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My journey to health and redemption

16 April 2010 — Mandy Marshall — Survivors’ stories

Sexual violence is subtle and quiet, like a thief in the night.  It breaks in, stealing dignity, self-worth, trust, healthy perspective, healthy self-image, beauty, the ability to thrive, and the ability to make choices.  The destruction that this thief leaves behind is self-hatred, mistrust, confusion, phobia, panic, fear, degradation, ugliness, disgust, darkness, guilt, shame, paranoia, a hatred of sex, and a fear of men.

In order to be emotionally healthy we need to learn how to make choices for ourselves, know when to compromise, and when not to.   If someone is repeatedly imposing something on you, it takes away your voice, your choices, and your value.  You learn how to live in self-denial and silence. The key to surviving here is to minimise, to pretend it isn’t as bad as it seems, to decide it’s your fault and that therefore you brought it on yourself and had a choice after all.  You do this enough and it becomes totally natural, eventually you end up thinking you have no value, no dignity, no choices, no voice, and so put up with just about anything.   

I learnt how to escape in my mind – I imagined elaborate fantasy lands, where I was beautiful, treasured, loved, successful, and in charge.  But, this was not reality. The land I lived in was a deathly silent world filled with sexual abuse and rape.   I hated my self, I hated my body and I hated being alive, but still I breathed.  I used to wake up and curse the fact I could still breath, how dare I not have died in the night. I would will myself as my head hit the pillow to die in the night, but yet the relief never came.  And so instead I committed passive suicide, and learnt how to live life as if I were dead.  The wall around my heart was so thick that nothing came out and nothing got in.  In order to survive I made fantasy into my new reality, putting on new clothes to cover my scars – bravado to wear in public, denial and fantasy to wear at night.

But this wasn’t really living – have you every really thought about what you can achieve when you’re just surviving? I can tell you – not much.  We only really achieve things when we’re thriving.  Surviving is just about getting to the end of the day as best you can.

Please, don’t ever blame anyone for allowing abuse to happen to them.  Remember if they’ve been told long enough that they’re not worthy, they’ll believe it. And people who think they don’t have any worth will put up with just about anything.

This was my story of darkness; it is not that dark anymore, there is light.  In some places there is lot of light.  In some areas I have been fully restored.  I can’t deny that my journey to health has been long and painful, but it has been so worth it.  

My journey to health and redemption has been made possible because of Jesus and who He is.  He is not just a name, but also a person, a divine presence with more power than you can imagine.  He has redeemed me, he has gently led me out of my fantasy world, restored my reality and my self worth.  He gave me new clothes, clothes of dignity, beauty, trust, security, and friendship, and a new self-image.  I have, through Him, completely forgiven my abusers. I am now free of the incidents, and though the effects of them are still being worked through, I have no doubt that redemption is mine through Christ’s relentless efforts towards making me whole.