Growing up in the seventies, my friends and I were always afraid of the so-called “boogie man.” For many of us, the boogie man was a stranger who hid in the closet or behind a tree. Well, my boogie man was our sixteen-year-old neighbor, Gary. He was very aggressive and was involved in many altercations with the neighborhood kids and with his own siblings, as well. I was the tender age of five when I first encountered my boogie man. Saturday mornings, I loved to wake up early and watch “Road Runner” cartoons. One Saturday morning, Gary came over looking for my brother. As we watched, Gary began to tickle me, telling me to keep quiet so no one would hear. He asked for some water, and when I proceeded toward the kitchen, he walked behind me and began to fondle me. I was terrified of the way he touched me. I was a chunky, five-year-old little girl who had not developed anything that should have aroused anyone, but Gary was determined. He demanded that I be quiet, and told me that if I wasn’t, he would kill everyone in the house.
The abuse continued quietly. Eventually, I became so fearful that I would follow my brother around just to protect myself from Gary. This began the development of my “internal defense mechanism,” with which I still struggle today. There were times when he penetrated my vaginal areas with as many fingers as he could. Can you imagine that happening to a five-year-old? By the time I was six, I was being molested at least twice a week. For two years I endured Gary’s abuse. It had become a part of my life and had caused me to begin acting out in unusual ways. By the time I reached seven years old, however, my boogie man was gone. No one bothered me; no one was pulling on my “imaginary breasts,” fondling me, or kissing on me, trying to fulfill some perverted desire. I was finally free—well, temporarily.
I felt like I could finally live life as a normal seven-year-old with Gary gone. Things were returning to normal, and I thought that if I tried real hard, I could forget what he’d done to me. I decided to become more involved in my church’s activities. Since my mother was so active in the church, we kids were not allowed to simply attend; we also had to participate. One particular young lady who loved to come over was Regina. Very soon after starting to hang out with her, I discovered that Regina loved playing “husband and wife.” At first, we just pretended that we were husband and wife with children. I had lots of dolls, so we used them as our kids. However, this wasn’t enough for Regina. She would have conversations with me about her body that I knew were inappropriate, and when I refused to partake in them or listen, I would be physically abused. Here we go again, I thought. When Regina didn’t get her way with me, she would become violent and aggressive. She would twist my arm and throw me under the kitchen table if I refused to touch her. After a while, I knew she would beat me up, so I thought it best to just give in.
Regretting it the entire time—hoping someone would catch her—I felt like I was being tormented. In one of her rages against me, Regina kneed me in my groin area and it caused me a lot of pain and left a bruise. Finally, I had a reason to tell my mother—I had proof! The next Sunday came, and when it was time for me to go over Regina’s house, I showed my mother the bruise and told her that Regina had beaten me up. I was rescued from further beatings, but had I spoken up too late?After all, she’d been abusing me for at least a year; I had been officially introduced to lesbianism. Will I grow up to desire women? Will I live a normal life? What else could possibly happen to me? I didn’t have the answers to those questions, but I knew one thing at that point: I was free from my abusers—or was I?
As I entered my pre-teenage years, I no longer had to worry about Gary or Regina. They had become distant memories to me, and after being free from abuse for about three years, I had gotten to the age where my mother would soon be having that “little talk” with me—preparing me to deal with the opposite sex and other important issues of life. While going through this particular stage, I discovered that I had some serious issues that no one seemed to be able to explain. No one thought that maybe I needed a male presence in my life, since my father was dead and my brother was off doing his own thing, or that I’d been through some traumatic experiences. I remember wishing, If only someone would understand my pain, maybe I could be a better person. My mother’s “favorite” nephew, James, would become my father figure. He would spend quality time with me while allowing me to be a part of his family which consisted of a wife and two daughters. Life was great! One particular Sunday night, as James was taking me home, we drove around and ended up at a local place where we could walk on the pier and talk of taking a cruise somewhere. We walked for a while and then returned to the car, because he claimed that his leg was in great pain. As we sat in the car talking, I began to ask questions: “Do you think I’m cute?” “Do you think I’m fat?” “Do you like other women in the church, or do you like me?” As I asked these childish questions, he responded with every answer I wanted to hear—he was winning me over. Wow, could it be true that he’s really choosing me? The conversation continued and he kissed me on the left cheek, then the right, then on my chin, my forehead, and finally on my lips. I sat on the passenger side of that Buick Regal thinking I was the luckiest girl in the world, but as he drove me home he said, “You can’t tell anybody what’s happened; this is our secret.” That night I slept like a baby, holding my pillow and feeling like I had been crowned Miss America and that there was nothing I could not conquer.
Because I couldn’t tell anyone about this relationship, I had to lie to my mother, my siblings, and my friends to see James. Most times we would plan to meet each other after Bible studies, after Sunday night services, or following any other special service at our church. James felt our love was strong enough to take it to the next level. January 1979, my life would change forever. James picked me up to take me to a hotel where we would express our love. You might ask, “How could a forty-two-year-old man claim to be in love with a thirteen-year-old child?” The night began with introducing me to child pornography and after convincing me of his love, I lost my virginity to my forty-four-year-old cousin. My virtue—something that I now know was a gift from God—was gone. This distorted relationship of lust and sex continued until I was 19 years old.
I graduated from high school in 1982 and felt while in college I would put away these traumatic experiences and start fresh. I met Dwayne during the winter semester at Norfolk State University. I was so excited because I was finally dating someone and I didn’t have to hide it. It was close to Christmas and we were preparing to leave school for the holidays. I had been talking to Dwayne for about three weeks, and he invited me over for a big Christmas party at his friend’s home. While we waited for his friends to return home, which never happened, we began to fool around with each other. I didn’t want to take things too far, which irritated him to the point of violence. Dwayne raped me and threatened to kill me. I remember being slammed into a wall with his hand around my throat. The sweet young man, whom I had trusted, had become a different person when I told him no. We all know that date rape is hard to prove. So, I chose to live with yet another secret and tried to move on with my life. I figured it would be another trophy in my “abuse cabinet.”
I became very bitter and decided to take revenge on every man I met. I begin having affairs and breaking up marriages. Because I was a church pianist, I came in contact with a lot of men. My ultimate goal was to bring down a pastor. I worked my way through the ranks of the brothers, deacons, ministers and in 1986 I found a pastor. To ensure he would stay with me, I tried the oldest trick in the book – I became pregnant and would eventually lose the baby. Denying that the child was his, I was adamant to make his life miserable. I began showing up at his church, befriending his wife, calling his house, and showing up at his home unexpectantly. I was deranged and out of control. Many of the members knew we were an item and warned the pastor, but to no avail. After two years of this illicit affair, the pastor was dismissed and our relationship ended.
While the next man was not an “assignment” he was surely married. I encountered a relationship with the second James and patiently waited for him to divorce his wife. During our tenure of dating, there was so much infidelity, loss of respect and toxic situations. After six months into the relationship, I found myself pregnant with twins. I was happy and James would soon come around. January 1989 would release a level of pain that I never thought I would live through. My son fell out of me in the commode on a Sunday morning. The OB/GYN warned me that the second baby may not live and I gave birth to my daughter that Wednesday night. She was born without any eyes, fingers, lips, or ears. She was in the form of a baby but not fully developed. Feeling desponded, I tried to commit suicide. As I am walking out the front door to drive off the bridge, I heard a bird chirping at my window. I was greatly annoyed and when I went to follow the sounds, the Holy Spirit said, “If I can take care of the sparrow, I can take care of you.” I fell to my knees and asked God to get me out of this hole and I would help everyone he sends my way.
In 1992, I was still waiting for James to leave his wife and marry me. I was so desperate that I volunteered to pay for the divorce. I knew I deserved better, but did not know what to expect. December 31, 1992 was my deadline to make a decision about this relationship. This particular night I was in church and at 11:52 PM, I knew I had to make a decision. My pastor stated that he did not have time to preach; however, God said, “Free in ’93.” That was the word that liberated me. I ended my relationship with James and went after God with all of my heart.
Life was very difficult because I was accustomed to toxic and abusive relationships. I surrounded myself with God-fearing, seasoned women of God. I knew there was a call on my life; however, I didn’t fully understand it. September 27, 1995, I preached my initial sermon, “Kiss Michal Goodbye.” The residue of sexual abuse was still haunting me and in January 2004, I began attending Christian Psychotherapy Services to help live a holistic and healthy life. Therapy was difficult and I had to relive some painful moments. I knew if I was going to do what God called me to do; I had to go through this process. For fourteen months, I talked with a therapist, worked through my pain, forgave my abusers and my life began to flourish. July 2005, I started G. L. Hines Ministries (website: www.glhinesministries.com) This site has brought so much healing to the broken hearted. January 2008, my first book was published entitled, “I am NOT a mistake, I am meant to be.” A book to help heal the residue of sexual abuse. Because of the power in this testimony, in October 2010, my story was aired on the 700 Club and 1129 souls were saved. The show re-aired January 2011 and it was rated the highest single show. My testimony has allowed me to be the guest on Talk blog radio in Virginia and Tennessee, interviewed by Blessed Lifestyle Magazine and “What About That” Talk show out of Indianapolis, IN. In January 2010, I organized a support group to help women heal from their pain and I have seen life changed, marriages mended and women understanding who God has made them to be.
God has not only called me in the ministry, but he has also called me as a counselor to help bring healing to others. May 2013, I graduated from Liberty University with a Masters of Arts in Christian Counseling with emphasis on Marriage and Family therapy. I am a living testimony how God can take your mess and turn it into a miracle. For I am NOT a mistake, I am meant to be!
By Garlena Hines