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Understanding Sexual Abuse | Book Review

Ministering to victims in their pain

George P Wood on April 10, 2018

georgepwood

In our society today, it is estimated that up to 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys experience sexual abuse in childhood. Experts also estimate that as many as half of the incidents are not reported. Millions of people, both children and adults, face each day with this hidden, complex pain.”

Tim Hein opens Understanding Sexual Abuse with this astounding and depressing statistic. It’s one that pastors and church leaders need to think about. Although we’d like to claim that sexual abuse happens out there (the world), not in here (the church), we all know that’s false.

Sexually abused children and adult survivors of sexual abuse fill our pews, join our small groups and lead our teams. The question, then, is how well we minister to them in their pain.

This is not a book about “how to prevent abuse or how to deal with perpetrators.” Hein wrote this book out of his personal experience of childhood sexual abuse in order to help pastors and other church leaders “support survivors of sexual abuse.”

Tim Hein shows that recovery is possible, though it may be a long process.

He shares his story of abuse, without going into unnecessary and potentially triggering details, to help readers understand how a child experiences abuse, how it shapes his or her perspective on life, and what kinds of needs it leaves the child with.

Hein skillfully weaves together his personal story with psychological insights about the emotional toll abuse takes on child victims.

As a Christian minister, however, Hein also brings biblical and theological resources to bear. He shows that the biblical narrative emphasizes justice for the abused, not just forgiveness for the perpetrator.

Hein raises the question of theodicy, i.e., “Where is God when evil happens?” He shows how the Bible offers practical guidance for making sense of and lamenting our pain.

Most importantly, Hein shows that recovery is possible, though it may be a long process.

“Wherever we are on our journeys of life,” Hein concludes, “including the journeys of recovery and healing, we can make choices about the paths ahead. We can choose life, and go on doing so, because Jesus, the author of life has come.”

Understanding Sexual Abuse is a short, but realistic book. Realistic not only about the pain of sexual abuse, but about the hope for healing. Given how widespread the problem of sexual abuse is, pastors and other church leaders will benefit from reading it and knowing how to serve the victims in their congregations.

Book Reviewed

Tim Hein, Understanding Sexual Abuse: A Guide for Ministry Leaders and Survivors (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2018).

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