In the recent past sexual abuse has received a lot of attention – thanks to social media. Through different movements, we are beginning to hear the extent of the abuse. There is no area that has been spared of its wrath. It has permeated the sacred and secular – the church, home, educational institutions, the media, and even public transport– nothing is outside of its purview.
Sexual abuse is the unleashing of, untamed desire, power, punishment, and revenge on vulnerable people. In the process – stripping them of their dignity and self-worth – scarring them for life. This stripping of self-worth can have adverse effects on a person’s ability to function meaningfully in society. This is what we mean by – Unfreedoms – the inability of people to act freely because of fear of sexual abuse or the result of being sexually abused.
In the midst of this conundrum, the Christian must continue to reimagine the words of Jesus, “what you do to the least of these you do unto me.” Here are three ways we can do this today.
One, as a Preventive Measure. It is a reminder, to those who sexually abuse other persons, that Christ takes this personally. When Paul was persecuting Christians, Jesus’ post-resurrection words to Paul were, “Why are you persecuting me!” When the image of God in these persons is being trampled upon, God sees it as an act against him. This line of thinking also helps the “Christian abuser” to question his loyalty to Christ. Jesus wants his followers to realise that the way we treat others, is the way we will treat him. And so, he asks, “Is this the way you treat me?”
Two, as a Mode of Recovery. The psychological implications of abuse are complex, often resulting in issues like self-loathing, self-doubt, and self-hate. So, when God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, identifies with the victim – it may help the victim to see that their dignity can never be stolen by the actions of a perpetrator. This could be the start of a long process of healing and recovery. One thing is for certain, the foundation of our being – the image of the divine – is never lost. We will always have something secure to rebuild our identities on.
Three, as a Call for Action. Christians must stand with the victims of abuse in the Church and outside of the Church. On the cross, Jesus becomes a victim of the powers there-be; stripped of all dignity. We can therefore identify Jesus’ vulnerability with the vulnerability of victims. We can become the disciples of Jesus who cared for his scarred and wounded body. And perhaps, like Joseph of Arimathea, we can also share our space with those experiencing the emptiness of existence as a consequence of abuse. The point is for us as Christians to act on this information and provide liberation to the abused as we would to Christ.