Reflecting on Our Posture Toward Sexual Abuse Survivors
December 5, 2018
What can we learn from the story of Tamar and Amnon?
I was moved and astonished as the pastor spoke. He was preaching about the rape of Tamar. Tamar was the beautiful virgin daughter of King David who was raped by her brother Amnon (2 Sam. 13).
The pastor was acknowledging that the people of God caused suffering and that traumatic events could happen in holy places.
I must admit I was surprised at such a bold message coming from the pulpit, and it stirred hope within me.
Unfortunately, those feelings were short-lived as the pastor wrapped up his message with a warning that although these things happen, we ought not to talk about them to people outside of our families—if we dare speak about them at all.
At that moment, my heart broke, and my anger rose. It was as if the breath had been knocked out of me. I wondered how many others in the pews around me had experiences of trauma and abuse, how many were feeling the beginnings of hope, of the opening of space to share stories that need sacred space to be told, to receive help, only to have it crushed in an instant.
Sadly, this is something that appears to be common in many communities of faith—being silent on matters of abuse and silencing and shaming survivors of various forms of sexual trauma.
However, if we examine the story of 2 Samuel 13, we see that being silent and not naming the evil that had been done to Tamar caused more turmoil and wrath within the family unit.
In my work as a psychologist, one of the things that is most detrimental to survivors is the dismissal and silencing of the survivor by those they chose to turn to for help.
After being silenced by her brother Absalom (2 Sam. 13:20), to whom she turned, Tamar is described as a “bitter and desolate” woman. Not only had her rights been violated …