Broken but Beloved: It's Time to Tell My Story
This post is the scariest one I will ever publish. I’m about to write words I’ve never publicly written before. I’m about to say things I’ve never said online before. Even as I’ve grown in realness and strengthened my vulnerability muscles, there have always been things I’ve held back or hidden or left alone. Even now, even as I write these words to share my story, there will be things I can’t say, won’t say, forget to say, and don’t say quite right. There are details I’ll leave out for my safety, and parts I’ll leave vague on purpose. I’m sharing anyway. Perfection be damned. I’m silencing the voices of shame and kicking fear in the ass to declare that the darkness does not get to win and have power over me any longer.
The time has come to tell my story.
Several years ago, a boy stole something from me I will never get back.
This is the story of what happened to me then, and how it changed me forever. This is my #MeToo story, my voice adding to the chorus of brave women around the world no longer staying silent about what we have lived through, what we have survived. For too long, we have worn our secrets and our stories like cloaks of shame, but this is a new day and a new season, and I implore you to listen openly and to believe women like me. These stories of ours aren’t easy to tell, but they are true, and we need you to hear us and love us and support us in them.
When I was a teenager, I was raped.
After months of increased force and fervor and fear, I was locked in a room, pinned to a bed, silenced by force, and raped despite my desperate attempts to fight back, get away, and cry out for help. I did not consent, not to any of it. I did not want it, any of it. My entire life changed forever that night.
For years, I have kept this secret. Nobody in my family knew.
They do now. What sweet, blessed, unexpected relief. What grace. I’m still undone by their love and kindness in response.
This is my story, and I’m no longer ashamed to say it. I’m writing this down so you, all of you— family, friends, even Internet strangers— hear it straight from me, finally.
I’m no longer keeping my story a secret.
I was raped. I was abused. I was hurt and degraded and terrified and assaulted and humiliated. I was lied to, I was cheated on, I was forced to do horrible things in private and even in public. I was called every derogatory name in the book, cussed at, yelled at. I was manipulated and mocked and made to feel as if I deserved every bit of it. I went to the ER with concussions, I had encounters with police. I was convinced it was all my fault. I was ruined in nearly every way.
It took me years before I could even say the word “rape” and admit fully to myself and to others (especially the people closest to me) that I lived it, that it happened, that it was real. Because my rapist was my boyfriend, I rationalized everything and made excuses and felt like it wasn’t really that bad. It’s taken me so long to come to understand that it wasn’t my fault and I did nothing wrong.
Evil was done to me by a sick and evil boy (I can’t even call him a man) and I’ll never forget it. I’ll forever carry scars (seen or unseen) from his abuse.
A boy I thought I loved wormed his way into my life, my heart, and my pants, using lies and flattery and all sorts of romantic gestures. He showed me the rope he would hang himself with if I ever dared to leave him or tell anyone what was going on, and he instilled a fear in me that I haven’t ever been able to fully shake. I felt responsible for his mood swings, even though I knew he battled issues that were beyond me. I bore the brunt of his aggression after sporting events that went poorly, and he took out anger on me that would have gotten him penalized in the game.
Even now, writing these words, I’m scared shitless that he will read them and get angry and find me to hurt me again. My fear of him never really goes away, and I don’t know if it ever will.
Raised in a conservative, evangelical purity culture, I felt stuck, trapped, hopeless. (I wrote about this once, anonymously at the time, and you can read it here.) I was convinced I would have to marry him just so that nobody would ever find out he so brutally stole my virginity from me. I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone finding out, of my dad knowing I wasn’t pure anymore, of my mom knowing her daughter had been hurt like that. I bore the impossible weight of it all, crumpling under the immense shame of my secret. I learned how to live behind a mask and put up an armor to try to keep anyone from ever finding out this truth that I felt made me worthless, unlovable, irredeemable, broken beyond repair, disgusting, dirty, discarded, unworthy.
I didn’t think there could be grace for me if anybody knew what had happened, what continued to happen for more than two years.
I didn't think anybody could love me if they knew.
I didn’t think I would have a home. I didn’t think I’d still have a family. I didn’t think I’d have a place in the church. I didn’t think my friends would stay by my side.
I didn’t think anyone would want me if they knew.
So I kept it secret. And for years, that secret has been keeping me sick.
Even recently, he texted me somehow (even though I had his number blocked and his number deleted), saying things I didn’t ever need to hear. It sent me into a full-blown panic attack, my entire body shaking uncontrollably while the tears streamed down my face and my heart raced faster than I knew it could.
Even so many years later, he still has power over me.
I hate that. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.
Every single day, I have to fight to reclaim what he stole from me.
My sense of safety in my city, my home, and in my own body. My sense of worth, of value. My identity as beloved, and not just as broken. My faith that God is good and that He didn’t abandon me then and He hasn’t abandoned me now. Seeing myself as beautiful and not ruined.
You see, it was subtle how he hurt me at first. He wasn’t all bad, and he actually was quite charming. He spent time with my family, and I spent time with his. He didn’t seem violent or abusive on the surface, just a little troubled maybe, a little mysterious. He did it all so well, his games and his lies and his cheating and his so-called love and his violence, too. All abusers do.
Meeting him when I did, after growing up in that evangelical purity culture, after a jarring cross-country move, after years of sweeping hard things under the rug with my family because I never felt I lived up to their impossibly high standards, after a painful and ongoing falling out with friends, after a year of battling bullies and crying in the school counselor’s office, after losing what felt like everything and everyone I loved, after day after day of coming home and collapsing on the couch crying, it makes sense why I craved his attention, his affection, what I thought was his love.
It makes sense why I let little things slide and let red flags go unnoticed, all for the sake of feeling wanted by someone in a season where I felt alone, abandoned, unseen.
But I refuse to take the blame for his actions any longer. I refuse to let fear keep me silent.
I refuse to label myself a victim.
Yes, I was raped. But I am not a rape victim. Yes, I was abused. But I am not an abuse victim.
I am a survivor.
I am a survivor of sexual abuse. I am a survivor of physical abuse. I am a survivor of emotional abuse. I am a survivor of verbal abuse. I am a survivor of violence, of infidelity, of fear at the hands of an evil and broken human.
He did not win.
He does not win now.
Evil does not win.
Shame does not win.
Depression does not win.
Anxiety does not win.
Fear does not win.
I have been fighting and continue to fight with everything in me, day after day, moment by moment, just to stay alive and keep going. My very existence in this life is a victory.
I am a survivor.
What I know now (thanks to many months of weekly therapy and the amazing grace of God and the fierce love of wise friends and family) is that this story is not my identity.
What one boy did to me does not define me.
This is just part of me. This is just part of my story. What I have been through, what I have lived through, what I have survived, it is just part of me. It is not everything.
My identity is beloved.
I was raped, but I am beloved. I was abused, but I am beloved. I was hurt and degraded and terrified and assaulted and humiliated, but I am beloved. My story, my past, my hurt, the sin and shame I’ve been enslaved to for so many years, it is not my identity. None of it disqualifies me from love, from the grace of God, from the mercy He gives, from the beautiful and undeserved gift of salvation and freedom and eternal life He offers. I am beloved. I am worthy. I am wanted.
I’ve lived for years with this crushing fear that if anybody knew my story, especially the very people closest to me, they wouldn’t love me anymore.
I’ve come to realize just how wrong that is.
My identity, my belovedness, it does not come from another human, and no other human can take it away. It is woven into my very DNA by the Creator of the universe who calls me daughter and calls me beautiful and said when He made me that this is good.
This story, my story, is ultimately the story of God’s great grace, his deep love, his endless mercy, and his salvation.
It’s a story of resurrection, of new life blossoming in places that once were dead. It’s the story of the Gospel, of Jesus making a way out of sin and shame through the power of the cross, breaking all my chains, offering me the glorious gift of forgiveness and freedom and a full, abundant life. It’s the story of learning how to love again, how to be loved, how to open up to love, how to love myself, how to love God, how to let friends and family see me and know me and love me through the very hardest seasons and in the most honest ways. It’s a story of healing. It’s a story of hope.
I thought all hope was lost on that horrible night. I thought my life was over. I thought everything was ruined and nothing would ever be okay again.
But here I am.
I have lived through hundreds of days since that night.
My life is not over.
Yes, parts of me were ruined, and many of those parts are still being reborn and rebuilt.
But so much has been healed.
I have found hope.
I have found peace.
I have found love, true love.
I have found God in the very places where I felt alone and abandoned. I have realized He was always with me, never leaving or forsaking me. His heart was just as shattered by the evil of that boy as mine was, if not more. He weeps with me. He is angry with me at the abuse I endured.
I have learned that true hope only comes after despair.
I have learned that I can look back at the darkest night of my soul and tell the story of what happened there, and in doing so, I can shine a light and push back that darkness.
I have learned that I am brave enough to speak the truth of what happened to me and live through it.
I have learned that the people I’ve trusted enough to tell have only ever loved me more fiercely, more fully, more beautifully in response. Never once have they run away or abandoned me or given up on me because of what happened.
I have learned that God is still good. He always was, He still is, He always will be.
I have learned that while I’ll never understand why it all happened, I can still believe in God’s faithfulness and kindness and goodness unto me.
I am learning that with Him, I truly have nothing to fear.
I am learning that He will be my strength when I don’t know how I’ll continue on another day.
I am learning that His love heals and restores me. I am learning that He can and will make me new.
I am learning that my past and my pain do not disqualify me from faith, from ministry, from writing, from being in relationship with others, from God’s grace, from anything.
I am learning that I am beautiful.
I am learning that I am beloved.
I’m learning how to hold fast to hope, how to fight for freedom, how to believe in the resurrection power of my Savior, how to trust in His goodness, how to have faith that He is for me and with me and that He loves me even still, and always will.
This is not the end of my story.
That night so many years ago was not the end of my story.
God is still writing a story with my life, and I am here to keep living into the mystery and the beauty and the gift of each new day that comes. I will keep showing up to counseling week after week, doing the hard and holy work of unpacking my trauma and fighting depression and anxiety and finding freedom in Christ. I will keep opening up to friends and loved ones on the hard days and the good days and all the moments in between. I will keep sharing my story and encouraging others to share theirs too, because there is power in speaking truth and pushing back the darkness and not letting fear or shame or evil win over us any longer.
I am proud to be a survivor.
I’m so thankful the Lord has brought me this far. I’m thankful for the ways my faith has been refined through these fires and made more pure as a result. I will spend every day, every breath, every bit of my life giving all the glory and honor to God alone, for it is only through His strength that I survived and continue to live. He is good, and I am grateful.
Praise the God who saves.
Praise Him for saving me.
If you have been raped, if you have been abused, if someone has done things to you that you never wanted and never asked for, if you were forced into horrible things, if you were harmed or hurt, if you were broken in any way at the hands of another, hear me say that you are loved. Hear me say that you are welcome in a new kind of culture, the culture of Jesus, where shame has no place and we pour out redeeming grace instead. If nobody has ever told you that you are welcome before, let me be the first. I’m glad you’re here. Your story is safe with me. Hear me say that you are beautiful, you are worthy, you are cherished and treasured, and He will heal every bit of your hurt. Hear me say that you are not alone, never for one second. Hear me say that this is a safe space, and that my inbox is open if you need a listening ear. Hear me encourage you to see a Christian counselor, talk to a trusted friend, share with a loved one, or reach out to a pastor or mentor— you do not have to walk this road alone. There is help waiting for you, love waiting with welcoming arms. I know it is scary and it might take time before you’re ready, but healing is possible and people WILL love you along the way.
You are beloved. You are beloved. You are beloved.
It is incredibly hard to share this, but I know it’s important and that it was finally time to do so, and I pray you’ll find encouragement in my story. I pray you’ll see Christ’s saving grace more clearly through my words. I pray that you, too, will find strength in Him to share your own story and speak your own truth, whatever it is.