In doing research for my Phd. classes and a for a book I am working on, I have found a number of aritcles out there that were disturbing. So many peope don't understand the dynamics of trauma, especially trauma resulting from childhood sexual abuse and/or incest.. Worse yet, I ran into an article on a publishing site (one that I have recently published a few articles on) that minimized the damage done to thousands of sexual abuse survivors in our society, referring to the (slowly) awakening social conscience about the ramifications of the crime as 'hype.' The writer mourned the loss of jobs and privileges a sex offender must face when convicted of his crime. Sadly, reader response to her article probably reinforced her defensive stance on the subject as angry comments poured into her inbox. I cringed at the hate mail posted in her comment box, vicious statements and derogatory references to the writer herself were in the majority--comments posted, most likely,by survivors and those who love them. There were a few posts that agreed with the writer, affirming the position that 'its mostly a bunch of hype and blame shifting.'
My heart was saddened by both responses. While it is true that the sexual offender is a human being made in the image of God, what he (or she) has done is highly offensive to God as well as to the rest of us. It was Jesus who said, "Woe to he would offends (harms) one of these little ones. It would be better for him to have a millstone hung about his neck and be cast into the depths of the sea..." And yet we all know that every sexual offender was once 'one of these little ones.' Nothing that the abuser has experienced in any way justifies the henious crimes they have perpetrated against a child, but it may give us better understanding of how to help the perpetrator and thus limit his continued criminal activity. Does he deserve forgiveness? Certainly not. But then, neither do we. Forgiveness is freely given by the One who died in our place, bore our sin and our sorrow, and paid a debt we could not pay so that we could go free. Will he forgive the sexual offender who has violated one or more children by his sin? Yes, he certainly will.
If the offender truly repents, he will be forgiven. The challenge for those whose compassion leads them to offer the gift of salvation to a sexual offender is to hold him fully accountable for the depravity of his behavior while introducing him to the Amazing Grace of God--promising him forgiveness if he is willing to acknowledge his sin and face the extremity of damage his behavior has done. Only by facing what he has done to another human being will he have opportunity to deal with what was done to him long before he began to re-enact the trauma of his own abusive past.
I suspect that not all abusers were victims of sexual abuse themselves as many people believe. Pornography has been long recognized among law enforcement officers for its role in leading men (and some women) down the path of child molestation. Like any other addiction, sexual additcion has an insatiable appetite. It thrives on venturing into previously unknown perils--the excitement of crossing boundaries. I believe pornography may be responsible for more crimes against women and children than a history of prior abuse. In either case, the offender has tried to fill a vaccumn in his soul--often one created by trauma in his own tender years--by indulging in soul numbing sin that leads down a path of destruction to himself and others.
By Linda Settles, MA Christian Counseling
Candidate for Phd Counseling, Louisiana Baptist University
Author of: Redeeming Our Treasures/Finding Joy in the Shadows of an Abusive Past