SHAME IS NOT YOUR STORY (Melisa Tobia)

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12 April 2022

SHAME IS NOT YOUR STORY (Melisa Tobia)


Trigger Warning. This article contains description of a specific person’s experience with sexual assault.
To the one person out there that needs to hear this.
She shared her story of the sexual abuse and coercion that occurred within her marriage and it struck so many chords within me because it paralleled in certain ways my own story, my first serious relationship and rape story, that I could never share for fear of shaming my Indian family, because I was not married. I remember a mutual friend asking me in shock – “had her husband physically and sexually abused her? Had he been abusive??” Questioning how the woman could have ever possibly put up with that treatment for over a decade, because she herself never would have. A sentiment I have heard from so many, when they hear of abuse. I recall in that instance knowing I would be met with shame, and handed more, to admit that I was abused/raped. It took courage for this Indian woman to try and navigate exiting her abusive situation when divorce for any reason is not something that’s looked upon as favorable or courageous, but more-so as a stain – especially in Christian circles, let alone in Pentecostal Indian circles. Thank you for realizing your worth and bravely taking a stand to teach your children that it is not ok to be treated this way. Thank you for being a cycle breaker.

She felt trapped, living in the secrecy that fed her shame. She wanted to openly grieve, to be seen, heard and supported. All she ever wanted was to be a mother. She was so conditioned to abuse in her formative years that when it was received later in life at the hands of another man, the one she escaped to, she couldn’t see it for what it was. She was desensitized to it, it felt like normal confusion and chaos. That relationship with one of her abusers resulted in her suffering a miscarriage. You didn’t deserve that. When you felt you were past the point of living within the shroud of shame, pain and crying out for empathy, you didn’t deserve for your father to tell you that he thanks “God from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head that God didn’t allow you to bring that into his home to further shame on him and his family.” How could you even have the audacity to think your miscarriage was a loss like that of the married woman. You didn’t deserve those words spoken to you. You didn’t deserve the abuse you endured or the pain of the loss of the life that was growing within you. Your mistakes and missteps, didn’t deserve those words from your father. Thank you for choosing the freedom of healing in Christ, over the secrecy of shame. Thank you for being a cycle breaker.

She was raped after repeatedly trying to fight him off. Then giving in and thinking it was her fault because she was taught from purity culture as a child; until she realized in her 40’s that what she had been taught was wrong. Can you put yourself in her shoes? And imagine being raped and the man who raped you was also taught from purity culture, so, after he rapes you, he has a conversation with you afterwards to let you know how you could prevent yourself from tempting him again. Imagine being raped, the extreme violation and degradation of someone physically entering you without your consent. Imagine when bringing it up it feels like you are being violated over and over again. Each time you speak about it, your mind won’t stop playing it over and over again like a horrific scene from a movie.
Images of his eyes and smile as he takes you flash back during inopportune moments and sometimes burned into the back of your eyelids like a bad dream that you cannot get rid of. Images of your hand going into his mouth and what that it felt like with his teeth digging into your one free hand as you try to push him off of you. Imagine being asked if you had repented from your role in what happened? Now you don’t know how to talk about it because you have been met with shame. I thank God for the women in your life who spoke the truth in love, who spoke Jesus, who prayed for you, who loved on you, who encouraged a therapeutic environment to safely express yourself and who encouraged you to take back your power and talk about it for your healing, for the healing of others. Thank you for being a cycle breaker.

To the one person out there that needs to hear this.

The shame stories that play out in your mind are not who you are. It’s not your fault if someone took advantage of you, abused you, or raped you. Whether you were somewhere you were not meant to be, froze, said no, were coerced, or just gave in. You didn’t “get what you deserved”. Your life has not been a series of situations where “you got everything you deserved.” You are not the words that have been spoken over you! No one but God knows the cycle of trauma that led you there. Shaming yourself into secrecy and being shamed is just a source of further suffering. Shame is toxic, it silences us and says we are defined by our sins or our perception of sin.
God did not create you to live within a shame story, he did not create you to be defined by your past or the missteps you may have taken. “Remember this: you are strong enough to confront your history. Don’t turn away from your brokenness. Remember that you are not doing this alone. God foreknew this moment would come.” So, “instead of counting the reasons you have to be afraid, give yourself permission to be brave. You have already survived the trauma, but you cannot transform your pain into purpose until you are willing to pick it up again. Roll up your sleeves wipe your tears and boldly embrace your truth.” (Sarah Jakes Roberts). Break the cycle sister!

I sit here and I hold space for the injustices you have endured. You are worthy of love. You deserve healing. I see you and I hear you. I am you.

Continuing to be present, in the light and pain and imperfection, where love lives.

Melisa Tobia