Episode 4 – Sexual Abuse with Rachael Denhollander Part 2

Patrick and guest host Suzanne continue their conversation with Rachael Denhollander about having helpful dialogue around the topic of sexual abuse.

In this episode…

You will hear about:

  • A church’s response to abuse and supporting survivors
  • How to love and care for abuse survivors
  • Becoming a safe person for survivors
  • The importance of believing people
  • The healing journey of a survivor

Resources mentioned during this episode:

Just a heads up for anybody tuning into the show for the 1st time, you’re currently listening to part 2 of a 2 part episode featuring Rachael Denhollander. So if you haven’t heard the first half of the discussion, go back to the last episode and listen to that and this will make a lot more sense. Also, the topic is sexual abuse so if that’s a sensitive topic for you, discretion is advised.

Rachael: Something that a lot of people don’t realize about abuse survivors is that a significant number of them actually physically freeze when they experience abuse. And that’s a body’s normal response to trauma. They can’t move. They can’t call out. They can’t do anything at all. And so when you have a pastor, for instance, who counsels the abuse survivor, “Well, the bible says you have to cry out”, and misuses that to say that if you didn’t fight back, you’re culpable, what that does is that tells the survivor that was my fault. I am under judgment.

–Intro–

Suzanne: What would you say to someone who said, “You know, once we go down this path, what are we going to find? It’s a little bit of a debbie-downer. It’s a distraction to our exciting exhortation ministry and our beautiful..”

Patrick: “It will mess with our vibe. Things are going so well, why would you wanna?”

Suzanne: I know that’s kind of a naive question but I feel like that would be a concern.

Patrick: That’s at least a reflex of everybody who like…

Rachael: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I’d say that’s not your job.

Suzanne: Yeah.

Rachael: Your job is not to have a good, happy vibe in your church. Your job is to pursue the truth. Your job is to pursue God’s glory and God’s goodness. And that means that you deal with sin. Because you cannot demonstrate and showcase God’s glory, and his holiness, and his justice, and his compassion and his mercy… you cannot give an accurate picture of who God is if you are not dealing with the darkness all around you. If you are not pursuing Christ, and if you are not committed to the truth and to what is right, above and beyond anything else.

Suzanne: Amen, I want to record that and just be able to pretend that it’s coming out of my mouth.

Patrick: If only we had some recording devices on so that we could capture what she said. Yeah, that was, I absolutely agree with that. And, I’m also curious just going back to this church that was such a good example, what was different about them? Did they hold the same theological beliefs that other churches manipulated in order to perpetuate the silence on these issues? Or was it a leadership thing where the person at the top had a correct biblical view of what they were responsible to do in cases of abuse? What set them apart? Were they humble? I’m genuinely curious about…do you know enough about their situation to comment on that or?

Rachael: You know, only to a point. I can take what I see out of their public statement. And their public statement is very extensive. And, so one of the dynamics that you see in the public statement is really a commitment to the truth. A commitment to what is right and a recognition that as Pastors and as a community of Christ, their job is to display Christ. Their job is not to have a good vibe at the church. Their job is not to make people feel warm and fuzzy all the time, their job is to minister to the sheep that God has given them and to display God’s glory. And so the Pastor even said in the public statement, “There will be temptation to say, ‘why are we going to do this when we’re in the middle of an incredible building program and all of these new things’”. And he said, “I encourage you to resist that temptation, because what God has called us to do is to minister to the hurting and to do what is right and to display God’s glory. And we have to be humble, and we have to be accountable, and we have to pursue the truth in order to do that.” And so he really took time to even instruct and shepherd his own congregation very graciously, very lovingly. But he had a correct perspective in terms of a biblical view of authority. And he used his authority as a pastor to teach and to protect and to instruct. But they submitted the church to other God-given authorities. And, God-given accountability to find the truth and to better reflect God’s glory. So it’s an incredible picture really, of those God-given means of the community of Christ and biblical authority being used to protect and shepherd rather than being used to hide and destroy.

Patrick: Yeah, I would encourage anybody to go and even read that post and read their statement. We can put it in the show notes just as an example of how. It was encouraging to me talking about this issue, researching it, looking up how rampant it is. It just makes your heart so heavy and it makes you feel like there’s no hope and you can’t change anything and because it’s like entire institutions with ideologies that you have to like impact rather that just individual people. It just seems too difficult. But reading that statement, gave me a little bit of hope and lightened my heart a little bit and made me realize there is hope. Change can happen. And, do you have something?

Rachael: Yes, and I think one of the things pastors need to realize when they’re in that position, you know, there’s always a fear of “what if this gets out publicly”. And what they need to realize is that the more public their right response is, the more God is glorified. Because survivors everywhere are looking for where is this safe? And when they see a church handle things in a way that makes it look like God doesn’t really care that much about sexual abuse, or like there is no accountability, like there is no form of biblical authority, what that communicates to the survivors is that this isn’t a big deal to God. And if it’s not a big deal to God, God’s not safe. And God’s not trustworthy. And the church is not safe. And so a church’s poor response to sexual abuse communicates across such a broad spectrum. The reach is far greater than a pastor realizes when a pastor mishandles a claim of sexual abuse. Conversely, when a church like this publicly handles it well, the amount of encouragement and glory it brings to God, far beyond their own church, is way beyond what they could comprehend.

Patrick: I’ve often wondered whether churches try to suppress this kind of thing because they somehow believe that the public knowing that their church is flawed, and that there are sinful people in their church, that fact would diminish God’s glory. But it’s funny that it is the exact opposite of that. In just acknowledging sin and calling it out, that’s what glorifies God. I love the quote that you’ve used many times that “When you diminish the darkness, you actually diminish the light as well.”

Rachael: Yeah, that’s exactly what happens. And again, it sends the message that God doesn’t really care about sin. And, instinctively we know that a judge that doesn’t care about what went wrong is not a good judge, is not a loving judge, is not safe, is not trustworthy, and isn’t right. And so one of the most powerful things that Christians can do is preach the justice and wrath of God against sin because that’s what communicates how beautiful and how holy and how trustworthy God is. And it also showcases God’s love and the gospel in a completely different way because when you understand God’s wrath against sin, you understand what you’ve been forgiven of too.

Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. I’d love to maybe look at a couple more positive spots and the people in your life that were actually – that were…illuminated the darkness a little bit. There’s so many examples of how not to do things. You could just open a news website and you can see how churches are handling it poorly. But, I’m sure being in a Christian community there have been people that have spoken truth and wisdom and the beauty of the gospel into your situation and have been an encouragement and a light to what you’ve experienced. So, who are some of the people in your life that really spoke God’s truth to you and encouraged you in these times?

Rachael: Yeah, God has been really gracious in that regard. I was very blessed to be raised with godly parents who took the abuse that I suffered seriously when they learned of it. And who really did point me to Christ, who portrayed biblical humility in their parenting, who portrayed biblical love, biblical repentance. You know, all of those dynamics that really showcase the goodness and the glory of God and that gave me a foundation for being able to heal and to trust God again. I was very blessed in my husband, and you know, his incredible, tender compassion, his pursuit of justice with me, his support of the gifts that God has given me, and his joy in how God has been able to use them. He has been a safe place to grieve and to understand the depth of the damage and to face the depth of damage with me and to let it point me back to Christ.

We have been very blessed in our home church in Michigan – Reformed Baptist Church of Kalamazoo, and our current church here in Louisville -Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville, to have godly men in authority, godly pastors, godly elders and an incredible community of believers in both of those churches that really surrounded us with prayer and with compassion. That asked really good questions, very practical things..”How are you sleeping at night?” “Are you able to get rest?” “How are things going with parenting when you’re under this much stress?” You know they really thought about the weight that we were carrying and that ministered to us in incredibly practical ways. I came home from the preliminary examination, which was just an incredibly stressful time, and my siblings had cleaned our house, and our church family had filled our fridge with groceries. You know they provided for us and demonstrated God’s grace and God’s compassion and God’s love in incredibly practical, tangible ways. And, just encouraged us in our godly pursuit of justice. That this matters. That this was a good thing. That this was a biblical thing. They’ve cried with us. They’ve surrounded us. So when you see the body of Christ and the gospel living out those truths, it is incredibly beautiful. And my heart’s desire is for other survivors to know those truths and to be surrounded that way in their own churches because that brings God incredible glory and it is incredibly healing for the survivor.

Suzanne: Wow, that is beautiful.

Patrick: Just the practical, the practical means of loving someone, it can be undervalued or underappreciated how much filling your fridge with groceries can be, and just the small steps. I appreciate that you gave those examples because like I mentioned earlier, it can feel overwhelming when you are one person in this world. This world, this country, this continent, whatever, battling what seems deeply systemic and deeply rooted and trying to shake people out of their theological strongholds that they manipulate to perpetuate this kind of thing. It can feel defeating. But, when you hear that there is just small things that you can do to love somebody in those situations, and to be a safe place, and to care about their practical needs just like wondering how they’re sleeping, wondering how they’re eating, wondering how their family is going and cleaning a house, can be such a practical way to help.

Suzanne: You come across to me just from some of the things I’ve read on facebook and videos and such, you seem like a very strong, composed woman, but it’s beautiful to hear too just the supportive husband, the supportive church, that you’re getting what you need. That you say that God is gracious and you’re getting the support that you need in order to use this platform.

Rachael: It has been incredible. It really has been. And it has displayed God’s goodness and God’s glory to us just beautifully through a very difficult trial. And you know, I think the other thing that’s most incredible about that is that both of these churches had the right perspective. They have a very healthy view of authority. They have a healthy view of community. They have a healthy view of God’s justice and so what we were doing and what we were going through mattered to them. They saw it as a biblical pursuit. They saw it as something that was important. They saw it as something they wanted to support. And by doing that the way they have glorified God and the way they have loved and cared for us and even just the encouragement that that has been to other survivors who I have shared that with. You know, again, the reach of what they have done is so much greater than they realize. Even in the simplest acts because of how they thought about it, because of their theological views, because of their mindset towards abuse and towards abuse survivors. And I just praise God for them.

Patrick: I’m just constantly thinking as we go through this about those statistics about how they’re so rampant – 25-40%. It makes me sad, and kind of almost feel guilty, that there are people that I know that have suffered and that I’m oblivious to or that I’ve just not been able to recognize it in. Brothers and sisters in my church that have just suffered in silence. And I am trying to work out how I can help, like how can someone like me as a man in the church who is probably completely oblivious to maybe some obvious signs or maybe some not obvious signs. What are some practical steps that a guy like me in a church could do to better make himself available, to be encouraging, to let people know that I’m a safe person to talk to?

Rachael: Yeah, that’s a great question. The thing with abuse survivors is there are often not real obvious signals. One survivor that I know kind of refers to it as flipping a switch. You can flip that switch and you can appear normal for the context that you need to, because that’s safer. If you allow yourself to be seen as hurting, or you allow some of that damage to be seen, you become vulnerable again. You’ve given someone access to you. And so survivors are very good at flipping the switch, at appearing very composed, very calm and not giving off any signals at all because it makes them more vulnerable if they do. And so the best thing really to do is to be able to signal in how you behave and in how you communicate that “hey, this matters!” Social media’s actually a relatively powerful tool for advocacy just for opening up the lines of communication. You know, you post on what you care about, right? So your facebook, your twitter – you know, are you posting on issues that matter? In a godly, healthy way, are you posting on issues that matter? Because if someone sees you start advocating, it makes them realize, ok wait a minute, that they care about this.They’re starting to understand. And so even those means of communication. Approaching church leaders and saying, “hey, what are our policies? Do we have a ministry to abuse survivors? How are we reaching out to these people?” You know if you had 25% of your congregation that was suffering from cancer, you would have a cancer ministry. If 25% of your congregation was in abject poverty, you would have a ministry, you know, to those members. Well 25% of the congregation is suffering devastating wounds that they are never going to disclose but that will continue to damage them until they reach healing. But, we have nothing for them. There’s no ministry for them. There’s nothing signaling that there’s a safe place. And so, just looking at very practical steps like that in how you communicate, and how you advocate, and how you use social media, and how you discuss these topics. You know, that makes a big difference. And then, looking at practical ways within the church community to signal to survivors that they’re safe and that they can come forward and that there’s help for them. Those are all very important things to begin doing because they’re not going to speak up until they see those signals first.

Suzanne: Yeah, I think that’s the important point that I didn’t realize until sort of exploring this world, that it’s victims that are silenced. The very nature of sexual abuse is a silencer. It’s covered in shame and they have no… they’re depleted and they can’t come forward. And just knowing that fact, alters how you view the whole issue.

Rachael: Yeah, they really have to be pursued.

Suzanne: And that they are watching. Is this safe? Is this a safe place?

Rachael: Yeah and those general marks are really very true for domestic abuse survivors too. Abuse in any context, when you’ve experienced trauma, your perception of what’s normal and what’s safe is going to be radically altered and you’re not going to speak up until you know that you’re safe. And those are principles that really cross the trauma spectrum in general.

–AD BREAK–

Patrick: Yeah even as a guy, I know my brain is a little bit… well not all men’s brains are messed up or miswired or whatever but when someone tells me about a problem my solution is like, I gotta fix it, or here’s how you should fix it. And it comes up most often when I hear about my friends being harrassed, cat-called, or someone saying something or doing something that just makes them uncomfortable. And then I’m like, what’d you do? Did you hit him? Cause you should have punched him in the throat. Or did you tell somebody? And they so often just say, “I didn’t do anything.” “I didn’t know what to do.” “I felt powerless.” And my brain is “AH, do something, just speak up. And it’s something that I’m trying to train my brain to not get upset that they didn’t act in that scenario the way that I would have preferred them to act or the way that I want to act. And trying to build an empathy and understanding for what it’s like to even be in that situation because I think I’m just not aware of what it’s like.

Rachael: Yeah, and that’s a huge aspect is just educating yourself to what it’s like. Something that a lot of people don’t realize about abuse survivors is that a significant number of them actually physically freeze when they experience abuse. And that’s the body’s normal response to trauma. They can’t move. They can’t call out. They can’t do anything at all. So when you, for instance, have a pastor who counsels the abuse survivor “Well, the bible says you have to cry out”, and misuses that passage of scripture talking about, “Well was it a consensual activity?”, but misuses that to say, “Well if you didn’t fight back, you’re culpable.”, what that does is that tells the survivor that was my fault. I am under judgment. When in reality, what the experience was a very normal physical response of being incapable of fighting back. And even when it comes to being harrassed and cat-called, the ultimate reality for many people that experience that, women in particular, the more attention you give it, the more vulnerable you become. You never know when someone is going to escalate. And so a lot of times there’s not a way to be safe. There’s not a way to defend yourself. And it puts you in a very terrible situation.

Suzanne: Yeah, I think the “Me too” movement has helped bring some light on that for women too. That it’s all women… are just watching, looking out, looking over their shoulder. It’s not even consciously It’s just engrained.

Rachael: Yes, it’s just engrained. And even when women do speak up, a lot of times they’re blamed for it. I had a good friend during this process who posted something on facebook about how she had been cat called by someone while she was waiting for the bus and her news feed immediately, her comment section, immediately filled up with men, “Well, maybe you were over reacting”, “Why didn’t you just smile?”, “Why didn’t you just respond to him.” Do you have any real… any idea the danger that she could have been in if she had fought back against the cat calling when he had already escalated because she didn’t respond to him the first time? You know I had an experience, two of them actually, during this process where I was sexually harassed. Once while I was counselling an abuse survivor, and once when I was out for coffee with my husband and he was facing the opposite direction and so he couldn’t see what was happening. But a man came into the coffee shop and began to masturbate towards me and so I sent him a quick email to let Jacob know what was going on but in my situation, I was already in the news so much, and I was already being accused of sexualizing everything, I wasn’t in a position to be able to fight back. I already knew there was nothing criminal being done, there was nothing to report to the police. So I immediately went and reported to the coffee shop so that they could watch out for the man, but there was nothing I could do about the situation. But the immediate response I got was, “Well, did you enjoy it?” “Maybe you enjoyed being the object of his desire” “Maybe there was that little bit in you and that’s why you didn’t think to fight back”. And that came from some extended family members.

Patrick: That’s appalling.

Suzanne: Yeah.

Patrick: I can’t believe.

Suzanne: Disgusting.

Rachael: Right. And it is. And so women are in a position where it’s not safe to fight back. It’s not safe to speak up because you never know when it’s going to cause escalation. And when you do speak up, more often than not you’re blamed anyway. So, why bother? It causes more damage to speak up because of the response that you receive than it causes to just be quiet and just get out of that situation as fast as you can.

Patrick: Yeah I think that’s something that I’ve taken away from this just in the past couple of months or in the year overall, is just to believe people. Because I’ve been, again, in the same mindset of someone cat calling and I’d be like, I’d actually yell back or you know escalate it probably. But not understanding the mindset or just believing that it doesn’t happen as much as it does. And it just a default mindset that I think a lot of guys have that it’s like, oh it couldn’t be. It couldn’t be that bad because it’s not my experience. Guys are “If a girl said something like that to me, I’d be happy with it”. So there’s this weird, twisted, they apply it to women and say, “Oh well, why don’t you enjoy it.” I wish women complimented me or just smile.” But it’s just believing that it happens – We don’t like it, and we want it to stop – is hopefully helpful at least a little bit in just sympathizing.

Suzanne: I was going to say too, that I want your thoughts on this Rachael. It is a human nature thing to do to project your experience on a situation. If it is such a hidden but such a prevalent issue, not necessarily talking about the harassment and cat calling, but talking about sexual abuse, do you think that is an element that plays in it that people are just, “I haven’t seen it, I haven’t heard a lot about it, so it must not be.”, “You must be lying all these girls”, or whatever.

Rachael: Yeah, I think that’s definitely part of it and I think there is also an imbalance in power. I understand that response from a male standpoint of, you know, a woman compliments me and I think that’s great. Well it means you’re not vulnerable. That woman can’t do anything to you. And one of the most difficult things as a female, particularly with our porn culture, and our porn mindset, is when a man verbalizes something like that, I know what he’s doing in his head to me. And I didn’t give him permission to do that. I didn’t give him permission to think about me sexually. That’s a violation and it’s a violation I can’t control. You know there’s a difference in male/female sexuality. There’s a difference in male/female power imbalance. Now you do see women abuse men and so I don’t want to minimize that in any way, shape, or form, because you do see it. And it’s incredibly damaging. But for most men, they haven’t experienced that. The statistics are still much higher than we realize. But the majority of men that have the “well, it’s a compliment, what’s the big deal?” response, they’ve never experienced being vulnerable. The’ve never experienced violation and their outlook on sexuality is very different than a female’s is and, so again, it’s not the same experience and there’s not the same risk. There’s not the same level of danger.

Patrick: Yeah, it just feels like there’s much less as stake so you could see yourself responding but it doesn’t seem like it should be so hard to just, if someone says something, they’re probably telling the truth. I can’t think of too many reasons why someone would lie about that and just the attention thing is just such a mind boggling thing.

Rachael: Right. Noone wants attention for that. Nobody does.

Patrick: Not at all. You strike me as someone who is, despite everything that you’ve been involved in, not just the abuse, but embroiled in the legal proceedings and just being a spokeswoman for this and an advocate, you seem to be someone who has hope, who has levity to her, who doesn’t…you don’t seem burdened as much as I would expect. Is that accurate? Are you? Do you feel the weight of what you’ve, I guess, accidentally signed up for? Or are you experiencing some sort of joy and freedom through the gospel? Or maybe both?

Rachael: I think it’s both. And I think you can’t get away from it being both. Because it is very dark. There is a lot of damage. I still have a lot of damage. That’s just the truth. I think I have by God’s grace been able to learn to grieve in a healthy way. But there’s a lot more there than people realize and it is very heavy to be constantly immersed in so much destruction. To be constantly attacked. You know, just very simple things like the first 8 months, I had nightmares every single night, every single night, because I was just immersed in it. I had to relive the details all the time. And I knew that would be part of coming forward because it just always is. But even in the 15 years prior, you know, a nightmare every month, two times a month. Because it’s just part of who you are, the damage is there. The memories are there, and they will pop out at times when you least expect because they are. You know, memories are funny things because they are tied to sights and sounds and emotions and smells and so those memories can get triggered when you don’t expect them to get triggered and that’s something again that a lot of people don’t really realize when they’re walking through abuse with a survivor. Most survivors will experience flashbacks to the point where they can’t even keep a grasp on reality. Because what a lot of research has shown us is that if you think of just a normal memory, the way it’s stored and the way it’s accessed in your brain is you almost kind of see like its coming across a video screen. Like you’re watching it. So if you think of something that happened in your childhood, some kind of just neutral or a good memory, it’s almost like watching a movie. You might have some emotion attached to it, you’ll remember what you experienced and sensed. But, traumatic memories are stored and accessed very differently. They’re actually re-lived in the first person. And so, almost the same way. I guess the best way to explain it would be like a phantom pain. You know, someone who has been an amputee, they will “feel” pain in the limb that’s been amputated even those it’s not there anymore because their brain has that memory with it. Their nervous system has that memory engrained. And it’s the same way with trauma, when you have damage that severe, and those memories are triggered, for many survivors they’re to the point where they actually re-experience the abuse. They re-feel it. One woman that I counsel would bite her tongue to try to feel something in her mouth other than her rapist’s genitals. It’s very common for abuse survivors to keep sensory objects around like ice cubes, things that are intensely cold or that are very textured so that they can try to bring themselves out of those memories. And that’s not volitional. Often times they can’t even anticipate it happening because something will happen that triggers that memory that they weren’t expecting and then all of a sudden they’re just immersed in it again. And so for anyone that’s been through any kind of trauma, they’re constantly re-living those things and so it really drastically affects their life, and it affects their outlook on life, and it affects their ability to engage with the world around them because those memories can be triggered at any point. And they’re very difficult to walk through.

Suzanne: And probably not even just that, the storyline for your life, like I imagine for you.

Rachael: Yeah

Suzanne: Or I saw a video that you had done where you have a daughter who’s quite athletic or you know, and thinking about gymnastics and knowing the culture that’s there. You’re framework for understanding what your children should do, what they should be exposed to is drastically shaped by your experience.

Rachael: Yeah, it’s very different. You’ve seen the dark side of humanity and innocent things aren’t always innocent.

Suzanne: Yeah.

Patrick: How do you keep from falling head first into that cynicism?

Rachael: I think the biggest key really is to recognize the darkness and light exist in opposites. And the darkness is there, and we don’t pretend it’s not there, and we acknowledge it in all of its ugliness and in all of its horror. And we say, look it, this is what sin does. Sin destroys. Satan destroys. It’s horrific. Don’t do this. And that’s what I tell my kids. Obviously they’re a little bit young to know the depth of what we’re walking through. But that’s a message that I want them to understand. You know when someone is hurt, when they do something that is sinful and it hurts someone around them, or they suffer the consequences, that’s what I tell them. Look at how awful sin is. Look at how terrible this is. It destroys. It ravages everything. It hurts everyone around you. This is what Satan wants for you. So run the opposite direction. Run to Christ. And when you remember that, you can grieve the darkness and you can grieve the depth of the damage because it points you to God’s goodness and God’s glory and that eternal hope of perfect redemption.

Patrick: Having the space and the permission to grieve seems like… yeah…Can you share about your healing journey and where you’re at on that now?

Rachael: Yeah. Like most abuse survivors, I did the whole “I’m fine” thing for a long time. “I’m fine, I don’t need to deal with it. I don’t need to deal with it.” And I was very blessed to have a mother who was an abuse survivor herself and she finally came to me when I was sometime around seventeen, and she said “You’re not.”,“And you have to deal with it. And if you don’t deal with it, it’s gonna destroy you. So we’re moving your bedroom downstairs so that you have privacy. And here’s a journal. And here’s how it’s really good to start journaling” and just kind of walked me through that process in a way that gave me space and gave me privacy both practically and physically. But also gave me the support and the push that I needed to not just bury it anymore. And so, you know, it was years of working through that and just unpacking the damage and learning to trust again. But that really formed the foundation for just healing in general. And I’m just really grateful to have reached a really good place of healing before coming out against Larry. You know my husband was very instrumental in a lot of that as well. So God’s been very kind to surround me with people who have helped me through that journey. You know, and just even recognizing what healing looks like. Healing doesn’t mean that the scars aren’t there. And it doesn’t mean the damage isn’t there. It means you know what to do with the pain.

Patrick: That’s really encouraging. Maybe for someone who is trying to learn how to heal and has experienced something like this and doesn’t know what step to take, is just kind of in it at the moment and just can’t see anything good, what would you say to them? Or how would you encourage them to pursue a healing journey properly?

Rachael: I think finding a good, Christian counsellor, someone that can walk through those steps with you is really important. It was not something I had available to me but I do seen an incredible amount of value in it and so that would be one of the first things I’d say is find someone who’s safe, who’s skilled at walking through trauma so that they can walk that path with you. But just even learning to express what happened, to be able to put words to it, to be able to put words to the damage that was done, to be able to recognize the lies that you’ve believed about yourself, about God. And to be able to confront those lies with the truth. Often survivors will develop unhealthy, even sinful, coping mechanisms and so being able to look at what are the lies that I’ve believed that’s at the root of this destructive behaviour, and how do I combat that with the truth? Learning to grieve and to be able to acknowledge the damage and to grieve it in a way that is not destructive is incredibly important and I think really the foundation of healing. And to not try to shut yourself off from the darkness, to not say well it’s not that bad, why aren’t you over it yet? You know, it doesn’t exist. To speak the truth about it. This is horrific. This is evil, it’s very dark. Praise God for his hope, for redemption, for perfect healing in the end. And to let the darkness point you towards the light rather than trying to pretend it’s not there.

Patrick: Seems to be the reflex just to ignore the pain but until you lean into it, it’s hard to see the beauty of the gospel.

Rachael: And I think some of that for Christians has to do with a misunderstanding of or a misapplication of God’s sovereignty and what it means that God works all things together for good. He does and that’s an incredibly beautiful biblical truth. But a lot of times the way we apply that is, “well that was a terrible situation but God works it together for the good, so let’s look at all the good”.

Patrick: Right

Rachael: And it completely side steps grieving the bad.

Suzanne: It gets there too fast.

Rachael: Yeah, and I don’t think that’s quite what scripture means. You know, God is able to take something that is incredibly dark and he redeems it.

Suzanne: Right.

Rachael: But you don’t see the beauty of that redemption if you’ve pretended that the dark isn’t dark or that God’s goodness, it was all of a sudden a good thing. The fact that it’s…sometimes you’ll hear people say, “Well, you should get to the point of thanking God for the abuse.” No, the abuse was evil. It will always be evil. I thank God that he brings justice for the abuse, that he restores from the abuse, that in his perfect plan he’s using it for his glory and to bring good to me and to those around me. But the abuse is evil, and I don’t need to say otherwise.

Patrick: I want to go forever, but there’s so much to talk about on this subject. And you’re full of wisdom and I’m just really thankful for just the part of your story where you do point people towards Christ and you illuminate the gospel by acknowledging the darkness and for calling it out for what it is and for being an example to people who have been abused. What you can accomplish despite the fact that you might risk certain things by opening up but standing for something bigger than that and trusting God will work through it. Do you have any more?

Suzanne: I do. I have one last question in my mind it’s actually going to help shape my prayer for you. Not in this time, just how I pray for it. You’ve mentioned a few times that you have people that come forward, abuse survivors that are looking for counsel or just reaching out to you. How do you manage recognizing that you want to be faithful to the call that God has given you in that area and also you’re being faithful to your family life and managing that sort of tension and discerning what to say yes to?

Rachael: Yeah, that’s something we’re still really wading through to be honest. The last two years have been incredibly intense because they’ve had to be. The amount of time that it took for me to push the case forward. I mean there were, Jacob had to take days off work, he had to take days off of his studies at the PhD program so that I could sit down with journalists and with investigators and go through the legal elements and the medical elements. And it was just something that had to be done. But we are past that point now, just very very recently past that point, and so we are really prayerfully evaluating, just needing wisdom for how to balance that. Because if I neglect the children that God has given me, I’m missing what he’s called me to do. And so our focus is to be able to, you know, we’re homeschooling our kids, and to be present for them and to be, to establish good healthy routines, good healthy family life, and to be able to prioritize them and our marriage in the midst of ministry. And I think that’s a tension anyone in ministry feels but it’s very much something that we need a lot of wisdom for.

Patrick: I think I have one more question to round off our time here. I think it’s just particularly, maybe I’m just getting older and I’m more aware of the world but as I grow and I think forward about having children, sometimes I wonder, man this world sucks. It’s so dark and I’m sometimes scared. Am I going to bring someone into this world that’s gonna experience pain or suffering like I have or even worse than I have? And in your situation, you have 3, you have one on the way that will be born by the time this podcast comes out. To me, when I see a situation like that, that gives me hope. Children represent hope and potential and just innocence and beauty and I’m curious to know what your hope and prayer is for your children that will eventually grow up in a world maybe similar to this, maybe much worse, maybe better.

Rachael: There is a lot of that we’re still wading through too, to be honest. Because what it means to trust God with my children is something that I constantly wrestle with. It’s a lot easier for something to happen to me. I think as hard as it is, than it would be if something happened to my children. And so, that is something that we actively, I particularly, actively wrestle with. My hope and my prayer first and foremost is that my children are saved. And that they find their joy and their hope in Christ. And that they cling to him no matter what. Because that’s all I’ve got. That’s the only sure refuge for them and for their souls. And there’s not much more I can pray for them beyond that. There are lots of things that we’d love to see God do with them but we want them to love Christ and to be faithful wherever they’re put. And if that means they’re a janitor, to God be the glory, and if it means they argue in front of the supreme court, to God be the glory.

Patrick: And that’s our prayer for your family as well. So, thank you so much for coming and sharing with us and for just opening up your life to the world and just taking that on yourself but being such a great example to everybody. It’s a privilege to be here. I’m really happy that we got to talk, I feel encouraged. Suz, I know you have a big girl crush on Rachel here.

Suzanne: Definitely

Rachael: Well, it’s been great to be here.

Suzanne: We’re so happy we could make this work and we could just learn from you, hear from you, the people that will listen to this, I’m just praying even now in this moment that it will bring healing and education and empowerment.

Patrick: Yeah, at least at minimum I know I’ve learned at least one or two things so that’s pretty good.

Suzanne: That’s a good day’s work.

Patrick: This is great. Thank you so much for joining us.

Rachael: Thank you

–Outro–

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