This story is 1 of a 3-part series addressing the effects of sexual abuse and the power of healing through Jesus Christ.
Tricia Martin* was a fun-loving preacher's kid in the 1970s who played outside constantly and never met a stranger. Though she was small for her age, she never felt inferior or out of place, that was just the way God made her. She grew up in a loving, Christ-centered home and knew she was accepted and valued.
When she was eight years old, Tricia was sexually abused by one of the men in her church, a man whom she knew and trusted. She did not understand the things she was asked to do, but it did not seem right and immediately she ran to her father to tell him what happened.
Tricia's dad believed her, but told her not to worry about it. "He just worked too hard in the sun that day," her dad explained to help make sense of this inappropriate experience. She was told not to be alone with the man again, which she abided by, though her trusting nature prevailed.
Unfortunately, as she got older, several other incidents of sexual abuse occurred with different people in her school years and Tricia began to feel as if it was her fault.
"You get to a point where these are my friends and this is how it will be - I deserved it," she said. "Fear became rooted in everything I was. It was my best friend. I had to keep it close to me to keep me safe."
After hard days when peers tormented her, Tricia would go home and cover herself with clothes hidden deep in her closet. This was her escape, her safe place where no one could reach her.
As she advanced into high school, Tricia often dealt with suicidal thoughts. She had no hope, no peace. Her main escape was through day-dreaming, putting herself in an alternate reality. Her parents no longer served as advocates and she believed the abuse she was experiencing was justified and deserved.
After a violent mugging in her 20s, Tricia knew she needed to seek help. Prompted by advise from a counselor, she went to a group therapy session for sexual abuse survivors where she realized that her experiences equated to abuse.
"I didn't know what happened to me was wrong until someone said it was wrong," she said. "You don't always know it is a big deal because it is part of your life."
Going through Christian counseling was a time of great healing for Tricia as she worked through her past pain and experiences and found hope in the Lord.
"I asked questions like 'God, why did you allow me to hurt this deep?'" she recalled.
It was hard for Tricia to relive so many painful memories, but she was able to see that what happened in her past should not determine how she would live her life in the future.
"I was willing to do the work in counseling to become whole. I had to learn who I was all over again," Tricia said. "God allowed me to be brought through this for healing."
Sexual abuse happens more often than most people realize, even in the Christian community, according to Katie Swafford, director of counseling services. The Children's Advocacy Center of Texas reports 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys experience sexual abuse before age 18. The long-term affects can be detrimental if help is not sought.
For more information about sexual abuse or resources on how to seek help, visit www.texasbaptists.org/
Report Child Abuse in Texas – http://www.txabusehotline.org; 1-800-252-5400. Contact Texas Department of Family and Protective Services via phone or web to report suspicion of child abuse or neglect.
Children's Advocacy Centers of Texas – www.cactx.org. The mission of Children's Advocacy Centers of Texas, Inc. (CACTX) is to restore the lives of abused children by supporting children's advocacy centers (CACs) in partnership with local communities and agencies investigating and prosecuting child abuse.
Below is a poem written by Tricia as part of her healing process.
As I pondered the past,
Tears filled my eyes and anger filled my heart;
for as a child I played their games
that stripped my every part.
"In spite of it all, God will use you."
'in spite' I hear them say.
So I stand on that to ease the pain,
but it stays just the same.
So, I look at my life now
and wonder with all its hard times and shame,
if this answer of 'in spite' will work at all,
or leave me in this pain.
Then I heard my Lord speak gently,
with words I have never heard before;
and as I fell down on my knees
it is like He opened a special door.
He said, "Look inside and you will find
the answer you are looking for."
'Because' is the only thing I see,
and I questioned, "Is this the right door?"
He smiled and gently took my hand
and said, "It is never 'in spite'
but only because of where you have been
will you have compassion for the souls of man."
*Name has been changed
Click here to read Part 2 of the series on sexual abuse.