NOTE: Today’s guest blog deals with sexual assault and its repercussions. While we pray it is edifying, the material may be upsetting to some readers.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault or other violence, please seek help. The Victim Connect Resource Center lists many hotlines that are situation-specific (children, military, women, teens, rape, domestic violence, trafficking, etc).
When I was growing up, we lived a 30-minute subway ride to a major US city. Each year, Mom would take me on the subway to the city for Christmas. All the stores were decorated and there were special lights up and Christmas shows. The city was so beautiful and so full of light and love. It was an amazing trip that I looked forward to every year. On the year that I turned eight, Mom and I did not sit together on the subway. I do not recall why; the subway was not crowded. There was plenty of room for Mom and I to sit together. Maybe she wanted me to feel independent or that I was a grown-up. I cannot say. While I do not recall the specifics of why we were five rows apart, I know we were. I also know Mom was on the opposite side of the subway. She was facing forward, so her back was to me. These are details I do remember.
As an 8-year-old girl on a subway heading toward a major city at Christmastime, I was focused on the lights I would see, the music I would hear, and the lunch I might be lucky enough to have. I loved the hustle and bustle of the city, everyone walking quickly because they were on their way to the most important thing ever. The department store windows would look amazing with scenes of Santa, Christmas presents being gift-wrapped with red ribbons and scents of pine. . . . Then it happened.
A man I did not know sat with me. He had a light tan long coat, wool. He was a white man, definitely older than me by a few decades. As an 8-year-old, I cannot say that I was taught to be leery of strangers. Maybe I was. Even if I felt uncomfortable, my ability to exit the subway seat was blocked by this man. He sat next to me in a way that nobody sitting around us could see what he was doing. It all happened so fast. I could not scream, I felt like I was under water and I could not breathe. I could not think. While I will not recount the details here, that was the day I saw a grown man’s penis for the first time. It was the last day of my innocence. I would never be and have never been the same since.
There is nothing from that day that I can remember about the city. Not the lights, the music, the hustle and bustle or whether we even had lunch in the city. I genuinely have no recollection of the trip after the subway ride. That evening, Mom was in the kitchen cooking. I went up to her while she stirred something on the oven and said “Mom, today on the train, a man sat with me and he had his penis out and. . . .”
She said to me, “Nothing happened. There is nothing to talk about. We do not need to bring this up again.” She never turned to look at me, she never stopped stirring. I did not know what to do. I left the kitchen. Out of all the events that happened that day, that moment is what became burned into my brain. That was a life-changing moment, and I had no idea the impact that moment would have on me for the rest of my life. Yes, what that man did to me was incredibly horrible and wrong and I have my opinions about the justice I want God to serve upon that man. But what scarred me more was my mom’s response.
This story is not intended to belittle my mom or anything remotely close to that. My heart’s plea is that we learn from what occurred that day and what could have been done differently. If someone comes to you and shares with you that they have been assaulted or touched without consent or anything like that, please listen. I plead on behalf of all victims, please listen. It takes incredible courage to come forward and try to share what has happened. There is fear, shame, and guilt. There are questions of, “Did I ask for this? Did I do something that invited this into my life?” There is a lot of self-blame. “This is my fault. I deserved this.” Or questions of, “Why did God allow this? Why am I suffering?”
If you are a victim of any kind of abuse, know this: It is NOT your fault. You did NOTHING to invite it, you do NOT deserve it and God does NOT want you treated that way. He died for you and how dare someone treat you as anyone less than the child of a risen, all powerful King! God will deal with the ones who hurt you. Deuteronomy 32:35 says, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back. In due time their will feet slip. Their day of disaster will arrive, and their destiny will overtake them.” This is a promise of God. You may not see the Lord take revenge, but do not doubt for a second that He will avenge what was done to you in His time and in His way. Hebrews 10:31: “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
I know what it is like to want to hurt the people who hurt you. But please do not allow the enemy to gain a foothold in your heart or mind. When bitter thoughts come, take them captive, focus only on things that are true, honorable, right and pure (Philippians 4:8). I also know what it is like to have a gaping hole in your heart, to be walking around with a fresh wound that gets salt poured into it daily. When the enemy comes against me, I use the name of Jesus. I let the enemy know, “You cannot have me or my thoughts, I belong to Jesus.” I pray against the enemy telling me that I am not worthy of love. I listen to worship music when I feel attacked or discouraged. One of my favorite songs to turn up during those times of discouragement is by Tasha Cobbs Leonard and featuring Nicki Minaj, “I’m Getting Ready.”
It took years for me to begin to heal. I first had to realize what happened was not my fault. I had to truly believe that God loves me. I had to forgive the ones who hurt me, and I had to heal. It took me many, many prayers to realize that I am worthy of love. I also needed someone who would listen to my story, pray for me and believe me. To this day, the enemy will try to pick at that wound and reopen it. It is a scar I proudly carry because it is healed and my story can now help others.
Heavenly Father, we lift up Esther and all survivors of childhood sexual assault. The innocent whose lives are forever changed. Lord, we ask that You give them peace. That You bring into their lives any help they need. That You ensure their voices are heard. That You help them to use their stories for good. We know You are Love. We also know that You are Justice. We ask for Your Justice for these survivors. This is a dark, broken world. Please use Your children to shine Your light. In the blessed name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
If you are in need of a personal prayer, please contact Wounded Butterflies. Thank you to Esther for continuing bravely to share her story.