Book Review: We Too: How the Church Can Respond Redemptively to the Sexual Abuse Crisis

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Diane Langberg, Ph.D, Psychologist
“I am grateful for Mary’s life and her voice. We in the body of Christ need her. Her voice, along with many others, is the voice of our God calling his people into the light of truth and grace; to comfort the brokenhearted and release the captives. Read this book. Let it get inside you. Let it change you.”

Boz Tchividjian, Attorney, Law Professor, Founder and Executive Director of GRACE
“Too many of our faith communities are not safe places for children and vulnerable people, and they are not safe spaces for the wounded. As a survivor, respected advocate, and prolific writer who loves Jesus and His bride, my dear friend Mary shares why and how to begin the journey of transforming the church into a community that protects the vulnerable and loves the wounded. This book is an invaluable resource that is so needed by today’s church. Bravo, Mary!”

Wade Mullen, Author, Historian, Pastor
“Mary DeMuth’s gripping and transparent narrative of her own sexual abuse jolts the reader’s emotions and ignites the Christian’s mind. After reading DeMuth’s book, you’ll be convinced that we too must never again be silent in the face of abuse.”


The Rundown

Victims of sexual assault are often asked to endure the Herculean demand of remembering, retracing, and retelling their horrific stories, at times in front of family members, friends, work colleagues, law enforcement, trained professionals, and their abusers

   The trauma experienced from the initial assault or the number of assaults pales in comparison once the victim is revictimized by people and systems who strain to make sure their credibility and story are discredited so the trusted perpetrator evades justice and the evidence of their crimes never see the light of day. 

   With the spawn of the #MeToo movement women of all stripes began revealing their incidents of the sexual assault and sexual harassment they endured at the hands of coworkers, bosses, supervisors, managers, producers, directors, and more. These stories made waves via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, and more to the world’s astonishment. Women were empowered by the number of other women who took to the streets, per se, social streets, really, to voice their hurt, bring to light that which happened in secret, find encouragement from other victims, and in a few cases, they found justice. 

   This wave of uproar and calls for justice shot fear into the heart of large corporations that in their nascent stages were wrought by sexual abuse and sexual harassment from entry administrative positions to the zenith of executive echelons.

    High ranking nationally recognized Oscar-winning film producer Harvey Weinstein was brought down in flames once his prolific list of assaults was made public. Bill Cosby, a family television favorite was also destroyed by his private lifestyle which involved drugging and raping women who trusted him. Kevin Spacey was also toppled from stardom once his unwarranted and aggressive sexual advances toward an underage boy under his care were made public. Billionaire extraordinaire Jeffrey Epstein was brought back to prison to face child-trafficking charges but he managed to evade temporal justice by committing suicide, under suspicious circumstances, in his prison cell. 

   These stories are horrible and to know that so many of said perpetrators were in such positions of power and trust is even more baffling. The length of time they were able to operate, predate, intimidate and obfuscate their crimes is nearly demonic in efficacy but much of that has changed, and much of it will continue to change for the better as more women, and yes, men too, are coming forward with their stories. 

   Too many people are tired of hearing of victims committing suicide because their voices, their stories, their abuse, their assault, their rape, their hurt was dismissed and discredited by people they trusted. But not anymore.

Except, of course, in the church.

Contents

  1. Rape: The Biblical Conundrum
  2. The Revolutionary Responder: Jesus
  3. Abuse and the Church
  4. The Power of Secrets
  5. The Persuasiveness of Bad Theology
  6. The Pervasiveness of Porn
  7. The Problem of Predators
  8. The Passivity of the Church
  9. A Necessary Education
  10. A Nuanced Cultural Shift: From How-To to #MeToo
  11. A New Pathway Forward
  12. A Prophetic Imagination

The church acts most like Jesus when it protects the victimized.

Mary Demuth

Me Too in the Church

We are familiar with the number of predatory clerics and priests who sexually abused children for decades and instead of facing repercussions for their actions after news of their ills came to light they were moved from one diocese to another, so as to prevent further damage to the victim, the church community, and the Catholic institutions locally and abroad. The number of abuse cases and the depravity ridden cover-ups that followed made waves on the news thanks to the Boston Globe in documenting the numerous times the Catholic church, often under the direction of the Vatican, oriented their leaders to simply move predators from one location to another, while the predator raped and abused more children in every church he mentored and pastored.

   The academy award-winning film, Spotlight showcases how reporters, writers, documentarians, and investigative journalists not only uncovered the number of sexual abuse cases that slithered through the Catholic Church in the United States but also how many leaders within the same establishment were aware of these predators but did absolutely nothing to protect children and vulnerable people from them.

A Promising Foreword

Mary Demuth invites pastor, theologian, and 62nd president of the Southern Baptist Convention J.D. Greear to write the forward to her eye-opening book. For a bit of history, the SBC is the largest denomination of baptist churches within the continental United States of America and to this day the church is fighting to save its image and confront its slave-holding, chattel slavery promoting, negro-disparaging, segregation immersed past. Minister Greear has publicly condemned the SBC’s embarrassing history, publicly denounced police brutality against the black community within the United States, and is now being challenged to confront, condemn, and distance himself and the convention from its many cases of sexual abuse and sexual abuse cover-up. 

   Where the evangelical world thought they had an advantage against their Catholic cousins evidence proved otherwise.

   I believe it was prudent of Mary to invite minister Greear, who is facing these very challenges within his particular denomination and beginning to succeed, in denouncing these crimes, educating his staff and body of believers for signs of abuse and predatory grooming, to write the foreword. The SBC is becoming more open to third party help when it comes to investigating crimes of abuse, which is a major step in the progressive effort toward justice and protections for the vulnerable and victims of abuse. 

   Here are a few highlights from Greear’s foreword:

“In light of the growing awareness of how poorly abuse has been handled by almost every institution in our culture, where should the church begin to address the crisis among us? 

   By listening. 

   Listening does at least two things. First, listening restores voice and dignity to the survivor. During abuse, voice is ignored. Or marginalized. Or silenced outright. After abuse, a sense of voice is often lost. A church that does not listen communicates that what a survivor experienced doesn’t matter to God or God’s people. 

   Second, listening removes ignorance from the church and church leaders. We need to understand as much as survivors need to be heard. Ignorance on our part makes us ill-equipped to be ambassadors of Christ. Survivors of abuse are in every one of our congregations. Potential victims are, too. How tragic if we neglect to protect them because our ears were found closed?”

A Call to Action and Hope for Tomorrow

Mary Demuth retells her painful and truly sad story of cyclical abuse which began when she was but five years old at the hands of neighbors she at one time trusted. When she mustered enough courage, courage not many of us have in our adult lives, to inform a babysitter of said abuse, she thought she was saved. Perhaps one adult in her life would protect her from wave after wave of rape, but to her disappointment, her babysitter would push her out the door to be raped time and again by her abusers. 

   Because her story is too grand, too painful, and graphic to retell her I suggest diving into it on your own. I advise you to read it carefully, slowly even, if you are a victim of abuse or know of someone who is. 

Mary tells her story and beckons the church to take up arms and defend the vulnerable, the weak, the unprotected, the children, the invalid, the people who stand to become possible victims because of our continued willful ignorance. We don’t want to have our euphoric experiences disrupted by the possibility that a predator lives and thrives in our midst in the body of Christ. This is problematic.

The church is the hands and feet of Jesus, and it is our duty to continue the mandate to protect the innocent, while turning perpetrators in to the proper authorities.

Mary Demuth

Mary does not dodge the reality of sexual depravity that permeates the Catholic, evangelical and secular avenues of life but she refers time and again to the continuum that kept her on track, sane, standing, and alive, even in her darkest moments. 

[God] occupies all the difficult spaces humanity has endured. While I can’t fully reconcile the problem of evil and why so many people have been sexually violated over the centuries, I do know this: Jesus has wept alongside me, and he weeps for his church to rise up valiantly and love the least, the last, and the lost. This is our WE TOO moment, to purposefully suffer alongside the sexually broken.

Mary Demuth

The book is saturated with classifications of predatory behavior, identification of grooming tactics, defense mechanisms predators use when caught, the intimidation techniques they use to prevent victims from speaking up and out against their assailant.

Mary recalls that when her rapists were through with her they would caution her to keep her mouth shut or they would tell her mom or threaten to kill her mom and bring further injury and damage to her family. She also felt embarrassed and afraid of revealing such horrific events to her family, especially because her dad was a sexually depraved man who would show her pictures of nude women and later ask her to scrub him down him in the bathtub. Her dad was a predator in his own dominion and passed away before Mary could confront him about his destructive behaviors and patterns. She could not muster the courage to reveal her heart to her mother because she thought her mother was inept and unable to do anything about it. 

This child could barely quantify the gravity of the evils being forced on her at such an early stage of her life but she knew, without a doubt, that without having a word for it, what happened to her, however many times it happened, it was wrong. 

A perpetrator may have hurt someone for a few minutes of his/her life and may even regret it, but the survivor lives with the pain, triggers, shame and fear for a lifetime.

Mary Demuth

She informs the reader that the church needs to be a better representative of victim advocacy when it claims to be THE center of moral prominence of earth. If the one institution that claims to have total and unequivocal access to God’s revealed truth in scripture; claims that all men and women are created in the image of God; that life is sacred pre and post-birth; fought for the abolition of slavery; the suffrage movement; for the protection of sojourners; the protection and sanctity of life of the sick, ill, deformed, mentally incapacitated, if this institution will not stand against sexual abuse and protect victims of sexual then its witness of vacuous. It’s empty.

We are to be agents of His great upside down Kingdom, where the outcasts are listened to, the broken are given dignity, and those suffering under the weight of sexual exploitation are rescued and healed.

Mary Demuth

Mary’s book is challenging. She opens our eyes to the darker recesses of human nature, taking our hand and leading us through her pain, abuse, hurt, and abandonment. She reveals a crisis that ends up taking the lives of tens of thousands of people around the world because so many people lack an avenue of communication to express their hurt and when they do they’re shunned for it.

She confronts our complacency, our unwillingness to look at our pews to consider the possibility that within our own churches predators have made themselves comfortable, gained our trust, joined our board, mandate and execute policies, all while taking advantage of the vulnerable and impressionable members we love and care for. 

The demand to look, listen, confront, denounce, hire third-party investigators, distance ourselves from abusers, condemn their actions publicly, and protect victims and would-be victims at all cost; almost as if we asked to suffer martyrdom to protect those vulnerable persons in our midst, is an essential part of our Christian witness.

She begs the question, time and again, “How would Jesus have treated me in my moment of weakness, when I voiced my assault? Would Jesus have listened? Would he have dismissed my claim? Ignored me? Sided with my abusers?”

We know the answer to these questions all too well but to our shame, we have failed to emulate the person and character of Jesus in many ways, especially when it comes to our failure to protect victims of sexual assault.

We must do a better job and Mary Demuth guides us not only through her story but empowers other survivors to come forward with theirs. 

She instructs the church to take a better and brighter stance, educating itself, relying less on its own ability to procure truth when investigating these cases and to rely more on professional authorities who are trained these cases. 

There is hope, Mary reminds us and other survivors. 

She states that in finding Jesus she was able to confront her fears, confront and forgive her rapists, and find peace in fighting her memories. She does not claim to be trauma-free but she is confident in knowing she has a God who walks through it all with her. She admonishes survivors to seek professional help, to surround themselves with advocates and friends who listen to them and give them space to find the courage to tell their stories. She understands the usefulness of prescription drugs when used prudently under the supervisory guidance of trauma-recovery trained physicians.

Mary emphasizes the importance of confronting the poison that permeates through the human heart; a poison that a survivor of abuse is unfortunately forced to carry through life. The burden of shame, the burden of secrecy, the burden of hatred, and the burden of addiction must be addressed for a survivors progress and recovery. 

She has found someone who  is willing to carry these burdens for her and she states that person is Jesus. Through Him, she can overcome the evils that were forced upon her and through Him, she is able to confront them, without spite, hate, shame, or a desire for vengeance.

If you haven’t read Mary’s book, please, stop what you’re doing and go get it. Buy it off of Amazon, check it out from the nearest library, or subscribe to a free audiobook listening service for thirty days and read or listen to Mary’s story and advice.

Once done, share it with someone who could really use the transparency in her voice and encouragement from her story.

Our lives are worth more than the abuse we have suffered.

Final words from J.D. Greear:

“A final word: If abuse is close to you; especially if it is part of your story, you may need to read this book slowly. Remember that our God is the Good Shepherd who walks through the valley of the shadow of death with his sheep (Psalm 23:4). He doesn’t stand on the other side and urge you to hurry your way out of it. He climbs down into the valley and walks with you through it.”  

Below is a list of just five books Mary Demuth has authored that I believe will further help you appreciate her artistic and literary work.

Check them out!

RSDB (Read, Share, Dismiss, or Burn) Verdict:

Read it. Read it again. Discuss with yourself. Read it a third time. Take notes. Read those notes. Discuss them with friends.

And then share it. Buy a second copy and give it to a friend who could benefit from Mary’s story. Perhaps that friend is on the brink of something tenebrous and hearing Mary’s story might just encourage them to face their demons and live to fight another day.

Mary Demuth is a conversational writer who has authored over 40 books to date. She has been blogging for more than ten years which is why it is easy to understand how she has accomplished so much in the literary scene in so little time. She is a sexual assault survivor. She also struggled with her body image, self esteem, and suicidal thoughts as a result of her numerous assaults. In her twenties she found Jesus, sought help from therapists, and also discovered the courage to fight back through advocacy and literature. She is a titan, a warrior, and genius; and she’s also a wife to Patrick and a mom to three adult children. Let us celebrate Mary’s triumph!


“It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering.”

Judith Herman

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