For many years I have kept my abusive past a secret from everyone except a very select number of people. For a long time, I had planned to expose the whole mess but found that I was still too ashamed for anyone to know anything about it. My main concern was whether people would think badly about me or about the person I’d worked so hard to become.
When I began to have recurring nightmares many years after my abuse, I went to two pastors at my church for help. They told me to get over my past by study and prayer and to ignore it and get on with my life. Then one of them preached a message that said depressed Christians really weren’t saved. Satan used the revelation of my past to my spiritual leaders to torment and devastate me.
As I write about my abuse experience, my prayer is that spiritual leaders reading this will understand how much damage abuse victims can receive at the hands of well-meaning Christians who have no knowledge of how wounded and broken a survivor can be.
Someone very wise once asked me if I knew what it was like trying to pick up slivers of broken glass. When I had no answer, she said, “B. D., broken things will cut you if you don’t handle them with care.”
I would now like to tell about the years my life was broken by a person no one ever suspected – someone who lived two lives. The slivers that resulted cut me deeply.
Abuse As a Young Child
My earliest memories in life are of being caressed and fondled by my father at the age of three. Similar memories come as I think of the next ten years. My father continually told me that his love for me was so great that he had to touch the body that was the object of his love, and that, in fact, he couldn’t help himself. He would say that it was really my fault that he loved me this way. He explained over and over again how he loved to play with my body and that this was our private secret game, and no one could know about it.
He constantly reminded me that if she ever found out, my mother would be angry with me for making him do the things he did to me. Our secret always had me as its protector so my mother would not get mad at me.
I don’t know the age I was when my father’s cuddling and fondling turned into a sex game. I only know that it was always a part of my life as a child.
These sex games became more and more aggressive and sometimes lasted for long periods of time. My father required me to service him in every way that would give him pleasure, short of penetration, until I got older. He taught me to use my hands and mouth on him. When I would get sick and throw upon him, the punishment was more than I could stand, so I learned not to get sick or ask if I could stop. During his sex games, he was so mean that I was afraid to cross him in any way.
Memories of my mother are of a woman who always seemed to hate me. I was too young to know that my father was telling my mother all kinds of lies about me. I remember times when she would look at me and cry, “You are headed for a bad life!” or “I’m so disgusted with you I don’t know what to do with you!”
When I was nine, I overheard her say to a friend that my father had caught me pulling my panties off for one of the older neighbor boys. I began to realize that he was fixing things so, if I told anyone our secret, that person would not believe me. I soon learned that my mother felt I could not be trusted or believed. She would not listen to anything I tried to tell her.
When I was ten, Dad first started to penetrate me. I remember crying because it hurt so much and he couldn’t get in me. He said he would use grease the next time because he didn’t want me to tear. This continued day after day while my mother was at work. Some nights he would take me out of bed where I slept between my brothers. I would pretend to be asleep, hoping he would go away, but he never did. He would just pick me up and take me in the living room, and make me kneel before him, service him, and then I could go back to bed. The knowledge that my mother was asleep in the next room kept him from going any further than that in our late-night sex games. Many nights I wet the bed, afraid to get up for fear he would be waiting for me in the bathroom.
I used to daydream about being rescued some night by my mother. She would wake up, hear me crying, and walk in to catch him abusing me. Then she would send him away forever, and from that time on I would be under her special protection.
Although it never happened, I continued to hope. Sometimes I would pray, but by this time I had decided that either God was a myth, or He was as helpless as I was. There seemed to be no help for me.
For reasons I never understood, my father would move out of our house without warning in the middle of the night. Sometimes he would be gone for months at a time. Then one morning he would be there again just as before, giving orders as if he had never left, making everyone miserable again.
When he was out of the house, we were all very happy – even my mother. I didn’t spend my nights in fear when he was away. But many days were filled with worry, because he was often there when we came home from school, waiting on me. He would make my brothers go out to play but would tell them a reason why I had to stay inside with him. These times were worse than other times. He always seemed to be mad at me and would hurt me a lot.
For a few months in my twelfth year, my mother had to go take care of her sick mother. She took my older brother with her and sent me to live with my father (because she considered that I was too much trouble for her friend who took care of the other children).
Abuse By a Two-faced Father
My father managed a hotel in town and also had women who worked for him on the streets. I know now that he was their pimp. When he was mad at his street women, he would take off his belt and beat them like they were his children. I was always afraid he might get mad at me, and I would feel his belt, so I was very good to him and tried to make him happy. While there, I slept in the bed with him every night, because he said that he needed me close to keep him happy.
One night, not long after I had come there, he placed me in one of the other rooms and said I was to do whatever his friend wanted me to do. If I messed up or made him ashamed of me, he threatened to use his belt on me just like he did on his women. I tried to pray that night, but God seemed to be too busy to notice me.
A man, whom I had never seen before, came into the room. He asked me to take off my clothes and kneel before him. After I serviced him, he made me get on my knees in the bed. I screamed over and over until I had no voice. The pain was greater than I had ever known before that time (yet not as great as I would know before all this came to an end).
When I awoke the next day, I was back in my father’s bed, wracked with pain. One of my father’s ladies was washing blood from my body. I thought I was going to die.
A few days later I recovered and became a regular in that other room. I faced greater horrors than I had ever known before.
My father was very nice to me and told me that I had made him very proud of me. And when I was with him he never stopped telling me how much he loved me and that I was the favorite of all his girls (he called the women “his girls”).
Finally, my mother returned home with my brother. When he got off the train, he walked very slowly. My mother told us that he had had an operation and that’s why they were gone so long. Everyone was so excited about the operation and wanted to know if my brother was all right. Nobody asked if I was okay.
On my thirteenth birthday, my father bought me a big box of candy. I knew now that I would never be rescued, and that I would have to help myself because there was no one else to help me. So on that birthday, I made a vow to myself to get out of this or die trying.
By age 14, I got out of that life at last. I left home in the arms of a rescuer who took me to be his wife. I discovered to my dismay that my husband was worse than my father had been! He dished out physical, verbal, and sexual abuse on a scale I’d never before seen. I left one nightmare to start another that lasted for eight dark years.
Spiritual Help Sought By a Survivor
After the second nightmare ended and I was trying to live a normal life, I came to the family of God seeking solace and comfort. However, instead of the unconditional love of God, I found ridicule, blame, and isolation. I sought healing oil from the women of my church to soothe my many wounds. They wanted nothing to do with me and were afraid to be seen with me. I learned that the Christian Army is the only army with units that shoot their wounded on the battlefield, so they won’t have to care for them.
Being a victim has presented me with a variety of roads to travel. After I stopped running from the abuse in my church, I began to seek the Lord for solutions that would help me get closer to Him and get my needs met. I also wanted to learn how to recognize and help others like myself.
The first thing I learned was that the average church is not equipped to recognize or handle the wounds that accompany victims of rape or abuse. Such churches are like hospitals with no doctor on duty when the wounded arrive. No one is trained to spot and counsel hurting people. In most cases, men cannot recognize the extent of the devastation that rape leaves.
The average church doesn’t have women on its staff trained to deal with survivors. Yet, they often teach that secular counseling is not what Christians need (just pray and you’ll be okay). They do not take into consideration that victims are often shut down or so guarded that they cannot pray, and although they are in church and hungry for the Lord, their trust has been so shattered that even God Himself is at times suspect.
Another thing to keep in mind is that people who haven’t experienced sexual abuse cannot begin to understand the complexity of the problem. This is a problem that requires more than three hours on Sunday and two hours of a mid-week Bible study. In many cases, one-to-one ministry is mandatory if the abused are to be healed.
There is an exaggerated feeling of guilt and shame associated with sexual abuse. I felt that I was unlovable, so why should I believe that God could love me if my own parents and the people of God were rejecting me? In my mind, I could not be accepted by God. When His people heard my story, instead of embracing me, they avoided me.
I didn’t learn to handle the pain from my abuse when I went to my church for help. Their uncaring response drove me to a psychiatric hospital when my nightmares and the abuse of Christians became too much for me. After my hospitalization, I decided to seek help from God’s Word.
Where I Am Today
When I went to the Lord instead of the church, I was finally able to start to work through my distress at what had happened to me for such a prolonged period. I learned that people in God’s family can be severely depressed and still know and love the Lord. At such times, the Word of God, His power, His love for them, and His promises are the best healing oil for survivors’ wounds. They need to know what God thinks and says about them because the negative tapes of their past will keep playing inside their heads. Only God’s love and protection can shut off the tapes.
I enrolled in college and achieved a Bachelor of Science pre-medicine degree. I’ve completed most of my graduate degree in Hospital Administration, and I presently hold a position in medicine as a Professional Representative in U.S. Human Health.
I’m now able to follow that wise advice I received from a special friend and handle the broken pieces of my life and the lives of others with care. I’m involved in a ministry that offers survivors of sexual abuse the healing balm of Gilead to soothe their many hurts. It’s my prayer that those who read these stories of survivors of sexual abuse will make sure their churches are spiritual hospitals equipped to minister to those in their midst who have inner hurts.
A Survivor Story from And He Restoreth My Soul
B.A. (Passed July 22, 2019) became one of my best of friends and I miss her.