I gave my life to God when I was eleven years old. Very young. I had been brought up in a Christian family and definitely been encouraged in my faith from birth pretty much. There was always bible songs playing, I went to church with my family, I took part in Christian girls group activities etc. I was a fairly normal girl and I always found my life so uninspiring. I knew that my testimony was never going to make anyone look to God, I was just another christian girl from another christian home.
I remember being annoyed with God for a long time, I wanted to be able to make a difference in the world but my life had been so easy that nothing I said could possibly make a difference. I prayed to God to give me a story that people would learn from and see him in.
Like my mother always says,
“Be careful what you pray for.”
I was raped, at thirteen years old. It started under a bridge on a canal less than 100 meters from my ‘boring christian home’. I was with my boyfriend who was eighteen at the time, less than a week before my fourteenth birthday. At first I thought it was fun, I had kissed before and I liked it, but soon it all started to change. He unbuttoned my jeans and that’s when i started to say no. I didn’t say no when his hands were outside my clothes, I also didn’t say no when he pulled me onto his lap so that I was straddling him. I said no when he started to undress me though and that’s what made him angry.
He called me names, horrible things and then he got up and walked.
I followed him. I honestly thought I was in love with him and that he was the best thing in the world. I was totally infatuated with this guy who was going to rape me in just a few short minutes, but it wouldn’t stop there.
Next to the canal was a line of trees, they made a good covering so that we wouldn’t be seen by dog walkers on the canal, he lead me into there and that’s where I lost my virginity. On the cold hard ground on an evening at the end of August, a rock digging into my back and twigs in my hair. Being pinned to the ground by a man twice my size. I can remember crying as it happened, telling him it was hurting me and telling him to stop. He responded telling me it hurt everyone but once I got used to it I would like it.
Once he had finished he removed his condom and threw it somewhere into the trees, never to be seen again. He pulled up his jeans and tried to comfort me. I was thirteen, I don’t think I had ever even heard the word rape and I didn’t understand why I was sat there, my jeans and underwear somewhere on the ground, my T-shirt up around my armpits showing my only just developed breasts to the world.
He tried to hold me but I knew I didn’t want him to touch me. Slowly I started to search, blinded by tears and pain for my underwear and jeans, I found them but before I could put them on he caught my hand and said “you’re gonna want to shave or nobody will ever want to give you that again.”.
As I got dressed a change came over him, he started to cry as well. He looked at me, tears in his eyes and asked for my forgiveness for what he had done, I don’t remember if I responded or not. Then he closed his eyes and prayed to God, asking for forgiveness. He knew exactly what he had done and knew that it was wrong.
He turned to me and said “Sarah, you can’t tell anyone, our love is a crime and if anyone knew I would go to prison. How would you live with yourself if you let that happen?” He quoted scripture to me saying that now in the eyes of God we were joined together for life, that in effect we were married. That if I left him I would be going against the will of God.
That was how I ended up being raped at least once a month, for two years. I am not going to write out every single time that it happened but I will say that by the time I was fifteen I has been abused analy, oraly, vaginally, physically hit, emotionally and, possibly most damagingly of all, spiritually. This man had used my own faith, something I treasured more than anything in the world and twisted it, twisted the word of God, and made it a hook in my mouth that I couldn’t leave him. He used God to tie me into his abuse so tightly that I thought I would never be able to leave. But I didn’t know, I thought that was what love was.
I was so blinded by my infatuation that I couldn’t see the pain that he was causing. My family (who knew nothing of my sex life) could see that the relationship was tearing me apart, that I was emotionally dependant on him and not on God.
The relationship ended when I was fifteen, not without struggle on my part, I knew that he had been sleeping with other people, my parents found out that I was not a virgin (although they still didn’t know of my rape) and I managed to get the strength to leave the relationship. I had severe depression and tried many times to kill myself. I kept a knife in my bedside table for three years but I was too much of a coward to harm myself. I hated my cowardice and it made me despise myself even more.
When I was fourteen I started smoking and drinking hard spirits on a regular basis. It kept me calm, I stopped feeling things. And after my relationship with my rapist ended I started having sex with other guys too. I thought that if people wanted to have sex with me then I must be attractive, I didn’t care that guys were looking at me like I was some kind of prey for them. I wore what I want and I honestly didn’t care what people said or thought of me, or so I thought. I didn’t see how much it was hurting my parents to see their daughter, who was once so promising to be a woman of god, throw her life away like that. I don’t think, even now they know how terrible my mental state was in those years.
Now skip forward a few years. I’m seventeen and living life for the next party. I loved going out and getting drunk with my friends. Stealing from shops gave me such a thrill, smoking and hoping my parents wouldn’t see, sneaking out at all hours of the day and night and an older boyfriend who finally treated me well. I thought I had it all together.
I was doing a course in college in Health and Social care, that’s when it all fell apart. We were looking into abuse and suddenly two years of my life that I had managed to completely forget came roaring into my mind. As we watched a video about abuse I remember sitting there the tears streaming down my face, hardly able to breath because the pain of these memories felt like a sand sack dumped onto my chest. That feeling didn’t go away for a long time. My tutor took me out of the class when she saw me and I sat in a corridor in my college and told her. She was the first person I ever told my story to.
She immediately referred me to the college counselor and I swear it’s one of the best things I did. He encouraged me to talk to my doctor, to take tests with my mental health in mind. I got diagnosed almost immediately with severe depression, anxiety and PTSD. I had been drowning all my problems and now they had resurfaced. I was being called every day by my GP just to check that I hadn’t killed myself for a long time, and there was still many times that I thought about it.
I still went to church at this time and I opened up to some of the older people there that I trusted. I also finally told my parents what had happened and finally, after five years, I reported the crime against me to the police.
After that things moved pretty fast, I was caught up in a whirlwind of information, statements, forms and interviews. That only lasted for a week then it all died down, just the occasional phone call to update me on the case. I was not in control of my life again and that wasn’t easy.
After signing over my medical records, giving multiple statements and nine months of waiting to be given information my life had changed incredibly. I was living abroad, in Munich, I was enjoying parts of life but other parts not so much. I received an Email one day from the detective who was working my case. It said that the Crime Prosecution Service in England had refused to take my case. They said that it wasn’t in the public interest to take the case on. That was it, it was over. Nine months of waiting, of self preparation, of anxiety and fear were over and what had they been for? Nothing.
Now it’s four months later. I’m glad that my case wasn’t taken, it means that I can move on. I know that I have done everything that I can and that now it’s in Gods hands. I haven’t touched a cigarette in months and I have stopped binge drinking. I still love a good party but I don’t need to get drunk anymore.
I pray now, and study my bible, I try to do both things daily. I’ve stopped having sex now until I find the man for me and he meets me at the alter. I pray that God has that man for me but I am also sure that if he doesn’t he will have amazing plans for me. I want to do my best to live for Christ, I want to learn what it means to be a woman of God, to be set apart from this culture because I’ve been taken in by so many of the lies that our world shoves down our throats and it doesn’t bring joy or peace, it can stamp down our problems but out problems are still there, just because I chose to drown them out with sex and alcohol didn’t mean they weren’t there. Christ, on the other hand, he had the courage, he took the nails so that we could have a relationship with God, so that God could heal our pain and give us so much more instead.
For me it’s a choice every day. Am I going to let pain, hate and anger rule my life today or am I going to follow Jesus, trust in God’s plan for my life and choose love, hope, joy, peace, kindness and all the other amazing gifts that the Holy Spirit brings to us? It’s a hard choice to make, I feel safe in my hurt, sometimes I like to lick my wounds and feel sorry for myself but I know that God has so much more than that for me, I know that he has a plan and that he can take even me, and use me to build his kingdom.
God shows me his beauty every day and I praise him for that.
Just “be careful what you pray for” because having a testimony that touches lives means that you have to share it. Writing this is not easy, sharing it is going to be harder. And I don’t even know if my story will have an effect on anyone, I just know that I feel like God was asking me to write, and so I have written.