The world recoiled at the repulsive news of French peacekeepers stationed in the war torn Central African Republic sexually abusing young boys in a refugee camp. One account reported that the soldiers raped starving children in exchange for giving them food. It is almost too difficult for most of us to fathom—this horrific evil perpetrated against the most vulnerable of God’s creation…displaced and starving little ones. Unfortunately, we do not have a choice to ignore this dark and destructive reality that is tragically all too common in this fallen world.
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 20% of women and 10% of men have been sexually victimized as children. With the current world population projected to be over 7 billion, that is a staggering number of children who are being sexually abused. UNESCO estimates that the number of child prostitutes worldwide is between one and three million. As you read this post, millions of little lives are being eviscerated by adults who take joy in their destruction.
These perpetrating adults are not just French peacekeepers. Many of them are Americans. In 2012, over 62,939 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in the United States. Keep in mind, sexual abuse is one of the most underreported crimes. So the actual number is likely to be much higher. One study found that only 30% of sexual assault cases are ever reported to authorities. Most studies have confirmed that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men in the United States have been sexually abused by their 18th birthday. With 75 million children in the United States, the gravity of the situation is that nearly 15 million will be sexually victimized over the next 18 years in the Unites States alone.
This horror is not limited to the United States—Americans are now exporting their sexual abuse of children at alarming rates. U.S. citizens make up approximately 25% of all adults engaged in the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission estimatesthat over 250,000 sex tourists visit Asia every year, twenty-five percent of them coming from the United States. If these numbers are correct, over 62,500 U.S. citizens travel to Asia alone each year for the purpose of sexually abusing children.
Most disturbing is that some of these American offenders are professing Christians, many serving overseas as missionaries. In the past 8 years, I have met dozens of missionary kids who, as adults, have come forward to report being sexually abused as children by missionaries while living overseas.
One young man who had been abused while attending a missionary boarding school never told his parents about the ongoing abuse. He had been threatened by the missionary school administrators that, “Africans will burn in hell” if his parents had to leave the “field” to come care for him. This child suffered in silence for years, convinced that he was of little value to anyone, including God.
Understandably and tragically, many of these missionary kid abuse survivors want nothing more to do with Jesus or anyone professing to be a Christian. One survivor told me, “Because of my abuse on the mission field, I absolutely despise anybody who calls themselves a Christian.”
I grieve for these precious souls who have been so violated and so betrayed. I also grieve that too much of the Christian world remains silent about this epidemic evil.
Why have these dark deeds gone on for so long? Why has the Church remained silent in the face of such evil?
Sadly, such silence is nothing new. 2 Samuel 13 provides the horrifying account of the rape of Tamar by her brother, Amnon, both children of King David.
Next to the sexual assault, the most egregious aspect of this story is the utter silence that characterized those who learned of the offense. When Tamar disclosed the abuse to her brother Absalom, he responded, “Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.”
Even worse is the response of her father, King David. Scripture says, “Now when King David heard of these matters, he was very angry.” David may have been angry, but he remained silent and did nothing.
As a result of the horrific assault and the subsequent silence by those who should have loved and protected her most, Scripture tells us that Tamar became a “desolate woman” while Amnon walked away vindicated until his murder two years later.
Dear ones, the Bible is clear on how heaven feels about children. We are to actively defend the weak and voiceless—not just feel terrible about what has happened and brush it under the rug while we say and do nothing.
- Why children?
- Sexual assault and the church
- Mental illness and the church–are we prepared to deal with it?
Karen D. Breckenridge, Justice Beyond Borders: A Comparison of Australian and U.S. Child-Sex Tourism Laws, 13 Pac. Rim L. & Pol’y J. 405, 413 (2004)