Not an Easy—But an Essential—Read (Book Review)

Miller, Anne Marie. Healing Together: A Guide to Supporting Sexual Abuse Survivors. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI. 2019. 208 pages.

My heart has been grieved and my anger has been kindled as I have heard report after report of sexual abuse by clergy and church leaders. The very people you would figure you should be able to trust take advantage of and abuse it. Moreover, when victims of this abuse come forward, too often they are not believed or they are silenced. At the time when the church community ought to be coming around in support of the victim, they shame them and isolate them. As an associate pastor overseeing youth and family ministries, I don’t want this to be the response of me or of the congregation I serve as a pastor. I want to provide care and support to the victims and survivors of abuse. Thanks to Anne Marie Miller in her new book, Healing Together: A Guide to Supporting Sexual Abuse Survivors, I am now learning to do just that.

A Book of Experience and to Educate

Anne Marie Miller, the author of the book, does not write this book as a distant learner. For her, this matter is personal. That is because she has experienced sexual abuse by a pastor. She opens up the book by sharing her story of childhood clergy sexual abuse (chapter 1). She has walked in the very shoes and faced the experiences many survivors face. Yet, not only is Miller a survivor; she is also a diligent student of understanding the trauma of abuse as she has studied evidenced-based approaches to healing (Miller 14). While she does admit she isn’t an expert in the field, her experience and educational background make her an ideal guide in the discussion. She knows the areas supporters need to be aware of such as the different types of abuse (chapter 2), who the perpetrators are (chapter 3), and understanding the survivors and victims while also understanding the place and role of supporters (chapters 4-5). After guiding readers through these areas, Anne Miller devotes the final chapters of the books to guide supporters on helping survivors (chapter 6), training them on sexual abuse prevention and response (chapter 7), and finishing with a final word of hope (Conclusion). The 3 appendices in the back of the book further equip supporters in understanding trauma and its effects and defining key legal terms involved in this discussion.

Not an Easy (But an Essential) Read

To be honest, Healing Together is not an easy read. In it, your heart will break and be angered by the abuse Anne Marie Miller suffered in and by the church. You will hear about the horror that comes with experiencing sexual abuse. However, even though it is not an easy read, it is an essential read. In a culture where the church has not responded well (as Miller’s story and the SBC’s response reveals), this type of book gives Christians a guide for caring for sexual abuse survivors. While readers, I being among them, may struggle or disagree with some stances in the book (for example, the role of the church or of biblical counseling in the healing process) (Miller 92), this book does lay out the issues supporters of sexual abuse survivors need to consider as they care for those they love. Even when there is disagreement, what Miller puts forth should cause her readers to think through the matters presented. They will also appreciate the honesty from Miller as she admits “church” is something she is still working on herself, and understandably so (Miller 14). The goal in all of this is that by understanding and coming alongside the abused, the love of Christ would be shown to the world (Miller 87). If you are someone whose heart breaks for survivors of sexual abuse, especially within the church, and you want to consider ways you can care for and come alongside them in the healing process, then take a look at Healing Together: A Guide to Supporting Sexual Abuse Survivors by Anne Marie Miller. Let survivors of sexual abuse know they are not alone!

I received this book from Zondervan on behalf of the author in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

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