I was 17 years old, a senior in high school when it happened. I was a good student, a mediocre athlete, and I was also caring for my mom who was dying of brain cancer. We weren’t sure she would live to see me graduate. I had a handful of really good friends who understood me and knew what I was going through. One of my best friends, Shannon, always knew how to make me laugh when I felt down. I spent the night at her family’s apartment often. She lived with her mom, stepdad, and three year old half sister.
This particular night was not any different than our other sleepovers. We were watching her sister so her parents could go out. We loved to watch the Little Mermaid and sing all of the songs really loud. We probably watched it that night. We put her sister to sleep in her bedroom. Shannon and I fell asleep on the two couches in the living room, like we always did. Only this time, I woke up in the middle of the night to find her stepdad on top of me. I could smell the alcohol on his breath. He kept whispering my name. I was scared to death. My friend was on the next couch! What was he doing? What if Shannon woke up? What if her little sister woke up? Would he hurt them too?
I was panicked. I pretended to be asleep while he ran his hands all over my body. I prayed for him to go pass out on his bed. I have no idea how long it was before he did just that. I have no idea to this day if Shannon knew what happened. I have often wondered if he molested her too. What about her little sister? I was too scared to tell my dad. I don’t know why I was scared except that I remember thinking my family has too much to deal with. I don’t need to cause them more trouble.
Shannon and I never spoke about that night. I never slept over again. I would make excuses and my mom was getting worse, so I needed to be home more often. Shannon went away to college and I stayed home for college so we just lost touch.
I have struggled with depression and even had some suicidal times after that. I always thought it was connected to my mom’s illness and death. She died 6 months after I graduated high school. It wasn’t until I heard another survivor of sexual abuse talking about how he hated himself, that I realized these feelings could be a result of the abuse. I always felt I was inadequate and that it was somehow my fault. Her stepdad always made me a little uneasy, why hadn’t I listened to that sixth sense? Why didn’t I do something? Why didn’t I stop him? I must be weak.
I was at a conference this week for work. I am a case worker for foster children. I heard another survivor tell his story and I could not stop crying. I could relate to everything he felt. At the end of his story he told the audience that the reason he is not suicidal now is because of the love of his Savior Jesus Christ. This was not a Christian conference and I was stunned. I felt like God was telling me that it was going to be OK and I needed to allow Him to heal my heart.
God has helped me heal from my mother’s death, three miscarriages, and a very painful autoimmune disease. I feel like in His very gentle way He was now asking me to open up my heart and allow Him to heal me from this too. It was not my fault. What Shannon’s stepdad did was wrong. I was not weak. I was strong enough to be silent in order to maybe protect the others in the home from a scary drunken man.
In John chapter 9 the disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered them, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” I have no idea how God will use this situation for His good, but this verse gives me hope that He can and He will.