Abuse issues relevant to church members

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    By Rachel Lewis

    Chieko Okazaki, former first counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, spoke Wednesday Oct. 23 on helping sexually abused victims regain trust at the opening of the Annual Abuse Conference.

    “Of all the consequence of sexual abuse – the pain it brings, the shame, hurt, cynicism and rage, withdrawal and rejection of self and rejection of others – out of all these consequences I think the loss of trust is the worst of all,” Okazaki said.

    Okazaki, who has never personally or had family members suffer from sexual abuse, first spoke about recovering from sexual abuse in the late fall of 1992.

    In 1993 Sherri Dew asked Okazaki to record her talk because of a large demand for information on recovering from sexual abuse.

    “I”m greatly saddened that the information in this talk is still painfully relevant to so many members of the church today,” Okazaki said.

    Sexual abuse statistics within the church are as high as national statistics, Okazaki said, and with high national sexual abuse statistics, everyone will encounter sexual abuse.

    “Sexual abuse is a problem for all of us, both men and women, whether we have experienced it personally or not,” Okazaki said.

    “The worst statistic I have heard is that one out of three women is sexually abused before they are 18.”

    Okazaki spoke of the importance of supporting the possible 33 percent who have suffered or are currently suffering from abuse.

    “Women and men who have been abused probably need professional help, and they certainly need personal support,” Okazaki said.

    Okazaki said when helping abused victims it is important to be a long-term friend and realize that recovery from sexual abuse is a long process.

    “Often when we acknowledge a problem we want it fixed quickly. We think a few visits to a therapist, a few priesthood blessings and a few tears should make everything better – it doesn”t,” Okazaki said.

    Victims of abuse need all the help they can get, Okazaki said. She encouraged everyone to be conscious of those suffering from abuse and support victims while they are suffering from the after math of abuse.

    “Open the circles of your sisterhood and brotherhood,” she said. “Include those whose trust has been betrayed by those who should have been their protectors.”

    Okazaki added, “Open your hearts to them; let them open their hearts to you. This is a burden that is grievous to be born. May we share it together, not merely adjust it upon the backs of those who have born it so long alone.”

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