Note to readers: This post is the first in a three-part series. I met author Wendy Blight last year and, given the national conversation that’s taking place about sexual violence, particularly on college campuses, I found her story both relevant and redemptive. JB
“I hesitated, then spoke three words I never thought I would utter: ‘I was raped.'”
Wendy Blight had a seemingly perfect life. Voted a “Baylor Beauty,” engaged to be married to her college sweetheart, job offer in hand as she graduated – it was all working out exactly as she had planned. But then, after a leisurely afternoon by the pool with her friends on a muggy Texas day, she returned to her apartment and found a masked man waiting for her, wielding a large knife.
What followed was a horrific crime, and then a 15-year journey to find answers: Where was God when I was attacked? How can my rapist go unpunished? Can I ever feel safe? Will I ever just be normal again?
In her compelling book, Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner: The Transforming Power of God’s Story,Wendy tells how, after the assault, fear and doubt became the driving force in her life. I imagine that anyone who has ever been the victim of sexual violence would readily understand Wendy’s torment. For those who have not experienced that pain, the honesty in her story opens the door to a deeper level of empathy, offering valuable insight into how to come alongside those who are hurting.
If you’ve been around this blog for awhile, you know I love the University of Virginia, and right now I am privileged to be part of a group of students, alumni, and faculty members who are working to assess (and improve) the school’s climate and culture, particularly as it relates to sexual assault. We’ve talked with legal experts, law enforcement officers, bystander education advocates, professional counselors and a host of other brilliant and compassionate people, and I am encouraged by the progress that’s being made. New policies and procedures are taking shape, and more and more students are stepping forward to help one another.
Perhaps nowhere, though, have I seen the path to hope and healing charted so clearly as it is in Hidden Joy. Because she has “been there,” and because she doesn’t try to gloss over her anger or her confusion, Wendy’s story resonates with truth. And when she begins to trust God – to see his hand in her life, working for good purposes, even in the midst of her pain – it makes you want to stand up and cheer. It’s like watching a prisoner step out into the light.
I wish I could put a copy of Hidden Joy into the hands of everyone who has ever been a victim, or who has ever wanted to help a friend find hope amid the ashes of suffering. I can’t do that, but sweet Wendy has offered to send a free, signed copy of her book to someone who posts a comment on this blog – we’ll pick a giveaway winner at random and announce that on Wednesday.
I’m also turning this space over to Wendy for the next two days. Tomorrow, she’ll recap her story and offer a free chapter of the book to anyone who would like to read more. And Wednesday’s post will feature strategies for staying safe, insights Wendy first shared on Oprah Radio and now offers to us. They’re commonsense tips, but important ones – and, if you’re like me, you’ll want to forward them to your children, your friends, and anyone else who will listen.
(3.18.15 – Congratulations to Helen Roberts of Virginia Beach, who will soon be receiving her complimentary copy of Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner – and thank you, Wendy!)