Intimate Clarity

Clarity On Sexual Abuse

Three Angels Broadcasting Network

Program transcript



Series Code: IC

Program Code: IC180102A

00:30 Welcome to "Intimate Clarity," I'm Jason Bradley,
00:33 and I'm here with Jennifer Jill Schwirzer,
00:36 and she is a licensed, professional counselor
00:39 and today we're going to be discussing
00:40 a very sensitive topic, but it's a conversation
00:43 we will need to have.
00:45 Jen, what is sexual abuse and how does it affect a person?
00:48 That is a very sensitive topic and it's one that affects
00:51 many, many people.
00:53 Sexual abuse is whenever someone who is in any way
00:57 stronger than another and capable of dominating
01:01 that other - dominates them for the purpose
01:04 of their own sexual pleasure.
01:06 And so it can occur in a lot of different contexts
01:09 at any stage, any age; of course the most
01:12 heart wrenching version of it is the abuse of children.
01:16 So let me give you some statistics here...
01:19 Globally, 7.9% of men and 19.7% of women
01:27 are abused sexually before the age of 18.
01:32 That's nearly 8% of men, close to 10%,
01:36 and almost 20% of women are. So double.
01:39 Abused before the age of 18, now there's a couple of
01:42 qualifiers here... One is that a lot of abuse
01:45 is not reported - it's vastly under-reported,
01:47 and if you think about it, the very systems, families
01:51 and societies where this kind of thing is condoned
01:54 or ignored, are the very kind
01:56 that would not want it to come out.
01:58 And so they would have an incentive to hide it,
02:00 and so there's a lot of under-reporting of abuse.
02:03 And, in addition to that, this is only
02:05 before the age of 18, not including the abuse that
02:09 occurs afterward and it can continue to happen,
02:11 even after the age of 18.
02:13 The only kind of abuse is not child abuse,
02:15 it's a very broad thing.
02:17 So it's quite a heart wrenching problem
02:18 and it's a very, very prevalent problem.
02:21 You know, it's probably under-reported too because
02:25 sometimes these people are probably feeling shame.
02:28 You know, sometimes the victims feel ashamed,
02:31 and sometimes they might feel like they brought
02:34 it on themselves, what is that called,
02:38 is there a name for that?
02:40 Survivor's shame, survivor's guilt, victim shaming.
02:45 A lot of times, the system they're a part of
02:48 shames them when they try to report it.
02:51 Oftentimes they come with an allegation...
02:53 Say for instance, they experience abuse
02:55 within the family, they try to tell another
02:58 family member and they're shamed by the family
03:00 because the family is incentivized NOT to
03:03 believe the worst about, for instance,
03:06 the alpha male of the tribe, so-to-speak...
03:09 So the child will experience secondary disturbance
03:11 when they try to report it, and they'll walk away
03:14 with a lot of "imposed shame" is what I would call it.
03:18 And then they'll internalize that shame,
03:20 it will become internalized shame and they'll then
03:23 carry it with them into their adult life.
03:26 It's a tragic thing.
03:27 That's like a lifelong impact pretty much.
03:30 It can really, really impact a person,
03:32 and it always amazes me, as a counselor,
03:34 the severity of the impact of sexual abuse.
03:38 You know, I counsel a lot of victims and
03:40 sometimes I just say to myself, "Are there any,
03:43 particularly women, that haven't experienced
03:46 any abuse or one of the most often cited statistics
03:51 is that one-third, one out of every three women
03:54 is either sexually abused, raped or
04:01 a violence is perpetrated on them.
04:04 One out of three women?
04:06 Globally, it's very, very common.
04:09 Women suffer a lot of abuse of various kinds,
04:12 and so, you know, people will suffer as a result of
04:16 these things and I'm amazed at how many victims there are.
04:19 And often, I'm the first one to hear about it,
04:22 as the counselor because oftentimes they come from
04:24 families that shamed the victim and I end up
04:28 being the one that's hearing about it for the first time
04:30 and I consider that a privilege really because
04:33 that individual can then just tell their story
04:36 to someone who actually believes them. Yes
04:39 But I'm also amazed at the severity of the effect of that.
04:43 Even if the abuse itself was not severe,
04:47 even if it happened in only an isolated number of cases,
04:50 it wasn't, you know, constant, it didn't continue over years;
04:55 even if it was just a few isolated incidents,
04:57 it will still have a profound impact...
04:59 And one of the things I do as a counselor is
05:02 I accept that, I don't shame the victim for having
05:05 such a severe impact or such severe consequences
05:08 as a result of the abuse.
05:10 So they feel comfortable in coming to you
05:12 and talking to you about it, because you're not
05:14 shaming them, you're listening to them.
05:17 They do. They addressed the issue.
05:18 They do and that's one of the difficult things about
05:21 being a counselor is you believe the person
05:24 that's coming to you because, in most cases,
05:27 they don't have an incentive to lie and typically
05:30 when a victim comes to you, they don't have
05:32 an incentive to lie - they are actually paying you
05:34 for counseling sessions and they need to get something done.
05:38 They need to get through something,
05:39 and so they're very incentivized to work through it,
05:42 and the chances of them lying are very, very small,
05:45 very, very small; however, sometimes in counseling
05:47 you're dealing with a marriage situation where there is
05:50 an incentive to lie, but typically, I'll say that
05:53 typically with victims of sexual abuse,
05:56 when they come to me reporting something that
05:58 happened to them previously, they don't have an agenda
06:01 against anyone - they're just trying to deal with
06:03 the effects of what they went through.
06:05 So what I do is... I believe the victim. Okay
06:09 Even if I don't have concrete proof except their testimony,
06:12 I believe them because in the vast majority of cases,
06:16 the alleged victim is telling the truth
06:19 in sexual abuse cases.
06:21 I also work with dealing with abuse cases in the church.
06:25 I work with various ministries that help to deal with
06:29 this problem in the church and we have kind of a rule of thumb
06:33 that the victim is most likely telling the truth,
06:36 and so we should believe the victim, but at the same time,
06:40 still ask for evidence and still seek evidence
06:43 because there are cases where they do lie.
06:44 Absolutely and you do have those cases, like you said,
06:47 where there are false allegations and you're
06:50 tarnishing someone's reputation and everything.
06:53 Reputation and really ruining their lives, yeah.
06:56 It does happen, but when someone alleges being
07:00 sexually abused by someone falsely,
07:03 there's a couple of things going on that are
07:05 actually very rare... one of them is abnormal psychology.
07:08 Most women and I'll just use women as an example
07:12 because it can happen to either males or females,
07:15 but most - and I would say this is true of males more so,
07:19 don't want to be the one that got abused...
07:21 Like that's not flattering or that doesn't make me
07:24 feel good about myself at all. Yeah
07:26 It's not something I want to be known for,
07:28 and so the fact that they're coming forward with this thing
07:30 is probably not a form of attention-seeking.
07:34 But there is an abnormal psychology that does seek
07:40 attention even if it's negative attention,
07:42 so that can be happening.
07:43 There could also be a vendetta, a history with that
07:46 person where you want to level a playing field
07:48 or settle a score, so you try to take down that person.
07:51 So those are the cases in which sometimes there are
07:54 false allegations, but they are few and far between.
07:57 Most typically when a victim comes forth,
07:59 they are telling the truth.
08:01 Yes, like why would you want to lie about that?
08:02 And I would rather believe them and be fooled,
08:05 than disbelieve them and take the risk of
08:09 re-traumatizing them.
08:10 So I just go ahead and, as a general rule,
08:12 I believe the victim, but I won't necessarily
08:15 go forth, you know, writing letters against
08:17 the perpetrator or anything like that until I have evidence.
08:20 Yeah... Yeah, so that's how I roll.
08:22 But I believe people because they need to be believed that
08:26 they were truly abused, and a lot of times,
08:28 it's amazing - just telling someone your story
08:32 can in and of itself be powerfully therapeutic...
08:36 And just listening to that victim and just
08:39 hearing what they've been through and empathizing
08:42 with them can provide the basis, the beginning anyway
08:46 of their recovery from it.
08:48 Why do you think that is?
08:50 Well, I think that's a very good question.
08:52 I think that human beings are tremendous archivists.
08:57 Look at our history, you know, look at our history books,
09:00 look at the whole study of history and how we've
09:02 kept track of our history down to the minutiae sometimes.
09:06 I think every human being has a drive to archive their history.
09:11 Now what happens when you're history entails trauma
09:15 that you haven't shared with anyone else... is you carry
09:17 that with you and a lot of times when you share that history
09:21 with another person, you can then, in a sense,
09:24 distance yourself from it because you know
09:27 where you can find it, particularly if that person
09:29 writes it down, and I do that when I'm
09:31 listening to people, I take notes and I write it
09:34 down so they know it's been recorded somewhere.
09:36 I can find it if I need to, but for now, I can let go of it.
09:39 And it shows you're paying very close attention too.
09:41 And I care about what they're saying, it matters to me.
09:44 That's right, so a lot of times the sexual abuse scenarios
09:48 will produce very severe symptoms in people,
09:52 and they'll struggle with anxiety disorders.
09:54 They'll struggle with depression.
09:56 They'll have post-traumatic stress
09:58 disorder as a result of it and other mental health
10:01 issues are much more prevalent in the population
10:04 people that have been through abuse.
10:06 Wow! Yeah...
10:07 And so how do they work through those?
10:09 Well, let me talk about PTSD. Okay
10:12 PTSD is "Post-traumatic stress disorder"
10:14 It really shouldn't be called a disorder because
10:16 a lot of times they are just responding to something
10:18 that was devastating, and so they're having
10:20 kind of a normal response to something devastating,
10:23 and some people feel like calling it a disorder
10:25 really stigmatizes the person that has suffered
10:28 this devastating situation.
10:29 So what it basically is... is we think that normally
10:34 when memories process, the person is able to remove
10:39 the charge from that memory, the emotional charge,
10:42 and file the facts about that memory in their mind. Okay
10:46 But in PTSD, for some reason, that process goes awry,
10:51 and the person keeps re-experiencing that memory.
10:54 They're not able to remove the charge and file it,
10:56 so it's thought that the mind is trying to bring that
10:59 memory forward because the person hasn't
11:02 thoroughly processed it.
11:04 So they're basically re-living that experience
11:06 over and over and over again.
11:09 That's right and it's thought that it's the mind's
11:11 attempt to get the memory processed effectively.
11:15 And so that's why when we talk through these
11:18 traumatic events in that person's life,
11:20 a lot of times that enables them to process that
11:23 memory sufficiently to where they can store the
11:27 memory and the facts about it without re-living it.
11:30 And it's amazing, people that have suffered through
11:33 and gone through sexual abuse, will be able to share
11:36 their story and they will often go forward and share
11:38 their story for the benefit of other people,
11:40 and they can just deadpan, you know,
11:42 be telling the story of what they went through.
11:44 I'm one of them, I was attacked by a group of young people
11:48 on the playground and I think I was 12-13 years old,
11:52 and a group of girls attacked me and physically
11:55 and sexually abused me in front of the whole class
11:57 back on the baseball diamond away from the eyes of
12:00 teachers and staff of the school and that was a horrible
12:04 trauma to go through, but I share that,
12:06 I just shared it with you, I didn't feel a flicker
12:07 of emotion because I processed it and I've, in fact, gotten to
12:11 the place where I'm actually grateful that it happened
12:14 because it gives me credibility with other victims.
12:16 I know how they feel and I could tell them I went
12:18 through that and it will give me a little change
12:21 in the bank and they'll feel more confident.
12:23 Absolutely - they will be able to identify.
12:26 That's right! And that's thorough memory processing,
12:30 and that's possible for anybody out there that's
12:33 dealing with post-traumatic stress
12:35 as a result of sexual abuse.
12:37 You can get through this, find a good counselor,
12:40 a good Biblical counselor.
12:42 is a good place to go if
12:46 you're seeking biblical counseling and that's
12:49 at least a good place to start.
12:51 And you said it was... abidecounseling?
12:53 It's a network,
12:56 a counseling network that I manage.
12:58 Start out with a good counselor and work through
13:01 some of those memories and you can get through it.
13:03 You get out the other end it's possible.
13:05 We'll always be scarred be from these things,
13:08 but we won't always be sustaining open, gaping
13:12 wounds, you know... we want to bind the wound.
13:15 We'll always have the scar, but we'll be able to
13:18 speak through that scar, just like Jesus speaks
13:20 through His scars to us of all that He went through
13:23 to save humanity, so it doesn't have to end here,
13:26 it gets better. Absolutely!
13:28 Yeah, I want to say that to people that struggle.
13:30 And you know, one of the things that I found
13:32 when we were talking about "freeing," like when someone
13:36 shares their testimony they're, like you said,
13:38 they're re-playing it, but they see how Christ
13:41 has given them the victory or how Christ has delivered them
13:43 from the situation - that has a positive impact
13:48 on that person, and is that kind of what
13:49 you're saying as well?
13:51 Yeah! When you bring the God-factor into a sexual
13:54 abuse situation, it turns everything around
13:56 because, you know, Jesus said, "The person that offends
13:59 a little one... and that applies to anyone weaker
14:01 than anyone else, not just children...
14:03 He says, "They deserve capital punishment."
14:05 And sometimes, that's all a victim needs to hear,
14:07 is that God is outraged by what happened to them.
14:10 There's so much more we could... I know!
14:13 But again, I can't wait to talk about
14:15 our next subject.
14:17 Make sure you tune in next time to "Intimate Clarity."
14:20 God Bless.


Revised 2018-07-24