I am one of the thousands upon thousands of people who were sexually assaulted as a child. I didn’t go through counseling at the time, and we never talked about it in my family after the night I came home from giving the police my report of what happened. I was in junior high then, and social status was quite important. My best friend told everyone at school what happened, and I was humiliated beyond description. Kids would point and whisper in the hallway, and I wanted to crawl under my desk until high school graduation.
Eventually, kids found something new and more exciting to talk about, and I was no longer the talk of the school. I moved on to high school and continued to think that I had it all together. I began hanging out with the semi-cool crowd and getting asked out by guys in our group of friends. I always played it off like I wasn’t into dating at the time, but inside I was scared to death to let anyone that close, especially guys. I put up the famous self-defense wall, and I hid there for several more years.
Enter college onto the scene, and my self-preservation techniques brought my world crashing down all around me. I was away from the physical things that reminded me of the abuse in my past, but somehow the emotional prison and spiritual turmoil still managed to follow me. Researchers say that two of the main long-term effects of child abuse are difficulty with close relationships and low self-esteem. Those were certainly the most obvious effects in my life, though I didn’t care to admit it at the time. I flinched when people reached out to touch or hug me; friends said it was like pulling teeth to try to get me to talk about anything below the surface; and I despised the person I saw in the mirror every morning. Yet, somehow, I still managed to convince myself that I was fine. Difficulty with close relationships? Not me. Low self-esteem? I’d be just fine. Did I need to talk about what happened? No way.
But it just kept getting worse. I was in a fast downward spiral, and I could see nothing but darkness. Finally, a dear friend sat me down one day and said I needed to talk. She didn’t care how long it took, but she was going to sit with me in that room until it came out. She hugged me until I stopped flinching, she held me until I stopped sobbing, and then she told me how much I was loved. Not just loved by her—though that in and of itself was something difficult enough for me to grasp—but loved by the Creator of the Universe. I wanted to believe her so badly, but trust was not coming naturally at that point by any means.
So, I dealt with things on the surface. I got into the Word, and I learned all about God, but I was too scared to know God. I couldn’t put my trust in yet another person, only to be abandoned soon after or hurt once again. I put a happy face on the outside but had a party of misery on the inside. And I had everyone fooled, including myself. Then suddenly I realized that I had been trapped under some ungodly relationships that almost destroyed my life, and I knew that something had to change. I had been deceived for a long time, but I wasn’t about to walk away from the truth again. I was afraid I’d never get another chance.
I fell to my knees, and through my sobs I asked God to be the God of healing in my life. I didn’t want to just know about Him; I wanted to know Him. I was desperate for His touch on my life, to see His face. I was ready to tell my story—my whole story—and to accept that Christ came to bind up the brokenhearted and to heal their wounds. I was brokenhearted, and I wasn’t afraid to admit it any longer. I would have shouted it from the rooftops if it meant that God would incline His ear to my cry. But He had already heard me, and this incredible burden was being lifted. I was willing to do whatever it would take to finally be free. I began going to counseling since I had missed out on it all of those years before, but I found that God had already done such a work in my heart that my wounds were already being bound up. He was my Counselor, my Healer, my Comforter and my Almighty God. The transformation was incredible.
So, here I sit now, writing this article. What’s the point of telling my story after all this time? It is estimated that there are more than 60 million survivors of childhood sexual abuse just in the United States today—that’s a whole lot of people, which means the likelihood that some of those survivors are reading this article right now is pretty high. A large number of those survivors have never found healing. If that’s you and you’re still living under the lies of the enemy, I want you to know that your broken heart can be restored.
I’m still human, and Satan likes to try to throw my past back in my face at times. Every once in a blue moon, I’ll catch myself flinching in a hug or being petrified to open myself up to a friend because I become afraid of what will happen if I get close. But more often than not, I am the queen of hugs and love nothing more than deep conversation over coffee with those closest to my heart. I can’t wait to get married and start a family. I dig the Word of God, and I fall more in love with Christ my Savior every day. The Creator of the Universe really does love me, as my friend told me so many years ago, and that love has set me free.[Amber Mushegan is a twentysomething who has been set free. She’s currently writing a book about twentysomethings and the church, and she lives in Tulsa, Okla. You can find her at http://www.muddyart.com, if you feel so inclined.]
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