Can the Catholic Church Have the Best Response to Sexual Trauma
Not that Church. Not the one with all the scandal.
Yes, that Church.
She could have the best response to sexual trauma. The secular world is addressing it, even though rape, molestation and incest have found a way into every corner of the secular world.
Fatherhood is still good, even if some fathers have not been good.
Coaching is still laudable, even though some coaches have been disastrous.
Teaching is still a wonderful profession, in spite of the fact that some teachers have misused their positions of authority.
When each of these is at its best, it is quite beautiful.
So, while the secular counselors and coalitions have done a tremendous job of helping to heal the wounds of sexual trauma, the Church could (and should) be the home for the greatest healing of all.
What we have going for us.
- We believe in the power of a fiat. A yes. God, being omnipotent, didn’t demand anything of the Blessed Mother. While He could have, being her creator, He didn’t. He was the perfect gentleman. He asked for Mary’s permission. And she said yes. She gave her consent. A few years ago, the Department of Justice changed the law. Assault and rape are no longer defined solely by force. The legal definition now includes the issue of consent. One must be able to give a yes. Children aren’t old enough to be able to do that. Sleeping wives, exhausted by raising children, aren’t able to do that. A young person who has had too much to drink… not able to give consent. In most places, spouses and intimate partners must have freely-given consent. We call that Free Will. It must be respected. It cannot be coerced. Not even in marriage.
- We believe in the Theology of the Body. It all has to make sense. It has to be rooted in dialogue between husband and wife. Sexual intimacy requires the highest degree of respect. Let me be clear. It requires marital love.
- We believe in redemption and healing. Our whole faith is centered upon the Person of Jesus Christ. He came so that we might experience the ultimate healing. He came to heal us from Original Sin and liberate us from Personal Sin. We are taught a new way. A Way of the Cross. An offering up of ourselves for another. Embedded in the whole Gospel message is the teaching that no damage or trauma is so great that God’s love cannot overcome it. Obliterate it. We don’t believe in the possibility of transforming from a victim to a survivor. We believe in the reality of transforming from a victim to a victor. Through His stripes, we are healed. He can redeem anything. Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more.
Freedom. Love. Healing.
These have become part of my journey. I am learning to set boundaries, that I possess a freedom to set boundaries and to firmly stand my ground. I am learning to love and sort through what love is and what love is not. How love acts, how love does not act. And I am learning how to heal. Up to 80% of those who have experienced sexual trauma have some form of PTSD. For some, it is a delayed-onset PTSD. Nightmares. Difficulty with relationships and boundaries. Addictions. Social anxiety. Generalized anxiety. Struggles in the workplace.
This brings me to the final reason why the Church has the potential to be the best response to sexual trauma.
4. We believe in Confession and spiritual direction. When these two come together, the soul experiences something miraculous. It is Easter morning kind of stuff. You see things more clearly than you have ever seen them before. You have strength to sweep away the hurt and those who have hurt you and receive the greatest love of the universe. You begin the amazing journey where every experience past, present and future is connected organically to the One who made you and has called you into His glorious Life. You are no longer feeling like you are being swallowed up by memories and hurts and horrific experiences and people who assert control and power and are masters at gaslighting and secrecy. You are able to walk into the Light and bring all of it with you. There, in the Light, the darkness flees.
5. We believe in new beginnings. You take baby steps at first. You keep going back to the Sacraments, especially Eucharist, Confession with spiritual direction and perhaps even Anointing of the Sick. You find that Truth has set you free, is setting you free, will set you free. What is Truth? Jesus Christ is Truth. And His Church has the best response to the wounds you carry.
Our wounds are offered up and placed in the Wounds of Christ, and talk about power! This power has overcome the world.
Get creative. Turn to the Stations of the Cross and make your own booklet. Include the fifteenth Station. (Or I will come to your group and share the Stations of the Cross that I developed for my own healing.) His Resurrection has made a way for your redemption. He redeems all things.
Go to Adoration. Write down what happened to you, the wounds you have, write them down and lay that paper on the Altar.
Light a candle, and burn the paper. Say this prayer:
Jesus, I give it to You. Now is the time. Change my wounds into scars that are healed and redeemed. Let me walk in Paschal Power. Let me know joy once more. Amen.
Denise Bossert is a nationally-recognized Catholic speaker, author, syndicated columnist and convert. She is a survivor/victor over sexual molestation as a child and rape in marriage. She is the mother of four children. One of her children was conceived in rape. That child was also a victim of sexual molestation. Use the contact form in the menu to reach Denise and invite her to speak about the Catholic faith and how true healing is there.