the Hope of Survivors

Why Help?—Part 1—Mary Jo Huels-Noworyta

It's a Safe Place to Heal Your Relationship with God

Where does someone go for help when facing the severe pain of being sexually abused by their pastor or other spiritual leader? For myself and other victims who've contacted The Hope of Survivors (THOS), the greatest help came from talking to someone who understood what happened. In a sensitive, nonjudgmental setting, the truths and dynamics of clergy sexual abuse (CSA) are presented by a peer support representative who offers emotional and biblical support. There is a wealth of information on the website that offers hope and healing. Without this information, victims of CSA remain in a state of confusion, fear, anxiety, anger, and suffer from a disconnect with God, the most destructive symptom.  

People are looking for answers to life and hope for a brighter future. Rightfully so, they look to the church and trust its leaders. They have no reason not to. Sadly, however, many of these soul searchers are taken advantage of by the person who holds authority over them and are sexually abused. The pain and confusion is intense and the victim's world has been shattered. The very place they were injured should be the very place to find healing. Jesus said He came to heal the sick and offer hope to the hurting. God designed the church to be a safe place for the wounded. Therefore, the biggest question for the victim of clergy sexual abuse becomes, “If the church is where I was wounded, where then can I go for help?” There is a feeling of hopelessness.  

When someone is abused by clergy, it obviously damages their relationship with God and creates a false image of Him. It is only natural that their perception of Him becomes warped. When a pastor, also known as a representative of God, uses his position to meet his own needs, the one he used now sees God through the eyes of abuse, viewing Him as unloving, uncaring, and distant. The only One who is able to heal their broken heart has become a distant mirage, making the healing process more difficult. It is not uncommon for leaders to use the Bible in their pursuit, making it more complex and confusing. This false reality of who God really is must be changed for healing to begin. Sadly, the church is not the place to find such help; there is too much pain, too many triggers, and an expected broken trust in its leaders.    

Seeing God for who He truly is can be a challenge, but not impossible. The truth is, God is fully able and willing to heal our broken hearts. God desires us to grow in our knowledge and truth of who He is. The problem herein lies in the fact that victims are not readily open to attending church again, for obvious reasons. They are not able to read the Bible or pray, which were often used in the grooming and abusing process. They are not open to trusting another person in the church. Therefore, how are they able to see God for who He truly is without the tools most people use in their spiritual walk?  

This explains why The Hope of Survivors is extremely vital in helping victims of CSA. It is a safe, nonjudgmental, place where victims find an understanding ear, answers to their expected questions, and hope after abuse. As their perception of God becomes more clear and they learn He is not responsible for the abuse, that He loves them more than anyone, that He will seek justice, and He is more than willing and able to heal, there is a renewed sense of hope. The most common testimonies from survivors involve talking to someone who understands and has found healing. Eventually, they can attend church again (with precautions), they can read the Bible with an open, joyful heart, they can trust a church leader (again, with precaution), and they can live with the joy God desires for them. Sadly, the church is not the first place a victim of clergy sexual abuse can go to for help. But, there is hope; there is a place.

The Hope of Survivors has played a vital role in the lives of thousands of victims of clergy sexual abuse and their families. Without them, many would be lost in their pain and despair. Hope is the cornerstone of this organization, for hope delayed makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12). Please consider becoming a partner in our endeavors to bringing the truths and dynamics of CSA to the church and offering hope and healing to its victims. Their very souls depend on it. 

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart...Psalms 34:18