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I keep thinking I'll find some way to describe it. I hunt through a mental repository of images, analogies, and metaphors, searching for a suitable vehicle for faithfully telling it. I arrive at nothing. For how does one say, plainly, all that ...

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Shary Habuber

February 23, 2014  3:23pm

Thank you for your story Halee, I am happy for how far you have come on your journey. You are not to blame! Sexual abuse is always the fault of the abusers. Coming from a a background of all kinds of abuse at a missionary children's boarding school I understand how much damage there is when the abuser is one of God's anointed. Overcoming all the problems is amplified when the missions and churches refuse to deal with the abusers. The torture that many MKs go through daily knowing they reported their abusers and the missions just moved the abuser to another location where they can continue their criminal acts. The church must stand up and obey the laws and report abuse to authorities. The church must reinforce to victims they are not to blame. The church needs to stop looking at victims as damaged goods. Report abuse and let the abusers face their punishment and maybe save their souls when they realize they are to blame. Your rapist needed the law to help him recognize his crime.

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BONNIE NICHOLAS

February 18, 2014  7:56am

I'm wondering about a couple things. First, whether or not this article might be made available for use in training and educational events on the topic. Also, whether or not you ever share it personally, perhaps at a training workshop. If the answer is yes to either of these questions, please let me know (bnicholas@crcna.org) Thank you.

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BONNIE NICHOLAS

February 18, 2014  7:50am

This is a beautifully written story about a horrific, tragic event. Thank you for your courage in sharing it. May it help others better understand and help the church better respond.

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audrey ruth

February 02, 2014  10:32pm

Wow. IMHO, there is no betrayal quite like that of an unfaithful shepherd pastor. Halee, I am so awed by, and thankful for, the power of God in your life - the fact that He brought you through this (which brings Isaiah 43 to mind), the fact that by His grace you have overcome such a horrible, life-changing, often embittering experience. I love it that you "kept choosing life." Glory to God!!!

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Gail Wallace

January 31, 2014  10:36pm

Halee, thank you for sharing your story and bringing light and hope to others; for speaking the unspeakable and being an example of choosing life. I am so moved by your courage!

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Amy Carr

January 31, 2014  9:13pm

I have also written about clergy sexual abuse, and when younger helped a synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America make a video to help others understand the dynamics. As a theologian the spiritual effects are what I ponder the most--articulating the different ways of interpreting God's providential presence amid the feeling of defilement. In your words, I appreciated most the way you named the reasons why it's so easy to blame oneself; the pattern of feeling polluted; and the awareness that we all--whether religious leaders are not--are vulnerable. We are vulnerable to sin and to being sinned against; and the feeling of continuing to live in a defiled body may in some way be a gift that tells us what happened matters - and that something still must be made right. A sense of defilement may not disappear entirely, but I find that over the years and the kind of genuine support of others you describe, it can grow much smaller.

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Paul Coneff

January 31, 2014  5:33pm

Because of your persistence in healing, in having a Ph.D. that empowers you to help train others, you are no longer a victim. And that is also a powerful testimony, along with the incredible power of your descriptive words. As I share how Jesus was physically, verbally and mentally violated by the religious leaders of His day, connecting His story of abuse with the person's story of abuse, the power of identification BEGINS the PROCESS of healing and freedom...and it is a process. There are no band-aids or Christian cliches that will heal these kinds of deep wounds that have layers of losses connected to them. My book "The Hidden Half of the Gospel: How His Suffering Can Heal Yours," tells the true story of Anna, who was raped by five different boyfriends of her mother - by the time she was seven. She also worked through her post traumatic stress disorder and is now ministering to other women, sharing the difference Jesus' story made in her life, bringing hope to their heartache.

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Paul Coneff

January 31, 2014  5:28pm

Your description of the rape leaving you violated, polluted and defenseless, having to live in a body that knew the truth, while you heart and mind were catching to the awful reality of a pastor violating you and his calling as a shepherd commissioned to protect his sheep is painfully riveting. To know that you are turning this horrible experience to good through the Lord, adds to the power of the story, while we wait for the Lord to hold this man accountable. Jesus said there is NO excuse for his sin and his own words and behaviors will condemn him in the judgment, all the more so because of his position. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I work with the trauma of rape almost more than any other situation. I shared how Jesus was stripped naked (Matt. 27:28), and physically violated, shamed and humiliated, verbally and mentally abused, BY RELIGIOUS LEADERS... the very people who should have been protecting Him. This is often the first step healing for them. paul@straight2thehear.com

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Jenny Roca

January 31, 2014  5:19pm

thank you for the courage to write about it...... I would have liked to have this courage 40 years ago.....

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Bev Murrill

January 31, 2014  4:46pm

Halee, This is a profound and powerful story and one which is replicated by others who do not feel able to share their own. Thanks for your courage in this, and thanks also that you are willing to put in the hard yards to get free from this also. That you are not content to sit in your brokenness, but that you have heard the voice of the One who brings life and you have been born again, again... into a newness and a freshness, but also a zeal and a determination to expose hypocrisy and lies, and bring truth. There are too many who use the pulpit as their freedom to sin with impunity, but we take courage and encouragement in the fact that there are many many more who live in righteousness and determination to live to Jesus Christ and His people. You are one such person.

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Bronwyn Lea

January 30, 2014  4:17pm

"The hardest part is living in a body that has been raped." Yes, that is the hardest part, and your encouragement to choose life are a balm and a sign-post. Thank you for your courage and your ministry.

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Wes Willison

January 30, 2014  1:54pm

Wow. I'm astounded at your courage and faithfulness. This is an incredible story, and I'm so impressed that you've shared it with such grace and insight.

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Helen Lee

January 30, 2014  12:56pm

"We sometimes think that the choice of life and death is at the beginning of our walk with God, but this isn't so. The task of the Christian life is to keep choosing life, over and over." You have chosen life by taking the courageous step of sharing your story. Your willingness to choose life will help so many others do the same, I am sure of it, by following your example and stepping out in courage themselves. Thank you, Halee, for being willing to be so open and honest with this heartbreaking story. May your bravery result in more light shining into the dark places that still exist for many who have not been able to voice their own traumas, and may perpetrators of this type of violence against women ultimately be brought to justice.

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Michelle van loon

January 30, 2014  12:22pm

Thank you, Halee, for your leadership in sharing this story. Your story will give others in need of healing from their own experiences of abuse "the gift of going second". I am sure of it, and am praying for freedom for those being held captive by the lies their abusers and unhealthy church cultures. I am also praying that this may alert some in those unhealthy church cultures to shine a light on what is festering in the darkness.

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Ellen Mandeville

January 30, 2014  11:49am

Thank you for your honesty and bravery in writing your story. I am the mother of two children. Thank you for helping me to better understand this danger.

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Marlena Graves

January 30, 2014  11:22am

"Yet we are reluctant to admit that monsters do not look as they do in our fairy tales and myths; they can look like us, like our pastors, the very people we believe God has entrusted to guide us." Halee, thank you for this vulnerable and important piece. You have alerted many to what monsters can look like. It's a way of fighting back. I hope people in churches take this to heart and that it gives others the courage to speak out and get help. I know it will. You are brave.

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Jennifer Michel

January 30, 2014  11:03am

"It's psychologically easier to bear false guilt than to bear powerless vulnerability. As long as you are responsible, you are in control." Thank you for speaking this wisdom, and most importantly, thank you for sharing so bravely. I trust that God will redeem your story for a mighty good - both in your life and in the lives of readers.

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Dorothy Greco

January 30, 2014  10:38am

Halee, this is an incredibly courageous offering to the body of Christ. Thank you for taking the risk to write it. "I write and teach on what it means for Christians, especially those in authority, to actually live and be like Jesus—through and through—so that maybe tomorrow, there will be fewer people with stories like mine." Amen and amen. May it be so.

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Dale Hanson Bourke

January 30, 2014  10:30am

This is a courageous article that tells of an experience I fear many other women share but would have a hard time articulating so beautifully. It's wonderful that the author is able to find grace and forgiveness. I hope it will wake us all up to the need to be very, very careful about who we place in positions of leadership and power, especially over youth groups. This seems to be the place where a part time or volunteer staff member can miss all the regular background checks.

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