Last week, I had the privilege of speaking, alongside my friend Ron, at Gordon College, a Christian school in Massachusetts. We were there to talk about faith and sexual orientation as part of “Sexuality Week,” a week of presentations addressing issues from rape culture to LGBT dialogue.
But one of the most powerful things I heard there wasn’t about sexual orientation. It was about sexual abuse.
On Friday night, several Gordon students shared their own stories and challenges. One of those was Aaron Hicks, a young singer/songwriter, who has given me permission to share with you something deeply personal he shared that night.
Through tears, Aaron stood at the mike and publicly opened up about something many of his peers hadn’t known: He had been molested over a period of years by a trusted youth leader, a master manipulator with multiple victims.
Not only had Aaron had to deal with the abuse and resulting feelings of shame and betrayal, but once he confessed the truth, he had to spend three more months with his abuser, pretending nothing was wrong while the investigation continued—before facing him repeatedly in the courtroom during the ongoing trial.
Aaron’s gifts as a songwriter allowed him to pour some of his anger and pain into music, and this tragic but beautiful song has been haunting me ever since.
If you like it, you can buy Aaron’s music on iTunes.
You know why I post stuff like this? Because in many churches, we’re afraid to talk about sex except for in its ideal form (loving, mutually selfless, in the context of a marriage, etc.) and we allow people like Aaron to feel like they’re alone.
No, Aaron, you’re not alone. There are a lot of Aarons out there—feeling hurt, feeling shame, feeling nothing. Feeling like nothing. And we, the church, can’t let them suffer in silence. We need to feel something. We need to do something. We must work to prevent abuse in any way possible. But when it does happen, we must also work to remove the stigma abuse victims so often face, and to make sure our churches are safe spaces to talk about the reality of our lives.
Because I want to be part of the kind of church where people like Aaron share their stories—where all of us share our messy, complicated stories—and where we as a body of believers say, “This is why God put us here: To hear you, and support you, and walk down this painful road with you. Because God loves you, and we love you. And we’re all in this together.”