Fall 2007 · Vol. 36 No. 2 · pp. 284–85 

Book Review

Caring for Sexually Abused Children: A Handbook for Families and Churches

R. Timothy Kearney. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001. 139 pages.

Reviewed by Debra J. Hardle-Gray

R. Timothy Kearney states that one out of four females and one out of seven males have been sexually abused prior to the age of eighteen. He further explains that there is no evidence that growing up in a church community makes you immune from sexual abuse. This information serves to broaden the scope of sexual abuse and stresses the need for the church to attend to these issues. In this book Kearney urges the church to minister to those in the community who are affected by sexual abuse.

Kearney is a licensed psychologist with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Fuller Graduate School of Psychology and a Master’s degree in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. One of his specialties is working with abused children and adult survivors of incest. This book is written for pastoral and lay leaders in the church as a guide in dealing with the issues surrounding child sexual abuse. He lays out the definition and facts about sexual abuse, the stages a family goes through when sexual abuse in the family is discovered, and gives instructions to the church community for ministering to these families.

The book defines sexual abuse in a clear and understandable manner. Kearney uses case studies and examples to highlight the physical, emotional, and spiritual signs that child abuse may have occurred. He is careful to point out that these symptoms and signs are only red flags for church leaders to consider and that they are not always proof that a child is in danger.

Kearney presents helpful information about the various systems involved once child sexual abuse is disclosed. A timeline outlines when the child protection worker, police, and the juvenile court system become involved. He adds that it is invaluable for the church to understand these systems in order to give support and hope to families throughout this process. This information is important, but a clearer explanation of the responsibilities of a mandated reporter and the roles of each system would help a church understand the bigger picture of how the court system makes decisions.

The information in the last two chapters of the book is especially helpful for a church. Kearney’s expertise is particularly evident when he discusses the long term impact of sexual abuse. He clearly explains how a child could be helped in a therapeutic setting as well as in a church community. This book is an excellent guide for a church that is serious about developing a caring and authentic community.

Debra J. Hardle-Gray
Instructor of Sociology & Social Work
Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kansas