Jessica was beaten and brutally raped by her ex-husband, who is now serving a 29-year prison sentence.
She missed all the signs that he was an abuser. She enjoyed those characteristics that would one day prove to bring her tremendous pain and devastation. When he wanted her by his side at all times and wanted to know her every move, she thought he must really love her. She felt validated and adored. But, it turns out that he was incapable of true love.
As I wait at a local Starbucks for my interview with Jessica, I wonder how retelling her story will affect her. I'm prepared to tread lightly and ask questions delicately. Yet when she walks toward me, I'm surprised by her demeanor. She reaches out to me with a big hug as if she was meeting an old friend for coffee. She shares a radiant smile as she describes her eye-awaking word from God - how he showed her His purpose that would come from her suffering.
She begins to openly and transparently share her story. It's a heartbreaking, terrifying story. But, you don't see pain in her eyes. You see redemption and determination. The battered and controlled girl she describes is not the person she is today. As she sits talking confidently, sharing her story with passion and power, there is no regret, no despair.
A Story of Transformation
Jessica's story is one of hurt, hope, and healing ... and of God's power to transform.
About a year after dating her husband, Jessica experienced her first incident of what would be repeated physical abuse. She wanted to visit with friends in her dorm room, but had to lie to get a moment away from him. He was furious when he found her with her friends, went into a jealous rage, and dragged her out by the neck.
The next day, he blamed the alcohol, apologized, and promised to get help. Soon, at age 20 and still in school, she found out she was pregnant. Her father passed away that same year. Her aloof, grieving mother was emotionally unavailable. Jessica found herself drawing closer to her boyfriend for emotional support. They were married.
Soon after their son was born, the daily beatings began. Anything would set him off, she recalls. "I was five minuets late. I didn't vacuum right. I made leftovers." He followed her every move, checking her odometer and questioning her for the even the slightest change in routine. She was isolated from friends and family, succumbing to his iron-fisted authority. Wondering how it had gotten so bad, she wasn't strong enough to leave until the day a blow meant for her struck their one-and-a half-year-old son instead. She knew she had to get out - if not for herself, then for her child.
Jessica fled to Los Angeles. She filed for divorce and got a restraining order against her husband. Things only got worse. He was still allowed to see his son. Her now-verbal toddler begged her not to leave him with his father."No Mommy, pease, no go .. Daddy hurt." Every time she had to leave her son with him, she was so upset that she vomited.
One day, he tricked her into coming to his home, claiming to have child support money for her. She went to his house, feeling the urgency to get the money and get out. When he opened the door and she smelled alcohol, she knew something was wrong. He shoved her inside. She saw a knife and condom on the table and knew what was about to happen.
He raped and sodomized her. She escaped only because she promised not to report him. She promised he could still see his son. She knew it was the only way to save her own life. She drove herself, bloodied and bruised, to the police station. She spent six weeks testifying against him. He was sentenced to 29 years in prison.
For eights years, Jessica fought to heal from the pain. She created PowerPoint presentations for teens to teach them how to recognize the red flags of abuse. She received counseling, and had relationships with other men. But, the emptiness remained. Then, she met Jesus.
"The moment I was saved, God said, "here I am to fill your hole." She had found her purpose and his peace. She was finally healed.
That's when the Rock's Domestic Violence (DV) ministry, known as H.E.A.L.I.N.G. (Honoring, Empowering And Loving Individuals Needing Guidance) was launched.
"Everything that was traumatic was all of a sudden transformed into this wonderful blessing,"she says, beaming.
Jessica says she's blown away by the ministry's success. It currently sees up to 40 women each week who come to begin their own healing process. She's thrilled to have spearheaded a ministry that's exploded since June, evidence she says, that God's purposes are being carried out through her. "We've got a phenomenal thing going here."
"Everything that was traumatic was all of a sudden transformed into this wonderful blessing," she says, beaming.
Jessica is driven to help others has taken her beyond the church walls. Her outreach includes local women's shelters, schools and collaborating with community churches to start domestic violence support groups. "It became very clear to me that everything I went through was absolutely purposeful,"she says. "I wouldn't change a single event."
She has forgiven her ex, who still keeps in touch with their 12-year-old son. However, knowing the statistics of physical and sexual abuse are an astounding 1 in 4, Jessica is acutely aware of the great need to reach the community. She hopes to expand to more schools, youth groups, and to police departments.
She's emphatic as she describes the ministry like a salesman pitching the best car on the lot. And now there's no stopping this survivor whose mission is to tell the world that there's freedom from physical abuse. These women need help and she's been called by God.
"If just one can find strength, hope and encouragement, then it's absolutely worth my suffering."
For more information about the Domestic Violence Ministry, click here »