I Should Be Dead Right Now

1Last night in our SOSA (Survivors of Sexual Abuse) meeting, we talked about shame.  I know I have blogged about shame before, but I was asked an interesting question: “How did I overcome my shame?”  It was a question I did not have an immediate answer for.  I said the typical Christian responses; with God, time, patience, prayer, but that wasn’t a complete answer for me. And as ridiculous as it seems to me at this moment, I really had to think about it.

Before I get into my answer, I’d like to spend a minute or two addressing the topic of shame. Especially for those of you who are not survivors, but are reading in order to help a survivor close to you.

Shame is an overwhelming, suffocating, life-debilitating condition. It encompasses the survivors heart, soul, spirit, and general well-being.  It is more often than not what causes depression and self-loathing.  It makes you feel unworthy to be in the presence of others, friends, loved one, and most devastatingly – God.  The worst part is that shame really isn’t ours.  We didn’t cause the abuse.  Our hearts aren’t the ones filled with evil.  We were the victims, yet we carry the burden of shame that is associated with childhood sexual abuse.

Many of us have made numerous mistakes… more than our fair share and more than we would like to admit. And there is definitely shame associated with that as well.  According to Committed to Freedom’s “The Way Forward” self-help workbook, there are scores of self-protective behaviors that victims routinely engage in.  This is a small sampling of the list:

  • I isolate myself from people.
  • I am hyper-vigilant.
  • I am always late.
  • I choose people I can control.joy
  • I often lie.
  • I depend on no one but myself.
  • I use sex to express power or rage.
  • I cut or burn myself.
  • I over/under eat.
  • I avoid sexual situations.
  • I often think about death.
  • I abuse others.
  • I use drugs/alcohol to numb or to feel better.
  • I attempted suicide.
  • I avoid people, places, or circumstances that I do not like.

There are 102 self-protective behaviors on the list.  This was just a sample of the first few or ones I thought to mention.  For me when I first read the list, I could check off 34 of the behaviors. 34! The good news is that these behaviors are considered a “normal” reaction to what happened to me. Normal! That was a crazy thought.

Now checking things off on that list made me quite aware of the shame I had because of those choices. My biggest, shameful choice was having sex with someone while my husband and I were separated… to me it was committing adultery.  It was a purposeful act, which would send me to hell.  A choice I literally made instead of killing myself.  Now finding out that I was “normal” helped relieve a little of that shame, along with praying, focusing on God, counseling, etc. But the thing that truly released me from the shame of what I had done was brought to my attention by a dear friend.  It is the FACT that if I did not commit adultery that night; I would be, without a doubt, dead.  I’d be dead.  I would have been dead for 8 years now.  My kids would have been without a mom for 8 years. That was powerful… the realization of a truth in my life.

I then took that to the cross and laid it at the feet of Jesus.  I repented for what I had done and the choice that I made. Then I saw the world with new eyes.  They were the eyes of a woman who should be dead, but is now thankful for the messed up alternative I choose.  The one that saved my life… and I am free, I have joy, I have a thankful spirit, and I will NEVER be ashamed of my choices again. I am forgiven.

Love this song: Shouting Grounds by Crowder

“Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; But you will forget the shame of your youth, And the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.” – Isaiah 54:4

 

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Shame

guardedwomanNow here’s a topic no one likes to talk about yet we are all full of it at some point in our journey.

The day after remembering “the big stuff” I went to school and remember walking the halls not being able to look anyone in the eye. People kept asking me if I were okay and I’d just shake my head yes with a tear in my eye.  In a matter of 24 hours, I went from a vibrant, sweet, friendly girl to a shell of a person.  I felt like everyone could see right through me.  I felt like I now had a stamp on my forehead that said “sexually abused.” I felt like I was so dirty that I would never be clean again.  I felt like who in the world would want to be my friend or have anything to do with what I had remembered.  I felt disgusting and alone.  That, my friends, is shame.

The question is… why is shame ours to bear?  We didn’t commit a crime against humanity.  We are the victims of that crime, but yet we carry the heavy burden of shame and its consequences. I can not remember how long it took me to be able to look another in the eye again or walk with my head up.  The unworthiness covered me like a blanket no matter where I went or what I was doing.

So what do you do with the burden of shame? Well, run full stream into the war against it with the full armor of God on you.  That is my only advice.  Shame is an evil adversary. It messes with your head in a way that is quite unimaginable.  It is a chisel breaking you piece by piece and a thief in the night that carries them away.  Shame is the devil’s playground in your mind.

Unlike-guilt-which-is-the-feeling-of-doing-something-wrong-shame-is-the-feeling-of-being-something-wrong.-Marilyn-J.-SorensenUnfortunately, depending on the closeness in the relationship with your abuser, the duration of the abuse, and if you had multiple abusers, the harder your battle with shame will be.  For me, it was my father from about 3 until 14.  The abuse was not the same over the span of years, but it was there in different forms.  Because it was my dad and it lasted for years, I fall on the higher end of the spectrum when dealing with the trauma.  Now I really haven’t won anything in my life, so how pleasant it is to win this luck of the draw… head-shaking, eye-rolling emoji missing from here.

I wish I had an easy remedy or solution… maybe a quick fix-it up my sleeve, but I don’t.  I dealt with the shame for years. To be quite honest, I wish I could tell you what helped me and that there is a magic switch to turn it off.  But the only thing I can think of is God and finding out that I am not alone in this war.  1 out of 4 girls are subject to some form of sexual abuse before they are 18 and when you meet one, it does something for your soul.

No one would ever wish this upon another human being, but I can tell you this: if you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, be open about your story.  Talk about it. I am not saying you need to walk around with a poster or bring it up in every conversation.  What I am saying is that in our quickly, crumbling society, there are opportunities to share your experience.  You will be surprised how many “me too’s” you will hear.  And truly that is all that needs to be said.  That “me too” builds a bond instantaneously and there is power in numbers.

Your bravery to be open may help lift the head of the next victim and help her become a survivor.  So let’s put shame to rest and take it out of our hearts and place it where it belongs: on the abuser… with a huge sign and a bright red bow.woman_8810c

God bless ❤

Song: No Shame by Moriah Peters

Awesome Shame Verses:

“I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.” – Psalm 25:2

“No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.” – Psalm 25:3

“Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.” – Psalm 25:20

Full Armor of God:

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Eph 6:10-18

 

 

Sexual Abuse & the Bible

bible-questionsDid you know that there are stories of sexual abuse in the Bible?  One such story is in Judges 19 and the other is in 2 Samuel 13.  Judges is a story of a man offering women to a group of evil men in order to save himself.  It tells how the woman was used up and left to die.  The Bible very clearly reveals this as a despicable act and warns that violating someone in such a way will ravage their soul.

2 Samuel is a story of a woman named Tamar who to assaulted by her step-brother.  She is immediately chastised for the event by the brother who harmed her.  Tamar then goes to her other brother and her father for support and justice and she finds none, because their name is more important than Tamar’s innocence.

I would suspect that you will be able to identify with one if not both women in these stories.  Please read them and ask yourselves the following:

  • Are you surprised these stories are in the Bible?
  • Why are these stories included in the Bible?
  • Who do you identify with more?
  • How are their stories similar or different from yours?
  • How are their responses and reactions similar or different from yours?
  • At the end of Judges 19, the woman makes it to the threshold of the building in search for help and comfort.  What is your threshold of hope, help, and comfort?

19 In those days Israel had no king.

Now a Levite who lived in a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim took a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. But she was unfaithful to him. She left him and went back to her parents’ home in Bethlehem, Judah. After she had been there four months, her husband went to her to persuade her to return. He had with him his servant and two donkeys. She took him into her parents’ home, and when her father saw him, he gladly welcomed him. His father-in-law, the woman’s father, prevailed on him to stay; so he remained with him three days, eating and drinking, and sleeping there.

On the fourth day they got up early and he prepared to leave, but the woman’s father said to his son-in-law, “Refresh yourself with something to eat; then you can go.” So the two of them sat down to eat and drink together. Afterward the woman’s father said, “Please stay tonight and enjoy yourself.” And when the man got up to go, his father-in-law persuaded him, so he stayed there that night. On the morning of the fifth day, when he rose to go, the woman’s father said, “Refresh yourself. Wait till afternoon!” So the two of them ate together.

Then when the man, with his concubine and his servant, got up to leave, his father-in-law, the woman’s father, said, “Now look, it’s almost evening. Spend the night here; the day is nearly over. Stay and enjoy yourself. Early tomorrow morning you can get up and be on your way home.” 10 But, unwilling to stay another night, the man left and went toward Jebus (that is, Jerusalem), with his two saddled donkeys and his concubine.

11 When they were near Jebus and the day was almost gone, the servant said to his master, “Come, let’s stop at this city of the Jebusites and spend the night.”

12 His master replied, “No. We won’t go into any city whose people are not Israelites. We will go on to Gibeah.” 13 He added, “Come, let’s try to reach Gibeah or Ramah and spend the night in one of those places.” 14 So they went on, and the sun set as they neared Gibeah in Benjamin. 15 There they stopped to spend the night. They went and sat in the city square, but no one took them in for the night.

16 That evening an old man from the hill country of Ephraim, who was living in Gibeah (the inhabitants of the place were Benjamites), came in from his work in the fields. 17 When he looked and saw the traveler in the city square, the old man asked, “Where are you going? Where did you come from?”

18 He answered, “We are on our way from Bethlehem in Judah to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim where I live. I have been to Bethlehem in Judah and now I am going to the house of the Lord.[a] No one has taken me in for the night. 19 We have both straw and fodder for our donkeys and bread and wine for ourselves your servants—me, the woman and the young man with us. We don’t need anything.”

20 “You are welcome at my house,” the old man said. “Let me supply whatever you need. Only don’t spend the night in the square.” 21 So he took him into his house and fed his donkeys. After they had washed their feet, they had something to eat and drink.

22 While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.”

23 The owner of the house went outside and said to them, “No, my friends, don’t be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don’t do this outrageous thing. 24 Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But as for this man, don’t do such an outrageous thing.”

25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. 26 At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.

27 When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, “Get up; let’s go.” But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.

29 When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel. 30 Everyone who saw it was saying to one another, “Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Just imagine! We must do something! So speak up!” – Judges 19 (NIV)

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13 In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David.

Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her.

Now Amnon had an adviser named Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother. Jonadab was a very shrewd man. He asked Amnon, “Why do you, the king’s son, look so haggard morning after morning? Won’t you tell me?”

Amnon said to him, “I’m in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.”

“Go to bed and pretend to be ill,” Jonadab said. “When your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘I would like my sister Tamar to come and give me something to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I may watch her and then eat it from her hand.’”

So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. When the king came to see him, Amnon said to him, “I would like my sister Tamar to come and make some special bread in my sight, so I may eat from her hand.”

David sent word to Tamar at the palace: “Go to the house of your brother Amnon and prepare some food for him.” So Tamar went to the house of her brother Amnon, who was lying down. She took some dough, kneaded it, made the bread in his sight and baked it.Then she took the pan and served him the bread, but he refused to eat.

“Send everyone out of here,” Amnon said. So everyone left him. 10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food here into my bedroom so I may eat from your hand.” And Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom. 11 But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, “Come to bed with me, my sister.”

12 “No, my brother!” she said to him. “Don’t force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. 13 What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.” 14 But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.

15 Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”

16 “No!” she said to him. “Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.”

But he refused to listen to her. 17 He called his personal servant and said, “Get this woman out of my sight and bolt the door after her.” 18 So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. She was wearing an ornate[a] robe, for this was the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore. 19 Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornate robe she was wearing. She put her hands on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.

20 Her brother Absalom said to her, “Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.” And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.

21 When King David heard all this, he was furious. 22 And Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar. – 2 Samuel 13

encouraging-bible-verse-4l

 

 

Questions

questionsOne of the best ways to heal is asking questions of other survivors.  It gives you a sense that you aren’t alone or crazy.  It is nice to hear that someone has or had the same issue and how they are dealing with it or overcame it.

So here is your opportunity to ask a survivor and have your identity safe.  At any time, please feel free to submit a question.  I can answer it privately through email or I have post a blog with the response to your question without ever using your name.

It will really help you continue in your journey.  Look forward to hearing from you. ❤

 

Voices

Today’s post is pretty short and simple.  It is about which “voice” you are listening to.

As you move on in this journey, you have a few choices as to who you want to listen to.  We have several options.  They include:

  • Yourself,landscape-1468840732-woman-holding-head
  • God,
  • a counselor,
  • fellow survivors,
  • friends and family, or
  • your abuser.

All of these voices will influence you and speak to you as you progress.  The importance in this is making the conscious choice to only listen to those who are positively speaking into your life.

Most, if not all, have an instantaneous recording that we can easily listen to from our abusers.  These messages are neither kind nor helpful.  They demean and demoralize us. They rock us to our core and leave us in a form of rubble.  These are the easiest to listen to as well, because they have been engrained in us for a long time and from an early age.  The messages of our lives not being important or that we were useless or worthless individuals.  Chances are these voices are the ones that have directed most of your lives.

But today and from this day forward, I want you to choose a different voice to listen to.  Listen, really listen, to God speak as you read His Word. Choose to speak with and internalize what your counselors and fellow survivors are saying.  Lastly, choose who you will share this journey with wisely as you involve friends and family.  Only include those who will empower you and lift you up as you need it.

This is so very important, but yet never really discussed. So ask yourself right now, who have you been listening to? Is this something you should change? And don’t just take a moment to address it now, but check yourself on a regular basis.  This is crucial for you to move forward from a victim to a survivor.  And have faith in the Lord that HE will heal you.

God Bless ❤

Song: Broken Girl by Matthew West

The people walking in darkness7b8078220e3a1c6bfad7ac84cb15bf87    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.” –  Isaiah 9:2 (NIV)

 

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” – Heb 11:1 (NIV)

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I’m Alive and I have Grit!

images.jpgBefore starting my ministry at church a few years ago, I came across a website called STARR – Sexual Trauma and Abuse Recovery Resources, Inc.  I checked out their resources and information and signed up for either a daily or weekly email.  The emails were to help you heal, cheer you on, give you some direction, etc.

One day I received the most powerful email from them and it resonated with me.  It stuck with me for days and I printed it out, posted it, and bookmarked it…. And thankfully I copy and pasted it into an email to my husband, because I can no longer find it online.  But it said something remarkable.  Something I had never thought of before.  And it was POWERFUL!

It said I had GRIT just for being here… really?  It said they hadn’t won… I was hoping so, still.  It said I was amazing… me?  It said my very breathe was a declaration of independence…. get out of town!  It said I was a great hero… that is nuts, right? But the more times I read and thought about it… they were RIGHT.   I do have grit! YOU HAVE GRIT! Our presence is a testament to our strength.  I have strength.  It means I’ve won! I’m here! I’m okay! And so are you!

It literally brings tears to my eyes… Still, right now while I am typing this.  All those times when I felt powerless, weak, and unable to go on…  All those times that I barely made it through the day, ha, the second… All those times when I thought I needed someone else to make me worth something.  Those times were wrong.  I was strong.  I had power.  I had control.  I made it! I have grit! Hallelujah, I have grit! And so do you! Really, you do! You may not believe it now, but you do and WATCH OUT when you realize it! You may literally jump for joy, spin around, scream, cry, or laugh like a crazy person… but it will be GREAT!

I have shared this email with many people now.  Hoping it would do for them what it did for me.  Now I am going to share it with you.  Please read it… more than once.  Savor it.  Take it in.  Let it give you hope and strength as you realize you actually have those things already inside you because you made it this far.  You are ALIVE!

You’ve Got Grit!
If you’re a survivor of sexual trauma and abuse, you have grit. Despite all you’ve been through, you’re here. You made it. You’re strong, resourceful, and possess a depth of power few people will ever have to have. You’ve had to locate something amazing within you that has given you insight, understanding, and depth.
To possess grit doesn’t mean you haven’t been wounded. It doesn’t mean you aren’t still struggling or have complicated issues to resolve. To have grit means that your very presence is a testimony to the magnificent person that you are. It means that no matter what, you are getting back up and reclaiming your space – your right to be.
It would be easy to define yourself by what happened – by what you’ve been through, but that would be too simplistic. What you’ve been through is part of your story and part of what made you who you are, but that isn’t the whole story and it certainly isn’t how your story ends!
Every breath you take is a declaration of independence. Every resource you use, every conversation you have with counselors, friends, or support groups is an act of phenomenal courage that others will never know. The greatest hero in your life is you because you are getting back up, dusting yourself off, and proclaiming, “Not today!”
You possess the heart of a warrior, the mind of a wise sage, and the drive of a relentless activist.
Simply put, you are amazing. They haven’t won and they aren’t going to. You are here and you have grit.
Written by Sallie Culbreth and Anne Quinn
© 2016 STAARR – Sexual Trauma and Abuse Recovery Resources, Inc.

Song: I’m Alive by Kenny Chesney and David Matthews

So… YOU ARE ALIVE!

It doesn’t matter if you are conquering life,

or celebrating that you just woke up and are breathing.

It’s a VICTORY!

You are here!

You have GRIT! ❤

 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.” – 2 Tim 4:17

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Truth

Time to bring down the walls and be honest with someone. Pick your someone carefully – VERY carefully if this is the first person with whom you are sharing your story. It can be any part of your story that you care to share… it can be one small detail. It can be a great deal.

Have a small goal in mind. It could be as simple as saying three words. “I was molested.” See how it feels, try it out. I will warn you that the first time you open your mouth, it is scary as hell.

Also a word on expectations, try to go into it with very little. They can be a killer in relationships. Again I know this is hard, but it truly depends on who you are choosing to tell. If it’s a counselor, you can make a safe bet on the outcome. If it is someone who cares about you, expect anything… from rage to asking if you are sure. (Now personally that’s a response I love…. “no I’m not sure. Just thought I’d throw it out there to see what would happen! YES, I’m sure! Duh!”) but expect it. They will be shocked, maybe hurt, heartbroken, angry, etc. even though you are telling them because you need help. They need process time and who knows the first reaction you may get. This unfortunately is not a fairy tale or movie that’s wrapped up in an hour and a half with a nice neat bow… this is life and as real as it gets. So be prepared.

truthHowever, once you have said it out loud, it is SLOWLY liberating. Keep focused on that… the end goal – peace. Chances are it won’t bring peace at first. It may stir up emotions that you have successfully shoved into a tiny box in your soul. This is normal too and it’s OKAY. Survivors stifle the emotions that you are not allowed to feel or show during abuse. We become EXCELLENT fake smilers with all our emotions neatly packed away. But speaking your truth out loud, it does something to your box…. shall we say open it like Pandora did but shake it up first and then dump it out and then just to make sure… tap the bottom a bit to get out any crumbs. That my friend is what will probably happen.

I’ve been down this path and came bursting out the other side. My goal here isn’t to sugar coat anything. It’s to be honest and real and to support you and walk you through the process. So strap yourself in cause you are headed for a hell of a ride BUT it is so worth it. God will grant you a peace that you didn’t even know was possible… so remember eyes on the end game!

The context for this verse is different if you read the verses around it, but these words are perfect here. Because you are starting to open the door to your personal prison.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32

The truth… it WILL set you free and I wish I could give you just a small glimpse to see how wonderful it is, truly. ❤️

Song: If We’re Honest by Francesca Battistelli