Healing after sexual abuse
Recently a chorus of women around the world lifted their voices on social media to raise public awareness of sexual harassment and assault. Under the hashtag #MeToo, millions have posted their stories of being mistreated because of their sex.
Shining a light on this dark corner of human injustice is an important step toward solving the problem. But for victims who struggle with aftereffects of abuse, is it possible to go beyond #MeToo to find freedom and peace? My experience shows that a Christianly scientific understanding of God and man can bring complete healing and liberation.
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When I was in grade school, my teacher began asking me to stay after school to tidy up the classroom and clean the blackboard. I had been taught to be obedient and respectful toward adults, so I complied, even after the teacher began touching me inappropriately.
I didn’t like what he was doing, but I didn’t know what to say. Sexual molestation wasn’t discussed in those days, even privately, so I didn’t have words to convey what was happening. Teachers were considered above reproach, so my feeble attempts to talk with other adults about the situation were brushed off. Eventually I stopped trying to explain and gave up on finding human help.
Feeling powerless and frustrated, I began to experience migraine headaches that kept me out of school for a week at a time. With no one to talk to, I was pretty much left alone to figure things out as best I could.
This is where the Christian Science Sunday School proved to be an invaluable blessing. There we learned about God as divine Love and were encouraged to place our trust in His ever-presence and all-power. We read many helpful Bible passages, such as Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear” (verses 1, 2).
Little by little, after more than half a year of the teacher’s inappropriate behavior, I began to grasp my God-given dominion and found in this new understanding of Love my authority to firmly say “I can’t” when the teacher continually requested that I stay after school to wash the blackboard. I also made it a point to be the first one out the door when we were dismissed at the end of the day.
The teacher’s requests stopped, but the disturbing memories did not. It seemed as if this degrading experience was going to be part of my history forever, and I was stoically trying to learn to live with lingering feelings of confusion, timidity, anger, and guilt.
As I gained an understanding of God as my divine Parent, and my true spiritual nature as His child, I began to have hope of healing.
Gradually, though, as I continued to gain an understanding of God as my divine Parent, and my true spiritual nature as His child, I began to have hope of healing. In Sunday School I learned how to apply the teachings of the Bible, and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. Week after week, the Sunday School teachers’ sharing of their own study, application, and proofs of Christian Science taught me that I could rely on God’s tender care for me and for all of His creation.
A big hurdle was forgiving the teacher who had abused me. But Christian Science showed me that man is spiritual, not material, and that the true identity of each of us as God’s expression is untainted by any human circumstance. I began to glimpse that God as divine Principle upholds the honesty, purity, and integrity of man, so sensuality and sin are not part of anyone’s real selfhood.
Still, the memories of what had happened left me feeling vulnerable. While unfailingly polite, I was suspicious of everyone. This was not the way I wanted to live, and I was strengthened by knowing that God did not require me to live this way. I was learning that His law of Love includes safety, freedom, joy, empathy, and compassion, as well as forgiveness.
I was so grateful to realize there was a way through this nightmare. As explained in Science and Health: “There is but one way to heaven, harmony, and Christ in divine Science shows us this way. It is to know no other reality—to have no other consciousness of life—than good, God and His reflection, and to rise superior to the so-called pain and pleasure of the senses” (p. 242).
By the time I graduated from elementary school, I had grown in spiritual understanding and had made much progress in putting the experience behind me. I felt more at peace, and my natural joy was returning. The migraine headaches continued, however, so I pressed on with my prayers.
On page 167 of Science and Health, it says: “We apprehend Life in divine Science only as we live above corporeal sense and correct it. Our proportionate admission of the claims of good or of evil determines the harmony of our existence,—our health, our longevity, and our Christianity.” Some years later, I had an experience that helped me more clearly understand what it means to “live above corporeal sense and correct it.”
Divine Principle upholds the honesty, purity, and integrity of man, so sensuality and sin are not part of anyone’s real selfhood.
I was at an airport one night, waiting to fly from New York to Florida. Outside there was a fierce thunder and lightning storm going on, and I was sure the flight would be delayed because of the weather. However, at the appointed time, the flight was announced and passengers began to board the plane.
We took off in the midst of the unrelenting storm. The plane shuddered as it gained speed and rose through the storm until, at last, it broke through the clouds to a gorgeous black velvet sky, where the moon and stars shone like diamonds and the atmosphere was absolutely still. Below, we could still see the clouds and lightning. Everyone knew the storm would dissipate, but in the meantime we were safely above it and untouched by it. The permanent, fixed reality was the beauty of the night. No matter how the storm raged, it had no power to change that fact.
Aha! At that moment I realized more clearly than ever before that my purity, innocence, goodness, wholeness, and joy were the forever fact—divine Life known, reflected, and expressed. My spiritual selfhood, my only selfhood, remained untouched, always perfect and intact, at one with God. Now I was ready to move on, to part with the sense of myself as a victim, and to recognize and live my God-bestowed, God-governed life—the only life I had.
Earnest study of the Christian Science Bible Lesson became part of my daily routine. It was awe-inspiring to read of Mrs. Eddy’s discovery of the Christ Science that challenged long-held beliefs about life as wholly material, or as matter and Spirit combined. She was fearless in teaching and demonstrating that Life—a synonym for God—is wholly spiritual, and that man’s nature as the expression of God is spiritual.
She understood that man’s relation to God is eternal and unbroken, and she healed on this basis, just as Jesus healed. She proved that God’s creation is the only creation, and that whatever is unlike God is unreal—an illusion that Christ, Truth, destroys.
It was reassuring for me to know that the mortal record of events, with its emotional scars, was actually a baseless lie, and I had a divine right to be free of the claim of domination, vulnerability, and blame. It took persistence to hold to the spiritual facts, but it was well worth the investment of thought and prayer, as I gained a deeper understanding of my innocence and freedom.
Imagine my joy and relief when I saw that nothing could touch or change the eternal fact that “it is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect” (Psalms 18:32). Walking in the light of this truth restored a sense of wholeness and a trust in ever-present good. With nothing left to support them, timidity, suspicion, and shame fell away, replaced by buoyancy, health, and fulfillment. And the migraine headaches stopped completely.
This certainly wasn’t the quickest healing I’ve had in Christian Science, but I cherish the spiritual lessons I learned, which have provided a firm foundation for growth and progress.
The healing Christ is impartial and universal. Its law of Love blesses all. So anyone who yearns to go beyond #MeToo can rest assured that he or she can turn to God to find complete healing and freedom.