There are some subjects people tend to skirt around in conversation and relationships. Subjects so uncomfortable, their mention only brings up a wrecked past, a rough childhood, or a particularly disconcerting uncertainty for those unfamiliar with it. One such subject is sexual assault, and sadly, it is not spoken out about enough by pastors and families.
Justin and Lindsey Holcomb have written this book to ‘come out’ on sexual assault, unveiling the myths as well as the tragic truths behind it. After getting through the first two chapters, it’s plain to see how heavy of a burden sexual assault is. However, the Holcombs overcome this age-old problem in an extremely Biblical manner, and end up amplifying the Gospel’s goodness and power over every evil thing, namely sexual assault.
The book starts out with its foundation in the Word, opening with Tamar’s story of rape in 2 Samuel 13. The title directly comes Tamar’s outcry in the passage — “Where can I get rid of my disgrace?” — just before her brother, Amnon, rapes her. As the authors indicate, her cry encompasses the dirtiness often felt by victims of sexual assault.
The first two chapters alone open up the depth of the book, explaining what sexual assault is in all connotations of the phrase and all the latest stats on sexual assault, victims, and perpetrators. Did you know that one in four women and one in six men will be sexually-assaulted in their lifetime? How about about that every two minutes someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted? Did you know that one study reported up to a third of girls and a fifth of boys have experienced incest? These three stats are found in chapter two, and there are many more. It is simply staggering. Great care is also taken in this chapter to show how ‘self-help’ books and positive thinking actually do much more harm than good; stats are even provided to back that up!
The bulk of content is spent with each chapter outlining a specific emotional reaction to being sexually assaulted, like shame, distorted self-image, anger, etc. The authors outline exactly how a victim may react with each given emotion (emphasizing how normal it is), how destructive it ends up being, and how the Gospel rescues from it, promising much better. Just before each chapter, there is a personal story told by someone who was abused sexually and reacted as shown in the given section. This serves to make each chapter more real and credible.
As the end draws closer, the last three chapters detail how sin gave birth to the sexual wrongs and outline all instances of God’s grace throughout the Old and New testaments. Since the book 1. is all about God’s grace, and 2. always returns back to a Scriptural base, providing these last parts really helps solidify the assurance of God’s loving character written about in in Rid of my Disgrace.
When you put all the stats and anecdotes and pain together as you turn each page, it becomes clear the content is overwhelming. If a victim came to you seeking advice here, what would you say? If you’re a victim afraid to speak out, where would you start? Perhaps this is why so many pastors and leaders (wrongly) avoid this topic.
But where words fail, Christ does not. That’s the point Justin and Lindsey constantly reiterate, and it’s much needed. This topic is too much for man. Fortunately, readers are reminded from beginning to end here that Christians are God’s kids, whether abused or not, and that no amount of sin or disgrace could overpower God’s saving love.
There are two primary audiences prime for reading this: victims and leaders in ministry. As the book thoroughly goes through its content with a tone of restoration, it’s plain to see that Justin and Lindsey want to reach out to everyone who has been sexually offended. And make no mistake, this is a book of healing. While there are plenty of books on how to correctly counsel in this difficult area, few (if any) speak so directly and pastorally about the issue. Even if you’ve never been abused, you’ll undoubtedly feel healing in some area as you hear God speak to you through the pages about guilt, despair, and the like.
The second audience, ministry leaders, would be at a huge handicap to skip over this one. There’s a big handful of footnotes (which I absolutely gobble up), making the Holcomb’s masterpiece an excellent resource for extended research and reading. Also, I personally have never gone through sexual abuse, so most of the intense content here was completely unfamiliar to me. If anyone had come to me with this sort of victimization seeking godly advice before, I’d be completely unprepared. Now, I feel like I have a great place to start. I have a feeling that as I go through seminary and be in ministry years down the road, I’ll be coming back to Rid of my Disgrace above others.
If you are a victim of sexual assault, God wants to speak to you through this book. Hey, leaders and pastors, every one of you needs this on their bookshelves. I sincerely praise God for what he has done through the Holcombs. Also, if you’d like to get an idea of what the book is like, the Holcombs also wrote a brief article about the Bible and sexual assault. Don’t miss it.