July 26, 2013
Friday Five Interview: Mary DeMuth
Mary DeMuth's painful story of childhood sexual abuse fuels her advocacy for victims.
For today's entry in the Friday Five interview series, we catch up with Mary DeMuth. Mary is a well-known novelist, speaker and blogger. Her books include Everything, Thin Places, and her latest, The Wall Around Your Heart. She’s a passionate voice for victims of sexual abuse.
Today we talk to Mary about the importance of vulnerability, sharing her own painful journey, and why she’s calling the Church to take sexual abuse allegations seriously.
Your latest book, The Wall Around Your Heart is written for people who have experienced deep hurts. Sadly, it seems there is a big audience for this. What prompted you to write it?
The fact that there is a big audience for it, meaning so many people are walking around wounded, particularly by other believers, and they don’t know how to process their pain or move forward. But the deeper answer (and the more vulnerable one) is that I needed the book. I’d built up walls around my heart in many ways, using all sorts of clever disguises and methods. And I just got plain tired of living that way, guarded and bitter. I wanted freedom and joy again in my life. So this book is my journey toward what I call “welcome-hearted living.”
Your own story of sexual abuse has been catalyst for some of your writing and blogging. How hard was it to begin telling your story?
Initially, I shared my story in my late teens to garner attention, so, oddly, I wasn’t scared. In my twenties I naively assumed I’d been healed, so I kept the story locked away. In my thirties, my life exploded in pain, and I had no desire to share that with the world. God used that decade to heal me further and birth in me a desire to see that past pain as a platform to help others be set gloriously free. So now? I find it a huge privilege to tell my story, almost as if it’s sacred ground when I share it. I see folks set free. It’s humbling. God is so very good to let me see fruit from my own deep brokenness.
You recently signed, with other prominent evangelicals, "A Public Statement Concerning Sexual Abuse in the Church of Jesus Christ." Why do you feel this document is needed at this time?
Because that document should’ve been written eons ago. The church should be the protector of the innocent, but instead (in broad terms) parts of the church have championed or preferred perpetrators over dignifying victims and seeking their healing. This hush-hush secrecy must stop. I recently wrote a post about sexual abuse in the Amish community. In it, I write: “We are not to be so freaked out about our church’s or community’s reputation that we ignore abuse and prefer the perpetrators over the victims. This kind of culture of silence, making victims mouth-less and churches bastions of secrecy does not represent the authentic grace Jesus offers.”
I’m also writing a book to help sexual abuse victims feel empowered and find healing. It’s called Not Marked, and I will self publish it. My husband also contributed to the book, sharing what it’s like to love an abuse victim. I believe this book will be a healing balm to many.
It seems respected evangelical institutions are struggling with their responses to allegations of sexual abuse in their organizations. Why is this?
Because at some point reputation management has become more important than justice.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to abuse victims, particularly those who've been ignored or marginalized by the Church?
Ask God to send you joyful, amazing community—a group of folks who understand that brokenness is actually the path to the Christian life. I’m frankly quite tired of the image-oriented Christianity we’ve settled for. Jesus dignifies the weak. He empowers those who know they lack power. He assists the hurting. He shows up in our frailty. In the kind of community that welcomes vulnerability, we have the freedom to share our stories and find deep healing. That kind of community will not only change the abuse victim, but will ultimately change the world because it will be fueled by Jesus.