I grew up in what appeared to be a normal and typical family. My family attended church and during my early years of education I attended a Christian school. Around the age of 13 I started to be disruptive in class and my parents allowed me to change schools. My rebellious behaviour only worsened however, I drank and partied and pushed whatever boundaries were put in place. At 15 I moved out of home and was living with my best friend’s family until they got tired of me too. By 16 I was living with a friend from work and trying to support myself but that only lasted a few months and so I moved back in with my parents. My life was out of control and I didn’t really understand why. After an emotional breakdown and thoughts of suicide I stumbled upon a card from a Christian counselor.
After a year of counseling I made the decision to become a Christian. I felt transformed, a new person with a new life. I began attending church and it was there that I met the man I would marry. He was the son of a pastor and I was smitten. Six years after getting married I was pregnant with our first child and the church we were attending hosted a marriage and intimacy seminar with Dr Allan Meyer. I remember sitting in the auditorium listening to him talk about a woman who had been sexually abused and how abuse of that kind deeply affects your soul. I wanted to cry, I felt like he was talking about me. Everything he described pierced my heart but I was confused and pushed the thoughts and feelings that tried to surface, away.
Three years after having our son I became pregnant with our second child. It was a difficult pregnancy and at 15 weeks my waters broke, a week later I gave birth to a baby girl. After her death I started to get horrible migraines that lasted 10-11 days at a time. I spent three months in and out of hospital but couldn’t get any answers. I had suffered from chronic pain for the last 10 years but this was unbearable. A friend from church suggested that I go for prayer counseling to see if that could help bring breakthrough. I had no idea how traumatic that breakthrough would be.
Memories came flooding back to my mind. The first memory was from when I was only five years old, violent, sexual abuse by my father. The image was clear and detailed and as the counseling continued more memories surfaced. For almost 15 years I had been subjected to consistent, violent sexual abuse at the hands of someone who should have protected me and not harmed me.
I began to see a therapist who educated me on trauma, dissociation and flashbacks. I was finally putting the pieces of the puzzle together. The stress, rebellion and anxiety of my teenage years and the chronic pain of my adult life were all symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder and a deeply wounded soul. As I slowly remembered the horrific events of my childhood I was able to gradually let go of the shattered pieces of my soul. It is a long and painful journey but I know that eventually I will be whole again.
I’m so blessed to have a loving husband who supports me and a heavenly father who knows my every need, who created me in love, for love and who is capable of restoring every part of me. As I slowly untangle the lies and deception that the abuse has deposited in my life God is revealing to me his plan for my pain. He gave me a clear vision for a ministry that heals, restores, and revives women who have suffered the pain of sexual assault in their lives. He gave me the words Strength & Dignity. Out of this birthed our ministry Strength + Dignity, a non for profit organisation dedicated to supporting survivors of sexual assault and educating the world on predator behaviour.
For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11.
I believe God wants every survivor of sexual assault to know He has a plan and purpose for your pain, and He wants to restore you to wholeness. ~ Melanie Schoenmaker
Connect with Melanie at Strength + Dignity
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