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A Church Addresses Sexual Abuse: Caring For The Care Team

October 4, 2013

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On the weekend of May 18-19 The Summit Church (Durham, NC) addressed the subject of sexual abuse in all of our weekend services. This series is a reflection of those services, the preparation that went into them, and the aftercare that was provided.

We do not propose to have done this weekend perfectly, although we worked diligently to conduct each aspect with excellence. Our hope is that the resources produced will allow other churches to address this needed subject and improve upon our efforts. This is a subject that addresses 40% of our church, community, and world (1 in 4 women; 1 in 6 men). The church cannot be silent.

“If you preach the gospel in all aspects with the exception of the issues that deal specifically with your time, you are not preaching the gospel at all.” Martin Luther

Unfortunately, I must admit that this portion of our resources was put together in response to hearing about the “weight” that serving on the care team placed upon our members. I should have foreseen this burden and prepared to care for the care givers in advance.

My hope in placing it here is two fold. First, I hope it serves well those at Summit who were willing to walk into the suffering of others to incarnate the love of Christ. Second, I hope it allows other churches who address the subject of sexual abuse to begin the process of preparing their care team for the weight of secondary trauma in advance of the weekend services where they address the issue.

Above is an 8 minute video that overviews the how/ why secondary trauma (the stress of compassionately listening to someone else’s trauma) affects the care giver and some approaches to alleviating those affects.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

  • How the Gospel Speaks to Suffering (video) – This is part four of Summit counseling’s six -part “core training” for our counseling interns and Freedom Group leaders. As a church, we are often better at applying the gospel to sin (forgiveness) than suffering (comfort and healing). This video is an attempt to bring more balance to our practical theology.
  • Gospel-Centered Counseling for Suffering (SUFFERING_GOSPEL_article_Hambrick) – This is a walk through Psalm 102 that seeks to show how God gives words to our suffering as a way of demonstrating His willingness to bring hope and restoration to our suffering. Too often we view the unpleasant emotions of suffering as inherently wrong and, therefore, feel compelled to repent of them (as if God were an offended boss) rather than bring them to Him honestly (as if He were a compassionate Father).
  • Walking Alongside a Struggler by Diane Langberg (Walking Alongside a Struggler_Langberg) – This a three page article by Diane Langberg (visit www.dianelangberg.com for more resources) giving guidance to lay counselors who are willing to walk alongside those who are facing intense suffering.
  • Counseling Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Diane Langberg (book; part 6 chapters 23-25) – In this section of her book Diane Langberg goes into greater detail about how counseling traumas, such as sexual abuse, affect the counselor and provides guidance to the care giver on important aspects of self-care so that we can sustain as care givers.
  • Compassion Fatigue: Coping With Secondary Post Traumatic Disorder in Those Who Treat the Traumatized (book) – This is a full book devoted to the subject of secondary traumatic stress.
  • Coping With Post Traumatic Disorder: A Guide For Families by Cheryl A. Roberts (book) – What was faced by our after service care team over this weekend can be the day-in-day-out reality of families who have a loved one who suffers from PTSD. This book provides guidance for those families.

At least one additional point should have been included in the video above. Try not to fight recurring thoughts, dreams, or flashbacks. After learning of the frequency of sexual abuse, some people say, “I have a hard time not wondering if each child I see has been sexually abused,” or “I replay aspects of the conversation I had with the abuse survivor over and over in my mind.”

These are normal after hearing of a trauma, and usually decrease over time and become less painful. Fighting them is a form of rehearsing that makes it harder for the thoughts to dissipate. Take this as an opportunity to pray for the individual or situation of concern and then re-engage with whatever would be normal for that part of your day.

If after several weeks these thoughts still persist, then it is recommended that you seek counseling to help you process the effects of suffering. For those at Summit or in the RDU community we would recommend the resources found at www.summitrdu.com/counseling.