This year, just after Children’s Day on June 1, two horrific incidents involving the sexual abuse of girls were reported in China. In response to those incidents, this article from Gospel Times discusses what the church should do to help protect children and prevent sexual abuse.
What Can the Church Do? Responding to Recent News of Sexual Abuse of Girls
While the songs and smiles of the June 1 Children’s Day celebrations were still fresh in our minds, two horrific and heart-wrenching news stories became top searches online in quick succession yesterday and today (June 2 and 3). One was about a 16-year-old junior high school girl in Xiong County, Yunnan, who gave birth at school and claimed to have been sexually assaulted multiple times by the father of a classmate. The other was about a 12-year-old disabled girl in Linxia, Gansu, who said that she had been raped by three people, and that after reporting the crime no case file had been opened.
Two brief news reports, fewer than 50 words, but behind each one is the voiceless accusations and endless darkness of two girls destroyed just as they are on the cusp of blossoming. At present, several suspects have been arrested or detained for questioning by the public security authorities, and we trust that a just verdict and severe punishment by the law awaits them.
In the face of girls being sexually abused, people from all walks of life are unable to sit still because even if a speck of dust of these times falls, it falls on all, heavy as a mountain that no one can avoid. In the article, “What Lies behind the Sexual Assault and Childbirth of a 16-Year-Old Girl,” many experts and scholars have expressed their views, offering analysis and recommending specific measures to be taken.
In the opinion of Zhang Meimei, an expert of the Academic Committee of the AIDS Prevention Education Project for Chinese Youth (APEPCY) and an associate professor at Capital Normal University’s School of Psychology, while the suspects should be severely punished according to the law, attention should also be given to the problems reflected by the tragedy. “This incident fully exposes the serious shortcomings in the sex education and supervision of children whether at home or at school, and once again makes us painfully aware of the importance and urgency of sex education for minors.” So, what can the church do in the face of the sexual abuse of girls?
First, the church should fully understand the many barriers that exist to talking with young people about sex, in order to get a handle on what’s really going on so as to prescribe the right remedies and avoid fighting battles unprepared. For example, Chinese parents are quite reserved and, for the most part, think that sex is a hidden topic that should not be talked about openly. If parents don’t talk about it, how much harder it is for anyone else. Furthermore, many churches have a conservative tradition of not discussing sex-related topics within the church, or otherwise turning a blind eye to sex and avoiding the topic, which makes it hard for young people to develop a correct view of sex. This can lead young people to search for answers through other avenues, but what they find is often biased or even false information. Youth counselling also has serious limitations. Many co-workers feel that if they talk about sex in front of young people, they will be perceived as sordid. Or they are afraid to talk about it because of how the young people will react.
Second, while removing the above obstacles, the church must also provide correct teaching. Through sermons and counselling, we can help young people develop the following six correct understandings from the truth of the Bible, the “six nots.”
- Sex is not dirty and scary—rather, sex is God’s gift of pleasure for married couples to enjoy.
- Sex is not dangerous—sex itself is not dangerous, but if we lack self-control or are influenced by the media’s distortion of sex, and so recklessly indulge and engage in pre-marital sex, we will cause great damage to our bodies, our emotions, and our souls.
- Sex is not the most important thing—there’s plenty that’s more important, such as growing in mind, character, personal relationships, relationship with God, and so on.
- Sex is not a performance—sex does not place releasing pent-up tensions before love, nor is it about “performing.” Rather we must teach young people that the foundation of sex is love. The distortions of today’s media and the focus on body image are dreadful misconceptions.
- Sex does not prove your maturity.
- Not all young people are tasting this forbidden fruit.
The church especially needs to teach young people to protect their own bodies.The Bible teaches us to guard our bodies. For example, 1 Corinthians 6:19 says that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and Romans 12:1 says that we are to offer up our bodies, so it is clear that the Bible teaches us to take care of our physical health. We also need to teach our young people to protect their bodies.
Furthermore, when attempting to introduce a ministry of sex education, it is important for the church to collaborate with parents. If the church can establish good communication with parents, it will enable those who are working with the young people to have deeper and more substantial relationships with them and help resolve conflicts between the youth and their parents. Also, the church should help parents understand that this isn’t about making the church look good: the church’s goal is to truly nurture young people. The church should also be clear with young people that we respect their opinions and value their relationships with their parents. Even though we accept and affirm them, we will not support them in opposing their parents. We want our young people to be obedient, respectful, and loving to their parents.
The church needs to help parents understand that they have the most important responsibility for the upbringing of their children, including sex education. The church is there to help; youth ministry is not, and cannot be, a substitute for parents. Parents are the bridge between church and school, between church and children, and between church and other parents. Ministry volunteers who themselves are parents have proven to work best.
Overall, youth sex education ministries can work through parents to learn more about how young people are behaving at school and at home and based on this information they can design enriching activities to help them in a practical way.
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