Sexual Abuse Happened to Me

“It was the year
The crows and the locusts came
The fields drained dry the rain
The fields are bleeding”

It was the year the crows and the locusts came. Brooke Fraser’s Crows and Locusts was the theme song of my life several years ago.

After years of low self-esteem and an event of sexual abuse, I was thrown into a pit of clinical depression for two years. Physical, mental and spiritual darkness engulfed me. But it was in that dark miry pit that I learned the redeeming love of my Saviour,  Jesus. Not only did He pull me out of the pit, but also placed me on the heights. Let me take you through my journey.

~~~

That night changed my life forever. That night several years ago where I was invited to a party on a casual Saturday. I thought to myself “why not? It might be fun. It’ll be like any other party.” The only difference was, I had just entered adulthood and my entrance into my first year of university.  I felt invincible and as though I was at the peak of my life. I wanted to celebrate my independence. Drinks were being passed around and the music was blaring. That’s when he approached me. He was 26 years old, was very handsome and had ocean blue eyes. We shared a few laughs and a drink. I thought “no big deal.”  The rest was darkness and what came next showed me the ugly truth.

Waking up the next Sunday morning at 9:00 am, I moved the covers out of the way and had discovered that I had been sexually violated. I was left in a state of great confusion and shame. I felt paralyzed. It was hard to breathe as I felt I was choking from panic, fear and self-loathing. It didn’t make sense. I had been saving my virginity for my future husband. I didn’t agree to this. It made me physically sick but I wiped the tears away, I put on last night’s clothing and walked out of the house. Being 19 years old, I dealt with this traumatic event as best I knew how. I told no one about the weekend. I felt numb. The experience was too shameful and emotionally overwhelming. And when I did tell my friends parts of the story, the friends that I sought support from, shrugged it off and made me feel like it was my fault. I reasoned that I had done something to anticipate this kind of behaviour from a man and so from that time on, I allowed men to use me because I thought everything was lost. My innocence, my purity and my self-worth was lost. Unforgiveness, shame, secrecy, crippling fear, denial, and apathy imprisoned me. At least this time, when I was with a guy, I would give him permission to use me. At least this time I felt like I was in control. I would not let a man control me again. Never again. Or so I thought.

Faltered harvest

“She limps on up to the top of a mount
Looks at the faltered harvest
Feels her sweat in the ground
And the burn in her nose”

The haze of casual relationships continued although I made myself believe that they weren’t as bad because I had given my consent. A few kisses here and there could not bring me harm anymore. I was already “damaged goods”. Never again would I allow myself to feel this pain. By internalizing those inner vows of “never again will I allow a man to dominate me” and “I will never be hurt again without my consent”, I was numbing my heart from properly healing. I was trying to stay busy to fill the great emptiness and loneliness inside me. I felt defeated but when I was with others I would flash my best smile and pretend I was fine. It took me 8 months after the fact to realize that this pain was not going away and it was only getting worse. Insomnia ruled my life and I cried every day for a year. I was a zombie: pale, cold and hungry for healing and wholeness. I wanted a new heart. I wanted a new life. I asked myself daily why my innocence and purity was taken from me. My life was crumbling.

I didn’t know new life was possible but I wanted to believe it was. Once I arrived at the top of the mountain so that I could see the full picture and all the broken pieces, I had started my first year of university and I was trudging through my classes and assignments. It was only with God’s grace that I passed my courses with all the turmoil going on around me. I saw the faltered harvest of my broken life down below but it was exactly there on that mountain, seeing my life in shambles, that the Lord approached me 9 months after the traumatic event at a retreat. This verse from Isaiah 62 gave me hope for healing and made me feel beautiful again. The Lord would fight for me:

“For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet,
till her vindication shines out like the dawn,
her salvation like a blazing torch.”

Turning Back

The Lord asked me to face my pain head on because only then would I be truly healed. I was driving in my car one day and God then brought me to a literal dead end, a dead-end with a sign reading “U-Turn”. He asked me, “Will you stay here at this dead-end, or take a U-Turn back to me? I will give you a new life. I will heal you and give you a new heart, if you turn back to me and forgive. Forgive him who has violated you and in turn I can forgive you.” I had so much anger in my heart sitting there in the car, for what had happened to me, my heart was full of bruises that I didn’t know how to make sense. For so long I shut out forgiveness and Gods love and chose to shackle my heart to my past. I chose to stay nailed to the cross because I could not accept His love. It was at this dead-end that I realized I didn’t have to stay in the place of unforgiveness and pain. God created me to live a full life in His light and not in the darkness of my past. Embracing this was most difficult because I had to remove my pride, my shame and feelings of unworthiness and just give the Lord my bruised and tattered heart.

This is when I really felt the grace of Christ’s love. In my pain I was able to share in His nakedness, His poverty, His thirst and His sorrow that He experiences. I chose to turn back to Jesus, and when I did He was waiting for me with open arms. That is when my healing began.

After opening my heart to Him, I began to attend Adoration daily so that his loving eyes would heal me. He showed me that I was not an object for use but was worthy of love. I sought spiritual guidance and received therapy. Sharing my tragedy with a therapist allowed me to bring to light my experience to someone trustworthy and no longer suffer alone. The Lord sent me new Godly friends and brought me to a new faith community. He promised to walk with me through the flames and He was right there helping me through His people.

When Christ saw me in my tears, confusion and misery, this is when he found me most beautiful because this is when I showed Him my full heart without all the barriers and walls to hide it. This is when I let Him fully love me and when my heart was pierced, this is when He was and is able to do the most good in my heart because that is when He filled me with healing rain from heaven.

The Lord promised me vindication and salvation, a way out of the darkness. But the reality was, that I would in fact have to walk through the blazing fire in order to reach my promised land. The Lord promised to walk with me through the flames, through the raging waters that lashed around me. For days without end through this experience my cheeks flooded with tears, my heart cried out to Jesus from the emotional and physical pain I was enduring. I endured two years of severe insomnia and unrest. I shook my fist to heaven asking God to release me from the prison that entrapped me, but time and time again the Lord reminded me of His promises and somewhere deep inside, despite the darkness, I believed that there was a way out and that the Lord was faithful. He would make me stronger after my trial. He would use my story to show the world His glory and mercy.

Something’s still gonna grow

“What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood”

Nothing but the blood of Jesus made me whole again. I was made whole. New Life. New heart. But most of all – I was saved. Although the days were painful, they caused me to spend day after day at the foot of the cross. I had nowhere to run but to Jesus. The friends, family, spiritual support and therapistwere nothing short of a blessing but they weren’t enough to heal me and fill me. Only Jesus was able to truly touch my heart. Only Jesus was able to love me the way I needed to be loved. Now I live for Him. He is my all. He is my Beloved.

~~~

By the grace of God, I realized that my worth doesn’t lie in my past but in God’s mercy. My heart was healed and I want to share this story so that other women may also know that there is help and support. I am restored and I have true hope. For a long time I suffered with resentment towards all men but God has shown me true, beautiful examples of honourable men. He showed me that true love exists. Open your heart to see the possibilities, God will show you that true, honest, good men do exist.

True forgiveness allows a light heart and a clear head. Jesus allowed me to love and forgive my enemy. He allowed me to run into him a year later and I felt complete peace. God’s mercy flooded me in such a way that my heart was not heavy when I saw him. Love can only heal this kind of pain and true forgiveness sets the path towards true healing. Acceptance of the truth without any embellishments of denial also needs to be a crucial step towards authentic healing. Allowing yourself to come to terms with the truth that you were violated and that it wasn’t your fault is also key to your own restoration. You cannot allow yourself to be a victim to the lies. Even if the truth is painful, at least you can come to terms with the reality. Find a friend you can really trust or go to a Catholic therapist. Catholic Family Services offers counselling for women who have suffered with abuse. You are not alone. Do not hide in your despair because you were made to thrive and live in hope. I am praying for you!