Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Dear Younger Me: An Assault Survivor's Journey Through Healing

Fall is a busy season for me.  Work is busy, ministry is busy, my family is busy. We have been running around from here to there every day this month.  So it's been easy to push aside a pending date.  A date that could be a big deal but also could be shoved to the side fairly easily, since there are so many people who don't even know. 

However, in this season of life I am more than for transparency.  In this season, this busy season, I am so for the scary share. In this social and political climate, I am so for telling the story about the day, ten years ago last week, that a man forced his way into my home and violated me.

Ten years ago, I was the single momma of an almost one-year-old little boy.  Struggling to work it all out, I spent most days wondering how I would ever do all the things that required two parents as just one.  On this particular weekend, my son was out of town with his dad.  I was working a big event for my job, an event that left me exhausted on a Saturday night in October.  All my friends were going out on the town, but I was tired and reluctant to go.  "Just come out for one drink," they pleaded. "You don't have to stay out all night." So, I dragged myself out for "one drink." The bar was loud; there were so many people there. For a while I tried to be in the moment--it was a night free from the obligations of motherhood. I should enjoy myself.

However, as this night wore on, there was a guy that just wouldn't quit.  He was not in the business of hiding his interest in me, and I was not in the mindset to fake my interest in him.  Finally, after multiple attempts to shake him off, I decided to just leave. I was tired anyway.  Here's where I made a mistake. I told this man that I was tired from a long week and day of work and was headed home. I didn't want to hurt his feelings, so I played the "it's not you it's me" card and made my way to my car. In hindsight, I would have been more aware, but who would have known the next series of events?

This man followed me to my townhouse. I was completely unaware. He knocked on my door and I, unaware and naive, answered it. This man, despite much begging and pleading from me, raped me in my cute little yellow townhouse, where I lived with my ten-month-old. There on the stairs in my home, I was violated and robbed of any peace of mind a single 25-year-old woman could have. 

So why now? Why should I share this now?  Ten years seems like a big anniversary to me. Most ten-year anniversaries are celebrated with jewelry or a big vacation, popping the cork of a well-aged bottle of champagne. Last weekend I didn't have time for all of that. But today, in celebration of surviving all that your body, soul and mind go through after a rape, I want to share what God has taught me through this. I want to impart wisdom given to me through this terrible event.

1. Be Aware: Ladies, daughters, teens and girls.  Be aware of your surroundings and what you
say. Rape is never the fault of the victim, but you may be able to protect yourself from this happening if you are aware of what is going on around you, and aware of what you say and give away in conversations.  You cannot be too aware of what you say or do--maybe ever.

2. Tell Someone Right Away! Afterwards, I was literally in shock. I was so shocked that I showered and went to church first thing the next morning. Throughout service I began to shake violently. I couldn't stop crying. Even through lunch at my parents' house, I was just crying. My dad was leaving on a business trip; they had so much going on and had already done so much for me. I just couldn't tell them. I was frozen in time. Finally, a friend convinced me to go to the hospital. There they completed a full rape kit, which was like being violated again. HOWEVER, this man's DNA is forever in the system. If this ever happens again, the report will come up and he will be held responsible for his actions. Tell someone. Don't hide. They will help you. I had three friends who rallied with me that day. One took me to the hospital, one picked my son up and brought him home, and one stayed with me. I was so scared to tell; it was so hard. I get it, but telling is a part of the healing process. You must process or you will not heal. I am forever thankful for the women who came alongside me during this time. It has actually taken years for me to tell my parents. It was so hard, but once I did, I felt more free. You can do it.

3. It's Not Your Fault and It's Never Ok: We have a candidate running for office that has bragged about violating women. We also have another candidate whose husband violated women while in office.  This is not okay.  No man should ever be trained up or told that this behavior is her fault, not his. That she shouldn't have worn that dressed or kissed him that way. That she really wanted this. No woman wants this. It's not okay, and it's not your fault.  Anyone who says so is wrong and also needs help. Let us commit to raising up our boys and girls to understand the difference and act accordingly.

4. Healing Will Come: Ten years later, God has healed this hurt. Actually a number of years ago, God worked in my life to show me how He cared for me during this time. For a number of months after this event, I hit rock bottom and stayed there. Without a child to care for, I don't know what would have happened to me. Somehow, some way, down in the deepest darkest place of my heart, I found some light and God lifted me up. It took years after that to process what had happened and to allow myself to heal and feel safe again.  I moved, which helped.  I realize we can't all move, but before I moved, I completely changed my furniture, my sheets, my home layout, even my hair. I then changed my heart and sought the Lord with my sorrow.  Again, this took a lot of time and processing and some therapy, but it happened. (This falls under the stages of grief.) I also have some PTSD. I cannot watch rape scenes on TV or in movies.  The word "rape" makes my ears burn. These are things I can't stop, but I do not let them run my life. I can only say, God cares. He sees you in your hurt, and He will love you through this if you'll let Him.

5. Overcome Evil with Good: If you have been raped, may I give us all a pep talk? It's easy to stay in the place of pain and sorrow over this, to live in the shadow of shame, and to protect ourselves from the hardship of sharing our stories. I encourage you to seek healing so that you can, in turn, share your story. Why share your story? To prevent and to empower. My prayer is that, through hearing this story, a man might think twice before making a crude remark about rape or assault. Maybe a girl will put her head up when walking to her car and prevent an attack. There might be a woman reading this right now who has been living with shame from a rape that was never her fault. Maybe she will be freed in these words, knowing there are others of us out there. Evil must not win here. God can prevail in the stories of survival and healing. I am no longer a victim of this; ten years later, I am empowered and free. I pray this for all of us.

It's not that I don't have hard days, but they are few and far between now. I am married with three boys and a life that I could never have dreamed up in a million years. I know that's not the case for all of us, and this life did not come easy.  Yet I am more than thankful to sit on this side of the computer, telling you the hard truth about sexual assault and encouraging you to share and to fight for women across the world who are hidden in the shame of this terrible act of selfishness. There are many ways to stand up to sexual violence:

1. Teach your daughters the dangers and how to be aware.  Open the line of communication so
    that if, God forbid, anything ever happened to them, they would come to you for help and
2. Teach your sons to respect women always. That no means no no matter what.  Train them up
    to know that violating a woman is never ok. Ever.
3. Support a local abuse victims program. (Here in KC we have Hope House.)
4. Let it reflect in your vote. (Prayerfully consider your candidate, is all I can ask.)
5. Be aware of your surroundings. Be aware of the words of others.  Be aware that this is not a problem that is going away.  Guard yourself and impart wisdom on the children, teens and singles in your life.

Finally, I want to say to men: if you have committed an act of sexual assault or sexual violence, there is healing and hope for you at the cross, too. There is healing for you there. God forgives. You just have to be willing to admit your sins and ask for His forgiveness. I have forgiven my attacker and hope he has repented and changed his ways, or will do so. My true prayer is that no other woman would fall victim to his attack again. 

This was a hard blog to write. I ask that only words of encouragement for myself and others who have fallen victim to this terrible act be written in the comments.  I do not share this for sympathy; I share it to empower.  Please help me celebrate my ten-year anniversary by sharing this, so that others may hear and know.  Here is a song that I have been listening to and thinking about the healing that has accured for me over the past 10 years, maybe it will help you too:

God made us beautifully in His image. He is the Great Physician who loves us dearly, and He alone can heal all the hurts.

Much love,


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