When the Unimaginable Happens

An Interview with Chuck Swindoll and Dave Carder

Sexual abuse is an extremely difficult and damaging experience. In the vast majority of child sexual abuse cases, the child not only knows but trusts the person who committed the abuse. This is why children often don't tell anyone about it. At other times, children remain silent because they're simply too young to understand or articulate exactly what happened or is happening to them. Others are threatened or bribed into silence by the abuser. Or they're afraid that no one will believe them once they've told their story. Many kids blame themselves or believe the abuse is punishment for being bad, or they worry about getting into trouble or getting someone else into trouble if they talk. And then there's shame. Children just feel too ashamed to tell anyone, even their parents or their spouses once they've grown into adulthood.

Silence enables sexual abuse to continue. It protects the perpetrator and prolongs the abuse. It's time to break the silence when the unimaginable happens and bring child sexual abuse to light. Only then will those molested find healing.

Chuck Swindoll discussed this serious and heart-wrenching topic with Dave Carder, a licensed professional counselor at the First Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton, California. Chuck asked Dave some pointed questions that provide some guidelines on how to respond to such an experience.

Chuck: Dave, what are some signs of molestation?

Dave: Precocious talk—sexually developed language that's inappropriate for their age. Children may use terms for bodily parts or functions or sexual activity that reveal knowledge beyond their age. Look for changes in mood, a sudden rise of incidents of nightmares, or crying, or clinginess. Be aware of a child's anger, hostility, fighting, or hurting himself or herself.

Chuck: What do you do if you suspect your child has been molested?

Dave: Pray. And then seek professional advice. When you do talk with your child, don't overreact; remain calm and ask your child if anybody has touched him or her inappropriately. Affirm your child's feelings. Make sure you give him or her unconditional support and encouragement, both verbally and with written notes. And when the times seem appropriate, give him or her lots of hugs.

Chuck: What can you do if you were molested and months or years have passed and you never told anyone?

Dave: You never really begin to heal until you begin to talk about it. What happened is part of your story. Don't deny it, hide it, or try to bury it. Bring it to light and take a look at what actually happened to you. How did it happen? What were your feelings then, and what are your feelings now? And what do you want to do about it? The healing process takes time—a lot of time—but keeping abuse secret keeps it alive and painful inside. If you're an adult and you've never talked about it, do so now. And tell your spouse.

Chuck: Do you believe it's a good idea to confront the perpetrator, even though years have passed?

Dave: I think it can be helpful. Most victims want three things. First, they want an apology without rationalizations. Second, they want a guarantee it'll never happen to another person. Third, they don't want to be victimized twice by having to pay for their own counseling.

The benefits of sharing your story with a safe person are innumerable. We want to reassure you that Insight for Living is here to help. If you're a victim of sexual abuse, you can contact our biblical counseling team and they will minister to you without embarrassing or shaming you. Remember this promise from Psalms:

I waited patiently for the LORD;
And He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay,
And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. (Psalm 40:1-2)

Healing is available for all who have experienced sexual abuse. God can lift you out of the miry clay and set your feet on stable ground.

(Chuck and Dave's complete, two-part interview is available to hear on our Web site at www.insight.org/abuse.)

Copyright © 2010 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.

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Insight for Living

Written by Insight for Living Ministries staff members.

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