Your voice matters: Speak up and share your truth about sexual assault
Sexual assault is one of the most painful, frightening, life-altering experience one can go through. It damages you physically, psychologically, emotionally, developmentally, and spiritually. I know firsthand.
And when you find the courage and strength to speak up about your experience and you aren't believed, it is equivalent to being victimized all over again. Here is my sexual assault story.
I met him when I was about 15 years old. At the time, my friends and I were huge fans of gospel singing groups around our area, and just about every weekend we were bumming rides to somebody's concert. Well, there was this married couple that was affiliated with one of my favorite groups, and after so many times of being in the same space, he and his wife took a liking to me, and I to them. They were a childless couple who loved children and basically adopted me as their goddaughter.
I loved having them in my life. They were both so sweet and loving towards me and, not having a father in my life, it felt especially good to have that empty space in my heart filled by my new godfather.
The three of us would talk on the phone for hours at a time. They'd treat me to shopping sprees and things my struggling mother couldn't afford. It was sweet. No one had ever been so kind to me, especially not without expecting anything in return. And they never did. Their warm gestures towards me always appeared genuine and I, nor my mother, had any reservations about their role in my life. I mean, what parent wouldn't welcome anyone who would love and care for their child as much as they did? Good, Christian people, too! I was blessed
As time passed, my godfather began calling me without his wife on the phone. All of our conversations had always been the three of us, but, hey, I didn't think anything of it. It was just a dad calling to talk to his daughter. I liked it actually, because, as a fatherless child, I longed for that type of relationship. Nothing about our conversations were awkward or uncomfortable...until it was.
He started to ask me questions about sex: had I ever done it, did I want to do it, did I think about it? Stuff like that. I was a very bashful kid, so I naturally didn't want to answer those kinds of questions. I'd just giggle and say, "That's embarrassing!"
Still, I'm young and naive, so I didn't think too far into it.
So, this one time, he said they wanted to bring me a gift and take me out to dinner. Cool beans!
To my surprise, when I got to the car, he was the only one in there. I remember asking about his wife, but I don't really remember his answer as to why she wasn't with him. "It's just me and you," he told me, flashing a big smile. I climb in the car, buckle up, and off we went.
Before going to dinner, he said he wanted to take me to a special place. That place ended up being a pier that, looking back, was a perfect place for a romantic date. I recall finding it a bit odd that we were there. I mean, what exactly were we supposed to be doing there, all alone, under the stars?
But, hey, he's like a dad to me, so it's cool. Cool until with one hand wrapped around my waist and the other hand between my legs, he pulled me onto his lap. On my buttocks, I felt something I know a girl should never feel when sitting on her daddy's lap. I tried to get up, but he gripped me tight, breathing down the back of my neck, his hands still between my legs.
In that moment, the molested six year-old in me, was awakened. It was happening again.
I froze, just like I did when it happened as a little girl. Only difference this time is that I absolutely knew it was wrong and I was being violated.
He never said a word. For what seemed like an eternity, but was actually only maybe three minutes, I was stuck on his lap as he fondled my private parts. Then, like nothing had happened, he let me get up, smiled at me, and said, "Ready to eat?"
"I feel sick. Can you just take me home?, I replied. I literally felt sick. You know what he had the nerve to ask me? What's wrong?
In my 16 year-old mind, I swore and aggressively expressed my displeasure. But in reality, I calmly told him I suddenly had a stomach ache.
He took me home and tried to have casual conversation with me the whole ride. I used my sudden sickness as an excuse to remain quiet. I didn't say much. I didn't even know how to feel. All I could think was how in the world that could happen to me again and why my godfather, of all people, would touch me in such a way.
Weeks passed and I didn't hear from him. Then, his wife and I ended up at the same place one night, and I decided to do what I didn't do when it happened to me at six years old and tell someone. I chose to tell her -- his wife.
In detail and in tears, I stood face-to-face with a woman that was like a mother to me and told her that her husband touched me inappropriately. In my mind, I thought she would embrace me, tell me how courageous I was to share such hard truth, and we'd all work through it. I was so wrong!
She told me I was a liar, I had only been using them to get things I wanted, and that I probably came on to him because she could see "that spirit" on me. I was crushed! I was heartbroken. I was ashamed. I felt like the one who had performed the horrible act.
Now, I get her reaction, but I didn't back then. Who wants to hear that their husband is feeling up teenage girls, right? Needless to say, that whole relationship ended. About a decade later, though, I received a message through Facebook from her. I was so shocked! Turns out, she was reaching out to tell me that she and her husband had divorced and to apologize for the way she reacted to what I'd share years prior. I don't know what happened to change things, but she told me, "I'm so sorry for not believing you and for blaming you. I know now that everything you said happened was true."
That experience tainted me and wrongly taught me that, even when it's true, most people won't believe you, so it doesn't matter whether you tell or not. It made me believe that, if you tell, you'll hurt because you're accused of lying. If you don't tell, you'll hurt because you're carrying a heavy secret. Either way, you end up on the losing end of the stick.
This is why most women and girls never report sexual assault. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), only 310 out of 1,000 rapes/sexual assaults are reported. Out of the 310 reports, a measly 57 lead to an arrest and 6 are actually incarcerated. And this is only according to assaults that are reported to police. This doesn't even include those that are reported to family members and friends.
It's such a sad, disheartening reality.
This is how so many girls and women lose their voice. When you use your voice to speak your truth, only to be silenced by rejection and blame, you feel there's no power in your voice, so why ever speak up?
But the devil is a liar! Your voice and your truth matters. Always.
I know it's hard and scary to share your truth when it's not embraced, but speak up anyway. One thing's for sure, nothing is hidden from God and He will always vindicate you. It may not happen in the ways you expect, but our loving Father will always bring justice on your behalf in some way. In may come in the form of legal justice, or it may come in the form of healing, peace, forgiveness, and restoration for you.
Don't be afraid to use your voice or speak your truth, sis; whatever that truth may be. In truth, there is freedom. In freedom, there is wholeness. In it all, there is the love and grace of God.