Purposefully Scarred is dedicated to raising awareness for survivors of abuse and helping one another find purpose in our scars. Chances are great that you have experienced abuse firsthand. Or, if you’ve never been a victim, you know someone (likely several people) who has been. You may have even been the abuser.
Regardless of the category you fall into, I sincerely hope that you find the stories and information here beneficial and encouraging.
On this site, you’ll be able to read, watch, and listen to material intended to support and inform survivors of abuse, their families, and the general public. Many posts will be stories told by survivors of abuse. You can also find information on current trends related to sexual and domestic violence, as well as news reports and articles related to various types of abuse. If you need help, please look at the resources highlighted and/or the list of global contacts, which includes helplines and contact information for agencies and organizations around the world. If you have questions or input of any kind, please feel free to comment here or contact me, through the Purposefully Scarred Twitter feed (@PurpOsefulScars).
This blog was birthed largely from the work I do locally with abuse survivors. For two years, I volunteered through my local YWCA as an advocate for rape victims. I also helped lead support groups for children coming out of domestic violence situations at a shelter during that time. Many of my early posts were created during my years of volunteering. I now work as a full time victim advocate at our community’s sexual assault response program and have held that position since June 2014.
As advocates, our sexual assault response program provides crisis intervention and emergency room response as well as follow up services that are free and confidential to any victims who are interested. Follow up services include but are not limited to interview and court accompaniment, referrals, and emotional support. I work not only with adult and child victims of sexual assault (male and female) and their families but also local professionals including forensic nurses, police officers and investigators, prosecuting attorneys, counselors, and charity workers.
Since taking on this position full time, I have been a victim of a sexual assault committed by a stranger. I had experienced sexual violence before but it was the first assault I ever reported to law enforcement. Even as an advocate, I almost did not report so I understand from experience that that is an incredibly taxing and intimidating thing to do, especially so soon after experiencing an assault. Do what is best for you! People will tell you that if you don’t report, that person will assault or rape someone else. They will tell you that you are responsible to be sure that person goes to jail. The truth is you cannot control your offender’s future actions any more than you could control their criminal actions against you. And you cannot guarantee that that person will go to jail (very few rapists serve time). Do some research and talk to an advocate or investigator about the legal process if you are not sure you want to report. Some victims feel empowered when they report and perhaps later testify in court. Others experience revictimization. Unfortunately, no two assault are identical so do what you believe to be best for you in that moment. There are plenty of valid reasons to report just as there are plenty of valid reasons not to.
My story of abuse began when I was 19, in the winter of 2008. I had no idea at the time. I had never heard of dating abuse and the more we planned for our post-college graduation marriage the more I was able to convince myself that everything was fine.
It began with verbal abuse. Manipulation. The unwelcome physical contact. The sexual taunting. The controlling behavior. Then the blatant disregard for my cries of “no, stop!” when he wanted to control my body.
What I believed about sex and abstaining from it back then was very skewed. In my teens I had bought into the lies of purity culture which told me that my virginity was the ultimate determining factor in my worth. If I did anything sexual – if I went “too far” (whatever that might mean) – my value would decrease, even if what happened was unwanted. Premarital sexual actions made a girl like me undesirable. So, when he pushed boundaries, I blamed myself and began to believe that my worth was steadily decreasing. I was well on my way to becoming damaged goods and, when he told me that no one else would love me, I believed him.
The ultimate result of that relationship was a year of suicidal depression and an eating disorder. I disappeared for a year. I wandered through each day, oppressed by psychological weariness, wearing a shell of my real self. I didn’t realize I was being abused, suppressed and humiliated. I didn’t understand that my fragile psyche had an explanation. I thought I was going crazy. He reinforced that belief and told me I just needed to “snap out of it”. And when I finally did realize that I had no reason to remain in such an unhealthy relationship, I was too scared to do anything about it.
When it came, the breakup was messy. I silently carried the burden of guilt, shame, and regret for the next three and a half years. Every time I thought about his touch or his venomous words, I felt sick to my stomach. I felt dirty. The kind of dirt no shower could erase. I carried invisible scars on my mind and soul.
Some of you reading this know too well what that burden feels like. Many of you have been through far worse. You can’t shake it alone. It’s that proverbial cloud hanging over your head. It’s that recurring nightmare; the one that wakes you up in the middle of the night, sweaty and terrified. It’s the voice inside your head reaffirming what your abuser was telling you: “You’re worthless. You’re hopeless. You’ll never get better. You’ll poison all of your relationships. It’s all your fault. I’m the only person who will ever want you. And there’s nothing you can do.”
Those are lies. Ugly, life-ruining lies. You have great worth. There is hope for healing and health in relationships. And none of the abuse you’ve suffered is your fault.
When I was 21 and still carrying the weight of that relationship, I was living in a new city and attending a new school for my master’s degree. During finals week my first semester, a fellow student suggested we have sex in the back of my car. When I told him “no” he pushed through my winter clothes to wedge his hand between my breasts. When I pulled his hand out, he just grinned and did it again, fondling my left breast before getting out of the car. I was in shock.
I was angry with him but I was far more angry with myself. Was this to be my lot in life? I felt I should have been able to avoid it all together. I told no one. I wrapped the hurt and shame from that incident nice and tight and placed it neatly in the back of my mind, next to the guilt I already had from my college dating relationship. Whenever the memories came back, I suppressed them, convinced it was my fault. It was my job to live with the consequences.
I was just over three years beyond the breakup and about a year beyond that sexual encounter in the parking lot. It still hurt. And I knew that time alone wouldn’t heal those wounds.
My healing came in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
I’m not going to preach at you. But my story doesn’t end with a hopeless 20-something.
I don’t know what you’ve heard or believed about who Jesus was. A moral teacher, maybe. A religious fanatic. A fictional character from a story made up hundreds of years ago.
This is what I believe to be true: Jesus Christ is God. He created man to be in perfect community with him. Life on earth was meant to be enjoyed in the presence of an awesome, loving God. But man rebelled. Adam and Eve, and ultimately every human since, committed cosmic treason. In other words, my sin separates me from God. He is holy, perfect, righteous. My sin, my cosmic treason, deserves eternal damnation. That means hell. A literal hell, where the greatest punishment will be spending an eternity completely separated from the one Person our human hearts were created to adore: God.
Here’s the mind-blowing, awesome remedy to my cosmic treason, to the world’s wicked state: Jesus Christ came to earth to live the perfect life I never could and to die the horrific death that my sins deserved. By His death, He gives life. Through His resurrection, He offers hope.
Here’s how I know my worth: God created me. More than that, He cares about me as His creation. And by believing that Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection are the only remedy to my sin problem, to my separation from God, He gives me eternal life. He fills that hole in my heart. He looks at all the ugliness of my wounded sinner’s heart and says, “I love you and I will heal you.” In Jesus, I have everything. I am not without hope.
Let me be clear: religion didn’t solve my problems or make the pain of my past disappear. Nor will it. I have hope because of what Jesus did.
God had a purpose in everything that happened to me. I still don’t fully understand all He was doing but I believe I am better for the pain. I say believe instead of know because there are days I wonder: why was that necessary? Still, I am continually reassured that God was, is, and will continue to heal and sustain me. There is a reason I carry the scars of abuse.
If I had to experience abuse in order to better help others heal then that alone makes my past worthwhile.
While Jesus was on earth, he said, “Come to me all who are weary and bearing heavy burdens and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). The burden of guilt, shame, and regret that I was trapped under: Jesus Christ came to take that burden off of my shoulders and, in exchange, give my soul rest. I would still be that hopeless 20-something if not for Jesus Christ.
I believed in Him before that. I knew Him personally; in fact, I came to faith as a young child. But the reality of a peace that goes beyond human comprehension did not come until after I had suffered.
Healing is a process; it never happens overnight. And each person’s process is unique. I want to respect that as I share resources, stories, and information that will hopefully aid your process. In other words, what you believe or where you live is irrelevant to me. Our worldviews do not need to agree in order for me to want healing for you. What I care about is seeing survivors of abuse find healing and hope. I want them to find purpose in their scars.
Thanks for reading!