We all have a story and for an estimated one in three women, their story involves sexual abuse. God asks us to listen to the stories of victims and minister to them in their sexual brokenness. He calls us to shepherd them so they can receive hope, forgiveness, and healing at the foot of the cross.

The first time I ever shared my “story” was at a Christian women’s luncheon when I was about 30 years old. It was not really a sharing of my story but a tearful confession of all the pain and abuse I had suffered throughout my life. I shared every gory detail, every painful moment. Although the women thanked me for being transparent, I think their reaction was more horror than inspiration. As I looked back on the event, I realized that I was still telling my story. It has taken me many years to understand that it is really God’s story that changes people. So, I don’t tell my story anymore. I share His story for my life with the yearning desire that something in it will inspire people to keep going and find hope in their own sexual brokenness.

I survived a broken family with a history of isolation, anger, atheism, and abuse. Suffering from damaging sexual abuse from the time I was four years old, I spent most of my childhood in fear and shame. My childhood experiences set the stage for being targeted for further sexual abuse as I aged.

Molested for the first time in pre-school, raped for the first time at age 13, and sold for sex for the first time at age 15, my teen years were filled with sexual assault, sexual exploitation, drug addiction, and homelessness which spiraled my young life into immorality and destruction. I silently suffered in a world with no voice and was permanently branded for life as a target for other abusers. My teen and young adult years were further scarred by chronic violence, sexual abuse, and exploitation. Violent assaults, and chronic date and gang rape in my teens confirmed I had no tools, no skills, and no boundaries to ward off predators. It wasn’t labeled trafficking back then, but I know first-hand what it is to be sold, traded, and exploited for sex. At 22, a violent, criminal gang rape forced me to gather enough courage to report for the first time. I was painfully reminded why many sexual assault victims never come forward when the lone officer who took my report perpetrated further abuse in a windowless interrogation room. A drug overdose and failed suicide attempt propelled me on a life-changing journey. I thought surely my young life was not worth living but, God had a plan.

A Christian friend, seeing my desperation, invited me to church. After weeks of scorn and disbelief, God began to soften my black heart. One Sunday morning I surrendered my life to Him, and I have gratefully served Him every moment since he took ownership of my heart.

God had a plan for me as He does for all of us. Healing from my deep sexual abuse and exploitation wounds has been a life-long process. God has been faithful to bring deep healing and restoration so that I can now share a message of hope and healing with others. For those impacted by sexual abuse and exploitation, the journey to faith in Christ can be difficult. I can now look back on all of the pain and suffering I endured and rejoice because God’s hand and guidance are evident. I have faithfully learned to embrace His plan for my life and discard my own. God used the pain and suffering of sexual abuse and exploitation in my youth, childhood, and adulthood to learn the lessons I now share with church leaders, professional caregivers, hurting women, teens, and families.

We all have a story. I share mine in the hopes that it might in some way inspire someone else. God has a plan. If we are willing to enter into it, we can reconnect with him in new ways across a lifetime of hope and healing. Our story can become His Story for our lives instead of our own. I have walked in utter darkness and that is what drives me to illuminate the issue of sexual abuse and exploitation for anyone who wants to learn more about these critical issues in the church today.

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him, there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5

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