- Healing From Childhood/Youth Sexual Abuse
By Dr. Edward Donnally
(Note I was sexually abused as a youth and was healed by God while in jail. You can also be healed. This was written for sexually abused inside prisons, but data shows some 41 million Americans were sexually abused and some 30% of those abused never report it.)
There is a large percentage of incarcerated men and women who were victims of sexual abuse in childhood, as young adults and beyond. According to reliable data, the imprint on those persons’ psyches produce and are directly related to chronic debilitative maladies that include chronic depression, excessive anger, substance abuse, PTSD and suicides, among others. If inmates carry those maladies into society when released it is logical to conclude that the likelihood of again being jailed is significantly increased. While this author in no way discounts or discourages secular counseling, the remedy in this paper is germane to Christians in any stages of their walk of faith.
Childhood and Adult Trauma Experiences of Incarcerated Persons and Their Relationship to Adult Behavioral Health Problems and Treatment
Rates of childhood and adult trauma are high among incarcerated persons. In addition to criminality, childhood trauma is associated with the risk for emotional disorders (e.g., depression and anxiety) and co-morbid conditions such as alcohol and drug abuse and antisocial behaviors in adulthood.). Rates of physical, sexual, and emotional trauma were higher in childhood than adulthood and ranged from 44.7% (physical trauma in childhood) to 4.5% (sexual trauma in adulthood). Trauma exposure was found to be strongly associated with a wide range of behavioral problems and clinical symptoms. Given the sheer numbers of incarcerated men and the strength of these associations, targeted intervention is critical.
CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE STATISTICS
Using carefully developed methods for eliciting retrospective reports of childhood abuse and neglect, a new study of inmates in a New York prison found that 68 percent of the sample reported some form of childhood victimization and 23 percent reported experiencing multiple forms of abuse and neglect, including physical and sexual abuse. These findings provide support for the belief that the majority of incarcerated offenders have likely experienced some type of childhood abuse or neglect.
Of the 100 male inmates who participated in this study, 59% reported experiencing some form of sexual abuse before puberty, and all such instances occurred before or at the age of 13 years.
Conclusion: These results show a high percentage of inmates who report a history of childhood sexual abuse; this rate is higher than those reported by other studies for incarcerated males. The findings support the belief held by professionals in the criminal justice field that a significant number of incarcerated males may have been victims of sexual abuse.
A growing body of research reports on the lifetime prevalence of sexual victimization experiences among incarcerated women. This study used the Sexual Abuse Checklist and a modified version of the Sexual Experiences Survey (SES) to obtain a detailed account of 391 incarcerated women’s self-reported sexual violation and abuse histories. Seventy percent of the women reported at least one violation consistent with what qualifies as “rape” in most states in the United States today, and half of the women reported child sexual abuse victimization. The most prevalent victim–offender relationships were male strangers, male lovers or boyfriends, male dates, husbands, uncles, brothers, male cousins, and stepfathers.
Personal Story: Chained to a Miracle By Rev. Eddie Donnally DMin.
It was dawn when the silver and black bus rolled out of the Los Angeles County Jail parking lot and made its way down the 110 Freeway to a courthouse in nearby San Pedro. The chained and shackled inmates used the opportunity to fill their eyes with scenes more interesting than a jail cell and to chat with the person on the other side of their handcuffs. At 5’ 3” and fifty-two, I was an unlikely inmate. I was the only former jockey, Eclipse Award winning journalist and successful TV production studio owner aboard this bus. Yet, I belonged. After deciding to stop my psychotropic medication, drinking heavily and undergoing a manic state that had kept me awake for nearly fifty hours, I had hit my girlfriend. Both the state of California and I thought the act inexcusable. It was the sixth day of my incarceration and I was recovering from cold-turkey detox and Strep throat. To pass the time, I struck up a conversation with the young man who shared my chains and we talked about the events that had put us there.
My childhood had been as black as the bus. My most vivid memory was of sitting on the steps in our little country house in Southwest Virginia listening to my mother scream as she waited for a visiting nurse to come and give her another shot of morphine for the pain from stomach cancer. I was five when she finally died. Her mother who raised me died suddenly six years later. When my father remarried. I lived with him where a relative sexually abused me for more than two years.
I graduated from high school at only sixteen and two months later was on a train bound for Lexington Kentucky where I had found a job at a thoroughbred breeding farm. Within three years I was a successful jockey, living in a downtown Baltimore high rise. In my first year of racing, I made more money than my father had made in a dozen years working as a railroad conductor. The rage that boiled inside my heart because of the sexual abuse fit well on a thoroughbred racing in a pack at 40 mph. Nineteen years, thirteen broken bones and about 1,200 victories later, I retired as a jockey.
During my riding career I nurtured my love of writing and had been published in virtually every major newspaper east of the Mississippi including the New York Times and their Sunday Magazine. Retirement led to writing one column a week for the Dallas Morning News. When I resigned eight years later, I left with an Eclipse Award for Newspaper writing. I was nothing if not an over-achiever. Next, I convinced a self-made millionaire to invest in a small television production company and signed a personal services contract that allowed me to own 20% of the company. Here, my rage manifested itself as ambition and I became a workaholic, writing a documentary that won a second Eclipse Award for Television Production.
Casualties of my success were a marriage of fourteen years and my sanity. A friend found me unconscious after a suicide attempt after which I was diagnosed as bipolar and made the first of my two stays on psychiatric wards. Thoughts of my wife with another man brought back the long-suppressed thoughts of my sexual abuse. For reasons even two years of weekly sessions with a psychiatrist never fully revealed, I became determined to live the life of a bisexual. Because of a strong religious background, it was a life I couldn’t accept, yet it was one I couldn’t leave.
No amount of success mattered, I was miserable. Excited to the point of ecstasy over heading up a successful company one minute, I would walk into my office and burst into tears the next.
I soon found myself in a second mental hospital and the woman I married ten days after my divorce – who looked much like and had the same first name as my first wife – divorced me after six years. Having few alternatives, my partners bought me out and I lived in ritzy Laguna Beach for two years, largely wasting my life. Broke again, I moved to Huston and the opening a new Thoroughbred track, wrote for the Austin American Statesman and produced my own racing TV show. Determined to be heterosexual, I began living with a exotic dancer and like her became addicted to crack cocaine. Within seven months I returned to California dead broke and got a job grooming horses and living on a track backstretch.
Less than a year later I met a woman who owned a marketing company and moved in with her. I was living on the low down, shackled to a never ending cycle of elf hate becoming self-destructive behaviors and those behaviors generating more self-hate.. That same self-hate told me seven years of Lithium and three years of Paxil was enough. After a long bout with mania, my rage turned toward my girlfriend and I landed in Los Angeles County Jail.
At the San Pedro Court we were kept in several large holding cells, barren except for a cement seating shelf lining three walls. An older inmate related how he was a teaching elder in his church and was only in jail because he had been fishing with his son and a check of his fishing license by a game warden revealed a twelve-year-old warrant. As soon as he saw a judge he could be released.
Prisoners were escorted to the courtrooms for appearances and one man, in his early thirties, returned to sit on the floor. He began crying. My bus friend talked with the man who said he had just received twenty-five years to life for a third strike petty theft. He would not be allowed conjugal visits from his young wife and he would not see his two young children grow up. My friend began praying with him. The church elder began to preach and my bus friend stood up and started taking about God. Then I did the same. One of our other cellmates, a hefty man, told us how God had kept him alive when a rival drug dealer put a gun in his face and pulled the trigger only to have it misfire.
I pulled the New Testament from my back pocket and handed it to him. He opened it and read from the first chapter of James beginning with “Count it all joy…” As I listened, I saw the cell fill up with a blue metallic haze. I looked around and everywhere prisoners were on their knees, using the shelf as an altar or prostate on the barren floor. All were praying or crying.
I cried as well, first in sorrow for what my life had become, then in shame for all the things I had done and the people I had hurt. Then realizing I had been forgiven, I cried for joy. What felt like a beam of light flowed through me as if I had stuck my finger in a light socket. I was filled with light. Every one in that room, about a dozen, stood, held hands and prayed that Christ would change our lives.
I often wonder if that moment on December 16, 1996 had a similar effect on the rest of my cellmates. A new creation indeed, I have been in full time Christian ministry since that day. I traded my San Pedro apartment overlooking the bay to move into a single room at the Los Angeles Dream Center, a former fourteen-hundred room hospital near downtown Los Angeles which had been turned into an outpost of hope.
God not only halted the cycle of self hate but reversed it to self love. I will spend the rest of my life realizing that Jesus came in the form of man but was still God and God loved me enough to die for me. If God loves me that much and lives inside me, how can I not love myself?
Sober, celibate and focused, I led a midnight Hollywood outreach to transsexual prostitutes and homeless youth. While taking Bible courses to become a minister, I met Sandi. Seven months later we were married in the Dream Center’s chapel. In 2001, less than five years after leaving jail, I was licensed as a Foursquare minister and have since been ordained and endorsed as a chaplain. I earned a Certificate in Fundraising from UCLA (17 courses), and until 2009 was the Development Director of the Race Track Chaplaincy of America, which sanctions and oversees chaplain who serve at horse tracks.
Though I served as Assisting Pastor at two LA area churches, I felt my ministry was outside church walls. I started doing disaster response and in my 60s went back to school and earned a Doctorate in Ministry. We moved 2600 miles to Clearwater Florida where I did a year of hospital residency, earned four units of Clinical Pastoral Education and am today a professional hospice and hospital chaplain. My bio, Ride the White Horse: A Checkered Jockey’s Story of Rage and Redemption has opened many doors to speak, and these days Jesus has given me a passion to share my story of healing inside prisons.
2.Understanding the effects of sexual abuse
The perpetual cycle of anger turned inward becoming self-hate resulting in shame and guilt. It is appeased only by more self-punishing, generally by doing the same destructive
behaviors we know will harm us the most. The self-hate, self-punishment produces more self
hate and then self-punishment. It is a vicious and often deadly self-perpetuating cycle. It is the reason sexually females often turn to prostitution and sexually abused males often become
homosexual. Doing the very thing we hate the most becomes the most effective self-flagellation.
3.The Christian Remedy: The antidote to self-hate is the self-love a relationship with Christ provides.The remedy is the most profound, yet central fact on which the entire Christian Faith is built. Jesus Christ was totally human but totally God. And God incarnate on this earth loved you enough so suffer and die in humiliation on a wooden cross so you can be set free from sin, overcome Satan and have eternal life. If God Himself loved you that much, how dare you not love yourself. I and indeed all Christians should spend our lifetimes wrapping our spirits, souls and minds around the single fact that God loved you enough to die for each of us. From that we come to understand we are precious Children of God. Paul summed it up when he said “I know Christ and Him crucified.
And once that fact starts to sink into our souls, we began to understand the power and authority Christ gives us, and part of that authority is the power to understand and grasp the power of Christ’s forgiveness of us and then use that supernatural empowerment to forgive others and forgive ourselves.
The Power of Forgiveness: Three Kinds of Forgiveness:
Forgiveness by Christ: Unconditional if we truly repent.
John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.”
Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus…” John 3:17 Jesus did not come to condemn you, but to save you!
Forgiveness of Others: a command: (Col 3:12-13) “Therefore as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another and FORGVING ONE ANOTHER, IF ANYONE HAS A COMPLAINT AGANST ANOTHER, EVEN AS CHRIST FORGAVE YOU, SO YOU MUST DO.”
Matt, 6:10 Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread.12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from evil…For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
6: 14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant Matt 18: 21-35: Vs 35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brothers his trespasses.”
Forgiveness of Ourselves: Often the most difficult forgiveness to accept and practice.
Isaiah 43:25 “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.
Psalm 103 4. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Vs. 12 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
13 As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him.
Micah 7:19, “…he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”
Why is forgiveness so important to God?
1. It is directly connected to our healing.
Psalm 103: 1-3 Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: 3 Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases . . .
Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralytic
Matt 9: 2 Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”3 And once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!”4 But is it easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 7 And he arose and departed to his house.
2 Because God send his only son so that ours sins can be forgiven. John 3:16
Romans 5:8, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 1 John 4:9, “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.”
3 If we cannot believe we are forgiven, we in a sense reject Christ who died so that we can be forgiven. 1 John 2.2. “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” Acts 3:13 “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. “II Cor 5:21 “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”
4 We are created in God’s Image and it is God’s nature to forgive and to heal.
Luke 15:10, “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents.” Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus…”
5 Bitterness is a sin and can keep us from growing in Christ.
Isaiah 38:16:18 And in all these things is the life of my spirit;So You will restore me and make me live.17 Indeed it was for my own peace That I had great bitterness. But You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption, For You have cast all my sins behind Your back.
6 Because God wants us to use the healing our forgiveness gives to continue to heal and to heal others.
II Cor. 1 3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any ]trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
When one is wounded the blood forms a covering over the wound and that covering allows the healing of the body. It keeps out infection and disease. If that covering of blood is removed or damaged, the wound becomes infected by deadly germs and without a cure can ultimately kill the body. The blood of Christ shed on the cross is the covering that protects us from Satan’s infection of our souls, an infection that can bring disease and rot to our walk with Christ and leave us to die in sin. Jesus is the unblemished Lamb of God and the Hebrew word for Lamb is Taleh, which means covering. Christ’s love for you is the only covering balm that can heal your every wound. He is the “Balm of Gilead” that provide spiritual healing. (Jeremiah 8:22)
Hebrews 9:14, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
Living in the present and letting go of the past.
On the outside, all former inmates including myself will be confronted by our past. Our past is our past and we cannot change it, but we are not to allow it to determine our destiny.
Phil 3 13-15 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
II Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
James 5:16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
Be aware, when we were abused, we did not sin. Though we have a tendency to believe so, it was not our fault. In the chaplaincy ministry there is a term “Cathartic Ventilation” and it is one of the chief reasons’ hospitals pay chaplains. Even secular profit-making corporations in the medical industry realize there is a connection between our spirits, our emotions and our physical health, and it healthy and helpful to talk about troubling life events; what we saw, what we did and how that made us feel. I got well and am still getting well by understanding Christ has forgiven me of all the havoc, hate and harm the outcomes of my abuse produced and by talking and writing about and thus confessing my sins and by praying for others and myself I was, am and will be healed. Broken relationships with my children have been healed. Truly, we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the words of our testimony. That is much of the reason I am here today.
Proverbs 28:13 Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
But understand, it was and is God who gave me the courage and strength to go back and examine my life story. And it was the truth about myself that set me free and can set you free. But my education and chaplaincy training has also taught me that many sexual abuse victims suffer PDSD and opening those events has the capacity to again cause us to suffer the original trauma. But there is healing if one can get to the point of talking about them to perhaps a chaplain or another religious leader or even a secular psychologist trained in that field or if you are confident retelling them will not again traumatize you, talk to a close and trusted friend. And in your healing take the time to listen without interrupting to others as they relate their story. But confidence and privacy is needed unless one threatens to harm himself or others and that must be revealed.
And while it is helpful to visit those places we have hidden from our minds; it is not helpful to live there. Clearly the Lord insists we move on.
Forgiveness of ourselves is the key and when I stood in that giant holding cell in 1996 God gave me the power to forgive my abuser and the power to confess my and understand He had forgiven me. That is when God gave me the power to speak and write my story and help myself heal by helping others heal.
Hurt People Hurt People
Forgiven People Forgive People
Healed People Heal People.
God is no respecter of persons and what he did for me, he can and will do for you. Simply ask and then walk the road of Christ’s healing. It saved my life. It can save yours.