FORT WORTH, Texas, August 24, 2019: Until the McMartin Preschool case hit the media in 1983, childhood sexual abuse really wasn’t part of mainstream thought. These crimes were often swept under the rug, the victims not believed, or incidents were played down. Many of them never told. Of course, this was not always so, but it was a lot different than today. And thankfully so.
Parents, teachers, pastors, caregivers are much more aware of the signs and symptoms of sexual abuse, as well as any other type of the personal violation of children. Victims are much more likely to get professional help now and perpetrators are much more likely to face justice.
However, in spite of the raised awareness, many victims and survivors hesitate to share their stories with those closest to them. Some are still not believed, or the incidents are still played down. And while most loved ones are sympathetic and supportive, many often feel awkward, or don’t know how to comfort, or how to relate to the victim/survivor, especially when they are in crisis.
Victims are more likely to get professional help now and perpetrators are more likely to face justice.
With that being said, it takes a lot of courage and determination to share this type of history in book-form for all the world to see. It also takes deep faith in God to know He will be with you every step of the way and won’t let go.
My friend and fellow author, Jennifer Greenberg has done just this. Her background makes anyone with a heart wince. She faced terror, misery, and loneliness for the first twenty-one years of her life. But has since started and continues to heal. And because of her ongoing recovery wants to share her story in hopes that it will help others.
Her book, Not Forsaken: A Story of Life After Abuse: How Faith Brought One Woman from Victim to Survivor, was released on August 22, 2019. Here is my interview with Jennifer. And like her, my sincere hope is that this and her book will help heal people everywhere.
1. When and why did you decide to share your story?
I’d wanted to write for a long time. I think, for over a decade I felt a need to write, but I wasn’t to a place in my recovery where I knew where to start or could really explain what I was going through or even what exactly had happened to me. I grew up with domestic violence, sexual abuse, and psychological abuse, so for a long time I thought a lot of terrible things were normal, or not that big of a deal. It wasn’t until I matured, began to heal, and was able to compare my dad to the Godly man my husband is, that I really realized how messed up my childhood had been.
When I first sat down to write, my goal was to compose a series of letters to my husband. I had memories that were too upsetting to share verbally. I had emotions and behaviors that I didn’t totally understand myself. So, writing those letters was my way of expressing myself in a safe and structured way, and also of analyzing and studying myself. After I wrote two or three letters, I realized they were definitely chapters, and this was more than a journal, but something publishable. I began to hope that somehow, they could encourage other survivors, and empower other spouses and pastors and loved ones to better care for and understand the victims and survivors in their life.
2. What were your fears, if any, about sharing such intimate and painful details of your past with the rest of the world?
That my abuser would retaliate. That family members would be angry and cut me off. When I still lived at home, my dad would threaten to shoot me if I ever tried to leave or betray him. I’ve had nightmares since I was about 11 years old of being raped or murdered by my dad or someone else. Those nightmares had mostly gone away, but started up again as I began writing, researching, and editing chapters. So, there has been a lot of anxiety, sleepless nights, and fear. However, the more I showed the book to pastors, counselors, friends, and fellow survivors, the more I realized that Not Forsaken is an important message, and that it’s worth the risk and the stress to see it through and get it out there.
3. What were your goals for telling your story? Have they changed since you finished the book? Any new goals?
Not particularly. I think the only thing that has changed has been my hope. Originally, I was content with self-publishing through Amazon and finagling all the editing, production, and marketing myself. I didn’t expect people to find it as compelling as they did. But I’ve been picked up by an incredible publisher who is emotionally invested and passionate about ministry.
I’ve received endorsements by some of my own role models; people like Dr. David Murray, J.D. Greear, Megan Lively, Bob and Polly Hamp, and many more. The Forward was written by Pastor Russell Moore, and the ERLC and Southern Baptist Convention have taken me underwing to write articles, contribute to their Caring Well Report, and speak at the ERLC Conference. I never would have imagined any of this two years ago. So, my goal at this point is basically, keep calm and let God handle this, because he’s clearly working. It’s gone far beyond what I could have imagined.
4. How long did it take you to write Not Forsaken? Any roadblocks?
The original manuscript took nine months and was about 90,000 words. Finding a publisher took about five months and editing took another five or six. We saved some material for articles and maybe a follow-up book someday. I think the biggest roadblock was just getting to a place in my recovery process where I was able to put words to my experiences and emotions. It was around Mother’s Day, 2017, that inspiration really struck.
Some things happened with relationships in my personal life, and I realized, “I can’t fix my family. I can’t save my abuser. I can’t change other people’s hearts. That’s God’s wheelhouse. All I can do is what I think is right with the talents and opportunities God gives me.” And as soon as I came to find peace in that knowledge, I suddenly had permission from myself to tell my story and not worry so much about what other people might think or do. I still get up about three times before bed every night to make certain the house alarm is on, but it’s getting better.
5. What do you want your readers to glean from your story?
Comfort. Encouragement. Empowerment. Whether they’re Christian or not, I’d like them to see how God works through suffering and even uses the wickedness of wicked people. He causes their sin to ultimately backfire on them, and leverages it to accomplish his beautiful, perfect, righteous plan of redemption. If my reader is not an abuse survivor, I’d like to encourage and enable them to help and comfort victims and survivors. If they are a victim or a survivor, I’d like to empower and inspire them as they grow and progress through their own recovery process to help them heal more quickly and fully. And of course, if they’re pastors, counselors, teachers, or leaders, I’d like to give them the insight and information they need to affect change in their churches, families, and communities.
6. What would you like to say to survivors of abuse?
That it’s going to be OK. That you can heal. That things do get better and easier. Where you’re at now is not where you’ll be next year or even next month. You can recover. Not only does God love you, but he sympathizes and relates with you, because he too was betrayed and abandoned, mocked, lied about, degraded, beaten, falsely accused, humiliated, stripped naked, and murdered. Jesus is an abuse survivor. He’s a death survivor. He has suffered and endured the evil of abusive and depraved people, just as we have, so we can trust him and find comfort in the knowledge that he understands what we’re going through, and he loves us enough to die for us.
7. How was/is God instrumental in your recovery?
God kept my faith alive through some truly dark times. I’ve loved Jesus and had a relationship with God since a very young age; for as long as I can even remember. There were many times throughout my life when I felt I was losing my grip on my faith, my sanity, and my very desire to live, but God never loosened his grip on me. He really shepherded me through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, as Psalm 23 puts it.
And not just during my childhood or teen years, but during my early marriage as I was diagnosed with PTSD and embarked on a decade-long journey of grappling with and processing the sins and crimes committed against me, as well as the psychological and emotional fallout from it. Some of it I still deal with. I startle easily and struggle with anxiety and occasionally have nightmares. I still have flashbacks every so often, where a negative memory will suddenly spring into my mind, but they’re much milder and usually don’t affect my mood or even really bother me anymore. They’re like spontaneous mental hiccups, but they’re there. So, it’s getting better. Much better.
8. What do you want the reader to know about Jesus and how he feels about us, abused or not?
Jesus is faithful. Even when we are not, even when our abusers are not, even if every person in our life betrays us and is proved a liar, he is faithful. God will never leave you or forsake you. Like the Good Samaritan, he gets down into the dirt and grime and trash on the side of the road, and picks us up as we are; broken, bruised, bloody, and hopeless. We don’t have to get our lives together before he’ll help us. We don’t have to clean up, dress up, and look nice for him to notice us or love us. He gets down into the raw mess of our desperate lives and carries us to safety and healing.
9. Do you have anything else you’d like to share?
Well, I’d like to express my thanks to everyone reading this; everyone seeking to build up and encourage survivors; to everyone yearning for healing and wholeness; to everyone working toward greater safety and change in our churches, communities, and culture as a whole. Thank you! You are a blessing from God, and it’s people like you who have given me hope, helped me heal, and helped me grow into the healthy mom, wife, and author that I am today. Never underestimate the power of your kindness, even when it doesn’t appear to be received or seen by others. God sees it. You are the difference.
Not Forsaken: A Story of Life After Abuse: How Faith Brought One Woman from Victim to Survivor is a new book from Jenn Greenberg. In the book Jenn shows how the gospel enables survivors to navigate issues of guilt, forgiveness, love, and value. And she challenges church leaders to protect the vulnerable among their congregations. Buy the book here.
Report Child Abuse:
Local Law Enforcement
Local Child Protective Services
State Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Numbers
1-888-PREVENT (1-888-773-8368) – Stop It Now
1-800-656-HOPE Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)
National Children’s Alliance
Claire has held a Texas Cosmetology License, Certification in Surgical Technology and has decorated cakes professionally. She believes that life is a banquet to be experienced and wants to learn and do as much as possible while she’s here. This Stay @ Home Mom has always loved to write and thanks to the Communities Digital News has got her chance. Her curiosity and writing lead her to create her column based on “garbage in garbage out” theory to provide interesting and thought-provoking pieces that enrich her readers.