It was a normal Monday night, that September eight years ago. I had eaten supper, watched some TV and gone to bed. Now, several hours later, I was sitting bolt upright in bed – heart pounding, lungs gasping for air – terrified of something unknown ….At first I thought it was just a nightmare, but the feelings of dread and anxiety would not go away. After experiencing several more of these episodes, I went to a therapist to find out what was going on. It transpired that these episodes were called ‘flashbacks’ and that the memory that I had repressed for 43 years was one of childhood sexual abuse.
My feelings were mixed – a small part of me said “Aha! so that’s why you’ve been unhappy all your life” – but by far the larger part was instant doubt and denial. “This couldn’t possibly have happened! I must be a monster for believing my father capable of such stuff!” But gradually the truth became inescapable – my father had sexually abused me from the age of two till I was sixteen.
At first I wanted more than anything to remember everything in glorious technicolour – but God was gracious. He only returned enough memories for me to be convinced of the reality of the abuse. Very young children also only carry memories in their senses – not in words and pictures – but these bodily sensations (certain noises and smells and people getting too close) become triggers for all the old terror you felt as a child but couldn’t express. It was a very painful time.
It’s incredible how, once these very deep personal boundaries have been violated, you seem to become a target for further boundary violations. I remember that my brother and his friend tried to rape me when I was six and I have a very clear memory of leaving my body and watching ‘them’ on the bed. That was when my inner child was ‘sealed off’ and I experienced dissociative amnesia or blocking of memories. This lasted until I was 45.
The road to recovery from sexual abuse is a long and painful one. But God stayed with me through the stages of anger and grief, when I mourned the loss of my childhood and raged over the injustice of it all. He has poured out so much love on my inner child – reparented her and helped her to grow through adolescence and into adulthood. Nine years down the line He is still busy ‘restoring the years the locust has eaten’ and – most amazing of all – is how God has redeemed my suffering. He has given meaning to it all and an opportunity to rebuild my life, realising my true self (the one God created) and fulfilling my correct destiny (the one best suited to His design).
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