KM: So, at some point you got away.
Z: I think everyone, except myself, knew things in my life would get so bad that I would either have to willingly disappear or I would disappear. That's exactly what was happened. A couple of years ago my dad was planning to take me out of the country for an auction comparable to what he had forced me to endure in this country. He had my passport and control enough over me that I would have had no choice. It's possible to hate someone and obey them at the same time. I don't know that I can explain it; it just is, or was. At some point I told J what I knew. She started asking lots of questions, and was far more concerned about it than I knew or cared to be.
As the date drew nearer J and a few other confidants were getting more and more nervous about me leaving the country. There were probably other people that I don't know who were working with them to keep me safe. I'm sure that was hard and frustrating for them because I was never super cooperative. I wanted to be, but I was so terrified of my dad I could not function in any rational sense. Plus, listening to them meant relying on them for more than I thought was appropriate or acceptable. My dad must have suspected something was up, though. Before I could leave, two men also involved in trafficking found me outside a store. I have absolutely no memory of the following 24-hour period. I woke up in the hospital with J and another friend. I had been drugged and raped, but somehow I was still alive and in my city. The next day they took me to a rescue center.
KM: Tell us about being at the rescue center.
Z: Being a big bundle of (silent) attitude I showed up and hated everyone. I didn't want to be there. When I realized J wasn't coming back to get me after a couple of days I started plotting my escape, but I was in a completely different state and had no transportation, money, or phone. If had any one of those things I would have been gone.
I was not interested in building relationships with any of the people in the center. But they knew – divinely or otherwise – exactly how to start building trust with me. It's always the little things, seemingly insignificant, that count the most. I met an amazing counselor there who helped me work through things and begin the healing process. At first, I wouldn't talk about anything. I had no desire to let her know me. She started, though, by asking about things unrelated to the trauma and abuse. I have some mild sensory problems that definitely affect the way I interact with people and process the world around me. She wanted to know about them. I thought that was cool. Unimportant but cool. This allowed her to build rapport with me. From there we were able to transition into the darker and heavier things surrounding my life.
KM: You touched briefly on how God watched over you at different times. Anything to add to that?
Z: It's a little confusing to talk about because I don't have one date when I can say, "This is when I became a Christian and accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior." It's been a much longer – a lifelong – process for me.
When I was seven my Sunday school teacher literally scared the hell out of me. She was teaching us about the horrors of Hell and proceeded to lead us in the sinner's prayer. From that day forward, and for many years, I fervently prayed that prayer many times a day and every time my dad would hurt me. I didn't believe it worked the first time because my dad used my "badness" against me. He told me I was going to rot in hell because I was such a terrible little girl. This was all very confusing theology for my seven year old brain.
Because of the lies from my dad, God for me was only interested in my ability to be good. He was only needed as a savior from the scary eventuality of death and hell. At some point, however, something shifted within me. Something deep within the core of myself knew that what this man I called daddy was teaching me was wrong; I knew my church didn't have it quite right either.
At first my desire for truth was fueled out of rebellion against my dad, but it didn't stay that way. I knew I had to find truth for myself–the truth–if I was ever going to make it out alive. Then there were times when I didn't want to make it out alive, or I didn't believe I could or would. There were times when I didn't want to get better or live differently. It was during those times of raw and real hurt and honesty that I wanted to be as far removed from Christianity, as a faith and a culture, as I possibly could. I couldn't ever leave it behind completely, though. I knew that was just as heretical as the things my father instilled in me.
I'm not saying it has always been peachy (because it definitely hasn't) or that I haven't resisted God (because I did and still do), all I know is that I can't deny the existence of something that doesn't exist. I can't deny the fact that God has shown up in my life in unexplainable and unfathomable ways. I can't deny the love I've felt as intensely and tangibly as a hug. I can't deny my God full of mercy and grace. It doesn't always make sense to me, and I have frequent moments of doubt where I want to call myself crazy, but maybe I'm now to the point where I can really comfortably say the words "I'm a Christian" and not cringe. And that's a big deal.
KW: How has your life been since the rescue center?
Z: I laugh when I think about that question because my life now is relatively in exciting – in a good way. For the first time, my life is calm and stable and safe. I've felt peace and rest – that's remarkable. I have a wonderful job with wonderful employers. I have great friends that I care about deeply and I have no doubt they care about me tremendously. I am able to more fully enjoy music (also a really big deal) and have time to do art and enjoy being me, and figuring out who I am. Those are the good things. I don't want to lie and wrap up my story for you and make it pretty. There are still bad days and really hard moments and feelings. I miss my home state like I can't even explain, and I struggle maintaining relationships with people I love. I still don't always trust the authenticity. That's kind of unilaterally true for my relationship with God as well. It's funny, maybe, but one thing I've noticed is that is was much easier for me to feel secure in God and his presence when things were really bad. When things are good, I seem to really struggle to trust and know that I'm still His. It's so much easier to begin looking for my identity in things of this world. But one thing that seems to be very anchoring for me me is the thought "I am NOT of this world. This is not my home." It just reminds me that I am one small piece of an ultimately beautiful story. Remembering that is why I wanted I share my one little piece.
This series was orginally posted at www.martyduren.com.