October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month — and the issue is prevalent in the United States and around the world. It falls this at a particularly relevant time this year, as women are embroiled in a viral social media campaign — #MeToo — sharing their experiences of sexual harassment and assault.
While domestic violence and sexual abuse are different, they share many qualities in terms of being taken advantage of, feeling helpless and producing shame among those who have endured the experiences. The campaign has given voice to many women who haven’t had the courage to speak out before — and there are many who have suffered seriously in silence for too long.
Christina, a member of my church, is one of those women. She didn’t share her story as part of the #MeToo campaign, but it certainly falls within the category. Christina was sexually abused as a young girl and fell into abusive relationships as she got older, finding herself pregnant at 19 and being pushed to have an abortion. After she had an abortion, she continued to suffer and said she “felt like I had died inside…like whatever little bit of me was left died right along with my child.”
Unlike many of those sharing their stories this month, though, Christina eventually found a way to escape from her abusive circumstances and find true healing in Christ from her horrific past. She was referred to Prevail, a Christian organization dedicated to helping those living in situations of domestic abuse.
There, she learned about the healing power of Jesus and how forgiveness could help her find freedom.
“Forgiving those people that hurt me was one of the most freeing things possible,” said Christina. “It relinquished me from a lot of the pain that I had carried…the Bible talks about being a new creation in Christ — it’s so true. He takes all those things that have happened to you and he uses it for good.”
“I feel like my faith has really healed me and I want people to know that God loves them, He cares about them and wants to offer them healing and freedom,” she said.
So much of what Christina said is what’s missing from the conversation about domestic and sexual abuse. Survivors deal with shame, guilt and pain for years on end, many without ever realizing that there is a way to find freedom — and it’s offered to us through Jesus and His miraculous healing.
Listening to Christina’s story, I couldn’t help but think of the parental abuse and neglect my husband suffered throughout childhood — and how similar his story of emotional healing is to Christina’s despite their different circumstances. I was leaking tears in church as I watched this video, recognizing the truth of her words that have been reflected in my husband’s life.
Here’s hoping more of those with traumatic experiences of abuse — in whatever form it came — can also find the freedom the reigns in Christ alone.
“Praise the Lord, my soul…who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.” — Psalm 103: 2-4