Olivia reached out to me last week to share part of her story. She gave me permission to share it because she really wants to help other people on their journey to healing. Thank you so much for your courage, Olivia.  

 Hi Justin,

When I found out you were writing this book, I wanted to share my story. I had typed up this whole email, and then deleted it. I wasn’t brave enough to share my story. And I’m still not really ready to share that. But I do want to share part of my journey towards healing, if that’s okay. 

 When I first found the courage to stand up to my abuser, a respected pillar of the community and the church I was in, I told my mother who sided with my abuser and kicked me out. I didn’t see her again for three years, and never spoke of it to anybody. I was young enough that my subconscious allowed me to eventually block out that part of my past. 

 Over ten years later, I was fighting for custody of my child. Due to a history of self-harm, I was seeing a psychiatrist and psychologist to prove to a judge that I was fit to have custody of my son. I had gotten pretty good at giving the answers I needed to get what I needed/wanted. But in one of my sessions with the psychologist, which is essentially just a therapist, I said something- and I honestly can’t remember what it was- but it printed him to dog further and it was the first time I spoke about the abuse since I was a child. For the first time, I was told it wasn’t my fault. I continued to see him for a while and a lot of our focus became healing form that pain which in turn helped my mental health. I didn’t talk to anybody else about it. 

 About a year and a half ago, my abuser died. As a well-respected man, he had many people singing his praises. And I found myself very angry at him and everybody who was mourning his death and celebrating his life. They had no idea who he really was. And that is when I realized I still had a lot of healing left to do. I don’t know that I have ever forgiven him. I started to open up to some of the people in my life that I was closest to, and found acceptance and love. They didn’t judge me. I don’t share my story with everyone, and it’s still hard for me to talk about it, but I’m working on it.

 A few months ago, one of the associate pastors at this church I grew up in was arrested for failing to report sexual assault of minors in a different church. My first reaction was empathy for the girls who were hurt under his leadership, and a smaller part of me felt vindicated. I feel like that is progress. 

 When I found out you were writing this book, I knew I wasn’t alone. I knew there were other girls at the church I grew up in, but we never really interacted. I heard stories in the news, but they weren’t people I knew. By the time I got to _______________ Baptist Church, I was used to feeling like nobody knew and nobody would ever understand. I know we weren’t like besties or anything, but I do actually know you. And just knowing that there is a person that I know is real who understands and has been through it and has found healing gives me hope that I can too.