During the course of my childhood, I was encouraged to become an independent woman, not having to rely on or wait for a man (other than my father) to provide for me the things that I should be able to provide for myself. I was content to do just that–I have always gotten a special satisfaction from working and being able to pay for my own things. Even as a teenager, first working as a telephone interviewer for a company in Ann Arbor called DataStat, getting hung up on and yelled at by potential interviewees (and understandably so), and then working in OfficeMax with several of my best friends, gave me a sense of pride as I was able to pay my own way during our many excursions to malls and to one of our favorite hangouts (TGIFridays!!!). I loved being able to pay for others who may have come up short. It made me feel good about myself, and made me feel like my life was on the right track.
Then came my first stint as an undergraduate, without a doubt the worst time of my entire life. My entire innocent worldview was destroyed and so were my thoughts and hopes for myself. I had kindasorta imagined myself with a family and kids, but not until I was at least thirty years old, although I was not entirely sold on having children. I assumed I would graduate event-free in four years, immediately secure a decent career, and make a name for myself in the health industry. Again, I had thoughts in the back of my mind about a man/husband, but especially after dealing with one immature, deceitful, one-track-minded guy after another, I was content not to ever deal with another guy again after leaving Grand Valley.
In the grand scheme of things, nothing worked out the way I had hoped, and I must admit to myself that there is still a deep-rooted anger boiling inside of me because of it. I have to acknowledge the what-ifs, and try to rationalize the things that have gone contrary to how I wanted them to go…
For instance, everyone who knows me well knows that I was FORCED to leave Grand Valley after being RAPED by a FOOTBALL player. It is not a secret; I am not ashamed. Since I hope to achieve brutal honesty in this blog with the hopes that it will allow me to rectify feelings that I should have acknowledged years ago, I often wonder what personal behaviors led to what happened, even though of course I know nothing I did could possibly give that loser the right to humiliate me, violate me, and temporarily ruin my life.
I often wondered how would my life have turned out had that never happened?
Over the years, God has rebuilt me into the person I was when I was at my happiest before that event–during my childhood and high school years. Then, I was confident, optimistic, plucky, strong-willed and thick-skinned. I got kind of hurt when I was teased about my physical appearance by a certain few people (glasses, braces, bad skin), but I always managed to get back at them somehow, and that made me feel empowered. Not only that, but my friends and teammates never made me feel as though my looks made any difference in the world to them. I surrounded myself by positive, supportive people. The world was mine for the taking.
Positive thinking is essential to positive living. I have come to appreciate that the cornerstone of positivity lies within our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As my relationship with God has grown, I have been able to find little kernels of positivity in that rough period of my life.
- First and foremost, there was no other person to turn to in such a rough time than GOD. My relationship with the Lord had been faltering. All of my flaws and weaknesses became perfectly exposed and ripe for exploitation in college, and I began to fall away from God. Once the rape occurred, I turned back to God and was restored, better and stronger than ever.
- Second only to God is my family. Had I not been victimized, there is a good chance I would not have returned home, met my future husband at work, and had two children (not necessarily in that order). That would be a major tragedy in itself.
- The rape and the following events (being bullied by the prosecutor and eventually “dropped” from classes) have given me a powerful testimony to others going through rough periods, including myself. I am going through a rough period now, and I have to constantly remind myself where I was ten years ago. I was in a much worse place. I KNOW of God’s power, and I can encourage others.
- I can counsel other rape survivors. I can let them know that they can reclaim their life and their identity. I can tell them it is not an overnight process, and in all reality they may struggle with aspects of the rape for the rest of their lives, but they can deal with it positively.
- Once I left Grand Valley, I came back to the most supportive network of people a person could ever be blessed with. I’ll never forget that.
Despite the positive kernels, I still need a ton of work. I have to reshape my mind, first and foremost, to fully appreciate my lot in life. Again, I was not really planning to be a wife and mother. There has to a radical shift in one’s identity and self-concept when they go from being a single woman to a wife and mother. I have not always been happy with what is expected of me in these roles, hence the work needed–on appreciating being a Christian woman.
I have a long way to go.