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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Non-fiction Review: The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Photo courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography, Free Digital Photos

The Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan B. Allender is, as you might expect, a very serious book. Dr. Allender’s profession and his book are borne out of great pain from his own childhood abuse and his burden to help others.

The Wounded Heart presents a psychological analysis of the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. He addresses many facets of the effect it has on the victim’s heart and the difficulties victims face. He discusses the great problem victims have with trust—both with people and with God. “The devilishness of abuse is that it does Satan’s work of deceiving children about God’s true nature and encouraging them to mistrust Him.”

He delves into the importance of facing one’s horrible memories and working through them. (This is probably the most difficult part of his book for me to agree with. I’m still not convinced that all the memories need to be drudged up and dealt with. I especially think of the small child with unclear memories of what happened to him. Does he really need to go back and remember that ugly stuff? Philippians 4:8) I do, though, totally agree that one needs to face one’s memories. Dr. Allender makes the statement, “The wise course is to focus on who we are now.”

I also agree with the value and necessity of counseling. Most victims of abuse need help with working through their attitudes and also with their spiritual growth. I appreciate especially his last section about how to give victims hope. He says, “The most common error in some Christian groups is to ignore the problem or offer true solutions in a trite way.” He emphasizes the complexity of each individual’s experiences and problems. “Those who desire to honor God and the redemptive work of Christ must embrace both the simplicity and the complexity that exists in the problem and the solution. . . . When we move toward loving God and others, we can be sure that something radical and supernatural has intruded to alter the process of self-centered stagnation and decay. Change is always a process.”

Allender speaks of faith, decisions, hope, and trusting God.

This is a very complete work, by far the heaviest work I’ve read on the subject of abuse and overcoming. To be honest, it was emotionally hard to read, and I put it down for a while before picking it up again and finishing. The subject of young people being repeatedly attacked and used isn’t one I want to read about. I needed to, because more and more, I counsel very troubled people, and very often the root cause of their emotional pain is childhood sexual abuse.

The first three-fourths of The Wounded Heart are about the damage of and reactions to abuse. This first part is complicated and technical. The last part of the book offers hope and healing.

Allender's book doesn't include much at all from the Bible, not much about forgiveness towards the abuser, either.

In Christian ministry, we must no longer ignore the signs of abuse and be ignorant of the questions to ask the people we counsel. We need to know how to walk them through the healing process. 

I understand, however, that Allender himself may not use biblical methods in his counseling and in his counseling seminars. This book should be read with this in mind.

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