Editor’s Note: Today’s story had me in tears as I read it aloud. It is bravely written by Kacie Lester, who also authored one of our best posts, She’s Too Beautiful To Be My Friend. Kacie blogs at ColorMeCaptivated.com and tweets at @klynnlest. – Lauren
I didn’t grow up aware of the worth of my body.
When I was 8 I was at a sleepover and my friend’s father, whom I’d never met before, molested me.
I went home the next day and tried to tell my family what had happened but I didn’t have an adequate vocabulary or even a category in my little-girl mind for molestation, and failed miserably to communicate what he’d done.
Out of that inability to share or even understand, a subliminal lie disguised as fact took root in my mind: my body doesn’t matter. What I do with it, what I put in it, what I use it for, whom I give it to – none of matters – to anyone.
Physical intimacy was nothing to me other than a venue for attention, and quickly through my later teens, I learned that it was the fastest way to gain affection. I gave my body away time and time again, actively hunting for approval and validation – to feel known – to feel seen – to feel protected.
And then when I was 19 I was raped, and for the first time in eleven years, I had a striking thought: what he did to my body was wrong.
I’m not sure which “he” was I even thinking about then, but I hated how it felt to acknowledge that I had been wronged.
I quickly squished the strange sad feelings telling me I had something to be angry about – clinging hard to that thing I’d seemingly always known: my body doesn’t matter – but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it might be okay to not be okay.
I fought against being “not okay” for over two years before one day, flipping through radio stations, I caught one sentence from a pastor’s sermon that changed my life:
“The majority of the pain you feel in this life will be a direct result of the sinfulness of someone else.”
In 2 Samuel 16, King David is running away from his adversaries and leaves ten women (servants/escorts – not prostitutes, just women who live in and take care of his home) to keep things in order.
Absolom (David’s son), seeking to shame his father, takes all ten women left in the house to the roof – the very tallest point in the city – and rapes them all, publically.
I’m positive that the sermon I was listening to was actually about David’s life, but all I heard was ten women were raped before most of the psalms were even written.
And I let myself get angry – really angry – for the first time.
Rape is violent. It’s dirty, it’s isolating, and it feels like part of you that can never come back to life is dying. It makes you feel hated and forgotten and unworthy.
And, apparently, it’s not new.
I realized then that I had hidden those aching parts of my heart and my mind behind the lie that it didn’t matter for years – but I was feeling it then in all of it’s raw, pervasive, intolerable heaviness.
Sitting alone I screamed at the Lord, “Where were you? Those women were your daughters! They were obedient and brave! They didn’t do anything wrong, why would you let that happen?”
And I heard this:
“I was laying beside them. I was wrapped around them. I was crying with them.
The results of sin do not only hurt my children – the wages of sin is death! Remember who died?
I have felt the ultimate betrayal. When my daughters experienced how hated sin can make one feel, I was right there with them feeling it, too. I was with them. I was with you, too.”
That was almost two years ago, but the Lord’s gentle words to me are just now clarifying more – “I have felt the ultimate betrayal” – Jesus didn’t just feel betrayed by Judas or by the Jews or by the Romans.
He cried out on the cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” (Mark 15:34)
My God, My God – My Father – Why have you forsaken me?
Jesus didn’t utter those words because He thought they’d sound good in a book – He had the most authentic relationship with God of all time and was honestly asking why He didn’t feel God with Him.
Jesus died so we wouldn’t have to know the absence of God – but He has experienced what it is to feel like God is absent.
The Truth is, though, that God is never absent from us. His Word says clearly that He is never far from each one of us (Acts 17:20).
Our good God – the Creator – made us in His image and likeness, giving us the ability and desire to create, but He also gave freedom to choose Him or not.
And mankind is a singular noun – we’re connected, one body. Our choices affect others infinitely beyond what we perceive.
When a creative being chooses against God, that choice doesn’t strip said being of his or her creative nature or ability to create – but when we choose against God, we begin to create the opposite of God: we create the opposite of good, the opposite of love.
Jesus has experienced the depth of those things, though, and He’s with us.
And sometimes we just have to know that’s true because God says it is – even if we don’t feel that way – because that’s what faith is: the substance of hope, proof of things not yet seen (Hebrews 11:1) – and faith as small as a mustard seed (which is tiny) can move mountains (Luke 17:6).
You may not even see your mountain anymore. I didn’t. My mountain was “shame, anger, and fear” on one side, “victim, rejected, and worthless” on the other, and I was numb to it – but all it took was a tiny bit of faith that God is who He says He is to move that mountain so that I could see the Truth – and I’m free. I’m not angry, I’m not a victim, and I’m not worthless – I am, in fact, absolutely worthy.
Editor’s Note: TRIGGER WARNING/RAPE. This story is difficult to read, particularly if rape is part of your story. There is an additional note on rape at the end by GWP. Today’s post is Anonymous out of respect for her sister, and for her sister’s safety. If you feel that you need to speak with the author, please send an email to lauren[at]goodwomenproject.com. – Lauren
I punched his name in the search bar. Him.
I sucked in a sharp, bitter breath, and held it. That’s him.
Quivering, the corners of my mouth pulled down. I scrunched my nose, sickened, and grabbed the side of my face.
That’s HIM. He did THAT to HER.
I stared at his picture with stinging, narrowed eyes. Hatred filled me.
Those were his lips. Those savage, smirking, greedy lips. How dare he.
Scanning his body, I soaked him in. A searing flush pumped through my blood, caving my chest with fury.
Those hands locked the door behind them while she panicked, horrified. Those filthy hands touched her, pushed her, shoved her, forced her. They dug into her curves, squeezing her flesh with uncontrolled lust.
My gut became tense and twisted. I seized air with curled, clawed hands, baring my teeth. Something intangible shattered in the depths of my being.
HIIIIIIIIIIIM!!!! That was the man who abused her, used her, exploited the innocence of a good woman. THAT MAN!!! Who ignored terrified eyes and a screaming heart and RAPED my naked, sobbing twin sister in a basement.
Heartbroken rage welled upwards, crescendoing into a grieving, guttural call. It exploded out; I beat the couch rapidly, screaming furiously. I hated this man. What he did was evil. It was evil and malicious and it was done. I wasn’t there, I couldn’t do anything about it.
My twin sister has been my best friend for nearly thirty years. We fight, we love, we know each other deeply. We’ve done life together. Growing, breaking, healing. Making it through our twenties. Two years ago, she moved across the globe, to an entirely different hemisphere. I felt so far away from her right now.
Anger, agony, and inky black tears rolled down my face. They welled on my keyboard. I yelled explicits at my monitor, shaking. The pixelated man on the screen smiled back, arms folded, completely indifferent. I closed the window.
“Why didn’t you tell me a month ago?” I sniffled at the video camera.
My identical sister wiped her wet face, ashamed. “I didn’t know what to do, I was scared. I spent all my Christmas money on the abortion.”
I’m so angry. So livid, I can hardly breathe. I want to throw up. I beat the couch again, punching it with white knuckles. By nature, I’m not an angry person. I can count the witnesses of my rare, seething moments on one hand. I strive for harmony, grace, and understanding. I’m curious and compassionate. I love people. I don’t love people enough. I felt no love for this man. I wanted to rip his face to shreds, and cause him pain, regret, remorse.
My voice wavered as I spoke low and long, “If I were over there, I would literally track. him. down. and BEAT the ****ing. living. SHIT out of him.”
Grace and forgiveness, love and compassion; these things were far from my mind.
Who did this guy think he was? Like he’s entitled to help himself to whatever woman walks his way? Like he’s got some sort of right to target her because she’s beautiful, kind, and soft spoken?
He forced her to have to make a decision about her body; one that brings judgement from strangers condemning her to hell.
With all of my soul, I hate it. I hate rape. I hate pornography. I hate the burden a woman bears because of someone else’s selfish lust.
Lust that forces her into a basement, or clutches her neck in the front seat of a car while he unzips his pants. Lust that hides in the woods at twilight, grabbing her while she runs by. Lust that helps himself into her apartment, ripping her clothes off because she smiled at him earlier, and “she wants this, really.”
It infuriates that we have to train women to defend themselves, carry pepper spray, and never show any skin instead of teaching men to respect and value women.
“I can’t stand it. I hate it. I HATE IT.”
“I know,” she choked, “I’ll never forget laying in his basement, or on the operating table. I’m having a hard time finding the line between forgiveness and justice. But you know, just because he destroyed my life, I don’t feel any desire to go out and ruin his. It’s not okay what he did, it’s wrong and perverted. I’m angry and traumatized. But…. I’m not the one lying awake at night wondering if my life’s going to be okay, wondering if I’m loved or valued. He is, and, and… well, that’s sad. I think that the people who do the most hurtful things to others are the ones who are the most lost and broken and lonely, and probably the ones who need love and forgiveness the most.”
As I listened to my sister talk, handing her predator his heart back, it softened me. I didn’t even see him as a person. As she was to him, this man was just a disposable entity that I wanted control over. To hurt and beat down and belittle. And isn’t that what’s wrong with us all?
See, our problem lies in our inability to humanize people. Humanizing people means recognizing that everyone in this world – everyone – has a heart. They are more than the roles they fill in your world, or the perception you have of them.
Humanizing people means soaking in their stories and dreams; allowing their past and future and feelings and heartaches to be a reality. Seeing them as a broken, living, dynamic soul with valid emotions. With deep wells of heartache, and a pulsating hunger for love and acceptance.
What that man did to my sister is not okay. But he’s more than a rapist. He’s more than a criminal. He’s a person. What made him this way? What’s going on in his heart? Accounting for the value of a heart is what helps you be a more loving person. Although hard to acknowledge, the messiest heart is still a heart.
We are all messy.
We are all human.
We need to start humanizing people. This requires compassion. This is Jesus. This is Love. This is where redemption is found. Wishing others good. Grace. Forgiveness.
This includes the man who raped your sister.
To a man who caused my sister scathing pain, to a man who broke twin hearts:
I forgive you. She forgives you.
I’m sorry that you had to steal from her body to feel like a man. I’m sorry no one told you this isn’t okay. I’m sorry that you don’t know what real love is.
I hope you do better, grow stronger, and find real Love. Nothing else will ever satisfy you, did you know that?
Hear me clearly: I am not sorry that I’m angry, or hurt, or devastated. What you did was appalling. But I am sorry for hating you. For envisioning myself at your door, whacking you in the head with a metal pipe when you opened it. That’s not loving. People aren’t objects to use and destroy.
I’ve pulled up your picture again. I’m looking into your eyes once more, and a wave of sympathy undulates through my heart. A deep, poignant understanding overwhelms me.
You’re a person.
Just like me. And just like you, I need love and affirmation and grace and forgiveness every day. Especially when I don’t deserve it. So do you.
I will never get to look you in the eyes and tell you this, but I hope one day you know: you don’t need to detract from other hearts to feel important. Your heart has value. As messy as it is, it has value, and it is forgiven and Loved.
Note By GWP: Rape is an evil thing, and we fully recognize the pain and damage it causes. If you are a rape victim, your pain and victimization is validated and heard by us. Rape is never, ever the victim’s fault, nor does the victim deserve it. The act of rape should never be ignored or suppressed for the sake of the attacker. We published today’s story to share one girl’s experience with the process of forgiveness when it is not deserved. If you are not ready, do not feel guilty. Recovery and healing is a long, slow process, and Jesus is faithful to validate our scars and heal our hearts in his perfect time. Forgiveness is a part of this process, and happens at very different stages for every single woman. To read more stories on recovering from rape, click here.
Editor’s Note: If you have been raped, and confided in someone that didn’t believe you, my heart breaks for you. You are not alone. People often choose to believe what keeps them safe, even at someone’s expense. Take heart, grasp your story, and take it to the One who will always believe, because he Sees. Today’s submission is by Mary Shelton. – Lauren
There is something worse than a man forcing himself on you. It’s being told you are a liar when you finally find the strength to tell your story.
It happened when I was sixteen, while my parents were gone out to lunch. He and I had the house to ourselves for a few hours but no one even gave that a second thought. We had been dating for almost four months by then.
It happened in my own bedroom, only taking twenty minutes or so. And then he left. Just left. I laid there, on my bed, for hours. Not a single thought went through my head. It was as if time had just stopped. By the time I finally got up it was dark outside.
My mother saw a hickey on my neck and immediately started grilling me on what I had done. “On what I had done.” Even if I had tried to tell her the truth, she never would have believed me. Her perception had already become her reality. Almost four years later and we have not talked about it. Not once.
The unfortunate thing is, once you’ve been raped, there is so much no one tells you. No one tells you that there is a possibility that people in your life will turn on you in light of the story you tell them.
I didn’t tell my story of that Tuesday afternoon until I was in college. The words just fell out of my mouth during a road trip with several of my closest girlfriends. Sitting at a corner table at KFC I blurted out, “I was raped when I was sixteen” as nonchalantly as one might ask for a napkin. They took it. They took my story into their lives that day.
I thought I was the only one my story would ever affect. I was wrong.
What we fail to remember is that everyone else in your life is also processing what happened, in their own way. And sometimes it gets awkward. The sad truth is that a lot of friendships change somewhere in all the awkwardness.
My closest friend did not believe me. She strung together all the elements of the story in her mind and noticed one or two missing pieces and decided it must be a lie. She decided I must be a liar. It took an entire year for her to tell me of her inaccurate decision about my life. Words cannot describe the ache in my soul. It was the most helpless I have ever felt.
If you have ever been raped, let me tell you one thing. The one thing I would love to go back and tell myself: You are in control of your own story. You had no control over what happened to you but you are in charge of how it gets told, where it gets told, and whose life it enters into. Choose wisely, choose prayerfully, use your discernment. Someone’s perception of your reality does not have to make it re-write the truth for you. The truth will never be altered, and God is your witness.
God does not want his daughters to live in the darkness, that scary place where we feel helpless and all alone. He wants the light to be where we dwell because it’s where he dwells.
“It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him.” Daniel 2:22
To the girl who has been told she is a liar, the girl who is afraid to tell her story, the girl who doesn’t even know where to begin: Be still and know that God is God. That He loves. That He knows. Choose to walk in the light by being truthful with yourself – because only then will you be able to stand in truthfulness before the Almighty God.
Take back your story. And tell it again when you are ready.
Editor’s Note: Today’s submission is Anonymous, due to the author’s position and the organization mentioned. Unfortunately, myself and many others I’ve spoken with have been dismissed or expelled from Christian organizations for ‘being stumbling blocks,’ – for our appearance, not even our behavior. At the end, the author asks how other Christians have treated you after abuse or being the victim of unwanted sex. Please share. Many church leaders read GWP and reference us as the true voice of their community, so that they can learn where they are failing. – Lauren
“Tell us in detail your sexual history over the past three years.”
His words dropped like nails in the pit of my stomach. I swallowed hard. The clock’s hands weren’t moving. Seconds felt like hours in the shadowy room reminding me of a psychiatrist’s office where only the craziest people went, with stacks of discolored paper. I looked at the heavyset man focusing on his fat fingers squeezed around the pen, ready to record my ‘sexual promiscuity’. The four sets of eyes watched me, as I shifted nervously in the metal-backed chair, which seemed to speak of my desire to run with that awful squeaking noise. I wanted to jump out the window, run down the stairs into the flooded streets of China – anything to make sure those sweaty hands wrote nothing on the yellow piece of lined paper.
“Don’t worry. Its okay, you can share everything with us,” one of the women broke the silence and then added something about being in a ‘safe’ environment. She wrinkled her brow with a look of concern and then leaned forward in anticipation.
“There is really nothing to report. Last summer, I made out with a boy…and I had a serious boyfriend before that.” I clenched the sides of my chair, leaving creases in my palms.
Then added, “…but we never did anything more than kiss.” just in case they didn’t remember the extensive “sin list” I filled out before being accepted onto the mission field. I looked at the books on the shelf, The Heavenly Man, and The Master Plan of Evangelism, Let the Nations Be Glad, and Living Cross-Culturally. I had read every one of them.
“Did you want the boy to kiss you last summer? Or did he assault you, too?” one of the women asked.
There was a familiar heaviness in the room that constricted my thoughts, my movements, and even my breathing. The plastic, square clock on the wall was similarly overtaken, as its hands were frozen at the 3 and the 5.
“Yes, I guess…I wanted to kiss him. No, he didn’t assault me.”
My mouth tasted of green beans, as I remembered when Karen, the associate regional director, told me I needed to dress differently. She asked me to lunch and I almost couldn’t close my mouth when she spoke. “This is really awkward…it’s just that after our retreat several married men approached me about you. You need to be more careful, because you don’t want them to ‘stumble’. Sometimes we are all just shocked at what comes out of America.” I thanked her for letting me know and promised to dress differently, but if I’m honest, I felt dirty.
They asked me if I frequently had friends sexually assault me. They asked if I knew what appropriate boundaries with men were and if I knew how to say “no”. They asked me why I let my male teammate into my apartment that night. My answers floated about the room like balloons waiting to be popped.
I wanted to scream how they were blaming and punishing the victim. I wanted to threaten to sue their multi-million dollar missions’ organization if they did not let me stay. But all my hateful words and vengeance stuck in my mouth like thick paste. If they were calling me a whore, I didn’t want to fight back with anger.
I found myself starring at a stranger in the bathroom mirror. The hazel eyes looked weary and the olive skin faded. I didn’t understand how people and married men and my teammates turned that face starring back at me in the mirror into something of beauty. I thought about making a deep cut from my nose to my right ear, and then about shaving my head. Maybe then beauty would disappear.
Have you ever had Christians blame you for assault? Have you ever longed for beauty to disappear? It took years for me to sort through my various wounds from this experience.
As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, my heart believed their accusations were true. That somehow the Christians had found out how dirty I really was – because after all, who gets taken advantage of twice? It must be something wrong with me. All those years, I hid and tried to scrub away the evil that boy heaped on my 8 year old body—and their accusations brought my most dreaded feelings to light: maybe I was dirty. Maybe it was me. I could pretend all I wanted to be a ‘good Christian’, but in the end, I was a bad little girl.
LIES. LIES. LIES. I want to take a megaphone and shout: No matter who you are, how you dress, what you’ve done, or how beautiful you are – you did nothing to deserve what happened. The Christians who are blaming you are gravely mistaken, and God calls them ‘whitewashed tombs’. No one deserves to lose their right to choose – not the drunk girls, not the promiscuous ones, and not the missionaries.
My heart breaks for all the women and children who have sought refuge in the church and received nothing but condemnation. God is weeping with you. He longs to heal your weary soul. I challenge you to say out-loud (shout if you have to) : “It is not my fault. I lost my right to choose and God weeps with me.”
Anyone had a similar experience? How has the church responded to you after abuse? What sorts of messages do you think women in my situation need to hear?
Editor’s Note: Street harassment seems to be like the small scab that gets picked at and ripped off, little by little. Most say that not big enough or deep enough to take it seriously, but I beg to differ. Anytime something evokes strong negative emotions, it’s big enough and important enough to talk about. So today, I’m writing a bit about my experience, sharing some emails I’ve received, and asking for your comments! – Lauren
A couple days ago I got an email from a girl from California, studying abroad in Europe.
“I really cannot deal with the street harassment I’ve gotten in Europe. I’ve been called names (from slightly humorous “beyonce’s” to really hurtful sexual names, gestures, and slurs) and I’m really just sick of it. I’ve been harassed and followed until I’ve given my number to guys literally every week of being here and although I’m having fun, I’m also a bit afraid to go outside. Three men followed me home last month and they waited outside of my house for an hour until I called the police, who basically excused their behavior because they were drunk. I don’t really know what to do – I [honestly feel] that there is nothing wrong or inappropriate with my clothing. I have really long natural hair and so I decided to straighten it to garner less attention, but that didn’t work. I met a man who I thought I could trust and he ended up using me and getting really upset when I wouldn’t have sex with him. I feel like I can’t trust any men I meet. I’m feeling a bit broken right now and I’m wondering if you have any advice as to how I can try to toughen up for the rest of my time here so that I can enjoy it instead of crying all over my apartment. I was hoping that God could help me forget about the opposite sex for a while [while studying in Europe ] so I’m not consumed with wanting a man/being afraid of them, but I’m still sitting in Starbucks and feeling like I want someone to hold me, hoping the man God created to love me will come around the corner.”
I know this ache that seems to conflict from every angle. Wanting nothing to do with men, but wanting nothing more than a good man. It’s in studying this conflict that we find the truth: The war is not one of gender, but of the individual. When I was 22, someone told me, “the day I stopped viewing people by their gender and instead by their actions, my life changed forever.” And my life changed the day I heard that.
Still, being the on the receiving end of degrading sexualized comments can wedge a bit more disgust between myself and the male race. Yesterday, I asked you girls on our Facebook how you felt and responded when you were sexually harassed on the street.
Most of you replied that you ignored it, and kept their eyes down. Avoid eye contact, and simply keep moving as quickly as possible. A few women shared that they reply with clear, “that’s not appropriate” or coals-of-kindness, “thank you – God bless!” in hopes of offsetting their vulgarity. But all of you said that it resulted in these feelings:
– taken advantage of
On top of this, if you’re a woman who has been sexually assaulted or abused, even a series of honks or a vulgar shout can feel like knives scraping the raw flesh of your heart. There are women who may find it a compliment, and others often tell us to “suck it up and understand that you’re just an attractive woman,” – but this only serves to echo the devastating voice of, “this is your fault” or “stop bothering us with your imaginary problems” that we’ve heard after rape, molestation, infidelity, abandonment, or any experience where we have been hurt badly as a woman.
Note: It doesn’t take rape or extreme sexual assault to experience physical or emotional pain because of a man. Being hurt by men can come from our fathers, brothers, community, guy friends, boyfriends, a bad breakup, anywhere. And they may not have been malicious about it. If you feel like your heart is overly sensitive, accept it and own it. You were created with that heart for a very intentional purpose, and it is GOOD.
Clinically, depression is often described as anger or severe disappointment turned inwards. If we are angry at one man, certain men, or all men – particularly in relationships where we have not been able to express our anger or hurt to them – street harassment can be an instant trigger for depression and any of the coping mechanisms we are relying on. This means that if you are beating yourself up for having such a strong emotional response to a cat-call on the street, I will hold your hand and say that it’s okay, and that you are not a weak woman. You are simply a hurt woman. And hurt is not synonymous with weak.
Street harassment is something I battle with weekly as a young woman living in Los Angeles. My friend Rhiannon told me recently, “As a 24 year old married woman, I’m afraid to walk down my street. I’m afraid of getting the honks, catcalls, and stares I get when go for a jog at the park. Living in a tiny apartment in LA with my husband, with no balcony, or terrace to speak of, leaves me longing for just some time outdoors. But I become a prisoner of my home because I am terrified of walking down to the park down our street. Even if I wear baggy clothes, I’m scared some man will stop me, or stare at me, and it would be all my fault for dressing this way, for putting lust in his heart.”
I don’t have the answer, but I have two thoughts, and I covet your opinions, stories, feelings, suggestions, revelations, comforts that you have on the subject. So please comment!
There seem to be two parts to handling street harassment:
1. Responding externally (to men). ihollaback.org recommends responding with clear, declarative statements, such as, “Stop ________” and “Do not whistle at me.” I personally am scared of responding to men and having them become violent, but sometimes “just taking it” puts us again in the place of the voiceless victim, and does additional damage to our hearts. What do you do, or say?
2. Responding internally (to ourselves). I feel angry and taken advantage of. I remember jokes that men I’ve cared about have made, implying that all I’m good for is sex. My skin crawls. My posture changes. I feel objectified. And I feel worthless. BUT. I need to start paying more attention to what “truths” I passively accept in the moment: “All men are animals,” “I hate men,” “all men want from me is sex,” “all I’m good for is sex,” “I hate being a woman sometimes,” and on and on. Sometimes they’re just feelings, but I want to try to put words to them. Knowing how to identify feelings and emotions is invaluable.
Passively agreeing (which is what happens unless you identity the False thought and consciously counteract it with a True thought) means we begin to accept truths into our worldview, our perspective, and our beliefs about ourselves and the world around us – without realizing it. It’s kind of like throwing a party, letting every person on the street walk in, and then looking around and saying, “but I didn’t invite any of them to my party!!”
As women who have had our boundaries broken and crossed by men in the past, we often let all of these negative thoughts and feelings in, believing we don’t have the right or ability to stop them. The goal is to re-build our mental and emotional boundaries so that they stop at the front door on their own, before they scrape at our hearts. But we have to re-create the door that was destroyed, in order to keep them out.
Every time I feel taken advantage or made worthless by a crude gesture or cat-call on the street, I subconsciously agree to what that man is communicating, unless I consciously disagree. Even though I would tell you that I’m not ‘just good for sex,’ and that my husband wants me for things other than sex, I still feel taken advantage of, simply because other men want to behave that way – and up until this point, I’ve felt helpless to fight this feeling. So, I’m making a commitment to myself to start paying close attention to what I think and feel every time I’m whistled at and called names. And to fight those thoughts with truth about who I am, what I’m worth, what my husband believes of me, and what God says about me.
What will you be doing? How do you respond to men? What thoughts go through your head when you’re cat-called? Do you feel helpless? What truths, statements, or verses do you fight your thoughts with?
Editor’s Note: Today, Emilee Mills shares her story. She can be reached at emills[at]harding.edu. If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, I strongly recommend “Rid Me Of My Disgrace.” If there is something at the back of your head telling you that what happened to you didn’t count, please strongly consider reading Rid Me Of My Disgrace. Much love. – Lauren
“If you say no, but they force you anyways, it’s not your fault and it’s never okay.”
How many times have so many of us heard that line? It’s the truth. You said no. You made your intentions clear. The other person needs to respect you and that boundary you’ve set.
We all know this is true, but it instantly becomes harder to believe when it happens to you.
The first time I was assaulted, I was 16. I had grown up with him, he was my best friend. I was supposed to be able to trust him. When he pulled into a shady place and told me to get out of the car despite my pleas to leave, I was terrified. What was happening? I got out of the car and he proceeded to do things to me that I had never experienced. I was too afraid to lose him as a friend and too shocked to say anything. I knew he, being much stronger than me, could hurt me if I said no. He didn’t stop until I realized we would be almost thirty minutes late for my curfew.
I had been struggling with an addiction to pornography and masturbation before this happened. I convinced myself that I had asked for this to happen because of my lustful desires and thinking. That is a lie, but one I fully believed.
I was never the same. I was scarred by it. I told myself I would never allow myself to be in that kind of situation again. I would always say no with all the confidence I could muster.
A few months later, I met an incredible Christian guy and it wasn’t long until we were dating. I found out quickly that wasn’t so incredible. He went to my best friend at the time and questioned her about the night with my ex-best guy friend. He didn’t let down until she had caved in and told him. Only a week went by and the abuse started.
I was 19. Not a child anymore, but not yet an adult. I was madly in love with him, but things had become very dark. The abuse was at the all time worst, but he always apologized, seemed sincere, and showered me with affection or gifts. I could see past the slapping, name calling and manipulation. I never thought I could see past assault.
I loved him. I didn’t understand how he could do this to me. We were alone in his house. We were watching a movie in his room. Mistake. For months he had manipulated me into being physical with him, but I had genuinely said no. I wanted to watch the movie and just hang out. He wanted more. He hated being told no.
I had never seen such anger and aggression in his eyes as I did when he leaned up and said, “If you won’t give it, I guess I will just take it.” He tried. He started ripping my clothes. I fought back and won. My parents didn’t know. They were already in bed when I got home. I didn’t talk to him for a month.
And I had no self worth or value left. Twice, I had been taken advantage of. Twice, my trust and love had been betrayed. I felt as though nothing was left. I was used, damaged, ugly and wounded. I couldn’t love myself. How could anyone else? I was broken.
I would love to tell you that I broke up with him and never saw him again. I would love to tell you that I told someone and they helped me talk to my parents. I’d also love to tell you that they helped me get therapy. I would love to tell you that I’m doing great with that these days.
But, I can’t.
We dated until that September after I had left for college in Arkansas, twelve hours from home. From that distance, God allowed me to see all that was wrong and provided the support and strength to break it off. Was it easy? No way. But, it was absolutely the right thing.
It took me over a year to tell anyone what happened that night. I was ashamed. I truly believed it was my fault. I took on a lot of guilt and responsibility for something that someone else had done do me. Something that he knew was wrong.
I finally did talk to a friend. I did finally get counseling. And I finally did tell my mom.
Am I still struggling with this? Yes. I battle nightmares and had a therapist prescribe medication because I woke up every night shaking, sweating and crying. Every single day I have to fight the distrust issues that I have with men. I have to remind myself that no matter what, it wasn’t my fault, even though I still struggle with pornography to this day. I didn’t deserve this to happen because of my “lust.” I didn’t deserve this to happen because I was being disobedient to God. The truth is one man chose to hurt me and we have both suffered the consequences.
This is what I want every girl and woman; young and old to know:
It is NOT your fault. Good men don’t take without permission.
Nothing you could ever do could ever make you deserve something like rape to happen to you. Nothing.
It is okay if it takes time to open up about it. Rape and assault are traumatic. Every person responds differently.
If you have a friend or loved one who has been raped, be there for them, but don’t make the situation worse by forcing them to do something they are not ready for.
Friends and family want to help. If they are safe, let them. Counselors are there to help you too. They won’t judge you.
If your friend has been raped, be a good listener and believe what they say. If the victim feels as though you don’t believe them, it causes greater issues.
It is okay to feel a wide range of emotions.
Don’t assume it won’t happen to you. Take precautions and set good boundaries to protect yourself.
But most of all, you are still beautiful, worth it, loveable, and valued even after you are raped.
Papa God was sad to see His precious daughter taken advantage of, but He loves me still. When I was assaulted, I had lost all self worth and value. I was stripped of my own confidence and strength. By the grace and love of God, I am learning how to love myself and allow Him to restore me. It’s been a long journey, but I know that God has great plans for me despite the terrible things that have happened.
No matter what, you are still worthy of love, valued by the King and have purpose in His kingdom. Your life doesn’t end after rape. It certainly changes – but we can allow God to use that change to teach, help, and encourage others. You can be healed, you can be loved, and you can be used by Him.
In fact, you already are.
Editor’s Note: Today, Jessica Hurst shares her story. So often we breeze over what we actually do and think and feel that bring comfort to the pain of our past, and I love how Jessica lays out exactly what she did and believed that healed her. She tweets at @jhurst21. – Lauren
12 years. 12 years that my voice fell silent to pain, embarrassment, and anger. I was angry. Angry that I was molested. I couldn’t come to terms with it, didn’t want to accept it, and acted like it never happened to me. In my mind, if I didn’t think about it or talk about it, it didn’t happen.
I was ten. I wanted to have a “normal” childhood, but even up until the abuse happened, my childhood was far from normal.
By age ten, I had gone through things no child should ever have to endure. Abandonment, physical and emotional abuse, trust issues, self-loathing — so that by time I was molested, I completely shut down.
All I wanted to hear was, “it’s going to be ok, I’m here for you, it wasn’t your fault,” but I had no one, and still wasn’t telling a soul. I was scared and embarrassed about it. I didn’t want to talk about it, so I conjured up a smile and rarely let it leave my face. I was always a
joyful person, so if I’m always smiling and happy, no one will suspect a thing right?
People close to me started noticing something was different about my behavior though. I had problems with authority, and had the attitude of, “it’s my way or the highway.” When people brought it up, I tried to blame it on my parents not really being around. Slightly true, but not the real reason for my anger. I was angry at God.
I went through phases where I was so angry at God that I couldn’t bear opening my Bible. I didn’t understand why this it had to happen to me.
In my mind, he should have stopped it. In my mind, God was done with me, so I was done with him. I still attended church regularly, but I was just going through the motions. There was one thing that I couldn’t pretend didn’t grab every muscle of my heart: worship. I’ve always loved singing, and lyrics have always spoken to me, so of course in church, worship was my favorite.
Song after song resonated with my broken heart, and I could tell God was tugging me back into His arms, ready to welcome me back to His heart. The song “How He Loves” got me every time. I just heard this little whisper, “Oh how I love you, Jessica.” I knew right when I heard the line “I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,” that it was time to let go. Time for healing to enter my life. But I couldn’t. I wasn’t ready and felt I had no one to lean on to help me through.
As the years went on, big changes happened in my life that helped me see how faithful God is and His grace in my life. I also realized God was preparing me, reviving those things in my life I thought were dead the day I was abused. I started building community, sharing little pieces of my story, strengthening my relationship with God, and ultimately believing I was strong enough for the story God gave me.
One day I was so overwhelmed with everything and was texting my mentor. She asked me what was making me so anxious, and I simply told her “things from my past keep coming up.” Never in my life had so many TV shows, messages from church, or books I was reading addressed sexual abuse as it seemed they had been in the past months leading to that conversation with her.
I got away from the topic with her by saying that it wasn’t a conversation you have over text. The next time I saw her in person, I couldn’t avoid telling her. I stalled and stalled, and finally uttered out the words I’d never spoken aloud: “When I was ten, I was molested, and haven’t told anyone.”
From there, I started feeling free. I started seeing a counselor, and slowly started telling a few close friends.
Four months later, in Uganda on a missions trip, I started by telling my team my WHOLE story (not the one I used to tell that left out parts) and then asked them to support me, and just be there for me. They constantly encouraged me even when I thought I couldn’t go on.
Not once, until I was in Uganda, did it occur to me to let God into the pain because He felt it as well. I realized on my trip that God was with me during everything. Psalm 147:3 became sort of my go-to verse. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
Here I thought I was going for a mission trip to help and love on those in need, when I was the one most in need. I needed love. I needed help. I needed to be healed and put back together. The trip was more than I could have ever expected. It was the turning point.
I was able to declare truth over myself. I went on a rooftop in Uganda, my team circled around me, stood on a chair, and boldly declared truth. “It wasn’t my fault. I am not defined by my abuse. There is power in my story. I am strong enough.” and so on.
Not only did I declare these things, I believed them, and I could feel the weight leaving. I realized my voice held so much power. I experienced something that day I had been waiting so long for: FREEDOM.
I was able to finally put my burden at the feet of Jesus and rid myself of it. I am free and will continue living in that freedom.
My voice is no longer silenced by fear or shame. Instead, my story is being told because I know there’s a purpose behind it.
Editor’s Note: I decided to publish Erin’s submission because she outlines the thoughts that go through our head when we’ve been raped or taken advantage of sexually. I encourage you to get a piece of paper and write down the thoughts that have gone through your mind, and face them. Find a verse or a truth that disproves the lie, and write it down next to it, and read through your list – over and over and over. Erin Taylor blogs at mserintaylor.wordpress.com and tweets at @tayloree. – Lauren
“Where was God in all of this?” I whispered tearfully across a wooden desk. Wide eyed, I looked to the pastor sitting across the desk from me. He looked at me as if my tear filled eyes were windows straight into my soul. The pause was enough to make me believe my assumption was true. God left me and was punishing me. My sin was too much for Him. In my failure to be perfect, He’d had enough and walked away, just like everyone else. I would have given up on me if I were Him. After all, what kind of God lets an innocent girl be abused for years?
The pastor finally opened his mouth and said, “What did you expect? Jesus on a white horse, riding up to rescue you? Where did you want Him to be?”
My mind reeled. What was my expectation? Did I have one? My heart searched back through the years marked with pain at the hands of several different abusers. I saw it all beginning at the hands of a peer at just 16. I saw the moments in cars marked with manipulation, fear and secrecy. My mind cringed at the first time I was raped. Flipping through countless memories of unwanted sexual acts, a rape at the hands of a stranger at a party, the boyfriends that used my abuse as an excuse to do what they wished. My brokenness was an excuse to hide theirs. Physical, emotional and sexual abuse filled my mind. I saw my desperation and constant compromise. I could not figure out where He was in it all.
Snapping back to reality, I looked into his kind eyes and said, “I dunno. A white horse would have been nice. I just wanted Him to do something. I wanted him to make it stop.”
Body shaking, I cried deep sobs of grief. It was so unfair. Did that boy know that he would damage me so? Did he know that the pain would change my perception of reality? Did he know that for his selfish pleasure I would pay the price of years rebuilding my life? My heart seethed with anger. I couldn’t understand how someone could do such a thing while the other party lay there helpless, sobbing.
The aftermath was unbearable. The trauma was like an earthquake, shaking me to the very core of my existence. Fragmenting the assumed firm foundation in Christ that had been built in my childhood. What I once believed to be true, was questioned and doubted. I experienced first hand the sin of the world and the sickening way that the enemy can steal, kill and destroy without mercy.
Planted in my heart from the repeated moments of being used were lies that wormed their way into my heart.
“You want this. It’s your fault. What were you wearing? If you weren’t a people pleaser, then you would have never experienced this. You are a temptress. You are the woman that the Bible warns about. Hide your beauty so no one can see you. There is a sign on your forehead that says abuse me. This will never end. This is what you were made for. You are worthless after all, dirty and damaged. The type of man you dreamed about wouldn’t look twice at you, so do this for him and then maybe you will be loved. Settle for this. God is mad at you. This is a consequence.”
The lies pulled me into a pit of darkness surrounded by the rubble of a life that finally collapsed.
Unable to hide or pretend anymore, depression assailed me and death teased and taunted me. I felt abandoned and left to die amidst damage. I knew that I was searching for a way to make my heart whole. And I ran full speed towards anything that had the potential to give me worth. In the moment that my virginity was stolen from me, I believed that my value was gone. What once made me worth something was forcibly ripped from my hands.
My solution to the trauma was to get a man to affirm my worth. I believed I was worthless – and who else could give me my worth back other than the very creature who stole it from me? One dysfunctional relationship after another I wound up on the bottom of the pit, rejected and more battered than I was when I started. But no matter what I did I could not fix it. My heart longed to go back to the innocent girl I once was.
Handing me a tissue, the pastor looked at me. I curled up in the chair as if being smaller would hide my shame.
He said, “Erin, think about this verse:
“Do you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Do you agree that your body is a temple? Because your body is a temple and the Holy Spirit dwells within you, when you were raped, He was raped. Every moment of abuse you experienced, He experienced. He was not standing in the corner, He did not turn His head. He felt every inappropriate touch with you. He experienced it all. He never left you.”
Those words washed over me like a tidal wave of healing water. Something inside my heart broke and He came rushing in. He knew. God knew it. God knew my pain. Better than anyone else because He lived it with me, He felt it with me. His heart broke with mine. A scripture that once left me feeling condemned, and inadequate, set me free.
Jesus knew. Jesus saw every crack, broken piece of my foundation and heart. He knew about the earthquake of abuse that shook my very existence and left me hopeless. He knew the words people said that hurt me more, in attempt to comfort, but crumbled a new layer of my broken heart. I didn’t have to explain or describe nor did I have to hide it any longer.
What did I learn? That the aftermath of abuse is messy. There is no formula to the healing process, as much as I wish there was. It is a day by day process and it is okay to grieve and feel the pain. Pretending fixes nothing. Authenticity with the people that God places in our lives often are His hands washing our feet. He longs to set us free because we were bought for a price. Not because we earned it, but because He loves us apart from our experiences and choices. He wants us to know He was there through it all, hurting with us. He is for us, not against us. He says to us,
“I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. I will build you up again, and you Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt. Again you will take up your timbrels and go out to dance with the joyful” Isaiah 31: 3-4
Sweet sister, I don’t know what you experienced. It might be nothing like my story. Maybe abuse is something that is foreign to you or maybe you are living through it now. But regardless of the type of pain, problem or hurt, He knows and He is rebuilding you. The rubble you sit in is not too much for Him and you will return to joy and dance again with the joyful. Remember He did not stand there like a bystander watching you go through the pain, not interfering out of passivity. No, He lives in you and the God of the universe felt it all, just as you did.
Dear Little Girl,
I thought I would take the time today to write to you. I wanted to let you know who you will become and what you will go through along the way of becoming the person you are today.
As you grow up you are going to encounter some hardships. The hardships I mention here aren’t small fights with your sister or failing a spelling test. These hardships are the big scary kind that leave an impression on your heart and mind for all of your life. They carry on to your adulthood where you must either hide them from the world or take the time to work through them and fight for your heart to be healed.
When you are six you are going to lose most of your hearing. It doesn’t bother you much then, but as time goes on it will make things more difficult for you, especially learning how to read, which causes you to feel worthless at times.
At age ten, you will be stabbed by someone who you don’t know. You will deal with the pain from this with jokes, because laughing about things is easier than actually having to deal with them.
At thirteen, you will be assaulted by a waiter at a restaurant that is at least four times your age. He will steal your first kiss. This is going to change your outlook on men and sex. This incident will start forming your opinion of who you are as a soon-to-be-woman. You will start seeing yourself as an object of a man’s desire.
At eighteen, you will be assaulted once again, but this time you will be thrown around, beaten, and called names that will haunt you.
At nineteen, you will be strangled by your boyfriend, who you once thought adored you.
At twenty, you will be drugged and taken to a house where two men will take control over your body. You will wake up in a shower soaking wet with your clothes laid on top of you. This is where the men tried to wash away the blood from your body. They may have washed away the blood, but they did not wash away the pain, bitterness, and anger that will result.
I’m sure you are wondering why I am telling you all of this. I am not trying to scare you. I am showing you that transgressions will happen in your life, but that you are strong. You will get through anything that comes in your way.
Days after you turn twenty-one, you will realize what love is. You will encounter the only way to wash away pain, oppression, and longing for belonging. You will triumph your past. It will take time, Heather. It will take time, but you are stronger than you realize. You will rid yourself from all things that drain you from life and be filled with the only source of life.
I know all of these things I have mentioned sound frightening, but please don’t be scared. You will fight through and you will be a story teller to others. You will be a mentor to the ones going through what you yourself have gone through.
You are not alone, even when you think you are. God did not desire for any of these things to happen to you, but he is going to use your stories and experiences to help the ones that are fighting the fight of being abused, the ones that are longing for belonging, and the oppressed.
You will go through times of doubt; you will feel like you are too broken to help anyone, but thankfully God uses our past to bring glory to his name and to the world.
Please remember that you are worth so much more than you know. Although you have been abused, used, and told you are worthless – you not defined by your past. You are defined by who you are in Christ.
Use your experiences to shape the world into a place that gives glory to his name and that helps heal the ones that face similar experiences as you.
Your Future Self
Editor’s Note: It is estimated that 2 out of 3 women have been victims of rape, sexual assault, or molestation. It can be very hard to allow yourself take on the label of “victim,” but I have found that moving forwards comes only when we acknowledge the truth of our past. Today’s post is beautiful, and it is by Yessenia Carrera. She tweets at @ycarrera and blogs at Forgiveness Like A Crown. – Lauren
The funny thing about being six years old is that everything is a game. When your sister’s friend asks you play house, you think nothing of it. When you find yourself under the covers performing sexual acts with her, it’s just…what you happen to be doing.
It wasn’t until a few years ago (I am currently 21) that I fully understood and accepted what went on in my childhood’s version of “playing house.”
The truth is this. An eight-year-old girl molested me, and my mind never fully comprehended it. Somehow, the little girl inside of me knew what was happening and she frantically took cover, seeking to steer clear of any emotional ramifications. For most of my life, I thought I had avoided grappling with the messy consequences from being molested. In reality, I battled endlessly against intimacy my entire adolescence.
In high school, my life turned into a whirlwind of breakups, church separations, popularity and alcohol. When I dove completely into the deep end of parties, lying, sneaking out, and lashing out, I saw that although everything inside of me wanted to throw my body into the raging hurricane I had created, there was nothing inside of me that longed to be intimate with anyone.
I wanted the label of girlfriend, the texts, the phone calls – but when it got anywhere near anything that hinted of intimacy, I was out. At that time, I mocked myself because in the midst of all my rebellion, I was managing to keep my purity well…pure. How “good” of me, right?
Well, yes and no. Yes, because by God’s grace I managed to keep sexual repertoire unsoiled. And no, because it was out of denial, blame and anger that I managed to “stay pure.” Don’t get me wrong, I praise God every day I will be able to share a special moment with my future husband, but my perception of everything was really screwed up.
There was guilt, shame, anger, and loneliness filling the chasm between the Lover and my soul; a chasm too wide for Love to fill… or so I thought.
I never saw the connection between my forced sexuality at six years old and intimacy until Jesus Christ rocked my world on a gritty Tennessee floor.
At age eighteen, I understood what Jesus did on the cross for me and I finally knew what reconciliation felt like. It was glorious, but before there was reconciliation, there were messy realizations. I purposefully peeled back the painful memory of what it was to be trusting six year old. After twelve years of closeting emotions, events, blame and sensations, remembering sounds a bit cruel – but Jesus did NOT ask me to reel back the tape in order to judge or condemn me, but to heal the six-year-old eager eyed girl. He spoke restoration into my soul. He assured me that it was okay to open up my heart to the one who created it.
My life was changed before I had a say in it. Jesus invites us into a deep closeness with Him. Intimacy. That word we squirm when we hear. He knows how many hairs are on my head, He knows everything about me, and everything about my past and He wonderfully chooses to love me anyway. That truth invites me to know everything I can about Him. It invites me to lay me head on His strong chest and hear His heartbeat. It calls me to love what He loves and hate what He hates. It’s…romantic. Seriously.
I did not know how to handle the idea that someone so perfect wanted to be so close to me – and wanted me to be close to Him too. That is the beauty of Jesus. It is a beautiful, beautiful story of God loving His children into a relationship with Himself.
It has been three years since I consciously began to accept the love that transcends all understanding and the clears away my past.
Sometimes I still don’t know what to do with a Love like that.
Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Lauren Jacobs. She blogs at beautyinbreakdown.com, tweets at @laurenbjacobs, and is the Community Manager for Dirty Girls Ministries. She is a beautiful part of our community, and also helps us with our Mentoring program. – Lauren
My father told me it was my fault.
He stared me right in the face and said, “You were warned not to walk alone at night.”
My tears and screams of betrayal at hearing those painful words still pierce my own heart. That statement was worse than the rape itself.
I know he feels guilty. I can see it in his eyes when he looks at me. I can sense it when he gives me a half-hearted hug. And while I don’t condone his words of blame, my heart aches for my father. My heart aches because I know that he wishes he could take it back.
But he can’t. And he refuses to bring it up, apologize, or even acknowledge that it happened. So do I.
And so we dance around it. We have been for 13 years. And it is exhausting.
It is fear of reactions and judgements like my father’s that keep rape survivors in the bondage of silence. Heck, it’s what keeps anyone with any shameful secret, addiction, or abuse silent. It is what threatens to keep me silent still… even 13 years later. After that day I learned quite quickly that I couldn’t trust people with this information. With any information.
I learned to lie, to stretch the truth, and to masterfully avoid any semblance of deep conversation. Instead of telling my friends that I was home for a semester because I was in intense therapy after being raped, I told them that I was sick. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Mononucleosis were my illnesses of choice. And for those who were closest to me who knew that I wasn’t sick, I told them a different story. I told them that I was “attacked.” That a man pulled me to the ground and then ran away. Which is technically true…
My lies continued to take shape and I got really good at telling people that I was sick. I could tell that some people believed me and some people knew there was more to the story. But my eyes, my demeanor, and my body language communicated to them that they shouldn’t push it. And so I suffered in the agony of this strange dichotomy of some people knowing and some people being kept in the dark.
The people that knew tiptoed around me. Not knowing what to say, not knowing how to comfort me, not sure of what was going to happen next… It wasn’t talked about outside of the therapist’s office and that was fine by me. Amnesia was what I craved. Normal life was what I desperately wanted and it couldn’t come fast enough.
The people that knew a version far from the truth treated me normally. Thus reinforcing the distorted belief that keeping silent was a good thing. The roots of silence and deception continued to grow creating intense strongholds that would remain for years and years.
Several years after my rape I found myself in an intense battle with sex and pornography addiction. These addictions, while quite common for rape survivors, still hold a societal stigma especially when it comes to Christian women. After experiencing such betrayal from my own father and even eventually from some close friends, I made the decision not to tell anyone about my addiction. Satan was at work in that for sure.
For years I struggled. Nightly praying to God for deliverance, promising Him that I would stop acting out. I’d be sober for a few days and feel like I’d turned a corner, then BAM, I’d slip up again. I knew little about addiction at the time, but my cycle of addiction was fierce and unrelenting. And the silence only made it worse.
I’m writing this now on a road to recovery, praise God. In my recovery there have been 2 significant catalysts that I tribute to bringing me here.
The first was humble confession. I finally made it to the point where I couldn’t keep silent any longer. I couldn’t pretend that I was OK. And so I confessed. First to a group of women I’d never met before, then to my Life Group, then to a dear friend, then to my church. And each time I confessed I was blessed to experience more and more freedom.
My fear of judgments, of condemnation, of being shamed began to dissipate.
My heart began to trust again.
And I began my journey to wholeness and healing.
The second catalyst that brought me to my knees in complete surrender to God was revolutionary and scandalous… GRACE.
I began to learn about grace and the significance it held in regard to my story. I began to experience grace first hand from the people who I confessed to. I told them about my rape and my addictions and was met with immense amounts of love and support. I began to offer grace to others as they revealed their own secrets and addictions. Gradually, I am learning how to extend grace even to myself.
Simply put, silence is a tool of satan. We hold things in out of fear – and the only way we can ever face that fear is by taking a risk and speaking up. Yes, it’s painful, it’s hard, and it’s incredibly scary. Yes, there may be times when your words are not received with grace, love, or kindness but with judgement and condemnation. Yes, you may be tempted to turn and run away, hide in a cave, become a mute.
To those of you who are in need of confession: in love, I urge you to fight those desires to run & hide in silence. I urge you to take the risk. Reveal your true self, wounds and all, to a trusted friend or mentor. Chances are they’ve experienced something similar and will be able to find incredible healing in your story. By speaking up, you give others the gift of going second. You give them the opportunity to see how God is present in the midst of humble confession. You give them the chance to get free too.
To those of you who are on the receiving end of a confession: in love, I urge you to respond with grace, not with stones. Put yourself in your friend’s place. Recognize how difficult it is to reveal such an intimate piece of oneself. Listen. Love. Receive.
Life is a story. We all have one to tell. Whether we like it or not, our stories are meant to be lived together, in community. Telling our stories and sharing our brokenness is a gift from God. Sharing in the healing process, learning from each other, growing closer to Jesus – these are things that are best done in fellowship with one another.
I confess that even with this knowledge and my own experiences with freedom, I am still fearful of speaking to my father about his remarks after my rape. But God is convicting me not to let more time pass before this is resolved. I know that God will honor my desire to repair things with my father. I know that He will be present in my conversation with him. And I know that my fear will be overshadowed by God’s grace, love, and redemption.
Learn from my pain and be silent no longer, my friends. For silence is deadly.
Editor’s Note: Our topic for May is “Rape & Unwanted Sex.” Sexual assault, molestation, trafficking, prostitution, physical boundaries that are crossed – all of these will fall under the topic. We will be featuring additional submissions that we’ve received that fall under other topics as well. Today’s post is by Kelsey. She blogs at grownintexas.wordpress.com. – Lauren
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
I never imagined that the last words that Jesus uttered on this earth would haunt me in my dreams.
But let me back up. A few years ago, I was raped by an acquaintance. It was during college, and he was a friend of a friend. I was in an unfamiliar place, with people I didn’t know very well. I’d had a couple drinks, but not enough to start blacking out like I found myself unexpectedly doing. I was whisked away to a strange, dark place. Before it even started I was crying. I said no. He didn’t care; I think he laughed.
I woke up startled, forgetting what had happened. Reality, or my hazy grasp of it, sunk in and I wandered home, too confused to make sense of what had happened. At first I denied it, then I tried to explain it away and laugh it off. Shortly thereafter, I fell apart.
A few months later, I told the truth about what happened to some trusted friends, who offered me nothing but love and grace and truth. I tried to get some counseling. I felt pretty OK, I thought. I prayed and felt peace, or at least it felt something like peace. I was OK.
A year went by. I was reading in the book of Matthew, and as I got to the end of the final chapter, a terrible, earth-shattering, soul-rocking thought dawned on me: He was there. God was there the night I was raped. He heard my protests and saw my tears and watched me get those bruises.
And He didn’t stop it.
I was now, officially, no longer OK.
This little realization plunged me deep into crisis. What in the world was I doing following a God who allowed such terrible things to happen? Around the same time, the nightmares started. I had vivid flashbacks, recurring bad dreams, and near-constant feelings of despair, hopelessness, and listlessness. I became afraid of sleeping. I walked around in a dazed, zombie-like state because I was so scared of what would happen when I closed my eyes at night. I ate either too much or not enough. I was afraid of being alone, but I hated being with people. I isolated myself from everyone I knew – I, the textbook definition of an extrovert, distanced myself from my closest friends.
If God was there, why didn’t he do something?
Eventually, feeling exhausted from the vicious cycle of either deadening my emotions or doing harmful things to awaken them, I started asking God what he felt about my rape. I closed my eyes and asked, timidly at first, what’s happening on your end, God?
The answers slowly started coming from Scripture. As I read the Psalms, and story after story that recounted God’s sorrow over sin, it became clear to me that God cares deeply about my hurt and pain. I discovered that rape was not a part of his perfect plan for the creation of a world meant to bring him glory. I learned that God suffers with those who suffer. I remembered that God took our suffering and nailed it to the cross with his son Jesus, out of absolute love for us.
God knows pain. He knows what it feels to be rejected and abused and despairing, because Jesus felt those things first. This truth is difficult. It’s not as pretty or tidy or straightforward, but it’s real.
I find comfort in the reality that God was there, because the only thing worse than realizing He was there is thinking that He wasn’t.
I am comforted that by being there when I was raped, God saw it for how bad it was. He heard my cries and He hears them now. He sees. He knows. He understands.
I may never understand why God allowed rape to happen to me. But of this I am sure: God came to my rescue in the dark aftermath of my rape and he continues to come to my rescue on my up-and-down path of healing.
I don’t believe in chance anymore. I also don’t believe that the things that happen to us are punishments or rewards based on our behavior.
In the past, I believed that every experience I have, positive or negative, somehow contains a lesson or a morsel of instruction intended to grow me – and I need to look at it optimistically and deal. But now, I’ve found grace for myself. Can God work through terrible things and use them for his glory? Absolutely. But the reality of living on this broken planet means that some things just suck and just happen, and I believe all I’m supposed to ‘learn’ is that even when they do, I can cling to truth and hold fast to the God who loves me unconditionally
My journey of healing has taught me, among other things, to stop working to find lessons that we ‘should’ find – where there are none.
There is no lesson in rape. There is only victory. As a survivor of sexual assault, I can still stand firmly on the promise that Jesus is with us always, till the very end of the age. I can rejoice that God sent his Holy Spirit to be my guide and comforter. I can proclaim that rape does not determine my identity or limit my potential. My healing is a continual process, and it’s one that I believe might not come to completion this side of eternity, but I can wait with eager expectation for the day it is completed.
Nothing has made me look forward to heaven more than this. Nothing has made the glories of heaven, a place where God “will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore,” sound so sweet.
I once took a personality test that told me that I am an exhorter, meant to inspire others to live victoriously, so I’m starting with me. I’m choosing victory. I’m opening up about rape and pain and hurt in full confidence that it’s a gift to be able to talk about it, and in hope that some woman, somewhere will hear in my words that she is not alone, and that our God is very good. I’m standing on the promise that for those who love God “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Did you catch that? Not some things. All things. Even intense, searing pain. Even rape.
Romans 8 tells us that our victory is sure. “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:38).
Not even rape can separate us from Christ. Hallelujah.
Beloved, keep on conquering. Tell your story, and walk in victory.