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Note: this article contains sensitive themes, including sexual assault & sexual content. 
I grew up in a Christian household – great parents, decent grades in school, with a relatively easy life. I went to college about an hour from home thinking it wouldn’t be that much different. 

My second semester in, however, I was sexually assaulted. I told my sister two days later, who explained that I needed to tell our parents, which I refused. So she told them that they needed to drive up to my campus because something happened to me, and it was bad.

At the time I was in training to become a resident assistant (RA) in a freshman dorm for my sophomore year. My parents pulled me out of training that day and told me my sister said something happened, and they needed to come up immediately. I broke down in the hallway and explained I had been assaulted. They immediately insisted I go to the hospital for a rape kit, which I refused as well. I just wanted it to be over. I didn’t want to spend the next 6-12 months of my life in a trial where the guy would walk free, and I would be alone. Still. 

Dealing with the Aftermath of Trauma

Immediately afterward, I felt okay for a while. My first response was that the Lord was going to use this to help others, that I wasn’t alone, and there was a reason it happened. Over the next five months, however, I got progressively worse. I felt alone and ashamed, like it was my fault. Was I even sure I was assaulted? Did I ask for it? Did I not say “no” loud enough?

It had to be my fault.

I knew I was a believer, but I couldn’t hear God. I didn’t feel Him near — as if He had abandoned me in my trauma. I needed to be held and loved and told I wasn’t worthless, but I didn’t feel like I was getting any of that. He felt gone, and I wasn’t sure where my worth was or even who defined it. I had no comfort, so I sought it elsewhere.

I started my RA job in August, ready to lead a dorm full of bright, young women who were excited for college. I threw everything I had into that role, using it as my source of joy, comfort, and worth. I told myself I was doing something good, and that it all had to work out. This job was where I put all my hope and faith that my life wasn’t crashing down around me.

When that wasn’t fulfilling me, I turned to men. I felt like giving my body to a man would make me feel worthy of something – Love? Peace? Fulfillment? I thought that sex defined who I was, and that’s all that would ever define me – what my body could do for a man. I thought that by being with them, I could move past the reality that they terrified me. In reality, I hated being close to men; my mind and body revolted when they touched me – all of them: family, friends, strangers, partners. But  I was sure that if I just pushed through, I could overcome those feelings. 

Searching for Comfort

I knew the Holy Spirit was calling me. I could feel it. I knew what I was doing was wrong – it felt wrong – but I was spiraling and had no idea how to stop. Instead of turning to the Lord, I continued to seek comfort from men.

When that didn’t work, I sought comfort from a woman.

I couldn’t emotionally connect with men anymore, and this woman was kind, gentle, and accepting – trauma and all. It didn’t scare me to be close to her. I longed deeply for a connection with someone, and thought I could find it in her. I wanted to be held and loved and found worthy, despite what had happened to me and my choices afterward. I never had a desire to date women, but I was so lost in sin and pain, that instead of turning to the Lord, I went to her because I didn’t know how to say no. I didn’t know how to stop.

When I failed to respond to the Lord to come back home — literally and figuratively — He chased harder. 

If you had asked me back then, I thought my life just kept getting worse. In reality, God was saving me. In the span of two months, I lost my RA job that I loved. My parents found out about my relationship and stopped paying for my schooling, trying to force me to come home. The school kicked me out because they weren’t getting money. In my stubbornness and anger with my parents, I refused to go home, couch surfing at friend’s houses instead.

I blocked everyone who cared for me – everyone who stood in the gap for me. I fell into such a deep state of depression I could barely function. But beautiful and life-giving redemption was around the corner.

The Power of God’s Love

It was a Sunday morning, almost one year later, and I was over all of it. I was lost, broken, hopeless, suicidal. I sat on the bathroom floor with a knife to my wrists, sobbing out to God.

Why! Everything that has happened to me has passed through Your hands, and then You leave me?! Are You even there? Are You even listening? Do You even care or love me, because You don’t have a lot of time now before we meet face to face.

I heard Him speak in that moment.  “I love you. I have always loved you, and I still love you.”

I heard His voice like He was in the room with me. He said it again:  “I love you. I have always loved you, and I still love you.” I don’t know how long I sat there, but I knew then He had always been there, and I could finally breathe.

He rescued me that day. He met me in my despair, anger, and hopelessness and reminded me of who He is. While I wish it was all easy sailing after that, I spent the next several years on a journey toward healing. The Lord slowly restored the relationships between me and my family, and while God and I are continually working on the shame and guilt part, He has provided me with community and support that I didn’t think I deserved. 

Today, I’m thankful to say I have meaningful relationships, a renewed ability to trust God and others, and the opportunity to use my passion for loving and serving others as an administrative assistant at the Oviedo campus. God redeemed all my mistakes and gave me a chance for hope. That’s just who He is – a God who rejoices when His prodigal children find their way home again.

Interested to learn more about the ministry of Grace, explore our Care and Counseling Center, or join us for Easter? We would be honored to meet you

One Comment

  • Avatar Ariel says:

    Thank you for sharing dear Sydney.
    I often learn more from those having walked hard roads than those who “got it all right” the first time.
    I’m so glad we worship a God who chases down & restores. 🤗

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