After several months of sharing time and space, and talking about anything except her experiences, one of our abuse survivors (I’ll call her Amy) was slowly opening her heart to me, trying to make sense of the abuse she had endured. Her words and perspective on her “reality” broke my heart. She said, “There are some people who have good lives and some people who just don’t. I’m one who doesn’t.” I told her God loves her no matter what; that she is God’s precious daughter and God wants her to have a life without harm, with hope and a fulfilling future. I told her God would always be there for her and asked her to keep praying and to try to believe that.
Since Agape opened our homes and hearts to homeless women-led families 10 years ago, we have helped more than 260 women and children have safe places to stay and resources to help them rebuild their lives. Over 90% of the women are abuse survivors, which means their children are also survivors.
The impact of all types of abuse – emotional, physical and financial to name a few – does not stop when an individual is away from their abuser. Abuse survivors endure a wide range of ongoing mental effects directly correlated to our brain’s defense mechanisms and responses to abuse, including radical changes in neurochemistry that negatively rewire responses, executive function and the ability to function day to day. Imagine trying to figure out how to stop living in your car, get a job, feed and care for kids, and obtaining basic needs if your brain struggles to follow a conversation, process steps to obtaining services or control the natural response of fight, flight or freeze. Taking back control of thoughts, feelings and actions takes time, therapy, a stable, safe place – and lots of grace and care. That is what Agape works hard to provide.
Recovery is a long process. Survivors often weave in and out of our program, seeking reassurance and emotional support. I had the blessing of visiting with Amy several years after she moved on from Agape. We celebrated her successes – which are amazing, including college graduation and new jobs. We celebrated her newfound faith and belief that God loves her, and the comfort and security she finds in that truth. Her words warmed my heart when she told me, “I’m glad God did not give up on me.”
That is a truth we all need to hold on to: God does not give up on us… ever… no matter what.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
Blessings of hope,