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Breaking Free From the Silence of Shame

Updated: Aug 8, 2022

By Joyce Ruddell

Twice in my life, I’ve had jury duty; twice, they were child molestation cases. The coincidence was mind-boggling and painful—like a cruel joke. The first time I was questioned by the defendant’s lawyer, I could barely choke my words out through tears when asked if I’d ever been molested.

Though very difficult, sharing this painful experience aloud was the first step to setting me free from shame. Initially, being faced with my childhood trauma threw me into a torrent of sharp triggers—especially while living in the same house with those who had hurt me. I grappled with deep anguish—feelings I wasn’t able to process as a child. Though the sexual abuse was no longer happening, the verbal and physical abuse still did. Anger and indignation toward my family came raging to the surface, and I confronted them with the pain. I wanted to hurt them back. Confrontation brought harsh reactions, words that stabbed, and violence—increasing the anguish. I felt trapped in a cage of sharp needles, filled with hatred and bitterness, blaming them for my misery—the depression, anxiety, and hopelessness.

I became angry with God, too. Where was He when I was 4 and every other time? Where was He now? Why hadn’t He kept all this from happening to me?

Gradually, as God led me through this painful but necessary path to healing, I realized my pain wasn’t His fault. He gives us all free will; oftentimes that means we choose to sin and hurt one another. The choices my family made in their brokenness had severe consequences. The pain they inflicted on me was not God’s will, and—though I didn’t know it at the time—He had already designed an intricate plan to heal me.

In the thick of the trauma, I felt so alone, stuck in a pit of sickness in the soul. I hated my family. I hated people: people meant pain. I wanted nothing more to do with them. Yet, God showed me I needed people. He built us to

need one another, be part of a community. Though God has not visually shown Himself to me, He’s loved me through many people.

One of the most important persons God put in my life is my best friend, Joakim. She called from 3 time zones away, staying up late to talk to me, and we sang “Livin’ On a Prayer” together every night. It was the highlight of each otherwise dismal day. Joakim is that special friend the Bible mentions who sticks closer than a brother. Loyal, patient, and kind, she has been there for me through the years. Her faithfulness shows me God’s love, grace, and abiding presence.

Others included people in my support group. The desperate pain of trauma pushed me to seek help. Before, humiliation had kept me from telling anyone about the molestation and its resultant struggles of self-hatred, insecurity, bitterness, rage, and anxiety. Being part of the support group helped me see I wasn’t tainted by shame because I had been molested.

Shame is a cruel instrument the devil uses to keep many of us—especially sexual abuse survivors—or victors, really—from healing. It’s a lie that tortures us, creating the illusion that we are completely alone, pushing us still deeper beneath the guilt of being violated. Not only that, shame brings us the deception that we are bad, not acceptable. When we believe what we’ve been through is disgraceful, fear of judgment keeps us from telling anyone, so no one knows to help, and we keep believing no one cares, and the cycle goes on—entrapping us in a lonely, devastating cage of helplessness and hopelessness. At its worst, this cycle can end in suicide.

The truth is we who have been sexually violated are—by far—not alone. About 1 in 3 females have been sexually violated in some way. Men are not exempt: about 1 in 4 males have been through this horrible experience, too. But the devil doesn’t want us to know that or talk about it because we might then be freed from his oppression.

In attending a support group, I realized there were others who had been through the same intense struggles within ourselves and with our families. I never thought I would find people who understood my pain, but these women did. They had been through the same ravaging effects that sexual abuse has on our emotions, minds, bodies, hearts, relationships, and our very souls. I was no longer alone, no longer isolated by shame. Sharing removed the sense of disgrace and freed us from the chains of silence, bringing us the comfort and strength in knowing we do not fight this battle alone.

Click here for the audio and extended version of this post,

which adds more sources of social support: What Does a Good Support System Look Like?

For more support we offer an extensive course on Sexual abuse which will equip you with an understanding of sexual trauma, and sexual violence while providing resources and tools on healing. Purchase course HERE

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