Resource Sheet 14 - Ministry to a Sexual Abuser
Power and control are the foundational components in abuse, whether physical, emotional, spiritual, or sexual.
Ministry to a Sexual Abuser
Who is an abuser? (Luke 17:1, 2)
It is useful to have an idea of the profile of an abuser, because if you fit that profile, but have not yet abused, you can bring those potential areas of vulnerability to God now for healing. Those who seek to minister to abusers can also understand them better and have compassion. This does not excuse their sin, but helps us go with them to the root of it. Acceptance by the church and willingness to work with the abuser long term, especially in a small group is important for their rehabilitation.
Beware of stereotypes. Abusers are not always obvious; they are often charming, intelligent community leaders such as teachers, daycare workers and ministers. They may have a completely sincere desire to help others, but a deep-seated need to find well-being and fulfillment through those they try to help.
Less than 10% of abusers are mentally ill, but they are often emotionally immature and socially inadequate. Early signs are: unwanted by parents; not nurtured but physically or emotionally neglected; physically, emotionally or sexually abused; either torn apart by criticism or smothered by possessiveness or control.
The results of these signs include: performance-oriented but unable to achieve; suppresses true feelings out of fear; builds a defensive shell because the family is not a safe place to share feelings.
Results in an adult: confused and unsettled; unable to sleep; poor digestion; under pressure to fulfil needs, but can't achieve it; can't accept responsibility, disorganised; controlling - demands the focus of attention; undiscerning; volatile, angry, judgmental; manipulative, exploits others' feelings; fear of intimacy; resists help, hard to get to know; in a group but not part of it; need to punish or defile self or others; lacks self discipline; compulsive and addictive; especially if sexually abused, problem with masturbation or pornography; seeks new sexual experiences to satisfy hunger for comfort and pleasure, but never satisfied because the real need is not being met.
A typical scenario of the beginning of abuse (Adapted from Paula Sandford)
A potential male abuser accepts the Lord. He will typically focus on teaching, liturgy and theology rather than on a healing relationship with Jesus. He marries. Possessive and demanding to wife. Controlling. No real intimacy. Takes but gives nothing back. Sex is like masturbation - a physical act with no meeting of spirits. His wife feels used and withdraws.
He becomes attracted to children. As his daughter grows he can be her hero because she is non-threatening. The daughter appropriately seeks his love and attention. He responds out of his need to be needed and important.
The child reminds him of the way his wife was before she withdrew. He begins to embrace his daughter and his long-suppressed emotions and desires rise up. He becomes confused. His life-long practice of self-gratification wins and he sexually violates his daughter.
Before he is discovered he lives in fear. To feed his need for self-preservation he resorts to threatening his daughter to keep her quiet. Because he then feels in control of her he can indulge himself again. His growing fear, guilt and self-disgust increase his need for comfort, so he continues, out of control.
After he is discovered he will react with denial, minimisation of the offence, rationalisation, and accusation. Rarely does the abuser have any concept of the harm done to the child.
HE WILL REPEAT, and must be separated from the child to prevent this, until the fruits of repentance are evident (Matthew 3:8, Acts 26:20). The abuser, not the victim, must be removed from the home. Don't abuse the victim by turning her life upside-down - it is the abuser who must take the consequences.
Healing the abuser
An abuser needs unconditional love and loving confrontation. They need compassion, forgiveness, friendship and intercessory prayer.
In ministry the first step is recognition of the root of the problems. (Ephesians 5;13, Luke 6:43-45)
The abuser must fully acknowledge and confess the sin of abuse. This includes eventually telling the victim that only the abuser was responsible and asking their forgiveness. (James 5:16, 1 Corinthians 12:26). For an example of the effects of the abuser's denial on the victim see page 77 of Healing Victims of Sexual Abuse.
The abuser must forgive those who injured him/her in childhood, and repent of their own sinful response to that hurt. (Matthew 6:14-15; 1 John 1:9; John 20:23)
Assure the abuser of forgiveness and pray for healing of their wounded spirit and creation of a new and right spirit. (Ezekiel 36:26; Psalm 51:10; 2 Corinthians 1:1-6)
Pray for the Holy Spirit to wash them through. I have found it helpful to go through the actions of blessing a glass of water and asking them to drink it. This helps their body and soul to grasp what the Lord is doing in their spirit. Teach him new ways of living. (Romans 6:11-14; 2 Timothy 1;7; Hebrews 12:10b) He needs to know about the laws of God, sanctity of marriage, holiness of sex and the functions of the father. Ask God to grow him/her to maturity.