I am a female in my mid-20s, married, and working. I came to know the Lord personally in 2017 and am involved in children's ministry at church, as well as music ministry.
The Lord has definitely been carrying me through a BUSY season in my life, and I've been learning to accept His grace, even in my lack of consistency, and sometimes love, for Him. He's carried me through a stressful season of starting a new job, even as I learn all the new responsibilities of being a wife and supporting my husband. We're currently in a season where, outwardly, we're not DOING much ministry, but we are thankful to know that He has a purpose in every season and desires that we give Him glory, not just in the big things that we do, but in the small acts of faithfulness--honesty at work, loving our spouse, living a disciplined and self-controlled life, and spending quiet time with the Savior.
I am writing this story just to be an encouragement to others who have gone through the same things and who have also struggled in silence. It's confusing and hard in so many ways, and difficult to maneuver, especially when there is so much silence about abuse in the church.
I was five years old, and the abuse occurred in my home. It was my mom's best friend's husband. We were all in the living room talking, and my Dad had maybe just said a closing prayer. I think the family had been staying with us a while and was about to go back home. My mom's best friend's husband was sitting on the carpet while I was standing next to him in the living room. My parents were in the room, but on the other side, and preoccupied with talking to each other. The man reached up under the dress I was wearing and pinched my bottom. I looked at him in shock, and he smiled at me.
I didn't completely understand what had happened, but I knew that what had just happened was very wrong. I felt in that moment that I had been totally violated. It felt like a total invasion of privacy. I felt helpless and weak, like there was nothing I could do. I couldn't fight for myself against this adult who had crossed a line of trust. I felt powerless in that moment, realizing that I couldn't really do anything to help myself against this grown adult who had crossed that line. I felt voiceless, like I couldn't even fight, and there was nothing I could do. In my heart, I started to wonder, and even believe, that if someone could just DO something like that to me, that meant that I had very little worth.
The worst part is that the feeling of worthlessness carried over into youth, adolescence, and young adulthood. I struggled with sexual thoughts early in childhood, thoughts specifically concerning relationships between older men and younger girls. Oftentimes I wonder if it's because of what happened to me.
Starting at the age of seven or eight, I would check books out of the library, without my parents knowing, that involved older men having relationships with younger women. I struggled with sexual daydreams and fantasies that I felt like I couldn't control. And it was all a secret--no one knew. On the outside, I was the "good Christian girl," but all of these secrets heaped guilt and shame on my head, which only added to the feelings of worthlessness. This guilt and shame brought on labile emotions, anger issues, and an intense mistrust of all men, from the age of five onwards. My family had to deal with it all and just thought I was a "problem child."
When I was 13, I decided to tell my mother. The burden of the secret weighed down on me, and I needed to let it out. My two fears in telling someone were that a) I wouldn't be believed and b) I would be told it wasn't a big deal. These fears are what kept me from telling anyone for eight years. But no longer. I remember jumping up to sit on the kitchen counter. My mom was cooking dinner for us. With a trembling voice, I told her I needed to tell her something. She looked up at me from chopping vegetables, and I spilled it all. Who did it, what happened, and how it made me feel. The tears fell and I couldn't stop.
The worst part about it all was that, as I told my story, my mom looked away from me. She looked down while I cried. She didn't walk over. Didn't give me the hug I was longing for. Didn't hold me or tell me everything was going to be alright. She didn't say, "it's not your fault"--something I needed to know. She looked down, and she affirmed that my two fears were correct. She said, "That uncle was not doing anything bad. He was just being affectionate." She then said, "Things like this happen to everyone. You can't let it affect your life."
I was in total shock that my mom, a believer, and a woman who loved the Lord, would say these things. She rejected me when I was at my most vulnerable. When I needed comfort, love, and acceptance, I found none. When I needed to know that I wasn't dirty or polluted because of what happened to me, I instead found more guilt and shame. It was terrible. And she never told my father.
I told my father when I was 16 years old. His response was a little more comforting. He held me. He was angry--which I feel was the right response. But all the same, in some ways, just like my mom, he wanted to move on. It was probably too painful for them to accept, so maybe they believed the best solution was not to dwell on it. But it was something I had been dwelling on for 11 years, something that had shaped my mind and character. I needed intense therapy probably. I needed time to work through it. To talk through it. To find healing, slowly. But neither my mother nor father were willing to see my need for that. I think it was probably easier for them to just try to forget about it and not talk about it. And so I continued to struggle on my own.
My mom didn't believe me when I told her. She said that I was exaggerating what had happened and it was just an affectionate gesture. But even as a five-year-old, I felt like my nakedness and privacy had been invaded by a stranger. I saw the look in the perpetrator's eyes and felt dirty. My five-year-old innocent self was not creative enough to make up a moment like that. It was the truth, not an exaggeration. I felt that my purity had been stolen.
I believe that my mom spoke to her best friend about it years after I told her. She said that her best friend said that the perpetrator meant it as an affectionate gesture. This made the whole situation confusing to me. I felt guilt and wondered, "Did I maybe make it all up?" and "AM I over-exaggerating?" I remember when I was in high school, my mom said something along the lines of, "Because of your unnecessary drama, my relationship with my friend has been strained all these years!" And again, the guilt, feelings of worthlessness and confusion piled on again. Was I making it up? Was it all my fault?
As an adult, I understand the reason behind my parents' rejection a little better. In my parents' culture, silence is key. Bad things stay a secret, because bad things give you a bad reputation, and especially for a young girl, make you unmarriageable. The victims of abuse are often looked on as if they brought on the abuse, or as if it was somehow their fault. They are looked upon as dirty. I also believe that my mom saw abuse around her (and I believe, through brief stories she has shared, that her own brother sexually abused her sister when they were younger) in a very patriarchal culture in which males often abused and overused their authority, and she grew up with silence around abuse as a cultural norm. She and my father, in their response towards me, were behaving according to the habits they knew and the way they had grown up, unfortunately. They didn't respond to me through the lens of the gospel, but through the lens of the ways they had grown up.
I saw that uncle one more time during a family trip. We stayed at their house. I was fearful and anxious during the whole stay and made all efforts to stay clear of him. There were no incidents on that trip, and I never saw him again.
From the age of five, I struggled with sexual thoughts, dreams, fantasies, writing up stories, picking out highly sexualized books from the library, and later on in life, pornography. I struggled with an intense hatred and mistrust of men. In many ways, this protected me from physical impurity in relationships, but has been hard to work through in marriage. Feelings of guilt and shame come up in sexual relations with my husband, and we've had to work through that. I've had to learn to trust him--that he is not out to get me, that he has my best interests in mind, that he doesn't think less of me and doesn't want to take advantage of me--and that has been hard and taken time.
For a short while, I struggled with sexual attraction to women, because of the foundational belief I had developed that they were the only safe place and that men couldn't be trusted. I struggled with low self-esteem. I felt that I was worth very little if someone felt that they could do something like that to me. I felt like there was something wrong with ME, like maybe he picked me out because I was someone that was easy prey--someone who could be taken advantage of.
The guilt and shame, combined with feelings of worthlessness, have probably been the worst effects of the incident. In the eyes of many, I've accomplished so much in life, and yet I often struggle with feeling that I am nothing. And that things are "all my fault." They almost seem to be core beliefs I have about myself, beliefs I have to actively fight every day.
My only hope in all of this has been Christ. I will never forget what happened to me, and it will never completely stop affecting my life in ripples, whether big or small. I can't undo what happened. But I can find hope in Christ. I can find hope in what He's done for me by dying on the cross, giving His very life, to make me PURE. And so, every morning, I go to the Word and am reminded once again that I am PURE. I have to tell myself that every day. Every morning, I have to make myself believe it again, to fight the flesh that wants to condemn me, that wants to tell me that I am worth nothing. Some days, especially days when I'm not in the Word, the flesh wins, and the feelings of despair and hopelessness come up again. In those moments, when I feel like I'm drowning, when I feel so sad that I want to end my life, I cling to Christ, and I find stability. I find hope.
He is the boat in the sea that I latch onto. He calms the waves in my heart. He reminds me that He loves me, that He cares, that He listens, and that He will carry me through. He reminds me of my Kingly status, in Him, as His child. He reminds me that this world is not my home, and that suffering is an expected part of sin in this life, BUT one day, I'll be with Him, with no tears and no sadness. And I'll worship Him in a perfect body that has no sin--that has no feelings of worthlessness or sadness or despair--just perfection and hope and joy. He has saved me, He has brought me worth, and He has given me purpose beyond my own life and circumstances, purpose to live for Him and for His glory. He is a good God, and I love Him so much. To be honest, I don't know how I could have recovered from this incident without the love, forgiveness, and the clean slate I have found in Christ. I have so much hope in the home beyond this world. It gives me strength to face each day on earth with joy.