I’ve heard a lot of people say gratitude is the key to happiness. But for those of us who have been through the trenches, or perhaps are still in them, expressing gratitude sounds deeply insensitive and almost incomprehensible. I can recall looking back on the days right after being assaulted. As a form of survival, I was afraid to feel. I would not let anything come into my life that was new or unfamiliar; not even the good moments. As I continued to build what became an emotional dam around me, I silently concealed my pain. I cried almost daily for years. However, I was overfilling what I meant to keep buried, and it needed to be released. I learned the hard way that numbness was not the key to my freedom or my happiness.
So how did I get to the point of release, where I could begin to live again? I exercised moments of gratitude. I learned to thank God for what I did have, for who I was despite the repercussions sexual assault had on my life. I would thank God for keeping me, and sustaining me, even though I still wanted answers and an explanation for allowing this pain to enter my life.
“He robbed me of my youth, I will forever have to pick up the pieces of my life because of this man, and WHERE WERE YOU GOD...in all of this?” I kept asking.
God revealed who He was when I showed Him everything that I was and was not capable of being. I told God, “I’m not capable of forgiving yet, because I’m still hurt” or “I’m not sure how to talk to You now. I think you only want to show up AFTER my pain.”
When I approached God for REAL, I began to see myself worthy of better days. I was depending on a greater force I was still trying to understand in the mess of my life. I was falling apart while God was graciously putting me together all at once. I stopped using the cookie-cutter devotionals I prayed daily, I stopped seeing God only when I was dressed up for hour-long services, and I met Him in the trenches exposing every part of my broken mind and heart. There were a lot of things I needed to let go of before I could let such a light into my life. That meant me laying my anger down along with my tears, and frustration, loneliness, and feelings of unworthiness at His feet.
Crazy thing is, God already had me, and I felt that deeply as I was moved to thank Him for where I was not. I was still standing. For seven years, I felt like I was in a boxing match with the enemy and though battered and bruised, God revealed to me more of who I was for still fighting. The fact that I chose to fight for my happiness, my peace, my fearlessness, my power, and my voice gave way for me to thank Him. Jesus was legit my boxing coach, so when I the enemy hit, He was in my corner reminding me who I WAS. So, I thanked Him, and I keep fighting every single day.
Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:12 (KJV) Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, where unto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.
I wanted to know who this BIG God that I was serving really was...so I stopped focusing on me for a bit and my scars, and started focusing on Jesus. How was it that this same BIG GOD could allow His only begotten son to die a gruesome death He did not deserve? I began to reflect on the life of Jesus, and His selflessness in all of this and how ultimately, He was a sacrificial example of what it means to walk in gratitude. Crazy thing was, Jesus KNEW the pain that He would soon have to face, and bore the cross anyway. Knowing the pain that would soon be in his future didn't stop Jesus from healing people, or showing compassion for the overlooked or undeserving. I suppose that’s what God was trying to teach me through this. In part, God has taught me to praise Him anyway in all my imperfection, in my filth, in my distrust and near hatred for Him in a time of my life I needed Him to be there the most. God’s spirit in me moved me to choose LIFE and not death through the power of the tongue. Giving thanks to God broke the walls I once built up and that became the gateway for healing, forgiveness and my happiness.
Wherever you are in this process, and no matter how deep the wound, God knows pain, and proved that through His son Christ Jesus. Now, understanding why it had to happen to you and me is a personal journey that has no perfect answer. The thing is...it shouldn’t have happened to you. You didn’t deserve to be used, mistreated or taken advantage of—and if those are lies you are hearing that’s nothing by the enemy. God loves you enough to see you through even THIS. It took praises coming forth with tears falling down my face for me to ultimately realize I was never a lone. I am here, I am being sustained and maintained, God is working on my life even as I write this.
Thanking God for keeping you DESPITE of what was meant to kill, steal and destroy you is a miracle. THAT is why I praise, that is why I still keep going, scars and all. I am fearfully and wonderfully made by a King that saw it fit that I make it through this—and you will too! So when all else fails, I urge you to PRAISE through the pain. It confuses every broken spirit into the ushering process of your healing, your love for self, and the beautifully empowered life you still have left to live! You got this, and we will be here every step of the way. <3
DevinMarie for Herstory
How exactly do you start over? What pieces do you leave behind and which are the ones you pick up? When dealing with trauma, we are often faced with the questions of... "Where do I go from here?"
Sis...bro...there really is no perfect way to 'bounce-back.' There is no secret formula (I so wish I could give other survives I speak to) that eases the pain or helps them to understand how or why their innocence, their love, their confidence or their trust was taken away.
I do know this...I know that starting over sometimes means facing the very things we often run away from. It is a form of survival. If you are in a burning house, you find a plan of escape and you get out! Being raped by someone I trusted was my burning house, only I felt like I couldn't leave. I was suffocating in threats, in harassment from my peers at school, and it was very much as if I was being blamed for what prompted the fire in the first place.
I learned after escaping the fire (post-trauma) that it still needed to be put out. I knew that I would have to eventually confront the repercussions of this event, even though this was not my fault, (it is not yours either). The burden of putting out the fire the pain, the evidence of what was lost, meant getting really REAL with that pain. I believe owning up to the pain, the disappointment of that relationship, and who I was because of what happened to me was the moment I reclaimed who I truly am. I didn't feel like a hero, I didn't feel like a survivor, or an advocate. I felt the lies the devil whispered in my ear for a very long time. I felt that I was only worthy of being treated through some time of abuse. I felt the weight of unfulfilled hopes spoken by police officers and detectives who said "We were going to get this guy," I felt the emptiness I later understood that only Jesus could fulfill.
Even after receiving Jesus into my heart only months after the assault, I still needed to face the pain in order to lay it at my Savior's feet. I had to bring the baggage in order to unpack what was deep inside of me still: the hero, the survivor, the advocate, the feelings of joy and confidence and overall peace.
However, I couldn't reclaim such things without facing what was taken from me. I'm not going to make light of something that just might be the hardest thing you've ever had to do. Facing pain, but not living in it requires a type of grace I've only found through a relationship with someone I know who understands. With the help of other survivors like my sister, Cristal, and the love of my savior Jesus Christ, I was able to get to a place that I am at now. Today, I reclaim my past as the catalyst for true happiness I have on the inside of me. I'm not happy it happened to me, I'm not proud that I was once naive to think the world wouldn't hurt me again. But I am grateful that I could endure the fire, something that was meant to consume me, and put it out. I reflect now only on the remains as a way to remind myself I can literally do ANYTHING through Christ...including be happy and claim healing after hurting for so long.
Like the house that was once consumed by pain, I am still rebuilding. Brick by brick, the foundation I am finding through God's word, fellowship with other sisters and brothers in Christ, and mentorship by those who speak life into me daily is another brick. I am getting there, and soon I will make a home of new hopes, dreams, and a whole lot of love for me and those still picking up the pieces in their own lives.
Reflecting back to the days after being sexually assaulted had me thinking a lot about I chose to cope. Really, how I chose to survive the worst night of my life was followed by a lot pretending. Pretending I was happy, and that I was okay to avoid the questions. I spent more time making sure I looked happy to show no evidence of hurt and sadness when hiding the truth from the people who love me. However, as years passed by I’ve come to realize that in fact it is okay to mourn the person I was before.
When a loved-one pass away we take time to mourn their loss, when a child falls and gets hurt they cry for a little bit because they are physically hurt; same goes for us survivors. It is okay to cry, it is okay to miss the person we were before that pain ever entered our life. I have made it a point now to just sit back and think about how much effort and dedication people that DO love us who pour into our lives to make us confident strong women/ men. These seeds of love are not in vain, and require watering, even at the expense of our tears in order for us to grow. The word says in Ephesians 3:12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
I know sometimes it is easier said than done, but let us pray and ask God that through our faith we may be free and regain our confidence in all things we do and walk into.
Looking back to the days I was overwhelmed by pain, I realized that rape affected me in more ways than I possibly thought. For example, I still dress more modestly today because I'm not comfortable in certain styles like spaghetti strap top, off shoulder top and even dresses I rather cover up or wear clothes that would not attract the wrong attention—or my fluctuating weight. When I was raped I had just lost so much weight I was finally a size I wanted to be; but as soon as I had that experience, I blamed my new physique for what happened and I began to regain weight thinking that gaining some weight back would now become my protection. But the way I dressed, or the size I wore had nothing to do with someone’s inability to respect me. I was unhappy with the experience I endured and specially unhappy with the new weight I gained because of this debilitating mindset.
Yes I'm still a survivor....in progress! The reality is that for the rest of my life I will be a survivor in progress because each day I work harder in becoming a happier me just because we sometimes hurt it does not mean we are not survivors; it means I'm taking a moment to mourn who I once was. It’s me taking a moment to reclaim the confidence I still have or the freedom I still have yet to fully possess.
We WILL get to the place where we don't have to re-think what we will wear or places we will go but it all takes time and we will share a few tears here and there just like you would when you reflect on times you had with your love ones that are no longer here. Nevertheless, remember we are SURVIVORS.
Everyone may have the same story but not everyone heals at the same rate, and that’s okay too! Do not judge your walk on someone else’s timetable, even another survivor’s.
I’ll leave you with this scripture. Because though our journey may take a while, God is not finish yet!
6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
I cried this week. I knew what was inside, and I tried my hardest not to give into the overwhelming emotions that this week stood for. See, I have been looking at this all wrong. It's okay to be angry, confused, frustrated, or want to escape from the chaos that is in this world. This week forced many of us to look pain straight in the eye through the story of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. I had to stop looking at this as a defeat. I had to pause and understand that regardless of the result, the culture remains divided, and that solves very little in the bigger picture. I had to recognize the intention and not simply the result. Truth is, whether or not Kavenaugh was appointed, Ford still has her story. Ford still has her healing, her truth,. her pain, her triumph, and we have to be the ones to carry survivors like her into the next step.
I wanted justice for her, like I wanted justice for myself when I was told my sexual assault case wouldn't go to court. I too wanted the DA to ask for a further investigation, I too wanted to be heard, and believed and supported by our justice system; but that expectation was not met. So what do you do with what is left? What do you do with what was meant for bad? Genesis 50:20 says: But as for you, You intended evil against me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.
As I spoke on the phone with my partner, and tears fell over prayers for strength, I heard one thing; these tears are not of weakness, they are of acknowledgement. I adjusted my perspective on the notion that it is okay and healthy to mourn the person that I was, and pour out joy into the person I am today.
Acknowledging your pain, or disappointment in any given situation, or person doesn't automatically create this dichotomy of win or lose, victim or perpetrator. It is the moment that you claim pain to be the foot-stool not the giant left for you to fight. God has shown me time and time again that I have won this fight. My worth was not determined by other's opinion of my truth. I won because I survived, not because twelve jurors could prove without a reasonable doubt that I was sexually assaulted by a peer. Would I have liked to see him behind bars...Hell YES--but even if that was the end result, that would not be the end to my story. I wanted a deeper change beyond putting someone behind bars. Justice meant healing for not only myself but the world that fosters this disease in the first place.
It is enough for me to know that my victory is in hearing more and more stories of overcoming, of strength and of resilience from the Queens and Kings I interact with. My victory is in my purpose and the tears that I now cry are shedding the old to water what has been made new. This territory I'm walking on is vast, and is in need of other's testimonies to water too. That is how we heal ourselves, and each other; we can continue to grow in great lengths to change a culture whose weeds need some major uprooting. In turn, I am hopeful that we too can continue tell our stories with strength and kindness. <3
With love and solidarity,
Devin Marie for Herstory
October is a big month for us here at Herstory. It has also been a big month for this country in the light of the Ford and Kavanaugh hearings.
Being completely honest, it has both both equally empowering as it has been emotionally-demanding for Cristal and myself. I have had to double up on the self-care the past week, stopped watching the news, and have been consuming myself in prayer, God's word, and fellowship with some of my favorite people.
I am grateful we can grow together, I am grateful we have this platform and this space where we can channel our frustrations, our hopes and goals for ourselves and other survivors. This month we wanted to revisit moments of empowerment in our journey and invite other survivors to “take back the night."
We will be covering what it means to take back that day/night we were assaulted and what it means to take back “the control”, your peace, and ultimately finding ways to live out your BEST life! (Yes, there is better, and a light post-trauma. There are avenues of pain, but know this is a path of triumph we can walk out together.)
You’re not alone in this, and this is the month we remind you that we’ve got this—and we’ll be here every step of the way!
To share a brief but powerful reflection is lie co-founder, Cristal Lowe, as she shares her story and her moment of reclaiming her past in this month’s new series.
a poem written by Cristal Lowe
Running away would of been ideal
One drug, one cup of wine
I should have followed my intuition
"It's just wine with a pretty strawberry"
Still I felt something was wrong
"Your still holding to that cup?"
One sip is all it took
Not old enough to buy my own drink
trying to figure out why I was being pressured by a friend
Why questioning thoughts kept circling my mind "is he putting something in the dink"
running through my mind
but thinking "no I’ve known this guy for almost 5years"
But it happened. I took that one sip and woke up to the act.
Part of me is hoping for help but no one could hear me
My friend is knocked out on the other side of the bed
No one can hear me.
I’m stuck on this bed left only
To think because I could no longer move
“God can't be real--God does not care.”
He’s having his way and all I can do is cry in silence
Resisting didn't work, thinking there is not much left I can do
Fear finally took over and I feel paralyzed in my mind as much as my body
I have finally run away but I still feel the pain.
I have finally left the pain behind. What a journey it has been to be able to give God a chance and ultimately give myself one after that night. That night changed everything. That night forced me to look at the world differently. That night resulted in my loss for self...but I was found. Finally found, I choose to seek after His guidance and move forward.
God was telling me
Don't walk in silence I see what you are going through. I know you think you are hurting alone but I'm right here.
You don't have to hurt anymore; if you
let Me in and I'll make you whole.
I'll teach you to smile and take your joy back
The devil has NO AUTHORITY over you
Let me in and I will teach you the way
I will teach you to smile.
I will teach you to LOVE again.
I will teach you to stand before your enemies.
I will teach you to take authority over dominion and principalities
Trust me daughter and I will make you the HEAD AND NOT THE TAIL.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.