I conducted a totally anonymous survey with the help of Survey Monkey on Facebook. I asked victims of sexual abuse to answer seven questions. I have no idea who answered, but forty people did. I don't know if this number represents the percentage of my friends who have been abused, but I suspect not, since there are people who don’t like to do surveys, and many people who have gone through this kind of a trauma might not want to revisit it.
First, read the survey with the results. At the end, I’d like to draw some conclusions and offer some biblical hope.
1. If you were a victim of sexual abuse, please check the closest age to what is true for when the abuse began.
2. Was your abuser known by your family? Yes—100%
3. Was the person who abused you someone you knew over a period of time? If so, was grooming involved before the actual abuse?
Yes, I knew this person. 82.5%
No, this person was a stranger. 5%
The abuse involved a period of grooming—making me comfortable with touch—before actual
abuse started. 27.5%
4. Was the person who abused you accused of this crime?
Yes, I accused this person. 15%
Yes, one of my parents (or guardian) accused this person. 7.5%
No, this person was never reported to the authorities. 77.5%
5. Did your attacker ever go on trial?
6. Sexual abuse is a horrible violation. How has it affected your life?
It has ruined all of my relationships. I find it impossible to trust. 12.5%
With help (God, counseling, support, etc.) I have been able to move on and mostly overcome.
I was very young and wasn’t affected as much as I would have been, had I been older. 12.5%
I sometimes have sudden fears and terrors. 30%
7. What advice would you give to anyone who suffers the same kind of abuse that you went through?
Report it at once to an authority figure (parents, teachers, police, etc.). 95%
Get counseling. 80%
Prosecute the perpetrator in court. 60%
Just forget it and go on with life. 2%
Run away. 1%
Keep it secret. 1%
I want to thank every victim who helped me with my survey. My heart goes out to you.
Let’s look back over the answers and draw a few conclusions.
One fact that stuck out to me is that 100% of the abusers were known by the victim's family. Every single one! Eighty-two percent of the people who answered my survey actually knew their abusers. Ninety percent of these cases started when the children were quite young—before they were thirteen. Experts say that abusers need access and opportunity. For some reason, these children were vulnerable.
Ninety-five percent of these victims gave the advice that any instance of abuse similar to theirs should be reported to an authority figure. But it’s not! Why, and what can parents do?
I believe strongly that parents can prevent most—I wish I could say all—sexual abuse by taking the following steps with our children:
- Control their environment, and keep them near you. This doesn’t mean they’re not socialized; it means that your children are being watched over. Be there—in whatever activity they’re doing—with them.
- From very young, teach them about their bodies, and which parts are private. Use specific biological names for their body parts and explain that no one is to touch them there (except medical staff) and to tell Mommy and Daddy if anyone ever does.
- If they ever feel uncomfortable in any situation, they are to tell Mommy and Daddy.
- If an adult asks you for one-on-one time with your child, be very suspicious. This isn’t normal.
- Never leave your children in a home with people you don’t know very well. Be extremely careful about sleepovers. Be aware of all the people (teens, relatives, etc.) in any place you leave your child.
- Unfortunately, many sexual predators are family members. Make sure you and your children communicate freely. Help them be comfortable with telling you anything. Give your children the security that you are there to protect them.
Sexual abuse is a crime. It is such a personal kind of abuse that it’s hard for the victim to report. The perpetrator could be one’s stepfather, uncle, teacher, family friend, brother, mentor, cousin, coach, etc., and it’s so hard for a child to tell on someone like that! This is why it’s important for mothers to be aware of their own child’s reactions and feelings. When you sense a child seems “strange” or he pulls away at your touch, ask a few questions and listen to how he responds. If you suspect some kind of abuse, ask the child if he was told not to tell. (Most child abusers threaten the child—or a family member—if he ever tells.) Get to the truth. If you have good reason to suspect abuse, report it to the authorities!
Did you notice that 77.5% of the people I surveyed said their attacker was never reported? Did you notice that 92% never went on trial? That means that almost all the sexual predators that hurt my friends are still out there. If more parents caught abuse early and reported it immediately, I believe we could significantly lower these statistics.
The psychological effect of abuse is terrible! Eighty percent of those who responded to my survey said they recommended counseling. It doesn’t make sense, but most victims feel worthless, like they somehow don’t deserve better treatment, like the abuse might even be their fault. Of course that’s not true! Victims need loving, understanding counseling with an experienced biblical counselor. Twelve percent of the people who answered my survey said the abuse had lasting effects on them, that they found it almost impossible to overcome. That’s more than one in ten!
So, does the Bible offer hope for victims of sexual abuse? Happily, it does!
- Jesus said, Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).
- Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
- Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us . . . . (2 Corinthians 7:6)
- Casting all your care upon him (Jesus); for he careth for you (1 Peter 5:7).
- And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away (Revelation 21:4).
If you have suffered sexual abuse, healing and rest for your soul can be found in Jesus Christ. He understands your hurt and wants to give you peace. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4a).
If you are a mother or father, you can help prevent your children from being targets.
God bless you!