This is the fourth story in our “Freedom From…” Series, an 8-week series featuring women who have faced adversity and found freedom in the process. Our story today is from my friend, Hannah (name has been changed), who was raped many years ago. It was then that she realized a terror that had never been part of her life before. She willingly shares her story so that others might know there is hope and a way out of the bondage of fear.
I was living in a large apartment complex while I attended Bible school. My apartment was on the first floor with a view of an enclosed courtyard, accessible only to the residents of the complex. It was a very warm night right before the fourth of July and my bedroom windows were open. They were the cheap aluminum sliding type of windows.
At 1:00 or 2:00 AM I woke from a dead sleep to find a man on top of me pushing himself into my body. I never heard or saw him breaking into my apartment. Later it was clear he had broken in through my bedroom window. In what seemed like hours, but was probably just a few minutes, the man got up and just stood there. He didn’t move to leave, and I was too frightened to move. Eventually I asked him who he was and he simply said, “I’m from around here.”
After he stood there for what seemed like forever he jumped back on top of me again and started strangling me. It felt like he was going to kill me, but he suddenly got up and ran out the door. I was frozen in place. I just laid there in bed praying that he wouldn’t go into my roommate’s bedroom. Another five minutes that seemed like five hours passed, and I finally got up and told my roommate what had happened. Together we called the police.
I desperately wanted a shower but first had to go to the hospital for a medical examination. The police drove me both to and from the hospital. After I showered, I left my apartment and went to stay with my parents. I was there for quite a few days, unable to work because of the trauma.
It was just a few days after the attack when I got sick with a horrible bout of bronchitis. I have never been that sick in my life. I’m sure now, that it was my body’s response to the stress. I didn’t know how I would ever feel good again, but there was a prayer group that I met with regularly, and after about a week and a half I went to them for prayer. A group of 20- 25 people gathered around me, anointed me with oil, and prayed over me. Warmth flooded my body unlike anything I had ever felt before. It was as though a womb-like light enveloped my entire body. I was better, both physically and mentally, within a matter of days.
Even though I was much better, there was still an underlying fear that lasted for years. For a long time I wouldn’t go into a dark room by myself. Someone had to turn the light on for me or I would have to reach my hand around to flip on the switch before I could enter the room. And I still won’t live on the first floor. Oddly enough, when I got married several years later, the rape raped never affected our intimacy. I never associated the attack with sex. It was simply an act of violence, quick and nasty.
I wanted my fear to go away, so one day I decided to do something that I’ve done with other people that I counsel. I sat down, closed my eyes, and imagined Jesus being with me through the whole ordeal. When I envisioned him standing there I saw the crown of thorns on his head, and I realized that he wasn’t absent during that time but that he was standing there feeling my pain. I had always believed, based on Psalm 91, that God should have protected me from being raped. But instead I learned that he was there suffering with me. It didn’t change the experience, but instead it transformed the way it affected my life. And the fear I had struggled with left immediately. There was no more terror.
I was able to forgive the perpetrator. I didn’t know who he was, so that made it much less of a personal situation. I also realized that he suffered from a plethora of problems, which made it much easier to forgive him.
My loving prayer community surrounded me all through my recovery. I wouldn’t have made it without them.
Psalm 91:4 “The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them.”
What situation of your life could be transformed through prayer and asking Jesus to help you see him in the midst of the storm?
Nancy loves to laugh and considers laughter a critical part of human survival. If you were to ask, most days she would say her glass is half full but when it starts reaching the half-empty level, she reaches for a funny book or movie knowing that indeed “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” Nancy has three married sons and five grandchildren. To read more from Nancy find her at www.nancyholte.com.