“It happened on a Sunday night, even though I’d been a good girl and gone to church that morning.” So begins Ruth Huizenga Everhart’s account of what occurred Nov. 5, 1978, and how her life was forever changed.
Ruined (Tyndale, 2016) is the recounting of the night Everhart, then a senior at Calvin, and her four college roommates were raped at gunpoint by intruders in their off-campus Grand Rapids house and her struggles for nearly four decades after the harrowing crime.
“I had become aware of the long-term damage that was done to me,” said Everhart. “I decided it would be healthy to reconnect with the other victims. I was coming to recognize the impact of this event and wanted to reflect on it in a pretty thorough way, and I was curious how it had affected the other victims.”
In the process of reconnecting, an idea for a book was suggested, she said.
The reason for the disclosure nearly 40 years later is to offer hope to “all the women and men I know who have struggled with similar kinds of trauma,” Everhart said. “I thought they would appreciate something real, what it looks like to wrestle with God and how long it takes.
”For as the title of the book suggests, Everhart grappled with insecurity, fear and guilt. “I believed the messages I’d received all my life, both overtly and covertly, that if a woman wasn’t sexually pure, she was damaged, irreversibly,” she writes.
This perceived truth destroyed Everhart’s sense of value of herself and tested her relationship with God. “I wasn’t mad at men in general. I was mad at God,” she writes. “My indoctrination in sexual shame had connected the dots on an unconscious, emotional level. I believed I’d gotten raped as punishment from God. I was mad about it. But I couldn’t find my way out.
“... The other possibility I saw was even worse: my friends and I were the innocent vic-tims of a random act of violence. Which seems simple enough, unless you believe that God is sovereign. If everything happens according to God’s will, then did God will the rapes to happen? At the very least, He could have prevented them but chose not to. That scenario seemed unbelievable, even unforgiveable.”
Everhart believes there is more that can be done to help victims who are plagued by feelings of worthlessness and self-reproach. “I want people to know that you are more than what happens to you. No one can ever make you less than whole.”
In a closing letter to her daughters, Everhart writes, “In some ways I am sorry I had to write this book. ... But I cannot change my history. None of us can. Instead we have to learn to love our histories, whatever they might be. Our histories give us a particular lens on the word. If life is a gift—if the lens is a gift—then I should use that lens.”