The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
"It is my prayer that the church be a relevant, encouraging source of healing for sexual assault survivors and fulfill her mandate to bind up the wounds of the brokenhearted", says Lenita Reeves.
If God loves me, why did this happen to me? Almost every Christian has found themselves asking this question if only in the early stages of their Christian development. However, rape survivors almost always ask this question and the answers provided often leave them more conflicted.
So what can the church do? How can the body of Christ be relevant in this area? "I want to offer my perspective on the answers to these questions as a rape survivor and counselor who has had the privilege of helping many women heal from the trauma of rape", says Lenita Reeves. Here are some key points:
1. Never tell a rape victim it was God’s will to make them stronger—it wasn’t. It was the demonically controlled will of her or his perpetrator and desire for power that drove their perpetrator and their free will to commit the crime of rape. “Amnon was obsessed with his sister Tamar to the point of making himself sick over her.” (1 Samuel 13:2 The Message). Obsession is from the devil.
2. Always reassure and assert that they are not to blame. The survivor is never to blame. No one asks to be raped and no one deserves to be raped. “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 KJV).
3. Encourage them to get a forensic exam even if they don’t want to file a police report. Getting an exam does not necessitate filing a report. Many rape survivors are still overwhelmed with fear when going to the hospital and too afraid to file a report. After a few days, they may change their mind and if they have done the exam, they will still have evidence to press charges.
4. Encourage them to get counseling from a Christian or Biblical counselor who experience counseling rape/sexual assault survivors. “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14 KJV)
5. Do not minimalize the issue to forgiving and moving on. While rape survivors do need to forgive their perpetrators, such severe betrayal does not always allow for overnight forgiveness. Joseph for example, was still dealing with unforgiveness when he saw his brothers in Egypt after they had sold him into slavery. According to Genesis 42:7, “…Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly unto them.” The sting of unforgiveness in Joseph’s voice clearly indicated that the pain resurfaced afresh and he still had not come to a place of total forgiveness. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. What you say about someone and how you say it reflects how you feel about them. Unforgiveness was still in Joseph’s voice (he spoke roughly to them) and attitude (he made himself strange unto them). Yet, God was still with him and had promoted him to governor of all of Egypt.
Lenita Reeves is an author, speaker, counselor, pastor, wife and mother of four children. As a rape survivor and former teen mom, God has graced Lenita to be an outspoken overcomer, delivering insight in an approachable yet enlightening manner. She is an international speaker, member of the RAINN speaker's bureau, ordained pastor and founder of PurposeHouse Christian Counseling.