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by Rubel Shelly
Published in LoveLines (Feb. 17, 1993)
Last Saturday I read two stories that were simultaneously different and the same.
Opening mail that had arrived during the week previous, a 56-year-old lady I'll call "Edna" poured out her heart to me about sexual abuse by a family member that began when she was nine. She finally began dealing with the problem only two months ago -- although every day of her life during the intervening 47 years has been affected by it. Edna had heard me speak at a seminar recently and believed it would be safe to share her story with me in case I could use it to help others.
The other story was on the front page of the Tennessean. Perhaps the best-known person in contemporary Christian music, Sandi Patti, "went public" with the story of her sexual abuse as a six-year-old child. Now five years into recovery, she told her story to a group of magazine editors. Her normally strong and clear voice was, according to the newspaper, "trembling" as she spoke of an event that is now 30 years old.
These women are radically different. In terms of public attention, fame, and wealth -- things most people believe to be so important -- there are few points of similarity.
Yet Edna and Sandi are more alike than different. In terms of the really important things -- self-respect, confidence in dealing with life, the ability to trust, and believing that people who knew their horrible secret would still love them -- they are practically identical.
Edna described her feelings after the event this way: frightened, different, unloved, angry, mixed-up, ashamed. Sandi described her feelings over the years: made to feel she had done something wrong, feeling she was somehow at fault, masked, pained, afraid of rejection.
This trauma is neither rare nor found only among non-Christians. Its victims (not guilty, at-fault men and women, but victims!) need protection, acceptance, and love from the people around them. What courageous women Edna and Sandi are! And God bless all the nurturing, caring souls who are standing with them in their recovery!
Both the letter and the newspaper story ended with similar statements of praise to God for his faithfulness to once-broken but now-healing hearts. Perhaps these stories will give others the boldness they need to believe they are not the only ones to whom such a horrible thing has happened and that there is hope for moving beyond it.