God wants you to do this.

Date uploaded: October 23, 2019

I am a female, 18 years old, and currently a full-time freshman in college. The reason I am sharing my story is because I want to be able to help others. For a while, I was ashamed and hated this part about me, but God placed this in my life for a reason. He gave me a trial to set me as an example of His love to everyone--that even someone as "damaged" as I was could be loved with an everlasting love. I want other girls to know that it's okay, they are loved, they are not alone, and they have a voice.

I was around five years old. It went on for around two years, and it was a distant family member. I didn't fully understand what was going on, but he kept telling me, "God wants you to do this, if you love God you'll do this." I was confused, but most of all I felt dirty and used, like trash. At family parties, instead of going to hang out with my cousins, I clung to my parents in order to hide from him.

I avoided him at all costs. In order to do that, I stopped talking to my cousins and only talked to my parents when he was around. My clinging to my parents when he was around proved to be effective in stopping the abuse. Eventually, I think he forgot about me, what he did, and who he did it to. I didn't tell anyone for seven years. I had flashbacks--night terrors, you could call them. I felt it happening over and over again. I felt dirty. There were so many nights where I couldn't sleep, just praying to God to give me someone to talk to, or to take it away--the memories, everything. At one point, I knew I had to tell someone, so I sat my older cousin down and told her that he kissed me, not wanting to go into detail for fear that she would judge me. But I eventually told her everything.

My cousin told me that I needed to tell my family, but I didn't want to. It wasn't until a couple of months later when my brother caught me crying, that I told him what had happened. He then told my mother, and she told my father. None of them questioned me once, especially when I was most vulnerable. If anything, they were upset that I hadn't said anything. I'm unbelievably blessed to have them in my life, because they were a major part of the healing process. It wasn't exactly a coverup, but because it was over seven years later, there was simply nothing we could have done realistically to press charges--I didn't want to, either. I knew the talk would be, "It happened seven years ago, she could just be making it up or have dreamt it," and I never wanted my family to go through that stress.

This affected me in a lot of ways. I hated this part about me. I felt used and filthy. It wasn't until about two years ago that I could comfortably talk about it, and to this day, I wouldn't openly talk about it in the Christian community, knowing the stigma around it. I was terrified of men; I thought any guy who was older than me was exactly like that. It was constantly in the back of my mind that if a guy knew about this side of me, he wouldn't want to marry me. I'm not pure. Since others never talked about their experience with sexual abuse, I thought I was the only one going through it and felt so alone. At that point in my life, I just wanted to rid myself of those memories.

Today, I can fully say I'm okay. I pray for him, that God has created a change in his heart, because He created a change in mine. My faith has been a long journey with God constantly reminding me that I need to rely on Him, and not on myself. It took me 18 years of lessons to get to where I am, and I'm still not quite where I want to be yet. I love the Lord, but I want to love Him even more, and emulate who He is through my actions.

If there's anything I have learned from this, it's that no matter how disgusted and guilty and filled with shame I felt, Christ felt that and more on the cross. I got a taste of it. Maybe I didn't deserve it, maybe I did, but I learned, and got a taste of what he endured--not the physical pain, but the emotional toll. I learned that I'm not alone. Opening up about this has only provided me with blessing--being able to connect and encourage other girls who are currently going through what I went through in the past. And this conversation needs to be encouraged. Growing as a Christian community means allowing each other to open up about internal struggles, no matter how "uncomfortable" it makes us feel. We grow together, encourage one another, and love one another, together bringing God the glory.

*Please note, all photography here is stock and is not meant to portray the likeness of any victim. All efforts have been made to protect the privacy of those who bravely submit their stories.

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