My story of childhood sexual abuse began at the age of nine and ended over three years later when I was twelve. The perpetrator, my father, abused his role of protector and taught me, without having to say a word, to fear and stay silent about anything I didn’t understand. As a result, until recently, anxiety has been a constant factor in my life.
I also learned that my feelings, desires, and instincts didn’t matter; after all, bad things happened to me regardless of what I wanted or did to avoid them. The disconnect between reality and my conscious thoughts about the abuse became somewhat skewed.
Defense mechanisms are a God-given way for us to protect ourselves from the consequences of trauma in a sin-shattered world. However, if relied on for too long, at a young age, those techniques can become a problem in and of themselves. In my case, I became confused about the original purpose of my preferred method of protection – hiding, until I lost myself.
On one hand, I dealt with the situation by not thinking about it as much as possible. When that wasn’t possible, I tried, with varying degrees of success, to pretend that I wasn’t there. Kind of like the ostrich with her head in the sand, I tried to disappear, even if only mentally.
As a naturally compliant child and people-pleaser, I couldn’t admit to anyone, myself included, that anything was wrong because that was… unthinkable. How could I possibly begin to admit that this situation I couldn’t control existed, to myself, let alone anyone else? That included God; I never even asked Jesus to make what I couldn’t think about… go away.
But go away it did.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61: 1-3)
One day I finally spoke up. I distinctly remember the moment I found the courage to come out of hiding. God used an image on a television program about incest to unlock the part of my heart and mind that had been keeping me voiceless.
The ongoing reoccurrence of the actual events ended, and while that was certainly a relief, the mental and emotional effects lingered and deepened. I now know that deep-seated feelings of not being “worth it” or “enough” were most likely the reason I hadn’t, or couldn’t, reach out for help.
So when the abuse I had spent over three years pretending wasn’t happening suddenly and silently ended, life seemed to go on as though nothing had occurred. But it had… and deep inside me the person who had been sleeping began to wake up to the fact that she had been wronged.
It was a painful but essential process. I needed to acknowledge that I had been sinned against so I could go to my Heavenly Father to receive the wonderful gifts that He had waiting for me – gifts of healing that led to wholeness and learning to trust again.
It is only recently that I have begun to write about my story of being abused. But because I have first-hand knowledge of the love of Jesus Christ to heal a broken heart, I feel compelled to reach out to others who may feel lost and hopeless in their own pain. It is my hope and prayer that the recounting of my story will help point other hurting hearts to the only real source of healing… Jesus Christ.