Post Author: Crystal Rook
Sexual trauma. Two uncomfortable words to see in print and to write about, particularly in the church. Sex is still a taboo subject in the church in the year 2018, although church folks are having quite a bit of it – whether it is wrong or right, single or married, ethical or unethical, or even scandalous. The point I am making is this: not talking about sex in the church does not mean the church is avoiding the trauma that is continuously happening with its members, congregants, guests, visitors, and so on.
Unfortunately, sexual trauma happens too often to too many girls and boys every day in various homes, church spaces, schools, parks, and more. It doesn’t care what race, gender, ethnicity, religion, denomination, time of the day or week nor time of the month. All it cares about is what it needs at the time when it is ready to feast on the innocent and unconsenting bodies.
The needs of sexual trauma are to control, manipulate, and distort the minds of both the perpetrator and victims. Many do not survive its wrath.
I lived to tell my story of how I wrestled this evil spirit of sexual trauma, although I wish it could have been for only one night like Jacob. I have spent years purging the damage and residue of its grips from the depths of my mind, spirit, and soul.
Even now, it is difficult to write about my experience; toiling over this piece thinking of a way how I can tell my story. Where do I start? How much should I tell? Do I even want to remember those events of my life? This is a part of my narrative. Sexual trauma had its tentacles in shaping the woman I am today, unfortunately. But, no glory will be given to sexual trauma for no good thing it has done in my life, but all good things come from God.
Due to the invasion of sexual trauma I had no choice but to desperately search for wells in dry places in my adulthood, particularly when I was pressed to forgive and love my perpetrator by church folks. I know that Scriptures teaches us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31) and to be kind and forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32). Throughout my young adulthood, other believers urged me to forgive and love my perpetrator. This request seemed to be in support of the perpetrator rather than in my best interest of getting healed.
It seemed unimaginably unfair to me. It was so disheartening that my body was violated. My trust had been broken. My mind had suffered from flashbacks and the entrapments of withdrawals as I navigated my altered life. Too many burdens for anyone to bear alone.
Why do I have to be the responsible one to love him and forgive him in order to receive my healing? Why are people quoting these Scriptures to me in the midst of my trauma without even asking me how am I doing? I believe people sometimes rush the process of forgiveness and place unwarranted pressure on victims of trauma to forgive their perpetrators.
The Scriptures may say to do it, but there are ways of sharing those scriptural teachings with traumatized people while still being considerate of their feelings and needs. I suggest listening and being present with them; engage in their healing process in ways that are life-giving for them (ask them what it looks like). Also, realize the road to healing is long, yet possible to travel, but the persons involved have to do the soul work to get there.
Forgiveness is possible. I did not forgive and love my perpetrator at the request or command of anyone, but when I was ready to. And this process included the Holy Ghost soothing my mind and soul like a balm.
First of all, the perpetrator did not ask to be forgiven by me nor did he apologize to me. Not yet to this day.
No one is required to have a relationship with their perpetrator. It is the person’s choice if and when they desire to communicate. The violated person’s well-being is more important than a perpetrator’s comfort. I have been told to talk with, call, and even see my perpetrator to follow up on how they are doing. The request felt like others were putting the responsibility on me to take care of the perpetrator and his needs. I felt the person who requested for me to reach out to my perpetrator did not care if there still could be wounds, scars, triggers, or if I am still having flashbacks. There were no questions if I am seeing a therapist or counselor. Unfortunately, mental health is still stigmatized in the church, particularly in the Black church. All of us should seek counseling when necessary, especially if you have experienced sexual trauma, or any trauma.
I did tell this person it was not my responsibility to do this and I do not have to reach out to this person. God is not requiring me to have a relationship with my perpetrator.
God will give me abundant life, which does not include fostering toxic relationships and harbouring traumatic memories for all things have been made new in my mind, soul, and body. The process of my healing and forgiveness was like a revival. My revival of my soul comes from the refreshing waters of my Mother’s gardens that continuously baptizes me daily for Jesus said He is the Living Water. (John 4:14) SELAH.
Elder Crystal Rook, MDiv, MACC is an activist, writer, community organizer, womanist preacher, rising scholar, Creative Director & Consultant of Apostolic R.E.B.E.L, a faith-based organization that provides consulting, mentoring, and workshops for thinking laypersons and leadership who desire to create or expand transformative ministries, especially for Apostolic and Pentecostal faith traditions. She’s passionate about the intersections of food justice, faith, race, spirituality, & body politics.
Her work is to create spaces for dialogues and action of communal love, healing, and liberation. She believes that Christians are the hands and feet of Jesus and must be active in both prayer and working in the vineyard to better the lives of humanity. Elder Rook truly believes that in God’s Word there is life, deliverance, transformation, and healing and desire to see these manifested in fullness in the lives of God’s creation. She received a Masters in Christian Counseling from Apex School of Theology and a Masters of Divinity with a concentration in Food and Faith from Wake Forest University School of Divinity.
Image by: Blank Slate Photos
Used with permission