There’s no response to the Josh Duggar abuse story I could see as value added other than to tell my own abuse story. There has been so much back-and-forth hatred and venom flying around the internet, and I have been struggling for a way to share what is truly on my heart and what I hope people learn from the Josh Duggar incident.
Before I share my story, let me say this in case you didn’t know: Abuse is terrible. All forms of abuse are reprehensible and are not in any way, shape or form a part of God’s desire for His children. Many have stories of abuse to share and many would tell you they have the answers, but what I hope to share is that the healing and joy after abuse, or even through it, is solely found in a relationship with Christ. I know this and I can say this because I was that victim and I found that healing.
I was sexually abused as a child by my stepfather. For years I carried on in silence. I was terrified of telling my mom because I didn’t want to hurt her, and I thought we needed his income to support our family. About two years into the abuse, I told her, and she, not knowing what else to do, called our pastor.
Back then (mid-1980s), I guess not many pastors had been educated on what to do when abuse was reported to them. The pastor, unaware of what should have been done, decided to handle the situation himself rather than report it to the authorities. He conducted several family counseling and Bible study sessions in an attempt to infuse Christ into the heart of the abuser — my stepfather. But the sessions fizzled and life carried on.
So did the abuse.
My mom’s inability to leave her husband confirmed my idea that she desperately needed him; as a child, I assumed our family would not be okay without him. Turns out he actually ruined us financially, too.
Ending the Abuse
One night, I looked out the window of our dirty two-bedroom apartment, and saw him push my mom in the middle of a heated argument. That was it. I had never seen him physically assault her before, and something inside me snapped. How dare he!
She came in, tears streaming down her face, and sat down on the couch, gently holding my shoulders with her hands. She looked into my eyes and said, “Tell me the truth. Is he still hurting you?” Though I had been asked the question before, that night was different. I knew I could tell her the truth. I will never forget the dialogue that ensued:
“Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“Couldn’t you tell by the way I said ‘no? ‘”
That one sentence crushed my mom. She struggled with the guilt and weight of the abuse she had allowed to happen — in her home, to her daughter. Though I longed for her to be free from that guilt, I watched her carry it until the day she died. How I wish she had known God’s forgiveness extended to her, too. It is all-encompassing.
What happened next, I believe, was a provision from God. I was put into the state system as an abuse victim, and for the first time, I was given help and rights. God used three years of counseling — individual, family, and group — to speak into my life. The one thing God ingrained in my heart from all those counseling session was this: IT WASN’T MY FAULT.
By the grace of God, those four words have been repeated to me so many times. Even when I didn’t believe or understand the weight of that sentence, its truth was powerfully working to free me from the grip of guilt and resentment.
Forgiving the Abuser
My abuser was spiritually sick. He might still be sick. Unfortunately, no prison sentence can cure an abuser’s ugly heart. Only Jesus can cure an ugly heart. That’s the miracle of salvation, and that’s the miracle I pray for the man who abused me. Because that’s the only miracle that will keep him from abusing anyone again.
What gives me encouragement in the Josh Duggar case is he confessed his wrongs and found forgiveness in Jesus at the age of 14. At that time, Jesus came into His life and began the process of sanctification — the lifelong refining of a heart to be more and more like Jesus. Does this mean Josh Duggar, or anyone who is a Christian, becomes instantly perfect to sin no more? No, it doesn’t. It means as we pursue a relationship with Christ, He works on the places of our hearts that need to change.
I can honestly say I have very little hard feelings for the man who abused me. I can honestly say I have completely forgiven the crime against me, and I do my best to remember the abuse no more. If ever there are times — and there have been a few — when ugly scenes flash before my eyes, I quickly ask Jesus to take them away. I don’t have to live in remembrance or resentment which only hold me prisoner, unable to enjoy life.
Freedom From Abuse
My prayer, if you’re reading this as an abuse victim, is that you hear this message: There is freedom from guilt, shame, bitterness, and anger toward your abuser through a relationship with Jesus. Tell Him your story and ask Him to be a part of it. If you’re a parent of a victim or an abuser, ask God to be a healer for your child and get them the help they need. There are trained professionals through whom God works mightily to free your kids in their story. Also, learn how to forgive yourself. It isn’t your fault either.
And if you’re reading this as an abuser, my prayer is for you to realize God is in the business of changing hearts. He redeems every story to reflect His glory — even Josh Duggar’s and even yours.