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Healing After Abuse & Misfortune

downloadQuestion

I really need your advice. My girlfriend has endured hell her entire life. Since birth she has known nothing but pain and torment. Her mother was emotionally and verbally abusive.  Her stepfather, with her mother’s knowledge and consent, repeatedly ambushed and sexually assaulted her for years.  Not long after her biological father won custody and took her from that bad situation, she was raped by a stalker.  As a result of the assault she contracted a life-long case of oral herpes. Her ex-boyfriend verbally threatened and beat her.

She is now twenty-two years old and suffers from a mild schizophrenia and sociopathy, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and instances of self-harm.  Despite all this, she still finds ways to laugh and smile.

She wants to believe but given her difficult past it is no wonder that she has lost her faith.  While it might seem a small matter given what she has gone through, last night was the last straw for her.

Her beloved cat, Samus, for whom she had a very special bond and close connection, was hit by a car and killed. She loved that cat.  She is heart-broken.  She says she feels like she is being punished for a few moments of happiness.  She asked me a question I could not answer.  “Why would God let these things happen to her?”  I do not know what to do. I love her.

She said that she is willing to convert to Catholicism should we decide to marry (she was raised Mormon). How do I show her that God is with her? Is there a way for her to know that God loves her and wants her to be happy?  How do I help her find faith?  What should I do?

Response

Speaking in a general way, we are all born in a broken world where there is both natural and moral evil. The faith tells us that sin brought suffering and death upon us. However, as believers, we believe there is hope in Jesus who comes to heal, to forgive and to restore our unity or friendship with God. The question of pain finds its response in the passion and death of Christ. While we are not protected from this brokenness, we have one in Christ who shares in our woundedness. We need to acknowledge this profound solidarity with Christ who transforms the Cross from a sign of defeat to one of victory. Christ is our sin-offering, the faithful oblation that restores honor to God and atones for the infidelity of our first parents and all the sins of the world. Love conquers death. Christ dies that we might live. He offers us a share in his life.

Referring to your friend in particular, there is a mystery as to why some seem to have more than their share of sorrow and abuse. Terrible things can happen to us and she needs to know that the fault is not hers. No one has the right to abuse and torment others. Even though a few years have passed, I would urge her to notify the authorities about the abuse and her mother’s enabling her step-father to hurt her. Sexual abuse against young people is a crime that cries out for justice. It is also my hope that the stalker who assaulted her was caught and punished as well.

It is common that those who have been wronged earlier in life often gravitate towards men who are also abusive. I do not know why this is. I suspect that victims suffer from a lack of self-worth and tolerate more than they should.

Bad things happen to everyone. It is not just her. But it is past time for her to take control of her life and to demand that others treat her with respect. It may be that God sent you into her life to assist her in finding a new direction and hope. I would urge you to move slowly on the question of marriage and possible conversion. Give her time to heal. She has known way too much pain and intimidation. Now is a time of rebuilding and finding hope. Has she received counseling? This is also something about which you can support her; but do not become a crutch for her. You want to be a friend, a fellow partner, and a beloved. Help her to find herself and her strength. Do nothing to instill dependence. You want to enable her to stand tall— not feeling sorry for herself but appreciating her gifts and ready to live, to fight if need be and to love.

You can invite her to pray and worship with you. But, whatever you do, nurture her freedom and sense of dignity. Peace!

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One Response

  1. Start the process of conversion with her now. Invite her to RCIA so that the healing can actually begin. Help her heal through the application of the graces which the Lord provides through His Church. Healing also takes place in marriage, if you are willing to take that journey as Christ Himself was and is.

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