Yesterday I met with Caitlin, a young woman whom I was introduced to a few years ago. Her story is quite extraordinary. She is a rape survivor. She was 13 when she was set up by her friend, locked in her friend’s bedroom and raped by two young men.
The rapes left her with an extended hospital stay and a great amount of fear. The oldest of the two boys was convicted and sent to prison, the younger of the two did some time in juvie. Instead of Caitlin getting support from her peers she got ridiculed, blamed and bullied. Eventually she quite school and was home-schooled.
Caitlin’s story in her own words:
Caitlin and I first met just over two years ago. She was finishing high school, working a full-time job and done with living the life of a victim. Quiet, even at times painfully shy, Caitlin did what most adults find it difficult to do, and that is tell her story, demand more for herself in life, and set out to make it happen. She just needed a little encouragement, support and a gentle nudge in the right direction if she faltered back into the ‘comfort of her fears’.
Today Caitlin is merely months away from completing her Dental Hygienist certification. She has been dating a young man who respects, cherishes and supports her. Life is still not easy for Caitlin…there are residual effects from the rapes and even the bullying years ago, but she perseveres and continues to wait for the next blessing.
We met in the new Hopeful Hearts Headquarters and I noticed her staring at the affirmation wall. “If you could pick one word off the wall that stands out the most for you today which word grabs you?”
She didn’t hesitate. “Empowered. I’ve been staring at it this entire time. After all these years I finally feel like I can see the good in today and what is in store for me. I feel strong and, well, empowered. It’s crazy to think of how I felt when we first met. I was ready to take my life and now there is so much I want to do.”
Listening to her, watching the spark in her eye dance and the smile on her face widen, caused my heart to overflow with joy. Yes, it’s been a long, tough road and there were moments when it seemed she’d lost all hope to continue but she never gave up. She trusted in God’s plan for her and leaned on the support he’d given her in the ones she loved.
She is an encouragement to me. In fact, rarely is there someone I’ve seen that hasn’t become some form of a reminder in what a little tenacity and perseverance can prevail.
If I were to look at the affirmation wall today I’d say my word is:
My Lord is ‘refining’ me, molding, tweaking and forming me into His image. It has definitely been a ‘refining year’ and now that I feel closer to the final stages I am grateful for every single struggle along the way.
What is YOUR word today?
Remember it is one day at a time, one blessing, one moment, one breath.
Read more of Shannon’s story overcoming date rape for only $1.99 on Kindle.