About Purposefully Scarred: My Story is Just One of Many

“I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.”

Little Bee/The Other Hand by Chris Cleave

Purposefully Scarred is dedicated to raising awareness for survivors of abuse and helping one another find purpose in our scars. Chances are great that you have experienced abuse firsthand. Or, if you’ve never been a victim, you know someone (likely several people) who has been. You may have even been the abuser.

Regardless of the category you fall into, I sincerely hope that you find the stories and information here beneficial and encouraging.

On this site, you’ll be able to read, watch, and listen to material intended to support and inform survivors of abuse, their families, and the general public. Many posts will be stories told by survivors of abuse. You can also find information on current trends related to sexual and domestic violence, as well as news reports and articles related to various types of abuse. If you need help, please look at the resources highlighted and/or the list of global contacts, which includes helplines and contact information for agencies and organizations around the world. If you have questions or input of any kind, please feel free to comment here.

This blog was birthed largely from the work I do locally with abuse survivors. For two years, I volunteered through my local YWCA as an advocate for rape victims. I also helped lead support groups for children coming out of domestic violence situations at a shelter during that time. Many of my early posts were created during my years of volunteering. I now work as a full time victim advocate at our community’s sexual assault response program and have held that position since June 2014.

As advocates, our sexual assault response program provides crisis intervention and emergency room response as well as follow up services that are free and confidential to any victims who are interested. Follow up services include but are not limited to interview and court accompaniment, referrals, and emotional support. I work not only with adult and child victims of sexual assault (male and female) and their families but also local professionals including forensic nurses, police officers and investigators, prosecuting attorneys, counselors, and charity workers.

Since taking on this position full time, I have been a victim of a sexual assault committed by a stranger. I had experienced sexual violence before but it was the first assault I ever reported to law enforcement. Even as an advocate, I almost did not report so I understand from experience that that is an incredibly taxing and intimidating thing to do, especially so soon after experiencing an assault. Do what is best for you! People will tell you that if you don’t report, that person will assault or rape someone else. They will tell you that you are responsible to be sure that person goes to jail. The truth is you cannot control your offender’s future actions any more than you could control their criminal actions against you. And you cannot guarantee that that person will go to jail (in the US, 2% of rapists serve time). Do some research and talk to an advocate or investigator about the legal process if you are not sure you want to report. Some victims feel empowered when they report and perhaps later testify in court. Others experience revictimization. Unfortunately, no two assault are identical so do what you believe to be best for you in that moment. There are plenty of valid reasons to report just as there are plenty of valid reasons not to.

My story of abuse began when I was 19, in the winter of 2008. I had no idea at the time. I had never heard of dating abuse and the more we planned for our post-college graduation marriage the more I was able to convince myself that everything was fine.

It began with verbal abuse. Manipulation. The unwelcome physical contact. The sexual taunting. The controlling behavior. Then the blatant disregard for my cries of “no, stop!”

What I believed about sex and abstaining from it back then was very skewed. In my teens I had bought into the lies of purity culture which told me that my virginity was the ultimate determining factor in my worth. If I did anything sexual – if I went “too far” (whatever that might mean) – my value would decrease, even if what happened was unwanted. Premarital sexual actions made a girl like me undesirable. So, when he pushed boundaries, I blamed myself and began to believe that my worth was steadily decreasing. I was well on my way to becoming damaged goods and, when he told me that no one else would love me, I believed him.

The ultimate result of that relationship was a year of suicidal depression and an eating disorder. I disappeared for a year. I wandered through each day, oppressed by psychological weariness, wearing a shell of my real self. I didn’t realize I was being abused, suppressed and humiliated. I didn’t understand that my fragile psyche had an explanation. I thought I was going crazy. He reinforced that belief and told me I just needed to “snap out of it”. And when I finally did realize that I had no reason to remain in such an unhealthy relationship, I was too scared to do anything about it.

When it came, the breakup was messy. I silently carried the burden of guilt, shame, and regret for the next three and a half years. Every time I thought about his touch or his venomous words, I felt sick to my stomach. I felt dirty. The kind of dirt no shower could erase. I carried invisible scars on my mind and soul.

Some of you reading this know too well what that burden feels like. Many of you have been through far worse. You can’t shake it alone. It’s that proverbial cloud hanging over your head. It’s that recurring nightmare; the one that wakes you up in the middle of the night, sweaty and terrified. It’s the voice inside your head reaffirming what your abuser was telling you: “You’re worthless. You’re hopeless. You’ll never get better. You’ll poison all of your relationships. It’s all your fault. I’m the only person who will ever want you. And there’s nothing you can do.”

Those are lies. Ugly, life-ruining lies. You have great worth. There is hope for healing and health in relationships. And none of the abuse you’ve suffered is your fault.

When I was 21 and still carrying the weight of that relationship, I was living in a new city and attending a new school for my master’s degree. During finals week my first semester, a fellow student suggested we have sex in the back of my car. When I told him “no” he pushed through my winter clothes to wedge his hand between my breasts. When I pulled his hand out, he just grinned and did it again, fondling my left breast before getting out of the car. I was in shock.

I was angry with him but I was far more angry with myself. Was this to be my lot in life? I felt I should have been able to avoid it all together. I told no one. I wrapped the hurt and shame from that incident nice and tight and placed it neatly in the back of my mind, next to the guilt I already had from my college dating relationship. Whenever the memories came back, I suppressed them, convinced it was my fault. It was my job to live with the consequences.

I was just over three years beyond the breakup and about a year beyond that sexual encounter in the parking lot. It still hurt. And I knew that time alone wouldn’t heal those wounds.

My healing came in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

I’m not going to preach at you. But my story doesn’t end with a hopeless 20-something.

I don’t know what you’ve heard or believed about who Jesus was. A moral teacher, maybe. A religious fanatic. A fictional character from a story made up hundreds of years ago.

This is what I believe to be true: Jesus Christ is God. He created man & woman (as equals) to be in perfect community with him. Life on earth was meant to be enjoyed in the presence of an awesome, loving God. But humanity rebelled. Adam and Eve, and ultimately every human since, committed cosmic treason. In other words, my sin separates me from God. He is holy, perfect, righteous. My sin, my cosmic treason, deserves eternal damnation. That means hell. A literal hell, where the greatest punishment will be spending an eternity completely separated from the one Person our human hearts were created to adore: God.

Here’s the mind-blowing, awesome remedy to my cosmic treason & to the world’s wicked state: Jesus Christ came to earth to live the perfect life I never could and to die the horrific death that my sins deserved. By His death, He gives life. Through His resurrection, He offers hope.

Here’s how I know my worth: God created me. On purpose. More than that, He cares about me as His creation. And by believing that Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection are the only remedy to my sin problem, to my separation from God, He gives me eternal life. He fills that hole in my heart. He looks at all the ugliness of my wounded sinner’s heart and says, “I love you and I will heal you.” In Jesus, I have everything. I am not without hope.

Let me be clear: religion didn’t solve my problems or make the pain of my past disappear. Nor will it. Religiosity is not what heals. I have hope because of what Jesus did.

God did not cause my abuse. He does not desire people to suffer. But he bound up my wounds and sustained me as he healed them. While he did not give me these proverbial scars, he does give them a purpose. He redeems them.

While Jesus was on earth, he said, “Come to me all who are weary and bearing heavy burdens and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). The burden of guilt, shame, and regret that I was trapped under: Jesus Christ came to take that burden off of my shoulders and, in exchange, give my soul rest. I would still be that hopeless 20-something if not for Jesus Christ.

I believed in Him before that. I knew Him personally; in fact, I came to faith as a young child. But the reality of a peace that goes beyond human comprehension did not come until after I had suffered.

Healing is a process; it never happens overnight. And each person’s process is unique. I want to respect that as I share resources, stories, and information that will hopefully aid your process.

In other words, what you believe is irrelevant to me. Our worldviews do not need to agree in order for me to want healing for you. What I care about is seeing survivors of abuse find healing and hope. I want them to find purpose in their scars.

Thanks for reading!


30 thoughts on “About Purposefully Scarred: My Story is Just One of Many

  1. Long may your work continue; for there is need of it. And in turn, we who visit you here will take what we learn and share it with others in our lives; doing what we can, with what we have, where we are. Blessings 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing. I am an emotional incest survivor who started my journey 2 months ago. I am a 4 year sober alcoholic who broke up with a long term boyfriend and suffered an emotional breakdown afterwards. I learned that I am codependent and have started working with someone who is affiliated with codependents anonymous emotional incest and dysfunction in the family of origin. After facing the traumas of my childhood I was finally able to start understanding why my adult relationships were so dysfunctional. There is hope, but recovery DOES take time. Reading on sites such as this helps me tremendously. I have to face it, deal with it, and then give it to my higher power. I encourage others to share because it will help you accept your condition and make it part of your reality. Thanks everyone.

  3. I am so glad that I found your site. This is an awesome blog and i will be following. Please check out mine also as I try to reach out to abuse victims as well to bring them hope for their futures… Bless you!

      1. To Purposefully Scarred: LOVE your site and what you share about your experiences and God. I am doing a paper for school about Domestic Violence: would love to quote words in an article that you wrote about finding trust again after leaving DV. Just wondering if ok and if I could share the organization’s name or your name. Thanks!

  4. Thank you Barbara for the website I will check it out. I am currently practicing having a healthy relationship after some careful consideration and a good amount of “alone time ” to examine my solitary condition. It is so strange to me that I AM capable of having healthy relations and it is NOT as difficult as I had previously thought that it’d be. I just have to share with him everything about me and expose my vulnerability. Trust is something that I realize now that I never had in previous love relationships because of the abuse suffered in my childhood. He wanted to take me to fireworks for the 4th of July. That day we were in a parade and went to a fair and had a great time. We had a blanket and set up on a hill and it was all very cozy and even romantic. The fireworks began and suddenly I felt disturbed inside. Part of me wanted to get up and leave but I knew that wasn’t the right thing to do and I have had enough recovery to know that when something that should normally be healthy doesn’t feel right I need to sit with it and feel the feelings and see what I can uncover. So I sat and started to enjoy the fireworks just a little. After they were over we got into the car and I was hit with a massive headache. Right behind the eyes. I asked him to turn the music off and I tried to relax. Slowly and silently I began to weep. My headache receded as the tears rolled down my face. I wasn’t sure why I was crying but I knew that it was bringing some relief. When we got home I realized I was extremely disconnected. Which is not completely foreign to me since I have began the process of uncovering repressed memories. In the morning flashes began to come to me of 4th of July’s from the past. Painful, and somewhat frightening images from my childhood and early adolescence. I even fully recalled a 4th when I found alcohol at 10 years old and had another devastating experience which prior to this had been nothing more than an alcohol induced blackout.

  5. What I have learned through uncovering and facing my past and the acceptance of it, is who I am as a person, what experiences have made me who I am today, and it had given me the ability to feel compassion towards myself, which in turn has given me the freedom to feel compassion towards another human being. I am so glad that I trust my boyfriend like I do because I was able to let go and just let it fly with the feelings and the tears without going into avoidance or having to take off. He has survived a great deal of his own abuse and is extremely supportive of my recovery. I have known him for a long time and it is so ironic that we have gotten together because we both collapsed emotionally after relationship endings and are both recovering alcoholics and love addicts. I don’t know if the relationship will last or not, but what I DO know is that I am learning things that I couldn’t WITHOUT getting into a relationship. I am getting a glimpse of myself as a co creator of a relationship, and for once in my life I am able to put someone ‘s well being ahead of my own selfish needs, and that in itself is truly miraculous! I have been so sick, for such a long time, that I’m not sure when all of the manipulation and coercion began in my love realtionships, but I know where and when it is going to stop.

    1. Nicole, thank you so much for sharing your heart and encouragement. It’s exciting to hear about your healing process and the relationship you are now able to enjoy. I hope you continue to be blessed in this recovery process. Proud of you!

  6. I have a question, I have researched about changing mine and my children’s social security numbers so that my husband can’t track us down. Does anyone know if this is actually effective in doing so ? I have also searched about name changes all of which I cannot afford and the fact that we are legally married no one will consider doing this, as well as address confidentiality programs I was trying to do this before we get into the new state where we will be residing and still no luck. I have called numerous domestic abuse hotlines all of which had no answers nor did they be of any service. I am in fear for mine and my children’s safety. I know once we leave he will track us down, please be advised that my children are not his biological children and WE need to relocate to another state. Also I have never filed a report against him because of his type of employment. Not only is he physically abusive, he makes threats, he is mentally, emotionally, abusive he is also very manipulative with his words to family members and authority figures. I tried to file against him once before and it was not taken seriously or ever documented by authorities. He actually had them convinced that I was mentally unstable and the only thing he was doing was bringing me my furniture. Mind you it was 3am and the reasoning for the time was he had to drive from another state and packed my furniture after he got off of work and due to his employment that was the only time he could bring it. He also had a firearm and found my exact location and threatened me through the door of shooting me in front of my kids and leaving them motherless if I do not return home with him. I plan on leaving in a few weeks as soon as I can get the monetary funds needed to drive across country. I know that once we leave not only will my actions infuriate him, but he will make it his mission to stalk and kill me

    1. Please if anyone has any useful information or can steer me in the right direction I would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

    2. I am so sorry to hear you are facing this situation! Your safety and the safety of your children are certainly a #1 priority – I’m incredibly disappointed to hear the DV hotlines were not helpful. Did you call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (http://www.thehotline.org/ – 1−800−799−7233) or local hotlines? I recommend staying on them if you can – it’s their job to help you. If it’s an option for you, consider seeking help from a family member or friend whom you can trust – even if it’s just storing emergency funds or spare clothes at their home should you need to escape quickly.
      If your life and the lives of your children are under threat, call 911. Emergency services have a responsibility to help you! Tell them he’s threatened you, that he has a weapon, that you need to get to safety and fear him following you.
      You might also want to make a safety plan for leaving (http://purposefullyscarred.com/2013/01/16/domestic-violence-emergency-checklist/).
      The Social Security Administration does offer number changes for those endangered by domestic violence (http://ssa-custhelp.ssa.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/88/~/request-a-new-social-security-number-due-to-domestic-violence). You can also block electronic access to your SS record (https://secure.ssa.gov/acu/IPS_INTR/blockaccess).
      I truly hope that is helpful and that you and your kids are safely away from your husband very, very soon. You deserve to feel safe!
      I will get in contact with my own local DV shelter and see what else they would recommend.

  7. Excellent blog. I worked very closely with Susan Murphy-Milano and highly recommend her book, Time’s Up (http://imaginepublicity.com/2013/07/29/legacy-of-susan-murphy-milanos-evidentiary-abuse-affidavit-and-apple-ieaa-app-explained/) which addresses personalized safety planning in high risk DV cases. Contained in the book is the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit and detailed instructions on how to use it in your specific case. She worked closely with Pastor Neil Schori (from the missing Stacy Peterson case) and he now trains other churches and personnel on how to set up programs to help victims within the faith based community. Prior to her death, Document the Abuse. Com was set up as a repository of information about the EAA. http://documenttheabuse.com

  8. As I myself have just started to blog my own story, I have come to find that many woman are doing the same. I have kept my story as secret from those closest to me – all for except one or two. It is encouraging to read the survivor stories – it keeps me hopeful being as I am still married to my abuser. And as the violent acts have dwindled over the years the verbal attacks still occur frequently. Survival is key. I am keeping sane because I know … the time is near.

    I’m glad I happened upon your blog. God Bless.

  9. Domestic Violence – Puking awful behavior.. Looks like good info. and links you have posted. Maybe a woman could get lucky calling 911 – it’s similar to flip a coin. Not all cops are gutless or bad, but the story I heard: A friend heard his neighbor lady being beaten badly and the cops did not show up when he called them – had something else to do. Good luck on that. I personally walked into a police post to make a report on some abusive terrorist cops. (My wife was a mess when we got married, it took 7 years to get parts of the story, she was hiding the damage). The very first thing out of the police officers mouth–“it was her fault” (well, she was pretty and sexy, but that doesn’t make it her fault) I’ll look at links posted here and maybe find a way around the bad cops. Michigan Attorney General just covered up evidence and aided criminals, or, the letter never made it to him and was given to the bad cops. If there is a perfect place to make a report on bad cops and their friends, please advise me.

  10. Hello, thank you for sharing your story. I pray that the Lord will continue to use you and your heart 🙂 I’m passionate about the injustice of sex abuse and trafficking as well. Our church is partnering with a shelter in Philippines for girls who have been abused. I went there last year and the experience really challenged my heart.. We know that He is the ultimate Defender and father to the fatherless. God bless you 🙂

  11. Thank you for following my blog. I am so glad you did because I would not have found yours. I am happy to know that Jesus saved you as he saved me. My healing, my real healing did not begin until He arrived in my life. I look forward to checking out the rest of this site. Many blessings.

  12. Bravo! I am, also, an abuse survivor. Many keep that secret, hiding their pain. It is so important that victims know they are not alone. Best wishes on your blog.

  13. Feels like I’ve found somewhat of a kindred spirit… Your story is very relatable and surprisingly similar to mine. Thank you for sharing your experiences – my only hope is that being bold and speaking out will touch, love, and begin to heal others going through the same. Best to you.

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