Thirty years ago this weekend, I was raped. Most days it feels like 30 years, and it honestly never crosses my mind. I'm thankful for that grace. But the truth is that if I do stop and think about it, I can still recall every single moment of that event. I can still smell the smells and hear the words and recall the fear. Our minds are crazy like that. We are hard-wired to remember. It's how we are created.
But remembering does not equal experiencing. That's important. I can remember and not be taken back to the hurt. I can remember and yet not be a victim anymore. I can remember and not be defeated. In fact, it's in the remembering that I have found the most victory.
Remembering increases my gratitude for the fact that I not only survived, but I have thrived. Remembering makes me more compassionate toward others who have experienced trauma. Remembering makes me more aware of the dangers of this world, but also makes me more aware of the beauty. Remembering makes me real, authentic.
I've heard many people over the years tell me "I just want to forget" when talking about trauma or hurtful things they've experienced. I get that. Truly I do. I felt that myself for a long time. And yet, trying to forget is futile. It's not possible. We can stuff it down and ignore it for a season, but eventually everything is going to come out. And usually, when we've tried stuffing our memories and feelings, the way it comes out is not healthy. But when we embrace the memories and sit with them, we can start to see that they have no hold over us anymore. And more importantly than that, we can start to see where the Lord can actually bring good from our deepest hurts.
Yes, I said good. What good can come from rape, you ask? Well, let me tell you. My rape has led to plenty of good in my life. For one, it's given me a platform to relate to a world that is hurting. No, not everyone is hurting because they've been raped or assaulted, but everyone hurts in some way. And because I've walked through some serious hurt, I can relate.
It's also led to some incredible friendships with people. When you have similar stories, you can really relate in a special way. I have so many deep friendships because of the shared experience of sexual trauma. I'm eternally grateful for those ladies in my life. I'm not sure I'd have the full healing I have if it weren't for some of you.
Rape has made me brave. Seriously. If I can get through this, I can get through anything. Sometimes I look in the mirror when I'm walking through a difficult season or even just a bad day, and I think, "you survived a rape. This day has nothing on you". But it's also made me more brave to put myself out there and tell my story. One thing is certain: I am not alone in this journey. Statistics will tell you that 1 out of every 4 women have experienced sexual abuse or assault in the US. So, I'm not walking this road alone. And yet, when you're walking it, that's just how you feel. Alone.
Sexual trauma has a way of cloaking you in shame. You can say to yourself all you want, "I'd never feel ashamed over something I didn't do", but until you've walked it, you'd be wrong in assuming that. Shame is a natural response to rape, and I wore it like a prized possession for longer than I ever want to recall. It ate away at my very soul, trying to destroy me completely.
God took what was shattered and made it my mission. He took was what broken and made it whole again. He took what I thought could never be redeemed and gave me a ministry to other ladies who've walked this journey. He took the scars that I have and made them memories of how far He's brought me, how much He has restored. He took what was meant to harm me and made it for good (Genesis 50:20).
Let me say this, on this 30th anniversary of my assault. There was a time when I thought this thing would beat me, would be the reason I chose not to continue living, the reason I'd never be worthy of a husband, the reason I'd never have children, the reason I'd never have joy again. There was a time when I let rape define ALL of who I was. There was a time when I chose to walk around in that cloak of shame as if I had no other option.
But that time is no more. Today, I can remember and rejoice- not because I was raped, but because I LIVE. I can rejoice not because I felt shame, but because I now FEEL FREEDOM. I can rejoice not because I experienced the bondage of refusing to forgive, but because I now feel the HOPE of letting go and letting God fight that battle for me. I can rejoice, not because I'm defined as a rape victim but as a CHILD OF GOD, fearfully and wonderfully made and loved wholly.
Friend, if your story involves sexual trauma (abuse, rape, assault, violence, or anything else!), let me assure you that healing is possible, and it's for you too. I remember today, and I may even grieve a little over what I lost that day long ago. But I'll also remember what I've gained, and I'll celebrate that forever.
If you need help dealing with trauma, please reach out. If you need help getting connected to a counselor, please contact me! If you just need a friend to walk the journey with you, I'd be honored to be that friend!
Peace and joy to you!
Happy 30 years to me!