How do you forgive a sexual abuser? By writing a letter

letterboys

It’s been forty-one years since those bully boys stole my body, mind, and bits and pieces of my shattered soul. They posed as interested neighbors, ready to help my ancient babysitter. They’d take me off her hands, lessen her load. Which is strange if you knew me back then. I wasn’t a handful. I’d already learned the art of being invisible. And if I wasn’t occupying myself alone, I found ways to please people. I was a good little girl. Innocent, even.

Those friendly boys (brothers, boy scouts) took me into the woods. They invited friends to take turns. They violated me under too-tall evergreen trees. They took me home with them, stealing more of me in their bunk beds, a sheet draped over the bottom bunk so they could do it “privately,” all while their June Cleaver mom hummed pop tunes and made cookies just two rooms away. I wonder if she knew.

I escaped their clutches by sleeping all afternoon into the early evening. And later, we moved far, far away. But their haunting stayed with me. I felt dirty, violated, utterly alone with my secret story. I tucked it in a dark corner. The story didn’t resurface until I met Jesus. And then it leaked, then gushed from me in anguish.

How do you forgive that?

When I met Jesus, I learned that He forgave me. Growing up in a sexually charged culture like that, coupled with a father with a sexual addiction, I struggled with pornography as a teen. It’s stark and embarrassing to write it here, but there it is, ugly and real. I struggled to believe I’d been forgiven for reading those books, those magazines.

Choosing to forgive those boys didn’t happen overnight. In fact, there are still tendrils of unforgiveness living in my heart, evidenced by the sick feeling in my stomach right now. Because if I’d met boys like that now who DARED to touch my girls, my first thought would be murder.

Yet Jesus says even if we think murder, it’s sin.

I have so much that needs to be forgiven. But how do you forgive the boys violation?

You start by making a choice to forgive. You continue by walking the radical, nonsensical journey of forgiveness.

Today I’m taking another step toward forgiveness. Right here, right now, on this blog, I’m writing a letter to those boys whose first names I cannot recall, but whose last name has caused me to Google the heck out of it, wondering, wondering, wondering what they are doing today. Is he the teacher who had been suspended for inappropriate behavior? Is his brother the architect? Lawyer?

I do not know who these men are today. But, perchance, by God’s great mystery, if they ever, ever, ever stumble across this blog, this letter’s for them.

Dear Boys of the Last Name that Roils My Insides,

I am still angry.

What you did. Oh, what you did. Your choices dug scars the size of channels in my soul. You stole me. My innocence. My wide-eyed trust. My valiant view of life. My bravery. All kidnapped. In the aftermath of the sexual abuse, I hollowed. I believed lies about myself.

  • I am unworthy of being protected.
  • My self-worth = my sexuality, but in the most warped way.

Did you think of these things while you satisfied your base desires? Did you realize you’d destroy a little girl’s kindergarten life? Had you no shame to violate a five-year-old girl for your pleasure? You had so much bravery in your sin, violating me while your mom cooked. No fear. And yet, your actions made me run scared most of my life, always looking around corners, running, running, running afraid a villain would grab me.

You marked me. Ever since your violating act, a mark danced on my forehead for all abusers and violators to see, as if they were black light, and the mark fluorescent. It was a ticket for further predators.

I am still angry. Because when I watched my own daughters turn five years old, I could barely breathe. Such fear. Such sadness. All I wanted to do was protect my girls.

I was so small when you took me into the woods. So incapable of running away. And if I had tried, your hissed words would make me turn around and be re-violated. “We will kill your parents if you tell anyone.” To protect my parents, I kept my mouth shut tight. And I dared not run.

But if I stay camped in the land of vengeance my joy will emaciate. (Click to tweet this). You will have won the conquest.

You see, I met Jesus when I was fifteen years old, ten years after you scared the hell out of me, five years after my father died. Gentle Jesus found me just in time. Those suicide swirling thoughts had hypercharged my mind. I wondered what in the world I was doing here on this green, green tall-treed earth. Was my purpose to be violated? To be used by others like you two? Or did I have some other unknown purpose.

Under an evergreen tree, the memories of your violation stung my eyes. And yet there, in that sacred place, I met Jesus. He took my sin (oh so many sins, innumerable were/are they) and flung it eastward in a projectile one billions miles away from me. He cleaned me, scrubbed my aching heart, and started me down the painful/beautiful road of healing. He took on my sin and my pain.

He changed my I Was statements into I AM statements.

  • I was molested. I am cherished by God.
  • I was stolen from. I am given everlasting, joyful, abundant life.
  • I was less than.  I am more than I ever thought I’d be.

I am free to forgive you. I am free to look upon you with grace-graced eyes. I am made whole by a holy God. Alleluia!

I understand better now. I thank God that by the time I reached your age, I met Jesus. I could’ve been you. I could’ve given in to the vile urges inside, crossed over many a barrier, had I not been rescued. Without Jesus, I shudder to think of what I would’ve become. Which brings me to a vulnerable place, and a deep, deep sadness for you.

If statistics play out, you didn’t violate me for kicks. You did what had been done to you. You imitated the life you had. You acted out on the very thing that agonized you. The thing you hated is what you became. There came a day when you made a choice to give into the madness in your head, where you believed you deserved satisfaction. Someone stole from you, so you may as well steal from someone else.

I see Jesus, naked on the cross with labored breathing. He understands the vulnerability of nakedness. On that cross He could’ve crucified all the violators, all those who sent Him there, but He breathed wild forgiveness. He chose to do what you did not. He suffered for someone else’s sin. And instead of enacting vengeance, He ushered in an era of grace.

I wish this Jesus for you.

I worry about you. Maybe you’ve stuffed your memories of the little community near the salty water. Maybe you’ve scrubbed those woods from your mind. You’ve shoved it way, way down. Guilt riddles you, but you cannot articulate why. I’m proof, beautiful proof, that you can be set free. You can be scrubbed clean. You can be forgiven.

But you cannot heal in silence. An untold story never heals. (Click to tweet this). I challenge you, as that scab-kneed girl you sexually assaulted, to give it up. Tell the story. Ask Jesus to forgive you.

All I can do is pray you’ll find this letter through some beautiful God-breathed serendipity and finally want to be set free from what you did to me. I forgive you both, you brothers in crime. You brothers who ruined one year of my scared and scarred life. You brothers who most likely were violated too. Come to the fount of forgiveness, inaugurated by Jesus. Let my words serve as your entryway:

I forgive you.

My mountain of sins toward a holy God dwarfs the molehills you enacted against me. I read Jesus’ words about the unmerciful servant and understand: “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ (Matthew 18:32-33).

If I really, really believe in naked Jesus on the cross who bore all my shame and sin and muck, then I have to believe His sacrifice is sufficient for you too. His mercy sparks deep mercy in me toward you.

It’s odd this affection, this ache I have for you two. I long to see you free from those memories, from the abuse you enacted and the abuse you faced. I can’t offer clever solutions or pay for years of therapy to eradicate the pain. All I have is beautiful Jesus. All I have is my life made whole. All I have is my testimony. All I have is this: I am okay. I am wildly loved by my Creator. I am healed. I am living a life of truly impossible joy.

I am angry. But the anger redirects when I realize that Satan’s greatest weapon is sexual violation. I’m angry at the powers of darkness that ignite deep, awful, scary soul wounds through pornography, sex trafficking, sexual abuse, and sexual addiction. I’m flat out rage-filled because he has succeeded in stealing, killing and destroying so many lives.

This must stop. For my sake. For your sake. For our sake.

Satan, you cannot have these boys now turned men. Satan, you are not allowed victory in this arena. Jesus trumps your vile deeds. What you gleefully applauded in the darkness, Jesus heals audaciously in the light. (Click to tweet). You cannot and will not win. Light always, always, always pushes out darkness. Always. Your days are numbered, and those who follow Jesus are SICK to death of your sexual schemes against humanity.

We stand for healing. We stand in Jesus’ strength for the sake of future radically saved lives. We who know redemption are tired of miring ourselves in the painful past. Instead we will STAND. We will dance. We will give our healed lives to rescue souls from the darkness. (Click to tweet). What Satan intended (and even you, brothers) meant for evil, God makes a holy turnaround. We who desperately needed rescue are now agents of rescue, of reconciliation, of forgiveness.

Oh that you would experience this new, new life Jesus offers you, brothers of the last name. I invite you on the journey. And if we ever meet under the evergreens, by God’s life-altering grace, I will hug you. I will pray for you. I will weep. I will say forgiveness words. I will welcome you to the family of the messy-yet-redeemed.

Standing in the glorious, sweet light of Jesus,

Mary, no longer five, wholly loved

P.S. If you’re reading this, and you have the same story as those brothers, please let this message seep deep into your heart. The God who hung naked offers you a way out. His scarred hands are the hands of victory and forgiveness and light. Extend your hand to Him. He who stoops to the earth is reaching out to you.

P.P.S. If you’re reading this and you are the child under the evergreens, consider writing a letter. In this moment, I can say catharsis blesses, and a kinship with Jesus erupts.