Question: "What does the Bible say about child sexual abuse?"
Answer: Sexual abuse perpetrated against a child is a deplorable reality of living in a sin-stricken world. The psychological, emotional, spiritual, and physical damage of the abuse remain long after molestation has ended. The Bible speaks vehemently against hurting children and against sexual sins and perversions of all kinds. It also offers hope for healing and forgiveness.
Why does child sexual abuse happen?
The short answer to “why” abuse happens is that we live in a world marred by sin. Often, those who molest children have themselves been molested. They may have been hurt in some other way as well and choose to victimize children in an attempt to regain a sense of power or worthiness. Sexual abuse can be the result of anger or selfishness or narcissism. Sometimes, it can even stem from a misguided attempt to find intimacy. Whatever the emotional, familial, or psychological history of the molester, sexual abuse is evil.
Molestation or sexual abuse is NEVER the fault of the abused child. Many victims of abuse experience shame and guilt. But children cannot be held responsible for crimes perpetrated against them. This is not to say that victims of abuse are absolved of responsibility for their own actions, including those prompted by scars of the abuse. But there is nothing shameful about having been abused. The shame belongs to the abuser alone.
What does the Bible say about sexual abuse against children?
Caring for children is spoken of highly in the Bible. For example, James 1:27 says that caring for children in need pleases God: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Psalm 127:3 calls children “a heritage from the Lord.” Jesus’ interactions with children (notably in Matthew 18) demonstrate the value God places on them. The Bible speaks often about caring for the weak, poor, and needy—and this would include at-risk children (Proverbs 14:31; 17:5; 19:17; 31:8–9). Followers of Christ are consistently called to love others. Molesting a child can in no way be mistaken for love.
The Bible also speaks strongly against sexual sin. Sex is a gift given by God meant for marriage. Sexual perversion of all kinds is soundly condemned. Sexually assaulting a child is never justifiable; it is always wrong.
How can I heal from being sexually abused?
If you or someone you know is being molested, or you suspect abuse, you must contact the appropriate authorities. If you were abused as a child and suspect that your abuser is still harming others, please report it. Medical, legal, and psychological intervention are likely necessary. Children should never be left in abusive situations. Check with your local department of human services for reporting procedures.
There is hope and healing in Christ, even for those who have been sexually abused as children. The journey to healing will look different for each person. It begins with a recognition of the abuse and the damage it has done. Healing continues as the abused person learns to trust Jesus and release the pain to Him. The road is long and will require safe companions, such as a counselor, a pastor, and loving family members.
Our Savior, Jesus, said that He is the fulfillment of this prophecy: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18–19). Meditate on those words.
Psalm 72:12–14 encourages those in pain to call on the Lord: “For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight” (see also Psalm 22:24 and Psalm 34:18). It requires faith to believe that God sees and that He cares. Coming to a place of acceptance and even forgiveness for one’s abuser will take time, God’s grace, and exerted effort. But it is possible. In Jesus there is healing and freedom. Call out to God in your distress.
Can I be forgiven if I have sexually abused a child?
Yes. God is gracious and merciful. No sin is beyond His ability to forgive (see Romans 5:20). Jesus came to cleanse all sin: “Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins” (Mark 3:28). When we recognize our sin, turn from it, and cry out to God, He forgives. Often, abusers have been abused themselves. In addition to God’s forgiveness, they require professional assistance in stopping their behaviors, healing from their own past wounds, and seeking forgiveness from those they have injured.
Child molestation is a sad reality, but it is not beyond God’s ability to overcome. God can redeem and restore. We praise Him “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). The “more than we can imagine” includes healing and forgiveness.