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HerStory: Casey Groff

By: Casey Groff 


As a somewhat naïve young woman I took the world by storm upon graduating with many accolades behind my name- from my degrees, to my volunteer experience in churches, universities and non-profits. I knew that I was more than prepared for all the challenges ahead of me, or so I thought. Maybe you are thinking ‘Whoa! That sounds like she DID do a lot!’ Well so did I, but little did I know this did not have much to do with what God has planned for me. 

I had always been somewhat of a free spirit in my college days, growing my hair long, not wearing shoes, and figuring out my faith that was always a little different than those around me in the private Christian school my parents were proud of me for attending. All of my experiences hadn’t exactly prepared me the “real world”.  My spiritual journey did not yet include an actual meeting or understanding of the Jesus of the Bible: the radical, counter cultural, healing and redemptive man that Jesus really was during this time. I still saw God as a sexist white man sitting on His throne judging me and watching me, desiring perfection from the  “good girl” I was raised to be.
Upon graduating I decided to use my education and experience by jumping into full-time advocacy position for sexual abuse survivors. I decided this wasn’t enough, so I applied for graduate school at a secular and reputable university. I was not prepared for what I faced next. In class discussions and lectures I frequently found myself having to represent “all Christian women” and was often challenged for beliefs that I wasn’t too sure I held anymore. I was immersed both at work and in school in the LGBTQIA community and had no idea how to engage in conversations with this community about what Christians thought about their lifestyle choices. I desired the empowerment and freedom women within the LGBTQIA community and in my Graduate program all seemed to have obtained and exercised so freely. I had a past of sexual abuse as a child, teenager, and in my college years so I longed to feel empowered around my sexuality as I thought they were.

–>I wanted to own my body, choices, ideas, and beliefs, but felt as if I was owned by that large white man with a big beard sitting in His throne of judgment, floating in the sky, which I wasn’t too sure even existed anymore. I wanted my life back so I followed suit of those around me believing; I had found the road to the true freedom I desired.

I mentioned before I had always been somewhat of a free spirit, however in high school this played out in a reputation as a party girl. In college, I had my moments when being the “good Christian girl” got dull, boring, or too hard. So, I would escape through week-long binges thus fulfilling my party girl status. My work with sexual abuse survivors resulted in sitting with men and women of all ages, where I was not allowed to talk about God. I sat there with them, sharing space as they shivered and wept and I wondered, “What can I give these people? What hope can I even offer?” I began sliding into a pit of despair as my own traumatic experiences of being abused and taken advantage of time after time throughout my life began to resurface. I felt like a crazy person as I continued to re-live every moment, every day in this job. I decided to find freedom that so many around me claimed to have and I did whatever I wanted, when I wanted it. I drank, partied, exercised my “sexual freedom” and woke up every day feeling more empty than the day before.
I stopped being the “Christian voice” in my classes and debates and settled into the uncomfortable reality that I did not know what I believed. However, I didn’t feel delivered in this perverse world I found myself in. I felt dirty, ashamed and completely overlooked and forgotten. I also began drinking to dull the sharp and painful memories that ripped me apart every night. I drank a bottle or two of wine a night. I was still able to exercise, work as a sexual assault victims’ advocate, attend Graduate school, waitress every night, and had friends and multiple relationships that reinforced that the way I was living was fine. I did start seeing a counselor when I was working as an advocate and I sounded fine in her office too. I looked fine; I smiled and pretended to be fine….
But one night I woke up, in a dimmed hotel bathroom on the floor. My head rang and my cheek was swollen. What had happened? I had taken an “empowering trip” in a black out to Las Vegas, to have a rendezvous with a stranger, where I ended up being drugged, beaten, and left for dead in a hotel room. I looked in the mirror with red lipstick smeared across my face and bruises spotting my arms, legs and stomach. I was suddenly very aware that this is not who I really am. This is not who I was designed to be. This is not the life I ever dreamed about living. This is not true empowerment or freedom. I am a slave! I am in complete and utter bondage to the darkness of the pit. I am consumed by the evil contents of that pit. I grabbed my things, rushed out and got on a plane. I picked up my phone and called my counselor and told her that I need help and how not fine I really was. I wanted to live. I chose life! This landed me in a rehabilitation facility. Casey, Miss Graduate student, non-profit advocate, free spirit and happy girl, found herself rooming with heroine addicts and mothers, whose children had been taken from them, after driving drunk into trees with their preschoolers sitting in their car seats with them. I was one of them. This is where the world’s version of freedom had brought me.

The only book I was allowed to have in the small and sterile hospital room was my Bible. The Bible, for which I had gotten my degree for studying it, still represented the mean man in the clouds who only likes “good little girls.” It followed me in that place. I whispered into the silence, “if I don’t find you in here, I think we are done,” and I opened to a random chapter and began to read. A man showed up. A beautiful, loving, tender, gentle, honest, freeing man began coming to life on these pages. His name was Jesus and he was not judgmental. He did not hate women and he sought out the broken, abused and overlooked widows in society and gave them new names, identities and healed them! I met Jesus, the true empowering Jesus, in rehab. I grabbed His hand, fell in love, and ran towards Him with everything inside of me. I began feeling clear headed and my heart began to hurt less. Gaping wounds that oozed inside began to heal and scab and I could actually just be, in the moment, and have real conversations. I actually liked myself and saw that I am creative, funny, smart and so much more than my physical self or accolades behind my name. The other people in the program called me “flower” and asked me to pray for them. I lived for 4 months in a recovery home with drug-addicts and alcoholics. I prayed for them daily and wept with them as they shared their broken hearts with me. I shared about Jesus and the freedom found in His presence and I could actually offer them hope, the same hope I had discovered in Jesus.

There is so much more to my story, in fact this is only the beginning, but I wanted to share my story for the young women who look ‘fine’ with the pretty smiles, cute clothes, accolades behind their names and plans for tomorrow. For anyone who felt like me, that they were more lost than ever but they had to keep it silent or maybe you are so ashamed by what you’ve done or what’s been done to you, you are just trying to survive. It is too each one of you, wherever you are at, I want to encourage you to grab hold of His hand today and live in true freedom because there is so much more for you in the bright and beautiful world. It is time for you to start living courageously in it!

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