BY DANA BYERS, GRACE ATTENDER & VOLUNTEER EXTRAORDINAIRE
I am not a date rape victim, even though I was date raped by an acquaintance when I was a teenager. Thanks to God's help, I am a victor over a situation that could've taken my life in a very bad direction.
Everyone responds to trauma differently. I felt dead inside, as though the first years of my life were great but the remaining ones would be forever marred. My typically high grades began falling and I needed a tutor just to get through some of my classes. My appetite disappeared. I lived in fear of a number of things that never crossed my mind before. I felt my life would never be positive again.
For a few years I felt like I was waking up to a real-life nightmare every morning. I couldn’t decide which would hurt more – keeping the story in or risk telling someone and not being believed or supported.
Eventually I learned that sharing brings about beauty and helps you heal. I tried to run off my college boyfriend by sharing my story with him 19 years ago, but he didn’t flinch and today he’s my ever-supportive husband.
I have two amazing adolescent kids – a son whom I am teaching to honor women, and a daughter whom I’m raising to know her voice matters. The stigma around date rape and a seeming lack of public understanding for the long-term effects on a person are what led me to finally share my story.
So, why am I a victor and not a victim? God's healed me. I’m not afraid, and that’s a big deal. I’m not angry anymore. Life is abundant and I am full of joy. I hope to see my attacker in heaven someday and learn his life has been restored, too.
I’m also a victor because I got to learn at a young age to process pain and forgive deeply. Years of counseling and group therapy taught me how to grieve, process, and celebrate life appropriately. My kids get to have a mom who is more fearless than I’d have been had I never been through counseling.
While I'll never appreciate having been date raped, I see now that one person who made a horrible choice doesn’t have to hold authority over my mind or my life.
Evil doesn’t win.
I praise God for all the good He's brought into my life by doing the hard work of sorting through the trauma. I believe my life would have spiraled down significantly or I might not even be alive today were it not for my personal relationship with Jesus and the supportive family and friends who love me as I am.
Getting to the point where I could honestly say I was emotionally healed wasn’t easy. But I can tell you that every counselor's appointment, every prayer offered in grief and hope, and every time I've shared my story, I've seen God work and bring more healing.
So let me ask you: Is there a part of your story that needs to be shared for such a time as this?