According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old.
The American Psychological Association reports nearly 5 million women in the U.S. will experience physical violence by an intimate partner every year, and more than one in three women and more than one in four men will have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
The widespread impact of these terrible situations is staggering to contemplate -- at minimum, it means sexual abuse and physical violence is an epidemic that effects every family, every community, and every church, including this church.
Why do you not know about it? Because the shame and fear associated with such experiences are so great that, by some estimates, over 80 percent of incidents never go reported. Some people suffer silently for years in desperate situations while others, for decades, carry a hurt so deep they feel it will never completely heal.
As those called to extend God's love to a broken and hurting world, I offer these words of hope. First, whatever acts of violence, sexual aggression and/or sexual assault that has happened to you or is currently happening to you, it is not your fault. The harm you've endured and the punishment you may be inflicting upon yourself is not deserved and is not God's will. You don't have to keep living under the fear and pain that is plaguing your life. If this is an on-going situation, I know how frightening it must be to imagine any kind of change.
But you should also know that there are people, in confidence, willing to help you; not only to pray for you, encourage you and grant you comfort, but also to help you discover a path toward liberation, healing, and restoration. Each member of our ministerial staff and current body of deacons have agreed to be these contacts for you. They will handle whatever you bring to them with sensitivity, responsibility, and professionalism. If necessary, they will help connect you with community resources and options.
If you need to remain anonymous, they will hold your confidence while also ensuring that any perpetrators or abusers are held responsible, with the goal that any new wounds will cease and all old wounds will be brought toward a greater sense of resolution. If you cannot take the step of speaking out to someone you know, please use the helplines above.
If you are one of those caring friends, family members or neighbors, make sure others know they can talk to you. No one needs to suffer in silence. The church and other caring adults are here to help you. As we together, face these all too frequent and terrible situations by seeking God's guidance and grace made known in the midst of all of our troubles.
As a Baptist church affirming the liberty of conscience, we recognize each individual's right to his or her own opinion and welcome your comments, positive or negative. We strive for communication that invites a respectful and personal exchange of opinions and thoughts. This is often not possible through running dialogues in our comment section. To respect the dignity of all persons, we may delete comments that contain profanity, hate speech, or threatening language.
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