Jesus was my excuse.
He wanted me to forgive my abuser, to give him a second chance. But in the pit of my stomach, I know that I just made that up because I was too afraid to speak up.
My name is Maria Sage. I am a 24-year-old Catholic, a writer, a bookworm, a lover of all things Italian, and I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.
This is my story.
I was raised in a single-parent household by the strongest mother that I know. But due to our efforts and fears, she didn’t know what was happening with her children. She isn’t to blame for not knowing; my abuser, who is my brother.
When you’re being sexually and mentally abused, your abuser says things such as “we” and “come on, let’s do this,” that leads you to believe that the abuse is a team effort. I can remember coming home from (middle) school, him welcoming me home, and the abuse would begin. When we heard the garage door open, we would quickly put ourselves together and get back to our own rooms, acting as if nothing had happened.
My mind became numb to it as my subconscious would suppress what had just occurred, allowing me to function as is everything at home was okay. All of this took place from about 2005 to 2011.
Abuse took away my sense of self-worth, dignity, and emotional independence. Believing that I had worth and being able to think freely without worrying what those around me thought was a thing of the past.
From 2012 until 2018, I kept my abuse a secret from my mother, revealing it to a few friends, and mentioning it to the members of ministries I was a part of. I acted as if all had been resolved. To be honest, part of me believed it really had been, but the truth was that my mind had numbed me from the pain that I endured.
It wasn’t until about two weeks after I went through a break-up that my subconscious decided that it was time to come forward. So on an early July morning, an anxiety attack pushed me into my mother’s bedroom. Thanks be to God, I started therapy that same week.
It’s not uncommon for people, religious and not, to ask me how I came to my faith. The story that I told them was that I had trouble finding myself in school and when I got involved in the youth group during my junior year of high school, I started to find my identity in Jesus. That very last part isn’t a lie. I did find my identity in Him. But the rest of the story, not so much. While I did become part of a youth group during my last year of high school, I didn’t truly come into my faith until I realized the trauma I had endured.
My abuse has given the Paschal Mystery and the carrying of the cross a whole new meaning to me. We are all made in the image of Christ, meaning that we are to be Christ-like. Someone once questioned, “How can we expect to be like Christ and not have a crucifixion of our own?”
I only heard this question within the past year, but it’s thrown everything into perspective for me. No, I don’t know how God works (and to be honest, I’m actually pretty grateful for that). I know that while God allowed me to be abused, He did not cause the abuse. God gave us free-will, and my abuser, my brother, misused his (to say the least). I know I won’t know why this happened to me until I am in Heaven, but until then, I do believe that God is able to work everything out for our good and for His glory. Unfortunately, sometimes we have to undergo the worst for the best to come. To paraphrase Pope John Paul II, there is always a crucifixion before the Good Friday, but Good Friday always comes. Like Jesus, I carried a cross. Jesus carried His cross due to something that He didn’t deserve. He carried the cross that bore our sins on it. I carried a cross and my crucifixion bore the sins of my brother. Neither one of us deserved what
we had to carry.
But because I finally spoke up, and of course, because of Jesus, I am able to rise with Him. Had I not spoken up, I wouldn’t be receiving the professional help that I need. Because I spoke up, I have found the courage to share my story with you, with my friends, and hopefully one day, with others. I believe that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes I do wish that I had spoken up sooner, but at the same time, I know that God knew all along when I was going to come forward as a survivor, and He has it worked into His plan. Coming forward was the first step and has become the most important thing I have done for myself. If you or someone you know has been living in the shadows of abuse, I encourage you to speak up! I know it is scary. After dealing with the abuse for about six years, and then hiding it for another six, I can truly tell you that I know what it is like to be afraid. But I can also tell you that the liberation I feel has been
more liberating that then 12 years of secrecy. I encourage you to come forward to your parents, and if you can’t go to them for some reason, then find someone you trust. Your friend’s parent, your teacher, even the authorities. God has been with you through the abuse, and He will be there with you when you come forward. I promise.
I still have a lot of healing to do, but this process so far has been giving me the understanding I needed to understand that I cannot do anything without God. It has made my relationship with God just that much stronger. It is growing every day, as well as the relationship with my mother. Now that I am slowly recovering, I can see that my abuse does not have the final word. I know that God wants me to use my story to help other people. Whether it’s helping someone come forward, heal, or both, my eyes have been opened to God’s plan for my life.
Coming forward has now allowed me to live a life dedicated to Him. God designed me because He has a purpose for me, and His death on the cross proved my worth.
The cross has the final word.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20, NIV).”
If you or anyone you know is a victim of sexual abuse, please seek help immediately.
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