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Current Page: Church & Ministries | Saturday, October 05, 2019
Kay Warren shares how childhood sexual abuse led to anxiety, depression, porn addiction

Kay Warren shares how childhood sexual abuse led to anxiety, depression, porn addiction

Kay Warren speaks at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission's Caring Well Conference in Grapevine, Texas, on Oct. 3, 2019. | ERLC/Karen Race Photography

Saddleback Church co-founder Kay Warren opened up about how childhood sexual abuse has impacted her life and mental health and called on the church to deal effectively with reports of sexual abuse.

Warren was among six female speakers who addressed "Caring Well: Equipping the Church to Confront the Abuse Crisis" on the first day of the 2019 national conference hosted by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission in partnership with the Southern Baptist Convention Sexual Abuse Advisory Group.

The speaker and author, who co-founded Saddleback Church alongside her husband Rick Warren, shared her testimony of the ongoing impact of abuse. She revealed how she grew up in very “sexually repressed household,” where any talk of sex was “shameful.”

When Warren was just 6 years old, a teenage boy sexually abused her in the back of a church auditorium.

“I didn’t tell anybody,” she recalled. “I didn’t have words for it, I didn't have language. Somehow I knew it was bad, and I blotted it instantly out of mind. And as far as I was concerned, it was buried.”

Yet, the sexual abuse lived and infiltrated her thinking about sex, her body, relationships, and other people’s bodies. 

“I was curious, but my curiosity could not be satisfied talking to my parents because of their very repressed and uncomfortable attitudes.”

Warren went on to identify how the abuse affected her life, from struggling with shame and anxiety to addiction and pornography. 

“Anxiety and depression and shameful sexual attractions and actions divided me into a good girl on the outside, and in my mind, a bad girl on the inside," she admitted.

When Rick Warren began to pursue her in college, Kay said she didn’t believe she was “worthy.”

It wasn’t until college that the memories of the sexual abuse she endured as a child resurfaced, impacting her relationship with Rick and reigniting feelings of shame and loneliness. After a difficult first year of marriage, the couple decided to attend therapy. 

Over time, Kay Warren realized her husband was a safe and trustworthy person, and their marriage improved. Shortly thereafter, she became pregnant with their first child. 

“We began to believe that all of our troubles were behind us, and we could just move forward,” she recalled. 

But even in their most intimate moments together, there was an “undercurrent of pain” that refused to go away. For years, Kay Warren refused to open up about the hurt, pain, and sorrow stemming from her childhood sexual abuse. 

It wasn’t until the couple attended both personal and couples therapy that she began to heal from the sexual abuse she endured as a child.

"I wish that I could say today that there is no longer any effects of the abuse," she said, adding that Christians "like the big bow on top of the package that says, 'This is the way it used to be, but praise God that's no longer true and that's not possible and everything's been healed and everything's fine.' And sometimes it happens that way, but sometimes, in this life, it doesn't."

But the trauma she endured, she said, has not been fully resolved, even after years of therapy.

"And I've come to believe catastrophic loss represents some not fully grieved moments or some incompletely grieved losses to trauma in our life," Warren told the audience.

Sexual abuse “absolutely” affects mental health, Warren said. "And survivors find differing measures of healing. It's not a one-size-fits-all recovery process."

Warren said she has "come to believe that there are parts of my soul and my body that will not be completely healed until I see Jesus face to face." 

Today, Rick and Kay Warren and Saddleback Church seek to advocate for people living with mental illness, HIV/AIDS and the orphans left behind.

Though she has not given up on recovery or the pursuit of healing, Warren said, "Every day is one day closer to the total and complete healing that my soul longs for, and it's coming, and it's mine, and it will be mine forever on that glorious resurrection day."

The Caring Well Conference was held in Grapevine, Texas, Oct. 3-5. Other speakers included J.D. Greear, Beth Moore, Russell Moore, Jackie Hill-Perry, and Rachel DenHollander.

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