The Impact of Sexual Abuse

Emotional and Spiritual Scars

We cannot hide from sexual brokenness. It is everywhere, even in the church. So, why do we tend to run from it? What if we talked openly about sexual abuse and shame, and were better equipped to counsel those who voiced their struggles? In this 13-minute video from The Gospel Coalition Women's Conference, Mark Mellinger sits down with Ellen Dykas to talk about sexual abuse—the scars, the healing process, and why the church should pay attention. Ellen Dykas is the Women’s Ministry Coordinator at Harvest USA in Philadelphia where she counsels women who have been impacted by sexual brokenness. She is also the author of two books. 

Ellen defined sexual abuse as the “exploitation of someone sexually against their will” and offered these observations based on her experience counseling victims:

  • Women are more vulnerable to sexual abuse. 
  • Many victims were abused before the age of 18.
  • Persistent abuse typically happens at a young age.
  • Sexual abuse happens in marriage relationships. 
  • It happens in the church.

Do any of these observations surprise you? Why or why not? Do you know anyone who has been sexually abused? Do these characterize their abuse? How so?
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Ellen shared examples of the spiritual and emotional scars of sexual abuse:

  • Spiritual—how to reconcile two hard realities: a loving God and the abuse
  • Emotional—how to process life, how to regain ability to express themselves 

Of those you know who have been abused, do you think they share these scars? What other spiritual or emotional scars might they have? How are you able to reconcile a loving God with the pain in your own life and the world?
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Ellen said that healing is possible for sexual abuse victims in Christ. The first, and hardest, step is expressing what has been done to them to God and to a trusted friend or counselor.  

Think of something in your own life that you did, or was done to you, that you may have been afraid to bring to God or others for fear of shame. Why did you decide to finally share it? Who did you share it with? What happened when it was brought to the light?
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What did you learn about sexual abuse from this interview? How could you encourage more conversation and education about sexual issues like abuse, addictions, and shame in your church? How might leaders and members respond? Why?
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“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4–5, ESV).

May we hold fast to the truth of that verse. Though sex has been marred by sin and twisted by darkness, Jesus came to redeem it. He came to bring us life and light that shines in even the darkest places of our lives and the world.

For more information about The Gospel Coalition, click here