I am a 25-year-old female, currently married, and working. My relationship with God has been a roller coaster. Occasional doubts and fears hinder my walk with Christ once in a while, and right now, I am trying to balance my relationship with God with marriage, work, and other responsibilities. My husband and I are currently Sunday school teachers in the Christian community.
The reason I have decided to share my story now is because, growing up, no one ever talked about sexual abuse. It is considered very taboo to talk about this subject, or even sexual intimacy in general. Then, the young women in our communities are pressured to get married by a certain age, and all of a sudden, the expectation is to have sex without even having a healthy view or understanding of what God created sex to be. I know too many people who are suffering the consequences of sexual abuse right now. Our community has pushed this topic under the rug for so long, and we just can't push it away any longer.
I was younger than ten years old. I can't even remember exactly how old, because I have repressed these memories for so long, but I believe I was between the age of eight and ten years old. The first time I was sexually abused was by a traveling evangelist. He came to stay in our home, and my parents asked me to take a cup of tea to his room. When I arrived at his door, he asked me to stand in the far corner of the room where nobody could see, and touched me inappropriately everywhere. I didn't know what was happening, because this was the first time anyone had ever touched me that way. Because I didn't know what to do, I just stood there, my heart racing, and I remember feeling so uncomfortable. Ten to fifteen minutes in, my mom called me, so I was able to leave the room.
I never told anyone until I was 16 years old. I told my best friend everything that happened--she asked if I wanted to tell anyone, and at that point, I did not want to. She was a constant source of support and encouragement. I also told my husband when we were dating. I didn't tell him who the perpetrators were, but I told him every detail that happened, because I felt it was important for him to know before we entered marriage.
My best friend's and my husband's responses were very supportive. My best friend was the one who helped me unload this burden while I received four years of counseling in college. My husband was not angry, but sad for me. He wished I never went through this, and we have had several conversations ever since I first told him, so that we could process the repercussions of my abuse together.
The second instance was when I was 13 years old. My brother and I were left with an older cousin who was 26 years old at the time. My cousin would consider himself a Christian and was also a church member. He told us to take a nap, and once my brother was asleep, he started to touch me inappropriately. Again, I didn't know what to do. When it started getting worse, I ran away into the dining room. He asked me to come back and take a nap, promising that he would stop. But I kept saying no and started crying. At that moment, we heard the garage door opening, a sign that my parents had come back home. At this point, he told me, "Please don't say anything."
The third time I was sexually abused was by a family member who was in his twenties, and also a member of my church. This abuse lasted for six years from ages 13 to 18 years old. The first time it happened, all of my family members were sleeping in the same room. Again, as soon as everyone was asleep, he began to inappropriately touch my genital area. At this point, I knew about sex because of health education at school, but I still didn't know how to react because no discussions were ever had about this type of sexual abuse. He wasn't attacking me or raping me, so I continued to let him pleasure himself by touching me. The reason this continued on for six years is because it was a family member, and I didn't want to stir up trouble. He knew that he could get away with this because he knew I wouldn't dare say anything to hurt my own family members. I continued to experience an impending doom of what was going to happen every time I knew I had to see this family member.
Because I was introduced to sex at such an early age in the form of sexual abuse, I began to explore my sexuality in high school. There were some instances where my attitude towards men was "please don't touch me," but because this was done to me by men who called themselves Christian believers, I no longer believed that sex was something that needed to be honored. I became sexually involved with boys that I dated. I went down a path of dating so many men and explored my sexuality more than most girls in my community probably have in high school.
After four years of counseling, I finally realized that my actions were a consequence of the abuse I suffered. Working with my counselor was the hardest thing I have ever done. We had to work through my intimacy issues and how I often threw myself into sexual relationships because I never learned how to say "no."
When I got married, I didn't know how to be sexually intimate with my husband. It was not fair to my husband, and it was not fair to me. I feel like my extensive abuse took away from the beauty of what God designed sex to be, and it was a hollow experience. On our wedding night, after we had sex for the first time, I knew right away something was wrong, and I told my husband, "This was not how this was supposed to be."
1. To the church leadership: You might think it's not happening, but it's happening, and has happened to people around you. I want to warn all of you by saying that you HAVE to be a church that's willing to talk about this issue. I ask you to be a church that is open to those who are hiding in the hurt and are bruised--not just a church that is open to "saints," because none of us are.
2. To families: If this happened to your sister, your brother, your daughter, or to your son, accept them, and don't judge them by saying that this is their fault. Just listen to them, and be there for them in any way you can to protect them.
3. To victims: I stand with you, and I believe you. God is right there by your side.
A verse that brings me great comfort is Isaiah 43:2: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you pass through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned. The flames will not set you ablaze."