I Was Sexually Abused. Now, God Is Restoring My Identity

by | Apr 24, 2024

According to statistics from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), most cases of sexual abuse occur at the hands of people the victim knows. Except for one, sadly, this has been true in my own experience. Throughout my teens and young adult years,  four people who I knew well (including a family member) claimed parts of my body that didn’t belong to them. Over the past few years, I have been on the journey of understanding the fallout of this abuse: Broken pieces of my identity scattered everywhere.

Is this all that I’m good for? I used to wonder. The perception of my value became attached to how others could use me. Eventually, this seeped into my relationship with God.


Understanding the psychological effects of sexual abuse

At our very first meeting, my therapist told me I had identity issues. I felt upset. I was a fairly confident and accomplished young woman. I had a grasp on who I was, what I liked, and where my life was headed. How could she have come to that conclusion?

As we continued to meet, it was clear that the mask I had used to hide real pain was starting to wither away. The truth is, every day I looked in the mirror, I didn’t like the person looking back at me. I didn’t even recognize her.


What are the psychological effects of sexual abuse on identity?

RAINN reports that victims of child sexual abuse are more likely to experience PTSD, substance abuse, and major depressive episodes as adults.

I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and clinical depression at 25 years old, just after completing grad school. Despite being the first to earn a master’s degree and making my family proud, feelings of worthlessness plagued me, and they had for a while.

No matter what I achieved, I felt like I was never enough. “How can I be bigger and better?” I continuously asked myself. The shame of sexual abuse seeped deep into my soul, and I thought the only way out was just to “do better.” Nothing worked long-term. Eventually, the feelings of worthlessness turned into depression, and depression led to suicidal thoughts and attempts.


Coping with distorted identity after sexual abuse

I wasn’t always aware of the psychological or emotional impact of sexual abuse on my identity. In fact, it took me a long time to name what I experienced as “sexual assault” because none of my encounters were violent, which is a common misconception of sexual assault. I also wasn’t able to connect my journey with mental illness to the sexual abuse I experienced until recent years.

I’ve been in therapy consistently for the last five years, and about 3 of those years have been focused solely on rebuilding my identity. That’s how deep the damage ran. I didn’t believe a single word of what the Bible said God felt about me.


Examining the emotional impact of sexual abuse

It wasn’t just my faith and mental health that took a hit. The impact of sexual abuse did a number on my emotional health as well. It was a challenge to trust people and let them see the real me, yet I constantly sought their validation and acceptance. Many of my friends and exes became idols in my life because, in retrospect, I didn’t trust God.

While I never blamed God for what happened to me, I definitely thought of Him as a bystander. If He didn’t stop those atrocities, how could I ever trust Him with anything else in my life? I did all I could to manipulate and control the outcomes of my life. I gave myself to others sexually because I thought it was the only way to feel loved, and I developed unhealthy patterns of behavior and codependency. Since humans were never meant to fulfill my every need, I was disappointed a lot. So, the cycle of feeling worthless continued.


How does sexual abuse impact identity?

Constantly feeling worthless, the narrative “no one loves me” played in my mind over and over again. When I looked in the mirror, I counted the reasons I deserved love and found the sum added up to nothing. I thought I was disposable and easily forgotten. After all, that’s what all my abusers did, right? 

I had a tough time resting in the reality that Jesus loved me and expected nothing in return. I thought surely He wanted something back; surely His love was conditional. It isn’t a surprise that depression crept in after believing that lie. Feeling joy is hard when you don’t believe anyone loves you.


What you need to know about recovery from sexual abuse

No one really talks about the ugly side of healing. We don’t talk about having to reconcile how other people’s brokenness harmed you while also coming to terms with the mistakes you’ve made and how they’ve affected others. A large portion of healing often comes down to questioning God and His goodness in the light of your own humanity.

As I have been recovering from sexual abuse, now — more than ever — I understand the meaning of 2 Corinthians 12:9. When the Lord says His grace is sufficient, He’s talking about the moments when nothing makes sense, and you can’t understand why this happened to you. He’s talking about when flashbacks and panic attacks are gripping your throat. In these moments, His grace truly is enough.

Many of my prayers for healing were answered through safe community, friends, therapy, and medication. My therapist, who is also a Christian, helped me see the goodness of God through his Word. Once I could grasp the biblical truths about identity, my broken perspective of God shifted. I started to see Him as a good Father and a close Friend who never stopped loving me.

Don’t believe the lie that just because it’s taking a while, you’re not healing. Healing isn’t linear, but it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.


How can identity be restored after experiencing sexual abuse?

At first, I tried to restore my identity after sexual abuse by burying myself in ministry. I thought if I proved to God that I was worthy, He would erase the broken pieces of my story and make me into someone great. I thought maybe I could forget my story of abuse if I loved God enough and served people enough. But it wasn’t enough. There isn’t enough church and ministry in the world that can put the broken pieces of identity back together. Only Jesus can do that, and He did it for me.

I used to think the shame from sexual abuse and my struggle with mental illness would be the end of me. Honestly, I didn’t think I would even make it past 25 years old. Even though healing is a life-long journey, I’m grateful for the ways Jesus has already restored me! I am now 4 years free of suicidal thoughts and attempts, and the clinical depression diagnosis is now in remission. Today, by His grace, I can look in the mirror and see myself as God sees me.

Even if things look bleak now, I promise there’s another side. And if you read nothing else, my friend, please know that help is available, healing is possible, and hope is already here.



Connect with Jordyn:

Instagram: @jordynimari

TikTok: @jordynimari

Website: https://jordynimari.com/


Additional Resources:

Blog: Sexual Abuse: How the Church Should Respond

Java with Juli: #512 Friends Who Hurt Us: How To Recognize Unlikely Sources Of Abuse