When I was 13, my sister had her first child. I was so very excited, and was eager to babysit. My sister and I were not close, but she was newly married and living in a nice home with a new baby, so I was hoping to get closer to her by babysitting. Unfortunately, her husband had the same idea, about getting close to me. He slowly began to build a relationship of trust and kindness with me, in order to get close to me. Next thing I knew, he was grabbing my butt one day, as I was holding his infant daughter, and my sister was not around. I was as shocked as I could be, and just stood there stiff as a board, afraid to move, unsure if what happened was even real. You see, when you are a victim of sexual abuse, you do whatever you can to cope with it, and make it less real, or even OK.
There is nothing OK about sexual abuse, yet it happens every single day in our world, and most of the time it is perpetrated by those we know, trust, and even love most often. It is a sad fact that 4/5 of sexual abuse is committed by someone the victim knows. What my brother in law did that day was just a small step in the abuse that he was setting up through a trusting relationship. I was scared to death to tell anyone, so I endured more advances, that thankfully never got any worse than that. I told myself it was best to keep it a secret, lest I hurt my sister or disturb their marriage. I was not going to cause any problems for her, especially now that she was in my life again after many years of being gone.
These are some of the lies sexual abuse victims tell themselves, in order to get through. If we make it our fault, or make it OK, then it isn’t really abuse, and it’s not really that bad. Sexual abuse is bad, and it tears the soul of the victim to pieces. It violates them in ways that break them to the core, and turn them into someone they were never created to be. Sexual abuse is not just about being raped or molested. Many people often don’t realize that sexual abuse also includes inappropriate touch; including over clothing, showing sexual pictures or objects, talking about sexual things, getting undressed in front of you or asking you to undress in front of them, showing parts of their body or offering to, taking pictures of a person undressing or showing pictures of themselves naked or undressing. These things most commonly are sexual abuse when it happens between a child and an adult, but it can also be between peers.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Things like this happen to people all the time, and it makes them feel violated and uncomfortable, but they do not think it is sexual abuse. So they try to brush it under the rug or forget about it, in order to cope with it. Maybe in their home it is even normal, and they don’t know anything different. I had an “uncle” who would tickle me every time he saw me. I hated it more than anything, and dreaded seeing him. It made me feel wrong and ashamed and he did it for years. My parents never said a word about it, and it seemed like it was supposed to be totally acceptable. Except for the way it made me feel. Dirty. That is abuse.
There are many other people who are holding on quietly to secrets of sexual abuse from their past. Maybe it was from a relative or a neighbor or a babysitter or even a boyfriend/girlfriend. Sexual abuse leaves many to keep their dirty little secrets in shame, shoving them deep down until they don’t have to face them anymore. The problem is, even though you shove that pain and the memories into the depths of your subconscious, the effects of the abuse lasts a lifetime. Especially when you never deal with the pain and begin to heal it. When I was 14, my first boyfriend raped me. We had a very sweet and innocent relationship, until he decided he was tired of being a virgin. I had no interest in sex, but I loved him. He made me feel loved for the first time in my life. I told him I did not want to have sex, but those words fell on deaf ears.
He made a plan to come to my house early one morning while my parents were at work and we were off from school. He tried taking my clothes off and was chasing me around my small duplex. I resisted the best I could, but eventually I gave in. I told myself it was OK, because I loved him. I knew it wasn’t OK, because I felt violated and hated every second of it. But I had to make it OK enough to survive it. He loved me and I loved him, so it would all be OK. I was so desperate for love and affection. So broken and alone. It happened over and over again for many more months, until I finally broke up with him. I did everything I could to put it behind me, and tell myself I was “over it”. That is until I ran into him about 10 years later in a movie theater one day. I was with my two young sons; he was with his girlfriend. I was sick and disgusted, and when I got home I broke down completely.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9
After years of telling myself I was over it, and it would be OK, I came face to face with the harsh reality of the pain and the trauma that came out of the abuse. I did not want to call it abuse, or see it as abuse, but that is exactly what it was. I was so busy seeing it as dirty and ugly and hiding from it, I could not possibly heal from it. This abuse continued to haunt me for years, as I tried to just cry it out and move on, hoping the wounds would just heal up magically. Sexually abuse kills the soul and deadens a person and their ability to love, feel, give and receive intimacy. It skews their perceptions of pleasure and leaves them unable to create healthy boundaries for themselves. It leaves them full of depression, despair, hopelessness, shame, anxiety, fear, contempt, powerlessness, and so much more. These things weave their way into their lives coming out in belief systems and behaviors. Sexual abuse is never the fault of the victim, yet most often it is the victim who takes the responsibility on for the abuse.
The sexual abuse I experienced there set me up for years of sexual abuse throughout my life. Once you become a victim of sexual abuse, especially as a child, you become promiscuous, sometimes even having sex at a very young age. I allowed myself to be used by many guys for their sexual purposes during my teens years, in hopes that I would get love and affection in return. The lines between sex and love were blurred as I believed that giving myself sexually equaled love. I even put myself in dangerous situations, such as walking down the street in the middle of the night, looking to get into the car of anyone who would stop. I was so desperate for love and I believed that love and pain were the same. To receive love and approval I needed to subject myself to hands of abuse. So that is what I did, time and time again until it finally stopped when I met my current husband. He has treated me with nothing but respect. Unfortunately the abuse I endured has caused so much pain and mistrust, it has caused many problems in our relationship as well. I knew I had problems, but I was helpless to do anything about it.
I am now in a class for women who were sexually abused as children. This class, (called Wounded Heart, after the workbook), has been a big help for me to understand more about sexual abuse, and the lasting effects it has had on my life. I am on a path of healing, and learning more about who I am and why I am that way. I did not come to this class because of the sexual abuse I have talked about in this post, but because of the sexual abuse I endured as a child. I was molested, sodomized and raped as a child, in the Mormon Church. The abuse was so terrifying that I completely blocked it from my conscious mind. This class has been an outlet for me to connect with other women who have been abused and can understand the heart wrenching pain and anger that I have been in as I allow Jesus to come in and heal me. I really wanted no part of this class in any way, because I wanted to stay alone in my shame, but I stepped out in faith to try it.
The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
A class alone, nor a workbook, are going to heal a heart torn apart by sexual abuse. Only Jesus Christ can heal wounds that run this deep. Yet I would highly recommend a class of this nature to any man or woman who has been the victim of sexual abuse. You need to know that you are not alone. The devil wants you to continue to hide and feel ashamed or at fault, because then he has you right where he wants you. But if you expose those dark places to the light of Jesus, you will see that there is indeed hope there. I know you may have lost all hope, or maybe like me you have convinced yourself it never happened, or that it wasn’t that bad. I am here to tell you that as bad as it feels right now, there is healing for you. If Jesus can redeem my pain and hell, then he can absolutely redeem yours. There is nothing too big for God, the author of all healing.
I have been where you are, and while I am not completely on the other side of it yet, I can see the other side of it. There are days when the pain seems like more than I can bear. There are days when I am so angry all I can do is yell. But that is OK. The fact that I have been willing to see my abuse and ask for help is the biggest step any of us will ever take. I invite you to do the same. You are not walking this out alone. You are not a nameless and faceless person on the other end of a computer screen. You are very real, and your pain is completely valid. Jesus knows it, and He has felt ever bit of it with you. He has mourned the loss of innocence and felt the sting of shame. If you would be willing to step out and allow Him in to it, I can guarantee you, He will heal it. It may not be as fast as you want, or in the way you desire, but He will heal you. Not only will He heal you, He will redeem you. Please, take a chance, and ask Him in. And remember, I am here for you too.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.