Author Dawn Eden hopes victims of childhood sexual abuse can find a source of healing in the lives of the saints.
Her latest book, “My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints” (2012, Ave Maria Press), features ancient and modern stories of men and women who overcame abuse as a child and went on to live holy lives and achieve sainthood. It also includes Eden’s own personal story of enduring sexual abuse as a child.
She grew up in the Jewish faith and started a career as a rock music journalist. Eden became a Christian in 1999 and was received into the Catholic Church in 2006. Her first book was “The Thrill of the Chaste.”
She spoke about her past experiences and lessons she learned from studying the saints on Sept. 29 in Greenville, and took time out for a phone interview with The Miscellany.
Q. What was it like to be asked to tell your story?
A. It was scary. I had to reflect about how to tell it in a way that would be helpful to people because my healing is ongoing. I felt there was some advice I was giving myself that would be helpful to others.
The important thing is not to act from those parts of us that are hurt, but to focus on those that have experienced some healing. If we learn to act from the health that we do have, then we can grow to become healthier, and grow into a more joyful place.
Q. Is it helpful for Catholics to realize there were saints that experienced things such as sexual abuse?
A. Yes, for a number of reasons. People who were abused as children tend to carry around misplaced guilt and shame. They think if I hadn’t done this, or if I hadn’t done that, the abuse wouldn’t have happened.
To hear that there is a saint who suffered helps to get out of that sense of misplaced guilt. A person can realize they were not responsible, that they too can attain the holiness of the saints. We realize the saints were not stained by their abuse, and it helps a person to realize ‘Not only am I not stained, but I can actually grow closer to God because like the saints I have suffered.’
Any kind of victimization also brings us closer to our Paschal victim. Through our own wounds we can grow closer to the wounded and resurrected Christ. Redemptive suffering is part of the good news of Jesus Christ, and too many people don’t know about it.
Q. When you became Catholic, did your faith help to see your past experience in a new light?
A. Being Catholic particularly helped me learn how to live with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, which strikes many people who have been abused or experienced any kind of trauma.
As a Catholic, I’m able to deal with these symptoms in a way I couldn’t have before because of our theology of redemptive suffering. We learn that if God gives us any kind of unwilled suffering, He only does so for a reason, and that is to show forth His grace in us.
We can be secure with that fact that once we have united our heart to Christ, any remaining unhealed pain is no longer meaningless or useless. Our sufferings take on profound meaning in light of the paschal mystery.
Q. Do you hope your book can help those who have been affected by the sexual abuse crisis in the church?
A. I wrote it for everyone who has suffered abuse in childhood.
Q. What is your first piece of advice for someone who suffered from abuse in the past?
A. Find someone you trust and tell them about it. It’s just not healthy to let those wounds fester. The only way to find healing is to bring this pain into the light. Seek a good spiritual director, and consider therapy. Not every abuse victim will need therapy, but it’s especially necessary if you’re having problems functioning, or having any destructive thoughts toward yourself or others.