Grounded Podcast

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Healing from Sexual Trauma, with Tara Barthel and Mary Kassian

Sexual abuse is a global problem and likely a painful subject for you or someone you know. This episode is a message of hope for sexual trauma survivors. Christian mediator, attorney, and author Tara Barthel shares her story of trauma and gives wise, practical steps to take toward healing. Author and Bible teacher Mary Kassian joins the conversation with biblical hope and a reminder that you don’t have to stay in bondage. May this episode encourage you with the truth that in Christ, healing is possible.

Connect with Tara:

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Connect with Mary:

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Episode Notes:

“What it Means to Be Peacemakers” episode

Free Resources from Tara

“Healing from the Scars of Abuse” video

“Trusting God to Heal the Scars of Sexual Abuse” post“

5 Mistakes to Avoid in Ministering to the Sexually Abused” post

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Introduction to the Topic of Sexual Trauma

Portia Collins: Welcome back to Grounded, a podcast and video cast for Revive Our Hearts. I'm Portia Collins. 

Erin Davis: And I'm Erin Davis, our co-host Dannah Gresh, get this, is swimming with the sharks today. She's on vacation.

Hey, we're going to kick off today's episode a little differently than normal. And that is by starting a timer. If you look on your screen, you'll start to notice some numbers flashing. They are going to count up to the number 68.

Portia: And that's because every 68 seconds, another American is sexually assaulted. And that includes women, men and children. 

Erin: That does. We know that this is a global problem. It's not an American problem. It goes beyond that. We also know that there are likely parts of the world where sexual abuse is happening even more frequently than every 68 seconds, which is hard to imagine hard to even think about. That may be even true in the part of the world where you live. We know that we have Grounded viewers watching right now from around the world. But for this episode, we're going to use that number 68 to represent the fact that every 68 seconds, someone in America is experiencing some form of sexual abuse.

Portia: Today's topic is healing from sexual trauma. We know that even hearing those words may cause many of us to flinch in pain. You know, it's unfathomable. Some of us even want to stop listening at this point, because this is a painful subject. 

Erin: Sure. You may be thinking, Hey, it is Monday morning. I just wanted to chat with my Grounded friends. And here we're going to go and talk about something that might be very, very painful for you, but sister to sister . . . That's what we are, we're sisters. Can I just encourage you to stick with us? Because this our mission: to give hope. I have such expectation for this to be a hope-filled episode. I'm going to ask you to do something very brave. 

The focus of this episode is going to be the healing that only Jesus can bring to those who've experienced some sort of sexual trauma—really, of any trauma. He can do it. We're going to hear stories that he is able to bring healing. But if you're watching right now, if you're watching the live version of Grounded, and you're comfortable letting us know that God is in the process of healing you from sexual trauma, would you just use that chat feature right now as you're watching on Facebook or YouTube. 

I just want you to type the word “healing.” Now, that doesn't mean that you're totally healed, you're on the other side of that. Maybe you're just at the beginning of healing, maybe you've been healing for a long time. But just that word “healing.” I would love to see how many of you would say that is true of your life. That's true of your story. 

We're going to be talking about when and how to share more of your story if you've experienced some sexual trauma later in this episode, but we do want to show that this is an issue that does not stay outside the walls of our churches. It impacts many, many women we know. And so, I just want to pray before we move further for those of you who are in the process of healing from sexual trauma, that you would just be brave enough to write that word in the chat.

Jesus, we love You. You are our healer. It can be so terrifying to share deep places of hurt and pain and trauma and suffering. I just pray for any woman watching live now, or listening later who this is her storyboard. I pray You will comfort her by the power of Your Holy Spirit right now. And I pray You would do something miraculous in her heart over the course of the next 45 minutes or so through this episode. Amen. 

Portia: Amen.

Erin: And you know, what I also know is that only about 25% of sexual assaults are ever reported—only about 25%. What do you think about that number P?

Portia: That is mind blowing to me.

Erin: Right.

Portia: Like, literally, you would think it would be higher, but no, no.

Erin: There's a lot that don't ever get reported. And so, what I know is that for every healing we see in the chat, there are many who feel that they could never, ever tell—not even writing that word “healing” on an online forum such as this where there's some level of ambiguity. And so, if that's you, that's okay. I just want to pray for you, especially this morning as we jump into this topic. 

Lord, I pray for the women whose sexual trauma is something that she's never spoken out loud about. She feels like she can never speak out loud about it. I praise you that You know about it, and that she can talk to You about it. And I pray for her that she would be wrapped in peace by the power of your Holy Spirit, in this episode, as well. In your name, I pray. Amen. 

Portia: Amen.

Well, our team has been preparing for this episode. And we've shared some of our own stories of times when someone in our lives acted in ways that were not respectful or appropriate. We've shared how that made us feel, and it made me realize all over again, how very prevalent this is. Okay. We, I mean, looking at the comments just in even thinking of stories, recounting women who have come to me after years, years, like maybe 20 years or so.

Erin: Sometimes decades. 

Portia: Though, this is something that is uncomfortable to talk about. It is something we want to talk about, because our mission here, and you guys know it, is to give you hope and perspective. 

Erin: Yeah, I woke up this morning excited, and that feels like such a weird word for this topic, but excited to talk about it. Excited for women to hear that hope is possible. Excited for you all to hear the stories you're going to hear. I just know there is power in bringing things that can be very dark into the light, and it is very prevalent. What I hope is that I'm not going to ever know the same depths of violence that some of you who are watching this right now or listening to it that you've already experienced.

I truly hope that there are some women who are watching and listening to Grounded who have no first-hand experience with sexual trauma. But wherever we are on that spectrum, no firsthand experience to the most extreme kinds of sexual trauma any of us could think of. Wherever we are on that spectrum, we all have one thing in common. And that's this, because of Jesus, only because of Jesus, we don't have to stay in bondage. 

You're going to hear from a couple of women today who found the key. They turned the lock; they walked out of the prison door that can sometimes feel like a prison when you're dealing with trauma. They walked out. You're going to hear from women who experienced healing, and not just a one-time miraculous healing, maybe but they are continuing to walk out and experience healing after sexual trauma.

Portia: Tara Barthel is with us this morning. She's been on Grounded before. The last time she briefly mentioned this part of her story. As soon as the show ended, Erin, who is an amazing point guard, asked her to come back as a guest to explore it more.

She loves Jesus; she knows His Word, and she's going to get out the firehose of hope for us this morning. 

Erin: That's my favorite part about Monday morning, that fire hose of hope. Mary Kassian is also with us. Any time I get to spend time with Mary Kassian, and in any format, virtual in person, it is a huge blessing. I know you feel the same. If Tara's gonna get out the firehose of hope, Mary's gonna plunge us into the ocean of truth in ways that only Mary can do. She has such deep wisdom in her heart. You're gonna want to keep your Bible handy. Because if I know Mary, she's going to have us opening them soon. So, grab your Bible, and get ready for the firehose of hope and the ocean of truth. I don't think there's any sharks in either of those. We'll leave the sharks Dannah. 

Portia: Absolutely. Well, if you do not have sexual trauma in your past, I promise you that you know someone who does. Here's something sobering. Research tells us sexual trauma survivors often decreased church attendance, or they stopped going all together.

Erin: That made me so sad, Portia.

Portia: Me too. Every time I think about it, I'm just like, “Lord, bring them back; that’s where they get hope.” 

Erin: That's right. That’s right where we want them.

Portia: Well. They report that they trust God less than those without sexual trauma in their past. But we, the Church, can and should be a safe place and source of healing and comfort for a survivor of sexual abuse or sexual violence. Today is your invitation to discover God's healing through His body, the Church, and through His Word, the Bible. If you have known a woman who has been impacted, share this with her right now be the invitation for her.

Erin: Portia, sometimes I watch the Grounded playback, and I think, Man, I was nodding so aggressively there. But I was just nodding very aggressively to you. Because yeah, I'm counting on you to tell women. This is odd. I'm counting on you to remind yourself to remind others not to leave the church because of your trauma. But to come back experiencing the healing that Jesus can give. 

Interview with Tara Barthel on Sexual Trauma

Erin: Tara, welcome to Grounded. I cannot wait to hear your heart. I can't wait for Grounded ladies to hear your heart. If they missed you when you were on Grounded before, we're going to drop the link because in my mind that is a not-to-be-missed episode of Grounded about how to be peacemakers. But that's not our topic this morning. So I'll let you introduce yourself, what are a couple things that you want the women watching and listening to know about Tara?

Tara Barthel: Well, good morning from Montana. I am Tara Barthel. By training I'm an attorney. I've worked in the field of Christian mediation for decades now, if you can believe it, having just passed my 51st birthday last week.

Portia: Happy Birthday.

Tara: As a mediator, I have worked in a number of situations involving sexual assault, especially in the church. I don't know if you know or not, but church youth group and church youth activities are the number two most likely place for children to be sexually molested, sexually assaulted—church camps, Christian youth activities. But I think, Erin, one of the reasons why you invited me back today is we had that connection point that the Lord actually brought this topic into my life, not in a professional way, but in the most personal way. 

As I was speaking at a women's leadership conference in the Midwest, when I was flying home, in one of my airports, I was actually sexually assaulted. I had to go through the criminal matter, the civil matter, get into trauma counseling. Then as a mediator, I was doing this work. But also, the Lord was hyperlinking, bringing into the light as we use scriptural terms, things from my childhood from slumber parties thatI had honestly never processed and really brought to the Lord. 

And so that's, I think, why I'm here today. Erin.

Erin: That’s why you’re here. 

Tara: We're gonna be talking about your spectrum of healing from sexual trauma. 

Erin: In that other episode of Grounded, the topic was being peacemakers a really important topic. You brought such deep wisdom. You just kind of mentioned this as an aside as part of your story. I'm telling you, something in my spirit stood at attention. I thought, We have to talk about this, I want Tara to be the one to talk about this, because you are so word-saturated and full of hope. But I imagine that incident where you were hurt in that airport. Tara, it was a stranger, I'm assuming it was?

Tara: It was.

Erin: Okay. So you're hurt by a stranger in an airport. That must have felt like a nuclear bomb going off. But like a nuclear bomb, then there's the radiation and the after effects. So what were the repercussions physically, relationally, spiritually. What was it like after the months and maybe years after?

Tara: It's funny you say that, Erin. People have different responses to trauma. We hear of fight or flight, but there's actually a fight or flight and freeze response. And because of my temperament, the way my mind works, people would think I'm like the fight response. And I would guess that if you had surveyed me, I'd be screaming and kicking.

Actually, I have learned more about that because I did have a childhood of neglect and abuse and trauma. Counseling began to identify my pattern. When I am being physically threatened and physically hurt is to freeze and to silence. So my initial response, it wasn't anything like a nuclear bomb. I actually closed in, and I went very quiet. I have been a trained mediator who has worked in crisis and all this, but it took me a long time before I said out loud the words to anyone what had happened. I could only write the words to my husband. I couldn't even say them out loud. 

The first time I spoke to a detective from adult violent crimes, I mean, I almost have tears in my eyes just thinking about it, because he was actually a trauma survivor, too. Sometimes the police will be traumatized trauma survivors, inadvertently, because they don't know how to handle it. But this gentleman was, even my attorney said, the most not just professional, but he was used. He was perfectly suited for his position, because he handled even . . . It was months before I could even report the crime. 

You see movies, like, why are you taking a shower, you need to save the evidence. But the thing about trauma is, God has created human beings in two substances. We are body and soul. We are outer man and inner man. And so often as Christians, we actually are pretty good at the inner man stuff—that theology and the belief and the hope and the repentance. But I am thinking about it, going back to my childhood. I was saved in front of the public school. I never had a teacher, a youth group leader, a pastor . . . I did short-term mission work. I mean, I've taken seminary classes, all of these men working full-time ministry. Never once did a Christian leader or friend or peer teach me about the two aspects of not just sexual trauma but I will say any trauma, but let's keep it focused on sexual trauma. Our bodies respond in ways, like touching a hot stove.

Erin: I would say they are God-given ways, wouldn’t you?

Tara: Absolutely. When our body is so overwhelmed by these chemicals and these nerves, they think it's survival. I'm not a medical doctor. So, help me out licensed personal counselors and doctors and all these. But it's actually a parasympathetic response, where the intentional conscious part of your body, if all of that was functioning, you probably couldn't survive it. But the Lord made our beautiful bodies so amazing that we adjust. But the problem is, as Portia was spot on, you were spot on, we don't know about it. 

We haven't heard about it, even though probably two out of every three people sitting next to us in church either has personally experienced it or someone they love for sure has. We haven't heard about it. We don't know how to identify signs of a trauma reaction. Well-intentioned Christians misinterpret them as sin, defiance, disobedience, anger, you need to repent, right? 

We're having physiological responses that need help. But we in the Christian world are not equipped. We're not talking about it. Here's the problem over in the medical world, which is very important, honestly. I do not believe, Erin, I would be here right now were it not for the medical helps I've received. They do not anchor their life in their hope in their eternity and their present day in Christ. 

Erin: Right.

Tara: They're not interpreting everything through the lens of His Word and grounding it in Scripture. It's helpful, but it's ultimately lacking, right? 

Erin: So, it's that disembodied spirit that you were talking about that we as Christians fail to minister to the body. The Lord has created us as both right? So that's so important. What I've heard as a woman all my life is tell, tell, tell, tell, tell. Bring that person to justice. Save other women from whatever harm they might cause. I can definitely remember three friends who have come to me who really are never going to tell the authorities and for good reason. I'm friends with another two women that I could think of by name this morning who did go to the police. And like you mentioned, it was a very, very painful process that did not result in an arrest. So from a biblical perspective, let's shift the conversation back to God's Word.

Why? I'm going to say you not telling somebody could be broader than telling the police. But from a biblical perspective, why is telling someone that you've been sexually traumatized an important step when it comes to healing?

Tara: Because we know that Satan, the world, and our flesh—our three enemies revealed in Scripture—they always want to keep things in the darkness. But Christ is the light. And so, He wants us to bring it out into the light. Here's one of the problems. Don't be surprised if the first Christian you speak with responds poorly.

Erin: Yeah, I’ve been that Christian that's heard these stories and responded poorly.

Tara: Of course. I mean, well intentioned, especially male leaders, pastors, they don't know how to touch this. They don't want to, especially when it’s sexual things or if they are in the church. Now we have the overlapping.

I've worked with and had friends like you. I do have where it was their father, who was their pastor, who was sexually molesting them. Then what do we do with all those layers that bring into light precedent. God's sovereignty and goodness, He's always working together on things. It's not pie in the sky.

And friends, you're going to be surprised that some of the most spiritually mature people you thought would be most helpful could be the most destructive and hurtful. Don't give up. But you have to be wise and discerning and try to get to help. Don't think because that person has taught me the most about Christ, that Bible study leader, spiritual mother had a poor response and actually made you feel more dirty or ashamed or hidden. Don't give up speaking, bring it into the light. There are people who understand and are ready and equipped to help you. 

Erin: I wonder how much those poor responses from us are based on our own experiences that we haven't quite dealt with. That might be true for me on some level. There's a lot of grace needed to tell; there's a lot of grace needed to hear. But I love that you said don't give up. 

We started earlier in this episode that women with sexual trauma (I assume this is probably true of men and children too) . . . Our research found that those who had sexual abuse, they are more likely to drop out of church and to say that they don't trust God. And humanly speaking, I’ve got to say, I understand that. There's this sense of, “How could a good God let this horrible thing happened to me?” And yet, Tara, I see you having joy. I see you having vibrant faith. I see you holding up your Bible and saying this is it; this is where the answers are . . . even with multiple painful parts of your story. So how do you explain that? How do you explain experiencing trauma and still having a vibrant faith in Jesus?

Tara: Erin, you also aren't seeing the times I was sitting in church for years not even conscience because I was sobbing and couldn't read. You're not seeing night terrors. They're night terrors every night, blood curdling screaming. You're not seeing trying to get help from counseling Christians. And as we've said, it’s a hurt worse from pastors, church leaders, friends. Then trying to sit with a trauma counselor with an experienced trauma counselor and thinking if I say these words out loud, I will, just burn up on the spot. Like, I'll be a poof of ash on the guy's chair. I could even say the words I've said out loud to you right now, for years where I couldn't even think of saying those words out loud. 

Erin: Well, that image of you only being able to write it down and pass it to your loving husband. I get that I think a lot of women get that. That is scary.

Tara: I thought, We I cannot discuss this. I can't say the words out loud. And here's poor sweet Fred, steady Freddy, you know, Deacon Fred. What do I do with this, now? How do I help protect my wife? He didn't know right? None of us who have walked through that have received a lot of health care. I've received a lot of help. And remembering that spiritual and physical . . . The duality, I think, for me has been the key, because we Christians, often unintentionally, misuse Scripture. We attribute to spiritual inner man issues, things that are outer man physical when it comes to trauma.

Erin: Well, so far in this episode, Tara, 22, women in the United States have told us that they have experienced sexual trauma. We haven't been talking very long. We know we have women watching from around the world. We say all the time here on Grounded, our mission is to give hope and perspective. You are the bearer of hope for this. So what is your word of hope? To the woman who's watching this live, or she might listen to these 10 years from now, and she thinks, I'm never going to get past it. I'm at the point where I can't say it. I'm at the point where I can't feel outside of my body when I'm in church. I'm never going to get past this. What is the hope that you would offer her this morning? And then after you offer some hope? Would you just pray for her?

Tara: The first thing I would say is, you are not alone. You are so not even rare. The people around you, there are more people who understand than not. But it can feel like you're alone. Emmanuel, God is with you. But you're not alone.

But my word of hope, Erin, of course, is the same word of hope that you have. I'm going to actually read 2 Corinthians 4, just a few verses beginning at verse 7. And this is for not just the women but there are women listening who love men who have been raped by cousins in their childhood, who have been sexually hurt. And of course, we know that we are engaging with children. This is fact now in this pornography-based society, we have got to be on the alert, child protection first. It's a whole other topic. We can talk about that one too.

But for the woman who has physical parts of her body, who have been violently assaulted by someone bigger and stronger. It could have been financial. It could have been spiritual. It could have been physical, but the physical, sexual, intimate parts of her body have been violated by someone bigger and stronger than her. There's so many things I can say. But we lift our eyes to the hill where does our help come from, from the Lord and maker of heaven and earth? This is what he says. In 2 Corinthians 4,

We have this treasure and jars of clay to show the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

We listen; you have been afflicted in every way. We are afflicted in every way that you are not crushed. You may be perplexed, confused. You might be thinking and hearing this, I have never thought about that memory from because I have never wanted to bring it into consciousness and you've never had a way to process it. Grounded is telling you right now these trusted biblical Bible teachers and women that you listen to regularly, they're saying, “Listen, you are not forsaken. You may be perplexed, driven to despair, but you are not forsaken.” You are not stripped down. You will not be destroyed like me on that counselor’s couch.

We all always carry in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our bodies. Do you hear the outer man, an inner man? Our physical bodies, our outer man, physical bodies, and our inner man soul, these they're inextricably linked. When we miss one in Christian sermons, teaching women's studies, all of it, we're missing out on a chance to minister to the sexual trauma survivor.

Erin: So good, Tara. Will you pray for the woman listening?

Tara: Yes. Dear Lord God, we bow before you. The Triune God of the universe, eternally existence, above all transcendent, yet imminent. Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, the second person of the Trinity incarnate. You ate with sinners. You are loving prostitutes, redeeming, even especially those whose physical bodies have been violated, abused, assaulted by other human beings, but also just by life in a fallen world.

Dear Lord God, please, we pray, we beg in Jesus’ name, help every person listening to this broadcast to know that they are not alone. You are with them. They could be having thoughts, they can’t even form into thoughts. They may be having physical reactions that they are ashamed of because they think that they're not strong enough in faith in Jesus. They don't know how to get help. They've reached out for help in the church, and they've been shamed or silenced or been given really bad advice by well-intentioned Christians.

Lord God, help. Help her to reach out again. Help all of us to be better informed so that we can be equipped to minister the whole counsel of Scripture to the whole person; that the world might see Jesus, and that we would lift Him up and all people will be drawn to Him—because we are being healed from our sexual traumas, we're being healed from our emotional traumas, our spiritual traumas, just from the trauma of Genesis 3 in this world. We love You, Lord. We thank You. And we pray this all in Jesus’ name, amen.

Portia: Amen.

Today’s Special Offer

Erin: Amen. All right, you made me long for heaven, when all things are made new. And you'll always come bearing gifts. So today, Tara brought some gifts just for you Grounded, for you watching and listening. She's got a book on resolving church conflicts. As she said, we know that can be connected to our sexual trauma sometimes. She’s given access to some videos on that called Living the Gospel in Relationships. Thank you for being here, Tara, and thank you for those. We appreciate you.

Hey, we had a video cued up that we were going to play. But I think we’ve got to get Grounded in God's Word. So we're going to drop the link to that video. Let me encourage you to watch it at another time. It's just about six minutes. It's another woman named Paulina, who has experienced healing, wholeness, after some sexual abuse that happened in her childhood. We would love for you to watch that when you are able. But for now, we need Mary. We need her to open the Bible with us. So, Mary, welcome back to Grounded.

Studying Psalm 139 with Mary Kassian

Mary Kassian: Thanks Erin, and I'm so glad to be with you. As I was listening to Tara speak there, my heart was just stirring because I personally know so many women who have been sexually assaulted and sexually abused and who are struggling to find their way back to some semblance of normalcy and to wrestle with all the things in their lives.

When you invited me last week to come and just share some of the Word of God with regards to this, the first passage that came to mind was Psalm 139. I just think that for the person who has experienced sexual trauma, the thing that you need to know the most is God. You need to know His power; you need to know who He is. You need to know how He feels about you and what He will do for you. So, let's read some of Psalm 139. I'm actually going to read, actually, a big chunk of it, because I think the word of God will just wash over you here. This is a prayer of David, speaking to the Lord, and he said:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in hell, in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night . . .

And if you've experienced sexual trauma, you know that feeling that Tara was describing there, where it's just darkness, and it's hell that you're walking through in terms of your emotions, and your physical reactions, and what's going through your head and your nightmares.

. . . even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance . . .

And I think this is important because I think that that even in the midst of trauma, and even in the midst of darkness, you need to understand that God sees and is the God who sees you. He's the God who understands. He's the God who cares.

Psalm 139 lays out that He will be your helper; He will be your keeper, and He will be your light. He is intricately involved in your story. Does evil happen this world? Yes, it does. But God sees it, and God is with us. And even when we're going through those darkest nights and darkest times, He is there.

And then Psalm 139 ends with what is called an imprecatory prayer. An imprecatory prayer is one where the prayer calls out for God's justice, and calls out for God to make it right, and to call out for God to make evil, right. And so, David prays here,

Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me!

And he goes on to finish up the prayer in just saying that he reiterating his reliance on God, to take them out of dark situations and out of difficult situations and committing himself to God. 

So why is that important? And why is this? It kind of seems out of character, good guy, he's praying all these things. And then he's going into this imprecatory prayer thing, Oh, God, please deal with this evil, deal with this injustice.

Here's the thing that you need to understand: that the love of God stands right alongside the judgment and justice of God. You can't separate the two with God. It's not love or judgment. It's love and justice, love and judgment and His goodness requires both. 

Those of you who have encountered evil in the form of sexual abuse, in the form of injustice, violence, abuse, rape, any kind of crime against you or a loved one; you know, what it is too long for justice and to call out to God for it. You know that a loving God cannot overlook evil, and you know what it is, to beg God to put an end to evil and to the pain.

You know what? Governments and the legal system are the agents of God in executing justice on earth, but sometimes they fail, and sometimes they will fail you. And those of you who call up for justice can take great comfort in the fact that God hates evil. You can be certain that He hears your cry, and He cares deeply about justice. He's angered by injustice, and one day God will put an end to it, and an end to all suffering and evil. And what's more, God is with you right now, walking through your time of darkness and walking through your time of healing, bringing you to a place of just greater freedom.

The evil one wants to use this evil to just bind you up and keep you down. But the Lord wants to use this evil to build into you character qualities and strengths that will astonish you, when you come through to the other end. Satan meant this evil for ill for you. But God will take it and redeem it, and use it for good.

Erin, I just want to take this opportunity and just read a little bit more. We missed out on the video. But I want to read a little bit more from a testimony of a friend of mine. I'll call her Grace. I interviewed her. I was asking her just some questions about her recovery from sexual abuse, and how she recovered from it all, and how she was able to find her way back from a very, very dark place.

I asked her some hard questions. I asked her where was God? And she said, “Well, God was there. At the time, I didn't think He was. Because I thought if He was there, why didn't he do something about it?”

But she said, “No, God allows evil in this world. He will put an end to it. But evil is a reality that we all live with.”

And then I asked her, “Would you say that God is your protector?”

And she basically said this, “It's easy to ask, why didn't God protect me? A better question might be, what did God protect me from?” And then she goes into how the situation could have been even much worse. But here's what she said, that is really astonishing.

To me, the Father's protection means that nothing is going to happen to me that He is unaware of, and that He will not be able to help me through or help me heal from. He is with me. He won't leave me. That doesn't mean that I will never be harmed and that I won't struggle. But it does mean that nothing will happen to me that doesn't go past the cross first. The Father has promised that no one can take Jesus away from me. Ultimately, no matter what happens to me in the world, I will have Jesus, and I will have healing. Now that's protection. 

Protection means that the Father will be with me through everything. It means that after every trial, He will pick me up, dust me off, help me get over it, send me on my way again, a better and a stronger person. The experience was awful. The sexual abuse was awful. But it revealed actually, oddly, the Father's love for me. I can see now that I was important enough for Him to stick by me through it all. And through the whole process of healing, if He had taken me right out of the situation, I would have never appreciated what He did for me. I had to go through the struggle, so that He could prove His love for me. At first, I thought He allowed my heart to be broken because He didn't care. Now, I see that my experience allowed God to show how much He did care. The bigness of the struggle showed me the bigness of His love.

And Erin, that's the thing that I just want to impress on the women who are listening, who have gone through sexual abuse, who are survivors, and who are right now struggling to find that healing. I just want to emphasize: God is with you. It is a big struggle. But in the bigness of that struggle of coming to terms, as Tara said, just with all the emotional and physical and psychological trickle. The trauma that affects us at so many different levels and at deep levels and intimate levels, and brings up all this stuff that is just so painful. God is with you.

As Psalm 139 said, He is with you in those dark spots. He is with you when you are in darkness. And when you are walking through what feels like hell, He's with you. He's there, and He's with you.

I just want to share one more verse. It's from Isaiah 43, verses 2–3. This is God's promise, and this is God's promise to you as you were walking through this very difficult time of healing. The Lord says,

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, your Savior.

And dear friend, dear girlfriends who are struggling. You need to run toward the Lord not away from Him. I know that your first instinct might be to run away and to hide, because you're thinking this is so traumatic. “God didn't protect me from this harm. He didn't take it away from me. He didn't prevent it.” And yet, what you need to do is you need to run toward the Lord, because He is your source of healing. He is your help. He knows you. The very hairs on your head are numbered. He cares deeply about you. He loves you. He will be with you every step of the way of your healing.

Portia: Amen. Amen. Amen.

Thank you so much, Mary. This was like Erin said at the beginning, you plunged us into the ocean of hope and perspective in grace and truth. And so, we thank you so much for sharing with us this morning.

This Week’s “Good Stuff” 

Erin: Well, we always want to give you the good stuff. And today we feel like we really need to put some resources in your hands in your hearts. Because this has probably stirred some things up. We want to help you stay rooted and grounded in Christ.

So first, we want to point you to a blog—we're gonna point you to two blog posts. This one's from the Revive Our Hearts blog, and it's: “Trusting God to Heal the Scars of Sexual Abuse.” It is written by Dawn Wilson, who's on staff at Revive Our Hearts. She outlined some of the lessons she's learned she's been healing from sexual abuse. And so add dog's name to the list. There is Tara, there is Paulina whose video I hope you'll watch later. And there is Dawn, three women who have found healing from sexual trauma in Jesus, it is possible. Portia, you want to tell him about the other blog post? 

Portia: Absolutely. So, we've got a second post to recommend. It's entitled, “5 Mistakes to Avoid in Ministering to Sexually Abuse.” Can I just encourage you to print this one out to read it prayerfully. Know that Christians are broken and haven't always gotten this right. And so, Diane shares some biblical wisdom that can help you be prepared. As much as we don't want to admit it, all of us we know someone who has been abused. You might just be the person that she or he decides to tell about their story and what has happened with them. So, this is something to equip you. They might slide that note to you.

Erin: You might be the one. You want to be able to handle it with grace and wisdom. So, I think this blog post is going to help.

Hey, if you're listening to the podcast version of Grounded, and we know many of you do, I want you to know you can always head over to ReviveOurHearts.com/Grounded. The links will be there or if you are just on Facebook or YouTube, we always drop the links there. 

Grounded Conclusion

Ladies, your comments are laying me flat a little. Linda said, “I've never heard such godly women speak of these types of traumas so openly and caringly.” And then she said, “I've blamed myself for too long.”

And Linda, I read that. I feel so grieved for you. There's lots of stories like that from you ladies, and I'm so grateful you're here. I'm so grateful you've stayed with us. I'm so grateful you're sharing. I want to bring us back to that timer. It's been going this whole episode. Every time it gets to 68, that's an indicator of somebody who has been traumatized sexually. That means over the course of this episode, about 40 people here in the United States, about 40 image bearers of God have experienced sexual trauma. I can't see my notes anymore, guys, my eyes are too teary.

This affects all of us. I hope now it is on your prayer radar, in ways that it maybe wasn't when you woke up this morning. But also Grounded women who this is part of your story, I want you to hear us say that we love you deeply. One thing we want to do every Monday morning is send you into your week with a blessing. And so this morning, I want to bless you with Psalm chapter 98, verse 1. You've heard a lot of Scripture this morning, and I'm so grateful. That's what we need. Here's my blessing over you, straight from God's Word, “Sing a new song to the LORD, for he has performed wonders, his right hand and holy arm have won the victory.”

Portia: Amen. Amen. Amen. You know, we don't have to be victims in Christ. We can experience the victory of healing, even from sexual trauma. And that gives me hope, in perspective. 

Erin: Me too, Portia. Hey, hurry back here next Monday. We're going to be here, and we're going to be joined by Glenda Marshall. She's going to help us focus on the beauty of every day faithfulness. So can't wait to see you next week. Let's wake up with hope together next week on Grounded.

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About the Hosts

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. She is the author of many books and Bible studies including: 7 Feasts, Connected, Beautiful Encounters, and the My Name Is Erin series. She serves on the ministry team of Revive Our Hearts. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.

Portia Collins

Portia Collins

Portia Collins is a Christian Bible teacher and writer/blogger who enjoys studying and teaching Scripture.  Portia is the founder of "She Shall Be Called" (SSBC), a women’s ministry centered on helping women understand and embrace true biblical womanhood through solid study of God's Word. To learn more about SSBC, visit www.sheshallbecalled.com.  Portia and her husband, Mikhail, have a daughter and currently live in the Mississippi Delta. 

About the Guests

Tara Barthel

Tara Barthel

Tara Barthel is an attorney, Christian mediator, author, and speaker who teaches at the college level. She is also a trauma survivor, wife, and mother who thinks of herself as a homemaker—but after nearly twenty-six years of marriage, she still can’t cook.

Mary Kassian

Mary Kassian

Mary Kassian is an award-winning author, an internationally-renowned speaker, and a frequent guest on Revive Our Hearts. She has written more than a dozen books and Bible studies, including Conversation Peace, Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild, and The Right Kind of Strong.

Mary and her husband, Brent, have three sons and six grandchildren and live in Alberta, Canada. The Kassians enjoy biking, hiking, snorkeling, music, board games, mountains, campfires, and their family’s black lab, "The Queen of Sheba."