When we're abused, there are three aspects of the image of God that get seriously messed with; relationship, voice, and power. I learned this from Diane Langberg's excellent book, 'Counseling survivors of sexual abuse.'
Here's what I've distilled from Diane's book along with my own counselling experience.
Relationship: Someone in relationship to us has broken appropriate boundaries, and related to us in an inappropriate way.
Voice: Our voice becomes silent in many ways: We get silenced when we resist, we get silenced by people who later don't believe us, we get silenced because its feels impossible to put to words what has happened.
Power: Someone used power over us in an inappropriate way. We became powerless, unable to stop their corrupt power.
Knowing this, helps us to know how to help people dealing with the pain of past abuse:
Relationship: We need to reach out to people in love. Providing them with a safe relationship in which they can be assured boundaries won't be broken. They need to know that they won't be used or abused in this relationship. They especially need to know that they won't be rejected or abandoned when they share what's happened to them. They need to feel safe. If we do this well, we also teach the wounded soul how to reach out to others in loving relationships.
Voice: We need to let them use their voice. We need to pray for them, and encourage them to put a voice to the unspeakable things that have happened. We need to use our voices, in a way that encourages them to use their voices. Most of the talking needs to come from them. We need to bear witness to the things they share. Its very healing to say out loud what's happened to you, and then have something bear witness to the wrong of it. Its also very healing to know that after bearing witness, the person still wants to talk to you, and be in relationship with you. If we do this well, we help the wounded soul to find their voice again, and to use their voice to bless and heal others.
Power: We need to be careful that we use our God given power in a loving way. God has given us power to serve and protect, and to set the captives free. If we use our power to fight for the abused in prayer, to stand with them, to listen to their stories, to validate their pain, and to provide healing words to them, we help them to see the rightful place of power in a relationship. If we use our power well, we help the wounded soul to correctly use power to serve and protect others.
I am so grateful for the person who used their voice and power to start a relationship with me, and taught me how to use my voice, power, and relationships to bring healing to others. And I'm even more thankful for Jesus, who used his power to save me, who used his voice to speak healing words of truth to me, and who has entered into an eternal relationship with me, where he is not ashamed to call me his brother.