A BOOK REACTION & REVIEW
“The pain of sexual violation doesn’t go away when the abuse stops, but casts a dark shadow in the present. It disrupts a life and created multilayered suffering.”Introduction
These words ring true in my counseling practice; they ring true in my counseling work in foster care and I know they ring true in the ebb-and-flow of yours and my local church. The lingering effects of sexual trauma impacts marriage in a way that we hardly ever anticipate. Whether you are a victim of sexual assault, a spouse of someone whose been victimized, this little 64-page mini-book will help begin (or build on) a foundation of seeing the pervasive hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ no matter what has happened to us, even past sexual abuse.
A target audience is the couple whose sexual relationship may be struggling due to past abuse.
A BROAD OVERVIEW
The booklet is broken into four main parts:
- The Shadow of Sexual Abuse
- God and Sexual Abuse
- God’s Call for Restraint and Faith
- Growing in Marital Intimacy
It can be read in about 30 minutes (depending on how quickly you read). It’s packed full of wisdom and insight; providing very practical and helpful advice for married couples, not to mention laden with a compassionate and understanding feel to it as you read.
The booklet is co-authored by a counseling professor with Reformed Theological Seminary, Nate Brooks, PhD as well as Anna Mondal, a writer and counselor in San Diego, CA. They each approach this topic with humility, openness, honesty and with an unwavering commitment to the sufficiency of the Bible to help us with sexual issues in our marriage.
Nate and Anna know their Bible and work together to help us understand that God is not only fully aware of the reality of the raw pain that accompanies sexual abuse, but also that God himself is familiar with suffering along with all the familiar sorts of pain and hardships that come along with the lingering effects of sexual abuse. “When we have questions about pain, Scripture points us to Jesus Christ. He suffered injustice, oppression, exploitation, and betrayal.” (Pg. 13)
TRAUMA EFFECTS US IN WAYS WE DON’T ALWAYS UNDERSTAND
Marriage is one of the greatest gifts God has given us. Within the context of marriage, sexual intimacy serves as a kind of crescendo of the picture of the joy God designed for us to have in Him. As sin tarnishes our relationship with God, a sexual abuse past can significantly hinder marital sexual intimacy. The effects are often times out of our control. Trauma impacts us in ways that we can hardly explain. If you’re an abuse survivor, the concept of unwanted body memories is not new to you – it’s a lived reality. If you haven’t been abused, you may struggle to grasps its post-traumatic imprint. (Pg 20).
But thanks be to God whose Word is living and active, sharper than a double-edged sword, able to penetrate to the deepest part of us effecting transformation in such a way where we see little by little the helpful and nurturing aid of the Word of God to the wounded soul.
Therefore, Christ-likeness always remains our priority whether you are a survivor or spouse to a survivor. Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we will develop a new capacity to see how God redeems us from our traumatic pasts, enables us to better support and love our spouses in light of their past and helps us all heed the call of God (obedience and faith) even in the midst of a season of recovery and healing.
GROWING IN MARITAL INTIMACY
Growing in marital intimacy is the title of one of the sections, containing lots of excellent and practical counsel. They authors provide us with areas of focus for the couple; areas of focus for an abuse survivor and areas of focus for spouses of survivors. An example of each:
Focus #1 Cultivate and atmosphere of love and care for your spouse
Focus #2 Be open with your spouse about what does and does not help you
For Spouses of Survivors:
Focus #1 Be patient with your spouse
These focus areas are discussed in the context of building sexual intimacy. Building sexual intimacy does not happen automatically or by itself. Building sexual intimacy requires the husband and wife to cling to Christ with a mindfulness to be deliberate in their actions toward their spouse.
We cannot do this alone. We need the body of Christ. We need the word of God. We need the Holy Spirit. Wherever you may be on the spectrum of the recovery process, let me echo the sentiment of the authors by encouraging you to find another mature couple with whom you can journey; or find a strong, mature and wise Christian counselor, or solicit support from your pastor or church elders where possible.
FOR PASTORS & COUNSELORS
Given the pervasiveness of the statistics of those who’ve been sexually assaulted, it is likely you currently have sheep under your care who need this support. I highly recommend this little booklet to help your own formulations of needed wisdom and insights. If anything, it’s an excellent place to start. There is a resource page of a list of 12 books and resources for your consideration.
Victims of sexual abuse know the pain doesn’t go away when the abuse stops. A couple’s sexual relationship within the covenant of marriage is not immune to the continuing impact of past sexual abuse of one spouse.