Raped at age 8, stuck in South Korea with breast cancer. God, where are you? she cried
TRIGGER WARNING: This story contains material about the rape of a minor that some may find distressing.
by Gemma Koh // April 8, 2021, 10:54 pm
For years, Connie Sun felt "incomplete" and "dirty" because of what happened to her when she was a child. Then late last year, she attended an online course which allowed her to rediscover God's love and finish healing. All photos courtesy of Connie Sun.
She was raped when she just eight years old.
At age 27, she was given two to five years to live when told she had ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). It has no cure. Her foot was turned inward. Yet she was able to walk again and lead a normal life after three years in a wheelchair.
She is now 38.
Early last year when Covid was spreading rapidly in South Korea – faster than in China where the virus was first discovered – Singaporean Connie Sun who lives in Seoul was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. She had discovered a lump while breastfeeding her son.
A post she wrote – urging women to seeking help early for breast lumps found during pregnancy and breastfeeding – went viral. The Singapore media picked up on the story of the new mother and new cancer patient struggling to cope in a foreign land.
Returning to Singapore for treatment would have meant leaving behind her South Korean husband and their then 9-month-old son who was awaiting his Singapore citizenship. She didn’t know how long they would be apart, so she chose to stay.
With international borders closed, Sun was cut off from her Singapore family who were unable to visit, help and offer comfort.
To add to the weight of her family’s anxiety, her job teaching English, and her husband’s work as a freelance tour guide, fell casualty to Covid. They became jobless.
In Part 1 of her story, Sun, opens up to Salt&Light on the trauma of her childhood – and how she began to start healing.
Sun was around age 8 when she went for a sleepover at another child’s home.
In the darkness of the night, she woke up. “I felt something touching me.”
“I didn’t have the courage to scream or to make a noise to wake the others.”
She felt a pain in her most private of parts. And would feel sore for the next two weeks.
“I didn’t have the courage to scream or to make a noise to wake the others. I just so scared when it happened.
“I didn’t dare open my eyes. But I tried reaching out and feeling around. I touched something hairy.
“I thought what I felt was a hand … that was all my mind could register at that time. That’s when I thought, ‘Oh, maybe it’s a nightmare.’
“I tried my best to go back to sleep. I didn’t know how long it lasted.”
At that time, she did not understand what the person did to her.
“But I remember I was bleeding the next day. I didn’t know what had caused it. I was so scared, I dared not examine myself to see what had happened down there.”
She washed her bloody underwear. She did not look at the bed.
“I had trouble walking with the pain. But I tried to look normal.”
“I kept trying to rationalise that it didn’t really happen.”
“My little brain was telling me: How can a dream hurt so bad the next day? But still I wasn’t sure because I hadn’t dared open my eyes.”
In the morning, she looked around to see which person had a hairy hand.
“There was only one person.”
“I was looking for proof to convince myself it was real. But, even after confirming it, I kept trying to convince myself it was a dream.”
The same thing happened again the next night.
When morning came, she insisted that she had to go home.
“After that, I kept trying to rationalise that it didn’t really happen.
“I didn’t dare tell my mum. I didn’t know how to tell her. I kept convincing myself it was a nightmare.”
“After the incident, I felt that I was incomplete, I was dirty. I felt so weak because I couldn’t open my eyes and I couldn’t identify the person.
“I couldn’t tell anyone about it. I hated myself for it.
“And somehow this hate grew and I suddenly hated everyone around me. I felt people didn’t understand me, I felt people didn’t know what I was going through. And I felt that the world just wasn’t beautiful.
“So I just tried to ignore whatever happened, and tried to pretend that it didn’t happen by not telling anyone.
“But it didn’t go away.”
“Somehow this hate grew and I suddenly hated everyone around me.”
She had recurring nightmares and her mind kept replaying what happened.
Her nightmares were violent ones “about murders, about people killing one another”.
“It was almost like a drama. I would have one episode today and then the story would continue the next day and the next day. It was like my brain forming all these scary dreams consecutively.
“I just became angry as a child.”
It was only during a sex education class at school, when Sun was 12 years old, that it dawned on her what had happened the night of the sleepover.
She had been raped.
“I realised I should have told someone about it. I was hating myself. Why didn’t I tell anyone about it last time? Now it’s so long ago, who would believe me? What can I do now?’”
She also became unapproachable to others.
“I felt my parents didn’t understand what I went through. They blamed me when I was angry, but I felt that it wasn’t my fault.”
Growing up, Sun had attended a Catholic school. Her dad had enrolled her there, even though he was a believer of another faith. “That was where I first got to know someone called Jesus, and the Bible.”
She first received Jesus when she went to a Christian junior college. But drifted away from her faith.
Then she went to university in Australia.
“I was normal outside. I was happy. I had friends. But inside, I always felt like I was crumbling. I always felt that I was very angry, very upset, at the whole world.
“I was afraid of being with a lot of people. I was also afraid of being alone in a room.
“I didn’t know what was happening anymore. I was dying inside.
“I cried out to God, ‘Are you really in my life like what people say? If you are real, can You at least let me see You somehow?’”
She set out “certain conditions for God to meet”.
“I asked, ‘God, can you please let this person call me and ask me out for a meal? The rain must stop when he calls me. And he has to call before 11pm.”
“Not one minute later,” she reminded God.
The person was someone who had brought a friend and her to church. He had never before asked her out for a meal.
It was 9pm when she said the prayer. It had been raining the whole day. The rain stopped at 10.30pm.
“God, not one minute later,” she reminded God.
She went to take a bath “to make things more difficult”.
At 10.55pm when she emerged, her roommate told her that someone had called to ask them both out for supper. It was the person she had specified.
“I said, ‘God, he must call me, not my roommate.’”
She doubted that he would call again.
But the minute she stepped into her bedroom, the phone rang.
It was 10.58pm. It was the same person, repeating the invitation, even though Sun’s housemate had already declined the invitation on their behalf.
She told the caller it was too late to go out.
“But I was trembling as I put the phone down.”
A real God
She told God: “Okay God, you really freaked me out.”
But through this, God became “real” for her. She started feeling a connection to Him.
She cried as she prayed. “I asked Him, ‘What happened when I was young? Why did you let that happen to me? Why did I spend so many years lost and angry?’”
Then she heard a very loud voice say: “You are my child. I never left you alone. I will always be with you.”
“I felt that I was God’s new creation … I felt whole as a person.”
She felt His overwhelming presence.
That night, she had a peaceful sleep. The violent nightmares stopped.
“I wasn’t afraid of being in a dark room anymore.”
God took the hurt of what happened when she was a child away.
“I wasn’t angry any more.”
Through messages of grace and healing from attending church, she eventually realised that “God would always love me. No matter how big my sins or how evil I was inside”.
Through this revelation of Jesus’ paying the ultimate price by dying on the Cross, Sun found the strength to forgive the person who had raped her.
“Forgiveness only became possible when I knew that God has already forgiven me, and what He did to forgive me. That’s what gave me the strength to forgive.”
“When I forgave, I found that healing took place in a way I never imagined. And that’s when I realised that forgiveness is actually more for ourselves than for the other person.”
“I felt that I was God’s new creation, I felt that I wasn’t dirty, I wasn’t incomplete. And that was when I felt whole as a person. I didn’t feel that I was different from others anymore.”
Not afraid any more
Over the years, Sun thought she had forgotten about what happened when she was a child.
Then late last year, Sun attended a 10-week discipleship course, Freedom in Christ. The DVD-based course (designed by Neil Anderson and Steve Goss) which was conducted over Zoom, equips participants with tools to resolve personal and spiritual conflict and renew the mind. It is designed to help participants get rid of false beliefs and wrong assumptions about ourselves that we live unconsciously by day by day, that cripple our potential to live a Spirit-filled life.
“I didn’t realise that my childhood trauma of rape was still fresh in my memory.”
Sun was not certain that she would have the energy to attend each and every session which were on Thursdays – the day she went for chemotherapy once every three weeks.
She “half-heartedly” attended the first session. “But God had other plans for me.
“That session showed me who God is, and reminded me of all the good He has already done in my life.”
Later on, God reminded her “of the things I thought I had forgotten, but were still affecting me in ways I didn’t know”.
“I didn’t realise that my childhood trauma of rape was still fresh in my memory.
“I could remember the pain. I could remember the exact things the person did. And I could remember how that hairy hand felt. And how everything felt at that time and how angry I was, and how I had so much difficulty walking.”
“When we find enough courage to talk about it, healing starts.”
“Why God?” she asked. “I have already forgiven this person. Do I have to forgive again?”
She did it anyhow.
She also realised she needed God to deal with the memories.
She said: “God, can you please help me with that? I want to renounce it and want to claim these promises you have for me.”
God didn’t dictate a ritual of things she needed to do, she said.
Instead, He “took it all out, gently, calmly and completely”.
“I really am not afraid anymore.”
She is also no longer “afraid or shy” for people to know what happened to her when she was a child.
Freedom to share
When prompted by God, Sun has shared her story with various cell groups.
“Every time I would bargain with God: Can I just say it’s sexual abuse without using the word ‘rape’?”
But she’d sense God’s reply: “Why are you discounting from your story? Why are you taking away what was there? Do you not trust Me to make it all right?”
“God can heal even in such circumstances.”
When rape happens, “it takes away a part of the person”, Sun said.
“It really creates such a barrier, such an emotional hurt in that person that they themselves don’t know how to deal with it.”
She shares her story to encourage others who have been through a similar trauma to know “that God can heal even in such circumstances”.
“Every time I share, women in the group would come forward to share similar experiences. Many of them found the courage to share their own experiences after listening to mine. I believe healing starts when we find enough courage to talk about it.”
One woman – whose daughter had gone through a similar trauma – has said that Sun’s testimony has given her “so much faith, confidence and encouragement in knowing that her daughter will be all right one day”.
“I realised, then, that I really did need to share my testimony, even if it was for that one lady and her daughter. Because that is how much God loves each and every one of us.”
Sun is now confident and secure in her identity as a child of God.
“I know that God loves me, I know that I’m accepted, I know that I don’t need to find my security, my acceptance from anyone else. And I am already all of that in Him. And I know that He is still doing so much more in my life.”
Freedom in Christ also quietened Sun’s brain which had been addled by fears and worries from post-partum depression and exacerbated by chemotherapy. Since then, she has started hosting the course over Zoom for English-speakers in South Korea.
Check back soon for Part 2 on how Connie Sun has seen God work through her health scares.