Saturday, April 7, 2012

Rid of My Disgrace by Justin & Lindsey Holcomb

The other day I saw that Rid of My Disgrace by Justin & Lindsey Holcomb was being offered free for the kindle (sorry, its not any longer). I told my wife that she might like to get it as it was the book that I was just finishing. She asked if it was any good. My response summarizes what I initially thought of this book. I said, "Its a book on sexual assault, I don't know if can be any good."

What I meant by that has nothing to do with the style of writing by the Holcomb's. It has nothing to do with the content of the book. It has nothing to do with it being boring or dry. It has everything to do with the topic of the book. How can we say that something we read on sexual assault is good? But the more I thought about it, the more I contemplated that statement, I think I was wrong. I think I was wrong because the main thought that is being taught in this book is that there can be grace found for the victims of sexual assault even in their disgrace. The Holcomb's do a wonderful job of showing the healing nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It alone is what can overcome the pain and suffering of those who have experienced sexual assault.

The statistics are staggering. They say that "at least one in four women and one in six men are or will be victims of sexual assault in their lifetime" (13). That breaks my heart. That means there are many hurting people who are alone and scared who have never spoken of their brokenness and pain. This also means that a book like this is a needed resource. If anyone has ever suffered under the burden of being sexually abused, this is a book that they should read. No matter how difficult it is for them.

One of the difficulties in dealing with this topic is arriving at a definition of sexual assault. They spend an entire chapter explaining their extensive and comprehensive definition. Here is how they define it:
"Sexual assault is any type of behavior or contact where consent is not freely given or obtained and is accomplished through force, intimidation, violence, coercion, manipulation, threat, deception, or abuse of authority" (28).
The heart of the book is found as they show how the grace of God in the gospel is applied to the varied responses to being sexually abused. They deal with the responses of denial, distorted self-image, shame, guilt, anger, and despair. In each case, they show how the gospel of Jesus Christ is where healing can begin.

For instance, in the chapter on anger, they show how the gospel leads someone to forgiveness. They describe that anger "can be a natural and healthy response to sexual assault" (125). But more often than not, the anger leads to sin in the heart of the victim. They say,
"Scripture does not instruct Christians to suppress anger. However, it is where you go and what you do with your anger that must be examined. There is godly anger and sinful anger. Godly anger is healing and redemptive; sinful anger is ugly and vindictive as it gives way to bitterness and hatred" (127). 
The solution? Forgiveness.
"You may be offended or shocked, and that would make sense since forgiveness is an outrage 'against straight-line dues-paying morality.' But Christianity is not about karma; it is about grace. And this grace is sometimes shocking" (132).
They continue . . .
"Some have suggested that calling victims to forgive perpetrators may cause revictimization. That is certainly true when forgiveness is described in a simplistic, shallow, insensitive manner and not biblically defined. However, denying a victim the sense of freedom that only comes after biblical forgiveness has taken place, perpetuates the suffering caused by the initial assault because it allows the poison of hatred to continue to fester. To make forgiveness contingent on the perpetrator's repentance intensifies revictimization by stripping a victim of power and placing control back into the hands of the perpetrator . . . Your forgiving the perpetrator is not sanctioning the violence they did to you. Forgiveness does not mean that you do not participate in activities that impose consequences on evil behavior such as calling the police, filing reports, church discipline, criminal proceedings, etc. You can forgive your abuser without the expectation of pretending the assault never happened" (135-6).
I think you get a sense of the directness of the gospel they apply to the situations of sexual abuse. My heart breaks for any of you who have experienced this. Maybe a book like this will give you some direction and help as you sift through the pain and suffering. I think it might just help lead you to Jesus, from whom all real healing is found.

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