Ironically, victims of abuse often take responsibility for the violence inflicted upon them. The result is deep shame.
Ann Williams embodied this frame of mind. She was a victim of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse growing up.
“When you don’t have the tools to talk about the violence witnessed, as a child, you blame yourself. You can’t believe that your mom and dad could be bad, so you internalize that, and that’s what I did. I somehow believed that it was me, something’s wrong with me, not them.”
Ann’s home life was characterized by pain and fear, and she responded by withdrawing.
“I became aloof, detached, and stayed separate. I learned to hide everything. I learned to shut up, shut down, and live in the safety of my silence.”
Ann remained silent throughout the years, raising two boys and working in social services. But eventually, the silence began eating at her. She reached a new level of hopelessness.
“Once my kids left, it was like I didn’t have that same purpose. I didn’t have the incentive to keep going. I started to isolate, and in that isolation, a lot of my wounds came back from my childhood.
“I had pretty much stopped living in a lot of ways. I thought I had made too many mistakes. I thought that I couldn’t be forgiven for the things that I’d done.”
Ann was drawn deeper and deeper into shame.
She smoked pot to cover it, was unable to find a job because of her drug use, lied to family about not being able to find a job, then felt more ashamed. And finally, she became homeless.
After going through several treatment programs, Ann ended up in UGM Women’s Recovery at Anna Ogden Hall.
Ann had adopted several religions throughout her life, searching for a way to deal with her shame without success. But on Good Friday 2015, she was struck by the forgiveness that is found in Jesus.
“When you really stop and think about what Jesus did, I mean, the brutality, the betrayal. And His Father gave His Son’s life for us – sinners…That’s when Jesus became my Savior.”
Ann accepted Christ’s forgiveness to replace her shame.
“I can only turn [my shame] into something useful, something beautiful…the power of forgiveness. I came to accept my past, bring it to light to heal and to forgive.”
She’s been given hope that her life is not over, God has a plan for her.
“To be forgiven, and then to learn that I’m a child of the Most High King, and the value I have – cause I didn’t have that before, I didn’t think I was valuable, I didn’t think I was wanted – and to know that I was planned, it’s affected every part of my life.
“I will surrender to God. I will allow myself to be guided to fulfill my purpose.
“I now choose to live by my convictions and knowing what God has told me about my life and that He has a special purpose for me.”
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