Just over 25 years ago, Christian therapist Dan Allender released The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse. For thousands of victims suffering the aftereffects of sexual trauma, it became a trusted guide. Now, after decades of clinical practice, Allender has published a follow-up: Healing the Wounded Heart: The Heartache of Sexual Abuse and the Hope of Transformation (Baker). Author Mary DeMuth, who has written widely about her own recovery from childhood sexual abuse, spoke with Allender about the spiritual contours of healing and the importance of kindness to victims.
What have you learned about the aftermath of sexual abuse since writing The Wounded Heart?
We now know much more about the brain. We know, for example, that trauma shuts down the left functional lobe where language resides. We have always known that trauma victims have fragmented memories, but now we have a clearer understanding of why.
The more we understand about the psychology of sexual abuse victims, the greater the potential for showing kindness. We can say, “This is what one would expect given the harm.” When clients have a better understanding of the neurology of trauma, it opens the door to greater kindness toward themselves.
What has struck you most powerfully as you’ve counseled clients?
It’s not enough to know the biology of trauma. We also need to know the spirituality of trauma. The natural tendency of victims is to turn shame and contempt against themselves. And this gets exploited by the Evil One. Satan is an accuser. He fans the flames of guilt and shame with whisperings, attacks, threats, or seductions.
The two greatest signs of a restored heart are increased freedom and joy. When you’re ...