Rid of My Disgrace is co-authored by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb. Pastor Justin is the director of The Resurgence and on staff at Mars Hill Church. He also currently a professor at RTS and was previously a professor at Emory University (where he received his Ph.D). He also previously taught in the Sociology and Religious Studies department and the Studies of Women and Gender program at the University of Virginia. His wife, Lindsey, is a deacon at Mars Hill and not only counsels sexual assault victims but trains leaders in the church how to care for them more appropriately. Her graduate studies were in sexual violence and public health responses. You can read a bit more about the Holcombs here if you like.
To begin, I would suggest that this book is not for everyone. Unlike some books I review on here, I think this book has a narrow audience. The book was written in order to “help equip pastors and ministry staff as well as family members and friends of victims,” so that “they learn to respond and care for victims in ways that are compassionate, practical, and informed” (p. 13). In other words, the audience is somewhat limited to those in ministry position who will deal with victims of sexual assault, as well as family members of those who have been victimized and the victims themselves. A more general audience book that covers much of the same ground is Redemption, which I would say is for everyone to read and savor. This book on the other hand, is very graphic, very heavy, and not for the faint of heart.
There is a scene in Bad Boys II where Martin Lawrence’s character finds out his sister has been kidnapped and taken to Cuba. I can’t remember if it is before or after the sweeping 360 camera pan in the Miami afternoon sun (that never set on during the filming of Bad Boys II), but Lawrence’s response was that “Things just got real.” Now, of course, he didn’t say “things” but I think many people may have a similar reaction after reading this book on sexual assault. Even if you’re never been sexually assaulted, you probably know and are close to someone who has. For readers like me, reading this book is where things you’ve never imagined, but are genuine struggles for others, “get real.”
Chapter one sets the stage for the book’s theme. It grapples with the difference between grace and disgrace, arguing that only the grace of God is able to heal the disgrace that accompanies sexual assault. Using the story of 2 Samuel 13, the Holcombs illustrate the disgrace of sexual assault. While that story ends with Tamar asking “Where could I get rid of my disgrace?” the solution is found in the redemptive work of Christ. Accordingly, “the message of this book is that the gospel applies grace to disgrace and redeems what is destroyed” (p. 21).
Before seeing that more clearly, sexual assault must be defined in detail, which is the burden of chapter two. They define sexual assault as “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” (p. 28). From there, the definition is further unpacked and defended before the Holcombs present sobering statistics on the prevalence of sexual assault in our society.
Chapter three examines the effects of sexual assault and is central to the rest of the book. The effects are quite staggering, mainly because sexual assault is “a massive violation of the physical, psychological, and personal boundaries of another person” (p. 38). As such, it unavoidably does horrendous damage to the victim. The remainder of the book then deals with the emotional effects and gradually applies the gospel to the wounds.
Having thoroughly outlined the disgrace of sexual assault, chapter four begins the second section of the book that focuses on the beginning stages of applying grace. Before that chapter though is a story written in the first person by a victim of sexual assault. This not only adds a personal dimension to the content of the book, but it helps vividly illustrate what emotions arise from the experience of being sexually assaulted. The territory covered is:
- Denial (chapter four)
- Distorted Self-Image (chapter five)
- Shame (chapter six)
- Guilt (chapter seven)
- Anger (chapter eight)
- Despair (chapter nine)
Each chapter presents the emotion as it arises out of the personal story, unpacks it a bit further, and then progressively applies biblical truth to the wound. As the Holcombs set out to accomplish in the introduction, the advice they offer is “compassionate, practical, and informed.” They speak with the voice of wisdom that only comes with experience of many painful and intense counseling sessions.
Chapter ten starts the third final section of the book, which is titled “Grace Accomplished.” It is here that the Holcombs present a kind of biblical theology of sexual violence and assault and its effects. They specifically explore how this is a particular manifestation of evil that seeks to unravel the peace among men that God intended. Chapter eleven then presents an Old Testament theology of grace and redemption before chapter twelve does the same in the pages of the New Testament. This ends the book with what the reader will hopefully find as a fitting gospel crescendo – a bright beaming light that finally emerges from the dark tunnel of despair. After reading throughout this book all the damage that sexual assault does and getting glimmers of hope from chapter to chapter, the last two chapters really bring home the powerful healing that God’s grace in Christ brings.
In sum then, I would highly recommend this book, but only for the specific people it targets. If you know someone who has suffered from sexual assault, or anticipate that your ministry will place you in a position where you will be ministering to people who have been sexually assaulted, then you will definitely want a copy of this book.
- Authors: Justin and Lindsay Holcomb
- Title: Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing For Victims of Sexual Assault
- Publisher: Crossway (January 5, 2011)
- Series: Re:Lit
- Paperback: 272pgs
- Reading Level: General Reader (heavy sexual content though because of the subject matter)
- Audience Appeal: Priests looking for biblical and sensitive pastoral care for sexual abuse victims
[You’re reading this review of Rid of My Disgrace because I asked Crossway for a review copy and they said yes!]