Title: Journey to Heal: Seven Essential Steps of Recovery for Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse
Author: Crystal M. Sutherland
Publisher: Kregel Publications
Publishing Year: 2016
My Rating: 3 out of 5 (1 meaning I hated the book, 5 meaning I loved the book)
Over the past four years, it has been my unfortunate experience to come across many people who have suffered through the trauma of an early childhood sexual assault. What is even more unfortunate is that most of these people came from a church background. What surprised me even more was that many of these people came from what appeared to be good, healthy families. The one common denominator in all these cases is that the initial assault was covered up. It would take years to unravel all the pieces if indeed all the pieces could even be unraveled. I am more than certain there are many others ought there whose stories have yet to be told. The avalanche is coming, church. Are you ready for it?
It was with all of this in mind that I accepted the opportunity to review Journey to Heal: Seven Essential Steps of Recovery for Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse here on this blog. The church needs to be prepared to uncover and expose sexual assault within its own walls and then be able to love and minister to those victims. So far, it seems as though we have done a terrible job in the area.
The major strength of this book is its tone. This is written by a survivor for other survivors. The author’s tone is one of comfort and sympathy. She not only shares her story but the story of several others. She does this in a way as to let the listener know, you are not alone. What happened to you has happened to others. They survived, and so can you. From my limited experience, this is a crucial barrier that must be first broken down for any healing to begin.
Another great strength of the book is the notion that his will not be fixed in a few short sessions or with some neat coping tricks. Neither is this healing obtained by memorizing a few Bible passages and throwing up a few prayers to heaven. This is a journey not a moment. This will take time. I know many victims who feel the intense pressure to simply get over all this and simply move on through the power of Christ. I wish it were that simple. By way, placing such pressure on a person only adds to the guilt and shame that comes with such abuse. We expect people to be champions but fail to give them the support they need which can only lead to defeat and failure.
Practicality is the other strength that is worth noting. Throughout these pages you will find practical advice that will help those who are struggling. A heavy emphasis is placed on journaling which I believe could be extremely helpful. I especially appreciate Sutherland’s admonition to share your stories with others. You were never meant to bar this burden by yourself. You can’t handle it. You need others in the body of Christ to lift you up and support you. This also opens the door for others victims to come forward and get the help they need.
Finally, one of the most helpful aspects of this book is constant theme of hope. There is hope for those who can’t see through their shame, guilt and embarrassment. For those struggling with feelings they feel can never be resolved, Christ provides hope for a normal life.
However, what I found lacking in this book was any serious engagement with the Word of God. There are verses sprinkled throughout, but they are only accompanied by a shallow, brief application. My personal pet peeve is the constant use of Jeremiah 29:11, one of the most misunderstood and misapplied verses in the Bible. Yet, the gospel is highlighted and there are some helpful passages referenced from time to time.
I was also disappointed not to see the church referenced until the very end of the book. The Church ought to play a crucial role in the life of any Christian. She never mentions to seek counsel from one’s pastor. I would think for a Christian, this is where we would begin. Yet, I do realize that for some it may be difficult to even get to this stage of the journey. But, it should be a step somewhere along the way. The pastor is a gift to the church and ought to be utilized in the way our Lord intended.
With all this being said, I believe this book would be quite useful in helping those who struggle with past sexual assault. I would use this book to get the ball rolling and to begin a journey down the road to healing.
You can purchase the book here.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.