When the Jury Says, “Guilty” and the Judge Slams the Gavel

A woman asked MIHI, What do I do after my rapist is convicted? What do I do then? How do I heal? How do I move on? Can MIHI help me?

One woman said, They are going to take him away because he raped me. What do I do? I don’t want to hate him, but I do? I’ve read all of your blog posts, what do I have to do to love like that?

One woman involved with MIHI sent this to me after testifying against the man who sexually assaulted her. So in therapy today, I totally overcame a milestone! Thanks to you and Made In His Image and the Lord (of course), I’m NOT a victim of abuse anymore and I never will be again!!! I never thought it would end. I was always so sure that abuse would happen for the rest of my life but it’s not! I always thought that if I didn’t hate my abuser, then he would win. His whole objective was to abuse and still not be hated but that’s not the case anymore! Because I am not a victim and I don’t hate him. I get to choose my own path now. I get to be happy and am given the opportunity to love everyone that God places in my life! People are so precious and I know what it’s like to not feel love and I don’t want anyone who knows me to feel unloved! Life is so precious and it can only get better from here. 

I am exceedingly proud of these women for their candor, courage, strength, faith and perseverance.

Most women who have been sexually assaulted shroud their secret for fear of shame and embarrassment. Or they keep it buried, because they think it’s their fault, that they should have stopped it, that they are bad, or in an attempt to deny it actually happened.

MIHI seeks to shatter these pre-conceived notions. We exist to offer you hope and healing. We are a safe haven for you, and your voice, feelings and recovery are our priority. Yes, to answer the questions in the beginning of this post – we can, and will help you! Just like the woman in the previous paragraph, you too will take your life back. Fear, nightmares, dark shadows, crying, withdrawing and depression is not your destiny. Freedom is your future and you have the choice to seek it.

1 in every 4 women have been sexual assaulted. Do you know ONE? Are you that ONE? It’s not your fault! The time is now to break the silence and take your life back!

Image via Kara May Photography.

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Fact: Abuse is NOT your fault

Made in His Image has received thousands of emails, since its launch, from women in various stages of their journey’s towards awareness and recovery from eating disorders and or abuse. There is one particular subject that I would like to address today, that echos many emails I have read. Many women write to me thinking that the abuse they have unjustly received is their fault, because they couldn’t do anything to stop it.

THIS IS NOT TRUE.

In the past, I have lost many a night’s sleep trying to wrap my mind around this subject. Could I have done something to make it stop? Why did this happen to me? Was it my fault? Should I have fought back harder? Was it because I’m not strong enough? Maybe I need to be tougher? Maybe it was because I was bad? 

Asking yourself those questions is only natural, and there is nothing wrong with thinking those thoughts. But, knowledge is power and I want to share some of the counsel I have received over the years.

1. Abuse, whether that be verbal, physical and or sexual is NOT your fault.

2. What YOU can do is own your recovery. You can show yourself and others that you are stronger than what happened to you, and that with God all things are possible.

3. You will not completely heal until you take charge of your recovery process. And this means setting up boundaries, taking control of the people and or places that have power over you. This is something that only YOU can change.

4. You are not bad or worthless. You are created in the image and likeness of God and precious in His eyes. Although you may not feel precious, you must fight hard to ask Him to show you your worth and dignity.

5. While what happened to you was evil, that doesn’t mean God doesn’t love you. God gives His children free will, and the person or persons who abused you were in complete violation of his or her free will. Because God has given free will, He could not physically stop your abuser from hurting you, because that would have been going against His very nature as God. He does not force His children to make the correct choices in regards to our free will. While God desires nothing more than your protection and safety, He can not force people to follow Him. Therefore, because of our fallen nature, evil is prevalent in the world.

6. Contrary to what negative stereotypes may tell you, you are exhibiting tremendous courage and strength in seeking professional help. It might not feel as if you are, but you are. Your vulnerability, bravery, determination and perseverance will shine through the darkness, it simply takes time. Allow me to put it into perspective for you, I was a NCAA Division 1 athlete in college, and completing two years of trauma therapy took more endurance than being a Division 1 athlete. You are stronger than you think you are, always hope!

7. Focus on the positive, which is the control and power YOU hold by going to therapy and making daily strides at your recovery. Made in His Image wants to empower you to turn from victim to survivor.

8. TAKE CONTROL TODAY! TAKE YOUR LIFE BACK! SET UP BOUNDARIES. PRACTICE SAYING NO. THIS IS YOUR LIFE – OWN IT!

Such is the rule of our warfare.  We advance by yielding; we rise by falling; we conquer by suffering; we persuade by silence; we become rich by bountifulness; we inherit the earth by meekness; we gain comfort through mourning; we earn glory by penitence and prayer.  Heaven and earth shall sooner fall than this rule be reversed; it is the law of Christ’s kingdom, and nothing can reverse it but sin. – John Henry Newman

“Above all shadows, rides the sun.”

When I was four or five my dad would take me to the ocean, where he taught me to swim and ride the waves. My dad loves the ocean and is a phenomenal swimmer. When I made the swim team in college I remember the coach looked at me and said, Where did you learn to swim like that?

I smiled, From my dad.

Do you want me to take you out far? He would say. Oh yes!! I responded, coupled with tremendous excitement and a gigantic smile. He would carry me out past where the waves would break, and when the water was calm he would gently throw me. As my body sank beneath the surface, I knew he would be there, no matter what. I can almost taste the salt, and feel the ocean breeze against my face as I type this, the memories are so vivid.

After I had swallowed enough salt water we would spread our beach towels on the sand and have a picnic dinner. And after we had chased the seagulls and watched the sun set, he would take me out to ice cream. You can get whatever you want. My response was always the same, Can I have mint chip, the green kind in a cone? Those were the best days and my favorite childhood memory.

No matter what happened in my life, I clung to that memory because it was beautiful and peaceful. It sustained me through tremendous darkness. It helped me remember that I was normal. And that’s what I want to challenge you to do? Pick a memory from your childhood that was beautiful and hold on to it when you feel as though you were slighted by God.

As we talked about yesterday, where you have control is to make the choice to see beauty in your suffering. Many situations in life are going to be ugly, painful and hurtful, but you have the power, along with God’s grace to make good from the pain and tears. You have the tools to make the choice to see beauty, seek forgiveness, show mercy and the Father’s love to all of those you meet, even those who have abused you. Where does the power come from? It comes from the Sacraments and spending time with God in Adoration. Speak to our loving Father tonight, ask Him to help you. Ask Him for grace, tell Him your fears, joys and sorrows. Let the Healer hug you. Hold onto Him. Cling to the Cross, for this is where your sanctification rests.

“Although I have lived through much darkness, I have seen enough evidence to be unshakably convinced that no difficulty, no fear is so great that it can completely suffocate the hope that springs eternal in the hearts of the young. Do not let that hope die! Stake your lives on it! We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son.” – Pope John Paul II

But what if he wasn’t there

During this past year of serving victims and survivors of physical and sexual abuse, countless women have disclosed their stories to me. My heart has expanded with extreme sensitivity and compassion towards these women, as I have learned of the suffering they have and continue to endure by the hands of their fathers. The statistics regarding fathers in relation to domestic violence and sexual assault are both devastating and astronomical.

A father is an irreplaceable person in a child’s life. Statistics show that children who grow up lacking the presence of a loving father are more at risk to develop and engage in destructive behaviors such as, depression, self-harm, eating disorders, alcoholism, promiscuity and the like. With that being said, a child can certainly still suffer from one of the above, with the influence of a loving father.

Today on Father’s Day, MIHI wants to be sensitive to what you are feeling. And if you grew up without the presence of a father and or were abused by your father, Made in His Image is praying for you in a special way today.

So, what do you do if he wasn’t there? I am certainly no expert. But a wise man once told me that when faced with suffering, there are two choices: you can despair or choose to see beauty. And MIHI desires to inspire you to choose the latter.

I’m not saying it will be rainbows and butterflies. It’s okay to be afraid and to feel countless other emotions associated with suffering, abuse and loss. But do not allow yourself to despair, choose instead to seek beauty amidst the ambiguity of life. Rise from the ashes, inspire others with hope, show mercy and kindness, radiate joy and love as the Father has loved and continues to love you. Let His love radiate through you, so that when others see you, they see and feel the love of the Father.

And today if you should feel alone, isolated from those you love or frustrated because you feel as if no one understand your pain, then turn to your Heavenly Father and tell Him your feelings, for He does understand, and sees all things. He is waiting for you to come to Him. Throw yourself into His Arms and let Him hold you through the pain.

There is a loving, gentle, merciful and compassionate Father who will never leave you. You are precious to Him. He adores you so. This is His promise to you: “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5

It is my hope that Made in His Image will continue to be a safe place for you women to find healing and compassion during your journey of recovery. As always, if there is anything that we can do for you, please do not hesitate to contact us. We exist to serve you, and your healing, safety and voice is our priority.

Made in His Image would also like to acknowledge all fathers who have mirrored the Heavenly Father’s love and mercy! You are a source of tremendous inspiration and your love produces a rippling effect.

I would also like to honor my dad and wish him a wonderful father’s day! I love you dad. St. Faustina, pray for us!

“To live is to suffer, to survive is to find meaning in the suffering. If there is a purpose in life at all, there must be a purpose in suffering. But no man can tell another what this purpose is, each must find out for himself, and must accept the responsibility that his answer prescribes. If he succeeds he will continue to grow in spite of all indignities.”

On inside look at my journal from trauma therapy

Someone paid MIHI a beautiful compliment today. Your blog ‘I Fight Him With Love’ is the most beautiful blog for inspiration and anecdotes about being a truly beautiful woman.

Thank you so much, that was so sweet and kind!

Recently, Made in His Image has received a lot of emails in regards to therapy. Each week when I was in therapy, my doctor had me write a list of positive things from the week, as part of my homework. And I thought it would be a really great excercise for you too. Instead of focusing on the negative, how much it hurts, or how far you need to go: focus on the positive, what you are grateful for and write down your progress along your journey of healing.

The positive points below are taken from my journey and I would like you to read them and then come up with your own positive points each week and keep them in a journal. YOU CAN DO IT! Let me know how you do!

1. I looked at myself in the mirror and said aloud, “I’m a daughter of God, created in His image and likeness. I am beautiful because my dignity flows from Him. He doesn’t create ugly.”

2. A guy at work put his hand on my shoulder. It made me feel really uncomfortable, but I tried not to overreact and just to relax.

3. Tried to be more assertive at work. I did this by not asking what people thought, but instead was confident in my ability as a baker.

4. I didn’t lock my bedroom door this week.

5. I went running during the day light and tried not to let people staring at me bother me, or the guys that whistled at me. Man, I hate when they do that, it’s so annoying.

6. I went swimming and wore a bathing suit

7. I wore a sleeveless shirt without feeling self-conscious.

8. I saw my reflection in a window and saw God’s beauty, instead of the ugliness I have usually seen.

9. I decided after three years of being a slave to the effects of Charlie’s addiction to pornography that I wasn’t going to let it have a hold on me anymore. His addiction wasn’t my fault and I am beautiful.

10. I thought about how far I’ve come from college and thanked God for my progress.

11. I remember in college it was hard for me to wear shorts or short sleeves because I was so self-conscious. And I never wore my hair down because I knew some people would find it attractive, and I didn’t want anyone looking at me. But I did all of those things this week and it felt so good.

12. One night during the week I woke up from a bad dream and thought I heard somebody in my room. I got up and looked around my room and told myself that it was just a dream. And I didn’t even lock my door; I was proud of myself.

13. I tried really hard to look directly into someone’s eyes when I shook their hand. I also gave them a firm handshake.

14. One of the guys at work saw me lifting the 50 pound bag of flour and he offered to help me. My naturally inclination was to say, “I got it.” But, I thought about what Dr. Bellet said about letting people, especially men help me so I said, “thank you that would be great.”

15. I’m getting more use to physical touch, one of the girls at work gave me a really tight hug and it actually felt good.

16. I let my roommate braid my hair because I had accidentally sliced my finger at work and couldn’t braid my hair. It didn’t hurt, it actually felt good to let someone help me.

17. I chose to continue to choose forgiveness.

If you settle for anything less than the greatness that has been made possible for you, you are ignoring the twitch of the Divine weaver on the thread of your life. Let His grace lift you to where in your heart of hearts you want to be. ~George Weigel

Is it easy? No! Is it worth it? Yes!

Have you forgiven the people who hurt you Maura? A young woman asked me the other day. If so, how did you forgive them? Because I want to, but I don’t know how.

I am certainly no expert on forgiveness, but I do know that our mission in life is to mirror our Heavenly Father’s love and mercy, especially in the midst of adversity. Now, I know what you’re thinking…but that’s so hard. 

You better believe it’s hard.

You must ask God for the grace to forgive from your heart. Because when you do, it not only sets you free, but it releases the one who has caused the harm as well, which is a major component in regards to forgiveness. Oftentimes forgiveness involves forgiving several people, lastly, yourself, which is commonly deemed the most challenging.

You must wage war with countless thoughts, well surely if I had done or said something different, so and so would have responded in a different manner. So really, I had this coming to me, it must either be partially or entirely my fault. Or, if I was stronger and knew how to defend myself, no one would have hurt or taken advantage of me. So again, it really is my fault for not being tougher. 

Those are lies that you must learn to reject and replace with positive thoughts.

In regards to my personal story, I learned to forgive from the One who has forgiven me. I basked in His Sacraments daily. I sat in His presence daily and asked for the grace to forgive. I still do, as forgiveness is a choice. Everyday when I get up, I ask for the grace to choose to forgive. I challenged myself to think about the one who had done the wrong. I wonder why they did that? What was their upbringing like? Consider how much they must have been hurting to have done what they did? 

Now, does that take away the pain? No. Does that make you feel any better? No. Does that stop the tears from flowing? No. Does that stop the nightmares? No. Is that what we are called to do? Yes.

Why? (One of my favorite words).

Because it’s what Christ would do. Think of the Beatitudes because they are the essence of the life of Christ. The poor in spirit, mourning, meekness, hunger and thirst, merciful, clean of heart, peacemakers, persecution, insult – they are all characteristics of Christ’s life. Look at the Cross, for that is what you are called to. Your reward – Eternal Life! A crown of glory as a Saint in the Kingdom of Heaven.

It is easy?

No.

Is it worth it?

Yes.

So let’s do it together, you and I. Let’s spread the love of the Father. Let’s show mercy and offer forgiveness. Let’s love one another. Let’s smile. Let’s suffer with courage. Let’s be saints.

“Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, ‘Who are these wearing white robes and where did they come from?’ I said to Him, ‘My Lord, you are the one who knows.’ He said to me, ‘These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.” – Revelation 7:13-14.