Font Size » + | -By Loretta Young After waiting five years for a child, my parents were overjoyed when I was born in 1965. Their love for each other was truly beautiful. My grandfather was a minister, and my mom was raised in a loving, Christian home rich with biblical values and thirteen sisters and brothers. My journey was not as idyllic. When I was still a toddler, my mom went to work, leaving me in the care of my great aunt who lived in our neighborhood. Unbeknownst to my parents, my great aunt often hit me and deprived me of food. I was too young to be able to tell my parents what was going on, and the abuse caused major issues with mistrust, insecurity, and fear. I didn’t form a good relationship with my grandmother because she and my great aunt looked like twins. Since I was afraid of my great aunt, I didn’t want to be around my grandmother, and no one, including me, understood exactly why. It was confusing, awkward, and hurtful. At some point my parents found out about the abuse. My mom immediately quit working to stay home with me, but we never discussed the abuse issues. My parents thought I was coping well, so they didn’t seek counseling or treatment for me. They didn’t understand why when I walked into the house I would seem to bring a dark cloud with me. I was trying to cope with my issues without any outside help. As I later worked through the forgiving process, one thing stood out: my aunt yelled a lot. To this day I hate yelling and slammed doors. I don’t even like loud voices. Young as a baby with her father and brother. Another event during my teen years also affected me deeply. One day several family members and I happened to be outside in our neighborhood. We could hear my great aunt and her husband down the street arguing. My great uncle, whom I loved because he always protected me and would sneak me food, jumped on his motorcycle, gunned it, flew past us, and drove his bike right into the side wall of a store down the street. We all ran to the scene. I vividly remember seeing his lifeless body on the ground – his brains and blood splattered on the wall. I was devastated, but I didn’t blame him. I was sad for him. He had been stuck, unable to get free. I saw this desperate act as “a way out” for my great uncle, a person I loved, cared for, and respected. And it became an option for me as well. Several times I considered ending my life. I did all the things one is seemingly supposed to do to be well adjusted. I attended church faithfully with my parents, excelled in school, participated in choir and track, and made lots of friends. My dream was to graduate from the University of the Pacific and later teach. But I experienced a level of pain I didn’t understand that debilitated me. I adjusted by masking my struggle from everyone close to me. A more recent photo of Loretta with her father and brother. Her mother (framed photo) is deceased. After a series of painful relationships, I got married in my twenties, not having graduated from college. I intentionally married a man whom I thought would be able to protect me, but instead he proved to be extremely violent. We attended church faithfully. We didn’t believe in divorce, and if I questioned his treatment of me, he was quick to quote Mark 10:9: “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” I hid behind my mask, worked, raised my little boys, and continued to take college courses whenever I could. In 1995 I ended up in the mental hospital for an attempted suicide and a nervous breakdown. My sons and my belief in God were the only sources that kept me grounded and sane after I recovered. The abuse became so bad that in 2003 my children and I were forced to flee our home with just a few clothes and my car. Unfortunately, my mother had been diagnosed with leukemia, so my dad was unable to take us in (our family now included a foster son). Homeless, we were blessed to stay with a friend of my eldest son. I slept in a twin bed and my sons slept on the floor for a time, but we were safe and to this day I am so very grateful. I managed to raise my kids through high school. My oldest son received a full-ride, five-year college basketball scholarship, and my youngest one graduated from junior college and went into the navy. My foster son went to college as well. I was so proud of them as they worked hard to achieve their goals in spite of our situation, but I still carried guilt, shame, insecurity, and fear. I was still broken. Although I knew the Lord, I hadn’t dealt with my pain because I had been taught that you can’t be hurt and saved; you have to be one or the other. I thought my insecurity was a result of my not having finished college, not my abuse. Yet after finally earning my college degree in 2013, I suffered my worst abuse. As the abuse intensified, so did my pain. Graduating college did not relieve my insecurity. Marriage did not make me feel safe, protected, or loved. I would never have imagined that I would end up marrying a person who was even more abusive than my former husband, but I did. All in all, I filed at least fifteen police reports, but I would end up staying with him and recanting the abuse. Loretta with her grandson Although the physical abuse was bad, the emotional abuse was incapacitating. My husband would take pictures off the wall or hide my jewelry or wristwatch if he was upset with me – things that would make me think I was insane. He would hide one of my shoes. I would be trying to get ready for work looking everywhere for my shoe, thinking I was going crazy. He would tell me I was crazy. I believed him. On September 23, 2015, I endured a night of abuse that ended with him head-butting me in my face because I had used the iron in his study without permission. I was terrified. Blood was everywhere. When he finally fell asleep, I left him for good. At first I stayed in hotels, too ashamed to tell anyone what was happening to me again. I went to work and church and told no one except my pastor. I finally swallowed my shame and pride and confessed my situation to my godbrother, who graciously took me in until I could get a place of my own. A few months later, the Lord blessed me with a beautiful home. Yet even though I was finally free from abuse, I was paralyzed with fear. I found myself living in a three-bedroom home with an amazing master bedroom that I was unable to sleep in. Instead I slept in a twin bed in the smallest room in the house so I could feel safe. Everything had to be in its place and I needed to make sure I could see all my things. During the divorce proceedings I felt like such a loser. It stung when the judge read her statement: Loretta presents with the classic symptoms of a battered spouse. She calls the police when threatened or assaulted with every intention of making a report but once law enforcement arrives and the situation is stabilized, retracts her statement. She exhibits the low self-esteem common of battered women, referring to herself as “stupid.” This is not uncommon when one is called “stupid ****” such as the case here. Feeling guilty about sending the abuser to jail or prison is also a classic sign of battered women’s syndrome. Her descriptions of the abuse are detailed and specific. Her testimony that he pushed her down on the bed and had a peanut butter jelly sandwich in his hands and stuffed it in her mouth to quiet her defies fabrication. The testimony is bolstered by the fact that a neighbor heard her screaming and called the sheriff’s department. This is not the first time an independent witness had to call the police. It is also noteworthy that during an appearance before the Commissioner in Department 13, the defendant told the Commissioner that Loretta was a woman that “liked to be hit.” The court has concluded that Loretta was a victim of abuse in this relationship. She has escaped the cycle of violence present in the household. For the first time in my life I knew God saw me. I realized I needed help, so I sought out mental and spiritual counseling. I participated in a one-year Bible study that focused on God’s love and healing. The study opened my mind to consider finding my purpose, and God began my amazing healing process. My graduation from the program changed my outlook on life. Loretta, her father, brother, and two sons attend her youngest son’s high school graduation. As I read John 13, the Lord placed a burden in my heart to love the unlovable, and He helped me to do that with my ex-husband. Instead of being the person who was always hurt, I tried to minister to him. In fact, the last time I saw him, I witnessed to him. The Lord allowed for some closure. I was able to ask my ex-husband why he head-butted me the last night we were together. He asked for my forgiveness and explained that he was angry with life, in the process of losing his job, and struggling in college. He was in a lot of emotional pain himself. His grandson had been murdered by his youngest son and he lost a nephew tragically. When I went in to get his iron without asking him, he felt I was disrespecting him as a man – not supporting him emotionally. He added that he wanted me to save him from himself. I told him, “It was like you were in quicksand. I was trying to pull you out but you were trying to pull me in.” Only God can save us, not man. Through God’s grace I was able to forgive him. In that moment I felt the greatest freedom. I wanted to help others feel this freedom and discovered that I had a passion to help other hurting women. In 2015 I shared with my pastors my idea for a women’s conference. They advised me to wait on God’s timing, and in June of 2018 we held our first Pearls, Lace, and God’s Grace conference. We decorated the room as one would for a bridal shower and bought the women special gifts. I wanted each woman to feel beautiful that day. I spoke to them from my own place of brokenness and reliance on the Holy Spirit. It was a meaningful time because it was the first time I told my testimony. I’m now in the process of writing a book, Pearls, Lace, and God’s Grace. The Christian life is not always going to go smoothly. Joseph of the Bible was accused of rape and wrongly convicted; Job suffered pain and loss; Jesus suffered and died on the cross. Bad things are going to happen, but we also “know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). I want the Lord to be pleased with my life. As Christians we have a mandate to love the unlovable, to love women and men who don’t love themselves. My purpose is to teach as many hurting people as God allows that even when you don’t love yourself, God will always love you. It is His desire that the cycle of brokenness and abuse be removed from our lives so we can walk in His freedom and purpose for our lives. God has a purpose for you. It is not to be abused. Once you start crying out to Him, He will hear you. He has been there all the time. About the Author Loretta Young is a human resources professional and is a member of the worship team at The Stockton Tabernacle of Faith of Open Bible in Stockton, California. She also teaches women at Inner City Action, a faith-based organization in Stockton.