I am who I am today because I am a survivor of sexual abuse and rape. I am also (and more importantly) a follower of Jesus Christ which has allowed me to forgive those who harmed me and comfort those who have been abused.
I was a young child when someone I loved and trusted sexually molested me. But that is a story for another day. I was an innocent 14-year-old when I was raped. I told no one because I believed somehow it was my fault. As a child growing up in the mid-70s & 80s I lived in a culture where it was not talked about, the victim had no rights, no services were in place to help the injured, and somehow it was always the girl’s fault – where she was, what she wore, what she said or what she did.
While I waited to find out if that act of violence had created a child, I shut myself in my room and cried out over and over to the Lord in prayer. I vividly remember sitting in my lime green bean bag in the corner of my room combing through my Bible repeatedly looking for a word, for some comfort from God. And to that very broken girl He provided it.
I felt dirty and damaged beyond repair when I found Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them white as wool.” Please do not misunderstand me. There is no sin on the part of the person who has been sexually abused or raped. What mattered to me in this verse was the fact that God could make me feel clean again.
When I was stuck in an endless replay of the event He provided Philippians 3:13-14 which says, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on towards the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus . . .” This gave me permission to leave it in the past where it belonged and move forward until I could find the help and healing I needed.
I was angry and bitter, filled with hatred toward the person who had harmed me. And God gently but persistently pointed me toward verse after verse (Colossians 3:13, Matthew 6:14-15, Ephesians 4:31–32, Matthew 11:25) on the need to forgive the person who had violated me. By far one of the most difficult but most critical parts of my recovery. Not forgiving the perpetrator only harmed me, held me captive and kept me in a victim mentality instead of a survivor mindset.
What Satan intended for evil God has used for good. At the university I attended I volunteered at the Rape Crisis Center where I helped create the map that showed students the locations where rape had occurred in and around campus. A place where women could feel empowered with self-defense courses and receive the help they needed.
As a single woman in my 20s I led a group that worked with survivors on recovery from a Biblical perspective. And throughout the 35 years since my rape God has repeatedly opened doors for me to come alongside women one on one in their brokenness. To listen, to pray, to encourage them. To help them understand they are NOT defined by what happened nor should they allow it to define their lives. To point them to a God who will take their broken pieces and turn them into something beautiful. To comfort others with the comfort I myself received from God (2 Corinthian 1:3-4).
I am who I am today because of the good, the bad and the ugly in my past. And you know what? I like me. That statement, that sentence was hard earned. And only made possible through the healing of a loving God who took the broken pieces and made something beautiful.
The #Me Too movement? It is long overdue. As Christians we need to enter the conversation and infuse it with hope and healing and forgiveness instead of the anger and bitterness that too often surrounds it. Because really, isn’t that what God is all about – hope and healing and forgiveness?
Oh, my Precious Father – Thank you for giving me the courage to write this blog. For taking the broken pieces and making them whole. I choose to praise you for the hard places that have made me who I am today and give you all the glory. Lord, please be with those whose wounds are fresh and those whose wounds are old and festering. May they strive towards the freedom of forgiveness and find their hope and healing in you. Amen.