As many as one in four girls and one in six boys experience sexual abuse during childhood, and it’s estimated that half of the incidents are never reported.
Countless millions, both children and adults, carry this complex, often hidden pain. What does the path to healing look like for survivors? And how can ministry leaders, pastors, and counsellors best help them as they walk this difficult road?
Drawing on both his own and his wife’s experience as survivors of childhood sexual abuse, minister and lecturer Tim Hein offers his expertise, practical guidance, and empathy. Both for those who have suffered sexual abuse and those in a position to help them, this book is a rich resource filled with sober truths and the hope of Christ, calling survivors to take courage and walk unafraid down the road of healing.
What people are saying
“‘This book is a courageous gift,’ writes Debra Hirsch in the Foreword to Tim Hein’s powerful book, ‘Understanding Sexual Abuse’. A courageous gift indeed; one of those books that the reader will feel privileged to have read and learnt from. Drawing on his own expertise as a church minster and the personal experience of his wife’s and his own stories as survivors of childhood sexual abuse, Hein offers this deeply insightful, practical, pastoral and empathetic guide to ministry leaders and survivors of sexual abuse.
Unreservedly drawing attention to the fact that the church has often failed those who have shared the suffering they have experienced, Hein constructively opens up both the complex psychological and spiritual aspects of sexual abuse and he guides those in ministry, who may be trusted with the courageous stories of survivors, as to how best walk alongside; ‘Listen, believe and acknowledge. Remember, this may be the single bravest moment of the person’s life so far.’ ‘The posture of the Christian leader is one of…a sojourner,’ willing to wrestle with the deep questions of ‘Why God’ along with the intentionality to create space within our churches for truth that ‘gives voice to the deepest experiences of humanity.’ The careful reading of this wisdom filled book will inform, guide and counsel those who sojourn alongside those walking the difficult road towards recovery. It will help you think before you speak, wrestle with the uncomfortable questions of suffering, prepare you to enter the trauma of childhood’s stolen and it will point you to Jesus, the one so familiar with trauma and who leaves no one alone in their pain.
For the survivor, this book is one that speaks of healing and hope. Hein’s words hold the authority and authenticity of one whom has walked the painful and complex road of trauma and recovery. Affirming the fact that anger and condemnation are necessary for recovery, as are sadness and mourning, and that premature forgiveness is a grave hinderance, Hein offers a theological, pastoral map detailing the possibilities of a road to healing that emphasises a survivor’s longing for justice and reminds them that God – in his love - who walks alongside them always, requires it too. Sensitively recognising that for some survivors of childhood abuse, simply reading his book will have taken a huge amount of courage, Hein reassures that no survivor needs to walk the path to recovery alone. They have the right and power to ask for help whenever they are ready. They have the right to heal and to become whole.”Jennifer CornfieldFreelance Charity Consultant
“This is such a timely, wise and important book. Tim Hein reflects and writes with the painful authenticity of personal experience of sexual abuse, as well as deep Christian conviction and wide understanding, in order to empower survivors to find healing and to enable pastors and churches to understand how they can help them in realistic and loving ways. He engages with the difficult questions, the pathologies and the limitations which he and other survivors and pastors encounter. It’s a moving, mature, challenging and hopeful work which should be readily available in every Christian church, and which anyone engaged in pastoral work will learn much from.”The Very Revd Dr David IsonDean of St Paul’s Cathedral, London
“This book is a courageous gift, arriving at just the right time ... No Christian leader can answer the call of ministry today and not be informed about this ... This is a constructive book, navigating the issue with clarity. It it also a courageous book that unpacks the elements of complex trauma and is bold enough to tackle the question of suffering. And - despite the difficult subject - it is a safe book, an essential pastoral resource.”Debra HirschAuthor, Speaker and Church Leader
“When Jesus taught, whether in the synagogue, the market place, or on a mountainside, the gospel writers record that people were amazed at his teaching, ‘because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law’. Reading Understanding Sexual Abuse, I sense something very similar. Tim Hein writes as someone who has authority: the authority that comes from walking the long, hard road of trauma, survival and recovery. Tim manages to draw on his own and his wife Priscilla’s experiences with openness, sensitivity and compassion, but without sentimentality or angst, and in a way that informs and empowers the reader.
As a professional working in the field of child protection, I have discovered fresh insights into the nature and impact of child abuse. Tim writes with deep understanding, backed up by relevant and meaningful research. As a spiritual director, I have found myself encouraged and equipped to stand alongside those who have suffered or may be suffering from abuse. As someone who has seen first-hand the dreadful reality of child abuse, I believe that this book offers hope for many who walk that road. One of the greatest needs we all have – whatever the traumas we have faced – is for safe, sacred space within which we can discover the love and hope of the one who comes to give us life. This book provides just that.
Understanding Sexual Abuse is a book I will return to repeatedly. The lessons Tim conveys are lessons that are relevant to survivors of all kinds of trauma – not just sexual abuse, but any form of abuse, coercion or control. And they are relevant to all those who sit beside those who are in pain: whether as a spiritual companion, offering prayer ministry, as a counsellor or pastor, or simply as a welcoming friend.”Dr Peter SidebothamPaediatrician, Spiritual Director and co-editor, Child Abuse Review.
“Before this book was even finished I knew it must be written – that Tim’s story needed to be told for it contains a powerful and needed witness. Written both from personal experience and with a pastoral touch, this is a healing, wise book for victims of sexual abuse, those who love them, and anyone leading in Christian churches or ministries today.”Mark SayersSenior Pastor of Red Church, Melbourne, Australia, Author of Disappearing Church and Strange Days
“This book brings together Tim Hein’s insights as a thoughtful educator, pastor, theologian, and survivor of child sexual abuse. This is a courageous book. Tim vulnerably shares his story of trauma and pain and his ongoing journey toward healing. He doesn’t pretend to know exactly what other survivors have experienced but instead offers his insights in ways that show understanding of the multiple impacts of abuse on survivors and offers pathways of support and healing. Survivors of abuse will find sources of healing and hope in this resource. This book is a gift to people engaged in Christian ministry. Tim draws from trauma research and biblical, theological, and pastoral foundations to equip Christian ministers to offer compassionate, careful, and well-informed support to survivors.”Deirdre PalmerSenior Lecturer in Christian education, family and children ministries, Adelaide College of Divinity
“There are other helpful books on surviving sexual assault, but none with as much wisdom and heart as Understanding Sexual Abuse by Tim Hein. A survivor himself, Tim intersperses his own beautifully told story of healing throughout this extremely practical and biblical look at how to survive abuse and how to help those who’ve been abused. This book is a gift.”Michael FrostMorling College, Sydney