I was 7 years old the first time I was sexually abused. What I remember, looking back, is the feelings of shame, confusion and fear.
My abuser was a trusted teen in my extended family, and I was shamed and confused as to what was happening and he placed fear in me of what would happen if I told anyone. So I didn’t.
The abuse continued until approximately a year later when in the safety of my bedroom, I told my mom what had been happening. It turned out that I was not the only one being abused but I was the first one to say anything. The details of what happened amongst the adults in my family is a part that is hazy but there was examinations, a group counselling session, and then a “forgive and forget, it’s over” mentality.
I don’t think at that young age I could process what it meant to forgive, never mind forget acts that left scars on my self-worth and on my heart. For most of my teenage years I just pushed it down the way I had seen those around me do. I carried around baggage of shame, not only for the abuse, but also for being the one who blew the whistle and forever changed my family. My parents offered me every support but looking back I just wasn’t ready to process that part of my life.
It wasn’t until my mid-20s when I realized that the lingering baggage was holding me back in my career and personal life. It was affecting my relationships in all aspects of my life including my marriage where I had different challenges due to my history of abuse.
My first step towards breaking this bondage was a personal ministry appointment of church. At this appointment I had the opportunity to walk through some of my hurts and struggles with a minister and I felt God speaking as to where he was in each situation where I was being abused.
I heard God speaking truth into my heart that this abuse did not define me.
I remember the minister giving me the opportunity to forgive my abuser in a way I never could have as a child. It wasn’t an overnight change but bit by bit I heard God speaking more of my identify in Him through bringing my abuse and abuser to Him.
Things were going alright until a couple years later when we heard that my abuser had been arrested for a sex crime.
This shook my world, as I was already in a vulnerable point in my career, and it brought my extended family and those who had been abused like me into a place of feeling re-traumatized. Now as adults we were seeing the events of our abuse as children in a new light. Suddenly the events that were “under the rug” were brought to light and those of us who were so young when we were told to “forgive and forget” couldn’t bear the thought that there was a new victim and many of us walked through our abuse once again.
This is when I was compelled to seek further counselling for both the new and old trauma. I found a Christian counsellor who walked me through a longer journey of letting go and finding peace with God in the storm.
One of the most impacting times during this season of walking through my abuse, was meeting with a pastor at our church who helped my husband and I discuss how the abuse had impacted our marriage. During this session he looked at me and told me that from talking with many of victims of abuse that everything I was experiencing was normal. The words that my experiences were normal brought me an incredible sense of peace.
The pastor also spoke of forgiveness and boundaries. He taught me that to forgive someone for how they have hurt me does not mean I have to let that person back into a place of trust in my life. This was so freeing and gave me the space to forgive while not putting myself into places where I didn’t feel safe.
My process of walking with God and learning who He says I am has gone hand and hand with regularly forgiving my abuser and has come along with the fruits of peace and joy in my life. I have been able to move out of the darkness of fear and shame, and have moved towards the life and light that I have in relationship with God.
Through this journey I have been able to acknowledge that being the one who brought the situation into the light wasn’t my shame to carry, regardless of how I felt people viewed me. I heard the truth that it was not my sin that caused a fracture in my extended family, and therefore not my weight to bear. The enemy planted that lie and it has weighed on me more than the actual abuse in different seasons of life, but through God’s grace He has spoken truth and I know I can stand up under that lie and stand in God’s strength against the enemy.
But regardless of all those things I wouldn’t say my struggle is over and is a continual process. I still see fractures in my extended family that I don’t know will be healed this side of heaven.
Throughout my life I have always felt like a puzzle piece that hasn’t quite fit and I have often felt like I have been on the outside watching all those around me having close friendships and relationships. This is one area I am still waiting on, knowing that I first need to rely on God to be my comfort.
When I was in my season of counselling, one of the songs that often played on the radio was Thrive by Casting Crowns. I cried out to God to just get me through that rough road where I was just surviving dealing with my abuse and now looking back I praise God that He has brought me to a place in the light where I get the chance to Thrive.
About the Author:
Because the author's abuser is free, she has decided to remain anonymous for safety reasons. But you should know, she is totally amazing, resilient, and strong.
If you would like to get in touch with her, send an email to email@example.com and it will be forwarded to her.