success stories

Posted March 20, 2004

Book: Sexual Abuse: Pastoral Responses
Len Hedges-Goettl: edited by Daniel G. Bagby
Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN, pp.118

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

When you preach on a typical Sunday morning, you can be sure that you are looking in the faces of people who have been and are being sexually abused. More than one in five women and at least one in eleven men report being sexually abused as children, and these figures do not account for the sexual abuse of adults. This means that on any given Sunday morning in every church, victims, abusers, and their families all sit, stand, listen, sing, and pray together at the worship service. Left alone, these lives can follow a path of failure and destruction despite wonderful preaching and otherwise effective programming.

This book will equip pastors, particularly, but also educators, spiritual directors, and anyone called to a ministry of compassion to begin to address this great hurt.

The “Pastoral Response” series is designed to help pastors and other pastoral caregivers deal with crises or significant difficulties. Called upon to offer advice, guidance, and comfort to parishioners, their families, and the congregation on a myriad of medical, mental health, social, legal, and theological issues, these books offer concrete, practical suggestions for the situations that pastors face in the parish today.

An Excerpt from the Book:

In their 1992 publication “Healing the Wounds of Childhood: The Resource Guide for Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse and Addictions, D.A. Sexton, D. Tarter, and K. Gunn included a list of thirty-three long term effects of sexual abuse. Their list includes: guilt or shame; sense of isolation; depression; deep-seated anger or hostility; suicidal thoughts; obsessive-compulsive behaviors; emotional numbing; dependency or control in relationships; learned helplessness; low self-esteem; inability to play; flat affect; tendency toward being self-abusive; inability to trust; tendency toward victimization; denial; short-term relationships (lack of long-term commitment); fear of intimacy; immature emotions; generalized fear and anxiety; loss of memory about parts of childhood; grief over lost childhood; gravitating toward or creating chaos; constant flashgbacks; feeling like “damaged goods”; sleep disturbances; somatic illness; dissociation (spacing out) for significant periods of time without having a seizure); gender confusion; phobias; sexualized behaviors; becoming adult victims of sexual assault; and sexual maladjustment.

. . .Now the readers are invited to gauge their own internal reactions to this daunting list. Many may find it difficult to hold all these symptoms in their minds at one time. Some may feel a sense of confusion, oppression, and chaos. If a reader is a victim of sexual abuse, she or he may feel a strong recognition of herself or himself in the list, but probably also feel greatly unsettled. These feelings give a hint to what it is like inside a victimized life. In short, living in the heart, mind, and soul of a sexual abuse victim is a chaotic, often nearly psychotic experience. (In the extreme, multiple severe experiences of sexual abuse at the very early age may result in what was once called multiple personality disorder and which the DSM-IV now calls dissociative identity disorder.)

Many victims and those who love them not only recognize the presence of many of the symptoms, but also continually question why these symptoms are present. Further, there is justifiable concern about what will become of the victim who exhibits a debilitating collection of symptoms.

Table of Contents:

Introduction: Leviathan

1. The nature of sexual abuse

2. Myths and facts about sexual abuse and sex offenders

3. Some solutions: prevention and response

4. Understanding victims

5. Ministry with victims, abusers, and their families

Epilogue: Sexual Shalom