Kevin Swanson, Child Abuse, and Dead Little Bunnies: Kathi’s Thoughts
HA note: Kathi is a Bible-belt midwest transplant to the beautiful Pacific northwest. After homeschooling her kids for 10 years (she decided that high school math and science were not her strongest subjects), both kids are in public school. She is a former church goer and finds herself in that unstudied demographic of middle-aged Nones. She has a B.A. in Urban Ministry and a M.S.W. Her goal is to work with children who have been abused or are in foster care. She loves to knit, cook and read (not in any particular order). The following was originally published on Kathi’s blog Moving Beyond Absolutes on April 5, 2014 and is reprinted with permission.
I had never heard of Kevin Swason until after I got done homeschooling. That’s how out of touch with the Christian homeschool movement I was during my homeschooling period.
When he did a show on March 18th titled, How to Recover from Sexual Abuse, I had to listen. This program included guest Keith Dorscht from Biblical Concepts in Counseling. Here’s an interesting point to make note of – at the end of the program, Keith Dorscht tells listeners how to get in touch with Biblical Concepts (www.biblicalconcepts.org — this is the URL he provides). However, when you go to that URL, it shows up through Sedo’s Domain Parking and it gives someone the option to purchase that domain name. Because of this, I’m not sure how anyone who listened to Swanson’s program would be able to follow up with Biblical Concepts in Counseling.
I became interested in this particular program because of my social work focus in child abuse, my past work with children who had been sexually abused, and because of my own personal experience with abuse.
I admit that when I saw the title of the program I sighed and thought myself to be a glutton of punishment. (Swason’s voice tends to grate on me a little — okay, a lot. But, there’s nothing that a glass — or two — of wine can’t cure!) I tell you this because I am passionate about helping people who have been abused.
Unexpectedly, and thankfully, there were some good ideas and thoughts on dealing with sexual abuse. What did not surprise me were some of important things that were left out and the prevailing attitude toward victims that creeps in. I transcribed** the show and am here to offer my opinions on the good and the not so good of what I heard.
1. Keith Dorscht acknowledges the fact that sexual pleasure can be experienced at any age. At the 7 minute mark he says,
“What that means is that from birth, there can be sexual stimulation, excitement, that feels good. And, you can’t stop that as a child of any age, you can’t turn that off. God wants you to have that.”
That is true. It has been shown that babies are able to experience genital stimulation. Our bodies are hard wired to be that way.
2. Right after this remark, he continues saying,
“When some perpetrator comes in, takes advantage of that, but they also overwhelm you and you feel guilty because you know something is going on wrong. So one of the main damages is that someone at any age is experiencing something that feels pleasurable, but they’re feeling guilt. And there’s a knitting together, a marrying together, of those two emotions.”
Very true, too. Abusers will manipulate a victim for their own pleasure. Threats, fear or simple words such as telling the victim that this is something “special” shared between them and that no one else should know about it, are tactics used to keep them in their grasp. The victim, realizing that what this person is doing is wrong, may feel pleasure in the act. Thus, the feelings of guilt may become overwhelming.
3. As far as responding to a child who tells you that they have been sexually abused, Dorscht says the following after the 10 minute mark:
“You can pretty much trust that they’re telling truth. Only half a percent of children actually make up a story of this. So if you’re getting signs and statements being made and strange behaviors in your child, you want to definitely consider the idea that perhaps someone has sexually abused them and get talking about that.”
While there have been times when a child will lie about sexual abuse, it is very rare. If a child tells you that they have been sexually abused, always believe them.
4. Dorscht offers hope to victims of sexual abuse. Just before the 9:30 mark he says,
“There is so much hope for people who have been sexually abused. If I can say one thing on this program today and leave people with something, is that there is hope. That God can restore. He can finish the work.”
There is hope for a survivor of sexual abuse. A person can be made whole again. It takes a lot of time, patience and hard work with a therapist to get there. I do believe that God can help in that healing process. However, if the person does not have a faith in God, healing can also be accomplished.
The Not So Good
1. Kevin Swanson seems to think that sexual abuse did not happen as often in the 1800’s compared to today. In the opening of his show, just before the 1 minuted mark he says,
“See, we have social sins now that were almost unheard of in the 1800’s. And they are common place today. The 1 in 10,000 occurrences we saw in the 1800’s, now 1 in 100, the 1 in 100 now 3 in 10. The free sex movement of the 1960’s has resulted in people thinking they can get any kind of sex they want for free. And they’re doing it all the time. They’re doing it with kids. It’s hard to get accurate numbers of sexual abuse. But accounts have it as high as 20, 30, 40%
“The stories abound. Priests abusing kids. School teachers abusing kids. Babysitters abusing kids. Everywhere. Part it is the absence of parental oversight in the training of children. And, part of it is the whole sale raw eros sex on MTV and the whole music culture. Part of it is the lack of phileo love, agape love, and all that is left is animalistic physical copulation. Whatever the cause, the consequences of this free sex, this fornicating sexual abuse culture, the consequences of this stuff is just devastating. The purity has been stripped away.”
And, just after the 5:30 mark he says,
“Just horrific to see what is happening. And of course I believe this has been increasing over the last 30-40 years. This kind of thing was not happening as much 100 years ago.”
Dorscht follows this statement by saying,
“No, and you can blame the internet for that. Blame media influences and parents letting their guards down with their children and not protecting them the way they need to be.”
Does Swanson realize that, while avenues for reporting sexual abuse existed in the 1800’s, the response to those reports were very different than today’s response? Also, means of storing numbers for statistical analysis did not exist in the 1800’s.
How about the fact that there really was not a clear definition of child abuse in the 1800’s or child abuse reporting laws or laws set in place to help protect victims?
My only other note to Swanson is that if you are going to supply a fact in the form of a percentage of something happening, please make sure you do your homework and make it very clear to the listener. This “20, 30, 40%” of reported abuse does your listener no good. Let them know the facts up front.
2. Swanson wants to deal with the problem of guilt. Rightfully so. Children who have been sexually abused may feel guilty about their participation in the act, or in their lack of ability to stop the abuse from happening. Just after the 13 minute mark he says,
“You know, some Christian perspectives of psychology will tell us that man suffers from guilt and often he will resort to masochism or sadism, that is hurting themselves or hurting others, as a means of atonement. Because, of course, guilt cries out for atonement. And when people try to self atone for that guilt, by mean of masochism or sadism, they are denying the atonement of the son of God who came to atone for those sins. And that in itself is a sin, right Keith? If we don’t go to Christ and say, ‘Hey, your atonement is sufficient for me,’ you’re denying his offering.”
So Swanson wants to heap on more guilt for a person who is trying to deal with their abuse. (Shaking my head) In essence, he is saying, “If you don’t rely on Christ, you are sinning.” I’m sure this extra layer of guilt will be helpful for the victim.
3. Bitterness — one of my least favorite words. Swanson wants to deal with it though. Just after the 14:30 minute mark he says,
“Well, Keith, there’s also the issue of bitterness. Perhaps we should talk about this as well. This is, of course, carrying other people’s sins and holding them against them. How often do you see this problem of bitterness where they hold this bitterness against the violator?”
Dorscht responded at the 15 minute mark with,
“They’re holding that bitterness. Every single week in the counseling office those people are holding on to that bitterness. The problem is too often that the perpetrator is out of their reach and not receiving any of that bitterness. And, again, it can turn back on them. Or turn back on a spouse, or to parents. A girl will have anger issues with a father or a brother, and they may wonder where that’s coming from. And those people are paying.”
Swanson continues the thought after the 16 minute mark,
“And, you know, as we bring the guilt and the bitterness together, this is precisely what Jesus puts in the Lord’s prayer when he says, ‘Forgive us our debts, our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.’ So, Keith, I think that these things come together in the counseling situation where we go to the cross of Christ. Yes, we drop our sins there, but while we’re there, we drop everybody else’s sins too. It’s almost as if the bitter person, the guilty person, is holding two burdens. He’s got his own sins, and then he’s got everybody else’s sins. I don’t think anybody can carry that much.”
It is important to note that Dorscht is identified as a “Biblical” counselor.
I don’t have any training in Biblical counseling, so I’m not exactly sure how a Biblical counselor works in a therapy session. What I have heard, though, is that Biblical counselors stress the need for a victim to forgive a perpetrator. Dorscht confirms this at the 17:30 mark:
“When they forgive that person, I’ve seen people instantly, when they pray, ‘God I forgive that person.’ And they open their eyes, they look at me, and they say, ‘Can I pray for that person?’ And I say, ‘Why would you want to do that?’ Just to kind of test them. They say, ‘Because I know how much I’ve been forgiven. And I know now how hurting that person must have been for them to hurt me.’ And not in every case does this happen. But, I think people can get to that point where they can say, ‘I want to pray for them because they are hurting also.’ And that is a sign of genuine heart-level forgiveness. They have compassion. If that person needed a meal or needed a cup of water, that person is free to give that to them. That’s a minimum requirement.”
KS: “Wow! That’s true deliverance. And, that’s walking in Jesus’ ways when he says, ‘Pray for those who despitefully [sic] use you.’ And, if there is anybody who would despitefully [sic] use somebody, that would certainly be one who sexually abuses. And, to pray for that person is exactly what Jesus wants to see happen there.”
I’m not downplaying anyone who says that they are able to forgive someone who has victimized them. If they are able to say and do that, then more power to them. However, some people may never be able to forgive the person who abused them. I would never consider that person bitter, and I would never question their faith. I would also never say a person needs to forgive their abuser because they were hurting too. There is never a good excuse for someone to sexually abuse another person.
Saying that a victim is bitter because they are unable to forgive the perpetrator is another way of placing guilt and shame on a victim.
4. Going back up to point #1, did anyone else realize that Swanson never states that parents may be the ones who are sexually abusing their kids? He mentions priests, school teachers and babysitters, but not once in this radio show does he admit that a parent may abuse their child.
Just after the 18:30 mark, Swanson asks Dorscht what a parent should do when a child tells them that they have been sexually abused. Dorscht’s advice is to first allow their child to talk openly about what happened; to hold them and cry with them. Then at the 20 minute mark he says,
“You’ll want to report something to authorities if that’s appropriate and necessary. You want to warn anyone else who may be in danger. Again, I said there’s a 90% chance that you know the person who abused your child, so you might know other people that could be in danger.”
Of course it’s “appropriate” to report sexual abuse to the authorities! Along with being there for your child, this should be the first thing a parent should do — even if it means that your spouse is the perpetrator of the abuse.
5. Toward the end of the program, Swanson talks about the cold, hard reality of sin in the world. Honestly, at this point in the program I started getting an uneasy feeling and here is where Swanson’s voice starts to grate on me. Just after the 20:30 minute mark he says,
“And, Keith, I think the cold, hard reality of sin and this sinful world comes home to us. Not just in the case of sexual abuse, but when the family has been robbed. You know, when somebody has broken into our house or into our car and stolen our things. Or, even when we have a horrible disease or when somebody dies in the family. I mean, you know, it’s not as if these people who have been sexually abused are the only ones who have suffered the consequences of sin.”
Okay, “these people”? How condescending are those words toward a victim of sexual abuse? I would never refer anyone to Swanson for counseling. I do not think he has the ability to feel empathy or compassion toward someone who is suffering.
He brings in another illustration to emphasize his “cold, hard facts” about sin in the world. This is just after the 21 minute mark:
“And the cold, hard reality of that sinful world comes home at certain times in our children’s lives. In fact, just yesterday, two little bunnies died that we were trying to take care of that we found in the wild all by themselves. And my little daughters were crying. Oh, it was such a hard thing to see the little bunnies die. And they’re still recovering this morning. You know, we had to tell them, this is what happened when man sinned against God. This is what sin has brought into the world. Little bunnies die. This is the real facts of the matter. But, the hope is in Jesus. We’ve got to give them hope, don’t we Keith?”
Creepy. Dead little bunnies.
And to suggest sexual abuse is one of the the cold, hard realities of a sinful world that enters our children’s lives is horrendous.
*** Please note:: In my transcription I may have missed some words, and I intentionally did not include “filler” words (ummm…, and, or any repetitive words). Even though I left out the filler words, I maintained the cohesive thought of the speaker.