I will not be silent. I will talk about the things that for generations people have been saying "Shh. Don't talk about that stuff," or "Keep the past in the past," or "The skeletons are better left in the closet." Better for who? The perpetrators? Satan and his kingdom? If we stay quiet, Satan can produce more child molesters, tempt more victims to commit suicide, entice more people to numb themselves with alcohol or narcotics, convince more people that they are homosexual or of the opposite gender, and talk more people into not getting married or having children.
I am Holly Otten, a survivor of sexual abuse and incest, and my life's work is to help people heal from sexual abuse. I am sharing with you my thoughts based on my own personal experiences and from those who've come through our inner healing curriculum for survivors, as well as from counseling survivors. I am a voice for the voiceless−the weak and wounded.
Let me give you an analogy of why we must deal with the sin of sexual abuse and not keep it secret. When I was a child, I watched my grandmother take out a bowl of chicken soup from the refrigerator. When she removed the lid, I noticed the soup didn't look like it did the day before when I ate it. It had a layer of fat floating on the top. It didn't look very appetizing and because my grandmother knew that the fat was not healthy for our bodies, she skimmed the fat off and placed it in the garbage. Both perpetrators and victims try to block out the abuse as if it never happened, but the effects of the abuse create much damage in their lives, including passing down the behavior of incest to their children, who pass it down to their children, and so on.
It's time to clean out the skeletons from the closets. It's the only way to break the generational patterns (or curses¹) of sexual abuse and incest. We Christ-followers must war for our generations. We must deal with the sin of the past and present generations so that our future generations can be spared from the horrific consequences of sexual abuse and incest. We must not keep silent when we hear a loved one say that they were sexually abused (present or past). We need to listen when a child tells us that her uncle makes her feel uncomfortable or when a child says that he doesn't want to live with Daddy any longer. We must stop protecting the perpetrator and start fighting for the rights of the victim. We must stop aiding in keeping the perpetrator's secrets. We must stop looking the other way. We must stop choosing to live in a place of denial.
Pastors are not immune to temptations to molest children. I know personally of 3 pastors who molested their own children, and other church leaders who abused children, including 1 deacon, 1 worship pastor and 1 youth-group leader. There are generational curses of incest that produce strong temptations. If the pastor was molested himself and never dealt with his abuse, then there is an even stronger pull to give into temptations to molest his children, or any children who are in his life, such as his daughter's friend, a niece, a boy in his Boy Scout troop or a girl on his baseball team. Children are easy prey. The drive to satisfy his sexual desires are satiated, no matter the gender or age. In most cases, the younger, the better. Some of the reasons for this are that the children are less likely to tell anyone and they are more vulnerable because of their small size. In addition, men get more pleasure when they penetrate a smaller child, and lastly, there is no threat of pregnancy if the child is prepubescent.
Let's all agree to make an effort to change things around. For the sake of our children, let's profess: "NO MORE SECRETS. NO MORE LIES. NO MORE DECEIT." It is time to tell all. It is time to get everything out in the open. God knows it all anyhow. Nothing is hidden from His eyes. God knows about the pastor's secrets. His certificate of ordination is not a sure ticket into heaven. There must be repentance in the heart of the pastor if he is to expect to have eternal life in heaven. Of course this goes for all perpetrators.
I encourage perpetrators to repent to God for their sins of sexual abuse and to pray for the healing of their victims. If a victim comes to him later in years and tells him that she knows what he did to her, he should not deny it. He should apologize to her. It will help them both to heal. I experienced this with a perpetrator who sexually abused me. This family member came to me when we were adults and apologized for abusing me. After he apologized, he sobbed profusely. I saw the weight of his sin fall off of his shoulders. He became clean and free of the burden that he carried for so many years. Unfortunately, he was only 1 out of 5 perpetrators who apologized for sexually abusing me. Nonetheless, I have forgiven each one and have placed them in the hands of God, the one and only Judge.
I have used the gender of the male when speaking of the perpetrator because there is a much lower percentage of women who are found to be child molesters and rapists. Also, I have used both genders when speaking of the victims, but there is a higher percentage of female victims than there are male victims. There are various statistics, but there is one that I find to be close to my personal experiences. By the age of 18, 1 out of 3 women will be sexually abused and 1 out of 5 boys. This stat is only based on known cases. Therefore, the stats are higher. I believe them to be MUCH higher because of the number of people, both women and men, who have told me of their abuse, but never told anyone else in their lives.
Scriptures that speak of incest, curses and blessings:
Galatians 3:13, Deuteronomy 28:15, Leviticus 20:17-21
Listen to a poem called "Skim the Fat" from the audio book "The Tin Man-The Voice of an Incest Survivor" by Holly Otten.
About the Author
Holly Otten is co-founder of Tin Man Ministries, a faith-based non-profit whose mission is to promote healing for survivors of sexual abuse and to advocate for victims of the sex trafficking trade. TMM has produced many resources to help survivors heal and grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ.
Purchase Holly's books in paperback or audio.
Read more blog posts from Grace n Glory, an outreach branch of Tin Man Ministries.
"This is church," I heard God say to me. It was in the middle of a ministry board meeting. It was a lovely fall day, so I decided to have our bi-monthly meeting outside on our family deck. It was interesting to hear those words, as I was not part of an organized church at that time. Later, when I pondered God's words, I noted that we were a small group of Believers who prayed, worshipped God in song and fellowshipped with one another. This was in addition to the business portion of the meeting, but even this was done unto the Lord. I heard those same 3 words once again while praying and worshipping God with a handful of people at our state house capital building. In these 2 circumstances, I was gathered with God-fearing, Holy Spirit-filled people and everything we did or said was unto Him. "This is church."
I've heard pastors highlight to their congregations the need for people to "go to the house of the Lord," (Psalm 122:1), but those words were from the Old Testament. After Jesus ascended into heaven, He sent His Holy Spirit to fill our bodies, and so when a person is filled with or baptized by the power of the Holy Spirit, they become the temple of the Holy Spirit. Paul tells the church in Corinth, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?" (1 Corinthians 6:19). The truth is, "WE ARE THE CHURCH." WE (Believers or Christ-followers) make up the church. Paul stated to the believers in Ephesus, "So then you...are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets; Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone; in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:19-22).
While attending one church, I was worshipping God and had a vision. I saw the church building from inside the walls, but the walls looked like a cardboard box. I watched the walls of the box collapse down and out. I then walked out of the "box" and into the street, where I saw a person whose hands were bound with handcuffs. I walked up to the person with a set of keys and unlocked the handcuffs. I spent a lot of my time in that church building. I spent hours there on Sunday mornings and then Sunday nights. I went there for the seasonal conferences, monthly women's breakfasts, weekly classes and all of the social gatherings such as the Christmas potluck. One day while in prayer, I heard God say to me, "Holly, I don't want you to camp out in the church building. I'm calling you to go outside the church building." I wept when I told my pastors what God had said to me because I loved them and was loyal to assisting them with the needs of their "church."
I agree with Paul's words in the book of Hebrews, "Let’s consider how to encourage one another in love...not abandoning our own meeting together, as is the habit of some people, but encouraging one another" (Hebrews 10:24-25). We need to fellowship with like-minded people where we encourage and exhort one another. King Solomon, known for his wisdom said, "For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up!...And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart" (Ecclesiastes 4:10, 12). Whether I am part of an organized church or not, I make it a point to connect on a regular basis with my Christian brothers and sisters (and spiritual mothers and fathers), whether it be through texting, emailing, conference calls or meeting in person. I enjoy doing this not only on Sunday or the Sabbath day, but on every day of the week. I enjoy praying, worshipping, serving, fellowshipping and learning more about God, every single day of the year.
I've had church in places such as a strip club, a parking lot where homosexual men meet, Dunkin Donuts, a park where drug dealers work, and my local grocery store. When California's governor mandated that churches could not gather and worship God, worship leader Sean Feucht called "the church" to gather and worship on the Golden Gate Bridge. Hundreds of Christ-followers had church on a bridge! Sean wrote about it in a Facebook post and entitled it, "THE CHURCH HAS LEFT THE BUILDING." Sean continued to have church outdoors in cities across the nation in the following months and I was blessed to take part in the Boston, Connecticut and Washington, D.C. gatherings. I loved worshipping God freely under the open sky in the Boston Common; a park where non-church goers also gathered and so could hear the Gospel message and feel the tangible presence of God. I've asked myself, "If all believers in Christ hang out with each other in a church building, then how will unbelievers outside of the building hear about the love of Jesus and be saved?" Most believers spend all their time and energy tending to their families, going to work, and lastly, in the church building. It leaves little or no time to reach out to people who would never step foot in a church building.
Many people have been wounded while attending the organized church or Christian-based school. Some were victims of abuse from pastors, priests, worship leaders, and teachers. These people are not likely to walk into a church building. So I ask myself, "How will they hear the Gospel message and be saved?" Many people look at themselves and feel that they will not be accepted if they were to walk into a church building because they do not look, talk or smell as good as those inside. Even if they were welcomed, they still may feel that they do not belong. "Who will go to share the love of Jesus with these ones?" Another question that I ask myself.
Ok God. I hear you. "Here am I. Send me" (Isaiah 6:8).
Lord prepare me
To be a sanctuary
Pure and holy
Tried and true
I'll be a living Sanctuary
Oh for You
*Song by Marantha Music
**Sanctuary refers to a temple or church
"But when you are separated from Me, you are powerless" TO LOVE.
How can I love like Jesus? How can I obey Him to love my neighbor as myself when I don't love myself? How can I love myself and my neighbor if I don't know what love looks like? If a child wasn't loved by her parents who brought her into the world, then how does she know what love is?
These are all of the questions that I asked myself when I became serious about following Jesus. I read Jesus' words in the book of Mark, "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:21), and it stumped me. I knew that I desired to be loved, just like every other human being on this earth. My hunger for love was deep because as a child, I experienced neglect and abuse from my parents who were supposed to love and protect me. I realize now as an adult, that my parents failed to show me what love looks like, because they themselves were not the recipient of love by their parents. I'm sure they tried to love their children in the best way they knew, but if they didn't have the substance of love themselves, then how were they supposed to give it away? Where does one get the substance of love?
I began a quest to find this love that I read and heard about. I wanted it so very badly! I sought out to find the substance of love, as one searches to find gold. Then one day, I read in God's Word, "Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love" (1 John 4:8ESV). GOD IS LOVE! Now I discovered where to get this love that I so desired! God! As I continued to draw closer to God and desire the love that I knew He could give me, I chose to take part in a series of workshops where I could learn more about being filled with the Holy Spirit. During one of those sessions, I read a list of the 9 fruits of the Holy Spirit found in the book of Galatians, and BAM! There it was! A fruit of the Holy Spirit is LOVE! With this realization, I was desperate to have the life of the Holy Spirit to fill me so then I would have the POWER TO LOVE!
When the leaders of the workshop prepared to pray over me to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, they told me to ask God for gifts of the Holy Spirit. I had learned of the 9 gifts of the Spirit found in 1 Corinthians 12, in addition to the 9 fruits. As I considered gifts to ask God for, such as miracles, prophecy and healing, the one thing that I asked God for was LOVE. I went through this workshop several more times in the years to follow and each time, I asked God for the same thing, the fruit of LOVE.
In order for me to bear the fruit of love in my everyday life, I need to be connected to the Vine, Jesus Christ. I learned of this truth while reading in the book of John (chapter 15:1-17). I felt God say to me that I will bear the fruit of love if I remain connected to (or abide in) the Vine. "As you live in union with me as your source, fruitfulness will stream from within you, but when you live separated from me, you are powerless" (John 15:5TPT). As I read the following verses in this chapter, I see the word LOVE listed over and over. Jesus said in verses 9 and 10, "I love each of you with the same love that the Father loves me. You must continually let my love nourish your hearts...for I continually live nourished and empowered by His love." We learn from Jesus' life as told to us in the New Testament that Jesus went to be alone to pray to the Father on a frequent basis. Jesus chose to remain connected to the Father, and it was in that place of intimacy with Him, that He received the power to love all people, including Peter who denied Him, Judas who betrayed Him, and Malchus who came to arrest Him as if He were a hardened criminal.
If we remain connected to Jesus, the Vine, then we will have the power to love, even when faced with hatred. We will have the power to obey Jesus' words, "So this is my parting command: Love one another deeply" (John 15:17TPT). We simply do not possess authentic, pure and powerful love in our mortal flesh. We may try to love without the Spirit of God, but we will fail. Our attempts to love without God, the source of pure love, will end up being artificial. Unfortunately, people are so desperate for love, that they often settle for this kind of love. They talk themselves into believing that what they are feeling or receiving is true love, but it really is not.
Because I have remained connected to the Vine, God has filled with the love needed to forgive my mother for neglecting me and my father for abusing me. I also came to understand why my parents were unable to love me the way that I needed them to. They were not connected to the Vine, Jesus Christ.
Fear Out. Faith In.
If I Only Had A Heart
Is Your Heart Soft Or Hard?
Love Or Lies?
Lust Vs. Love
NO MORE SECRETS
Sex Trafficking In My Backyard
The Church Has Left The Building
What Does Love Look Like