Thursday, July 5, 2012

Childhood Sexual Assault Survivor Pastor Robert Hendricks

As an adult survivor of childhood sexual assault, Pastor Robert Hendricks has chosen to turn a horrific experience into helping others. He and his wife, Colleen, completed the YWCA Sexual Assault Crisis Services Volunteer Training in 2010.

“I wanted to learn as much as possible about survivorship and to help others who have been sexually assaulted,” Robert shared. “During the male survivor section of the training, I share my story. This process has been very beneficial for me.”

Telling his story empowers Robert’s own healing as well as the healing of others. He chooses to turn an event that could be a crutch into a stepping stone. During Robert’s work with YWCA SACS, he has had the opportunity to attend “Speak Out” events at Cal State University, Long Beach, where he attended college in the 1980s.

“Being on the Cal State campus again reminded me that years ago I wasn’t ready to share my story; but here I was, standing in front of these students, empowered to share. It helped me realize just how far I have come, how much healing I have experienced and it empowered me as a survivor, not a victim.”
Sharing one’s story is important to regain control over the past. For Robert, there were a number of years after the assault that his perpetrator still had control over him in his mind. He came to a point where he no longer wanted him to have that control.
“I would encourage survivors to accept that timing is critical. Only you control when you share your story - don’t share it before it is time. Remember, assault is an imbalance of power and you could not control the situation but you did survive. As an adult survivor of childhood assault, we tend to blame ourselves for the event. It took 26 years for me to process and realize it wasn’t my fault.”
Women are not the only victims of sexual assault. Robert is convinced there are more men who don’t share their story to avoid shame and the fear of being labeled as weak. “We need to talk about it for the sake of young men. We need to give them strength to speak out and find healing.”
Robert continues to heal through creative outlets such as writing. He completed his book “From a Cry to a Shout” in 2006 and he blogs regularly for the non-profit he founded. For over 18 years, Robert worked as a medical social worker and hospice chaplain at Long Beach Memorial Hospital. For the last 13 years, he has been a full time pastor at New Testament Church in Los Angeles. He and his wife of 30 years have two sons, Adam (29) and Tyler (22).
“My faith has certainly helped me above all. For me, having a faith to draw from is very important. There is a writer in the New Testament, Paul, who said in Second Timothy ‘the things you have told of me, commit those to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also.’ If I help someone and they help someone it just continues and helps our society. Our stories empower and help safeguard our communities against the devastation of sexual assault.”

 Click here to read an excerpt from Robert's book.

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