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Look Into My Eyes

“Mom, Daddy touched me. . .”
These were the words that chilled my mom to the bone as I sat in the bath tub the night that I told her what my dad had been doing to me on our weekend visits.  They were the words that put the heinous acts that had been done to me in a simple, yet heart-wrenching statement.  I sometimes wish that I could go back to being 4.  Go back to when I was young and innocent, and I didn’t realize what had been done to me. . . back to when it didn’t haunt me.
Unfortunately, that isn’t possible, no matter how much I may want it to be.
My name is Brianna, and this is my story.
My parents had filed for divorce when I was 1 year old, and the divorce was finalized when I was 4.  My dad had been granted partial custody that allowed my brother and I to have weekend visits with my dad at his house, and one weekend during our visit, my dad did the unthinkable. . . He raped me… He raped his four year old daughter, and I have lived with the consequences of his actions ever since.
I won’t go into detail of what he did, but I will tell you that I can still feel exactly what happened to me.  I still think about it.
When I was younger, I couldn’t fully grasp what had been done to me or what had been taken from me.  It was when I got older that I understood, and that is when it started to effect me.  I began to have a cognitive wariness – a fear almost – of any man that wasn’t family.  It was hard to walk down the high school hallway. . . It was hard to stand close to guys in the lunch line. . .  I was always hyper aware if a guy was in a room with me, and on top of these difficulties, the worst thing was trying to overcome the shame I felt.
I felt used. . . dirty.  I felt like nothing could ever make me clean again, even though family and camp counselors told me otherwise, I still believed that I was un-redeemable.  I, quite understandable, never wanted to talk about it, and I certainly never wanted to tell anybody about what had happened, afraid that they would see me the same way I saw myself.  I so wanted to be normal.  I wanted to be able to tell somebody without seeing the pity or possible disgust that I looked at myself with in their eyes.  For years, I told myself that if I told somebody, that they would look at me differently… That they wouldn’t want to have anything to do with me after I told them.  I also told myself that maybe I would get better with time.  That the memories would fade and I wouldn’t have to look at myself the same way anymore.  I wish it was that easy to get rid of memories.
When I got into junior high and high school, I didn’t really think about what had happened a whole lot; it just made me sad and angry, so I chose not to think about it.  There was just one problem. . .  I really wanted to have a guy like me.  I wanted to be loved by somebody, and have somebody find something about me that they loved that I couldn’t see in myself; but I believed that I was flawed and that it was impossible for anybody to be able to love me or see something redeemable about me.
In tenth grade, I met this guy, and I really liked him.  I was basically one of the love-struck school girls that my friends and I liked to make fun of, and the odd thing was that I didn’t care.  I wanted him to like me the way I liked him.  We started talking to each other, and pretty soon, we were BEST friends.  We could tell each other anything and not feel awkward or ashamed, and we never had petty fights or drama about pointless things.  The only thing I was holding back, was what had happened to me when I was four. . .  It was the one thing I just couldn’t bring myself to share with him.
One day he made a comment about somebody that he knew who was a dead-beat, bad father that didn’t care about his children.  By this point in my life, I was pretty angry and bitter against my dad for what he had done, and I had stopped believing that it was something about me that was flawed.  I had finally placed the blame in its rightful place, but I still felt dirty and unlovable, and that had made me bitter, which I would have denied if you asked me about it, but now I can see how the anger was blinding me.  When he made the comment about this person that he knew, I made a statement that was true, but said with a malice that scared me.  I said, “He might have fathered a child, but he will NEVER be a daddy.”  The rest of the ride home, I was silent.  I couldn’t bear to have him ask me a question about why I was so shaken by his comment and then my response.
After I got home, I realized that my silence had probably been really confusing to him, so I texted him and said that I was sorry for being so quiet and that I had just been lost in thought.  He responded that I was fine, and he then asked if he had said anything to make me upset.  I felt something come very near to breaking inside me, and I just told him that I had started thinking about my dad, and how he seemed to not even care about my brother and I, and that my dad had done some things in the past that were very hard to get over.  He didn’t ask me what had happened, but I was just so tired of hiding at that point that I gave up, and I told him what had happened to me, and begged him to not look at me differently.
“Brianna,” he told me “I don’t see you any differently than I did before.  In fact, I see you as being even stronger now than I did before.”
When I read those words on the screen of my phone, the thing inside me that had almost broke before, now shattered and left me shaking and crying in my bathroom.  I realized that the wall I had built up around my heart had finally broken, and that I was finally starting to heal.
About a year after that happened, my best friend became my boyfriend (and he still is my boyfriend).  Things were going great, until one day, I was having a rough day, and I vented my frustration about my dad on him while we were talking on the phone.  He listened to me and heard my whole rant patiently, and then stopped me in my tracks by telling me that he could see a bitterness and anger in me that would eventually destroy me, and he begged me to take a good deep look at myself, and forgive my dad.
I wasn’t angry with him, but I was shocked.  He told me that he had to do the same thing with his family, and that while it hadn’t been easy, he was so much better off for doing it.
It took exactly 10 seconds for me to see that he was correct about my anger, and I was ashamed that I had let myself get to that point.  I am a Christian, which means that I believe that there is One God in heaven, and that He sent His only Son to earth to die for my sins.  I believe that Christ paid the penalty for my sin by dying on the cross, and then rising again on the third day and defeating death.  And I believe that when I repented of my sins and begged him to save me, that He heard me and, by His grace, saved me and washed me clean of my sins for eternity, and that I will now spend eternity with Him.  I know that it is nothing I did that saved me.  It was God’s love and grace that saved me.
There is a command in scripture (the Bible) to forgive our enemies trespasses against us like Christ forgave us when He died for us, and when my loving boyfriend pointed out that I had grown bitter, my spirit broke with the knowledge that I had willingly let myself get this way.
I wasn’t able to forgive overnight.  In fact, it took right up until a couple weeks ago for me to finally let go of my anger and bitterness.  But when I let go, I felt such a freedom and lightness in my spirit.  I hadn’t realized how heavy of a burden I had been carrying on my shoulders.
I decided that I wanted to reach out to my father and try to tell him about how I had been feeling for years, and then tell him that I forgave him for what he had done to me.  I knew that in the past, he had denied ever touching me, and that the courts had not punished him for what he had done.  But I thought that maybe, if I confronted him about it that he would finally admit to me what he had done. . . I didn’t want to take him to court, I just wanted to tell him that I forgave him.
His response to the text I sent him sent me into a world of spinning hurt when he told me that I had been lied to all my life, and that he was not guilty of what I had just “accused” him of doing.  He also told me that before I make an accusation that I should check all of my facts.
Needless to say, I couldn’t – and haven’t yet – responded to that text.  His denial shook me so hard that I grew angry again, but I knew that I had forgiven him.  It took a couple nights of talking to God, my roommates, and my boyfriend, but I still forgive him.  Even though he is determined to deny what he did.  Some days are harder than others to not grow angry with him, but every day is a process of forgiving and healing and growing so I can help others.
If you are reading this, and you feel lost and worthless because somebody broke in and stole what they stole from me from you as well, I am here to tell you that you are a jewel beyond compare.  You are not dirty and un-redeemable, you are precious and strong.  It was not anything you did that caused this heinous thing to happen to you, and I promise you that you are not disgusting in my eyes or your loved ones eyes.  Let us help you heal.  Better yet, let God help you heal.  You might not believe that a loving God could have let this happen to you, and I don’t have all the answers, but the circumstance that He led me through has given me the opportunity to help people that I would have never been able to reach before.  God is waiting to give you His mercy and grace, you just have to reach out and take His gift, and watch Him work in ways that will astound you.
Look into my eyes, and you won’t see the confused little girl that couldn’t understand why her dad would steal her innocence from her.  Look into my eyes, and you won’t see the scared teen that was terrified to tell anybody what had happened to her.  Look into my eyes, and you won’t see the girl who cried herself to sleep when she could feel what had happened all over again.  Look into my eyes, and you won’t see the girl that looked at herself in the mirror and felt dirty and un-redeemable.  Look into my eyes, and you won’t see the girl who thought nobody could love her because she had been used.  Look into my eyes, and you won’t see anger or bitterness.  Look into my eyes.  You’ll see a strong young woman who knows it wasn’t her fault.  You’ll see a young woman who knows that she can tell people what happened, and not be ashamed of it anymore.  You’ll see a girl who falls asleep in peace, even though she can still feel what happened sometimes.  You’ll see a girl who looks at herself from God’s standpoint, and sees herself as a redeemed child of God that is more precious that diamonds or rubies to Him.  You’ll see a girl that is loved by her family, friends, and boyfriend, and she knows she is loved.
Look into my eyes, and you’ll see peace.
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