Note to Reader
This is a twelve month project which aims to bring to light the individual pain experienced by young women and to show how their unique stories make them who they are. We ask you to feel with an open heart and respect their stories.
I am from Jacksonville, Fl and I’m twenty-seven years old. I was born and raised here, moved away for school, and then came back. My childhood was great. I grew up in a Christian home with really loving parents. But there was a lot of stuff behind the scenes that people didn’t know about.
There was a lot of stuff behind the scenes...
My husband and I are youth pastors which I always liked working with people and I love people. So that was something I always knew, I had to work with people! And then I also work at a mission organization, The World Headquarters. Working with missionaries is really neat; the behind the scenes stuff and helping the missionaries on the field. I enjoy that a lot. As a child, I wanted to be a football player at one point! And then when I was about sixteen, I felt like I really wanted to do something for God and I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant. So I was kind of like, “Okay God, whatever You want I’ll be open for it.” And that led me to where I am now.
When I think about pain, my childhood definitely comes to mind. So even though I had an amazing Christian family, I was sexually abused by an extended family member. From when I first remember, the abuse started when I was about four and lasted till I was nine years old.
When it all came to light, my parents were amazing. They pursued justice and they got me counseling, but when you are a child you can’t really process all of it. So when I was about twelve it really started to sink in that what happened was really bad, that it wasn’t normal, and not everybody goes through that. So there was a lot of bitterness, anger, and hurt that took root, and also a lot of guilt and shame. Even though I was a child and there was nothing I could have done to warrant that, but there was still the lie I believed that I’m guilty somehow and the pain of heaviness. So it was just a lot of heaviness and hidden-ness of hiding it.
There was still the lie I believed that I’m guilty somehow.
There was a part of me, that because it was a family member, I felt like when I did tell my parents, I thought it would break my family apart or this is going to make people upset with me. So there was a lot of guilt and shame, but at the same time I was a little kid and I knew it wasn’t right, but I was still unsure. So I felt like I needed to hide it but it wasn’t good, so I needed to tell someone. Then when I was thirteen or fourteen, I would always look at families and think, “Do they have a really great family? Do they go through what I went through? Am I the only one? Maybe they’ve gone through that too?” Or I would see them with different family members and think, “Did that happen to them or maybe it’s just my family?”
There was a lot of doubt and fear, a lot of fear. And I love people but I never wanted to share that part of me because that’s not the fun part. That’s not the part that people want to hear, that’s not something you want to bring up in conversations. Growing up with my friends and stuff, that just wasn’t something I talked about, sure those family members were in my life but I didn’t need to say why. I struggled with a lot of fear and anger. There were family members that decided they weren’t going to believe this child. But then there were different people that came forward and said it had happened to them too. So it was a family divided. There was a lot of anger over why would you choose this person’s side over a child’s side. I mean, what would I have gained by lying about this? There was a lot of that and anger, just “why did that happen to me?” I would hear of these other great families and it hadn’t happened to them, so why me.
It is different when it’s someone you’re related to...
I shared it with my parents because my parents are just so great and are very open with me about stuff, they talked about those things, but it is different when it’s someone you’re related to. So there was just a moment where I knew this had to change, that it was wrong, and that there were other family members who were experiencing the same thing. So I knew I needed to say something because it wasn’t just for me. So I decided to tell my mom and for a moment I thought, “Oh no! I should’ve have done this!” There was a big ordeal but I knew at the same time things would change. So it was panic and relief all at the same time.
When I was about seventeen, it got to a point where I was just not happy. I was really happy on the outside but deep down I was really eaten up with the fear, the bitterness, the anger. I was afraid of people finding out about it. I was afraid people would see me as damaged goods, that something was wrong with me; I had fear of what people would think. So then I went to a youth camp at seventeen, and I can remember sitting there in worship. You know growing up in a Christian home and church, gave my heart to God when I was seven, I just loved worship. But in that moment I remember just standing there thinking, “Okay, just go through the motions, this is what I’m supposed to do,” but inside I felt blah. Then the Lord was like, “I really want your heart.” And that was a moment where I just knew that it was God. And I was like, “Well that’s kind of annoying for you to say that, God, because at seven years old I gave You my heart.” And He just revealed to me that I had given Him my heart but I hadn’t given Him my hurts, I hadn’t given Him my whole heart. So it was a moment of, “Okay, you can keep this, but I died on the cross for so much more.”
Part two of Abigail's story is available here.