When someone has been raped or sexually assaulted, they obviously need a great deal of support from the people around them as well as from people like the police, doctors, godly counselors, and so on. Many people simply do not know how to help somebody through the trauma of rape or sexual assault, and so they become bewildered and feel that they are in some way failing the person they care about.
Every person responds differently to abuse, although there are certain feelings that are common, such as fear, humiliation, anger, numbness and guilt. The feelings a person has may vary from week-to-week, day-to-day - even minute-to-minute. What is important is that someone who has been attacked is allowed to experience their feelings without fear of having them judged or dismissed.
When I was a teenager, I dreamed of one day marrying as a virgin bride. The groom would be a wonderful man whom I would love and cherish for the rest of my life. My future seemed exciting. Then one night when I was fifteen, on a casual date with a school friend, I was raped. This "friend" knew I didn't want a reputation for sleeping around, so he threatened to tell everyone we had slept together, using fear to trap me into a relationship. He played mind games with me, and abused me physically and sexually. It was like going through the first rape all over again. I couldn't believe he'd bullied his way into my life; I hated him! He talked about marrying and having kids together, and for the first and only time in my life I contemplated killing myself. Trapped in silence, I lost 20 pounds from depression and stress, I didn't tell anyone. Why didn't I break the silence? Maybe I was ashamed. Maybe I was trying to bury my past, when my uncle had sexually abused me. I remained silent and tried to live a normal life, all the while feeling worthless. Then through a number of circumstances, the twisted relationship came to an end-but its effects haunted me. I tried to numb the pain by partying and rebelling against my parents. I was angry and critical, trusting no one. I felt entitled to hate the person who had abused me. My heart cried for revenge.
As the years passed, I allowed hatred to become part of my everyday life in the name of "justice," but it robbed me of joy and wasn't pleasing to the Lord. I knew I had to stop reliving the abuse in my mind and stop keeping a record of wrongs. Then one day, I began meditating on two scriptures:
"Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools" (Romans 1:21-22). "Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled" (Hebrews 12:15).
I looked honestly at my heart, and I saw unforgiveness and futile thoughts of revenge. As a result, I was blocking God out of my life when I needed Him most! I was a Christian woman, God's child, and a pastor's wife, yet my hatred was destroying me. Like Romans says, my heart was darkened, but God shined His light into it! I gave it all to God, asking for His forgiveness. When I did, I not only received His love, but also His thoughts. Having the mind of Christ, I was then able to see things more clearly-from God's perspective. I was able to genuinely forgive the one who raped me.
As Jesus hung on the cross He said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). Are you keeping a record of wrongs, harboring resentment, or jealously? Confess now and ask for God's forgiveness. God promises, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
Rape is unacceptable, but holding onto the past won't heal the wounds. You can try to bury it, but you'll still be filled with fear, shame, resentment, self-centered desires, jealousy and anger; and it will control your life: your marriage, children, friendships, school or job performance.
You may have turned to drug and alcohol abuse, fallen into depression or brooding in anger, taken to suicidal tendencies or eating disorders. Stop and think about how the pain and memories have manifested in your life.
I didn't want my pain to surface in destructive ways, but I had to be honest about how it was destroying me. Life is too short to let anger rule! I wanted to understand and apply forgiveness so I could be set free. I wanted to love and care about people without fear. I wanted to live the full life that God has for me!
Author of Healed and Set Free...from lingering hurts Bible Study
If you were raped recently, seek help or call the national sexual assault hotline (1-800-656-HOPE). Please report this attack to the police. Take that step for yourself, and for the rapist's next victim. Know that God loves you and His heart is breaking for you.