This is a heavy post, but one that I have been praying over and eager to share. I met Vanessa just a few months ago at a purity conference for young girls that we were both speaking at. When her turn came, I listened in surprise as she shared about how she had been raped as a young girl. It was inspiring to hear her courage, knowing how hard it must be to face the memories every day. But I saw the strength and resilience in her, and sensed her desire to encourage young girls – both victims and friends of victims – in overcoming the pain and persevering with godly intent.
The topic of rape is one that our nation is starting to talk more about, and yet one that is surrounded with so much misunderstanding and confusion and emotion. It’s one of the most vile acts a person can commit, and one of the hardest for people to process, both for victims and non-victims. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), 1 out of 6 American women has been the victim of attempted or completed sexual assault in her lifetime. There are an average of 289,000 victims of rape or sexual assault each year in the United States, with young people being at the highest risk for an attack. Those are startling numbers. And with recent national news like the Brock Turner rape case, clearly we have much progress to make in understanding the severity and repercussions of sexual assault.
It is why I’m eager to share Vanessa’s story with you – to hear directly from a victim herself in unveiling the emotional process of such an experience, and learning how non-victims can be there for friends and family who need us more than we know.
Vanessa, I was inspired by your courage to be so open and honest about something so difficult. You shared how the trauma sent you spiraling into a life of promiscuity – fueled by pain, confusion, and lack of self esteem. We know that rape is a growing problem in this day and age, and many victims keep silent in fear of judgement and backlash. Thank you for being so courageous and using your story to encourage other girls.
When I was 14 years old, I was lured out of my house by a guy who had befriended all of my friends. We all thought that he was 16 and he had a car, so we were convinced that he was okay… but, he wasn’t. He made me come out with him two times, and the assault happened on the second. It turns out he was seven years older than me and shortly after this was convicted for raping several other girls. This was my first type of sexual experience and it skewed my perception of how sex was even supposed to be. I didn’t tell my parents for two months and when they did find out they didn’t know what to do. I know it must have been painful for them to find out that this happened to their daughter, so their reaction was to push me away. And naturally, as I’ve seen with so many victims of sexual assault, I turned to promiscuity to fill in the void that was left in me.
I tried my best to ignore the internal stuff. The therapist I was being sent to sort of drilled in my mind that I should be trying to ignore it and move on with my life. (This is real life evidence of why we are not supposed to stand in the counsel of the ungodly like we are told in Psalm 1!) So, I’d just lie about my emotional state to everyone, including myself. I put on the fake “good girl Christian” front to everyone, even though I was far from that, and for awhile I got by that way.
Externally, I turned to boys. I always had a boyfriend. My mentality was that a boy would keep me company, he would listen to me, he would love me. So, I started sleeping around at a young age. Then when boys weren’t enough, alcohol fell into the mix. Lots and lots of alcohol.
When it first happened, if I felt close enough to a person I would tell them. But for me, at least in high school, I had a hard time maintaining friendships. Around the time that all this started, I met my now best friend, Iyana. We were 15 and both singing at our youth group, she had just gotten saved. She was super popular in our youth group because of how amazing she is and we quickly became very close. She convinced me to go on my first summer retreat when I was 16 where the Lord for the first time, grabbed hold of my heart. I met my now spiritual mom, Julie. She started counseling me and raised me in the ways of the Lord. And I kind of had this little group of friends who knew what had happened to me and loved me despite of it.
One of the things you shared at the conference was that what you needed most was a friend to understand you and listen, instead of judge you.
I am so sorry that this happened to you. But, know that you are so loved by a God in heaven whose heart breaks when ours do and that you are not alone. I know it’s so hard to reach out to people after one of most basic rights as a human has been violated, but please know that you can ask for help.
Before I even had a support system, the only consistent friend I felt like I had was the Lord when I was praying late at night. Every single prayer is important to the Lord. Even when you’re crying out with no words, He knows your heart and His Holy Spirit intercedes for you. He loves you and wants to be there for you. He understands, and will not judge you. He wants to heal your heart and teach you how to live your life again.
I’d say, just listen to your friend. Pray for wisdom and things to say but, always start with just listening. It isn’t a pretty story that you’re going to hear but, all they need is to know is that someone cares enough to hear them out. My best friend did that for me. She would always listen to me even though she knew – and I knew – the way I would cope with my pain was bad. Being there and being supportive is the strongest way you can show someone the love of Christ. When you think of the woman with the alabaster flask in Luke 7:36, He let her weep there and as the Pharisees scoffed her, Jesus Christ Himself came to her defense. So listen to your friend, pray with her and for her and always point her back to Jesus.
Some days I think I’ve forgiven him. But, to be perfectly honest with you I know I’m not all the way there yet. God has brought me a long way with that but, I know there’s still a ways to go. I can’t speak for every victim of sexual assault out there but I know for me, in the healing process the Lord has been taking me through, I have needed to take this a step at a time. I hope he finds the Lord and seeks forgiveness for all the things he’s done wrong but, I’m not all the way there yet. I know I will be some day but, I’m not quite yet.
Rape is no doubt one of the most traumatic and difficult things a girl can ever experience. While my heart hurts for your unending pain and all that comes with, I’m so encouraged to see how God is using your life as a testimony of His grace, forgiveness, and mercy. You’ve been lifted out of the one of your darkest times and are praising Him still.
I remember a long time ago as a little girl, God telling me that He that I was called and that He was always with me. There were so many times in my life where I wanted to call it quits and just denounce my faith but, even in my darkest times I knew that the Lord was there. God has had this plan for me even before my attack, when I was a little girl struggling through a difficult childhood. He has raised each of us for such a time as this for good with a plan and a purpose. If these things didn’t happen to me, I wouldn’t be able to empathise with people. God taught me to be patient and to be gentle. He taught me what it means to be a friend and how to be kind. He taught me how to faithful because of how faithful He was to me through my unfaithfulness to Him. He used something that the devil meant for evil to shape me into the woman I am today. No, I’m not perfect but, I am living proof that if God can use a donkey to talk by all means He can use a girl who had been completely immersed in the pleasures of the world.
This world is not a pretty place. But know that we are all so loved by a loving Father. Whether you’re dealing with pain or helping someone through pain, we are all equally loved and are called to be treated as such. Don’t judge the people around you. You don’t know what they’re going through or what’s happened to them. I had so many people who were so disgusted by what I was doing, but I know that if they knew why I felt I needed to do what I did, they would have treated me differently. Love others as Christ first loved us. God uses that compassion in ways you can’t even imagine. So, I guess that’s what I want to leave you with, if you can take anything from my little story, view the world with the love that Jesus has for it and He will be able to do so many great things in and through your life.