*This discusses the topic of sexual abuse and prevention of sexual abuse. Please use discretion in determining whether or not this is a suitable episode for you or for anyone listening in.*
Sexual abuse and sexual violence are shockingly prevalent. In the United States, about 1 in 4 girls, and 1 in 13 boys experience child sexual abuse. In their lifetimes, over half of women and 1 in 3 men will experience sexual violence. And it’s remarkably common for child sexual abuse to go undisclosed for decades: One study showed that the average age at the time of reporting child sex abuse was 52 years old.
As Latter-day Saints, we’re encouraged, to “do everything we can to prevent abuse and to protect and help victims,” President Nelson re-emphasized this in his conference talk last month. we hope this conversation can help us all do that more effectively.
Our guests are Sage Williams and Rebecca Bettilyon. Sage is a Latter-day Saint and nurse by training who has worked as a sexual assault nurse examiner caring medically for pediatric and adult survivors of sexual abuse. Sage has a Master of Science in International Health Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science, where she focused on the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration with religious leaders, especially in preventing and responding to sexual violence.
And Rebecca is a Latter-day Saint who has focused on raising a family for most of her adult life. Her service as a ward Relief Society president over the last two years has been a catalyst for joyfully transforming her experience as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse into a deep love and passion for preventing and responding to abuse as well as ministering to those whose lives have been affected by it.
Rebecca and Sage are currently authoring a book with a team of six other women on the power of Jesus Christ to provide healing from sexual abuse. This work promotes healing and advocacy for individuals and communities from a Latter-day Saint perspective.
With Sage and Rebecca, we cover issues like the prevalence of abuse, who perpetrators often are, how to recognize abuse, the body’s autonomic response system and how we could teach the law of chastity to prevent feelings of shame, and how our communities can be one of the best tools we have in preventing abuse.
Sage and Rebecca also put a huge amount of work into compiling extensive show notes for this episode to both cite sources and give additional resources for help on this topic.
All of us recognize that our comments in the conversation today are raw, real, imperfect and incomplete. We’re all still learning how to articulate our thoughts and feelings on these difficult topics in public, and together with Rebecca and Sage, we ask for some grace and understanding of our intent to inspire healing for everyone impacted by sexual abuse.
- CDC statistics for adults and children
- Policy Brief, including average age of disclosing sexual abuse)
- Shame vs guilt
- Reference to children getting sex education from pornography
- Conversation prompt to prepare children for an encounter with pornography:
- Reference for the quote on forgiveness:
Neil L. Andersen, The Divine Gift of Forgiveness, Deseret Book Co., 2019, p. 225.
- Liahona articles on consent, sexual assault
- For the Strength of Youth article on relationship boundaries:
- Friend article on body safety:
- The Mama Bear Effect