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Stopping the Cycle
Photo: Ariel Camilo
Recent disturbing news events have illustrated the dark cycle of sexual abuse.

Most recently, U.S. Congressman Mark Foley resigned from his post after sexually explicit contacts when young congressional pages came to light. After Foley’s resignation, a Catholic priest acknowledged Foley’s accusations of his having an inappropriate relationship with him nearly 40 years ago, when Foley was just 13 or 14.

Another tragic event with ties to sexual abuse was the fatal shooting at an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania. Charles Carl Roberts IV, the man who fatally shot five young Amish girls and then himself, said he was haunted by memories of molesting two family members nearly 20 years before. It’s believed he may have intended to molest some of the girls in the schoolhouse.

Deep Scars

These events show how deep the scars of sexual abuse run. Many times, abuse starts a disturbing cycle in which the abused becomes the abuser. But how can we stop that cycle? How can we reach out to those who are silently tortured by their painful memories? How do we help them overcome their confusion and guilt so that their past is no longer a pretext to hurt others?

Earlier this year, actress Teri Hatcher courageously showed us one way to stop the cycle. She revealed she had been sexually molested by her uncle more than 30 years ago. In 2002, after learning that one of her uncle’s victims had committed suicide, Hatcher stepped forward and pressed charges against him. Hatcher’s uncle pleaded guilty to four counts of child molestation and is serving a 14-year sentence.

“These experiences…leave us with a choice,” said Hatcher, “a choice to use our experience to enlighten and empower and change people’s lives, and that is the choice I am getting behind.”

We also have a choice: to help others break the cycle—or ignore it as it continues.

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By Amanda Sauder Maggard. Reprinted with permission from  the Adventist Review, November 9, 2006. Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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