Book Review

"Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault" by Justin S. Holcomb and Lindsay A. Holcomb

Debbe Mays
Rod Mays
Tuesday, November 1st 2011
Nov/Dec 2011

Throughout our lives on this side of heaven, we may be characterized as either a villain or a victim in any given circumstance. Rid of My Disgrace is written particularly to give help and hope to victims of sexual abuse by placing their painful experiences in the context of God’s redeeming grace. This book is a monumental tool in equipping pastors and counselors who find abuse victims literally on their doorstep. The Holcombs instruct pastors and counselors in how to be caring and compassionate to the suffering victims. Rid of My Disgrace will give the family and friends of abuse victims a way to understand the hurt and brokenness that their relative or friend has experienced. And if “villains” (abusers) should pick up this book and read it, perhaps they will see the truth about the sin committed against another and receive the gift of repentance.

In the introduction, the authors state the grand telos of their book: “In Rid of My Disgrace, we address the effects of sexual assault with the biblical message of grace and redemption. Jesus responds to your pain and past. Your story does not end with the assault. Your life was intended for more than shame, guilt, despair, pain, and denial. The assault does not define you or have the last word on your identity. Yes, it’s part of your story, but not the end of your story. The message of the gospel redeems what has been destroyed and applies grace to disgrace.”

The title of the book is taken from 2 Samuel 13, the story of Tamar’s assault by Amnon. As Tamar begs her half-brother not to rape her, she cries, “Don’t do this wicked thing. What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace?” (v. 13). Indeed, how can she be restored? Her brother throws her out as a disposable object, and she leaves, tearing her robe, putting ashes on her head, and placing her hands on her head in a gesture of pure grief and misery. The details of Tamar’s assault include all the loss of control one experiences in such an encounter: “The loss of control over her own body, over her life and over her dignity.” The authors draw the comparison between Tamar’s suffering and the suffering of Jesus, as described in Psalm 22 and Matthew 27. Betrayal, abandonment, humiliation, and shame were part of his experience, as they were part of Tamar’s. Divided into three sections’Disgrace, Grace Applied, and Grace Accom-plished’the book works through the whole of Scripture, as God’s plan of redemption is seen through the eyes of the victim.

The amassing of great writers (Luther and Calvin) through a multitude of current works in the field of counseling and research form a body of work that is staggering in both the amount of information and quality of the content. Also staggering is the sad information given: One in four women and one in six men experience some form of sexual assault; 88 to 92 percent of abuse victims are women; 8 to 12 percent are men; the highest rate of victimization occurs among women sixteen to nineteen years old; abuse occurs in 10 to 14 percent of all marriages; and almost all victims know their offender.

The authors give a comprehensive definition of sexual abuse: “Sexual assault is any type of sexual behavior or contact where consent is not freely given or obtained and is accomplished through force, intimidation, violence, coercion, manipulation, threat, deception or abuse of authority.” Sexual abuse or assault is not merely defined, but also clearly described in somewhat graphic detail so the reader will not misunderstand the difference between consensual activity and assault. This is helpful to both the victim and the counselor in helping the victim admit what has happened to him or her, and to then deal with the thoughts and emotions that out of the encounter. The authors state that “sexual assault is not simply an event that happened to you…it can have an impact on every aspect of your life.” This book gives a list of sixty effects a victim of sexual assault may experience, which is also a helpful tool for the pastor or counselor in recognizing the possibility of sexual assault in a counselee’s past.

The grace of the gospel is shown in the assault stories of six different individuals who had to deal with overwhelming emotions of denial, distorted self-image, shame, guilt, anger, and despair. A chapter is devoted to each of these emotional states, and the power and hope of the gospel is clearly applied. The authors are able to bring the reader to the hope and help of redemption, not by mere proof-texting but by a knowledgeable and capable application of Old and New Testament texts. In this book, the reader is rescued from the ugliness of predators and villains, and is made to behold the beauty of the Savior and his restorative grace. There is bad news in this book, but it will be eventually eradicated by indelible grace. The Holcombs give us a gloriously hopeful quote from Luther: “God receives none but those who are forsaken, restores health to none but those who are sick, gives sight to none but the blind and life to none but the dead….He has mercy on none but the wretched and gives grace to none but those who are in disgrace.”

Tuesday, November 1st 2011

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

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