McEldowney, Stephanie

IMG_4978“I was sexually abused” took me almost nine years to verbalize. Even as I write, only a few have known my darkest secret. Though I struggle daily with the affects of sexual abuse, I don’t consider myself a victim, but rather an overcomer because Christ is my victory.

Many struggle deeply as I did, but see no way around the pain, anxiety, depression, hurt, and countless other obstacles. I want you to know that you don’t have to be another statistic! In telling my story, I pray that others can find the healing wholeness of Christ as He continues to heal my own heart in the process. I can’t ignore what happened to me or its devastating affects, which is why I need to tell my story. We are meant for more than merely surviving because Christ can redeem, no matter our past!

So, here it is, a piece of my life that I’ve kept suppressed for twenty years.

When I was little I was taught that “family” meant unconditional love and protection. The love part came easy. My parents and siblings were my world, and even though I felt alone most of my childhood, I loved them with everything I had, and knew they loved me. I benefited many times from the protection of my brothers; bullies didn’t stand a chance!
But at six years old, everything changed.

The little girl who loved unconditionally and stood up for others quickly began to fade like a flickering candle. I suddenly found myself facing the ugly truth that I couldn’t trust everyone to love unconditionally.

After being molested the first time, I knew something was wrong, even though “he” said it was ok. I remember sitting in the back of the car that night thinking, “I need to tell my mom.” Looking at the house through my car window, tearing up, world shattering, repeating inside, “I NEVER want to come back EVER AGAIN!”
If only I’d voiced those words, things might have been different, but I chose to never tell a soul. In my six year old mind, every imagined scenario I could think of proved that the abuse was my fault. I’m so sorry to my parents for not trusting them enough to protect me if I had told them. Of course, looking back and seeing how deeply they loved me, they never would have allowed the abuse to continue.

So, when another dreadful visit came, which there always was, I would do what I could to make it stop. I sat downstairs with my parents and listened to their grownup talk, praying that I wouldn’t be asked to go “play”, but it always happened. Someone would call from beyond the upper landing, “Come upstairs, Steph”. I would whisper no, but my parents would look at me and say, “Go on, go play.” After saying no over again, I would get asked the dreadful question, “Why?” So, rather than answer, I would just get up and walk away, dragging my feet. My heart physically ached from pounding. I was terrified of “him”. But like a rock and a hard place, fear also kept me from telling.

We’d play a normal kid game, like hide and seek, but eventually I was forced to do certain things that were no longer a game. I remember being pinned down on the floor with “him” on top of me and all I could see was the light from underneath the door; help, so close, but impossibly far away. The abuse continued for about four years.
Four years of hell.
Four years of begging not to go back.
I would cry and no one understood.

The affects of molestation wrapped around my young life in so many ways. I cried myself to sleep. I refused to sleep over with friends. I wet the bed until I was twelve, even though my parents had tried to get me help from a physician. Little did I realize that wetting the bed would be the least of my problems in the years to come.

After we moved the abuse finally ended, but I kept quiet for another four years, landing me at almost 15. My best friend invited me to sleep over and attend church with her the next day. I’ve always loved God, I just never knew Him or felt His love, but that Sunday God gave me a gift. He began the process of showing me His real love through the love of a boy I’d one day marry. I saw Brian playing guitar during worship and soon after, we were dating. The only male relationship outside of my father’s had been destructive, abusive, and dominate where my role was to submit and keep my mouth shut, but here was Brian living out his love for me in a very different way.

One Wednesday night while Brian and I were at youth group, I truly sensed God’s presence in my heart like never before. God had become very real to me and I couldn’t deny Him. It literally felt like God was breaking down the walls of my heart where God whispered,
Youre not alone. I love you. I will protect you.
And for the first time in my life, I trusted.
Jesus would never hurt me. He would give me the courage and strength to overcome my fears and struggles. On the way home that night, I told Brian my dark secret. His eyes filled with compassion, he embraced me, and said he was so sorry for what had happened. He battled his own emotions about it for a couple days like wanting to kill the guy, but then showed up at my house with flowers and a really long letter with Bible verses. God gave me Brian to help me fight fear; He sent him so I could see Jesus.

With new found courage from telling Brian, I also told my parents the same night. Of course, they didn’t respond with the guilt and shame I had dreaded. I had been tortured physically, but also mentally by my own fear and hopelessness. The abuse wasn’t their fault and it wasn’t mine; a realization that took years for me to accept.

Through discovering the love of Jesus Christ through Brian’s example, I now have eternal hope, despite my continued struggles and fears. Struggling with trusting people and worrying about the safety of my children are big ones for me right now, but one day God will fully redeem me in Heaven. My scars are real, my past was tragic, but I walk in freedom today because my life is defined by who I am in Christ as His beloved, not my past. He is my shield on all sides and it’s Christ’s unconditional love that allows me to finally love myself.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Psalm 147:3

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

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