1 in 4. Statistics suggest that 1 in 4 college women will be raped, sexually assaulted or a victim of attempted rape in her lifetime (although we believe the numbers are higher). The numbers are hard to comprehend. Often, it’s not the boogeyman jumping out of the bushes or dark alley. Hauntingly, the perpetrator is someone you know and trust, and allow in your space (2014 statistics indicate that 2/3 of sexual assault victims know their assailant). Forty-four percent of victims are under age 18. Eighty percent are under age 30. Every 107 seconds. We pray for God’s amazing love to heal the broken places. We pray for God’s justice to be rendered. We pray healing for victims and perpetrators.
Why are we talking about this? April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Our devotional writer Ana Martinez has courageously shared her story and video message on several occasions of overcoming assault, which we re-posted this month. We’ve also shared the work of our ministry partner PureHOPE in restoring purity and justice in a sexualized, broken culture. Sadly, we’re still having the conversations because the issue is not resolved. The fact that we are made in God’s image, man and woman He created us (Genesis 1:26-27), some do not hold such reverence for God’s most beloved and wondrous creations.
Sexual assault: you, me and many others too. Part of me debated on whether to share this aspect of my life, but how else could I obtain victory or empower others to do the same? Because at times I’m a private person, sharing this has taken me out of my “comfort zone.” Believing that our testimonies can bless, empower, free and heal others, I will share my story (thank you Ana for encouraging me).
A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: In the Presence of Evil
It was December 1992. I was well into my freshman year in college and preparing to break for Christmas. I had finished the last of my classes for the semester and looked forward to leaving school for a while. I lived on campus and didn’t necessarily appreciate the craziness of people and college life. Nor was I the party animal many people tend to become once they are away at college and out from under their parents’ radar. Instead, earlier in that semester, I joined a Christian on-campus youth group. I also met a guy who sang in the campus gospel choir. Awesome! He was talented with a great singing voice.
By that fall, we were dating. I gravitated to his straight-laced, gentleman-like nature. We shared similar musical interests in R&B and gospel. As boyfriend and girlfriend, we ate our meals together, watched movies. A no-pressure, easy-going relationship in which I felt comfortable—especially because he was Christian. By all accounts his actions and behavior displayed toward me were non-threatening—even with him belonging to a fraternity. Yet, I was 18 and still “green” in my perceptions about the world. I was naive. Though I considered myself quite observant and perceptive, there were areas I had never been exposed and protected from.
With finals finished, many students had begun packing to head home for the holidays. Some would return after winter break and some would not. That night, he phoned my room and invited me to his dorm room to watch movies. This would be our last time to hang out before break since he was from another state. Though bitter cold outside with fresh snow on the ground, the thought of snuggling to watch movies appealed to me. I made the brief journey from my dorm to his. Again, because of who he was and how he had presented himself all along never gave me cause for concern. That changed the moment I entered the room.
As I removed my heavy coat, I looked about the room and realized how stark it appeared compared to the previous times I had been there. Then, that’s when I noticed: the TV was gone. I asked him, “Where’s the TV?” He replied that his roommate, who was not returning the next semester, had taken the television and other belongings. I was dumbfounded. I asked him how he thought we were going to watch a movie. I don’t recall what reason he gave.
We sat on his bed reviewing a poster he had produced. Though I realized we wouldn’t be watching a movie, it was disturbing that he had invited me over with the intent of watching television without the TV. What was up with that??
Like a spring storm that suddenly rushes in with its dark thunderheads, covers the bright sun and ushers in a swift change in atmosphere, this is how quickly the scene changed in his room. Prior to that moment, I’d never clearly understood the meaning of “spiritual warfare” or what it meant to encounter a demonic presence. In an instant, the person I saw before me was no longer the same person. It was as if he “put on” a new persona. I didn’t recognize this person who had swiftly and forcefully gone from pleasant to violent. Without notice, I was no longer in the company of a friend, but that of a predatory, ill-intentioned, dark, demonic spirit. His once brown eyes behind his glasses were now dark black. With me pinned on the bed underneath his weight, his intent was certain. His weapons: his weight, graduation gown cords and a demonic spirit driving him. While he sputtered threatening words, I struggled against the strength and will of his flesh. The pulling at and away of my clothes, his hands going where they were not authorized; feeling in some ways I gave in only to avoid further harm. In my distress, God intervened…
… I must have prayed to God, because I don’t know how else I would have overcome without the Lord. Before the ordeal escalated to rape, I believe the Holy Spirit gave me the words that saved me and possibly him. I calmly and politely spoke a few words to him that I do not recall to this day. As quickly as the storm came in, it blew out. He rose up off of me and wore a look of confusion and repentance on his face. I was shocked but I did not stick around for him to change his mind. I gathered myself, quickly left the room and headed back into the cold, winter night in a daze. All the while I wondered, “What in the world just happened back there?” It didn’t seem real. But it was.
God knows just how much we can bear.
Anger Rears Its Ugly Head…and My Hate Toward Black Men
As the years went by, I truly believed I was over that incident. Or was I? Did I really have victory over it? I thought I did. But not so. I still harbored anger and hate in my heart. Though the years had distanced me from the event, the emotions were as raw as that night. Had I laid eyes on him, I would have inflicted him with bodily harm. Because of his actions (he was Black), I generated a strong hatred toward most Black men (this didn’t include the Black men in my life who had proven themselves trustworthy). Also, the incident played a role in my poor academic performance that year in college. Disappointed by my performance, I took several years off from school. Through the encouragement of a dear friend, I enrolled in another college and completed my degree.
I realized that I needed to get this straight in my life before God. I got honest before God and asked Him what I should do with this. I asked a trusted friend to pray for me and that I would receive an answer from God, a breakthrough; how to release these feelings and get to the other side of it. I wanted my victory.
Getting to the Other Side of It: My and Your Victory—The F-Word
Barely a day after my prayer request, I was at work when a distinct, familiar feeling pricked my spirit. The Holy Spirit was talking to me. God was answering my question. He literally “zinged” me in my spirit. I felt the sharp sting on His answer and when I received it, I was not happy. Honestly, I was downright ticked with what was being asked of me. Essentially, I had to learn a lesson in forgiveness. Upset, I internally challenged God with questions like, “Forgive who??!! Forgive what??!!” I didn’t understand why I had to step up to the plate. I didn’t do anything wrong!
But in the same moment I surged with anger, it was the same time God lovingly revealed His plan for me and why He called me to that specific action: Because He asks us to forgive one another. He commands it. Mark 11:24-25 reads: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
The main message is in verse 25, but I am providing you with verse 24 as they are both equally important. In my desire to be obedient to God, this was going to be another area. He forgave others and commanded that I do it too.
Like it or not, we are accountable to God for our actions. We are accountable to Him for how we respond to situations, whether they are bad or good. In addition, God does not want us to miss out on all that our destiny holds because of unforgiveness and holding onto our past. Forgiveness produces our victory! If you have been through such a situation or someone has wronged you, as difficult as it seems, choose to forgive. If not, your victory will be delayed.
I have since forgiven this person. God also removed the anger I harbored toward him and Black men in general. In exchange, He has provided me a peace that exceeds what I expected to feel about the whole situation! Only God! Victory is mine!
Often times when we are going through tough times or experience wrongdoings inflicted upon us by other people, we ask, “Why me, God?” Furthermore, we may ask, “Why does such a loving God allow bad things to happen to good people?”
Both questions are valid yet, they manifest as part of our selfish human nature that struggles to understand God’s ultimate purpose for our lives.
In all of it, be encouraged. KNOW THAT IN TRIALS, OUR POWER COMES FROM OUR ABILITY TO BE PROCESSED FOR SUCCESS.
Such an example of being processed is described in 2 Corinthians 4:8-12-
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our bodies. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”
While the statistics, raw emotions and setbacks around such injustices are real, the victories are also real.
Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.
Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.