Topic: Author Interview
1. Lacresha, from experience, a child who is violated goes through a kind of grieving process over loss of innocence and loss of trust. There is often self-blame then anger, sometimes even denial. Would you describe the process you went through?
Well, so much happened to me for such a long period of time that I'd say the first emotion I remember having about it was guilt and pain. Afterwards, there was numbness. I think that deadness was what led to the majority of my mistakes. The numbness was interrupted periodically by intense hatred, self and otherwise. I actually tried to commit suicide several times, once after being saved. I also went through a period of awakening after salvation. I woke up to a life that had been tainted with bad decisions and was full of regret. You'd think after all the pain I'd been through that my biggest source of pain would be the rapes and molestation. To the contrary, it was the pain of a missing father and mother that kept me up at night. I guess I felt like none of those other things would have happened if I'd been born into a "normal" family.
The healing started when I was put into a situation where I had to face what was going on inside me. God shut down everything around me. I had to start at the presence and work my way back. I had to find the root to the bitterness, hatred and vengefulness inside me. Anyway, long story short, I ran the gamut of emotions during the healing process. There were a lot of tearful nights. Then, I began to meet and minister to others who had similar pasts. I gave myself to prayer and God gave me strength to choose how I felt. That was my point of deliverance. I don't everyday feel good about my life, or myself but I know that my emotions are my choice, even about the things that has happened to me.
2. Do you feel forgiveness must occur before healing can be achieved?
I think it's absolutely necessary. How can a person truly say they are healed when their heart is filled with bitterness? I kept saying that I was healed, but I also hated. I was trying to convince myself of that. I tried to convince my minister friends of that. It's impossible. There has to be a release before complete healing happens. I have a long chapter in my book about forgiveness, but in a nutshell, I talked about how forgiveness takes the power away from the victimizer. When you forgive, you take your life back. You empower yourself to be free from what happened to you and what you've done.
Honestly, I've found that a lot of people cannot forgive others because they've not yet learned to forgive themselves. Mark a person who is hard on themselves. They do not forgive easily. They don't know how to have mercy. They must be taught. I had to be taught the beauty of mercy and forgiveness. In it all, the hardest person I ever had to forgive was me. There's a lot that goes into forgiveness and healing, but you have to have them both. They are like an inseparable tag team.
3. Do you believe a face-to-face confrontation must take place to heal? If so, what can a victim do who does not have that opportunity, such as when the violator has died or is miles away?
I don't personally believe you have to have face-to-face confrontation. In my situation, many of the people are dead now. I believe the only person who an ex-victim needs to confront is themselves. Healing is also a choice. It takes standing up to your emotions and saying that you will not be led by them. You have to confront your memory and demand your freedom from that. You have to confront your fears and say no to them. Those are the necessary confrontations. We may long for that apology, but honestly, sexual abuse is not the kind of offense that an apology fixes anyway.
In my case, I also had to confront God. It is my personal belief, and in fact the truth that God is sovereign. I know that He could have stopped it all. He could have given me to saved people, but He didn't. I had to come to terms with some things. Now, I wouldn't trade my past for anything, not that I always feel that way. My small cross was nothing compared to those some carry. I was special to God. I believe all of those who endure such things are special, remarkable in some way; hence the reason the devil perpetrates such an evil upon them. So, we also need to recognize that no matter who actually did whatever to us, our confrontation and fight is with the devil. This is another wonderful tool for forgiveness too.
4. Forty years after my own experience, I still can't stand things like having my wrists held, half-opened doors or the smell of Old Spice. Do you believe that a person is ever fully healed from this kind of betrayal, or is there always some remnant left behind no matter what?
I do believe you can be totally healed. Nevertheless, the memory is there. Sometimes, we win the fight against the fears that lie in the things we remember. Sometimes, we don't. I think it does take years and lots of purposeful choices to overcome those kinds of things. For instance, I hate freshly shaven men when you can still feel their prickly hairs on their face. That un-nerves me. It reminds me of my great, great uncle. Still, when I see it coming, I make a choice to not give in to the temptation to hurt all over again, or to be disturbed. It takes a lot of focus and I don't always get it right. I can certainly understand what you are describing. It probably seems that just when you're feeling good, someone goes and leaves a door cracked. Either everyone around you will cater to you, or you'll look up one day and find that cracked doors no longer have an affect.
5. This may be a hard one, Lacresha. If you were able to speak to those men and women in the world who molest children, what would you say?
Yes. This is a hard one. I'd definitely tell them that they need to look at what effect their actions have on the children's lives long term. Maybe they need to use a little imagination. You have molesters who love and almost worship their parents, but treat their children or the children of others with disdain. Maybe they need to imagine it happening to their mother or father as a child. Maybe they need to get in touch with their own hearts and past pains so that they can realize a fraction of what they are perpetrating upon others. Most importantly, though, I'd like to tell them that Christ died for all sinners. They can still be forgiven. They can be saved. There is indeed a penalty for all sin, but salvation is free, even to them.
I personally hate to see people swallowed up in guilt. There's no one beyond God's love and salvation. Therefore, though they need to pay for what they do, that does not keep God from loving and accepting them. The time can be redeemed and they can spend the rest of their lives helping those who have been victims and victimizers.
6. I want to touch on an area that often gets overlooked when a child has been traumatized--the parent. What would you say to a parent who learns a child has been violated that might help them deal with the circumstances and still help their child heal?
Gosh. That is so important. If the perpetrator is the husband/wife, then leave him/her immediately for the safety of your child. I'd also tell them to seek counseling as soon as possible, either by a professional or a pastor. They need to give the child time and room to grieve. They need to avoid any questions that might even insinuate that the child did anything that caused it. Words are very important in the beginning and the child needs to be surrounded with love.
I'd also tell them to press charges and see them through, primarily for the sake of other children out there. It takes time and patience, but if a parent builds their child up, the day will come when the family will be healed and whole again.
7. This is a two-part question. First, what words would you say to comfort a victim who had just been molested--while the anger and confusion is still fresh? Second, what words of comfort can you offer adults who have kept that pain inside since childhood?
I'd tell them something that I hold true to my heart. The Bible says at 1 Corinthians 1:26-28 says that God chose the weak, base and foolish things (people) of the world. You may feel like you have been let down by nearly everyone in the world, but God says when mother and father put you down, then He will lift you up. You may feel angry and dejected. You may be full of fresh hatred toward everyone around you. Nevertheless, you must bring yourself to a place where you can use this fresh anger, channel it to do good for others, to see the perpetrators of such horrid acts put behind bars where they'll never hurt anyone else again. Now is the time to stand up and fight for your future since you can do nothing to change the past.
As for adults, I know that sometimes you can feel like your life is so full of responsibility that you load down with things to do rather than work on healing. But, you need to spend some time dealing with your pain. Don't hide it. Face it, rather face it down. Don't carry this burden around with you any longer. Go on and release the anger against the person(s) who've hurt you. Then, forgive yourself and move into a future without all that baggage.
8. Is there anything else you would like to tell those who are reading this, Lacresha?
Sometimes, I tend to ramble on. However, I want the people reading this to know and understand that the stigma we've attached to this kind of abuse causes victims to suffer in silence. It's unfair to think of a victim of abuse like they have some kind of scarlet A on their forehead. I believe we as a society need to work at making sure that we don't treat people like this any differently than someone else. They aren't to blame for rape, incest, or molestation. There is absolutely nothing a person can do to ask for rape or bring on incest. These abuses come from a perverse heart and evil imagination inside the person who do these things. We must always remember that.
There's a lot I could say, but I won't go on any further than that. I just want people to be whole again because I believe they can.