Stories of sexual abuse have become commonplace in our culture, and they don't seem to be going away any time soon.
That's why Saddleback pastor Rick Warren, his wife Kay, and Beth Moore are teaching victims of sexual abuse how church can be a safe place of healing. Warren devoted one Sunday to taking on the issue head-on.
He began by recognizing those who have suffered sexual violence in his own congregation.
"In a crowd this big I know many of you have been abused and I'm sorry. That hurts me. That grieves me. And I just want to say we hear you, we see you, we acknowledge your pain, it matters, it matters to God," Warren said.
Kay Warren and Beth Moore, both of whom have survived sexual abuse from their early childhood, said it doesn't just wound the body, it wounds a person's entire being.
"We are whole beings. We are body, soul, spirit, mind. We are not just a body or just a mind or just emotions, and damage happens in every level of our being," Warren explained. "The abuse happens first in the body and one of the very primary things that happens is loss of control over your own body, your own self is no longer within your control. Someone else uses you or takes advantage of you."
Moore said the pain she felt as a little girl drove her to suicide, but her first step towards healing these wounds was telling someone else what she had gone through and realizing she wasn't alone.
"That, I believe was my first step out...If you have been abused, raped, assaulted, some of you in this room or some of you watching, you have never told anyone," she said. "I've had women hug me and whisper in my ear, 'This is the first time I've ever told anyone.' There is such power in this."
They said one of best places to find someone to talk about the abuse is in the church.
"You have to tell us. You have to open up and say 'I have been hurt.' And when you open that door is just relieves all the pressure. It's not the end of the journey, but it's the start of the journey and there will be people who will walk through it with you," Rick Warren said.
Moore and Kay Warren also gave a list of six steps all abuse victims must take towards healing. They include:
1. Establish safety - Find someone in the church or elsewhere whom you can confide in.
2. Choose to face the truth and feel - Admit the gravity of the situation and allow yourself to feel the painful emotions that come with it.
3. Tell your story - Telling others can bring healing because it allows others to rally around you in support, and it shows other abuse victims they are not alone.
4. Identify the distortions and reclaim God's original design - Realize the lies about your body, emotions, God, or your self worth that you have believed. Instead, believe what God has spoken over you.
5. Repent of deadness and denial - God has created us to feel and victims of abuse sometimes deaden their emotions to avoid feeling the pain that has been inflicted on them. Instead, allow yourself to feel those emotions.
6. Mourning the loss and daring to hope - Mourn what you have lost and dare to hope that God will restore what has been stolen from you.
Another point Moore and Warren emphasized is for victims to not blame themselves for what happened to them.
"What I want to say as you're processing your abuse is it's not your fault. It is not your fault. It never was and it never will be." Warren said.
Most importantly, the ministers emphasized that victims can find comfort in a Savior who grieves with them and understands their suffering.
"The reason why he can have such deep empathy for our suffering is because he came and became one of us. The fact that he came and became one of us means that every abuse you or I have experienced, somehow Jesus knew," Moore said.