One of the hardest books I read last year is But He Said He Is a Christian: Journal Entries of a Young Christian Woman in an Abusive Relationship, written by Rebecca K. Tan. It’s a heartbreaking look at what it’s like for a Christian young woman to experience abuse by a professing believer. Because many of us have not experienced sexual abuse, we benefit from learning from the experience and reflections of someone who has.
Tan is back with a second book, just released this week: But Her Too: Redemption in the Stories of Christian Women Mistreated and Abused in Dating Relationships. “After slowly accepting what had happened to me,” Tan writes, “I desperately wished I could talk to someone who could relate.” Sadly, many can, and this book recounts the stories of five women with similar stories.
The book, again, is hard to read. It contains course language and recounts violence and sexual activity, because the stories contain these elements. Again, this isn’t a book you will enjoy reading, but it’s a book you should probably read, especially if you are involved in church ministry, if you are a parent of a girl, if you’re a young woman yourself, or if you want to be more informed on this horrible subject.
This kind of horror thrives in the darkness, and it’s helpful but hard to drag it into the light.
As hard as the stories may be to read, this book leaves us with hope. In each case, the abuse happened at the hands of someone who claimed to be a Christian. Each story is different, and yet similar threads run through each of them. Each chapter includes a prayer for the person who tells her story. Even the stories offer hope. “I can say that Jesus conquered the dead and broken parts in my story and has made it beautiful,” writes one of the women.
The stories are important, but Tan also provides two concluding chapters to help us reflect on what we read. Tan points us to the goodness of God. “Our God is not harsh, unjust, violent, or abusive. There is no evil in him. There’s no way a man can be as perfect as our heavenly Father, but we are called to reflect him. God is kind, merciful, slow to anger, patient, and abounding in steadfast love,” she writes. Abuse happens not because God lacks in goodness, but because the men in these stories sin. But we can have hope: “God redeems. He takes what others meant for evil and turns it for our good.”
One of the most helpful chapters is the final one on walking alongside victims and sufferers. If you’re looking for good, practical advice on how to respond, this chapter will help you know what to do and say and what to avoid.
I usually like to recommend books I enjoyed reading. This short book isn’t one of them. But I’m recommending it anyway because the subject is so important and affects so many.
I wish this book didn’t have to be written, but it does. Push past the discomfort. Read this book and share it. I appreciate the women who shared their stories and Tan's skill in helping us understand, respond, and trust God, even when dealing with a difficult subject such as abuse.