Tag Archives: sexual violence

Caged Eyes

Caged Eyes: An Air Force Cadet’s Story of Rape and Resilience – Lynn K. Hall

As a young girl with big dreams, Lynn Hall set her sights on the stars. She steadfastly pursued her goal of becoming an astronaut, holding herself to incredibly high academic goals, maintaining physical fitness, and becoming thoroughly involved in the local arm of the Civil Air Patrol all in preparation for her application to the Air Force Academy. Nothing would prevent her from becoming an Air Force pilot, not even when her flight instructor began molesting and sexually assaulting her. When she did eventually arrive at the legendary Academy, she felt she had finally escaped a difficult past and found a world of opportunities. In addition to dealing with all the typical transitions from high school to college, Lynn also faced grueling physical training, intentionally demeaning behavior from upperclassman, and blatant sexism. When seeking to reestablish a sense of independence and passion, Lynn met with an upperclassman to learn more about additional flight opportunities. When he raped her, she was not only betrayed by this student, but also by the doctors from whom she sought care, the community she had worked so hard to become part of, and the institution she had revered since childhood. She became infected with herpes, which turned into viral meningitis and ultimately untreated encephalitis, leaving her with a chronic headache and a multitude of difficulties. Despite struggling through another year of cadet training, Lynn was eventually deemed incapable of becoming a pilot due to medical complications, and she began reassembling her life piece by piece in pursuit of healing herself and helping others.

“Caged Eyes” by Lynn K. Hall is the kind of story that hits you like the shock of jumping into freezing water. You know what’s coming, and you know the eventual outcome, but that foresight does nothing to lessen the impact. Unapologetic and unrelenting, Hall recounts her story of rape and sexual assault with straightforward candor. She is not apologetic for naming the harm caused to her by the people, professionals and institutions that she turned to for help and support, and neither is she apologetic for the discomfort caused by sharing her story publicly. Hall’s own experience is not exempt from this direct tone, and she discloses the shame, guilt, and emotional turmoil she felt at each encounter and each betrayal. Her self-awareness and insight into her own thought processes and emotional responses humanize and personalize her experience of sexual violence within a military institution. Although her story consists of unbelievable pain and suffering, it is simultaneously steeped in optimism and hope. Even when faced with insurmountable obstacles, Hall invariably returns to her belief in her ability to survive, thrive, and achieve great things.

Wow. It’s hard to find the exact right words to describe this book, but it is certainly a must-read. On the condition that you have strong support networks that are easily accessible, and possibly some distractions lined up to take your mind off the unbelievable mistreatment and neglect Hall endured at the hands of the people and institutions she trusted. Heartwrenching and heartfelt, this book will move you in all directions at the same time. Do what you can to prepare yourself, but there is nothing you can do to lessen the shock of her story.

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Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault

By Justin Holcomb and Lindsey Holcomb

For most survivors of sexual assault, the struggle to come to terms with such a horrific violation of one’s personal and physical boundaries can present a challenge that seem insurmountable. For some survivors, this struggle is further complicated by questions of sin and how to reconcile Biblical teachings with the traumatic violation that occurred. This book aims to address concerns specific to Christian religious teachings about sin, morality, transgressions against others and God, and the possibility healing and recovery after having experienced sexual assault. The authors discuss the emotional impact of sexual assault and different responses victims may experience, and then offer religious interpretations and teachings that show the ways by which faith in God and Jesus Christ offer solace, healing, and redemption. Throughout the book and in each chapter, the authors return to the notion of grace and disgrace, emphasizing the unconditionality of each. Early on, the authors define disgrace as “one-way violence” committed against a person, and that person bears no responsibility for the pain caused to them. They also reiterate the healing power of grace, “one-way love,” offered unconditionally by God to provide redemption, healing, and hope of a better future.

“Rid of My Disgrace” by Justin Holcomb and Lindsey Holcomb offers thoroughly researched and clearly presented arguments about the possibility of redemption following the sin and disgrace of sexual assault. Both authors have experience supporting survivors of sexual assault, and their definitions and explanations align with the commonly cited examples of varied emotional responses to sexual assault. They also personalize the story, offering narratives from individual survivors at the start of each chapter in the section dealing with responses to sexual assault. This humanizes the information and helps make it more accessible to survivors by showing examples of how others have dealt with similar situations. The authors then follow up each response with clear connections to scripture and religious teachings that show how sexual violence is never the fault of the victim, offer examples of recovery, and express the importance of accepting unconditional love and grace from God as part of the recovery process. The chapters in the middle of the book follow a predictable pattern (personal story, emotional response, scriptural teaching), and the book itself flows nicely by starting with an introduction to the issue of sexual violence and closing with an emphasis on hope and healing.

As someone who currently has a fair amount of distance from Christianity, I still found this book to be relevant and applicable. The descriptions, definitions, and examples of sexual violence and the possible impact it may have on survivors matched everything I have encountered as an advocate doing this work, and their suggestions for supporting others or seeking support are spot on. Although I may not necessarily agree with everything presented in this book, I do feelĀ able to endorseĀ it as a source of understanding and help on the issue of sexual violence as it intersects with Christianity. If you have need of this book, it is would be a good resource.

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