By Justin Holcomb and Lindsey Holcomb
For most survivors of sexual assault, the struggle to come to terms with such a horrific violation of one’s personal and physical boundaries can present a challenge that seem insurmountable. For some survivors, this struggle is further complicated by questions of sin and how to reconcile Biblical teachings with the traumatic violation that occurred. This book aims to address concerns specific to Christian religious teachings about sin, morality, transgressions against others and God, and the possibility healing and recovery after having experienced sexual assault. The authors discuss the emotional impact of sexual assault and different responses victims may experience, and then offer religious interpretations and teachings that show the ways by which faith in God and Jesus Christ offer solace, healing, and redemption. Throughout the book and in each chapter, the authors return to the notion of grace and disgrace, emphasizing the unconditionality of each. Early on, the authors define disgrace as “one-way violence” committed against a person, and that person bears no responsibility for the pain caused to them. They also reiterate the healing power of grace, “one-way love,” offered unconditionally by God to provide redemption, healing, and hope of a better future.
“Rid of My Disgrace” by Justin Holcomb and Lindsey Holcomb offers thoroughly researched and clearly presented arguments about the possibility of redemption following the sin and disgrace of sexual assault. Both authors have experience supporting survivors of sexual assault, and their definitions and explanations align with the commonly cited examples of varied emotional responses to sexual assault. They also personalize the story, offering narratives from individual survivors at the start of each chapter in the section dealing with responses to sexual assault. This humanizes the information and helps make it more accessible to survivors by showing examples of how others have dealt with similar situations. The authors then follow up each response with clear connections to scripture and religious teachings that show how sexual violence is never the fault of the victim, offer examples of recovery, and express the importance of accepting unconditional love and grace from God as part of the recovery process. The chapters in the middle of the book follow a predictable pattern (personal story, emotional response, scriptural teaching), and the book itself flows nicely by starting with an introduction to the issue of sexual violence and closing with an emphasis on hope and healing.
As someone who currently has a fair amount of distance from Christianity, I still found this book to be relevant and applicable. The descriptions, definitions, and examples of sexual violence and the possible impact it may have on survivors matched everything I have encountered as an advocate doing this work, and their suggestions for supporting others or seeking support are spot on. Although I may not necessarily agree with everything presented in this book, I do feel able to endorse it as a source of understanding and help on the issue of sexual violence as it intersects with Christianity. If you have need of this book, it is would be a good resource.