A broken Hallelujah: Understanding Sexual Abuse
Tim Hein speaks with authority as he draws on research findings, his personal experience and the personal experience of his wife Priscilla, herself a child sex abuse survivor. He shares from his own Christian faith in his role as a church leader. The author essentially outlines how we can best support abuse survivors through their disclosure and recovery journey, by holistically examining a very broad model, looking at science, research, psychology, personal experience and the word of God.
It is an extremely “user friendly” resource as the author makes it very clear from the outset that he is not going to divulge details of his abuse, as his “goal is not to shock, but rather to empower and inform readers”.
Tim shares common experiences of survivors and raises our awareness of the challenges they may face. “Survivors of abuse are statistically more likely to experience depression, anxiety-related disorders or panic attacks, to develop eating disorders or substance dependence, to show antisocial or aggressive behaviour, and to consider attempted suicide.” He is real and authentic, sharing personally about the realities of the scars that trauma leaves and yet he is also hopeful, believing that recovery is something that is achievable. It is possible to become “whole again”. The aptly written chapter entitled, “A broken Hallelujah” beautifully embodies some of the tensions on this journey, highlighting the importance of allowing space in our worship of God for sadness, lament, mourning, grief and loss.
Tim shares a very comprehensive and yet readable account on the implications of trauma. The following paragraph serves as an example in terms of offering an explanation on how survivors of child sex abuse struggle with a “FRAGMENTED IDENTITY”, the depths and complexity of which cannot be underplayed when endeavouring to support survivors in church:
One significant reason why children embrace their sense of guilt and worthlessness is to maintain a normal relationship with the wider world, including their parents and other adults. Internalising the evil helps them feel like it is contained; it allows them to keep living their life. In a world full of powerful adults, it’s too overwhelming for a child to consider they may all be bad. But if they themselves are the bad one, then they can continue to cope with the world.
The author maps priorities for those in Christian leadership in supporting survivors both during disclosure and recovery after trauma. He speaks with clarity on spiritual considerations and offers a significantly helpful chapter on justice, anger and particularly the question of forgiveness. Some insights that he offers on the complexity of FORGIVENESS are:
- “Our eagerness to encourage quick forgiveness can actually come from our own desire for the person to calm down and just seem all right”
- “A significant aspect of the trauma of abuse is the feeling of powerlessness. To be confronted with the insinuated obligation to forgive is to actually have that powerlessness reaffirmed”.
- “True Christian forgiveness is a different thing from a quick self-manipulated determination to forgive, which merely covers over unprocessed trauma and actually RESTRICTS healing”.
- “To forgive is first to condemn. True forgiveness does not pretend the offense did not happen, or does not matter, or can quickly be forgotten. Rather true forgiveness necessitates that we first condemn the act as wrong. We must name it. Condemnation is an indispensable part of forgiveness”.
The author is courageous, understanding the importance of being able to ask, “Where is God?” as part of our grief. He testifies to the comfort found in having freedom to ask hard questions, to ask them and “be heard”. Our role as supporters is to “demonstrate that God is listening” so that we might begin to truly “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12v5). Tim reflects deeply on the harsh realities of the “Traumatic Cross” where the Son of God experienced shame, nakedness, trauma and abuse. He concludes “God went there before I did”. He testifies to the anchor that Jesus’s death and resurrection is to him as a survivor of child sex abuse. “It liberates me, restores me, sustains me, fills me and compels me”. The final chapter is helpful in carving out realistic long-term expectations for both survivors and their supporters. The author offers numerous practical suggestions and thought provoking personal insights when it comes to “choosing life” in the wake of child abuse trauma.
This book is both passionately and humbly penned. It is written with integrity. It is a work borne out of unthinkable suffering which I believe can be used powerfully to bring glory to the name of Jesus as we seek to support survivors of child sex abuse.
- Survivors of child sexual abuse
- Church leaders
- Any Christian endeavouring to support a survivor of child abuse trauma.
Purpose of the book:
- To guide and inform readers on the NATURE and TRAUMA of child sexual abuse outlining challenges survivors may experience.
- To empower survivors on their journey of recovery and healing.
- To prepare church and ministry leaders to support survivors of sex abuse.
- To help the church take seriously its responsibility of creating a safe environment for the broken and hurting.
Drawing on his own experience as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, minister and lecturer Tim Hein offers his expertise, practical guidance, and empathy. For those who have suffered sexual abuse and those in a position to help them, this is a rich resource filled with sober truths and the hope of Christ.