Surviving and Mending After Trauma: I Am Not Damaged Goods
I was raped when I was twenty-one, in my junior year of college.
If you met me you would have no idea I endured such trauma. I don’t flaunt myself. I’d like to think I dress modestly. I don’t go out often, on dates or to parties, clubs, or bars. When people stereotype college girls from large universities, most think of skinny girls who wear minimal clothing and like to spend their weekends in clubs— drinking, flirting, you know.
I go to the top university in my state. I work at a church. I have many friends who love me. I have a dog that is my child. My family is everything I could ever dream of and everything I hope to have for myself in the future. People look up to me. I am loved, but I am damaged. I was going through what many girls go through at some point in their lives: depression, breakups, loss of friends, body image, the works.
The slightest sign of interest in me was enough to ignore the little voice in my head telling me not to go, and for that I blamed myself. I made the conscious decision to put myself in that place. Knowing it was not in my best interest was not good enough. When I walked back to my car afterwards he said to me, “See you never.”
He knew what he did. It didn’t bother him, and maybe part of him knew I was too ashamed to do anything about it.
A month or so later, it happened again. This time it was in a different place. It was a different man. In both cases, I was powerless. There was absolutely nothing I could have done to prevent what happened to me. What they did was wrong. I wasn’t “asking for it.” I ignored it for as long as I could, but before I knew it, the pain turned my world upside down.
There were many times I reached out for help. After almost an entire semester of not being able to get out of my bed and sleeping through classes, I realized I needed to take action if I wanted to earn a degree from the university I was attending. Without a medical withdraw from that semester, I would not be able to continue my education. I called both of the university’s counseling offices telling them I needed to talk to someone. It was important. Every time I was asked if I was suicidal, and every time I was told they could put me on a list. That if I wasn’t a risk to myself then they couldn’t help me at that moment and that there might be an opening the following semester for me to see a counselor. Once again, I was powerless. Every time I felt like things couldn’t get any worse, they did.
It was then that I did what any powerless child does. I ran to my parents, not just my worldly parents, but also my heavenly Father. I had known of Jesus my entire life. I had been in a relationship with Him since I was 18, but for a while I had forgotten that my worth is found in Him and only Him. I had been letting the voice of the world fill my head with lies and standards that were impossible to reach.
My mom called the university and drove an hour to take me to the office personally. I began to make friends at my new job at the church. I met with my advisor, and she registered me for classes. Things actually started looking up, but I was just as empty as I was before I told anyone.
I started one-on-one counseling at the university. At first, it was a huge relief to be able to spill every feeling I was having the past few months. I finally felt like I wasn’t in this alone. After a few weeks of being unable to make much progress, my counselor recommended group counseling. I met with five other girls who were all going through similar situations once a week for the rest of the semester. It was… different. I wasn’t sure I was getting anything out of it at first but towards the end of the semester I began to realize that we empowered each other.
It was a combination of so much that brought me to where I am at this moment. It was going to counseling twice a week, having constant support from my friends and family, and being surrounded by a family at the church that I know I can always rely on. It was the tears that were triggered by worship and the prayers I would say in the middle of my hectic day because if I didn’t stop, I would break. It was my school professors and advisors who were willing to help me overcome this and excel in school. It was not giving up. It was knowing I am meant for more than letting this overpower me.
I’m almost 23 now.
I still struggle. I still get a lump in my throat when I hear people joke about rape, but what gives me power over getting through it all is Jesus. It’s knowing I’m not damaged goods. It’s knowing I am washed clean with the blood of Jesus and knowing, or constantly reminding myself, that even through all of the stupid, immature decisions I have made in my life, He still loves me. He loves me. It’s verses like Isaiah 53:5 (But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.) that remind me what He did for me. Its verses like Matthew 6:34 (Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.), 1 Peter 5:7 (Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.) and Philippians 4:6-7 (Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.) that remind me to trust in His plan because He knows me better than I know myself. To cast my worries on Him because He can handle them. Because He doesn’t want us to worry, but rather to have faith that He will take care of us.
It’s when I remember John 3:30 that I remember that this life isn’t about me. When He becomes greater, and I become less. That’s when the things that happened to me become smaller. That’s when I begin to remember that [Romans 8:31] if God is for us, who can be against us? He wants us to remember, [Proverbs 4:23] above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. God is love [1 John 4:8].
I hope to be able to share my story with girls who need to hear it. Who need to be reminded that they are loved. I want to be able to tell them that I understand and that they are not alone. I want them to understand that what happened to them is not their fault. I want to encourage them to look back on their past and see what happened then and because of it, be able to look at their future with new eyes. I want them to know they’re not damaged goods.
You are not damaged goods.
I am not damaged goods.
The hope I have comes from the Lord.
This journey I have been through is not over. It will be a part of me for the rest of my life. I have accepted that. It’s not easy. He never said this life would be easy. But with Him I can conquer anything [Philippians 4:13]. I am human. I make mistakes. I have to constantly remind myself that He must always come first. My favorite song, First by: Lauren Daigle, is my daily prayer. “I wanna seek you, I wanna keep you first.”
Coming alive means realizing my worth. Coming alive means mending. Coming alive means being vulnerable and honest and sharing my story. Coming alive means resting in the hope that comes from God and the freedom He gives to me. I am coming alive.