As I look back over my teenage years and think of the turmoil I went through, I can’t help but ask myself these questions. Why didn’t I speak out? Why didn’t I fight back? Why didn’t anyone stand up for me? Why was I alone?
To the question of why didn’t I speak out, the only answer I can think of was that I was scared. I was scared of being judged by my friends. I was afraid I would be blamed even though I was underage. I was afraid that God would not love me. All of these fears were a result of my abuser. He wanted me to doubt myself and feel like I was alienated from everyone. He wanted total power over me. There were multiple times that I would go to school, walk in my history teacher’s classroom and almost tell him. I didn’t because I was terrified of the consequences. I was told to forgive my abuser. For me, forgiveness meant to wipe it from the memory. To deny it happened. It did happen and I refuse to bury it.
Why didn’t I fight back? I ask myself this almost everyday. Why didn’t I just punch him? Violence is not in my nature. Even back then I would have rather sucked up the abuse than to confront it. I would have rather ignored it than dealt with it. Another reason was because of the grooming. Every time he touched me, he did it in front of my siblings and his kids under a blanket. Every time he touched me, I was so afraid he would do it to them. Basically in my child’s mind, he was telling me if I didn’t let him do this to me, he would do it to them. Compliance isn’t consent. It has taking a long time for me to learn this.
No one stood up for me because no one truly cared about my well-being. My parent’s were concerned about their image. His wife was concerned about what people would say about her. My church mentor took my parent’s side in saying that the church would hate me. If the church hate me, I felt that God would hate me too. God never left me.
I felt so alone during this time. I was abandoned by the ones that claimed to love me. I retreated inside myself and was criticized for not being friendly. I had no friends at church, who wants people that would blame a teenager for being raped by an adult. An adult that was kin to her and that she trusted. I felt God abandoned me because I would pray so hard for it to stop and it never did. I felt like it was God’s punishment to me for some reason. God would have never punished anyone like this, especially not a child. I didn’t know that then, but now I do.
After 3 years of feeling judged by God for what happened to me, I realized God didn’t blame me at all. He was just as mortified about what happened as I was. He saw everyone of my tears and cried with me. He heard every prayer and was with me every moment. He cradled my broken heart and is putting it back together. During a prayer time once, I clearly got the image that God was fixing my heart, but there were cracks so He patched them with gold. That means my heart will be much more valuable after the healing process.
However, the damage done by my attacker was amplified by those that were closest to me and those that claimed to follow Jesus. I frequently ask myself that if there was someone that stood by me through this process that validated how I felt, how differently would this have turned out? If my Christian family had reach out with love rather than blame, would I have been better?
As a Christian and I survivor, I would like to suggest a few simple ways people can help victims/survivors stop blaming themselves. When a person confides that they were attacked, instead of asking these following questions, respond with love. The outlawed questions are:
Why did you go to the party? Why did you flirt if you didn’t want anything? Why did you get so drunk? Why did you wear such a short dress if you didn’t want attention? He is cute, why are you saying he raped you? Were you at least attracted to him? Why were you hanging out with him if he has done it before? Why did you take the drink if you didn’t know the person? You must have sent mixed signals, he is a good guy, why are you saying this about him? Why didn’t you press charges? Don’t you care that he could be hurting someone else? Are you in therapy? Do you need a therapist? Why are you always talking about this, it is too much for me to handle? Are you glad you didn’t get pregnant?
The list could go on and on. I just listed a few ways that friends can accidently place the blame on the victims. So, instead of these questions, here are some ways to respond to someone that confides in you of their rape.
I believe you. I am sorry this happened. I don’t understand your feelings, but will try to listen the best I can.
That is probably the best thing a victim/survivor can hear. The most important thing is to validate their feelings. It doesn’t matter if they want to laugh or cry or scream about it. Their feelings are their feelings and there is no right way to react to rape. Validation is the only way to stop the blame. As a Christian, our first response should be one of love and compassion just like Jesus showed. Your response could be the only thing between a survivor leaving God or cling to Him even harder. So lets come together to stop blaming the victim and educate each other on the right ways to react to a sister/brother in need of a true friend.