Speaking Out: One Woman’s Journey to Healing from Sexual Abuse
Guest Post by Renita Walker.
I agreed to write this article, without closely examining The King’s Daughters editorial calendar. When I discovered April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, my heart dropped and my stomach immediately began to hurt. As my mind began to race I thought about writing a general article, something impersonal, urging young women to get help if they have been assaulted. However, that would be far from authentic and probably genuinely impact no one. So I decided to tell my story, a story I have never told, to help someone and in so doing help myself. I have to admit, I struggle to write this even now, almost 25 years later.
I lost my virginity when I was 13 to an 18 year old I went to high school with. At 13 I was an insecure, fully developed mess. I was starving for male attention. Let it be said that every little girl needs a significant amount of non-sexual attention from important men in her life that love her so she is not desperate for it from men who don’t love her. I found out years later that I had been targeted before I ever walked into the front door of the high school. A group of high school seniors had seen me around and decided I was their next conquest. They knew I was starved for attention, so they showered me with it from the first day of school. They were good at what they did and I soaked it up like a sponge. I enjoyed finally receiving the attention I longed for.
It really was a magnificent ruse. They pretended to like and accept me. They even had a girl that conspired with them. She befriended me, introduced me to alcohol, shared secrets with me. They were all so kind to this little desperate high school freshman who wanted so desperately to fit in; and I fell for it all, every bit. I felt accepted, cool, a part of a group. Little did I know that at some point I would be expected to repay their “kindness.” Now you have to understand I was a compliant child before my encounters with these young men. I did what was asked of me, I followed the rules. I was a sheltered church girl; I’m not sure what, if anything, could have prepared me to navigate this.
Pay day arrived about a month or two into school. I was asked to play hookie one day, skip school. I had never done that before, but these were my friends. They said it would be fun and we’d be back before school was over and no one would ever know. I had a lot of questions. I was scared, if my parents found out I would be in big trouble. But they were so convincing. We were just going to listen to some music and chill. It took a few minutes, but I was convinced so we left; 2 guys, the other girl who had befriended me and me. We went to one of the guys house where amazingly there was an abundance of alcohol. I drank with them of course, peer pressure is a strong force and remember I had already been introduced to alcohol by the other girl that was with us.
I already know what some of you are thinking with your mature minds, “Well what do you expect is going to happen with 2 girls, 2 guys, alcohol and an empty house?” This leads me to my first point. We often assume that individuals who have been assaulted, especially if it is date rape, should have known what was coming and thus protected themselves. Well, I could not possibly have known what was being planned for me for several reasons. One, I would never lead someone into a situation where people were conspiring against them. So I wouldn’t naturally assume that’s what was going on. Two, my intentions were innocent and I was so naive I believed what I was told, we were going to “hang out.” Three, I was 13, a child.
So I lost my virginity that day. I was drunk, sick to my stomach. I’d only ever had one or two sips of alcohol before. This day I had several cups. I was led somewhere. There was a mattress on the floor.
I never said no…
BUT I never said yes.
I was 13, he was 18.
This brings me to my second and most important point. The U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women defines sexual assault as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient” (www.ovw.usdoj.ov). Read that again, note the words “explicit consent.” I did not know this definition until I was an adult, long after the day I lost my virginity, but not long enough that the pain had healed. For many years I simply accepted that I was stupid for going to that house with them, even dumber for drinking, so whatever happened to me was truly my fault. How I wish I had told someone what really happened. Someone that would have shown me this definition, this explanation, this description that fit how violated I felt in my spirit.
When my virginity was taken it was like my eyes immediately opened, my naivety was stripped from me. I was embarrassed. I was so ashamed. My body hurt and if possible my soul hurt too. My friends were no longer kind to me, the girl I thought was my friend was angry with me and stopped speaking to me. We got back to school and my mother and the school officials knew I skipped school. A few days later my mother found out the young man was 18 and prepared to file a statutory rape charge. I begged her not to, I had to go to school with these people. I could not be the one that got them in trouble. They stopped talking to me, but they told everyone.
From that day I was instantly labelled a whore, slut, easy. From one situation with one guy. Sadly, from that point on I had sex with just about any guy that approached. My spirit was defeated. Why fight it? That was apparently the only attention I was able to attract. I remained in that dismal mindset until my mid-twenties. It wasn’t until I was married at 30 years old, after 5 years of celibacy, that I had sex because I loved and was loved. If you’re keeping track, this is point three. I never wanted to call what happened to me sexual assault, but if a young lady came to me with this same story today I would call it assault. Whether I called it assault or not, the effects were the same. My spirit was deeply wounded for many years. When people looked at me they simply saw a promiscuous teen; how I longed for someone to look deeper. If there are promiscuous young women around you, look deeper into what is wrong in their souls. Something inside has been broken and needs healing.
Years later, I wondered how many other girls they had preyed upon. How many before me? How many after me? How many other girls had they convinced to help them violate another? Had the girl that helped them been violated herself? Had convincing my mother not to file statutory rape charges allowed them to victimize another young girl? It’s disturbing that I put myself in situations like this again as I got older. Don’t get me wrong, I often said yes after this; but there were times I said nothing. I still naively thought guys actually liked me, but they didn’t. I had a reputation and saying no was not an option. So for years I never said no, I never reported anything, and I silently carried the pain. You can be different. Speak out. If you have been assaulted tell someone immediately. Anything but an explicit yes is a no. You know in your spirit if you have been violated. Push through the pain and the shame and Get help.
Renita Walker was born and raised in the church, but as a teen, she fell away. Adulthood brought her back to Christ as in her mid-twenties, she “found him for herself”. She holds a master’s degree in both divinity and marketplace chaplaincy and currently serves as Chaplain at Saint Luke’s North Hospital in Kansas City, MO. Walker is also a worship leader at Macedonia Baptist Church in Kansas City. She resides in suburban Kansas City with her husband and three children.