Sexual Abuse

Read  II Samuel 13:1-2, 6-15, 19-22

In my ministry, I have encountered dozens of individuals who have been victims of sexual abuse.  I’ve met young men molested as children by a teacher at school. I have met women who were raped by somebody they trusted – be it a father, brother or uncle.  I’ve met women who were harassed at work by a male supervisor who offered to trade career advancement for sexual favors.  I have even known women who, in a time of emotional distress, turned for help to a pastor only to be seduced in their moment of weakness.  Chances are that most of you know of somebody who has suffered this abuse.  Some of you may even be survivors of such mistreatment.

My experience has been that this crime is one of the most painful acts of injustice in our society.  While the act itself may last only for a few moments, the wound cuts deep and the scars last a lifetime.  Sexual abuse brings physical, emotional, psychological, social and spiritual suffering.  The greatest injustice of all, however, usually takes place after the act, when the victim of such abuse needs loving support and compassion.  Too often what the victims find is that they are blamed and made responsible for the crime by friends, family members and even the church. 

I have always found it important to address these issues with as much sensitivity as possible.  A misplaced word has the potential of stirring up emotional pain in the lives of those who have been victims.  There are no “Dear Abby” solutions to incidents of sexual abuse.  If you have been a victim I encourage you to find a qualified counselors for assistance in dealing with the deep-seated troubles that can result from sexual abuse. 

When dealing with the text, one thing seems clear:  The attitude that prompts individuals to sexually victimize others is a general lack of respect for personhood and worth of that other individual.  Amnon did not respect Tamar.  In his eyes, she was an object to be used to gain sexual satisfaction.  Simply put, if Amnon had respected Tamar, he would not have raped her!

Aroused by her physical beauty, Amnon contrived a scheme to seduce his half-sister.  He would pretend to be ill.  When his father, King David, checked on the status of his favorite son, Amnon would request that Tamar be sent to his room to provide care.  Once Tamar was in the room, Amnon determined either to seduce or force himself upon her.

As Amnon tried to seduce Tamar, she resisted.  She appealed to his professions of love suggesting that Amnon should get permission from King David to marry.  (Marriage between half-siblings was not uncommon in Israel at this time.)  When that didn’t work, she spoke about the shame she would feel saying that she would be forever disgraced by such an act.  Then, she even appealed to Amnon’s self-interest saying that if he raped her, it would give him a reputation throughout the kingdom as an evil and wicked man. 

Amnon refused to listen to her.  Why should he listen?  He didn’t respect her.  In his mind, Tamar was only good for one thing!  When he was finished with her, he assumed no responsibility for her.  Instead he became bitter.  His profession of love turned to a declaration of hatred.  He had her removed from his house.  No doubt, Amnon blamed Tamar for what happened. He probably even entertained ideas that she had really wanted and enjoyed his sexual advances.

The amount of sexual abuse cases in our country has reached epidemic proportions.  What can the church do to resist this evil?  First, we should practice the value of respect for all persons.  Second, we should continually resist the habit of blaming victims who have experienced abuse.  Finally, we should become involved in ministries that seek to restore the dignity of those who are victims of such abuse.

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