the Hope of Survivors

Long-Awaited Hope by Sandy Kirkham

I am a victim of pastoral sexual misconduct. In 1972, at 16 years of age, I was sexually abused by my youth minister in my home. He was 30 years old, married, with two children. At the time of the abuse, I was very active in the church and I was growing in my faith.

After years of suppressing what had happened to me, I concluded, after counseling, much prayer, and my study of Matthew 18:5-17, that in order to be healed, among other things, I needed to confront my abuser and hold him accountable for what he did to me and forgive him, which I did in October, 2004.

To be clear, I do not believe forgiveness means condoning behavior or that there are no consequences to behavior. And while I believe in God’s forgiveness, I do not believe these men should be given the opportunity to repeat their behavior and return to their congregational ministry.

Most victims of pastoral abuse suffer spiritually after this kind of experience. Our view of the church becomes distorted. We no longer trust the church to be a safe and loving place. Even now, no matter what church I attend, I am not comfortable. While I still have faith in God, I have no spiritual connection to the church. The church has been contaminated for me by what he did to me. I could no longer embrace my faith the way I once did.

The impact of being abused at the hands of someone you trust so completely, who then uses that trust to hurt you, is life-long and manifests itself in ways you don’t always recognize. It is a deep, deep pain. Because of his abuse, I no longer will allow myself to be alone with a minister again. I no longer pray out loud for fear someone will see me as weak, vulnerable and easy prey. My children have never had a bedtime prayer with their mother.

I didn’t believe that my faith would ever be the same again. And then I found The Hope of Survivors Ministry. After speaking with Samantha Nelson on the telephone, and through her many correspondences with me, I found a friend. I found someone who cared and understood. This ministry is exactly as they describe—a ministry of compassion, support, hope and encouragement.

I also felt the presence of Christ through this ministry. For the first time in 29 years, I began to believe in the possibility that I might be able to trust again and my faith could be restored.

The Hope of Survivors Ministry is a gift from God for those of us who have suffered and whose spiritual lives have been shattered by a trusted minister. None of us can erase the past, and I still struggle at times, but because of this ministry I now have hope.

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If you are a survivor of pastoral abuse, we would love to hear your story and possibly make it available on this web site for others to read and renew their hope. You can use a pseudonym if you choose and rest assured that all personal information will be kept private and strictly confidential. Please contact us.

Please note: We do not necessarily agree with or endorse all the information contained in the survivor’s stories. We do, however, feel they have some valuable information that could be useful to you in your recovery. It helps to know you’re not alone, that others have shared your pain and have healed, by the grace of God, in their own time and way.

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