The Road to Freedom by Debora Shanley

There was a part of my past that I kept out of my testimony for many years, and it increasingly burdened my heart as time went on. Until, in 2019, God gave me the courage to finally share it with the world, and the weight I had been carrying fell right off of me. The Lord has called me to write my story to encourage others with similar experiences, so I am currently working on a book in obedience to His direction. My story is long and complicated, but it is worth every detail because I know it will be able to help others. However, I am only able to share a shorter version with you here.

Before I was born, Cambodia was taken over by communists who called themselves Khmer Rouge. They killed almost 8 million Cambodians, which was 21% percent of the country’s population at the time. This was the root cause of me being born in a refugee camp in Thailand. A week after I was born, my dad was sponsored to come to the United States by his parents to seek asylum along with them. After four years apart from my dad, my mom and I finally got to be reunited with him in Texas. He had missed most of my life already at that point; we didn’t know each other. Our father and daughter relationship started off rough right away. He didn’t know it then, but the PTSD he developed from being tortured almost to death by the Khmer Rouge affected him as a husband and dad. He had a short temper with my mom, my 2 younger siblings, and me. He was physically abusive to me from when I was 5 years old. When I was 11 years old, that was when he first molested me. My mom was at work during a night shift, and my siblings were asleep, so no one in my family ever knew.

My dad should have been a role model for me, loving me unconditionally and protecting me; instead, he was the person who took advantage of me, sexually abused and raped me, hurt me, manipulated me, lied to me, hurt my relationship with my mom, slandered my reputation to people I knew, and more. He did it for seven years. I tried so hard to look fine on the outside when I was around my mom, my siblings, my friends, and my relatives. When I was alone, I would write in my journal about my pain and anger, and prayed to God for comfort. I knew what my dad did was horrible, but because I was a kid, I was hoping he would change and the family could work things out together. The spiritual warfare in my home was never ending. My parents’ toxic marriage led to a divorce. While it was hard to see them end their marriage, it was the happiest I had ever seen my mom.

I thought my childhood was rough enough, but life got harder during and after my college years. In my book, I will share more details with you, but here are some of the hardships during that time. My mom was diagnosed with stage three lung cancer, and it shocked me to the core. I was in denial for the first month. We were dealing with some hard times already, and now cancer had to come along too. My siblings and I were hurting so much to see our mom in that condition. The cancer had spread from her lung to her liver and ovaries. She lost her battle with cancer within one year of her diagnosis. It all happened so fast. My mom went to be with the Lord in 2009; she was 41 years old. Then in 2015, my little sister who was only 19 years old passed away suddenly. It took me a while to have closure because I suspected medical malpractice contributed to her death. Both my mom and sister left too soon from this earth. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss them and think about them, but I’m thankful they no longer have to face the sufferings of this world. I look forward to seeing them again one day in the presence of the Lord.

For over a year, I’ve been going to therapy to heal from PTSD (which I didn’t realize I had from my childhood trauma), and it has helped me so much. This road to healing reopened my wound that was never taken care of properly. I had to deal with confrontation and acceptance on some truth about myself that I didn’t want to see. I am now seeing a transformation in my thinking, view, self-love, and relationship with God and people around me. I know that the journey I’m going through right now is crucial to my growth, so that I can be a better version of myself for me, my husband, children, and everyone around me. This was only possible through revealing the truth about my past. I am on the road to recovery and freedom from guilt and shame. The devil had plans to create downfalls in my life, but God has used those events to bring the greatest victories for me and glory for the Lord! I am no longer silent about how God has restored and transformed my life from all brokenness I endured. My husband and I are now on the front line to ending the generational curses, so our children and their children will only encounter God’s full blessings. As God has called me, I am now sharing my testimony to shine light on sexual abuse, helping others find their voice and directing others to God for hope, courage, and healing!

Debora Shanley

IG: @Shanley

This journal entree was featured in Issue V: The Quarantine – read the entire issue for free: Click HERE!

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