No Longer Untold Series

No Longer Untold: There's Nothing Too Dirty

Taking in a deep breath, she laid her bags on the floor, sat on the edge of the bed, and her eyes began to wonder. White painted walls, a bedside table, one picture of a tree, a long hanging mirror, and a small dark wood dresser filled the room.  Thoughts of fear, disappointment, resentment, shame, failure, and hope consumed her mind.

She thought to herself, “Why was I born? Why am I even still alive after all that I’ve been through? Why couldn't my life have been like someone else's, you know, why couldn't I have had a happier life, with an awesome family? Why did I get handed this life?”  

Feelings of pity suddenly emerged, and a burst of anger swept over her hardened heart. While despair took away any hope she previously felt, her mind began to run rapidly once again, “I don’t even know who I am. Wait... yes I do! I am Victoria! I am the prostitute! I am the rebellious daughter! I am the druggie who will never recover! I am the misfit! I am a waste of space, and if this place doesn’t help me, then nothing will.”

Interrupting her rumination, was a soft innocent tone coming from her three year old daughter, “Mommy is this the new home you told me about?”

As her eyes skimmed the room once more, and she tried to keep from crying uncontrollably, a single tear ran down her flushed cheek. “Yes baby girl. This is our new home,” she replied.

“For how long mommy?” asked Emma.

Victoria answered with uncertainty, and hesitation, “I’m not really sure. I’m guessing for a while. However long that is.”

Sitting next to her mother, Emma wrapped their arms together, and there on the edge of the bed, they sat in complete silence.

After some time had passed, Emma relaxed on the floor while coloring pictures, as her mommy began to unpack, filling up the space in the empty closet, and dresser drawers. Reminiscing on her life before this moment, Victoria began to relive her past sexual abuse as a child, the abandonment from her father, absence of her mother, the alcohol/drugs, “John’s,” and strip clubs. “I’m so dirty,” she thought again.

Although, what consumed her mind the most, were the last three years in particular, and how she became the same mother that she swore she wouldn’t be. At such a young age, Emma was already showing signs of pain, anger, and hopelessness. Victoria turned her head, looked through the reflection in the mirror, and caught a glimpse of her daughter playing quietly on the floor. That same little girl she was looking at, reminded her of the abandoned child that she once was, and her heart broke even more.

Glancing down at her watch, and seeing that it was still early afternoon, she decided to change clothes, and go to bed anyways. “Maybe after some sleep, I’ll be able to escape some of these feelings. Maybe in the morning, things might feel different. Maybe in the morning, this will all make sense,” Victoria reasoned with herself.

“Come brush your teeth,  let's get your pajamas on, and lay down,” she ordered to Emma.

Like usual, and without question, her daughter conformed to the circumstance by which they were in. The two of them cuddled in the bed that afternoon, and all throughout the night, until early morning came.

This was me. This was my daughter. This was part of our first day at Refuge.

I finally came to the end of myself.

Although painful, there’s something freeing, humbling, and altogether beautiful about being completely broken. Partly, because all the things that keep a person's heart and mind bound, can no longer hold them down. However, I believe it’s mostly because you have finally come to the very end of yourself, and hit what most would call, “rock bottom.” It’s a place that leaves you unbecoming, and allows room for your creator to take precedence in your life.  

Have you reached the very end of yourself?

If so, what did it take for you to get there? Divorce? Death of a loved one? Failure at meeting the world's expectations for your success? Rape? Murder? Greed? Self Hate? Fear? Perfectionism? Loneliness? Addiction?

If not, what do you think it will take? How far must you go in life before realizing that there is something greater than mankind, and greater than yourself. Do you need to have a near death experience? Do you need to overdose on drugs, or drink yourself into committing murder by driving drunk? Do you need to get an STD after committing adultery, or lose your hair after purging for 5 years? Do you need to worship a god that never speaks back to you for another 15 years of your life?

What will it take for you?

For me, coming to the end of myself took years of running in search for love, belonging, and significance, in all the wrong places. I also ran from my pain, but ultimately caused more of it through the decisions I made, which led me in the viscous cycle of “running” all over again. The world, and my life circumstances were the grounds for decision making on who I was, and what I thought about God. My mind, my heart, and my soul were completely lost. I tried every avenue available to me in order to cope with life, yet, I was never truly fulfilled.

My final straw though, was when my two year old daughter cursed at me in anger, and I chose to numb the pain with unprescribed prescription medication, causing an accidental overdose. Regretfully, I laid in bed vomiting for about 4 days, one of which I spent several hours cycling in and out of consciousness.

Before this occurrence, there were previous times I had drank too much, or taken too many pills, but this time it was different, and as I laid there, I heard a soft whisper in my mind that said, “Are you done yet?”  Although it was not audible, it was overwhelmingly apparent that this question was coming from a place greater than myself,  and somehow, I was certain that it was coming from God. I knew that if I took one more pill, I would die, and my daughter would not only be fatherless, but motherless as well. So, in response, I cried out, “Yes I’m done. I’ll do whatever you want. I'll go to Church if that's what you want.  Just don't let me die.” I didn't want my daughter to go through the same things I experienced as a child, or make the same choices I had, and if I continued living life the way I was, that's exactly what would have happened.

That night, I knew I needed a refuge.

Fear crippled me, and shame kept me feeling alone. The things that bound me, stayed hidden in my mind, and for years my story went completely untold.  Thankfully though, because of the obedience of many, I was able to move into a place that allowed all of these bondages to be revealed. Refuge for Women gave me a safe place to talk about all of my pain,  as well as, provided me with an atmosphere where I could find the real Victoria.

 

Genesis 1:27 (NIV) says,

“So God created mankind in his own image,

in the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them.”

 

I’m no longer “running” to find out who I am, and why I am here. I am no longer searching in all the wrong areas for my identity, but instead I’m continuously looking towards my creator for this answer. Everyone has a story, however, the story of my life went untold for far too long, and there are many others going untold as well. So, because of this, I will no longer sit back, and stay silent. I will no longer keep hiding all of the garbage that consumed my life, and I definitely will not keep quiet about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the reason for all of the hope that I have.

 

I tasted, and saw that the Lord was good, and haven't returned to the mess he found me in.

 

My story is No Longer Untold.

 

Grateful Follower Of Jesus Christ Since 2012


 

His love is overwhelming, and there is nothing too dirty for Jesus.

 

A song about Jesus Christ.

"Clean" by Natalie Grant:

Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/5ol1V-sj1gc

 

I see shattered

You see whole

I see broken

But You see beautiful

And You're helping me to believe

You're restoring me piece by piece

 

There's nothing too dirty that You can't make worthy

You wash me in mercy

I am clean.

There's nothing too dirty that You can't make worthy

You wash me in mercy

I am clean.

 

What was dead now lives again

My heart's beating, beating inside my chest

Oh I'm coming alive with joy and destiny

Cause You're restoring me piece by piece

 

There's nothing too dirty that You can't make worthy

You wash me in mercy

I am clean.

There's nothing too dirty that You can't make worthy

You wash me in mercy

I am clean.

 

Washed in the blood of Your sacrifice

Your blood flowed red and made me white

My dirty rags are purified

I am clean

 

Refuge for Women is excited to announce that we have assembled a team of writers, more so, a team of listeners, who are dedicated to sharing what God is doing in every RFW home across the nation. This blog will stand to give a platform to those who have been shushed, hidden, and locked away. Refuge for Women is going full exposure with our Blog launch series, “No Longer Untold.” May the light of Jesus Christ that has shown so heavy on this ministry shine through each, and every blog written. Softening hearts, and connecting everyone no matter their journey in life.

 

Share this post to make their stories known. Like us on FB to hear more. Follow our blog to join the movement. Pray with us and take part in this community of activists. Let’s be storytellers.

There is More to come! You can expect stories from the writing team every first, and third Wednesday of the month.

 

Disclaimer: Identities of residents should always be protected, for this reason we use pseudo-names for all current and former residents. Please note resident quotes and testimonies are provided for use by Refuge for Women, Inc. and its subsidiaries for the purpose of general communications and updates to staff, volunteers and potential supporters of Refuge. The contents of testimonies should not be used for any professional publications without permission from Refuge for Women, Inc.

 

No Longer Untold

Never again will a single story be told

as though it's the only one.

– John Berger

At eighteen years old, Sarah is sentenced to six years in prison for physical assault.

In South Sudan, a fourteen year old girl named Fiona runs away from her work and home to marry her new found Prince Charming.

Katheryn, twenty-one, storms up the staircase of her boyfriend’s downtown apartment to collect her belongings and flee.

Stereotypes say these three girls are “troubled”. They’re unruly. It’s their own decisions that brought about their downfall and messy lifestyle. They’re to blame for the friends they’ve made, the drugs they’ve used, and the repercussions that have since resulted.

So it seems, to the bystander.

However, if they were able to tell their stories, would the tales look different? If their stories were no longer untold would perspectives change? Would people be influenced to move from being bystanders to first responders? From standing as onlookers with judgement to activists with understanding?

*

If Sarah were able to tell her story she’d describe the day as a little girl when she was playing “Hide and Seek” in the Miami sunshine with the other neighborhood children. One of the boys took her to a hiding place, shushed her to be quiet, and told her not to tell anyone what they had done in hiding (what he had done.) The PTSD of being raped as a child took on a life of it’s own. As she grew up, she treated her symptoms with alcohol, drugs, and decisions that made her feel in control.

Years later, as a middle-school student and under the influence, Sarah was taken from a party brought to another “hiding place”. Again, she was violated, degraded, and shushed. Confused about who was to blame, and ashamed all over again, she stayed quiet. She didn’t talk. The painful secrets remained in hiding, yet she could not hide from them herself.

Her adolescence passed and adulthood came, by the time her teenage trespasser resurfaced. Cornered at another party, his hand framed her cheek and she panicked. With the trauma rushing back and the rage taking over, she hurt him. Consequently, she was arrested and tried. She told only part of her story, the part that at least helped her to still feel in control.

*

The second story is about a young girl in South Sudan. Fiona’s impoverished family couldn’t afford to send her to school. She was offered a job as a house helper. So, she took a bus and moved seven hours away from her home village to earn meager wages for mere survival. She spent her days doing the cooking and cleaning for a family that gave her a bed. They treated her well. But she was still poor, lonely, and far from home. She was vulnerable.

One day, the family returned after work to find the dirty dishes still on the counter, the laundry remaining piled in the hamper, and no supper prepared. Fiona was last seen boarding a truck with few belongings in hand, a smile on her face, and her new lover by her side. The two had made a hush plan to move away and find a better life. Why, then, was he seen a week later, but she wasn’t?

*

The final character, Katheryn, chose to date her boyfriend and move in with him. She was charmed (deceived) by his good looks and spacious apartment. But what about the sex? Not just the sex with him, but the sex with his friends… And their friends. What about the drugs? Did she choose the drugs that made her numb to it all? Did she choose the alcohol to help her forget? The other side of her story isn’t so black and white, after all.

Eventually, Katheryn got out. We were able to help her. Stomping up the creaking steps of an old, somewhat wobbly apartment in downtown Louisville, KY, I held a box of extra durable trash bags in my hand, with Katheryn and another friend by my side.

We looked upon a disaster. Empty beer bottles rolled around the floor, crinkled newspapers laid everywhere, McDonald's bags adorned the area, and drunken strangers slept off their hangovers in the common room.

We guarded Kat as she loaded into trash bags all that she owned. We turned towards the door and left for good, because that was not the life that Katheryn had chosen for herself. She was fed up with being treated like the neglected trash that laid piled in the apartment.

*

At first glance the court only sees Sarah as a psychopath, an out-of-control teen with a forceful kick, and who made use of the beer bottle in her hand. Little did the court see that she was a traumatized rape victim, whose story went untold. We met Sarah years later, when she was roaming the streets in desperate need of a job, a place to stay, and someone to help her rehabilitate into society.

At first glance Fiona appears naive and misguided. No one knew about the pimp who charmed her, who built her up with manipulative affection and broken promises. Her so called “Prince Charming” told her lies of a better life in another town and monopolized on her vulnerability. Fiona went with him, unaware that she would be sold. Yet again, another story went untold. Fiona hasn't been seen, nor found, by her family or friends since.

At first glance one might think that Kat made the decision to live in a drug infested house of “friends” with her boyfriend, and that this was the lifestyle she chose. She was locked in a house with her phone taken, her every move monitored, and it was a long time before her story was ever told. Several years passed by before she told her story, before someone cared enough to move from bystander to responder and help her escape. Soon after, she was welcomed into the Refuge for Women recovery program. There she was properly cared for.

We’ve been fortunate enough to witness these stories, and to be a voice for the voiceless. Katheryn’s story was noticed before it was too late, she got to tell her own story and change the way it ended. However, Sarah, Fiona, and countless others remain silenced and locked away. Their stories were noticed too late. And others, their stories simply remain untold.

We are excited to announce that Refuge for Women has assembled a team of writers, more so, a team of listeners, who are dedicated in sharing what God is doing at every RFW home across the nation. This blog will stand to give a platform to those who have been shushed, hidden, and locked away. Refuge for Women is going full exposure with our Blog launch series, “No Longer Untold.” May the light of Jesus Christ that has shown so heavy on this ministry shine through each and every blog written. Softening hearts, and connecting everyone no matter their journey in life.

No longer will their stories go untold.

Don’t remain a bystander. Share this post to make their stories known. Like us on FB to hear more. Follow our blog to join the movement. Pray with us and take part in this community of activists. Let’s be storytellers.

More to come! You can expect stories from the writing team every first and third Wednesday of the month.

 

Disclaimer: Please note resident quotes and testimonies are provided for use by Refuge for Women, Inc. and its subsidiaries for the purpose of general communications and updates to staff, volunteers and potential supporters of Refuge. Identities of residents should always be protected. The contents of testimonies should not be used for any professional publications without permission from Refuge for Women, Inc.

No Longer Untold: Exposed

“To make something visible, to leave uncovered or unprotected, or to subject (photographic film) to light, especially when operating a camera,”

is the meaning of the word exposed, as defined by Webster.

For nineteen years of my life, this word left an unclean feeling deep in the pits of my stomach, and all too often carried haunting, darkened memories that reminded me of the disgrace I had become. For instance, some were of my childhood, when I was first exposed to sex, violence, alcohol, drugs, and the complete dysfunction my parents raised me in. Others included how I was exposed as a young girl, when my body was no longer my own, but instead belonged to a neighbor. Countless memories were of times when I was exposed as a teenager, to the registered sex offender who stole my virginity, and the time my body was sold for drugs. Lastly, vivid reminders of disgrace were from my young adult years, when I chose to be exposed, in order to gain control, fuel addictions, escape from reality, survive, accumulate material things, and feel loved.

Not only did that scared little girl remain in me throughout those 19 years, but so did her definition of the word exposed. If you were to have asked her what this word meant, she would have said,

“To give away, or to be sold, in such a way that the body is completely bare, to watch over, or to subject (a person) to darkness, especially where others are hidden in the dark too.”  

 So, what does exposed mean to you?

When listening to people express themselves, it’s often unthought-of how one word can carry multiple meanings. Especially when our human hearts feel so much, and our own life experiences have given us a totally different perspective. I find it wondrous though, how these experiences plant meanings of words for each person, which ultimately, directly affects the heart. It reminds me of gardening. Now, you may not need a lesson on this, but hear me out, because I promise I'm going somewhere.

First, you need some really moist dirt (the dirt is like our brains. Hardly ironic how our brains are the moistest part of our bodies…it’s just like our creator to do such a thing), next you need a seed (words are like seeds), then you put them together, and BAM! You have planted your words/seed into the brain/ground, and they will eventually grow. The type of seed (word) that is planted will determine what grows (the condition of our hearts)

Luke 6:45 says, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (NIV)

Have you ever thought of John the Baptist, and the first thing God gives him to write?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1 (NIV)

The Word is full of truth, which exposes a person’s heart, thus, bringing it to its rightful condition. All of mankind needs this, because we live in a world where definitions bring us down, causes division, and hardens our hearts. Leaving us, as a human race, completely disconnected.

Today (I declare in a triumphant tone), the word exposed no longer has that stained feel of disgust that once positioned itself around the pit of my stomach. Exposed no longer reminds me of darkness, but instead reminds me of a bright shining light, which leads to a safe place. I believe that being exposed is one of the most beautiful things a person can be, because it means we are vulnerable, which results in something remarkable. CONNECTION.

Connection is precisely what happens at Refuge for Women (RFW), from guests, to volunteers, and even to those who are not directly involved in the ministry. Refuge guests, for the first time in their life, are able to find a true sense of belonging, and identity, through being exposed. They get to experience healing, restoration, and change of heart. Most importantly, everything gained is because Refuge provides an atmosphere centered around Christ, allowing women who have been sexually exploited, to build their own relationship with God, and at their own pace. Alongside these wonderful women, the RFW employees, and volunteers, sooner or later, find a sense of sameness as the connections are built. Ultimately, realizing that they have more in common than what was initially perceived.

As one of the writers here at Refuge for Women, connection is exactly what I hope for as you continue to read each, and every blog that is posted. I desire for barriers to be broken down, stereotypes to no longer exist, and to have a sense of self evolution with everything you read. For our innate commonalities to be shared, and compassion to arise.

Ephesians 5:13 says, “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that is illuminated becomes a light itself.” (NIV)

Refuge for Women is excited to announce that we have assembled a team of writers, more so, a team of listeners, who are dedicated to sharing what God is doing in every RFW home across the nation. This blog will stand to give a platform to those who have been shushed, hidden, and locked away. Refuge for Women is going full exposure with our Blog launch series, “No Longer Untold.” May the light of Jesus Christ that has shown so heavy on this ministry shine through each, and every blog written. Softening hearts, and connecting everyone no matter their journey in life.

From a continuous growing follower of Jesus Christ, a grateful heart, and past guest.

Share this post to make their stories known. Like us on FB to hear more. Follow our blog to join the movement. Pray with us and take part in this community of activists. Let’s be storytellers.

There is More to come! You can expect stories from the writing team every first, and third Wednesday of the month.

Disclaimer: Please note resident quotes and testimonies are provided for use by Refuge for Women, Inc. and its subsidiaries for the purpose of general communications and updates to staff, volunteers and potential supporters of Refuge. Identities of residents should always be protected. The contents of testimonies should not be used for any professional publications without permission from Refuge for Women, Inc.