By: Julie Woodley
As I write this, I’m filled with words that have been locked up in me for so long: I cry like a child, I tremble, and I remember those horrible memories. I choose to have the courage to unleash these words because so many individuals need to hear the heart’s cry of those that have been sexually exploited.
I know God can use my tears, pain, and horrific memories to help my other sweet sisters have a voice as well and know that they are loved. My deepest desire is that those affected by sexual exploitation live freely with the love of God without the haunting memories which often come after being sold as a sex object, a commodity for another’s corrupt evil pleasure.
I have kept these memories silenced within me for decades—actually about 40 years. In the past two years the man who sold me into the hands of others died and all of the memories hit me like a truck. I didn’t know if I or my Christian friends could handle the atrocity of the scars, so I write from the depths of who I am, and I pray that my words will be a like a Psalm of the heart to those who understand and long to understand the reality of sexual exploitation.
Scrub, Scrub. . . Then Consumed with Heavenly Love
“You, O Lord, have sent your love upon me, not just upon me, but I feel as if I’m swimming in it. I am consumed and overwhelmed and speechless that he calls me his. I know he has bucket-loads of love for me.”
I vividly remember what it feels like to be sexually abused by so many men. I was sold by my own father to our neighbor as a sex toy. The memories are so horrific. At that time, I felt as though I was completely trapped. I felt like a commodity, used goods that were sold to men. Big men, big hands, and big everything. I was small and tiny. I had no voice. I was gagged. I felt so worthless being used by my own father and other men in our town.
I felt like maybe I could disappear, maybe if I worked really hard I could pay my own way to get out of that town. To ease my pain, I would take a hot steaming bath as tears flowed and I scrubbed and scrubbed until my skin was raw. I tried to scrub myself clean from the filth left on me by those big, evil men. I thought I could scrub their rough touch away.
I ended up getting pregnant, but I couldn’t scrub the baby away. I would get up every morning and vomit. My mother got so angry with me she would make me clean it up. I continued to scrub and scrub, but it made me sick again.
I wondered if my mother knew that it could her husband’s baby. My pregnancy was eventually exposed, so they took me away to a clinic that’s 260 miles away. My parents were disgusted with me. They blamed it on my boyfriend Mike, but my father knew the truth. He knew, and I knew. I locked that secret away and I scrubbed and scrubbed. Soon after, our house became a war zone and violence began to reign. My father slammed my head against the fireplace and he threatened me with a gun. He abused me time and time again. I scrubbed some more.
I finally left the house when I was18, the day after I graduated from High School. I walked two miles with only the clothes on my back and I never returned. I hit the streets selling myself sexually for a meal, a place to sleep, and arms to hold me. There’s a blur of men; I try and wash it all away.
I ended up getting pregnant again with a man I so loved. He didn’t have time and didn’t want a wife and a baby. He was on a successful career path. I ended up having an abortion, once again, scrubbing away my pain.
God to my rescue
One night, I planned to take my own life. I was ready to end it all. I couldn’t scrub my pain away any longer. And, then, God shouted to me, “I love you! I love you!” I was consumed. His love rendered me speechless and he put a new song in my heart. He replaced the lies my father told me about myself. I was redeemed the night I planned to take my life. My addictions, the men, the drugs, and alcohol were now replaced with heavenly joy. I am wild with love for my Abba Father!
I knew at that time that I was to be the voice for the voiceless. For the women and girls that are sold. I will fight for them. We are to have the Lion of Judah within us to fight for them. The consuming love of God gives us courage, no more scrubbing. Our loving Father never fails us nor will he fail those who have been sold into slavery. He hears us when we call. There will be no more darkness, no more scrubbing. It’s time for us to start a love revolution for those who have been sexually exploited.
What sexually exploited girls require
Girls who have experienced sexual exploitation need to know that they are safe. They have dodged bullets for their whole lives so they need a place of rest; a sacred place. A place where they:
Can sleep without interruption.
Are not judged.
Can heal from the intense trauma to their body, soul, and heart.
Have their needs provided for: healthy food, comfortable bed, security—a home.
Can experience healthy boundaries, yet unconditional love and acceptance.
Can express their intense emotions—whether they be anger, tears of grief, tears of regret, or behaviors that do not fit the social norm.
Can learn to forgive those that have abused them for their own evil desires and learn to forgive themselves.
Can experience their identity in Christ where they see their radiance and captivating beauty in God.
I was unwillingly thrown into the sisterhood of the exploited. I am proud to be able to help and be a part of this community. We, together, can be women warriors that have the courage to face these atrocities and go on to support one another and live productive, healthy lives.
If you know of someone who would like help to heal from being sexually abused or exploited please go to Transformations Treatment Center. They work with addiction as well as trauma issue and currently use “In the Wildflowers,” a curriculum used for women that have been sexually abused.
Julie Woodley, professional author, counselor, speaker and founder and director of Restoring the Heart Ministries and the Ministry Outreach Representative for Transformation Treatment Center and Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center. Please call Transformations Treatment Center if you need help at 888.954.6434, online at www.transformationstreatment.com or contact Julie Woodley to schedule a speaking engagement.