesus wants to set us free.
If you find yourself in the #metoo camp and haven’t yet found your tribe, start with your church. Ask a staff counselor or your pastor to offer a support group. Your community may have a support group at a local counseling center. One group, Arise International, even offers online support groups. Or grab a copy of my book, Heartmending: God Can Heal Your Heartbreak From Sexual Abuse, which I wrote to help other abuse survivors with the steps of recovery that God taught me. Resources abound to help us. But we must choose to break our silence.
Author Mary DeMuth wisely claims, “An untold story never heals.” I encourage you to take the bold step of telling your story to a trusted friend, pastor, or counselor—someone safe. That enormous burden you’ve been hauling around lifts when you reveal your long-held secret and start your path toward healing. And often in the telling, you begin to find others who yearn for friends who understand, friends to join forces with as you battle the darkness and seek the light. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3 NIV). God promises to heal us! Many wounded hearts that need mending are everywhere around us. Will you tell your story, link arms with other survivors, and let the master Mender heal yours?
Many of you may not be sexual abuse survivors, but, whether you know it or not, I guarantee that every single one of you knows one. Please share this article with friends and family. You might change the trajectory of someone's life by offering a listening ear, a warm hug, and support toward their healing journey. For healing websites, books, music, podcasts, and counselors, go to the resource page on Nancy's website by clicking here.
Nancy has graciously offered to donate a copy of her book, Heartmending: God Can Heal Your Heartbreak from Sexual Abuse. To enter the drawing, leave a message on the contact page of this blog. Drawing will be held on September 2nd.
More about Nancy: Nancy is a retired RN with a keen interest in healing of body, mind, and soul through God’s love and His Word. In 1982, while on her honeymoon in Europe, Nancy and her husband encountered biblical truth while studying at a Christian retreat center in Switzerland called L'Abri. They’ve been following Jesus ever since. Nancy and her husband Tom live in the woods of Port Orchard, Washington. They enjoy hiking, hanging out with their five grandchildren, and RV-tripping with their dog Rosie.
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You might also be interested in this related story: Taylor Money, Safe Harbour & Treaty Coordinator, Catholic Charities, Herkimer County, NY.
*Background image by TanteLoe from Pixabay