God’s heart is to rescue, redeem, and restore you!

We sat cross-legged in the woods behind my neighbor’s house, leaves crunching beneath us. There, I spilled all the gory details. As a seven-year-old, I didn’t know it was called abuse. I just knew I felt dirty and scared, and I had no idea how to process what had just happened. I figured my neighbor, a big ten-year-old, would know what to do. She stared in disbelief and barely spoke a word. As I walked home, brushing bits of leaf from my backside, I felt no better.

The following Monday, when I boarded the school bus, a horror dawned on me as my schoolmates were laughing, pointing, and saying nasty things. My secret was out. Walking to the back of the bus, I gulped back tears and made this silent promise, “I will never tell anyone again!”

Thus began a six-year pattern of sexual abuse, secrecy, fear, and shame.

By middle school, I was spiraling down a path of self-destruction. I experimented briefly with cigarettes and alcohol, but they left a bad taste in my mouth. I was hungry for attention from boys. Like many victims of sexual abuse, I became promiscuous, desperate to be noticed at any cost.

One evening, as I rode in the back of my parents’ Ford Fairmont, with its soft red seats, they asked me if I wanted to attend summer camp. It was the summer before eighth grade. I jumped at the opportunity to flirt with a fresh crop of boys!

The week of swimming, playing games, roasting smores, and going to chapel flew by. Friday night, we sat in a circle around the campfire, tearfully telling each other goodbye as the smell soaked into our clothes.

Later that night, under a star-studded sky, I heard about the love of God and the pain He endured to initiate a relationship with me. I was awestruck that the Creator of the universe would send His son to die a criminal’s death for my sake. Why me? I was a desperate, needy, promiscuous, foul-mouthed teenager.

That night, I ran into the arms of a God who loved me in all my brokenness. My rescue had begun.

My newfound relationship with Jesus changed the course of my life in countless ways. I courageously stood up to my perpetrator, and the abuse stopped. I started a friendship with a mentor who helped me grow in faith and confidence. I read and studied the Bible, soaking in God’s love for me. Within a few years, the desires of my heart were barely recognizable from what they had been.

I wish I could say I was set free in every way. But even after coming to faith in Jesus, graduating from a Bible College, and serving in ministry, shame refused to loosen its grip on me. It would whisper things like, “If only they knew,” “You don’t belong,” and “You’re not good enough.” I struggled under the weight of silent shame for so many years. What if people found out? Would I be on the outside looking in?

It’s absurd to think I would carry guilt for a crime committed against me and the subsequent choices I made, but that’s what shame does. It lies to us, making us feel small, hidden, and isolated. It tells us we are the only ones, and if others knew our secret, they would laugh, point, and say nasty things about us. So we carry our broken hearts alone and afraid.

Eventually, I became friends with women whose stories resonated with my own.

I met prostitutes and women who were hated and abandoned by their husbands. I found a sisterhood among women who suffered rape and abuse. They encouraged and inspired me because they had not only survived, but God had used them to do amazing things in the world. They were not cowering in shame. They were not hiding- even though everyone knew the trauma they had endured.

Their stories were read by millions of people in the world’s bestselling book – the Bible.

Through friendship with women like Bathsheba, Rahab, and the woman Jesus met at the well, I began to lift my head from the shame I had carried for so long. I realized I belong to a vast lineage of brave and broken women God has used to build His kingdom. And He is not ashamed of our stories.

Though we suffer acts of degradation and violence, those things do not define us. God calls us daughters, saints, heirs, and friends. He makes space for us at His table and invites us to draw near. He is angry at the injustices we suffer, weeps with us over past hurts, and mends our shattered hearts. He stitches those broken places with tender threads of love and grace.

God met me in the heartbreak of my sexual brokenness. He rescued, redeemed, and restored me. His love has strengthened me to bring hope and healing to others.

I now have the honor of walking beside women who carry the heavy weight of shame. We share our scars and tell our stories. No one laughs, points, or says nasty things.

I never wanted to be the “sexual brokenness” lady. I didn’t want to go first in telling my story. But I do want to be the one to look you in the eye and tell you,

“You are not alone.

You do not need to live in shame.

Those things done to you and by you—they don’t define you.

God is not finished writing your story.

His heart is to rescue, redeem, and restore you in ways you never dreamed possible.”

Teresa Whiting is the author of Graced: How God Redeems and Restores the Broken. This in-depth Bible study reveals God’s heart toward six sexually broken women in scripture and His power to rescue, redeem, and restore them. 

As a national speaker, writer, and host of the Find Hope Here podcast, Teresa helps women discover the beautiful, redemptive work of Jesus in the midst of their broken lives. She and her husband, Greg, have five adult children and are recent empty nesters living in central Florida. 

Freebie: Teresa has created The Graced Guide To Restoration for you! This free resource is filled with trusted books, articles, podcasts, and more to help you (or someone you know) heal from the wounds of sexual trauma.


  1. Peggy on April 5, 2024 at 10:26 pm

    Thank you for being brave & sharing your story to help others heal & grow.

    • Jodi Snowdon on April 7, 2024 at 5:59 am

      I agree Peggy! I am thankful for Teresa’s brave story too. I know it is going to help others be set free of shame as they heal and grow.

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