Rape left a jagged wound on my life, but through the media bombardment since the horrifyingly lenient sentence for Brock Turner, God has been reminding me how He has used my darkest story to minister to brutally wounded girls.
Even though I’m reliving bits and pieces of my own story, I can’t look away. Its like I’m standing in solidarity with her by acknowledging the truth of her story; she was not exaggerating, not being dramatic, not lying.
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So, I’ve quietly read the articles and the letters: first, from his victim, trying not to let her eloquent words reach too deeply so I don’t break down three feet from where my daughter is playing cowgirl.
Then I read the plea from his father who said his son didn’t deserve to have his whole life ruined.
and I tried not to let anger consume me, knowing I need Jesus every bit as much as Brock Turner does.
But he stuffed pine needles and other foreign objects inside her. . .
. . . and I mentally inhale as if icy water has shocked my flesh.
It wasn’t sex. It was power. He sat over her and gratified every sick and twisted desire he could until he was caught.
A lot of experts can spout statistics and theories, but I can tell you, even when it’s two kids kissing, and the boy gets ‘carried away’, it’s still rape; it’s still about power. It is ‘I can’t control myself, so I’ll control you instead.’
I’ve tried to tell myself I don’t need to tell my story, but I really, really do, even though it breaks my heart.
Because this is one way I can reach into the silent scars we carry, and bring the discussion into our schools, our homes, and our churches.
It is a forever kind of hurt.
A boy my dad didn’t like, didn’t like the word no. I was so innocent I didn’t even understand what he wanted as he roughly forced me around the car in our high school parking lot between ninth period and badminton try-outs.
To this day, I don’t know why I didn’t fight him harder; I felt disconnected and frozen. When I finally controlled my panic, I gathered all my strength, pushed him and screamed; he stopped.
I was bleeding from where he stole my virginity, but later he left a note in my locker saying nothing had happened, calling me a crazy liar.
I thought it was my fault because I had wanted this cute, popular boy’s attention. And I liked kissing him; maybe it was my fault for kissing him.
The secret places inside my head held that spaghetti ball of lies and guilt and shame for a long time.
My life kept moving forward, but in my immaturity I believed the rape had destroyed my entire identity as a Christian because I lost my purity. (The church’s silence on this issue to our youth is deafening.)
I can’t erase the image of the well-meaning youth pastor demonstrating how sex binds us together with two pieces of glued construction paper, which ripped as he peeled them apart, shards of my pink innocence stuck to the black.
I was supposed to wait until marriage. Wasn’t I supposed to stop him!?
Well, I felt ruined now, dirty and used. The rape shredded to tatters the scrappy remnants left of my self-esteem after years of rampant, vicious bullying.
My sense of self had forever become compromised around men. Rape victims often respond by avoiding all male contact or seeking more male attention, craving protection or becoming promiscuous to lessen the pain somehow by desensitization.
I had the attitude of why wait now? Look what NO had done. If I said yes, at least I wouldn’t be raped again.
But I was, in college, because the college rape culture was (IS) so extreme that drunk meant it didn’t matter, “I’m so drunk . . .” was the 80s equivalent of “What happens in Vegas . . .” (shouldn’t this have changed by now?)
Movies like “The Accused” tried to start the conversation about changing the way we legally and culturally approach rape, but it was so horrifying to watch the way she was re-victimized by the legal process and the press, that I knew I’d never be able to press charges.
So I lived with this albatross of rape hanging around the recesses of my mind. Believing I was worthless, I sought relationships that treated me cheaply. I lived with cruelty and even abuse, afraid I’d never be loved.
Every relationship I had after rape, was shaped by the wounds. Sex was forever razor-wire tied to hurt, rejection, abandonment.
I didn’t get help for a long time, when I did, it wasn’t enough. Therapy taught me the words ‘it wasn’t your fault’ but couldn’t make them ring true in my heart.
And that’s why I have to tell my story.
Because 30 years later we’re still having this conversation.
We have to start acknowledging, publicly and legally and spiritually, that sexual assault affects every minute of our lives after it. We’ve got to learn to give our girls (and boys) ways to peel it all back as far as it goes, and really deal with it.
Especially as the church.
We need to do a better job of preparing our youth for sexuality: controlling strong physical urges, taking responsibility, maintaining accountability, respecting themselves and each other, seeking God before any pleasure of this world.
The church also needs to vocally reach out to other victims and survivors, protecting them and validating them, and giving them back an identity even better than the one they lost.
Because there is hope in Christ, even after rape.
Even though I still hurt, I know God is slowly helping me heal, by renewing my worth in Him, by exposing my hurts to the Sonlight.Therapy taught me the words, 'It wasn't your fault' but couldn't make them true, only Jesus did. Click To Tweet
Today, I know that nothing in my life was wasted.
Romans 8:28 ESV And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
God took terrible events that happened because of the lost nature of this world and used who I am to help others.
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I have been able to help reach into the broken lives of many young women because I understood. One student couldn’t even tell me what had happened as she cried in my classroom, tears spilling onto a missed spelling quiz.
I looked into her eyes and just knew. By showing I did understand, she was able to finally talk about it with me and her counselor, and eventually the police. She was safe that night for the first night in four years, and so was her eight year old sister.
If I hadn’t been there . . .
Would I change what happened to me knowing all the girls who have needed my understanding in the years since?
No, I really wouldn’t.
God has given me this incredible ability to persevere and used this experience as a witness and testimony to the healing power of God.
I wouldn’t have had the bravery to share this before. But now I know I don’t have to cling to the shame of this. My poor decisions didn’t give anyone the right to hurt me.
I still have moments that it hurts. I look at my beautiful daughter and worry that she is too pretty, too friendly. It’s not fair that I have to prepare her for the violence sin perpetuates in this world.
I’ll do my best to teach her how to be safe, but I can’t be there for her every minute, only God can, and I know nothing will ever happen to her that He can’t heal if she surrenders it.
And that is my last point. No one and nothing is beyond God’s redemption. His word is full of redemption stories, even murderers who God mightily used after their repentance.
The next step of my healing is learning to pray for the boys like my attackers, like Brock Turner. There is peace in the forgiveness that comes when I can pray for the salvation of those who hurt me.
They are not beyond His love and healing either, though their earthly consequences may continue, like mine do. God can offer peace and healing if they come repentant and humbled as I once did.
The church needs to take that message to them, too.
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