Invisible Scars: How the Trauma of Sexual Abuse Is Stored in the Soul and Spirit


July 9, 2018

By Kathy Manis Findley

The #MeToo stories touched me in a place deep inside. The stories of sexual abuse that so many women told brought up persistent memories that I have for years tried to forget.

I was abused multiple times by multiple trusted members of my faith community. I can say unequivocally that this caused me pain in the very core of my psyche. There are scars that never go away, lasting wounds that always hurt, wounds that I describe as invisible scars of the soul and spirit.

My story is not uncommon.

Research shows that 93 percent of sex offenders describe themselves as “religious.” 165,500 mostly Protestant churches reported 7095 claims of alleged sexual abuse by church staff, congregation members, or volunteers between 1987 and 2007.

My years of healing have taught me that childhood sexual abuse creates terrible trauma that is stored in our bodies, hiding in the nooks and crannies of a life, struggling to be normal and free of pain. I learned those truths because I was a victim of sexual abuse in what I believed to be a safe place, my faith community.

The healing journey for me was long and arduous. Over twenty years, I worked through my trauma with counselors, spiritual guides, friends, and mentors. When I was in seminary, a professor helped me see a way to move into my pain with courage and to persistently grapple with every personal demon that was holding me hostage. The colleagues in my chaplaincy training held me accountable for my hidden emotions and fears as I began to discern the origin of those emotions and fears. I began owning my trauma and learned that I found strength and resilience by embracing it.

And as a trauma specialist working with adults and children, I learned even more truth about trauma.

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