When was the last time you talked about sexual abuse in your church?
FACT: 67% of Canadians know a woman who has experienced physical or sexual abuse.
The first time I shared my story about being sexually abused, I was told, "No one wants to hear about that."
The truth is women do want to hear about it.
When I advised a church retreat committee I would be sharing my story of abuse as the speaker at their annual women's retreat I was told, "You are free to share it, but it isn't an issue for any of the women in our church." I spent the entire weekend meeting with women privately who shared with me their stories of abuse - at work, at home, at church and in Christian schools.
Women in your church are dealing with sexual abuse and harassment.
Here are some facts about sexual abuse:
Young Canadians are more likely to experience sexual assault. The rate of sexual assault for Canadians age 15 to 24 is 18 times higher than that of Canadians age 55 and older.
82% of all victims of sexual assault under the age of 18 are female, and girls under age 18 report a rate of sexual violence almost five times higher than boys under 18.
Girls are four times more likely than boys to be sexually abused by a family member.
Women with disabilities and those who are institutionalized, Aboriginal women, single women, and women who are unemployed or have low-incomes are at heightened risk of sexual assault.
Sexual assaults account for about 33% of all crimes committed against Aboriginal women, and 10% of all crimes committed against non-Aboriginal women.
Disabled women experience sexual violence at about three times the rate of non-disabled women.
Out of the total number of seniors who are sexually assaulted by a family member, 96% are women.
Sexual abuse has a spiritual impact on women.
Women struggle to share their stories with men in church leadership. They wonder where God was in the midst of their abuse. They feel damaged and may be processing messages that somehow this was their fault.
How is your church supporting women?
I work with churches to help them address the issue of sexual abuse in their congregations. I am available to consult with your church board, speak to your church and women's groups. I also provide spiritual direction for women who have been abused.
I was sexually abused as a child. I also encountered sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace and in the church. I know how complex the journey is for a woman to find healing. Women often experience further trauma when they share their stories within churches. I spent over 25 years in church ministry and leadership and have walked with other women through their healing journeys. My professional bio includes consulting and working with leaders to develop healthy organizations.
Are you ready to get started bringing hope and healing to your church community?