What Was Then Is Now

“According to the CDC 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys will experience sexual assault.” Senator Diane Feinstein spoke those words at the opening of the #KavanaughHearing before Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony.

I was listening, along with my 12 year old, as we drove towards San Antonio for her orthodontic appointment. I wondered if I should turn it off, thinking maybe it could be too graphic. Christine read her statement, as she recalls it, “I was 15…”

“Mom, how old were you when you were raped?”

“I was 19.”

Elly’s head nodded, as she shifted in the front seat, settling in a bit more as we continued to listen.

“Mom, she’s doing good right?”

“Yes, Elly, she’s doing great.”

We drove and listened, and then I sat quietly in the waiting room of the orthodontist as I had increasing waves of nausea coupled with the rattling of what was shattered inside of me long ago. That shattered girl, who has known much care and healing, still lives inside of me and was listening as Christine spoke. Truth connects with truth. When you’ve survived you can feel when you’re in the presence of another survivor.

35 years ago seems like a lifetime ago. Unlike many survivors I risked telling. And, what was left of my 19 year old self was shattered even more as I endured my own version of an interrogation from two of the pastors, who were close friends of my rapist, at the church where we all worked. In the end they did not find me credible and I was sent away with the clear understanding I was not believed.

“Can you tell us how this event impacted you Dr. Ford.”

As she relayed an often familiar recounting of difficulty in school, struggling to connect with friends and perform academically I found myself acutely aware of the impact from my rape.

I was like a dead woman walking the spring of my sophomore year. I moved back home to Phoenix the next summer and signed up for a few classes at Arizona State in the fall. That lasted for about two months, simply put I couldn’t do it. I felt panicked inside walking across campus. I dropped out of college the fall of my junior year.

Some survivors bury themselves in school and become super achievers, some walk away never to return. There is no exact course of action, but there is always the underlying story that when heard offers a window into the trauma housed inside our bodies.

That story is laced with cascading shame that begets more shame. For me, shame from being raped, shame from not being believed, shame from feeling like I couldn’t handle school, shame for never going back, the shame of having no degree.

The shards of broken pieces are too many to count.

Did Jesus come to put all the pieces back together?

For years I believed He did, healing and restoration meant what was broken was put back together, stronger and more whole than before. In that narrative I go back to school, get my bachelors, get my masters and walk across the stage and we take a colorful photograph that seems to say, “Look! What was meant for evil has been redeemed.”

For me, healing hasn’t been about undoing or overcoming the impact and the damage, it has been about recovering from shame.

Today, as Christine Blasey Ford was questioned, and as Brett Kavanaugh testified, the shame from the past felt very near for me. I know I was not alone because social media was alive with posts and comments from other survivors, and my phone buzzed again and again with texts from women I love who have been sexually abused and/or raped. We all felt it.

Dr. Brene Brown says that shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.

We fought together today, reaching out across social media, texts and phone calls, in self- compassion and kindness saying, “I’m feeling this, are you? Am I alone? Do I belong? Are we going to be ok? Is she going to be ok?”

Kindness showed up in the midst of what is broken, as women reached out for another, wanting to affirm that we aren’t alone.

Today felt broken. The “system,” the “process,” the “she said, he said” and the power structures that are real. It felt impossible. Shalom shattered was not hard to understand today, we felt it individually and corporately.

Brokenness and shame keep me from experiencing rest and shalom.

Shalom: peace, wholeness, tranquility. The sense that all is well.

Only Jesus can truly restore shalom.

When I was younger I believed that healing would come when it all made sense and the broken pieces were all put back together. Today, I know that shalom comes only as I experience Jesus’ presence in the broken places. I have to return to Him again and again, sometimes hourly. Brokenness is a reality that remains, and for me shame lives where brokenness is responded to with demands and declarations of what is, or must be healed.

I didn’t feel healed today as I listened to the #KavanaughHearing. I felt broken, rattled, grieved, aching, furious and protective of a sister speaking her story in front of the entire nation.

I pray that she has a path to shalom, and I am aware of my own continuing need for the presence of Jesus every hour.


DSC_0512Tracy Johnson is a lover of stories, a reluctant dreamer and the Founder of Red Tent Living. Married for over 30 years, she is mother to five kids and a pastors wife. She loves quiet mornings with hot coffee, rich conversations and slowly savored meals at her favorite restaurants. She is awed that God chose her to mother four girls having grown up with no sisters. She writes about her life and her work here.