Little girls and boys watch movies of princesses and princes; we all know the story…she is locked in a tower guarded by a fierce dragon. She sits upon the tower window looking over the kingdom waiting for the knight in shining armor to come and rescue her. Because what else would she be doing? Well, one day he comes… conquers the dragon, saves the princess and takes her off into the sunset. She is happy and fulfilled; everything in her life led to this moment.
It was HIM. HE CAME. “Now I am important!”
Is this real life?
Are we taught that it is?
Let me inform you now. This is not real, this is not the story we are meant to chase.
I chased that story.
I grew up knowing what a strong woman looked like. Bravery and courage was woven through the fabric of my single mother who did everything for us… I knew this well. I understood that I shouldn’t rely on a man. Although I knew all this, I still yearned for a man to save me from the dragon; to whisk me away and I would be his everything and he would be mine.
I found myself in college at 20 at the tail end of a very fun and light high school dating relationship. I still felt like something was missing. I met someone whom I thought was the real deal, the prince with the sword and shield.
I was wrong.
After a short honeymoon period, emotional manipulation, control, coercion, “ghosting” and sexual abuse became the average interaction. Eventually he raped me. You may be surprised to hear that many people assume the only way this happens is on a back alley on a city street. Which it absolutely does, but sometimes it’s right in someone’s college apartment or dorm with someone they trust, completely sober…someone others revere, respect and admire.
I believed my worth came from this man.
I believed my purpose came from his attention.
I believed my value came from his approval.
I believed my beauty came from his opinions.
I believed my existence was dependent on him being in my life.
This lasted a couple of years…Eventually it came to a head and my world crumbled. I did not fully understand what was going on. I numbed myself so much that I blocked out all feelings and memories. I was suicidal and deeply depressed. I had regular panic attacks throughout the day and night with little to no sleep. I struggled with under eating during stress in my past so by then I was less than 100 pounds and couldn’t eat. All I could do was hide and cry every day. My parents had no idea what was happening, they thought it was a really bad breakup and the pain of abandonment from my biological father bubbling to the surface.
As a last stitch effort to save my life, I withdrew from my college courses and checked into a treatment center.
In treatment I was put on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. I was scared of strangers and terrified of going to new places. I didn’t understand why. I didn’t know why I was so scared, so deeply afraid and on edge 24 hours a day. I spent 4 intense weeks in treatment. Counseling from 8 am till 5pm for 6 days a week. It was there that I first experienced hope. But here’s the kicker… the entire time I was there, I didn’t tell anyone what happened. The past couple years were a haze of darkness which clouded my mind day and night, I avoided that pit with everything I had.
I heard stories from people all over the world and found a safe, quiet space where I could leave my fears of the world outside the door. I left this God given gift with a sense of hope and promise. I started reading about God there and began to heal.
But then… as many women in abusive relationships, I returned to him.
It fell apart again, finally.
I had to return to school so I enrolled with a full load of credits and found two jobs. I had nothing else to do.
I had none of my own friends.
I had no identity.
I had nothing left inside me.
I was gutted.
I was an empty vessel who was extremely underweight, depressed and was terrified of everything and everyone.
I stumbled into a college ministry desperate and alone. My knuckles dragged, my bloody bag of emotional baggage slumped along the sidewalk behind me; my heart shattered and hardened like a broken slab of stone. Tears rolled down my face like the ocean waves exploding on the shore.
The sin from my past told my value;
I had none. My innocence, hope, and joy had been violently stolen from me repeatedly.
The pin drop sized hope I felt in treatment was still there. It was buried under a pile of ashes, broken glass, and a mountain of rubble. I knew I would have to scratch and climb myself out of that slimy, dark, dead pit until my hands and feet were bloody and my body fell apart. I had nothing to lose. I was already a shell of broken bones, weak muscles and sin. Deep sin. Sin that wove through every inch of me with rusty hooks at the end of muddy ropes wrapped around my soul.
“This is your fault.”
“You dated him.”
“He was nice sometimes!”
“You didn’t say no loud enough.”
“You didn’t scream.”
“You said yes at first.”
“He wouldn’t really do that.”
“You’re making it up, it didn’t really happen.”
“No one will believe you because that one person didn’t.”
“People like him!”
“You’ll never be wanted now.”
“He will get mad at you if you tell anyone, he will tell everyone you are a liar.”
“You. Are. Nothing.”
This voice was as loud as a hurricane, I was powerless and standing alone on the beach about to be swept up in the winds never to be seen or heard from again.
Then He showed Himself.
Every week at a local college ministry I cried in the back row until my head pounded and I dragged myself back to my apartment to fall asleep back into my nightmares. I would wake up sweaty and sobbing until I could force myself to go to class and work.
I dove in head first, went to every event, joined all the bible studies, never missed a week of church. I began to feel something. The powerful word of God spoke directly to me through the tender, calm and Christ filled heart of our incredible college pastor. God’s voice of HOPE clearly spoke through his words every Tuesday night. This saved me. I knew what he said was the only truth I needed; the “truths” my ex-boyfriend taught me were all LIES.
What was this?
Love? Hope? A sliver of peace?
When I came home from a mission trip, I opened up to a family member who is a Christian counselor. I told him how afraid I was on our travels. I was terrified everywhere we went. I stood close to the group and was holding back tears in fear of all the men I saw there; holding myself together with everything I had. I stuttered trying to explain what I could muster about my relationship…I didn’t quite understand or grasp what was happening. I was confused and couldn’t get my lips to speak the dark and shameful memories living in my head. With the little I could explain, he told me what actually happened. Sexual assault.
Nope. Not me. That couldn’t happen. Nope. Nope. Nope.
I clung to Jesus with everything I had. Only He could get me out of bed.
I soon met my now husband through church. A strong man of God who had a mess of life behind him as I did. We shared our hurts, pains and struggles together until it was clear he was my person and he was mine. The Lord used this incredibly patient and unwaveringly supportive man to start healing my heart. He saw ME, not what was done to me, not the sin and pain… he saw my heart.
A close friend knew my story and walked with me as I entered into marriage. Walking into marriage with rape in the past yields enormous and unique struggles with intimacy. She knew my heart and saw the pain I was in…attempting to have healthy sex life with my husband.
I had tried to share before. I was blamed and informed that it was my fault… I was told it didn’t really happen. I recanted my story when someone he knew confronted me. (Uncommonly known fact: under duress, assault victims commonly recant their experience). Even with people you think you can trust, if the truth is inconvenient…sometimes they don’t believe you. That experience stung me deeply, I didn’t want to tell ANYONE, ever again…but this time someone believed me.
She stepped out in a leap of faith and asked to do a guided healing prayer with me. I was unsure of how this would go. We sat for what felt like hours praying together. The most soul shifting moment was when she asked me to deeply tighten my eyes closed and take myself back to the moments I buried so deep into the basement of my mind. I reluctantly and fearfully did so. I imagined the room, the colors, the fabric around me, the smell, his body forcing himself on me. I angrily tried to remember everything I could. It didn’t take much to remember the pain, both physical and emotional. I sunk into my mind deeper and deeper remembering every detail of the all times this happened over the course of almost two years… tears flowed furiously down my neck, it all came flooding back.
“Now look carefully,” she said. “Jesus is there. What is he doing?”
I was already drenched in tears, but this did it. I lost control. I turned my gaze away from him and toward HIM. Jesus was sitting next to my window. All I could see was deep sadness in His eyes, He looked into my heart and soul, “I see you, my little girl. I know. I know this. I see. You are not alone. I see you. I will NEVER leave.”
He was weeping with me, unwaveringly he stared at me across this ugly room. His pure and unrelenting power pierced through the decay, the darkness, the sin… to look at me. Only. Me.
In that moment I felt God grab my being, my soul, all that was me. I felt His strong hand hold me, like a fist grabbing the sharp edge of a knife, His blood dripping down. He firmly grasped the barely there human that was afraid, exposed and alone. I went somewhere in that moment, I traveled to a place.
To grace. If it could be a location. That’s where I went.
I felt Him, I physically felt it all… His hand in my soul. Ripping me out of the muddy tattered and rusty ropes of sin that were tearing my soul into shreds. He pulled me up, out and into a space of peace that I never knew existed. I wept and wept in the arms of this incredible woman God so perfectly placed into my life. I’d never truly known love until this moment.
You are most ferociously loved than you could ever begin to fathom. Everyone has hurt people in many ways throughout life, you have caused pain and others have slighted you. That is one side of sin that we cannot avoid, our selfish human nature results in causing pain to others. Redemption in Jesus and His forgiveness gives us unwavering, firm and unconditional grace to move forward in wisdom.
We must take the ugly things and give Christ the permission to make something beautiful out of them, because that is what He does. In your gut, you know when a relationship is toxic and unhealthy, quit pretending you don’t…
You are worthy.
You are deeply loved by the God who created you.
You are special because He made you.
Nothing you will EVER do…NOTHING will ever change that. FOREVER.
No human man or woman for that matter… will ever “complete,” us. People try and try, they have breakup after breakup, marriage after marriage… seeking something they will never find in another human. Our souls were not designed to fulfill each other, it will never work. Don’t let the fantasies and stories of princesses fool you. We are His creation, we are designed to be fulfilled by Him… and only Him.
The scars of our pains will never leave us, not until Christ’s return but we can choose to look at His face daily. “Forgive and forget,” isn’t a thing. We can learn over time to forgive, but we never forget. Especially sexual abuse and assault. With that said, we must choose to seek His face daily to be reminded of our worth IN HIM, not in the eyes of our abusers. You CAN have a healthy and Godly sex life with your spouse, you CAN find healing and enjoy sex. It just takes time, patience, bravery and vulnerability to reach out for support.
My sweet sister or brother, thank you for reading my story. My prayer for you is that you can find hope in Him, remember… no human will ever satisfy our souls because we were delicately designed for our creator God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to bring light into our darkness. I pray you will take the time to sit in prayer and think about Jesus sitting in the room with you during the worst moments of your life. He is there. Always was. And He will be when more moments show up. He was weeping for you and for those who hurt you. You are seen, you are loved, you are cherished, you are important, you are His.
A friend who loves you.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Our anonymous writer is happily married with two beautiful children living in Ellensburg. She enjoys yoga, hiking and eating lots of cookie dough.
See? God makes messy things beautiful.
If you or someone you know needs help or has been affected by sexual assault, call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area. You can also visit online.rainn.org to receive support via confidential online chat.
The link below is an interview from respected leaders and women who have experience in navigating trauma and finding healing.