My name is Christelle and I am a member of the Hope Circle.
I am twenty-one years old and from Luxembourg, a very small country in Europe. I am currently pursuing my bachelor’s in European Cultures, which I enjoy very much!
Over the past three years, I have been diagnosed with three chronic illnesses which have greatly impacted my life. My sickness has ultimately changed my heart for the better and has deepened my relationship with the Lord! Being a survivor myself, it took me a while to trust that God “knows the plans He has made for me” (Jeremiah 29:11). He used my pain to transform me, and I know that He never intended it for evil.
Around the time that my first illness appeared, I had doctor’s appointments every single day and had also begun seeing a new guy. My health began deteriorating rapidly and the constant pain left me unable to dress, wash, or even get up by myself. As the disease progressed, I tried many different treatments but no doctor had answers.
I had been an elite gymnast before getting sick and had a doctor that I had been visiting for many years. One day, he decided that because I could not move or defend myself, it was a good opportunity to assault me. The guy that I was seeing at the time acted as if he was appalled at what happened, but little did I know what was to come. In the past, he had already forced me to do things that I was not comfortable with, but I was still very blind. The disease continued to worsen, leaving me completely disabled and in debilitating pain. I sought comfort from the guy I was seeing, but he eventually took advantage of the situation and raped me.
It was a traumatic experience, but I pushed the memories of the assault and rape aside when I was soon hospitalized again. I thought I could simply get over it, however, the flashbacks returned and I suffered from intense PTSD. I was angry at God and thought that He had forsaken me. I could not understand why I had to experience so much trauma, but even though I felt weak and broken, I learned to apply the meaning of this Bible verse to my life:
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV
Sexual violence is rampant around the world and can happen to anyone. Being a survivor myself, I know how important it is to feel understood. Survivors need to be supported in the healing process and not left alone to fight the trauma. While dealing with PTSD, I found that allyship healed and empowered me. Allyship shows survivors how resilient they are, and how loved they are in moments when they may not feel like it. Their life still matters and God has not forsaken them.
The Freely in Hope community has both allowed me to help others and they also brought me healing. It is difficult to describe how women that I have never met before have become such role models in my life. They have taught me to become a better advocate for survivors of sexual violence. They have given me hope by providing other survivors with an ever-present ear to listen.
As a Hope Circle member, I have been able to communicate with other survivors and learn how to handle my own moments of anxiety. Seeing the scholars at Freely in Hope thrive shows how much work they invest in ending the cycle of sexual violence. Being a Hope Circle member means standing with survivors, and showing them that you believe them and that they are more than victims of their trauma.