From #MeToo to #SetFree

01/27/2018 .
Katie Nguyen  .  Guest Storyteller

In 2 Samuel 13 there is a story about King David’s children: two of his sons, Amnon and Absalom, and one of his daughters, Tamar. Amnon lusted after Tamar and made arrangements to get her alone so he could rape her. After she was raped, Tamar ripped off her robes that were only allowed to be worn by virgins and covered herself with ashes in the street. In that culture, value was placed on virginity to the point that Tamar would no longer be able to marry. Forced to embrace a new shame-filled identity that day, Tamar was considered worthless.

To add insult to injury, her brother Absalom found out what happened and told her, “Be quiet about this, don’t let it upset you so much.” Then he took her to his house to live where she was sad and lonely.

Things didn’t end well for the brothers. Absalom murdered Amnon and a few years later, Absalom was killed as well. The Bible doesn’t say what happened to Tamar, but most likely she spent the rest of her life alone and in the shadows. In silence, embracing her identity of what had been done to her instead of who God had created her to be.

Silencing women who have been sexually exploited has been happening since the beginning of time. If Tamar had social media perhaps she would have been brave enough to type #metoo. It breaks my heart to see how this generational curse has been passed down, even thousands of years later. But now, with the #metoo movement, women are speaking out after years of silence in the midst of sexual exploitation and abuse.

As a young girl, I was molested by my own brother. My silence over 15 years took its toll on me. I couldn’t speak about being defiled it made me feel devalued. I spent my teen and young adult years looking for love in all the wrong places because I didn’t know I had value. My sexual exploitation permeated my identity. My silence robbed me of my purpose. In my silence I was surviving, but surviving isn’t truly living.

My path to healing was a long, difficult journey. It started when I was 22 and I finally told my parents what had happened to me. They were empathetic but didn’t really know how to support me and didn’t want to talk about our family’s dirty laundry for long. I still felt alone but I felt a release that I had broken the silence and was heard.

Not long after, I told the man that would be my future husband. He wasn’t sure what to say besides that he was sorry. His actions spoke louder: he didn’t flinch; he didn’t leave; he wasn’t disgusted with me. I think this was my first level of healing my identity. It was the first time I was able to see that what had been done to me was not who I was. That man turned out to be a keeper.

Years passed and God eventually led me back from my wayward years. I spent a lot of time with my nose in the Bible, learning about God’s character and what the Bible said about pain. I memorized verses and meditated on passages, praying that God would help me feel the healing I was reading about. I prayed he would help me forgive like he did.

Then one Sunday about 4 years ago I sat on the church patio listening to Pastor Rick preach on Matthew 5:23–24. It’s the passage about reconciling with a brother or sister before bringing an offering to God. Immediately the man who had molested me as a child came into my mind, literally my brother. This was a critical time in my life because I knew God was calling me into ministry. I knew this was something God wanted me to do so that he could heal me before he promoted me.

I called my mom and got my brother’s number. It was awkward and hard but I was able to speak to him and offer forgiveness. He never said sorry. I didn’t need to forgive him so that he could tell me that he was sorry. I needed to forgive him so that I could be set free.

On our call he was able to share some of his current struggles and I added him to my prayer list. We stayed in touch. Three months later, I found out that his girlfriend was pregnant with twins. I was devastated. This was my worst nightmare; how could he have children after what he had done to me? I was furious with God. I questioned how God could have me reconcile with my brother and then slap me in the face with this. The worry for the unborn children almost overtook me. I couldn’t sleep.

Then God showed me something. He had brought me back into his life to pray for my brother’s children. God had called me to be an intercessor for breaking generational curses in my family. I added them all to my prayer list. I prayed God would give me the strength to intercede on their behalf. I prayed that God would keep me from moving backward thinking about what had been done to me but go forward in the purpose he had set before me. I stayed in touch and prayed and encouraged my brother to plug into a church in his area. He didn’t.

When the twins were 18 months old, my brother called me one night. He said I probably wouldn’t hear from him again and to make sure his kids were taken care of. He was high and manic — not a good combination. He was also clearly suicidal. I stayed on the phone with him for a while, talking him down from his suicidal thoughts and trying to find out where the children were.

When I hung up, I called my sister. She just happened to know a social worker in his area. She got her number for me and I called the next morning. The social worker answered and when I explained the situation and my concern she said in shock, “That is so weird — the kids file just landed on my desk.” God was affirming why he had placed me in their life.

The children had been placed in a foster home because my nephew had ingested methamphetamine. He was fine but needed a lot of testing. I asked if I could come and see them. I had never met them before. It just so happened I would be two hours from their state the following week.

When I went to visit I walked into the CPS Building and was met by my brother, the foster mom and the children. They looked OK. They were talking and playful and seemed to be adjusting to the new foster mom. She was a Christian and was taking them to church. The foster mother took them home after our visit and I took my brother out for coffee.

I listened as he recounted the childhood trauma we both suffered. He talked about how it felt to be thrown out of the family after it came out that he had molested other children too. As I sat listening the only feeling I had was heartbreak. He was living in such bondage. If only he knew my Jesus. It was in that moment seeing his bondage that I was truly set free. When all I wanted was healing for him, to connect him to Jesus, that was the moment I knew God had completed his healing work.

Freedom was a process for me. From breaking my silence, to seeking healing from God, to forgiving, then praying for my brother and his kids. And now God is using me to set others free. I now lead a Saddleback Women’s Monday night Bible Study, helping others know the character of God and discover freedom from their bondage. I guide women through their own #metoo moment but I don’t leave them there. I am not happy until I see them embrace what God has for them — freedom!

#Metoo is a great starting point. Breaking the silence is the first step in healing. But I no longer identify as #metoo because now I am #setfree.

#setfree to not be defined by what has been done to me but by a God that has created me

#setfree to live shame free and hope filled

#setfree to love and forgive

#setfree to step into the purpose God has for me

#setfree to set others free

If you’ve been mistreated or abused, you don’t have to remain silent. Learn more at