Sadly, my story is not too different from so many other people.
I was sexually abused by someone in my family, whom I was very close to and loved dearly. I was only a child and I didn’t know what to do about it or how to react. But also, I was old enough to know what was happening and that it was inappropriate. But I still didn’t do anything about it or tell anyone. It was weird, and awkward, and shameful, and I just wanted it to go away. So I denied it for years.
When I gave my life to Jesus, He didn’t wait long to put his finger right on my abuse story. He reminded me of everything that happened and the memories overtook me. I was no longer in denial. But I didn’t like being in this new place either.
So I did what any good, new Christian would do; I forgave and forgave and forgave until I was blue in the face. But nothing seemed to bring me peace or closure.
As I walked with Jesus, He began to do the good, slow work of healing in my heart. Every time I would share my testimony, if I shared the piece about my abuse, I couldn’t help but cry. This was a bit embarrassing for me because at that point it has been about seven years since the abuse and I wasn’t even sure if it was really abuse or just some slightly traumatic, inappropriate behavior (again, denial talking). But I figured that my tears came because I was relieved that God has healed me from the damage of the abuse.
Now, I know that those were sweet, little moments of grieving that my soul desperately needed.
When I got into a serious relationship that was leading to marriage, all of the doubts about my healing came up. I knew that I was a new person through Jesus but I also felt damaged, used, discarded and dirty. Thinking about getting married and having sex with someone brought me overwhelming anxiety. I felt that this level of intimacy would only open a Pandora’s box of emotions, self-hate, shame, guilt, regret, and pain. I was terrified that my future husband would have to deal with this horrible mess of a person, and I legitimately believed that I would spend the majority of our honeymoon in a full-out nervous breakdown.
Thank God, this did not happen. But also, marriage didn’t magically fix everything either. A couple months into our married life together, I decided to participate in a support group of sorts at my church. It was a ministry specifically catered to women who have sexual abuse in their past. The six months that I was part of this ministry changed my life. Being around other women who all had very different, but also fundamentally similar experiences, built community like I have never experienced before. The needed group meetings were in no way fun or easy but they brought clarity to very distant, foggy, unpleasant parts of our pasts.
Through the group, I realized how truly complicated and deep this kind of trauma is for a person. It is not something you can simply forgive and forget. It is not something that you just need to tell a friend about. There are so many aspects of abuse and trauma that permeate our lives and identities; many of these aspects we are not even aware of.
My past abuse touched every aspect of my life; relationally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
I found out that my relationships with men were never going to be fully healthy if I don’t work through my abuse and the mistrust I learned from it. I found out that I will always willingly surrender my freedom to authority figures if I don’t get to the root of why I have been doing that. I found out that I will never be able to fully open up to my husband if I don’t stop walking in the shame and ambivalence that were created by the abuse. I found out that the horrible migraines I have had for years were actually deeply rooted in the tension I was carrying from not dealing with my grief and betrayal.
It has now been more than sixteen years since the abuse and I am still continuing to heal. The work is no longer as intense as it had to be before, but every so often I find a new piece of my story that God brings up and challenges me to deal with. But I am so thankful for the people who have invested in me and walked with me as I have done the good and painful work of healing from my abuse. They have been instrumental in getting me to where I am now in life and in my relationship with Jesus.
Now it is my turn.
I know that there are so many men, women and children who have experienced sexual abuse. I know that it is a very uncomfortable and shameful thing to talk about, but we have to. We have to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly that comes with the inner-healing work that is needed for abuse victims. We have to have resources available for the victims who are too afraid and ashamed to tell anyone about what has happened to them. We have to have a community of people available for other abuse survivors to talk to and share about their abuse and their healing process. We have to educate parents, partners and families about their much needed support and involvement in the lives of those who have experienced abuse.
I hope that this space on our blog can be exactly that; a safe place that encourages real, long-term healing for everyone who is affected by sexual abuse. Will you help us build something like that? Will you start your own journey of healing as we unpack different issues on this blog?
If you have said yes, I pray that God will be gracious, patient and merciful for all of us. Let’s begin.