Abused and Silent to Finding Her Voice – Rebecca’s Story
My mum and dad had a very rocky relationship. Although I knew that they loved me and my brother and sister they spent a lot of time arguing with each other. When I was eight my parents divorced and my mum took my younger brother and sister and I to live in Nowra with our Nan.
When I was in Year 6 my mum fell in love in with a man in the Navy and decided that we should all live together as a family. Her new partner was posted to Darwin so we left Nan’s place and moved to Darwin. Any hopes of a ‘normal’ family life were dashed when it became clear that her partner was a violent alcoholic who seemed unable to control his temper. He was physically and verbally abusive to all of us, including mum. My ‘step dad’ then began sexually abusing me and I became more and more withdrawn and afraid. Life was unbearable but I was so afraid of losing the only family I had. I stayed silent.
I was 14 years old when the counsellor at my high school announced that the school would be hosting a “Shine” program. It was for girls only and we would be taught about makeup and hair and beauty. I couldn’t wait to go. It was run by a lady named Ana, she was amazing. I loved everything about Shine. It was a sanctuary from my chaotic family life and for the first time I had someone in my life telling me I was valuable and precious. At home I was called ‘bitch’ and ‘slut’ but Ana taught us that we were special and had a purpose in life. We spent time creating a ‘dream board’ and I allowed myself to dream about a different life than what I had experienced, a life full of possibility. The Shine course was only 10 weeks long but for the first time I had hope and a sense of value.
She is more precious than rubies;
Nothing you desire can compare with her.
Life at home continued to be violent, abusive and unstable. After two years in Darwin we moved to Adelaide but after only 18 months in Adelaide my mum and ‘step dad’ broke up and we were back at Nan’s again. I reluctantly changed schools yet again but within a week of being at my new school one of my sisters friends invited the two of us to attend a youth group at her church. I have to admit the first time I went to youth I thought it was pretty weird. All the singing and praying, I hadn’t ever experienced an environment like it before.
I kept going but I was an angry, frustrated, resentful and lonely teenage girl and I made life difficult for the youth leaders. I was rude and disruptive but they never gave up on me. For almost a year, one of the female leaders, Alex, looked out for me. She called me each week, picked me up, took me to church and let me know that no matter how badly I behaved she wasn’t going anywhere. With a history of rejection and abandonment like I had her actions meant more than I can explain. Over the course of that year the people of that church and youth group showed me what love and acceptance felt like, more importantly they showed me what God was like.
After 12 months of attending church I made the decision to commit my life to God. I was so excited I couldn’t keep it to myself. For the first time in a very long time I found my voice and I began to use it. As I shared God’s love with friends at school they began attending our youth group and church. I realised that God had given me a voice that could bring hope and life to others.
My family didn’t share my enthusiasm however. Life at home became even more of a struggle. I would lock myself in the bathroom to pray and worship, it was the only place I felt safe from the ridicule and abuse. The people at church became my family and with their support I began to thrive.
In 2011 I became the first person in my family to complete the HSC and in 2014 I received a Bachelor of Arts degree from The University of Wollongong. I am now studying for a Masters of Education. I have broken the cycle of hopelessness and despair that has plagued my family for generations. My relationship with my family still has a long way to go but I can see God bringing healing and hope.
I am no longer the shy, withdrawn and fearful girl of my childhood. God has given me confidence and courage and I have seen Him open doors of opportunity that I could never have imagined. I have had the privilege of sharing my testimony with school and community groups all over the region. My dream is to be able to show as many people as possible the power of God to restore and transform the most broken of lives. I want them to know like I do, that what others meant for harm God can redeem for His good.
You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.