Meant for Good
Christy Leach - April 19, 2023
Topic: Abuse, Grief, Shame, Vulnerability
At the Center for Marriage and Relationships (CMR) we recognize that sexual assault is sadly a reality that many in our lives have experienced. The CMR is dedicated to both honoring and loving the survivors in our lives, as well as actively participating in efforts to raise awareness that helps prevent the evil of sexual assault.
Below is a survivor's story from one of our very own Biola colleagues and sister in Christ. We are grateful for her boldness in sharing her story with us all.
Warning, some content may be difficult for some readers.
“You’re Filipino aren’t you?” The USC campus doctor asked me as he assessed the lingering cold/flu symptoms that brought me into the Health Center. “Here is a picture of my wife, who is Filipino.” A friendly dialogue had started as I corrected him. “I’m half Mexican and half Japanese, but many people mistake me for being Filipino.” He misread my cultural heritage but did not misread my innocence. He was evaluating more than just my health, and there was no doubt that he knew I would be an easy target.
The grooming process was well underway. Gaining trust and wearing down defenses is a tactic that sexual predators use to lure their victims.
“I am not just a regular doctor, but a gynecologist. Have you had your yearly exam?” he continued as he handed me the antibiotics. “You are well overdue for your exam at age 22.” I had never had such an exam, and willingly agreed, feeling fortunate that he had the time to fit me into his schedule. Seeing right through my naivety, he knew that behind that closed door, he had free reign to do whatever he wanted under the guise of gynecological care.
The act of putting on a glove and providing a drape cloth was unnecessary in his predatory practice.
Everyone complains of the horrors of gynecological exams - and what I experienced was nothing short of that. Surely, that is what they meant, right? The human spirit is strong and wants to believe the best in others. I gave that medical professional the benefit of the doubt and pushed away any uneasiness or confusion over the exam. A full schedule of classes and three part-time jobs guaranteed there was no time to allow the uncomfortable circumstances of that exam to ruminate in my mind. Uncertainty and avoidance allowed me to remain in denial for many years.
There are many reasons survivors of sexual assault do not report, and it’s not uncommon for survivors to delay, or in some cases, refrain from ever sharing their stories.
Facing My Fears
Decades later, in May 2018, the LA Times released the story about the USC doctor accused of repeated misconduct. The article confirmed the fears I had so carefully packed away. Moreover, it exposed that the university was aware of the doctor's misbehavior. Turning a blind eye, they led hundreds of women into the doctor’s exam room for nearly 30 years.
Safely behind the door of my room that afternoon, my first thought was, “This secret is safe with me. No one needs to know.” As I wrestled with telling my husband, the Lord kindly reminded me that He had placed me in a community and I was not alone. Behind that closed door, I was a victim, but once I came out of that door, I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, and a friend. Most importantly, I am the daughter of a loving, gentle Shepherd who would comfort me as I faced my trauma.
Although it was not easy, it was a cathartic experience to have others in my community share the burden. When the voices in my head told me that I was responsible for what happened to me, they reminded me that it was not my fault.
I wish I could say that the response from the community will always be positive, but that is not always the case. Just as complex as it is for a survivor to share their story, I believe it’s equally difficult for family and friends to admit that their loved one has suffered harm. Or worse, to acknowledge that their loved one has been harmed by another loved one. Our society could benefit by fostering a posture that allows us to walk loved ones through sexual assault with validation and dignity.
Although my husband was a great source of comfort and support, I longed for another who could empathize with me. Yet, I did not know of another survivor, let alone another who had encountered a serial rapist.
Rachael Denhollander came to my mind one evening as I watched the footage of women who were survivors of the Larry Nassar case. That evening, I sent her a Facebook message and she replied the next day. Rachael walked me through filing a police report, pursuing justice through legal means, and gave me information on seeking spiritual healing. Her kindness towards me as a believer, manifested the Shepherd’s care.
Finding Purpose as an Advocate
The words of Joseph echoed so clearly in the early days, reminding me that there is a purpose for me in the trauma. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” Genesis 50:20.
As I share my story with others, many will reciprocate by telling me their own stories. Periodically beginning their accounts with, “I have never shared this with anyone before, but…”
Last year, I received a phone call from a young friend who suffered assault after an evening of hanging out with some friends. Someone had slipped a drug into her drink, and she woke up the next day with no recollection of what had happened the night before. As a result of knowing my story, she allowed me to drive her to the hospital and stand by her side as she reported her assault.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), what I experienced in the Health Center was nothing as one should expect for their first gynecological exam. Had I been informed of what to expect during a sensitive exam, I may have been able to advocate for myself that day.
Determined to protect young women from a similar outcome, I proposed a way to provide informed consent to young women having their first gynecological exam. During the 2019-2020 legislative session, Assembly Members Ian Calderon and Cottie Petrie-Norris co-authored AB 1030. The bill would require medical offices to offer a pamphlet informing patients of what to expect during their first exam. Should they experience mistreatment by their doctor, it would also provide contact information to the California Medical Board, which oversees the licensing of medical doctors. The bill passed unanimously on the Assembly floor and made progress in the Senate until it finally failed on the Senate floor. In the near future, I look forward to bringing this essential work to the legislature once again.
What the campus doctor meant for evil that day in the Health Center, God has used for good. It has been my privilege to support other survivors who have needed the courage to take the next step in their journeys. My desire in sharing my story is to encourage other survivors of sexual assault that they can find healing, restoration, and meaning out of what has happened.
As a sexual assault survivor, Christy hopes to inspire other survivors to begin their healing journey by sharing their story. If this story has at all impacted or impressed upon you a desire to talk to someone Christy would like to provide her contact information: email@example.com
Christy Leach has many opportunities to disciple women, young adults, and teens through the Moms in Prayer and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes club at the local high school, and her local church. As a sexual assault survivor, she hopes to inspire other survivors to begin their healing journey by sharing their story. Her greatest inspiration for her work in sexual assault advocacy comes from her husband, Tony, who she has been married for over 19 years, and their two wonderful children: Anna and Joey, who are both high school students at Sonora High School in La Habra, CA.