Freedom through Forgiveness – Katrina’s Story
I was anxious and a little overwhelmed. It was the night before a big event that I was hosting for a local charity and my head was spinning with all the details that still needed to fall into place; too much to do, not enough time. So I sat in my car in the parking lot of my apartment complex just a little longer. I turned on some worship music and began to pray. It didn’t take too long before I felt God’s peace enter my heart and I began to relax. Knowing I couldn’t stay in my car forever, as appealing as that was, I got out of the car and began walking towards my apartment. I noticed a man walking towards me but I didn’t think too much of it at first. As he got closer I realised that he had a gun and he was pointing it at me. I offered him my purse hoping that if he had that he would leave me alone. He wasn’t interested in my purse.
It was then I realised that he was going to rape me.
The man strode towards me and directed me towards the wooded area that bordered the car park. He told me ‘stay quiet, if you stay quiet I wont hurt you.’ As he took me further into the woods my mind was filled with all the horrible stories that I had heard on TV about women being raped and murdered. I began praying and I decided that if this was the end for me then I wanted the last words that he heard from me to be meaningful. I said to him ‘God will forgive you…Jesus will forgive you…. I’ll forgive you.” As we came to the bottom of a hill in the woods I said to him ‘can you please make it quick.’ He replied ‘yes’ and then raped me.
It was a cold November evening and the ground was covered in wet leaves because it had been raining. I was on my knees facing away from him with my pants pulled down. I was afraid to turn around in case he shot me.
I heard his footsteps walking away from me and after a few minutes, which felt like an eternity, I got up and ran as fast as I could back to my apartment. I began banging on the sliding door for my roommate to let me in. We called the police and I went to the hospital and did a rape kit. I had shut down on the inside and communicated with almost no emotion. I told the police officer everything that had happened to me but as I was talking to them I could sense that they didn’t believe me. They asked me to return to the police station the following day for more questions and this time I was interviewed by a female detective. I repeated my account of the assault and when I finished she basically said ‘There are other people in the holiday season who need our help and you are preventing us from helping them. You are a liar. I went to the best schools and I am an expert, I can point out at least 15 lies in your statement.” I was in shock and totally devastated.
I realised that I was going to have to move on regardless of what the police thought but I was in a state of grief and disbelief. I didn’t tell many people what had happened. I had always thought that showing emotion was a sign of weakness so I did my best to get on with my life. I told everyone that I was fine but I wasn’t. The police continued their investigations but their focus was on trying to disprove my claim rather than catch the man that raped me. I felt totally shamed and isolated and was very angry with God. I understood that the person who raped me was a sick person but nothing could have prepared me for the way I was treated by the police. I don’t think I have ever hated anyone before but after the way the police treated me I hated them.
It was actually easier for me to forgive the rapist than the police because every time the police suspected me, challenged me, and accused me of lying, it felt like I was being raped all over again.
Eventually the man that had raped me was caught as he attempted to rape someone else. He was a deacon at a local Seventh day Adventist church! He had raped me on a Friday night and the next day, Saturday, had gone to church and fulfilled his duties as a deacon. He was convicted of my rape and is now in prison for 43 years. When this happened I thought that the police would apologise to me for how they had treated me but they said nothing.
This made me so angry. I had been a Christian for a long time and I knew it was wrong to have unforgiveness towards people but I couldn’t help it. I shared this with a few people at church in an attempt to process everything that I was feeling but that didn’t end up being very helpful. Some of them said to me ‘How can you hate someone? You need to forgive and move on. You should be happy that at least you’re alive.’ This response made me feel even worse.
It was only after speaking with a woman from a friend’s home Bible study group that I realised that the root of my pain was actually the anger that I felt towards God. I was so angry that he had allowed the rape and the accusations of the police. I was angry with God for abandoning me but at the same time I felt guilty about feeling angry. It was a vicious cycle of hurt, guilt and shame. She encouraged me to be honest about my anger.
She gave me permission to acknowledge to God, all of my feelings of hurt, betrayal, anger and frustration. That is when the real journey of healing and forgiveness began.
It took another year before I felt ready to forgive the police. I still didn’t want to forgive them but I had to for my own sake. Through tears I remember saying to God, ‘I don’t want to forgive them, they don’t deserve my forgiveness but because you ask me to, I will do it.’ I knew that the anger and hate that I had towards them was destroying me and I felt such a release when I did it. I wrote them a letter telling them that I forgave them and a weight lifted off my life. I stopped having panic attacks, I was able to sleep, and my health improved. Being a Christian does not protect you from pain and suffering but I now know that God is not threatened by our emotions or distant from our pain. My healing journey continues but today I can say that forgiveness has set me free.
Katrina is now 30 years old and works as Registered Nurse in Virginia, USA. She is married to Justin and they are the proud parents of two beautiful daughters; Starr 2 years and Elisha 7 months.
To watch a video of Katrina’s story go to Confessions of an Overcomer