No parent wants to think about the possibility of their child experiencing sexual abuse. This is a very real concern, however, as 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused in our world today. Instead of just being afraid, however, there are very practical things you can do to reduce the risk of abuse to your child.
An Obstacle for Some Parents
There is an obstacle that prevents some parents from better protecting their children from sexual abuse. Ironically, that obstacle is the fear of ruining a child’s innocence by teaching them about sex. But when we refrain from talking to our kids about sex we are not protecting them, we are putting them in danger.
I am speaking from personal experience. I am one of the 1 out of 6 men who were sexually abused as boys. My abuse started at five years old and continued until I was fourteen. The following are the things that could have prevented the abuse I lived through.
Teach Names of Body Parts
A counselor friend shared with me a story of a little girl who told her mother, “Mom, the babysitter keeps poking me with his stick.” That sounded odd to the mother but not alarming, so the mother replied, “Well, tell him to stop.” It was weeks later, after several other babysitting times, when the mother finally realized the babysitter was sexually abusing her little girl.
The mother had never taught her little girl the names of male and female sex organs, so the girl had no words to explain what had happened to her. This girl suffered sexual abuse much longer than if she knew how to tell her mom what had happened.
Ask What Your Children Do and With Whom
Most of us know that when sexual abuse happens it is often between people who know each other well. A 2017 study found that for every adult who abuses a child there are seven children who sexually abuse another child. More specifically, the demographic who abuses children the most is boys ages 11 to 15.
This aligns with my story. My abuser was twelve when he started abusing me at age five. His family was close with ours and they attended our church. We moved when I was eight and another boy who was fourteen began abusing me. His family was also close with ours and attended our church. But abuse can also happen between children of the same age, when one coerces another into doing sexual things.
My parents never asked what I did at either older friend’s house or questioned why we were so often alone and out of sight. That put me in great danger.
Teach What God Made Sex For
My parents never told me anything about sex or sexuality. Not once. I knew what to call body parts by age five but we lived on a farm where I had seen animals mating and I had a lot of questions.
Had I known what God created sex for and how it worked I would not have brought those questions to a boy twice my age. Had I known God’s plan for sex I would have told a parent when someone tried to get me to do something outside of God’s plan. My lack of sex education did not create innocence but vulnerability.
Teach About Sexual Temptation and Desire
Teaching about sex must include talking about sexual temptation and what to do when we feel tempted. The Bible teaches us to tell each other when we are tempted and kids need to learn to tell their parents when they are tempted, even sexually tempted.
Kids need to know before they reach puberty that they will experience sexual desire, and that is good. However, we must coach them to manage their sexual desire. Kids need to understand what to avoid doing with their sexuality that would be harmful to others or themselves.
My own sexual abuse awakened my sexuality too early. Counselors call this “hot-wiring.” By the time I was ten or eleven I was experiencing sexual temptation and desire. I needed someone to teach me what to do with temptation and desire. When my parents opted out of my sex education they handed that over to the world. The world gave me two teenage boys and pornography as educators.
Discuss the Reality of Pornography
Our kids need to know what pornography is and what to do when they see it long before they do. The average age of exposure to pornography today is eight. That means half of all kids in our country see pornography before age eight. That means children today need to know how to react to pornography at age seven. This is protection, not corruption.
I was introduced to pornography at age nine by the teenager abusing me. Pornography is very often used by abusers to make children feel that the sex acts they are asked to do are normal. If people take lots of pictures of it, how wrong can it be? Pornography was used on me to get me to comply.
Afterward, I remember wondering if my dad had ever seen pornography as a boy. I wanted to ask him but I was afraid to. This would have been another helpful conversation that could have cut short my abuse by several years.
Make Sex a Calm Conversation
Kids don’t want to talk to a parent who is anxious or agitated. It is imperative that any time we talk about sex or porn we remain calm and pleasant. Our kids need to experience positive conversations about sex and sexuality so they aren’t afraid to talk to us about sex or potentially abusive situations.
When I was nine I actually tried to tell my mother what the older boy was doing with me. I was afraid, so I hinted by asking if it was normal for boys to do certain things. My mother got visibly agitated and upset so I changed the subject and assured her everything was fine. I never said another word about what was happening to me, and the abuse continued, getting progressively worse, for five more years.
Teaching Healthy Sexuality Prevents Abuse
You may have noticed that everything in this blog is part of teaching God’s design for healthy sexuality:
Teaching God’s Design for sex in this way also protects our children agains sexual abuse. Ignorance is not innocence, it is dangerous in today’s culture.
Dr. Juli Slattery, author of Rethinking Sexuality, puts it this way:
“In what world is knowing God’s design for sexuality ruining anyone’s innocence?”
Knowing God’s design for sex protects our children from abuse.
Director of Training
It’s fair to say all of us have heard a husband or wife say they are married to their best friend. If not, well...now you have.
In greater frequency I'm going to the dictionary to find definitions of words that are key to what I’m speaking or writing about. Seems like a reasonable thing to do. The Merriam-Webster dictionary has changed over the years. Single word definitions are no longer the only words defined in those dictionaries.
So I looked up “best friend” in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary to find this: “a person's closest or dearest friend." The word ‘dearest’ is what jumped out at me.
I asked myself, is my wife (Julie) my dearest friend? Which prompted another question; Shouldn’t she be? My immediate answer was, Yes. Duh!
A Track Change on my Train of Thought
I used to mentally bristle at the idea of being married to your best friend. Seemed like an insulting idea to my relationship with Jesus Christ. He above all others should be my one and only best friend. Period.
Oh how legalistic of me. Bear with me, if you’re wondering if I’m not off the rails.
I now believe differently. But this was a shift in belief based on prayer, thought and biblical review -- and a discussion with my bride.
I asked Julie what a best friend is to her. She named the following items:
Sounds a bit like our right relationship with Jesus doesn’t it? That convinced me that husband and wife cannot just be 'best friends', but in reality should be each other's best friends.
Marriage as Jesus sees it
Here’s the truth about marriage as we view it the reflection of Jesus Christ’s relationship with the church. Marriage is the only relationship between human beings that is designed to fully reflect the relationship Jesus has with His bride, the Church.
In Ephesians 5:25, 31-32 the Apostle Paul writes: Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her... “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
As I think about and process these verses I see a relationship between two “closest and dearest” friends. Two ideas that are key to draw out in the previous sentence are relationship and closest. Jesus went to the cross to heal a broken relationship between mankind and God the Father.
Let's unpack verse 31 of Ephesians 5 by looking at a few key words:
With these words further defined from the original greek language verse 31 could read this way:
Eph 5:31 “Therefore a man will abandon his father and mother and adhere with she my lady and the two exist as one human nature.” (Dan W. version)
There is also no one closer to the Christian than God the Holy Spirit who lives within us. Men, I’m speaking to you for a few sentences. Your wife is the only other person called a suitable “helper’ in Scripture other than the Holy Spirit.
Men, we have the responsibility and honor to carry the image of Christ in our marriage relationship. We are the bridegroom in our marriage as Jesus is to the church.
Did that realization just about knock you over? If not, it maybe should at least grab your undivided attention.
Attention wives (for a minute)
In Ephesians 5:22-24 the Apostle Paul writes to wives: Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
The Apostle Paul is not saying women are inferior, less valuable than men, less intelligent, capable or any such value based idea. He is also not giving us men permission to boss our wives around, or they are a doormat of any kind.
God has assigned men and women equal value, access to the kingdom of God but also has given men and women different roles and responsibilities. Wives and (women) you are co-heirs of the grace, the same grace of Christ. Your value exceeds any precious jewel on earth!
As Jesus Christ has demonstrated He is worthy of being fully trusted, so men we as husbands following His example need to be of such integrity that when a tough decision needs to be made our wives can trust us to lead well. Are we perfect as Jesus is? Nope, yet we are called to lead in that same submissive relationship with God as Jesus did.
That puts duty on us as men to lead wisely and wives to trust fully in the mirrored image of Christ following the lead of God the Father.
This takes two of the closest and dearest friends who have a profound trust of one another. Husband and wife of one human nature, glued together in Christ Jesus.
Yes, we can and should be married to our best friends.
A few closing musings
A covenant is a big deal. God made covenants with Moses, Israel and Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of a new and eternal covenant with His brothers, sisters and between God and His children. That covenant was signed, sealed and delivered through the blood of Jesus the Christ.
Marriage is also a covenant. A covenant shaped and mirrored in Christ’s relationship with the church.
Let’s stop here and define what a “covenant” between God and mankind is: “A covenant is an unchangeable , divinely imposed legal agreement between God and man that stipulates the conditions of their relationship.” (from Grudem's Systematic Theology)
In Malachi 2 marriage is referred to directly as a covenant. Therefore we see marriage in light of the above covenant definition. This means we as husbands and wives do not get to set the terms of this covenant. God does and has.
This is not oppressive, but freeing! As in Christian living, there is great freedom in life in Christ so it is with marriage. Come on now...this is great news!
God gives to husband and wife each other's best friend. This makes the relationship not merely a 'her and me' arrangement, but an us or we adventure.
Just writing this article has changed the way I view our 36 year marriage union and covenant. My lady of one human nature and I have the joyous privilege to mirror His love for the church, the bridegroom.
So has Christ given to you in your marriage!
Wow! How cool is that!
Written by Dan Wobschall
Director of Gateway to Freedom
Yes, it is possible to quit porn and masturbation.
But I'm assuming you would prefer I write a little bit more in answer to this question. So I will.
I won't spend time writing about how big the porn problem is (you can read some statistics here). Nor will I focus on how porn affects the brain or the addictive nature of porn or is masturbation a sin. All good topics, but that's not why you're reading this article, is it?
You are reading this article because you want to know how to quit porn and masturbation.
Here are 5 tips to help you quit porn and masturbation. These are not a "magic formula" that guarantees freedom, but they will greatly increase your probability of success.
1. Learn your triggers
It is highly unlikely that your engagement of porn and masturbation is random or arbitrary. There is always some kind of pattern to such acting out. This pattern includes what we call triggers.
A trigger is anything that prompts you to pursue a particular unhealthy behavior (in this case, porn and masturbation). Triggers could be physical, like something you experience with your five senses (seeing, touching, tasting, hearing, smelling). Triggers could also be emotional or mental (i.e. sad, bored, scared, lonely, stressed, etc.).
To learn your specific triggers ask yourself the following questions related to your engagement with porn and masturbation:
Spend time examining your triggers and write them down. And commit to a lifelong journey of learning yourself so you can become better equipped for dealing with any kind of temptation you face.
Once you learn your core triggers, it's time to make a plan for responding to temptation in healthy, life-giving ways.
2. Plan your ways of escape ahead of time
I'm going to assume that you are not engaging porn and masturbation 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. (If you are, hospitalize yourself immediately!) The time to create a plan for dealing with your triggers is not 60 seconds before you act out -- make your plan(s) before you are wrestling with temptation.
Think of your unhealthy habit of porn and masturbation as a big hole in the roof of your house. When do you notice the hole as a problem? On sunny days? No! You curse the hole when it's raining, right? But you can't fix the hole when it's raining.
The time to work on fixing the hole is when the sun is out, even though that's also the time you aren't really thinking about the hole as being a problem. But rest assured it will rain again!
The key to responding well to your triggers and temptation is to plan your ways of escape before the "rain" starts falling. Here is a template to help you create your plan for resisting temptation when your triggers are tripped:
Responding well to triggers and temptation does not happen "organically." You must have a plan and you must work that plan. Quitting porn and masturbation requires more than hope and good intentions. But if you've learned your triggers and created a plan for escaping temptation, you are well on your way to living free from porn and masturbation.
Now it's time to exponentially increase your probability of freedom by sharing your triggers and your plan with someone else. No long-term freedom from porn and masturbation is possible without the help of others.
3. Share your triggers and your plan with a trusted friend
We all need help in life, and not just with overcoming the destructive habit of porn and masturbation. God designed us to thrive as human beings when we live in community. "It is not good for man to be alone."
I admit that what I am about to propose isn't easy. It's scary to be vulnerable with other people, especially sharing such a personal struggle like porn and masturbation. But it is necessary.
Now that you have written down your specific triggers and created a plan of escape when temptation hits, it's time to share this with at least one trusted friend. I found it most helpful in my own recovery journey to have at least 3 other people who knew this information.
A trusted friend is someone who cares about you enough to hold in confidence this personal information. And they have your best in mind; they want to see you succeed in your pursuit of freedom.
When you share your triggers and escape plan, this is what you are asking your trusted friend to do:
Quitting porn and masturbation is about more than just stopping unhealthy behaviors and thoughts. It's also about building strong friendships and growing in integrity as part of a community. And possibly the primary reason you need community is because you won't travel this road of growth and maturity perfectly.
You will stumble along the way, and you will need a loving community to help you get back up and keep going.
4. Confess and repent when you stumble
I wish freedom from porn and masturbation was easy. I really do. But it is not. It is messy and imperfect, just like you and me.
As you fight the battle against the temptations to engage porn and masturbation, you will not always win. You will sometimes stumble and fall. But falling on this journey doesn't mean you have utterly failed.
It is important to reframe stumbles as opportunities to learn and grow, rather than false indications that you are fatally flawed and beyond hope of ever being free. Fatalistic thinking is NOT from God!
God forgives your sin, not so that you can keep returning to it, but instead so you can look at it objectively, free from its shame, to learn how to respond better the next time you're faced with a similar temptation.
When (notice I said when, not if) you stumble and fall, be quick to confess it and repent. To confess is to "agree with truth." So, don't lie or try to hide the fact that you acted out. Agree with the truth that you did x, y, or z.
To repent means to "change your mind." The reason you stumbled was because somewhere along the way your mind was convinced that it was a good idea to sin. Repentance is refocusing your mind back on what is true and right and good. (Phil. 4:8)
I find it most helpful to confess and repent in the following contexts:
Confession and repentance is not usually easy or comfortable, but it is crucial if you are going to break free from porn and masturbation and become the person of integrity God created you to be.
Finally, it's important that all this work on quitting porn and masturbation doesn't overshadow what the real goal of such work should be: to build an intimate, growing relationship with God.
5. Keep the real goal in view: intimacy with God
Your struggle with porn and masturbation is not disconnected from your relationship to God. Yes, you read that sentence correctly, even if it is not something you have ever thought before.
Sin is not an entity unto itself. Sin is a distortion of something good. Think of sin like a parasite; it requires a host. Your sinful desires for porn and masturbation are merely distortions of the good desires God created within you for connection, intimacy, and pleasure.
Therefore, your pursuit to break free from porn and masturbation must ultimately be a pursuit of knowing God and His good design of sex, love, and intimacy. Don't lose sight of this larger (and better) goal. If you only eliminate an unhealthy habit, you will miss the greatest joy of all: walking with God as He designed you to walk.
Take a some time to go back over the previous 4 tips and reframe them with this goal of intimacy with God. Maybe ask yourself the following questions:
As you keep the bigger picture of intimacy with God in view you will discover that "quitting" porn and masturbation is not so much a journey of negation, but instead a journey of pursuit. By running toward God you are automatically running away from sexual sin in all its forms.
Yes, it is possible to quit porn and masturbation.
By pursuing intimacy with God and others...
Founder & President
Search for a Topic:
Subscribe to Blog: