There was a woman named Tamar who lived thousands of years ago. She was the beautiful daughter of King David. There is a story told of how her half brother Amnon became obsessed with her and how he and his friend hatched a devious plan to get her alone. Under the pretense of being sick, Amnon asked Tamar to bring his food into his room, and as she was about to feed him he grabbed her and demanded that she sleep with him. She replied,
“No, my brother! Do not force me, for no such thing should be done in Israel!… And I, how could I rid myself of my shame?…”
“But he refused to listen to her, and because he was stronger than she was, he raped her.” 1 Samuel 13: 12-14.
I remember when you first told us your story. We had been having yet another spontaneous slumber party, confessing crushes and laughing raucously at embarrassing moments. I’m not sure why or how we got into talking about “that stuff”, it’s like the wind changed, gently blowing the ship in a different direction, into dark and murky waters. We began to share secrets.
I can see you now, how you looked down and how your face changed, your eyes became guarded. I didn’t fully understand what that look meant, but almost instinctively I knew what you were about to say. You stuttered at first, hesitating, but then the words passed through your lips effortlessly, like you were telling us how your day was or catching us up on the latest episode of your favorite soapie.
But even as you shared the painful details, that vacant look in your eyes remained.
We were the first people you had told. Well, there was one other person but they weren’t trying to hear it, they told you to be quiet, kill the story and bury it. So you did. But you learned that time doesn’t heal all wounds and that buried secrets tend to unearth themselves to haunt you.
You blame yourself. For being at the wrong place at the wrong time, for trusting, for your naïveté… You put yourself on trial and agree with The Accuser, you plead guilty to a crime committed against you. You cover your face like someone in the dock would. You are already faithfully serving your time, guilty until proven innocent.
You hide yourself. Who told you that the real you was not enough? The walls around your heart are built to last, they will never let anyone in, vulnerability makes you weak. You speak like it happened to someone else because you now exist through a persona of your own choosing: the empty headed pretty woman, every man wrapped around your finger; the tough and smart superwoman, emotionally distant and cold; the sweet, churchgoing Miss Perfect, shy and retiring.
You lie to yourself. Because although your words say that you have moved on, your heart really has not, how can anyone? Behind that vacant look is anger and pain and the realisation that a terrible injustice was done against you.
Knowing you, by now you’re probably thinking, “What right do you have to be telling me how I feel?” with that intimidating look in your eyes, but I’m just going to say what needs to be said before I lose my courage:
You are not to blame for what happened.
You are beautiful, not dirty or damaged.
You are precious and not forgotten.
“‘Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you. Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.'” Isaiah 49:15-16
The shame that you walk around with is really not yours to carry. I pray that you’d have the courage to lay it down and never pick it up again and that you would learn to receive God’s love for you and learn to trust him. You are not defined by what happened to you, you are an overcomer. I admire your strength and your determination to move forward, it is amazing.
You are amazing, a woman of strength, a woman with a great calling over her life. I write all this because I believe in you and I love you.