Rape: Silence Is Deadly
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.
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