“We conquer – not in any brilliant fashion – we conquer by continuing.” George Matheson
“For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 NLT
My dear friend Richard Roy asked me quite some time ago what I hoped to accomplish in writing the “Chronicles”. I can’t remember my exact answer at the time, but I do know what that hope is today. It goes far beyond anything I imagined in the beginning, but I suspect that somewhere at the center of my being has always dwelled the answer that I am only now able to articulate:
I want to help people understand that the world is in terrible pain and it is the responsibility of each and every one of us – as children of God – to work to stop that pain. As children of God, it is our responsibility to love one another; to help one another; to encourage one another; and to protect one another.
When another child of God is hungry, we must feed them.
When another child of God is homeless, we must give them shelter.
When another child of God is lost, we must help them find their way.
And when another child of God is in pain, we must comfort them, even if it means sharing in that person’s pain.
As our survivor of child sexual abuse continues her story and shares the very personal pain of her abuse with us, I would like everyone following her incredible journey to give something to her in kind: a word of encouragement; a word of understanding; a word of support; a word of compassion.
Show her that you hear her pain and are as numbed by her story as you are impressed with her strength, her courage, and her determination to be a survivor.
Here, then, her story continues:
My Identity: The Transition from Victim to Survivor
Everyone has an identity. It is who we are and how other people know us by. Unfortunately, tragic events such as sexual abuse can change our identity; can change who we see ourselves to be, and who we strive to be. Majority of the time it changes us for the worse and as I say “us”, I mean ‘we the survivors’. Setting aside the battle of forgiving the perpetrator and praying for their repentance, being a survivor there’s a whole other battle we have to face that deals with no one else other than ourselves.
After what was done to us and against us we lose our identity. That part of me (specifically) was taken from me at the young age of six. It’s been a battle ever since to find who I am because one single man had the power and manipulation to strip me of my own free will to grow up and decide who I want to be. To the age of twelve, each time something happened my identity was lost . . . further and further into the hands of darkness… Satan. The evil acts done against me acted as a cause and effect type scenario. The cause being the wrongful act done against me and the effect being me seeing my identity with every word associated with everything bad, negative, and wrong.
My identity quickly shifted from an innocent little girl who liked to play sports to a girl and eventually a woman who would walk around dressed as much as a boy as possible . . . ashamed of who I was, disgusted with what I saw in the mirror. Feeling ugly, guilty, low self-esteem, low self-worth, carried no value, was indecisive, submissive in everything, strived for perfection, and if it was not perfect, anything I did was simply not good enough.
My identity lied within the hands of the devil because I lived in fear. My identity was lost in the hands of an older man and forced me to live two separate lives. No one knew what was happening until I was 18; for thirteen years I was forced to rely on the identity of two separate lives. Do you know how confusing that is for a young teenage girl? Someone who is trying to appear confident, pretty, fit in at school, excel in sports? All the while pretending that her identity isn’t lost, but consumed by a great wave that caught her in the undertow?
Stripped of confidence. Something every girl needs in order to carry her head high and shoulders back. The prime time for people to find their identity, something learned in multiple psychology classes, is during their adolescent years. During that time my confidence as a woman was dead. It no longer existed. Again, it lied within the man who took my innocence, and stripped me of my childhood. And every time I saw him any ounce of confidence that I even felt running through my veins, vanished. My identity was that of stolen innocence and stripped of confidence.
Damaged goods. The biggest identity crisis I have to face as well as any other known survivors and victims. The ailing thoughts of questioning, what did I do to deserve this? How bad of a person am I to make someone want to take everything from me? A time of identity where I should be founded on knowing who I am, rapidly turned into a time of identity of consistently questioning myself and my worth to me and others around me.
Sense of empowerment. When my perpetrator did everything he did, the amount of times he did, every time I lost power in who I was. My character was developed early on by the power slowly leaving my body, only to be filled with weakness. Strength no longer visible, turned into passiveness. My identity yet again skewed simply due to the wrongful actions of one simple man. What we do as a child, effects how we develop as an adult. A single soul distorted, an identity lost, all because of a soulless sinful act by a perpetrator.
I’m not expressing the effect of identity to force people to realize the harsh reality of this traumatic event, but instead to let other know out there that they are not alone. These feelings of sense of loss in belonging, worth, and knowing who you are is not identified in the hands of the sinner who did the wrong, but instead an identity that lies within Christ.
“When you were dead in your sins, you were not set free from the sinful things of the world. But God forgave your sins, and gave you new life through Christ” Colossians 2:13-14. Our new life – our lost identity – is restored in Christ when sin is brought from the darkness. Our identity is nailed to that cross.
“And you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” Colossians 2:10. If my identity is in Christ then the sense of power is restored because what I lost to sin is regained through the ultimate power, Jesus Christ.
“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who are baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” Galatians 3: 26-27. Of all those things stripped of me as a child, with my newfound identity in Christ I am reclothed with his richness, no longer stripped away of anything.
“You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” Romans 6:18. The only bonds of identity left to have are those within Christ. The abuse made me a slave to negative thoughts and feelings. Abuse that chained me to living life as damaged goods, a life finally set free with newfound confidence and value in Christ. A life now filled with the bondage of His righteousness and love.
I once saw myself as someone who was undeserving of love and unable to love in return. However, the more I placed identity in Christ, the more capable I am of allowing people to love me and being able to love others; especially the man who placed this battle in my heart in the first place.
It was a hard transition, and I still fight every day with it, but the more my trust is in Him the more my identity is made new and made in Christ. Fuck the devil. I am no longer lost in his sinful nature but have found a renewed and beautiful identity… in Christ Jesus. I was a victim of Satan, but now am a survivor in Christ.
As a survivor, with strength, courage, and confidence I remind you, you are not alone, and it is never too late.
Tony follow-on Post: I can only tell this formidable young woman that I am honored that she has chosen this space to share with others her very private experiences. She was fortunate in one area, though, in that there was no photographic record of her abuse. Thank God for that. However, while I run the risk of bringing further condemnation down on myself and others who are guilty of ‘just looking at pictures’, let me make my own thoughts on this subject perfectly clear:
While child sexual abuse exists without child pornography being involved, there is NO child pornography without a child being sexually abused. Each and every photograph of a child being forced, coerced, or persuaded to pose nude, in sexually suggestive positions, or in actual sexual situations is a visual illustration of that child’s personal nightmare. It is a permanent record of that child’s loss of innocence and identity – in most cases by someone he or she is supposed to be able to trust.
I read somewhere that the federal sentences for possession of child pornography were set by congress to be very tough so that they would be publicized and serve as a deterrent. I daresay that strategy has failed miserably and has caused more damage than it has done good.
Perhaps a more effective deterrent would be to publish the stories of the nightmares lived on a daily basis by victims of child sexual abuse. I would suggest that reading stories such as the one we have all just read might cause all but the most heartless individuals to give pause, step back, and reconsider any questionable behavior they may be indulging in or considering.
This world IS in terrible pain and its children are the ones hurting the most. We can’t make all of the pain go away, but we can certainly try.
Please join me in applauding this young woman and the strength of other survivors just like her.
For whatever tiny bit of good it may do, I am truly sorry.
I thank you for your time.