Grounded Podcast

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Loving Your Sister Impacted by #MeToo, with Ellen Dykas

Behind every #MeToo and #ChurchToo hashtag is a woman who has been deeply impacted by sexual abuse. Get equipped to offer hope and perspective to these women with guest Ellen Dykas.

Connect with Ellen

Instagram: @ellenmarydykas

Episode Notes

Find out more about Harvest USA

 Sexual Sanity for Women: Healing from Sexual and Relational Brokenness from Ellen Dykas

 Toxic Relationships: Taking Refuge in Christ from Ellen Dykas

 “How Does It Feel to be an ‘Old Lady’?” from Susan Hunt

 Sign up for Revive ’21

“4 Checkpoints for Wisely Helping Hurting Women” article from Ellen Dykas


Introduction: Sexual Abuse

Alejandra Slemin: She is your sister. She's your pastor's wife. She's your neighbor. She's your mom. She could even be you. Welcome to Grounded. This is a videocast and a podcast from Revive Our Hearts. I'm Alejandra Slemin.

Erin Davis: I'm Erin Davis, our co-host Portia Collins is close by. The “she” that Alejandra was mentioning, they are the women we are praying will be most impacted by this episode of Grounded. This one's dedicated to all of the women who have ever experienced sexual abuse.

Alejandra: That's right. It's so common, Erin. The #MeToo and church have become rampant more than we ever thought, I believe on social media, confirming what statistics have been saying for a very long time: That sexual abuse for women is more common than we think. It's more real than we think.

Erin: That's right. And behind every hashtag and every statistic, there's a woman. And that woman has been deeply impacted by the sin of someone who has harmed her.

Alejandra: Let me tell you, sister, if that's you, if you will be here with me right now, I'll be there holding your hand giving you a hug or even crying with you, and I'm sure Erin too. All of us could, because we could feel your pain. We love you. We want you to know that we love you. 

We're here, and we're happy you're here. But we really want to talk about to the rest of the women in the church surrounding us that woman that have gone through physical pain or physical abuse. We need to be equipped, we need to be ready to help to come to the aid of those hurting sisters around us. We need to be ready to treat them with love, truth, compassion, and wisdom.

Erin: Well, first thing that I thought of when my eyes opened this morning is Grounded as an opportunity to equip the church. That made my feet hit the floor with enthusiasm because that is in part why we're here. Every week we say we're here to give you an infusion of hope and perspective, and we mean that but this morning. We're going to pass that baton because we want you to be equipped to be the bearers of hope and perspective not just us to give hope and perspective to women. You likely already know though there are many of these women sitting in the pews beside you in your church, in your neighborhood. So we want you to be the ones to give hope and perspective to every woman who can say “me too” to sexual abuse.

Alejandra: That's right, and just to bring their topic to the table. It's something so personal, something so hard for women to open up about. Here on Grounded we're just saying, “Okay sisters, let's just let's just bring it out. Let's just talk about it and bring other people alongside with us.” We are working to support, to help women.

So this morning Ellen Dykas is here to help us. She serves on staff at Harvest USA. I want you to hear what their purpose statement is. They want to partner and equip the church in bringing the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ to transform the lives of women that have been affected by sexual sin. You know girls that I always bring my Grounded notebook. I have it. It's getting filled up.

Erin: I’ve got a new beautiful notebook some friends gave me, and I'm ready to fill it up too.

Alejandra: Yeah, because this is an episode to write notes and remember how we can be equipped to help our sisters in Christ.

Erin: So yeah, this is going to be a learning episode for all of us. I learned that from you, Alejandra. Be ready to take notes on Grounded, and we'll be breaking in a new journal today. Hey first before you get those pens writing furiously and taking notes, we’ve got to hear some good news. It wouldn't be Monday morning without it. So, the perfect person to bring us that is our girl, Portia Collins. Good morning, Portia.

Good News: Bring Your Bible to School Day

Portia Collins: Good morning. Good morning. Well, we have a tough and a tender topic today, so I'm sure that everybody is gonna want to hear some good news as we dig in before we dig into this topic. 

Maybe you have noticed the trend of adding silly holidays to the calendar lately. Everybody's been talking about National Daughter Day, National Son Day. Well, today happens to be National Ships in a Bottle Day. And later this month, there's a holiday that I will most certainly be observing. It is Southern Food Heritage Day. They'll bring all the chicken and the waffles and the cornbread and the collard greens. Like that is my love language, okay. But there is another one happening this week. And that one really makes me smile. October 7 is Bring your Bible to School Day. 

Students of every age are encouraged to speak God's truth to those around them by bringing their Bible and sharing His work. This initiative is sponsored by Focus on the Family. And the goal is to create open doors for conversations about the gospel, and an opportunity to celebrate the religious freedom that we enjoy here in the United States. Organizers say bring your Bible to School Day empowers Christian students of all ages to speak God's grace and truth into the culture around them, starting with two simple steps: bringing their Bibles to school and sharing what God's Word means to them. 

More than half a million students from more than 50,000 schools participated last year. And get this, that was during the pandemic. So, like that is amazing. If you know a student or if you are a student, this is a bandwagon worth jumping on to this week, hundreds of thousands of students will put their Bible in their backpacks on top of their textbooks, possibly leading to thousands of conversations about Jesus this week. And guess what friends? That is some good news.

Erin: And that is good news. Something for us to rally around and pray about, that students this week are going to be preparing to have gospel conversations. Thanks for sharing that with us Portia. 

Discussing Sexual Abuse, with Ellen Dykas

Well, it's time for a conversation that I have been wanting to have on Grounded for months. Last spring I attended the Gospel Coalition's Women's Conference with my girl Portia. I sat in a breakout by today's guest. The title of that breakout was “Compassionate Care in a #MeToo World.” And no lie, it was the highlight of the conference for me. I knew as I was sitting there and taking notes in that breakout, I knew I gotta get Ellen Dykas on Grounded. So she's here today. If I was sitting down, I'd be on the edge of my seat. I'm standing up, but I'm so excited for this conversation. Welcome to Grounded, Ellen.

Ellen Dykas: An honor to be here.

Erin: Well, I want to give you the floor as much as possible because you have so much wisdom to give. But I do want to start with a story. It came to mind as I was preparing for this episode. I was in high school, and a friend confessed to me that she had been raped at a band competition. And immediately, I tried to minimize what had happened to her. I didn't really believe her even though I didn't have a reason not to believe her. I didn't tell anyone. I didn't get anybody involved. I've thought of that conversation so often. It's on my list of things that I would do again if I had the chance to do it over. But in your experience in working with the sexually traumatized, how common is that response?

Ellen: Well, probably more often than then what we would want to acknowledge. I had a situation similar to that Erin–similar and different. I saw something happening and I kind of wondered, Is something happening here in this situation? I was scared. I just kind of I turned away since there wasn't anything obvious happening. But I had a sense that something was off. I think because of fear or disbelief, a lot of us can have that first response of not wanting to enter in.

Erin: Yeah. Why do you think that is?

Ellen: Well, it's horrible. But it's true that probably less than 25% of all sexual assaults are even ever reported. I think that's something not only can we be fearful of entering into—these horrible situations of people's pain—but women are hesitant to come forward and share because they may fear that they're going to be disbelieved or even retraumatized by telling their story. But I think for a lot of us, we may be comfortable in our church settings, in our women's ministry settings, and it's difficult to look at the reality of how devastating sin really is, and how broken people hurt and inflict that on other people.

Erin: Yeah, I mean, I'm so grateful that God is sovereign. And His intervention in that girl's life wasn't dependent on me. She did end up getting help, but I was 16, this girl was 15 or 16. And I just could not on some level even believe that could have happened. It was the really the horror of sin that I had a hard time facing. You're here to help us do better. Because there are women, I know this is true, there are women we know and love who have experienced this. And she might share her story or part of her story of sexual abuse with us. 

It might just be that friend. I look back and think she was just kind of dropping a fishing lure in the water to see what was going to happen the first time she told us. She didn't even tell me a lot of the details. But when a woman tells us her story or part of her story, what is our best first response? In that initial moment when we think we're hearing something of significance?

Ellen: Actually, I'm going to start with a pre-step for all of the listeners. That, including women like me, who I have not experienced sexual trauma, but to pray that we will be ready for when that woman comes forward to us if we've not experienced that yet. 

So, I'd actually start there. Everybody pray that your heart and eyes will be ready to receive a woman when she comes to open up. But when that happens, our first step is really to listen and seek to learn what's happened. This isn't a time to try to dissect it, give a lot of counsel, to judge is this all completely true or is she exaggerating? No, God knows all that. 

Because some women kind of have that judgment come against them. I appreciate your honesty, Erin to say as a 16-year-old you couldn't believe it happened. But the first step is we want to listen, learn. And I mean, we could go off in a lot of different directions. But listen and learn what happened. That's going to help us discern. What does she need right now, today?

Erin: Yeah, I think there's our initial response, which is so important. But then often, there are long-term effects for women who have experienced this. It doesn't go away ever and can affect them 10 years later, 40 years later, 50 years later. So that can require long-term care. How do we walk with a woman? Say it's your neighbor? It's your best friend? It's your mom, maybe? And she's experienced sexual abuse? How do we walk with her long term?

Ellen: One thing we want to do is we're going to keep in mind just because you're the first person that potentially has heard this story, it doesn't mean that you should be the last. This is one of the beauties of the body of Christ. God has put us alongside of each other to bear each other's burdens. 

So, a woman comes to you, and let's say you've heard the story. You're recognizing there's a lot going on here that is beyond my bandwidth. So first, acknowledge that humbly, that you don't have to be the only one bearing this burden. And you want to ask this woman's permission of can we bring somebody else into this?

So, then you want to seek: Is there a wise spiritual leader, counselor, pastor, women's ministry director, that you might go to for the next level of help and care? This woman, especially if she was actually abused by somebody in a leadership position, you're going to need discernment about that, because it can be triggering, sad to say. It could be triggering for her to actually go to a male leader, including in the church, so discern, do you need to bring somebody in that has a little bit extra level of expertise in what you do, and then ask that woman how you can help her access that kind of help. 

So, making a phone call, helping to set up an appointment. Again, listening to her—listening and listening and listening. I can't over emphasize that. But I want to mention this too. If this is something that has happened really recently, a sexual assault or rape, then you may need to help her, potentially file a police report or go to the hospital. If there's been any kind of invasive sexual assault that's happened. 

So, taking some of those steps, in the short term actually help with the long term because you need to discern, first of all, what is this woman’s situation and then take steps based on that.

Erin: Right. I think for those who haven't experienced sexual trauma, sexual abuse, it seems like going to the authorities would be a very easy and natural thing to do. But I think I've discovered that for the actually traumatized, it isn't an easy thing to do. It requires somebody to walk that journey with them a lot of the time. Has that been your experience, too?

Ellen: Yeah, absolutely. I want to share the context for my ministry to women in this area. I serve with Harvest USA. Our focus is on ministering the gospel to people that are wrestling with their own sexual sin. And so that's how I've gotten to know a lot of women's sexual abuse is from them coming in and having their own struggles in this area. I think that's important to remember that sexual assault abuse has so many tentacles of impact on women. We've got to keep that in mind that a woman may come to you, this isn't the presenting issue, if you will. You don't want to dig around necessarily, but to recognize that if she comes sharing this as a part of her story, there's probably other tentacles that are also attached to it. We just have to keep that in the back of our minds as we think about that long-term care that we're going to offer to her.

Erin: Yeah, as you're talking about that, Jesus in the gospels came to mind. He would often look at the crowds and think that they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. And so, I think a woman who may be in what we see as sexual sin, where we're going, what in the world is going on there? The reality may be that she's harassed and helpless, without a shepherd. But you mentioned listening several times. I've got a confession roll here. But I'm a terrible listener. I want to be a good listener, but I struggle with it. I actually think that's pretty common. So how can we be good listeners in this issue, and lots of other issues, but as we're caring for other women? What's it look like to be a good listener?

Ellen: I appreciate your humility. I think we could all learn more about listening. But, you know, I'll just walk that through from the situation of a woman coming and saying, I have never told anybody this, but I was sexually abused by a family member when I was a little girl. So, you're listening is going to be informed by inviting her through questions to share more of her story, if she's ready. 

You might just say, “Thank you for sharing that with me. Would you like to talk about it more now? Or maybe in a couple days, or later this week?” Then you listen to see what she says. Let’s say she adds a little bit more information. And she says, “I don't really want to talk about it now. But I know at some point, I need to share this story.” Well, then you're going to listen to her with patience. 

Also, having invited her to the table, if you will to be known with a question like this, or with a suggestion like this of sister, I want to know you in this to the degree that you're ready to be known. So, “I would like to hear your story. How would you like to share your story with me?” That's something I've learned from Diane Langberg, who has been my primary mentor in the area of helping women who have faced abuse. 

She emphasizes that it's important as listeners to let a woman or a man it could be, but a woman share her story in the way that she feels comfortable. So, are we willing to listen if she reads her story to us? Are we willing to listen to her over the course of 2-3-4 meetings, that it might take the time for that story to come out? Or she might write it down and just want us to read it in her presence. And so, listening is a form of loving somebody on their terms in a way that's going to help them access the love and healing of Christ. And so, we can't invite a woman to the table, if you will, if we don't know why they need to come to the table. And that can only happen as we listen patiently.

Erin: That's so good and so practical. Well, in that moment where that friend confessed that trauma to me and in many moments since I've realized I'm really inadequate to offer any real hope, I can give a hug. I can be a good listener. But I myself don't have any real hope to give. Trauma is real. And the effects of trauma are real. So, what hope can we give from Scripture, which is the place of real hope and healing? What are some passages that you tend to default to as you're working with women?

Ellen: For broad strokes in my ministry to women, I go to 2 Corinthians 1:3–4, where Paul is collapsing upon the comfort that he has received from God, which enables him to comfort anybody in any situation with the comfort of Christ. So that tells us, we don't have to have the same experience with somebody to minister the comfort of Christ. So that helps us and emboldens us. 

But then to remember Isaiah 61 and the Messianic prophecy, which Jesus quotes in Luke 4, were one of His stated purposes for coming was to heal the brokenhearted, to bind up their wounds. I can't heal a broken heart. I can't bind up somebody's wounds, but I can gently lead somebody towards the One who can. And that's what we need to lean on Jesus, for this type of ministry for really any type of ministry to a broken heart. But I would say especially with severe traumas, Christ is the only one that can go inside a woman's heart and bring healing from the inside out.

Erin: Amen. Well, you said you're not a sexual abuse survivor, which glory to God for that. But He's given you this ministry to women who are struggling with their own sexual sin, maybe because of something that's happened to them. But I love that because I want the women who are watching and listening to this episode of Grounded to be willing to be ready to respond and to consider it their responsibility to, should the Lord bring into their lives a woman who's ready to tell that story and seeking some healing. 

So, we do need the Spirit's help. For that I'd love for you, Ellen, as we say goodbye to you in this episode, would you just pray for each of us as women in the church to be ready to be bold and to be listening to the Holy Spirit?

Ellen: Absolutely. Lord, we give You praise that You came into this world of brokenhearted sinners who sinned against each other. And I pray, Lord, for both the women who have been wounded, that are listening, and for those of us that want to come alongside hurting women. Lord, give us courage through Jesus. Lord, give us wisdom. We know that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in Jesus, and we are hidden in You Christ. 

So, I pray that through our relationship with You, that You would embolden, equip, give us wisdom, Lord, that we don't want to hoard, that we want to give it away into the midst of this world that is so needy of You. So, Lord, we look to You, we love You, and we pray that You would give us the privilege of being invited into a hurting woman's life, trusting that You will give us what we need to bring them to You, Lord Jesus, amen.

Erin: Amen. Oh, Ellen, I'm so glad we can make this conversation happen. Thanks for being with us on Grounded.

Ellen: So thankful that you wanted to talk about this topic. Thanks.

Erin: We're going to drop a link to Harvest USA so that you can learn more about that ministry as well as some resources that Ellen has created that I know you're wanting to get to want to grab on to. We'll make it easy for you to find those. Alejandra.

Grounded in the Word: Psalm 9:9–10

Alejandra: Listening to Ellen and you, Erin, I was just thinking, it takes so much courage to talk to someone about this. It takes a lot of courage to be able to sit down on the other side and listen and pay attention and show compassion. But all of that courage, that compassion that we need, we can certainly find it in God's Word. And that's why in every episode of Grounded, we want to grab your Bible. We want to hold on to God's Word, so you can stay grounded, because the Word of God is the one that gives us the hope, the perspective that we need. 

If we experience sexual abuse, or if we are helping women, just to get ready, like Ellen was saying, to help women because they will be around us, to help them through, it to guide them through it. I will say we'll be thinking, I don't know how to do it. Well, let's get ready. Let's get prepare as we help other women. Prepare to face sin, the broken that has been done to them. Let's use this opportunity. 

There is a verse in Scripture in Psalms chapter 9, verses 9 and 10. This is what the Word says. “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”

As I was reading through the Scriptures, I thought, oppressed, what does that word really mean? Where does that word bring us? It's being crushed. It is just utterly everything that is in you is kind of just taken out. And what the Word of God is telling us as you go through this world? You're going to face situations that will literally crush you, or you are going to feel oppressed. But the Lord has promised to be our stronghold; the Lord has promised to be our refuge. 

And that word “stronghold” means “He has promised to be our high place, our safest place,” and not just for the good times or for when we think we need Him. But it says, during the times of trouble, He welcomes us. He comes as we are being oppressed; He welcomes us in our difficulties. He welcomes us in difficult circumstances. He doesn't say, “Get cleaned up, and then come to me.” No, He wants to be with us through it. He becomes our refuge, our refuge because as women we are tempted to find refuge in other places: in relationships, in drugs, in pain, in silence. Sometimes we find refuge, but the Lord is saying, “I am your refuge, I am your high place, bring it to Me.” 

And the fact that He's our refuge, and He sets us up in a high place means that He gives us a better vision of the future. He gives us a better vision, the biblical perspective we need for the moment. It's a very different perspective than what the enemy who wants to kill our souls and destroy us tells us. He gives us life. Jesus gives us life. 

You might ask yourself, but how? How do I get from a place of despair to a place of redemption? In verse 10 in Psalms 9, verse 10, it says, “And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”

And this is very interesting. I find three words here in this verse that tell me step by step what do. I need to know when I'm facing some kind of difficulty, I need to know Him. I need to trust Him. And I need to seek Him. I need to know him. I need to trust Him. I need to seek Him every day. 

As a pain rises again, as I am healing from this situation, as I am dealing with my emotions, I need to leave my emotions to the Lord and say, “I'm going to choose today to know Him, to trust Him, and to seek Him.” And then repeat: know Him, trust Him, and seek Him.

Portia: Amen, amen, amen. You know, I just love on Mondays that we have a segment where we get grounded in God's Word. I'm super excited because this week we're gonna be getting grounded all weekend long. And if you needed another reason to register for Revive ’21, we've got it. Her name is Susan Hunt. We want you to watch this short and precious video from one of our favorite grounded women.

Video: Susan Hunt

Susan Hunt: I love the prayer and the hymn “Sacred Head Now Wounded.” It goes like this.

Make me Thine forever.
And should I fainting be
Lord, let me never, ever 
Outlive my love for Thee.

That’s my prayer. But my comfort and my confidence is I will never outlive His love for me. He tells us in Isaiah 46, “And who have been sustained from the womb, carried along since birth. I will be the same until your old age, and I will bear you up when you turn gray. I have made you, and I will carry you; I will bear and rescue you.”

So how does it feel to be an old lady? It feels like a tired, very dependent, very happy looking girl being carried in the arms of her Father. She's calling to her friends, “Look how good and strong my Daddy is.” And she knows that when she falls asleep in His arms, she'll wake up at home.

The Good Stuff

Portia: Amen, how can you not love Susan Hunt? Okay, I think of all the things I'm excited about this week, I'm excited about seeing her. Susan is one of our speakers at Revives ’21. And she will be teaching on staying grounded in all seasons. She's such a wealth of wisdom. Just her love for God is so encouraging. There's still time to join us online, we will drop the link in the show notes and in the chat for you.

Alejandra: But we also want to point you to another article from Ellen that she wrote for the Revive Our Hearts blog. It's called “4 Checkpoints for Wisely Helping Hurting Women.” We need to be ready to care for one another. So read that article. And we're going to drop the link for you to have easier access.

Erin: Always pass along the good stuff, and man, join Revive ’21. That's good stuff. Anything we can read from Ellen, that's good stuff. Anything from Susan Hunt, good stuff. 

Well, I knew this would be an important episode. And it was, so I hope it's one that you watch, that you share, that you circulate with the leadership at your church, maybe your women's ministry leaders. Because we need to be equipped and ready to respond to hurting women well. 

And if I had that moment as a teenager listening to another teenager share something so hard over again, I think I just would say, “Can I pray with you?” I think I would just get her to Jesus as quickly as I could. Because I don't have anything else to offer hurting women. You may still have that moment. You may have the opportunity to hear a woman's story, and we want you to be ready. I know you want to be ready to point women to Jesus when that happens.

Alejandra: They need us. They for sure need us, like Ellen was saying, they need those listening ears and the wisdom that we can get from God's Word and the hope that we can give them that that event is not the end of their story, but actually could be the beginning of a miracle that God can perform in their lives and in the lives of many women. So when I sit with women at my church or in the different ministries, it’s just that warm touch of just letting them know you know, we're here for you, and this is a safe place for you. So, I got lots of notes today on my post it that I'm writing.

Portia: Yeah, Grounded sisters, I hope you know that we really do care about you. We love you. We are family, like seriously. And so, I'm always so blessed to come together with you on Mondays. 

I hope that if you are planning to join us on the livestream, we want to see you so that it can be like a weekend long Grounded. I'm just so excited about that. I always want more time with you. And so, I hope that you will be joining us on the livestream. I'm super excited guys. Can y'all tell I'm super excited?

Erin: That's the right word. I'm excited and expectant and eager, all of the words, because I think God is going to do something in our hearts. And because we love you Grounded sisters, we want you to be a part of it. So be there, or be square.

Alejandra: And you know what? You still have time to invite others. You could do it in Spanish. You could do it in English. It's a family, so do not forget about Revive ’21. And also, don't miss Grounded next Monday because we are going to hear remarkable stories of what God is doing in the in the Middle East. Let's wake up with hope next Monday together 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.

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh

When Dannah Gresh was eight years old, she began praying that God would use her as a Bible teacher for “the nations.” When she sees the flags of many countries waving at a Revive Our Hearts event, it feels like an answer to her prayer.

Dannah is the founder of True Girl which provides tools for moms and grandmothers to disciple their 7–12 year-old girls. On Monday nights, you’ll find Dannah hosting them in her online Bible study. She has authored over twenty-eight books, including Ruth: Becoming a Girl of Loyalty, Lies Girls Believe, and a Bible study for adult women based on the book of Habakkuk. She and her husband, Bob, live on a hobby farm in central Pennsylvania.

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  Portia and her husband, Mikhail, have a daughter and currently live in the Mississippi Delta. 

About the Guest

Ellen Mary Dykas

Ellen Mary Dykas

Ellen Mary Dykas serves as Women’s Ministry Coordinator for Harvest USA, a national ministry focused on gospel-centered discipleship and teaching regarding sexuality and gender. She writes and teaches on these topics and others and has authored Sexual Sanity for Women: Healing from Sexual and Relational Brokenness and Sex and the Single Girl: Smart Ways to Care for Your Heart. Ellen loves ministry to women and is most passionate about mentoring, teaching God’s Word, and spiritually nurturing others to walk deeply with Jesus. She lives in Philadelphia, PA.