A Book Review: Tear Down This Wall Of Silence
Dealing with Sexual Abuse in Our Churches
Dale Ingraham (with Rebecca Davis)
Spread throughout this book is a story – the story of how the author learned that his future wife had been the victim of sexual abuse (he was the first person she told), how they dealt with the many repercussions of this abuse (legally, spiritually, personally and with their family) and how they’ve helped others work through these hard issues. The story, like this book, deals with very hard and disturbing issues, but ultimately ends in redemption, healing and love.
This is an important book.
In it, Ingraham and Davis develop two major themes. The first is that the church has failed many people with respect to this issue.
– Too many churches have covered up abuse that has happened to their members, or the abuse that been perpetrated by their members or their pastors.
– Too many times, victims have been advised not to report their abusers to the police.
– Too many times, victims haven’t been believed, sometimes because the abuser is so well respected.
– Too many times, victims have been blamed for the abuse that happened or for calling for justice.
– Too many times, no justice has happened.
– Too many times, church leaders have acted as enablers for the abusers, allowing the abuse to continue and more children are victimized.
The book devotes an entire chapter to these enablers – their motivations and they damage they do.
The second theme in the book is that our church must do better. And then it explains, in very helpful detail, what we must do:
– The victims must be trusted, and told that God hates what has happened to them.
– The abusers must be called to repentance.
– The victims must be loved, encouraged and counseled, for years.
– The abusers must be brought to justice (in the church, and where it is warranted, in the legal system).
– The victims must be aware that the church is a safe place to talk about what has been done to them.
– The victims must be shown and told that God loves them.
If I had a complaint about this book, it’s that I feel it’s overzealous in its negativity about specific ministries and organizations with which it disagrees. Vision Forum’s messages had significant flaws (or so I’m told), but it wasn’t unwise of them to discourage gossiping. Nancy Leigh DeMoss shouldn’t be chastised for encouraging women to not use “my rights” as a primary motivation. If a generally wise principle is unhelpful, or even wrong, in extreme situations (and sexual abuse is certainly an extreme situation), that doesn’t necessarily we should throw it away.
As I said, this book deals with many dark issues, and it’s not a light read. But there is much joy, peace and redemption in the later chapters. Here, it explains the Gospel and how it is true for the abuser and especially how it is true for the victims. The second to last chapter is “The Abuse Survivor’s Shepherd” – a message to people who have been abused – and it’s filled with good news, peace-giving truths and wisdom. For example:
The truth is that every Christian, no matter how wounded or scarred, has not only been adopted into God’s family but also bears His beautiful image … God is in the process of transforming His children into His own image, and this includes you. He loves you.
It would be force for good if every church in America got a copy of this book and made sure at least one of their leaders read it and followed through with what it teaches. And if you know someone who has been sexually abused, this would be a helpful book for you to read.