7 min. to read.
Someone in your life was sexually abused as a child.
Some studies suggest that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were victimized. (Statistics vary widely due to poor reporting. This is one summary.) It’s a terrible fact.
Most of these people live around you, carrying on their lives, and you do not know.
You don’t know because the shame of their experience keeps them quiet. But the terrible scars emerge in fear and panic, difficulty attaching in relationship, pain around intimacy and sex, and a hundred other ways.
Mary DeMuth, an author I’ve gotten to know a little online, is publishing an incredible book on this very subject. It’s not a study or a self-help book written by someone distant from the experience. This is her own story, and she’s here today to talk about it.
Mary is in the middle of an Indigogo crowd-sourcing funding campaign to raise the funds necessary to make this book a reality, and she was willing to share a brief interview with me.
Here we go:
Marc: Mary, take a moment and introduce my audience to your book and your story. How did this book come about and why did you decide to write it?
Mary: I’m Mary. I’ve written 15 traditionally published books. I wrote a post on Deeper Story that went crazy. It was called “The Sexy Wife I Can’t Be.” (Read it here) Through the comments, I was OVERWHELMED at how many people shared a story of sexual abuse that still affected them today.
So I sat down and wrote Not Marked. When I pitched it to publishers, they said no. Just too risky. And yet I knew it was a message that needed to be out there. So I’m doing it myself, with the help of others who believe in the message of the book.
Marc: I’m so glad you’re taking that risk. I read that post on Deeper Story and was so moved by it. I’ve followed your other posts about your abuse experience, and just kept thinking of people I know–women and men–who have been so hurt in this way. With each post, I kept thinking, “Man, I want to share this stuff with these people.” I’m looking forward to having the book available to hand to people I care for.
It’s shocking how often I come across similar stories, as a pastor. It really makes me wonder at how the church is helping or hindering in the process of healing. Seems like the church ought to be talking about this a whole lot more. How did you find the church hindering or helping in your journey of healing?
Mary: I’m grateful that when I started to share my story, Christians stepped in big time and dared to pray me toward healing. I would not be writing this book had it not been the church standing in the gap and loving me through the heartache.
On the other hand, so many churches are freaked out about sexual abuse—it’s almost like they think that if they mention it, they validate it. But I can’t tell you how free other people become when you tell your story, raw and real.
This past week I shared my story with nearly 2000 college students. And, yes, afterward, I heard many students and faculty say, “That’s my story too. Thanks for sharing it.” As healed believers, it’s our impetus to be the first to share. Not to be salacious, but for the sake of letting others know they’re not alone.
Marc: On my blog I write about an intentional spiritual journey where we move from just belief, to a life that is organized around growing spiritually. I believe that many Christians hide from their pain, trauma and grief under the guide of showing faith, when in fact God wants us to face these things so we can grow. Did you experience this “hiding?” How did that show up for you? What happened to help you stop hiding?
Mary: After I first became a Christian, I read those verses about a new life. And I believed it. Everything was new. All the past was blessedly gone.
Unfortunately, a few years later, my past started showing up in my actions. In college I started telling my story, desperate for healing. And once I let the cat out of the bag, so to speak, my spiritual growth exploded. No one grows well in the dark. An untold story never heals.
Marc: From everything I’ve read, this has been a long journey for you with many layers. For readers who might have a similar story, could you share three practices (or tools or resources) that you have used in this journey that helped in your recovery and growth?
- Find a safe, praying friend and ask them to pray you through your story.
- Read The Wounded Heart by Dan Allender and go through the workbook. That really helped me process my own sexual abuse.
- Never underestimate the power of worshiping God. When I felt low, I learned to choose to worship God. Getting my eyes off my mountain of problems to praise God has been life transformational.
Marc: Dan Allender is amazing. Leading with A Limp is the best leadership book I’ve ever read, by far. I’ll definitely pick up this one. I’m fascinated that the other two practices you shared are prayer and worship. These are so basic for Christians, and yet, I think, so underestimated.
One more question. It seems common for Christians to think about things like this in terms of “victory,” that God heals us and essentially the whole thing just goes away. I haven’t found that to be true; it doesn’t sound like that was your experience either. My experience is that while God can transforms these painful places, there are still scars.
Can you share some of the scars that remain? How about the transformation? How has God turned this into something life-giving for you?
Mary: I have scars. I still startle easily. I catastrophize my thinking. If one bad thing happens, I think the whole world is ending. I still struggle with disconnection during sex. All these things are getting better, but I don’t consider myself fully healed. Heaven brings that.
The transformation has been a decades-long process. I can confidently say that God has done some amazing healing in me. I’m farther than I was five years ago. Today I have a boldness to speak about this issue that can only come from God.
Marc: Mary, thank you so much for stepping into that boldness with this project. I believe that Not Marked is going to be a center point for healing for so many people. Thank you for being so vulnerable in your posts, and in your upcoming book. I know that people are going to find healing in this.
I wanted to have Mary share a little with you for a couple of reasons. I believe deeply that vulnerability and truth-telling is the path to healing. Mary is showing this example powerfully. I also know that there are undoubtedly readers here who have this kind of experience, and I wanted to offer you this encouragement. Share your story. There is a path to healing.
If you want to hear more of Mary’s story, here are some of the places she has shared: