Over the past few years, God has opened up conversations with several friends, in which I have gained a glimpse into the devastation of sexual abuse. There is nothing like knowing a friend is struggling with what cannot be undone. Such a helpless place to be.
Sadly, the current statistics now claim that 1 in 3 females are victims of sexual abuse. And those are merely numbers of those who eventually tell. Sexual abuse is a highly secret pain, one that stays buried as long as it can, but often seeps out onto the surface of life as adults grow older.
My heart’s desire in this space, is to encourage those of you who have been torn apart by the shame and breath-taking pain of sexual abuse. I know that your memories are difficult, and this makes every-day functioning of marriage, sexuality and mothering, difficult too.
And maybe you have never told anyone.
Today, I want to introduce you to someone who may encourage you, if you are wrestling through the aftermath of childhood victimization. Mary de Muth has become a well-known speaker in the Christian realm, courageously sharing her story of childhood sexual abuse. And an equally powerful message of healing and hope.
Mary wrote a letter to women who have experienced sexual abuse. I wanted to include it today, as I believe the realm of sexual abuse to be one of the biggest kept secrets among women. The shame of sexual abuse holds so many captive, and as Christian women, I hope that we can be “safe” and helpful to our friends who have suffered. And this letter may be a good place to begin
Dear Sexual Abuse Survivor,
I don’t really like the word victim. Even survivor has a strange connotation. And I’m not too keen on victor. None of those words encapsulate what happened to you, the devastation sexual abuse enacted on your heart. But we’re strangled by language sometimes–even writers can’t adequately express horror.
I much like the word BRAVE. Because it’s so darn brave to walk away from something like that. It’s brave to forgive. Brave to live your life in the wake of sexual trauma. Brave to hold your head high.
First let me say I am sorry. I’m so terribly sad that sexual abuse is part of your story. It’s not right. Someone chose to take something from you–your volition and your body. That person (or people) violated you. They used their power and bully persuasion to overwhelm you with their sinful desires. And now you’re the one left feeling dirty and used–while so many perpetrators walk this earth free.
It’s not fair.
Some of you feel shame and guilt in gigantic measure, heaped upon you. Some of you feel that you invited the abuse. The way you dressed. The hole in your heart that longed for attention. The equating of sex with love and affection. You feel you wooed the perpetrator somehow. Let me say this: A person who adores and loves you would NEVER EVER violate you. Never. Instead of violation, they would protect. They would pray for you. They would honor your boundaries.
Someone’s selfish gratification is not your fault. Don’t own that. Dare to believe your worth, and allow yourself the feel the grace that God grants you. Forgive yourself. Let yourself off the hook. You were abused. You didn’t want it. Someone took from you–like a thief. They may have used slick words, threatened you, persuaded you that you wanted it, but it’s not true. Thieves are often liars.
In sexual abuse’s aftermath, you’ve possibly thought of suicide. You’ve cut your skin until the blood came. You over-ate. You spent years hard as rock, bitter as horseradish, always vigilant–ready to fight. You’ve protected your heart with ironclad resolve. No one will EVER hurt you that way again. Not on your watch.
All these coping strategies had good purpose a long time ago. They protected you. But now they’re strangling the life out of you. I only say that because I’ve walked the path of isolation and withdrawal. Actually, I spent about a decade of my life keeping the sexual abuse secret. And once I let the secret out, I decided I’d been healed, so I tucked it back away for another decade and lived inside myself–not daring to deeply engage my heart.
An untold story never heals, friend. Isolation only masks the problem.
That’s not living. It’s existing. It’s pushing stuff down that you hope stays submerged forever. Unfortunately, our stories have a way of coming out–almost always in our actions. We end up hurting those we love. Some people become perpetrators because they never deal with getting better.
I know there are questions. I have them too.
- Why did God allow this to happen?
- Why didn’t He step in and rescue?
- Why do I have to suffer seemingly forever for something someone else did to me?
- Why can’t I ever feel normal?
- Will I ever be able to enjoy sex?
- Why does my spouse have to suffer for something someone else did to me?
- What’s wrong with me that I kept being violated?
- Was I put on this earth to be stolen from?
- Why am I here?
- What was it about me that perpetrators found irresistible?
- Why do other people keep telling me it was a long time ago and I should be over this?
I want to assure you that these questions are entirely, utterly normal. And you should ask them. You should wrestle with them. Some of them will not be answered this side of eternity.
When I feel overwhelmed by the whys and the whats, I stop a moment and consider Jesus. This may not resonate with you because you might be mad at Him. That’s okay. I hear you. But there is comfort in knowing Jesus understands.
He took on the sins of everyone, including sexual sin, upon His holy, undeserving shoulders. He suffered for everyone’s wicked crookedness. And when He hung on a cross, He did so naked. Exposed. Shamed. Humiliated. Bleeding.
That’s why, when I write about sexual abuse recovery, I have to involve Jesus. He has been the single best healer in my journey. He understands. He comes alongside. He “gets” violation.
Sexual abuse is devastating. It pulls the rug out from under your worth. It keeps you scared. It infiltrates nearly every area of your life, consciously and subconsciously.
But I am here to let you know there is hope. Though the healing journey is long, it is possible. When I tell my own story now, it feels like I’m sharing about another person’s sexual abuse. I’ve experienced profound healing. It didn’t happen passively or quickly. I had to WANT it, pursue it. I had to stop shoving it down and bringing my story into the light–with praying friends, with counselors, with my husband.
Today I enjoy sex. I can share my story without getting that vomit-y feeling in my stomach. The flashbacks are less and less. I still have moments, of course. But I am so much farther along than I had been.
I want to end this letter with this truth: You are amazing. You survived something traumatic and horrific. You are reading this letter blessedly alive, connected to others. Your story absolutely matters. Don’t let the trauma steal your story of hope today.
If you find this letter helpful, please forward this post on to family or friends who may benefit. Mary’s candid approach to healing from past abuse, has helped so many.
And in the mean-time, if you are 1 of the 3 women who have experienced sexual abuse, know that I am praying for you today. Your hurt runs so deep, and I pray that you find God’s grace and love to be the first facet of your healing.