A few years ago, I decided to share my story of sexual abuse.
Let me tell you, it was not an easy decision. I wrestled with it for months. I mulled over it every day before I finally shared. I didn’t know if I even wanted everyone to know. I knew it would upset a lot of people that would prefer it stayed under the rug, but I felt so silenced and ignored. So many other people had been telling their own versions of what they thought my story was, and I wanted people to finally know the truth. But, more than that, it was about gaining a sense of freedom. I didn’t want the weight of the secrets and hiding the truth to keep weighing on me. But, in the end, what really made me click “publish” was thinking of other survivors. I prayed and prayed for weeks if sharing was the right thing to do.
I felt God burden my heart with the realization that maybe me sharing could help someone else share their story. If I could encourage even one person to share, if one person would feel comfort that they aren’t alone, if one person on the outside could hear my pain that I felt from my friends and the Church and treat survivors better, the backlash would be worth it.
So, I started a platform on my blog for survivors to share our stories, and a few others and I did. Owning your story is one of the hardest but best freedoms you can experience. There was a lot of encouraging words and kindness, but there definitely was a strong backlash. Some people were outraged that “I made” certain Christian groups they supported “look bad”. I was so confused because I didn’t use any names, I didn’t trash talk anyone, I just shared what actually happened, what people actually said. However, they felt that no one should share details that make any Christian group “look bad” whether the truth is told or not, and they preferred a lie.
At the end of the day, I did feel the freedom that comes from God's redemption, and freedom in sharing the truth so my story could help others look to God for redemption and the freedom in forgiveness as well. But, I still thought maybe I shouldn’t have done that. I thought it would magically make everything get better, but that’s not how it works. My heart ached for things to be "normal" again. I wished it more than anything.
I also just wanted people to know the truth; not just know the truth but tell the truth. My story used to make me feel weak. I felt like it was my fault. I felt like if I was more beautiful, smart, valuable, or had more worth, he never would have abused me in the first place. I felt like if my story mattered people would have believed me more and treated me better. I felt the weight of the lies and labels people put on me: “Slut”, “liar”, “asking for it”, “attention-seeker”. It all just made me feel worthless.
But, the day I really understood God was going to use my story, even just to help one person, even just one time, it changed. When I fully owned my story, all the parts I didn’t want to own, I felt the fullness of the freedom God gives when you own the truth. Not only did it help me share more, God used it opened doors for me to new ministry opportunities. God used it to open the door for me to become a sexual assault counselor, to start a ministry to train the Church and Christian ministries on how to Biblically care for victims of sexual abuse.
I still feel the hurt. I still feel the pain sometimes. I still miss the friendships. I still get scared and feel weak. I still wish deep in my heart, everyday it never happened and I could forget. But the difference is now I know from firsthand experience that God is still good and will use it for His glory. And I know God will use whatever hurt and pain you’ve experienced for His glory too.
God is God of truth, not covering up what people would rather not believe. God is a God of freedom, not of being shackled in the pain of hiding what really happened. God is a God that calls you what you are, He doesn’t use the labels people give you. He calls you Child of God; not “slut” or “liar” or “asking for it”. He calls you His.
When they tell you not to tell your story, keep speaking the truth. When they tell you to be quiet speak louder. When they tell you it doesn’t matter, remind them it does to God. When they call you by the labels they’ve given you, remind them your a Child of God. When they say it would be better to sweep it under the rug, remind them that God will use it for His ultimate good, and your story is worth telling.
It will not be easy. It’s a long, hard road. But some days will be easier. Some days it will get better. God will use it for good. You might not understand how and you might never understand why, but rest in knowing He is always good. Don’t listen to any voice but His. Look to Jesus when you need to be reminded of why it’s important to tell your story, because He will remind you and strengthen you to share. The great thing about ministry is, you’ll never be out of business. If one person is helped, it all becomes worth it, and until every person is helped, you have work yet to do. So speak up, tell the truth, keep pushing on.
Even if only one person hears, if one person is helped, if one person changes how they treat others, it is all worth it.
If you are a survivor of sexual abuse who would like a platform to share your story, we would love to help you share your story and the truth through the real truth project.