“Counseling Women Abused as Kids” was first published at Biblical Counseling Center, where I serve as Communications Director.
Despite parents’ best efforts, sometimes sex abusers hurt children. The effects can last a lifetime.
Women respond to being sinned against in different ways.
Listen to these Christian women’s struggles.
- A 30-year-old shares that during her teens, she had sex with guys she barely knew. She had been sexually abused as a grade-schooler. Her people-pleasing tendencies continue.
- A 40-something woman stares at her bedroom ceiling, her husband at her side. He wants sexual relations; she feels bitter. Her mind replays the times a family member sexually abused her.
- A mother of two feels shame on the anniversary of the day she slipped into an abortion clinic, pregnant with her boyfriend’s baby, and left empty.
These women (composites of Christian women I counseled) each responded to the sin of childhood sexual abuse in sinful ways. It’s important to differentiate between personal sin and being sinned against. Personal sin interferes with joyful living.
God wants us to look to him; he orders everything after the counsel of his own will. God wants to heal you.
The Emotional Cost
The emotional cost of sexual abuse in childhood and the teen years includes anger, bitterness, shame, anxiety, depression, and other emotions, often leading to idol worship.
You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me. Deut. 5:9, NIV
We worship idols whenever we bow down to something or someone other than the one true God. One idol is people-pleasing, or fear of man. Another is a deep desire for safety and security. There are many others.
Another emotional cost is confusion about sexuality and relationships with others and with God. A few examples are sex before marriage (fornication), adultery, homosexuality, and pornography.
Here’s an example.
Let’s say a young Christian woman I’ll call Kayla decides that sex before marriage is okay if she loves the guy. She believes a sexual relationship will give her a sense of belonging. Rather than recognizing her identity as God’s precious child and resting in this relationship, she looks to men and sex to give her security–a false sense of security. Kayla is mired in a pattern of fearing loss of security as well as a strong longing for security.
One relationship morphs into another, and Kayla continues to fear and to long. (The bible calls the latter “lust”; it may involve any type of longing, such as money, approval, possessions, health, and status.)
Fearing and Longing
Once the fleshly desire to obtain or protect has taken root, Kayla wants to seize control. As her effort to control increases, she may experience pride when she gets what she wants. When her efforts to control fail, she feels anger. The result? Her fear jumps up while her lust increases, resulting in an even greater desire to protect and obtain.
Eventually her anger turns to discouragement to discontentment to depression.
Very often on this downward spiral, the person in emotional pain seeks a way to numb her pain.
This is what Kayla does.
She numbs her pain with food. Eating comfort foods calms her and helps her forget her fear and lust, and it packs on the pounds. Without recognizing it at the time, she overeats in order to escape the possibility of another hurtful relationship with a man. She believes obesity makes her less attractive to men. So again — but in a different way — she seeks control.
God provides an effective and God-honoring way to find healing from sexual sin against a child or teen. God wants to redeem the sin done to the hurting woman (or man) and the sins she’s committed. He wants the brokenhearted to put Christ first.
The bible tells us that as Christians, “we are not our own” (1 Corinthians 6:19). Christ and his rule (his kingdom) are meant to have first place in our lives. As women abused as kids desire Christ’s rule, they become more and more — gradually, over time — like Christ.
As we commit ourselves to the Father’s will, we’ll experience contentment and peace. Our surrender leads not only to contentment and peace but also a deep trust that God will provide and protect us. We lean into him and give up the mirage of control.
How to Begin
A counselee who wants peace and contentment that ascends to joyful abundance begins with repentance.
To repent is make an about-face in how you think, feel, and act. It is heart transformation. Sin that has become habit – such as turning to men for security or to food for comfort — may require a person to repent numerous times when she gives in to temptation.
Sanctification is a process. God is faithful and good and changeless. A counselee must remember that God doesn’t give up on her. His Holy Spirit indwells every believer and strengthens her.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” wrote the apostle Paul from prison. Phil. 4:13
Paul found the secret to contentment though he made many mistakes. You can find this healing too.
If you need counseling, please contact me . A certified biblical counselor, I can meet with you in person or by Skype. God loves you!