Many people walk through life with a grudge, waiting for those who hurt them to come and say “I am sorry.” “I was wrong.” “I shouldn’t have done _________.” “Please forgive me.” “Let me make it up to you.” While these are all great things for someone who has hurt someone to do, they are not necessary for forgiveness to occur.
As a teenager, I placed myself in to situations that I should have never been. Looking back, I was searching for something, but that is another chapter. When I was thirteen years old, I went with a guy whom I met before with other friends. We drove out to the backside of the lake for “driving lessons.” Only he had in mind something else, which I did not want to give. When his sexual advancements did not go as planned, he agreed that we would really go to a place where he could teach me to drive. He drove us out into a remote area, and raped me.
That day, my innocence was stolen. He took my virginity, kicking, screaming, and crying “no.” To add insult to injury, he really did try to give me driving lessons after he raped me. When he took me back to my house, he threatened me and my family. He used power and control to keep me quiet, even though every part of me knew what he did was wrong.
A few weeks later, a close friend commented on the change in my personality. When I told him what happened, he and another guy beat up the guy that raped me. My rapist’s friends ganged up against him, and eventually I was empowered enough to confront him. Maybe not as I should have, but for a 14-year-old girl to confront the man who raped her, not once but twice, I learned I could have a voice.
When I finally had the courage to tell someone other than friends, it was someone who should have responded differently. I went to my school counselor. She told me it was my fault. It wasn’t an implied “it’s your fault.” It was a flat-out “It is your fault, look at how you dress.” I thought back to what I had on that day – skinny jeans and a pink with black paisley long-sleeved, over sized, button-up collared, shirt with black laced up tennis boots; certainly no different from most of the teenagers then, or now for that matter. I took her words to heart and didn’t speak of that for some time. I played those comments in my head for years to come.
My path had crossed with him one other time. I again let everyone in the vicinity know what kind of person he was, but also learned that he really was just a teenage boy. I had thought he was older, but he had given me his license to prove his age, he was two years older. Later I learned from another friend, of at least three other victims.
As I am writing this, I did a search for his name. He is still in the area. There are charges in another state for murder. He was convicted and sentenced to 15 years on a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, but the address for him is not jail, nor has it been 15 years since the sentence.
When my son was born, I came across his name in the arrest section of the paper. I don’t know why it brought out so much rage and anxiety in me – he was locked up. With some prompting from my Sunday school teacher, I wrote him a letter. I poured out forgiveness in that letter. He had never apologized, and except on the Day of Judgement before God, I doubt he ever will.
Even though the letter eventually was returned to me, I found a release that day in the power I had given him over me. I don’t have Post Traumatic Stress about the event. I can talk about it, and then I can let it go. The guy, the rape, what was stolen, it is all just something that I learned from and use to help others. I no longer play that counselor’s words in my mind, except to tell people I counsel “I don’t care if you are walking down the street buck naked it does not give anyone the right to touch your body. Please understand I am not recommending that you walk down the street naked, I am just saying that “no” means “NO” regardless of how you are dressed or acted before you said no.”
Letting go is an important spiritual journey. I had to let go of what happened, not for him, but for me. I had to take back the power he tried to steal. I had to release the words spoken over me. Those words could have destroyed me, instead I allowed them to propel me into a career to help others heal from others actions. Letting go is good for the soul.