Trigger warning: This post contains depictions of sexual violence. Need help? Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit RAINN.
Emotionally wounded and deeply hurt, I didn’t know how to handle being sexually assaulted by someone I knew. It was 10 years ago, but I remember it as if it were yesterday.
The stress of a work project weighed heavily on me, and I decided to see a chiropractor or a masseuse. I needed to save money, so I called him. He was a certified massage therapist, and I knew he would give me a discount. It had been a while since we last spoke, but I didn’t think it was a big deal to schedule an appointment.
We met at his sister’s house where he had a room set up for his clients. When I arrived, we chatted briefly and then he excused himself from the room so I could prepare for the massage. Before reentering, he knocked to ensure I was ready. I had nothing to fear, so I thought. Everything was fine until he began to “have his way.” In anger and disbelief, I struggled and pushed, shouting, “No, stop! What are you doing? Please stop. ” I could not believe what was happening.
When he finally stopped violating me, I didn’t run out of the house hysterically. Instead, I went to the bathroom and tried to pull myself together. When I returned to the massage room, he tried to console me. In dire need of someone to comfort me, I irrationally accepted his consolation and we became intimate. I didn’t want to remember the shock of him forcing himself on me. I desperately wanted to fix it. I thought that if I let him do this, I would not remember being assaulted. I laid there numb, with my head turned to the side, wishing the pain away.
When I left, his sister was sitting on the couch. I stared at her as I walked out the door. I wondered how long she had been there and if she had heard me resisting her brother. Did she hear me telling him to stop?
I was ashamed and embarrassed. I went home, showered, and attempted to bury that pain forever. Forever ended a month later, when I discovered I was pregnant. I had a long journey ahead of me.
Initially, my healing process was very difficult because I felt distant from God. I was overwhelmed with guilt and shame. I felt that it was my fault.
I knew I could not change what happened, but I could choose to move forward.I eventually received counseling from a psychologist and a rape crisis counselor. But it was my faith that carried me through the storm and reminded me that God loved me and wanted me to be healed, whole, and complete.
This season of my life caused me to trust and depend on God in a different way. My prayers were more sincere and my faith grew. I was brought to tears by scriptures such as Psalm 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” and Psalm 34:5, “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” God’s word spoke directly to me, to my core, to my pain.
The person who sexually assaulted me did not go to prison. In fact, 97% of rapists do not go to prison or jail, but I could not let that hinder me from healing. Regardless of the details or the judicial outcome of anyone’s sexual assault, a healing needs to take place. I know from experience that God's loving touch can help heal and restore the brokenhearted.
I would never want anyone to experience what I endured and my hope is that everyone will join the fight to help end sexual assault.
If you ever find that you are a bystander, be bold and intervene for someone who is in danger of being sexually assaulted. Even when you are out with friends and familiar faces, do not let your guard down; unfortunately, 38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance.
You may find yourself in a situation where you see something that is not quite right. Do not hesitate to step in. Ask questions if someone seems uncomfortable, and interrupt the situation. Show them that you care.Call for help if need be, but by all means, do not leave them alone. When you intervene, you help raise awareness and debunk myths about sexual assault.
If you know someone who has been sexually assaulted, listen to them and believe them. Your presence, boldness, and support can make all the difference.
Chanté Dent is a former rape crisis counselor and founder of Earnest Love, Inc., a Christ-centered organization that offers support groups to survivors of sexual assault. She is also a volunteer member of RAINN's Speakers Bureau. She is a wife and mother who is passionate about helping people heal from the pain of their past so they can love and live again.