How Can I Overcome the Effects of Sexual Abuse?

Name Withheld

I was sexually abused for two years as a very young child.  Because of this I suffered many years with feelings of loneliness and worthlessness.  I had an eight year struggle with an eating disorder.  I was bulimic and anorexic.  If I look thin, I thought, like this gorgeous, famous person, I will be truly happy, and I will love myself.  But those thoughts were lies that haunted and taunted me.  It was addicting and it consumed me.  I thought there was no way out.  I needed to feel I was worth something, that there was hope.

Years of therapy didn’t help.  I didn’t understand why these tragic events had to occur, or why I still felt it was my fault.   Why was I so unhappy?  Why didn’t I feel love at all?  If there was a God, why did he let this horrible thing happen to an innocent little girl? If He is almighty, why couldn’t he save me? Wasn’t I worth saving? Didn’t he love me enough to do so? I just didn’t understand.  All I wanted were answers–answers to heal this broken heart and this broken girl.

It didn’t matter how many great things I had in my life, I couldn’t get past the fact I was so unhappy because I wanted answers. These tragic events haunted me to the point that I tried to take my life many times. No matter what anybody said to me, I still felt worthless. I realized doctors didn’t have answers, and neither did the words of loved ones. I needed clarity.  In order to be happy again I needed to feel I was worth something.  Finally, I found my answers through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Peace Through Christ’s Atonement

I didn’t truly understand the atonement until late one night. I remember it clear as day. I had come home from school feeling discouraged about life. The years of bearing these burdens had taken a toll.  As I lay on my bed, my thoughts overwhelmed me. I thought of making another attempt on my life.

I heard a knock. It was my father. I didn’t want him to come in.   I wasn’t ready to hear criticism about coming home from school earlier that day. it. I thought, “I can’t bear more disappointment. I just want this pain to vanish. I just want to feel loved.” I imagined he would look at me with disappointment and ask me questions I didn’t want to answer because I didn’t have answers.

As my father came in, he looked at me with concern. He sat down beside me, and as I looked at him, tears filled his eyes. I leaned over, hugged him, and cried in his warm arms. He asked me what he could do to make me happy again. I told him everything I was feeling and all the heartache and despair destroying my worth. I told him I just wanted to give up, that there was no way out. No matter what I did, nothing seemed to take this pain away. What else was there to do?

He told me I was doing it all wrong; I needed to apply the atonement in my life. I became upset and offended. I didn’t understand why he had said that. I didn’t understand how I would benefit from that.  I raised my voice at him, with tears in my eyes, I shouted in agony, ”What could God or Jesus Christ do for me?! They weren’t there for me when this happened! They couldn’t save me then, so how could they save me now?!”

My father explained that God understood that in giving free will to his children, some would abuse it, seriously hurting others. Since God is completely just, he provided a way to overcome the effects of these tragic crimes. Secure healing comes through the power of the atonement to repair all injustice. Faith in Jesus Christ’s power to heal is how we overcome the consequences of terrible deeds. He looked at me with love in his eyes, asked me to study and apply the atonement in my life. I gave him a hug and promised him I would try.

Later that night, I knelt down. As I prayed, I poured my heart out to the Lord. I asked him to help me understand the atonement. I begged him to take away all the pain. I pleaded with him to help me feel loved and good about myself. And as I prayed I felt this immense love pour out upon me. It was like a soft blanket of warmth and peace. It was so powerful, it pierced my soul. I knew God had heard my cry. I had a desire to feel that warm peace in my heart again.

As I studied the atonement of Jesus Christ, my confidence grew. I gained a better understanding of the atonement, agency, and the Lord’s mercy and I developed a closer relationship to our Savior and our loving Heavenly Father. I found the hope and love that I was so longingly searching for. Where there was once anguish, there was peace; where there was despair, hope; where there was sorrow, joy.

The only way I was able to forgive my abuser and myself, and feel loved again, was through the Savior’s atoning grace and mercy. I know he can do the same for anyone when they are hurting or have sinned.

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