At just 18-months-old, Michaela was molested by a neighbor.
Unable to clearly express to her parents what had happened, Michaela was taken to the Emergency Room where the doctors determined she had been violated. As such a young child, she was unable to name the time and place that it occurred, so despite her parent's attempts to take legal action against this man, he moved on with a tiny mark on his record. Later, her family would discover this was not his first.
Michaela came to know and love Jesus at a very young age. At 4-years-old, Michaela remembers asking Jesus into her heart and around that same time her mother remembers a specific moment that has still influenced her to this day. Michaela said about her mother, "that it also helped her to deal with what had happened to me; especially with the guilt that she felt since she had convinced herself that it was her fault. Apparently, we were ice-skating hand in hand, when I all of the sudden looked up at her and said: 'Mom, you know that bad man?' (which is what we called him) She replied yes. To which I nodded and then said, 'He needs Jesus.’ Then I just smiled and skated on. My mom said she was astounded and so encouraged."
He is the one who will remind you that what happened to you does not define you. He will tell you who you really are, and He will never let you down. If you are alive, God isn't done with you yet.
By the time Michaela was 8-years-old, she didn’t remember the incident at all, but she also began having nightmares involving a man coming into her room and hurting her. She physically felt the pain of this dream in her stomach each time it occurred and eventually, the lack of sleep affected her to a debilitating level. Eventually, her parents gently explained to her what had happened and took her to see a therapist. Her therapist helped her through the recovery of her trauma, but despite the progress, she still struggled with depression.
Then, at 14-years-old, Michaela was raped again. This time by a classmate who forced himself on her after she refused him. “I was so ashamed of what had happened that I lied about my bruises, saying that I had been trampled by horses on my grandparent's farm. My parents were out of town for a couple of weeks, so I got away with it."
After this, her faith began to falter. She lost faith in her worth and purpose and looking back she knows that even though she still had faith in God, her lack of self-worth was disrespectful to Him. She wondered why these events had happened and what she had done to deserve it. Eventually, Michaela rationalized her classmate’s behavior by believing it had to do with his poor upbringing, so it wasn’t his fault. Throughout the rest of high school, the psychological effects of the traumas began to surface. "I began cutting myself on my thighs where no one would see. I found that the physical pain helped to mask my emotional distress temporarily. It became a ritual for me; a sick kind of self-care.” Already feeling like she had no worth, she didn’t see any point to respecting her body. When she was 17, she found out she was pregnant but didn’t tell anyone. At the same time, one of her childhood friends died in a car accident, and while she was at the funeral, she remembers beginning to sob so severely she couldn’t breathe. "My mom prayed with me and held my hand while I passed the baby. I was in so much pain, and I felt so ashamed. When it was over, I wanted to forget about the whole thing."
Michaela remembers that the only person that encouraged her and kept her feeling motivated was her best friend, whom for the sake of the story we'll call John. He listened to the stories of her abuses, psychological issues, and pain and always pointed her to Christ.
After graduation, John decided to do a nine-month missions programs overseas. They stayed in touch, talked about getting married and what their futures would look like together. Suddenly, just five months into his program John died. Heartbroken about her best friend's death and feeling like she had reached an all time low, she abandoned all of her morals. She began drinking, partying, and came to enjoy the attention that accompanied her promiscuity.
Four months after John died, Michaela was raped again. This time, it was a gang initiation. "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was violated by several men, possibly more. I had run towards someone calling for help when I was grabbed and attacked. They beat me so severely that I could hardly move for days. They left me on the cold pavement; beaten and without clothes. I wrapped my torn shirt around myself and limped towards the nearest light; a tennis court.” When she arrived at the hospital, she only shared the physical abuse, and when the nurse suggested a rape kit, Michaela refused, saying nothing like that had happened. After exhaustive searches, the men that raped and beat Michaela still haven’t been identified, and she regrets not sharing more with the nurses on that day.
Michaela would soon discover that she had contracted an STD from her attackers and was also diagnosed with a medical dysfunction that is typically diagnosed when a woman has a difficult labor or in cases of abuse. Her diagnosis led her to physical therapy, which she recalls was just as traumatizing. This, was her last straw. The breakdown occurred. "For two years, I pretended to be fine. I was cutting again; as well as drinking. I acted out sexually. I spent all of my money the moment I made it. I was erratic in my moods; feeling like I was high and staying up for days on end, and then crashing and feeling debilitatingly depressed for weeks."
Finally, at her lowest and after a suicide attempt, she turned back to God. Realizing she had run away from the only source of true healing, Michaela surrendered herself to God and allowed herself to be wrapped in His love and protection. Afraid and ashamed, she told her parents everything that had happened, and they held and supported her through her healing.
"God showed up,” Michaela victoriously exclaimed. "All the years of leaning on my own strength and understanding had destroyed my spirit. All the years of bitterness and not being able to forgive had poisoned my heart. All the years of being angry with God for letting these things happen to me was buying into a lie of the enemy.” She felt so hurt and abandoned for so many years, but she learned to tune into the still, small voice and feel His peace.
Michaela recently celebrated her one year anniversary with her husband, and although marriage has been beautiful, it has also been more difficult than she expected. "Marriage exposes; becoming one person is a painful process. It makes the bad things worse, but the good things incredible." Anything sexual was a trigger for Michaela, so together they needed to learn to identify these triggers and work through them. "God is the glue that has held us together, especially through the hard times. Having [my husband] in my life has been the most amazing blessing for me. When I was honest with him about the extent of my issues, he was very understanding and kind. I fall more in love with him every day."
Many years later, God continues to blow her away with His goodness. "So many things have happened to me that were meant for evil. I’ve had the privilege of being able to see someone’s eyes light up when they hear that someone knows what it’s like; that they aren’t alone. I’ve been violated on several occasions; all of which made me feel small and worthless. But holy cow! Jesus has used my story in ways that I would have never been able to see. He has used experiences from my past to help me relate to people that have seen similar darkness."
The most difficult thing about being a victim of assault is the shame. Due to the nature of the content, sharing can make people feel uncomfortable, which can make the victim feel even more justified in their shame, but Michaela wants to encourage people to be real and vulnerable with their stories. She also wants to encourage people who hear these stories to see these people as victorious and not defined by their past.
To anyone who has experienced the pain of being violated, Michaela says, "refocus on [your] creator. This world is cruel. God even promised there would be suffering here, but to rejoice because He conquered the world. If we dwell in the pain that we have endured, it has the potential to consume us. However, if we rise against the evil and stand our ground; you can't be shaken with God as your rock." Michaela encourages others to place their identity in Christ because He is the one who will remind you that what happened to you does not define you. He will tell you who you really are, and He will never let you down. If you are alive, God isn't done with you yet.
"God will bring beauty from your pain."