According to an analysis of multiple studies involving 23,000 people, those who experience childhood abuse, especially physical and sexual abuse are twice as likely to experience chronic depression as adults than those not abused.
I provide this information because St. Josephine Bakhita, whose feast day is today, February 8th, suffered incredible physical, sexual, and emotional abuse from the age of seven until her young adulthood. In spite of this she became renowned for her holiness and joy by the time she died in 1947 at the age of 78.
Born to a well-to-do family she was kidnapped and sold into slavery at the age of seven. So traumatic was the experience that she forgot and never again remembered her birth name. She was sold to several different slavers that brutally abused her, physically and sexually. In fact she was tortured many times. (Need I remind anyone such things are still happening today, not just in third world countries but also in the U.S. and Europe)?
In St. Bakhita’s time trauma therapy didn’t exist so her flashbacks continued throughout her life and in fact intensified when she was on her deathbed. This begs the question. How did she escape the deep resentment that can occur when suffering continues long after abuse has ceased? Here’s how.
- First, she focused on her faith in God rather than her suffering.
- Second, with the help of advocates she complained to the authorities to achieve justice. She did not shy away from asserting her rights. I repeat. She sought and pressured for justice.
- Third, she focused on the present. Through discernment she knew the things God wanted of her and sought to complete them.
- Fourth, she listened and followed the advice, counsel, and requests of her peers and superiors when she knew they were in her and/or others’ best interests.
- Fifth, she used her experiences to help inspire and heal others. This is not just selfless generosity but a way to become empowered. When one uses a bad experience to create good one takes away the sense of victimhood.
You, who have experienced abuse, be consoled and inspired by St. Bakhita. Follow her example. Ask for her prayers as one who knew severe childhood and adolescent abuse and yet discovered her worth as a loved child of God. You, who are in the position to be a support and advocate for the abused, do so. St. Bakhita learned about God’s love through other people.
St. Bakhita pray for us.
Here’s a biography: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHRjm1dDzzI
This is a revised repost from 2011. Since then a book on St. Bakhita was published: Bakhita, From Slave to Saint by Roberto Italo Zanini, 2013. My copy is pictured above.