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Rosie Rivera on “God Is Your Defender”

"I Am Not A Princess"

Rosie Rivera grew up the youngest child in the famous musical Rivera family. She was lavished with love by her six siblings and adored by her father. He told Rosie she was intelligent and strong, and a princess that could conquer the world. “I was not a princess because princesses are not hurt.” Hurt barely describes what happened to Rosie when she was eight years old. That’s when her older sister’s husband began to sexually abuse her. He threatened to kill her sister and other family members if Rosie told anyone. So Rosie kept her dark secret for years. She became obsessed with revenge and retaliation but later, turned her anger on herself by engaging in self-destructive behavior. She drank, took drugs, cut herself, slept with any man who wanted her and became addicted to pornography. She eventually tried to kill herself and even begged God to do it for her. She believed that only death would silence the cries of the devasted child within. In her mid-teens, Rosie finally broke her silence and told her sister about the abuse. That day was a step forward, but it would take much more to reverse Rosie's self-destructive course. The real turnaround happened when Rosie began to attend church again and rededicated her life to Jesus Christ. The love of God radiated from within and she says she had constant assurance she would never be alone. And there were directions for her journey. Her Bible contained a map with specific directions. But the path to recovery wasn’t without obstacles and being obedient to the Scriptures that addressed her situation wasn’t easy. 

Moving Forward Means Making Hard Choices 

Rosie says the first thing she learned on her road to recovery is we can’t control what happens to us, but we can control our response to what happened. Every person that has been hurt must make a difficult, purposeful decision. Am I going to seek revenge at all costs or will I choose the path that leads to healing? The desire for revenge, retaliation, and vindication is one of our deepest instincts. Rosie says if you choose to obsess about revenge and retaliation, the emotions generated will ultimately destroy you, and everyone you love. She says, “More times than I would like to count, I would roll the rock of revenge up a hill only to have it backfire and topple down on me.”

Rosie says, “Sadly, it’s often in our closest relationships where we exact the pettiest revenge.” In her book, she gives an illustration from her family. “My oldest and youngest children grew up with two different mamas. My 17-year-old daughter grew up with an angry, resentful mother. She became cautious, afraid, and super shy. My youngest child grew up with a healthy mother. She is much more free and unafraid. She goes around the house singing.” Rosie is quick to add, “My oldest daughter has undergone great healing so she can realize her full potential.”

On the road to recovery, a critical question to ask yourself is, “What is more important to me, revenge or relationship?” Carrying bitterness is very costly, and “will damage every beautiful relationship you have.” Rosie warns of another trap; buying the lie that your freedom will only come when the one who hurt you pays restitution. “Your healing doesn’t come through being vindicated or seeing your perpetrator punished. Healing comes from Jesus Christ.” 

The Trap Of Avoidance

Rosie says there’s another obstacle on the road to recovery; the trap of avoidance. If we focus too much on who hurt us and how they hurt us, we can overlook our problems and propensities, and create much bigger problems down the road. For example, people who choose to suffer in silence when it’s time to speak up. They repress powerful emotions that can build up and explode and, in the process, destroy relationships. Learning when to speak up and when to hit mute is crucial. In the case of childhood abuse, Rosie says it is always time to speak up. But other situations may require more discretion. “Jesus stood up, but he also knew when to stand down...all subject to his Father’s will.” She says, “Be honest when you are hurt and ask, “Do I bear any responsibility for what happened?” If you are abused, the answer is a resounding no. But in some conflicts, we need to own whatever small part we played in creating the problem. A trusted counselor can help us get to deeply buried pain and trauma that we can’t identify. But Rosie reiterates, “There are some situations that demand you to speak up. Love should never cover a multitude of victim-producing wrongs. Speak up for yourself to prevent others from being hurt too.”

Final Rosie Words Of Wisdom 

Rosie says to always remember that moving beyond the hurts and damage inflicted on you is not a “one-stop shop,” but a journey with victories, setbacks, and successes.” When you allow God to defend you must give up your resentments, self-pity, and expectations for when and how justice is given. In return, you get the assurance that you will recover, you will see victory, and your relationships will get stronger. Rosie says it’s also good to remember, “God’s justice is given in His time and in His way. He is God and He determines what justice means in every situation. His goal is to redeem and restore all the broken people involved for His glory.” In Rosie’s case, her perpetrator was finally brought to justice, and will never abuse another child again. But Rosie says she began her healing long before that happened.

Rosie and her family now live in peace, knowing that God is leading them to a bright, fulfilling future. Yet Rosie’s love and concern reach far beyond her own family. She never misses an opportunity to help any woman or child who is the victim of domestic violence or sexual abuse. And she offers them a gift to start their journey to recovery through her story in her book, God Is Your Defender.

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