Today we have an interview with Katya Cole, author of Embracing My Father's Shadow: Beauty from the Ruins of Sexual Abuse, currently available at Amazon for $3.99 on Kindle, or $10.76 paperback.
Katya, thank you so much for joining us.
What prompted you to write Embracing My Father's Shadow?
I’ve found research on the topic of sexual abuse to be helpful and short accounts to be useful, but I think what I’ve needed more is to hear a woman’s story—the ups, the downs, the turns. I wanted to give other women what I didn’t have. There are few books that incorporate the devastation of sexual abuse, the support of research, the hope of encouraging moments, and the promise of God’s saving grace in one message. I wanted to share my testimony, emphasize that healing is a journey, and stress that God is the answer all in one.
What was the easiest thing about writing it? What was the hardest?
The writing itself came easy to me. At the age of twelve, I believe God had already placed it in my heart to write. I began writing about the night that changed my life. Out of shame, fear, and insecurity, I threw those initial pages away. But God retrieved them in a sense and brought them to me, making it clear to me that He wanted me to write. Many of those initial thoughts made their way into my book. The easiest part about writing it was being confident that God wanted it from me. Furthermore, I’d always loved writing and seemed to have a talent for it in school. That’s how I didn’t give up when things got tough.
I initially chose to publish my book through a Christian publisher. After reviewing the first three chapters of my manuscript, the publisher was rather hesitant. Ultimately, the publisher preferred not to have any discussion around some sensitive topics, namely sins that I struggled with and fought to overcome. Removing these pieces of my story felt fraudulent to me. I wanted to be honest about every part of my story, the good and the bad—that included the sin I brought to the table. No woman is ever to be blamed for her abuse, but we’re all sinners, and sinful reactions to ugly abuse are still sin (i.e. promiscuity, etc.). The most difficult part about writing was choosing to take the hard road and self-publish for the sake of my story and the message I wanted to deliver to readers.
One of your reviews on Amazon is from your mother. How did she find out about what happened? How did she react?
For this one, I decided to ask my mom. This was her response:
“I found out what happened to Katya by her telling me. Believe me; it took some time to get the 'details' out of her. Katya and I both knew that something happened but until she confided what actually took place I couldn't do anything. When the details came out, which was unbelievably difficult, we proceeded with going to the authorities. I knew I would do anything to support her at this point. There was only one choice, to prosecute. I wanted to send a message to Katya that I believed her and she was unbelievably brave for taking a stand.
As Katya could probably tell you this hit me pretty hard. My faith and confidence suffered the most. I love my kids more than anything and would do it all over again if I had to. Healing comes gradually, but it comes.”
In short, I’d say that my mother was devastated but more than determined to stick up for me. I am extremely grateful for that.
Your abuser was your father. How do you forgive that?
The ability to forgive comes only from God because He first forgives us. As a young child, God loved on me and helped me to see that He wouldn’t waste my pain. I forgave my father almost immediately, probably in part because I still loved my father very much. But forgiveness isn’t a one-time event! Forgiveness is iteration after iteration of releasing control. I’ve learned to define forgiveness as the act of letting go and placing all hope in God…over and over again. Have I raised a fist to the air in tears? Yes. Have I had to forgive more than once? Yes.
I’ve had to grieve that my father not only abused me, but also has made it difficult for me to see God as a father. With each of these realizations, I’ve needed to practice forgiveness.
I’ve also learned than any lack of forgiveness hurts me more than it hurts my father. By harboring un-forgiveness, I am not binding him; I am binding only myself. Finally, forgiveness is a way by which I help show the world that Jesus is real and Jesus forgives. Mark Twain has said, “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” Forgiveness is unnatural. The world knows this. So I can’t think of a better way to show the world that while I am in the world I am no longer of the world, that Christ lives in me.
What advice do you have for women - young or old - who have been through an experience like this?
Healing is a process. It isn’t a destination. However, I do believe there is a difference between being in complete debilitating bondage to one’s past and finding freedom in continuing on that healing trajectory. God has healed a great deal of me and my past, but I still deal with some of the effects. For example, my history with abuse presents different struggles in my marriage.
But do not be discouraged by the struggles you may still face! We have something to look forward to, a restoration that's coming. It's a restoration that will be made complete when you see him face to face. "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2). You can't expect to attain perfection in this lifetime, not that you shouldn't strive for it with all your might. There is great joy to be had on this ultimate healing trajectory.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I’m working on my next book, entitled Deathbed Beauty. Deathbed Beauty will share my stories of insecurity and take a look at what I like to call beauty insecurity. The book will be released on October 4, 2013. Below is an excerpt from the Introduction.
“The nature of sexual abuse is devastating. Sexually abused children are taught early on that their sexuality defines their worth. At the same time, what was done to them makes them feel dirty and disgusting. These children, me being one of them, are presented with a challenge that they seemingly cannot win. Sex, beauty, and a bombshell body bring worth, but dirt-covered bodies don’t. That’s quite the absurdity. It’s like clipping the wings of bird and then tossing off the edge of a cliff with the hope that it’s going to fly. She’s convinced she’s dirty and defiled, but she may also be determined to earn her importance through the only means she (or he) knows how.
To feel like the ugliest person on the planet and simultaneously be convinced that beauty and sex determine worth is without a doubt overwhelming and heart-breaking. This coming together of two very opposite poles—this performance-based paradox—is poison to her very soul.”
A big thank you to Katya Cole and her mom for answering my questions.