“When I was younger I was a rape counselor helping women who had gone through horrible tragedies. I am someone who really cares about people and I wanted to help victims. Then tragically while I was on a second date, I was raped. Although I had learned self-defense in college, I was physically disabled from a spinal cord injury, and he had a gun. My toddler son was in the next room and I was more fearful for his safety than my own. What he did to me left a terrible, deep wound.
“I am not sure of the current statistics, but it used to be one in three women will suffer some type of abuse during their lifetime. Frequently women think they are the only one and they feel they are to blame, and they are filled with shame. Talking to someone, a trusted friend, a counselor, pastor, and talking to others who have been through it brings encouragement and support and most of all hope.
“Rape is a crime about power and control, not sex. The sexual act is the weapon used and is the ultimate violation of one’s own body. Support groups where women share in a confidential safe setting help empower and give hope in a supportive environment. The power and control that was stolen is returned and this empowers the woman on her journey to healing. God brought healing to me which made it possible to have healthy relationships again and not pass on the bitterness and unforgiveness towards others. Hurt people end up hurting people, unless they get healing and are unencumbered by memories of the past.
“Forgiveness is not about the offender but about setting ourselves free of bitterness. For me, forgiving myself was just as important as forgiving the offender.
“God turned something that was very horrible and tragic into something very beautiful. I am now a part of a woman’s ministry that helps others who are on the journey of finding healing and being a survivor and not remaining a victim who carries around bitterness. There are two women’s groups I am a part of that minister to others – Women of Hope (Formerly Healing Women) at Shore Vineyard Church in South Toms River, and Set Free through Safe Harbor Prison Ministry in Ocean County. Not all women who participate in these groups are rape survivors, but most are survivors of some type of abuse.
“I feel very blessed now that God brought something so beautiful out of something that was so painful.”