Sexual Abuse Interview

May 22, 2013

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As part of our BCC vision, we want to help you to get to know gifted Christian authors and their books. This week we’re highlighting Bob Kellemen as he talks about his new booklet, Sexual Abuse: Beauty for Ashes, which is part of the P & R Publishing/Association of Biblical Counselors The Gospel for Real Life series.

BCC: “Bob, thank you for interviewing with us about your new booklet, Sexual Abuse: Beauty for Ashes. You begin the booklet with a vignette with Ashley and her husband, Nate. After Ashley shares her history of sexual abuse, Nate asks, ‘Does the Bible offer any hope for my wife?’ So, we would ask, ‘Can the church help those who have been sexually abused?’”

BK: “Another way we can word that vital question is, ‘Does Christianity, the gospel, God’s Word offer hope for those who have experienced the horrors of sexual abuse?’ When the church remains in denial about sexual abuse and assault, then it is easy to assume that we must look elsewhere for answers. However, the Bible faces sexual abuse honestly and openly. That’s why in this booklet we learn how to face sexual abuse face-to-face with Christ. We learn from God’s relevant Word a robust understanding of the damage done by sexual abuse. And we learn from God’s Word robust wisdom teaching us that grace is God’s prescription for the disgrace of sexual abuse.”

BCC: “You make a point of explaining that the Bible is not a moralistic handbook with quick, easy behavioral steps we are to take. What is the message of the Bible and how does that central message relate to healing from sexual abuse?”

BK: “God’s mission statement throughout the Bible is clear. God communicates to us: ‘I Am Indispensable.’ God’s Word is not an advertisement for a trouble-free life. Instead, it proclaims our need for God’s grace because of our continual struggle with suffering and sin. In the booklet, we examine 2 Samuel 13 and Amnon’s rape of his half-sister, Tamar. This section of Scripture, along with the entire Davidic narrative, points us to our ultimate need for the Greater David—for Jesus Christ. Tamar’s narrative in 2 Samuel 13 remarkably represents themes woven throughout the rest of Scripture’s teaching on sexual abuse—the damage done and the Christ-centered path to God’s healing hope.”

BCC: “What is the damage done by sexual abuse?”

BK: “The Bible teaches us that sexual abuse is ultimately spiritual abuse—it attacks us body and soul. In Tamar’s life we see this damage, this attempted destruction, in four primary ways. In the booklet we use the language of a journey, which allows Tamar’s story to show us four road map markers on the journey into the soul of a person who has been sexually abused. This helps us to avoid the idea of ‘stages’ or ‘phases,’ which might mistakenly cause us to think that there exists some common, linear, nice and neat process. There’s nothing nice or neat about sexual abuse! It is evil and complex, awful and hideous. Each situation is different, and each victim of abuse is a unique image bearer.”

BCC: “What are those four ‘road map markers’”?

BK: “In Tamar’s life, we detect four themes that occur across Scripture and across the lives and souls of those who have been abused.

  • Journey One: The Damage of the Loss of Trust—The Attempted Destruction of Faith (2 Samuel 13:1-12).
  • Journey Two: The Damage of Powerlessness—The Attempted Destruction of Hope (2 Samuel 13:2, 11-14).
  • Journey Three: The Damage of Shame—The Attempted Destruction of Peace/Shalom (2 Samuel 13:13-17).
  • Journey Four: The Damage of Being Used and Feeling Useless—The Attempted Destruction of Love (2 Samuel 13:14-20).

These provide us with a clear picture of the prime strategy of the Evil One. It is his strategy to use the horrors of sexual abuse to destroy that which enables us to be most human: faith, hope, peace, and love.”

BCC: “As you talk about Satan’s strategy with sexual abuse, you weave in Ashley’s story and Tamar’s story. That makes Sexual Abuse: Beauty for Ashes very ‘raw and real.’ How does the raw reality help us to address sexual abuse?”

BK: “To win the battle in Christ, we must first name the damage that has been done to us as bearers of God’s image. In 2 Samuel 13, Scripture gives voice to the voiceless by helping us to hear the cry of the sexually abused soul. Putting it all together, we can see four summary portraits that help us to frame some of the horrific damage done by sexual abuse.

  • The Loss of Faith: The door of the heart bolted shut—fearing to ever trust anyone again.
  • The Loss of Hope: The death of dreams—life killing our hopes and dreams.
  • The Loss of Peace: The downcast eyes—portraying unrelenting shame.
  • The Loss of Love: The torn robes of the king’s child—feeling unlovable and unable to love.

These four images from Tamar in 2 Samuel 13 capture something of the black hole of emptiness that often result from sexual abuse.”

BCC: “In the second half of your booklet, you shift from ‘victim’ to ‘victor,’ and as you do so, you start by discussing those two somewhat controversial words—victim and victor.”

BK: “I understand that some people do not accept the ‘victim’ terminology. If by victim we mean an ongoing victimization mentality of helplessness and hopelessness, then I would not use that word either. However, we minimize the horrible sinfulness of abuse and the profound consequences of abuse when we reject the truth that the person who was abused was victimized. Sexual abuse has a perpetrator and a victim.

On the other hand, even the word victory can be misunderstood. Victory does not mean the memories are all wiped away. Victory does not mean all emotions are changed with the snap of a finger or the quoting of a verse. Instead, victory involves a lifelong journey with Christ and the body of Christ.”

BCC: “What does that lifelong journey look like?”

BK: “As we journey with a sexual abuse victim toward victory in Christ, we seek to bring Christ’s healing to the four primary areas of damage caused by sexual abuse:

  • Journey One: Sustaining Faith—Developing trust in the midst of doubt by learning to trust again.
  • Journey Two: Healing Hope—Clinging to the goodness of God in the midst of the badness of life.
  • Journey Three: Reconciling Peace—Receiving Christ’s grace in the midst of our disgrace.
  • Journey Four: Guiding Love—Offering beauty in the midst of ashes.

In the booklet, as we explore these four aspects of the healing journey, we use my biblical counseling with Ashley and Nate to illustrate the application of biblical principles both for the victim of abuse and for the person helping the abuse victim.”

BCC: “As you illustrate these relational wisdom principles, you paint pictures of the compassionate, wise counselor. Please share those with our readers.”

BK: “First, if the door of Ashley’s heart is bolted shut, then she needs trustworthy people to earn the right to be invited in. So we can capture what Ashley needs in the sustaining process as a courageous friend who enters the black hole of doubt and fear and hurt.

Second, if life has killed the dreams Ashley dreamed, then in the healing process she needs a champion who celebrates the resurrection with her. She needs hope-giving encouragers who point her to Christ and His resurrection power.

Third, if loss of peace has caused Ashley to live with downcast eyes, always looking down and moving away from God and others, then she needs peace-giving soul physicians to point her to Christ’s grace. So, in the reconciling journey, Ashley needs a Christ-focused dispenser of grace.

Fourth, if loss of love has caused Ashley to tear the robes of the King’s daughter, then she needs caring people with spiritual eyes to help her envision who she is in Christ. In the guiding journey she needs a coach who trains the heart.”

BCC: “How does the subtitle—Beauty for Ashes—relate to the message of the book?”

BK: “During our final counseling meeting, Nate surprised Ashley with a beautiful wood plaque. His wording wove together Isaiah 61:1-3 and the meaning of Ashley’s name:

One Who Is a Tree Planted by Streams of Living Water
As Ash Tree Oak of Righteousness
Planted and Nourished by the LORD for the Display of His Splendor

I then conclude the booklet with these words:

‘Dear reader, never forget who you are in Christ. You are the King’s daughter or son. You are God’s workmanship, His epic poem, His opus, His masterpiece. All the evil you have ever suffered, God in Christ has been weaving together for good—for beauty, for splendor.’”

BCC: “Where can people learn more about Sexual Abuse: Beauty for Ashes?”

BK: “At my website, RPM Ministries, at the Sexual Abuse: Beauty for Ashes page, people can read quotes of note, read a summary of the book, and learn what others are saying. People can order copies at the RPM Store and they can also order at all your typical e-tailers like Amazon, CBD, and at the Association of Biblical Counselors’ store.”

BCC: “Thank you, Bob, for writing this practical booklet that equips God’s people to find Christ’s healing hope even in the midst of the horrors of sexual abuse.” 

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