Fight forwardSurviving sexual abuse
Brenda Crouch is author of Fight Forward: Reclaim the Real You, a new book designed to bring hope to survivors of sexual abuse. Crouch is a TV host, speaker, author, and singer/songwriter who shares a dynamic message of healing and restoration. Her husband is Paul Crouch, Jr., a Christian broadcaster and film producer and son of Paul Crouch, Sr., founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). Brenda feels that the Lord has anointed her to “break the emotional and spiritual chains that hold people hostage and apart from their God–given identity and ultimate purpose.” She and Paul live in Southern California.
The openness and transparent manner in which she so fluently describes her darkest moments and her quest for identity in Christ is impressive and inspiring. She articulates her most challenging revelations with boldness and sensitivity. What she says is thoughtful, introspective, and applicable to everyday life. The beautifully written words in her book also express those revelations in detail and with compassion.
On a journey
“I came out of a victim identity because of the wounds of childhood sexual abuse,” she says. “Later on, I ended up in very abusive relationships. I survived domestic violence. I ended up at a crossroads in my life. I had a strong faith and was taught in a Christian home to believe that God could do anything, yet here I was, questioning every decision I ever made; questioning where I was on my journey. I said to God, ‘I thought you had a purpose for my life, but I think I’ve ruined it.’”
In sharing her story, she’s helped many women and men face their fears, shed their shame, and courageously acknowledge the pain and humiliation they’ve experienced in the face of sexual and psychological abuse. Crouch’s example has set the bar for more open discussion of these stigmatic issues. In doing so, she has to some extent removed the sting, allowing for deeper and more honest conversations. These talks have led to spiritual and emotional healing.
“I’m so honored to have created a safe haven for people, be it at a book signing with a stranger, or during a one–on–one with somebody. People are opening up,” she says. “They are needing to get this off their chest. They’ve held their secrets for too long. They’re saying, ‘this happened to me,’ or ‘that happened to me’ or ‘to my daughter’ or ‘to my sister.’ It’s tragic and they are hurting. They are looking for hope that there is still renewing and restoration, rather than just a band–aid. People want to believe that it’s real and true.”
The biggest problem is reaching that tipping point when abused people feel confident enough in their faith to speak up and share their stories with trusted friends and family and ultimately the rest of the world.
Questions abound: How does one do it? When is the right time and place? What are the words spoken to others and to God?
“For me, it was a process of trying to unravel all the identity I had built up for myself,” Crouch recalls. “I wanted to feel loved and I wanted to feel special and that I had purpose, but I was going about it in the wrong way.”
The amount of guilt, shame, confusion, and self–blame felt by victims of abuse is typically and grossly underestimated. The long–term effects of such abuse are kin to Post–Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for a returning war veteran.
Fighting the enemy
“I believe that we all have an enemy of our souls and he is very crafty, and he works very hard to deceive us through our wounds. These wounds twist our identity and they cause us to bite into the lie that we cannot be a counterfeit product because we are sincere about how we go about it. But sometimes, we are sincerely wrong.
“I was projecting a persona of this successful, glamorous person who had made it on a certain level in modeling and in entertainment and all these different things. I was even involved in ministry. So, in that process of unraveling, God peeled the onion back. He said, we’re going to get to the root of who you are and the person you’ve actually hated and rejected.’
“As I stood in that vulnerable place, I looked in the mirror of His glory. That is where I saw my reflection as He loved me—as I really was, all the good, all the bad. I saw that he had given me gifts that had been stripped away.”
“God showed me that He is a God who restores. So, I had to go through this process, like the butterfly. I went into the cocoon; I was pulverized for a while; I felt absolutely destroyed.”
She also says, “I then went through more trauma in life. But it was there that He met me. The DNA of His thumbprint began to form me into something new. You know the story of the butterfly—it has to fight its way out of the cocoon. You can’t help the butterfly get out or you’ll actually hurt the process by causing the wings to crystalize and become deformed and the butterfly will die. So, it’s in the fight and the struggle that we are actually born again into a new purpose.”
“Adapting to a new condition can also be a challenging transition. Nonetheless, the desired outcome, a new life in Christ, free of the burden of abuse and protected by the boundaries of self–esteem and respect, are all worth it,” Crouch says.
“I’m intentional about this book helping people. We’re in a ‘Me too’ era and we’re in a sad time on the earth where people are so confused and hurting and really looking for answers. But they don’t know the way out and the way forward.
“My story is a ‘But God’ story. We need answers because people are stuck in the pain and in their shame and in their anger. There was a time when I was very angry.
“So, I want to give a safe place to the reader. I want them to be able to say, ‘I can journey with you. I too can peel back the onion; with God, I can make my way to purpose and destiny. He really truly loves me, just as I am. I am enough for Him.’ Then the reader can find his or her voice.
“I wrote my book because I believe that when people read my story, they will hardly believe that God could take somebody in that deep of a pit and plant her feet on such solid ground and bring her together with a man with whom she’s intended to be used for the Kingdom.”
Victory through vulnerability
Crouch says such confessions are difficult for people of faith who have portrayed themselves in church as being victorious when in fact their home, work, and church life is in turmoil. “It wasn’t possible until my father was on his deathbed,” Brenda recalls.
“I remember he looked at me with all these people in the room—we were all singing and having a great time, trying to be happy for him. He started to weep, his face was twisting, and he was crying like a little boy. Then he looked at me and said, ‘I am so sorry.’ He confessed to me. I prayed with my father and we had a moment with the Lord that was so beautiful.
“I never would have dreamed that 30, 15, or even 10 years ago I would be sitting here today and telling you and the world my story. I’m saying ‘I know a God who is big enough and that it doesn’t matter what has happened to you. God has a plan that is big enough and don’t you let this destroy you.’”
Beyond the realization and the revelation, Crouch says there must also be a proclamation. “Get honest, whether in the church or outside of the church. People are craving honesty, truth, and authenticity. They are tired of people who play games. It’s time to take off the masks because you can’t birth anything until you are vulnerable.”
by Warren L. Maye