Dan Allender recently released Healing the Wounded Heart: The Heartache of Sexual Abuse and the Hope of Transformation, the long-awaited sequel to The Wounded Heart, published more than 25 years ago. Part of what makes Allender’s work so successful is his seamless weaving of science with biblical principles. It’s not an either-or situation for Allender—science, biblical truths, and experience can all testify to the same end. In a culture inundated with accounts of sexual abuse, Allender’s advice for survivors is refreshing and surprisingly practical.
The Devastating Effects of Abuse
While statistics may reveal that sexual abuse of children is actually down, as a society we’re growing increasingly desensitized to abuse that may seem less obvious to us, like sexual harassment, unwanted touching, or other forms of sexually aggressive behavior. “We’re living in a world in which abuse is still severe, but it’s also becoming almost more democratized—like it’s just another part of growing up—and issues of hooking up and the use of alcohol and drugs can be forms of perpetration of abuse,” Allender says. “While there is early indication that there has been a decrease in sexual abuse, simultaneously I think there has been an increase in a form of sexual abuse that often gets ignored as sexually abusive.”
Few would initially consider the aggressive passes of a pushy college date equivalent to the abuse of a child by an authority figure, but it is abuse, and it deserves to be labeled as such. When abuse doesn’t take the form we typically expect, we might unwittingly minimize its severity and long-standing effects—a tendency, Allender says, that’s detrimental to the health of the church. This minimization inevitably leads to shame.1