Choosing survival

Today’s guest post is written by Sarah Roberts, a true survivor of childhood sexual abuse and domestic violence. Trigger warning to all readers: the content is honest and transparent on sensitive subjects. There’s also great hope shared here! Grateful to Sarah for sharing her story, which will hopefully inspire you if you’re currently living in an abusive situation.

I have dealt with a lot of tough and raw issues in my life from childhood sexual abuse to being
married to a narcissistic abuser who used almost every form of abuse over the duration of our 16-year
marriage/17-year relationship. I don’t say any of this for pity. I speak it because now I am able to talk
about what I went thru instead of feeling ashamed and worthless. My story doesn’t define me. I am not
going to lie and say that it hasn’t impacted my life, however. Anyone that has been thru anything
traumatic is affected by it and it will shape their life one way or another.

By the age of 19 I was expecting my first child with a young man that I considered the love of my
life. I knew he wasn’t perfect, but felt he was perfect for me. That I could possibly love him enough to
undo all of the wrongs in his life. He had joined the Marine Corps and we got married. Our little girl
made her appearance shortly after and I left everyone and everything behind to follow him to California
to support his military career. While it wasn’t horrible, I was very homesick. I then became pregnant with
my second child who was born with a cleft lip/palate. This boy went thru a lot in the first few years of his
life. We almost lost him to RSV and then shortly after a freak accident that gave him a brain bleed within
a few short months of his start to life. I cried and felt like the worst mom ever because I didn’t protect
him from the unseen. For a long time my mom consoled me over the phone with prayer and “I love you”
and letters written to the commanding officer at the hospital to get my son the treatment he deserved. I
believe that my first true “gratitude” was having a mom who would fight for my kids and even me in a
battle against the “brass”. Most people are intimidated by a title or badge or rank. My mom was not. She
respected their position, but that also meant that she held someone in their position to higher standards
and would call them out on it. IT WORKED!! A few people who knew her, say I remind them of her.

Fast forward a few years, once my husband who had been deployed to Iraq in 2003 got out of
the military 2004, we moved back to Arkansas. Thanksgiving 2005 was the last holiday that I spent with
my mom before she got sick and her mind altered. She lived another 6.5 months before passing away in
late June 2006. My baby boy that she was so excited to meet was born the day before her birthday in the
same hospital that she was in. I am grateful for the time I got to take care of her and the relationship
that I had with her before her mind no longer was the same.

After that, I had to have my gallbladder removed at 24 years old and a partial hysterectomy at the age of 26. I felt like my life had fallen apart. Thru my last pregnancy I hid a lot of abuse (sexual, verbal, &
emotional) that my husband put me through. I felt helpless because I had done this to myself. He was a good dad, and I felt like the only reason I went through that was because I deserved it.

In 2014 my husband started looking for work outside of Arkansas, because the pay here wasn’t
cutting it in his mind. He ended up getting a job in Florida. My dad begged me not to go because “sis,
your problems will still follow you.” I felt like I owed the loyalty to my husband to follow and support
him. My husband spent money like it was free and would never run out of it. I didn’t realize it then, but
he moved us to isolate us. My family knew he could be a jerk, but no one knew what he was really like.

In 2016 my life changed. My husband told me I wasn’t allowed to have friends outside of work
and that I couldn’t go and do anything with them. I didn’t understand why, but I knew this had become
severely toxic. He said if I chose anyone else over him, even friends, then he would take his life in front of
me and make sure our kids knew it was my fault. I felt stuck and helpless. A few short months of me
drinking myself to sleep just trying to make life bearable crying out to God for a way out. My daughter
came to me at work crying one day. She then told me my biggest fear had come to life. She had been
sexually abused. My mind was trying to wrap around it when she told me that it was by her father.

My first reaction was to go back to the house and take care of business to ensure he never hurt anyone else ever again. My daughter begged me not to, because she knew he would most likely get the upper hand and hurt me or all of us. After all he had been doing this for 6.5 years and had threatened to kill me if she told. My stomach dropped; I called the cops and then my neighbor. My neighbor asked my sons for help to get them out of the house and up to my job with me.

Within an hour and a half while the police were interrogating my daughter about her alleged abuse, my husband had been blowing up my phone. He had a GPS tracker on my vehicle so he knew where we were at. He had texted me, and I handed my phone over to the police at that point. He had just made threats of suicide. My daughter was taken by officers to the hospital, and my sons were kept safe at the police station. I was asked to go talk him down while SWAT sat outside of my house. He answered on the first ring when the detective I rode with called him from my phone. He told them he had nothing to say and then pulled the trigger that ended his life and upheaved mine while I was listening.

That was the beginning of my life.

The road that led to everyone who was put in my path is of a divine nature. I have so much to be grateful for from that situation, but it can be hard to process.

We made it out alive!

My kids and I have been through so much. Suicide itself is hard to overcome. With all the abuse
that came to the surface afterwards, we were broken. My first thought wasn’t how broken we were. It
was how even through all the bad we had gone through, my God had answered my pleas for help!

My oldest son struggled badly with everything. He took his anger out on me of course, because his dad was no longer in the picture. He still struggles with this today. With all the ups and downs, I went through a season of depression. I had several family members tell me that I wasn’t dealing with things in the right way with my oldest son. I battled through physical abuse with him trying to get him help that he didn’t want.

Almost 3 years ago, I put my foot down firmly with him and did the hardest thing I had ever had to do. I
kicked my oldest son out of my house. For everyone else’s safety I did the right thing even when it was
hard. A faithful friend who happened to be my former pastor’s wife reached out and said I know
you might not be ready for this, but I am sending you the contact information of a great Godly counselor
. I called that week and got in as soon as I could.

Starting counseling again (I had previously tried it three times) was nerve wracking and a little
intimidating. I also had a job interview for a part-time job the same day as my first counseling session. I
was offered a job as a receptionist at an Aviation FAA Repair Station in Hot Springs that day and then
headed to counseling. When I got there, my counselor spoke in a way that put me at ease. She reminds
me so much of my late mom that I was astounded. She is a little softer spoken though.

My part-time job turned into a full-time job, and I found that my work family became a big part of my life. My boss and his wife have become parent figures in my life, who pray over me and love me like one of their own, and now two and a half years later, I am the solo HR Coordinator for our ever-growing company.

My biological family and I aren’t as close as we once were, and even though that can sting, sometimes we must have certain folks removed from our everyday lives in order to move out of a comfort zone and move forward to where God leads us.

Counseling hasn’t gotten any easier, but it has opened a whole different level of understanding. My counselor redirects me to the Bible as needed and calls out for any actions or thoughts
that lead me down a negative road or go against God’s Word.

My children are almost all grown (22, 21 & 17) and have their own struggles. My prayer for them
is that they see me going to counseling and realize it isn’t a bad thing when you get a counselor that fits.
I pray that they always turn to God for their needs, blessings, and desires. I know they aren’t perfect,
but our road has been paved with a lot of Christians who have loved us through some horrible situations and will still help us find the joy in them.

I also have come to realize that life is hard, but we get to choose what we make of it! Do we wallow in self-pity, or do we realize that life’s lessons take us on a path with God that we otherwise would miss out on? Our decisions and actions become our testimony. I will be the first to tell you: I am not perfect. I struggle with everyday life, yet I still choose to put my faith in God because as you can tell from my story, He has never left me nor forsaken me. I made choices that weren’t always wise or Godly, but that’s exactly what free will is. Let us not blame God for what goes wrong in our lives.

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