I hung up.

PC: Jeff Dollard

Photo cred: Jeff Dollard

I hung up the phone, weeping too much to answer the questions he was asking me. And in that moment, my confidence was depleted. I learned that my story was not valid because I could not recall enough detail. In that moment, I learned I was weak. I learned my cry for help was not enough. I learned I could not be protected. I learned justice was not in store for me.

You see, moments before the phone call, I was sexually assaulted by a deeply troubled man.

I knew it was very wrong and my whole being could feel it. I was shaking and trembling. I wanted to simultaneously scream and be silent. I wanted to curl up in a ball to hide and also run away, maybe even run out of my own skin.

Instead, I mustered up the strength to call the police. I was aching for safety and peace. I was craving some sense of protection. When I heard the voice on the other end of the phone, I began timidly sharing my story. The words felt surreal coming out of my mouth.

I don’t really know what just happened. A man has stalked, invaded, and assaulted me.

And then came the questions. Questions that required answers that were far too fresh to share. Questions that I could not answer without sobbing uncontrollably.

Ma’am, I’m going to need you to answer this before we can move forward, he said.

But I could not move forward. It felt too vulnerable and raw. I was not ready. The questions were too hard. And who is this voice on the other line? It felt so impersonal, so formulaic, so systematic.

And I did not need those things in that moment. I needed to be held and supported without questioning. I needed to be met with deep compassion and tenderness. I was so lost and confused that I didn’t know where to find that, but I knew it wasn’t on the phone.

So I hung up.

And when I hung up the phone, I hung up hope. I curled up in a ball and wept for what seemed like days. My body felt used and broken. My soul crushed. Everything I thought I knew seemed no longer true.

And for some time, I lived with the heaviness of guilt and shame – not just for being sexually assaulted – but also for not having the courage to answer the questions. Had I answered the questions, perhaps justice would have been done. Perhaps I could save another woman from this same pain.

I no longer live with guilt and shame from that moment – thanks be to a God who loved me when I wanted nothing to do with him. Thanks be to a tremendous husband who is gentle and kind and compassionate.  Thanks be to family and friends who have listened deeply and prayed on my behalf. Thanks be to the friend who got angry and cried for me. Thanks be to countless mentors and teachers who invested in me, empowered me, and taught me to be at home in my body once again. Thanks be for all of the tearful moments on my yoga mat when I released one more morsel of tension my body was carrying. Thanks be for the sunrises and sunsets over the hills and mountains, reminding me of beauty and newness. Thanks be to the changing seasons in nature, reminding me that there is a season for mourning and a season for rejoicing.

Thanks be to the small voice within me that whispered “You are worthy of love. You are enough. You are meant to live freely and abundantly.” For all of this, and so much more, I am forever grateful.

Sometimes I still think of the voice I heard on the other line of the phone that afternoon. And I wonder –

Who belonged to that voice of questioning? Does he remember our conversation? Does he ever think about that young woman on the other line of the phone? Or was it an insignificant phone call in his day, just one of many he received? Did he go home that evening to eat dinner around a table with family? Or did he eat alone?

Is he loved and cherished? Is he heard and validated?

I hope so. I pray so.

And sometimes I still think of the deeply conflicted man who forced himself upon me. And I wonder –

What was troubling him so? What kind of world did he encounter to make him think that such violence was acceptable?

Is he loved and cherished? Is he heard and validated? Have his actions come to his awareness? Does he know I forgive him? And has he forgiven himself? 

I hope so. I pray so.

I often think of others who have survived sexual assault. And to you, I say:

You, my dear, are wonderfully and fearfully made.

Your experience is valid, no matter which details you can or cannot recall.

I urge you to be unyieldingly gentle with yourself, especially on the days you can hardly dream of looking at your body with the slightest bit of love.

Sharing your story can lead to freedom and connection, but please do so only when it feels right to you and only with people who will hold it with utmost tenderness.

There are many resources for support. Let yourself use them as you see fit.

It was not your fault. It was not your fault. It was not your fault.

And to all readers [From a Franciscan Blessing]:

May you be blessed with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May you be blessed with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May you be blessed with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

May you be blessed with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world; so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

With peace,

Rachel

22 Responses to “I hung up.

  • THANK YOU. You are so courageous to tell your own story and I marvel at your ability to still love and forgive the person who let you down when you reached out for help. You are pretty amazing friend <3

    • Aw, thank you Genevieve! I am so thankful to have brave and strong women like you in my life!

  • Deborah Fitzner
    2 years ago

    Rachel, you are a most courageous woman and beautiful inside and out. The world is a better place with you in it. Blessings to you, sister. Shalom blessings.

  • Heather
    2 years ago

    What a beautiful message about a truly disturbing situation. My heart is heavy for your pain and suffering. I cannot imagine what you went through, but I’m in awe of your strength and perseverance. Many blessings to you and for those who were and are supporting you. Love you and proud of you, little sister.

    • Heather! So great to hear from you. Thank you for your kind words and support. Love you, big sister! :)

  • Michelle Brown
    2 years ago

    You are beautiful and courageous. Inside and out! God bless you Rachel. 💜 – Michelle

  • Kim Moon
    2 years ago

    My dear heart.
    I see you.
    I hear you.
    I thank you.
    I love you.

    Your courage is empowering, as a reflection for all of us whom have ever feared to stay present, feared to speak our truth, and feared to be loved for the sake of taking on the fear of others. Your story, painted in layers and lifetimes of unraveling, is one of inspiration, as you have chosen to continue walking your path for the sake of transmutation and faith. Unconditional love is a process breaking, unfolding, surrendering, forgiving, discovering, healing. You are truly living the path of devotion to love, and this is your greatest gift to the world.

    Thank you beyond words.

    Honoring you deeply, eternally, gratefully.

    • Dear Kim, thank you for your beautiful words of love and support.

  • Erika de Azagra
    2 years ago

    You are a very brave woman.

  • Marianne Lord
    2 years ago

    Oh Rachel, you beautiful soul. How very brave you are to post this and how deeply you have touched me. Thank you for sharing such an intimate part of yourself. I know this pain and I appreciate your insight and your truth.

    • Thank you, Marianne. I appreciate your kind words and support. Blessings and peace to you.

  • Rachel this is the most beautiful written article, it brought tears to my eyes! Tears of sadness, wishing I could save you from the hurt but mostly tears of joy for your healing!!!
    Stephanie Beazley-DenUM

    • Thank you, sweet Stephanie! I miss you and hope you are doing well. Much love to you!

  • Bonnie Smith
    2 years ago

    Rachel, You are an amazing woman. It was a joy getting to know you at Faith in the missions office. Thank you for sharing your story. It is an inspiration to all,

    • Bonnie! So great to hear from you! Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. I’m so thankful we crossed paths at Faith.

  • Rachel you are a blessing! Please know you are loved and a teacher to many in so many ways. God bless you dear friend! Thank you for sharing your experience so others can walk hand in hand knowing they are loved and supported.

  • God’s love, grace, peace, healing, and beauty shine through you. Thank you for being vulnerable and helping other victims of this type of crime.

    • Thank you Leann! I am so thankful for all of the women who have shared stories with me – it’s powerful to know we are not alone!

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