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Abuse Victim Overcomes Confusion, Pain, and Secrecy

“I kept it a secret and that secret really was eating me up,” Shawn said.   

The secret Shawn was keeping was that from 8 to 10- years- old, she was molested by a man in the neighborhood. He was also the pastor of their home church.

“I remember walking away from that experience - it happened on several occasions - feeling alone, feeling scared, feeling confused, feeling – ‘Why? Why me? Why is this happening to me?’" she remembers painfully.  

Adding to the confusion and pain was a father who was distant and uncaring.

“I remember longing for his approval a lot, and I wanted him to accept me and love me and I never felt that I could really measure up to that,” Shawn confides.  “I remember in high school I wanted him at my track meets. I was in track and he never showed up. I don't remember being angry at God, but I do remember being angry at the church, angry at my father.”

At 16, she finally confided in the church youth pastor about the molestation. The senior pastor resigned, but that caused division in the church and some blamed Shawn.

“I felt hurt and I felt rejected because this church family – this church body was my family, and it's what I knew as a family, and I felt rejected, again.  And I remember just I became more hardened as a person through that experience,” she says.  “I put up self-defense mechanisms where I wouldn't let people hurt me anymore. And I did things my way. I wanted to be in control and I didn't care who I hurt.”

Deep down though, Shawn still longed for the approval of men and became promiscuous. When that proved empty, she got married at 22. To a pastor.

“I was still angry with the church. I was still angry with people who called themselves Christian,” Shawn clearly recalls.  “And I put on a happy face, and like I put on my church face. But deep inside I was hurt, I was struggling, I was miserable. Yeah, there was this deep, deep root of just depression, rejection that I was still carrying with me. ‘Am I really loved? Am I really valued? Am I being judged?’"

After seven years of marriage the couple had a daughter, Kyra. Meanwhile, Shawn was sinking further into depression and began drinking. A few years later, she began a ministry for the homeless, hoping to make herself feel better. She felt no judgment from people on the street, and found connection.

“Feelin’ like, ‘Wow, this is cool. I can really talk to these people.’  And I felt – I felt comfortable. I felt like I have fun and I can relate to these people…
venting my feelings, my frustrations, and it didn't take long where I was taking pills from people on the street. And I ran out of those and I started dabbling with a little bit of heroin,” she admits.

Shawn’s addictions and behavior were destroying her marriage.

“It was like I was sabotaging everything that I had,” she says, “and I didn't understand why. But I was walking away from everything that God had given me. The drug took over and I was not myself at all. And yeah, I hurt a lot of people. How can God ever forgive me now, I've completely walked away."

Eventually, Shawn’s husband divorced her, sold the house, and took custody of their daughter. Shawn isolated herself and started using crack.

“I felt I was beyond redemption now. I might as well go out and do whatever now. There's no hope. I was a mother. Like, ‘What am I doing? My daughter is not with me now.’” Shawn remembers with grief.  “That's like the ultimate horrible thing to feel as a mother. Ultimate shame. Yeah.”

A few years later she had another baby with a boyfriend and named him Isaiah. She kept them on the move, afraid she was beyond even God’s help. But in 2011, Shawn finally decided to stop running from God.

“And I was laying in my bed and I felt this love like I've never ever felt in my life come upon me and come in me and He spoke to me, this love spoke to me, and He said "I love you. I have a plan for you,” she says.  ‘I allowed you to go through what you went through, are you ready now? Are you ready to surrender?’ And at that moment I wept, I wept from the depths of my being and I surrendered. I surrendered to God, I said, ‘God, I am ready.’”

Shawn called her twin sister, Dawn, who helped her get into a detox program, and gave her and Isaiah a place to live. Shawn also found a counselor, and a loving church family who helped her heal from years of rejection.

“I truly can say that I have forgiven, forgiven the pastor,” Shawn shares.  “And I've forgiven people in the church. And so every doubt, every lie that I believed, was lifted off. It was lifted off. And that encounter with God changed me. It changed me. His love moved me and it changed me.”

Today Shawn has a good relationship with both of her children, as well as Dave, whom she married in 2014.

“I have a— I feel like I'm lovable, that I can be loved. And it-it's such a beautiful thing knowing that I belong to Jesus, that I am His,” she says with a smile. 

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