Sharing My Story After Sexual Assault- A Letter from Claire Couche
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Dear Sister Who Has Been or Is Being Sexually Abused,
I shared my story, a painful story I kept locked up tight in the corner of my heart, to a woman at a retreat I went to during college. She was praying over people and I was the last to get prayed over. I walked up to her, with my heart pounding, and shared with her that I had been sexually abused years prior. I didn't know her well, yet my heart was broken, numb, and afraid. She looked at me with such intense love, and for the first time in years, I could raise my head, look someone directly in the eyes, and accept love. I knelt down, felt her hands rest on the top of my head, and prayed along side her, begging Jesus to heal my heart. He did. In abundance.
"I shared my story, a painful story I kept locked up tight in the corner of my heart, to a woman at a retreat I went to during college."
Sisters, there is hope, healing, and life after darkness. True love is real and possible. Christ is waiting to heal you. He is yearning to heal you. His love is pure and gentle. His love is sweet and healing. While I was being prayed over at that retreat, an image had come into my heart and mind. I was standing alone in a Church, feeling empty and raw. I looked to my feet and saw shattered, dark glass. I then saw Christ walking down the aisle to me. He looked at me with such love, and slowly began picking up the glass, piece by piece, and arranging them to make a beautiful, bright, glowing stained glass window. The stained glass window was of two hearts - a large one, and a smaller one inside of it. I knew from that moment onward, my heart was safe and whole inside of His.
Prior to the retreat, I wasn't able to share my story for years. I was gossiped about, mocked, and made fun of when I was sexually abused. I hid in shame and felt I was unworthy of true love. I want you to know that you are worthy of love. You are beautiful. Your heart - so beautiful and unique - that has undergone such pain, mockery, torture, and lies, needs Christ. And He is waiting for you.
"I was gossiped about, mocked, and made fun of when I was sexually abused. I hid in shame and felt I was unworthy of true love."
Every single day during the years I was abused, I went to daily mass. Even though I felt numb, I continued to go. I gazed upon the purity and love of Jesus, hidden within the white host, and I prayed that He would keep me safe there, with Him. Even if you are feeling lonely, angry, or afraid in your prayer during this time – please continue to pray. Please choose to share your story, please choose to ask for help.
"Every single day during the years I was abused, I went to daily mass. Even though I felt numb, I continued to go."
Miracles occur when we turn to our brothers and sisters in Christ and ask for their intercession. When I was abused I instinctively guarded my heart, I set walls around it to try to protect it from any intruder. Yet I could not survive this way. My heart was suffocating and in pain. The process of healing began to occur in my heart when I allowed my heart to become vulnerable and when I chose to talk about what happened to me.
Your healing may take time, or it may happen in an instant. It may be painful and messy. Yet the important thing to remember is that healing IS possible with Christ. My healing continues to occur every day – as I fall deeper in love with Christ, as my husband shows me the profundity of true love, and as I gaze at the beauty of our son. True, authentic, deep, and holy love heals.
"My healing continues to occur every day – as I fall deeper in love with Christ, as my husband shows me the profundity of true love, and as I gaze at the beauty of our son."
If you ever feel alone, know that I am praying for you. Know that there is life and love that is beautiful and true. Please don't be afraid to share your story. Please don't be afraid to cry out in pain, to cry out for help. Entrust your heart to Our Lady and Our Lord. For He is with us always, until the end of the age.
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
My name is Claire Couche, a Catholic wife and mother. I live in Buffalo, New York with my husband, Mike, and our son, Peter. I graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville, where I studied history and theology. I later received my B.S.N. and worked as an oncology nurse on a bone marrow transplant unit before becoming a stay-at-home mother. Over the past year, I have developed a strong passion for promoting ethically made clothing after watching the documentary, 'The True Cost'. I am combining my love for the medical field, ethical fashion, and Catholicism by creating an ethically made medical scrubs line under the patronage of Saint Giuseppe Moscati, an Italian doctor and miracle worker. I enjoy cooking, traveling, hand embroidery, writing for our blog "Finding Philothea", living life in abundance, and petite French pastries. I also really love learning about the Saints and celebrating Feast Days!
As millennial Catholic women, how can we be more compassionate and welcoming of those in our communities who are sexual assault and rape survivors?
Mike and I have three rules for our family. The first is to love God and one another. The second is to always speak kindly of others and never gossip. Our third family rule is to never make a decision based out of fear. The second rule – to speak kindly of others and never gossip - was definitely prompted by what I experienced. As millennial Catholic women we have a duty to honor and respect one another. When we gossip or speak poorly about our sisters in Christ, we are killing their reputation and name, which the Bible tells us, is more beautiful than gold (Proverbs 21:1). Being gossiped about was almost as difficult and painful as what I experienced. If you have a friend that has been sexually assaulted or raped – please let them know you are there for them. Smile, speak kindly, or even sit in silence together. The most healing thing we can do for women in difficulty or crisis situations is to share with them the true, authentic love of Christ that we ourselves have experienced. Do not be afraid to speak kindly and uplift a conversation!
"When we gossip or speak poorly about our sisters in Christ, we are killing their reputation and name, which the Bible tells us, is more beautiful than gold (Proverbs 21:1). Being gossiped about was almost as difficult and painful as what I experienced. "
Do you have any resources that have helped you along your healing process?
Spiritual direction, counseling, and the Sacraments really helped heal my heart. Holy friendships, where I experienced authentic love, healed me. Frequenting the stillness and silence of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament helped me fall deeply in love with Jesus, the Divine Physician. My advice is to tell someone what you have experienced and ask for help. It is one of the most vulnerable feelings, but trust in God’s promise that it is in our weakness that we are made strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). Place all your confidence in Him and trust that He will bring about your full and complete healing.
To the woman who feels like there isn’t a place in the Church for her because she has been raped or sexually assaulted – what advice would you lend her?
You have the most special place in the Church. You have a place hidden deep within the wounds of Christ. You are beautiful and worthy of a profound and joyful love. Christ is eager to romance and heal your heart. He is waiting for you. Walk to the foot of His cross and cry out in your pain and sorrow. He suffers for you, He bleeds for you, and He weeps for you. Trust in His love. Trust in His mercy. Your place is in the love of Christ’s most Sacred Heart. Your place is in the safety of His Mother’s mantle. Your place is in the arms of His Bride, the Church. Your place is among the joy His Saints. There is a place for you – a beautiful one that Christ has prepared for you and you alone.
"You have the most special place in the Church. You have a place hidden deep within the wounds of Christ."
Fill in the blank
My favorite liturgical holiday is…
Easter! Closely followed by Christmas, which is closely followed by the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God!
A saint I identify with the most is…
the Saints (and Blessed!) who died at the age of twenty-four: Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, Saint Therese of Liseux, Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, and Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows. Since I was young I prayed for a gift at the age of twenty-four through their intercession and that is the year I met Mike, my husband! I continue to thank them and ask them for their help each day! I love them!
My favorite quote is…
the Bible verse John 10:10: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
I feel at peace when…
I am truly and fully living my vocation as wife and mother through our family's Rule of Life http://findingphilothea.com/rule-life-weekly-rhythm/
A current obsession of mine is...
the message of Divine Mercy. I just read “33 Days to Merciful Love” by Father Michael Gaitley and it has changed my life! I want everyone to read it and experience the beauty of Jesus' Divine Mercy!
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