Raped by seven men at 15: Joy Tan-Chi Mendoza on forgiveness and hope in Christ
Joy Tan-Chi Mendoza // March 23, 2019, 12:35 pm
"God's love brought me through the valley ... His love also gave me the capacity to forgive and the boldness to declare what He has done. I want to borrow once more the words of Joseph in Genesis 50:20, where he said: 'You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.'" All photos from instagram.com/joytmendoza
Friday, February 7, 1992, started out like any ordinary school day.
I asked my parents if I could hang out at school in the evening with my friends, but they suggested that Irene and Lana come over and spend the night in our house instead.
My parents were going to be out teaching a Bible study in Makati City that night. They felt more comfortable about having my friends over, rather than me being out of the house.
I was raped and sexually abused on my very own bed by a total of seven men.
At around six o’clock in the evening the doorbell rang, and my dad’s cousin came in through the gate to deliver five sacks of rice. He delivered the rice every month so it was nothing out of the ordinary.
But he had no idea that a band of robbers had slipped in through the gate behind him. They were heavily armed with guns and knives and forced their way in through the front door.
Soon, the 10 robbers managed to tie up my younger sisters, my younger brother, the two helpers, the driver, my dad’s cousin, his wife and child, and the missionary family who rented the apartment below us.
I was raped and sexually abused on my very own bed, in my bathroom, in my brother’s room by a total of seven men.
They said vile things to me, made me do unimaginable, perverted acts, and eventually tied me up and laid me down by the entrance of the front door. I saw Irene’s backpack torn open with her things scattered on the floor.
Irene and Lana had arrived at 7pm as planned, with no clue that they were walking into a nightmare. It was not until later on in the evening when we were all tied up together that I found out Irene had been raped by four men in the master bathroom where my assault started. Lana had been taken down to the apartment below by one of the men and was raped there.
“I hope they shoot me first”
The men started to converse with me, saying things like: “We wouldn’t do this if we didn’t have to.”
About an hour and a half passed and then someone rang the doorbell. This threw the men into a panic. They debated about whom to send to the front gate and decided that I should do it. They told me to make everything seem like it was okay.
One of them said: “Let’s kill them now!” And they all started waving their guns.
When I ran out to the gate I saw Lana’s parents on their motorbike. I wasn’t sure why they dropped by and I didn’t have much time to talk to them. As quickly and as quietly as I could, I whispered to them through the gate: “There are robbers in the house.” Then I said loudly (so the robbers would hear me), “Okay thanks, goodbye!”
Running back into the house, I was pulled back in through the font door.
“You told them, didn’t you?!” someone yelled at me.
As calmly as I could, I said: “Why would I tell them anything when I know you will kill us?”
One of them said: “Let’s kill them now!” And they all started waving their guns. Admittedly, my selfish thought was, I hope they shoot me first.
I don’t know what stopped them from acting on their threat, but suddenly, the men decided to take hostages instead and leave immediately.
They took my dad’s cousin, his wife and their young child. Using them as a cover, the robbers told my dad’s cousin to drive them in his delivery truck to a specific location. They actually let him and his family go (which we later realised was another miracle).
About 15 minutes after the men left, I made out flashlights in the darkness just outside our front porch. I thought that the robbers had come back, but it turned out to be people my family knew from Faith Academy. What a comfort to hear their voices!
Had our friends arrived any earlier, with the robbers in a frenzy, our situation would have been precarious, and the robbers might have shot us in a panic. Rescue came at just the right time.
The most painful thing
Soon after we were rescued, Irene, Lana and I were brought to a different location, the New Tribes’ Missionary Boarding Home.
From there, Irene made a long distance call to her parents in Macau. Lana’s parents rushed over to be by her side.
About an hour after, my parents came home from their Bible study in Makati. When they arrived at our house, they feared the worst at the sight of police cars parked outside the gate of our house.
Having to say the word “rape” made me feel so spoiled and ruined. I was ashamed.
As they tried to come to terms with what was happening, a kind missionary friend assured them that we were all in a safe place. However, he also informed them that something had happened to me and that they needed to talk to me.
When I saw them from the living room, I rushed out to meet them.
Rarely in my life have I had difficulty opening up to my parents, but this was one of those times when I did not know what to say. Mustering up the courage, I blurted out softly: “Mom, Dad, I was raped.”
“Oh, Joy!” my mom said, the tears instantly welling up around her blue eyes. My parents pulled me towards them and for the first time that evening, I really cried about the rape.
That was the most painful thing I have ever had to tell my parents. I knew that it was going to hurt them to hear it, but they had to hear it from me.
Other times in my life I’ve had to tell them about foolish things I’d done and asked them for forgiveness, but telling them about the rape carved a deep wound in my heart.
My parents had safeguarded my innocence. They had raised me with good values. I had no prior experience with pre-marital sex or immorality in a dating relationship. I had never even been kissed!
Having to say the word “rape” made me feel so spoiled and ruined. I was ashamed.
Through the valley
As I began to move past the initial shock and trauma of having been raped, I was left with an overwhelming sense of loss. I often found myself in tears because my innocence and purity had been stolen. I couldn’t go back to being the person I was.
My mom asked herself: “If I don’t cling to God where would I go?”
A dividing line had been set between my childhood and the balance of my life. While I trusted that God had a plan for what happened, I was still confronted by the reality of what had been taken from me.
The loss I felt was like a cavity, a depression that no human person or human solution could fill or remedy.
At times my mind was darkened by sorrow. Despair visited me without invitation. Sometimes it came at night, when memories would assault me. Or it came as a longing to return to the innocence of my childhood.
On other occasions, it left me feeling alone in a room full of people, like I didn’t quite fit in with my peers.
I looked to God’s love, goodness and sovereignty right after the rape.
My mom asked herself: “If I don’t cling to God where would I go?” As she wrestled with the reality of the rape, she recognised that the only way to survive was to turn to the Lord, not away from Him.
My family and I clung to Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”
His love brought me through the valley. His love also gave me the capacity to forgive.
A sovereign God makes no mistakes. While this is difficult to comprehend in the midst of suffering, it doesn’t change the reality that God desires our greatest good. Why? Because He loves us and He is good.
It takes faith to see this. And it takes grace to have this faith! This grace came to me from the Lord.
The reality is that all of us go through trials and sufferings. Some are momentary afflictions, while others are long-term, even “terminal” – humanly speaking. When we cannot understand the why, we must look to the Who.
I didn’t know how God would use what happened. It seemed like a black hole in the timeline of my life when I was 15.
But I remembered that God has an everlasting love for me — a love that was demonstrated at the Cross through His Son, Jesus, when He died for my sins and suffered for my sake.
His love brought me through the valley. His love also gave me the capacity to forgive and the boldness to declare what He has done. I want to borrow once more the words of Joseph in Genesis 50:20, where he said: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.”
Bringing things into the light
Irene, Lana and I decided together that we would share the experience with the Faith Academy community and with the different congregations of Christ’s Commission Fellowship (CCF). We wanted our story and God’s safekeeping of our lives to be a testimony to others.
As we began sharing details with one another, exchanging our versions of the story, comforting and encouraging one another, it became clear that God had allowed us to be together in this.
We wanted to talk about God’s goodness, to thank Him for sparing our lives, and to acknowledge that He spared us for a reason.
I regretted inviting my friends over to spend the night. For a while I blamed myself for what happened to them. But we became each other’s strong supporters, especially when we felt like others could not understand what we were going through.
The decision to share openly about what happened to the three of us marked the beginning of our journey towards healing.
None of us wanted to keep this story a big, dark secret. We wanted to talk about God’s goodness, to thank Him for sparing our lives, and to acknowledge that He spared us for a reason.
We were also of the same mind that “bringing things into the light” would weaken the capacity of the Devil to use this tragedy against us.
God had allowed the hedge of safety to be opened, but we didn’t want the evil one to claim victory over us.
My friends and I were very fortunate to be surrounded by people who genuinely cared about our well-being. The three of us had one another and we were upheld by prayers and the well wishes of Christians all over the world.
It’s common to lose hope when you go through sexual abuse, molestation, incest or rape. I know the feeling of losing hope — hope for the future, hope for acceptance, hope for security and protection, hope that you can ever be whole and undamaged again. However, I claimed promises like Jeremiah 29:11.
God is a loving, caring Father who is mindful of us. Here is what God says about Himself: “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15)
What a tender description of God’s love for us! He doesn’t forget any of us, no matter what we have been through.
God loves us so much; He gave us His own son, Jesus Christ, to die for us (John 3:16). Jesus was abused for our sake. He was mocked and humiliated, abandoned by those who were closest to Him. He endured all this so that His death could bring us eternal life.
The consequences of sin — heartache, hardships, problems, pain and multiplied sorrows — these are the enemies of hope.
Why? Why would the God of the universe do this?
The entire world groans under the weight of sin. That’s why people assault, pillage, plunder and kill. That was never God’s plan.
God made a beautiful world where people were supposed to be in harmony with Him, with one another, with creation. Relationships were intended to provide security and unconditional love.
After I was raped, a kind of scepticism and distrustful point of view grew in me. I often interpreted the affections of men as malicious and perverse. The sins committed against me altered my natural inclination to trust in people.
This is what sin does. It destroys, corrupts and disrupts God’s good design.
And the consequences of sin — heartache, hardships, problems, pain and multiplied sorrows — these are the enemies of hope.
But Jesus gave His life, to restore and heal what sin took away, to give us hope.
What is the hope we have in Jesus?
1. The Hope of Eternal Life
“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13)
The verse says “so that you may know”. It is a certainty, not a false promise.
Having the hope of eternal life comforted me greatly the night of the rape.
I thought, Lord, they may be able to touch my body, but they cannot touch my spirit. My real life is hidden in You.
No matter what happens to our physical bodies, we can look forward to heaven where the book of Revelation tells us “every tear shall be wiped away” (Revelation 21:4).
2. The Hope of Peace
In John 16:33 (New Living Translation), Jesus said: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
The reality is we live in a world that is broken, fallen.
While we cannot change this (at least not until Christ comes again), we can still have the peace He offers.
If Jesus is present in our lives, we do not have to be afraid, to worry, nor should we doubt that He will take care of us when trials and difficulties come.
He gives us the assurance that He has already overcome the world.
3. The Hope of a New Beginning
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I felt soiled and dirty after I was raped, but this verse reminded me that in Christ all things could be new again.
I wanted new memories. I wanted to move on and move past what happened to me. Even if I was victimised, I didn’t want to live like a victim.
Life’s good ending
Today, I am happily married and blessed with five* children. I have the privilege of serving the Lord alongside my husband, Edric. Together we are enjoying the adventures of parenting and home-schooling our children.
The Lord is a Giver. He wants to give us hope for the future and hope for our past — a new beginning.
The dark memories of that night have been replaced by beautiful ones that speak of the wonders and faithfulness of God in my life and in my family’s.
The Lord is a Redeemer. He isn’t like the people or problems that steal and take away what is precious to us.
He is a Giver. He wants to give us hope for the future — eternal life, hope for today; peace, and hope for our past — a new beginning.
God purposes to write each person’s life story. The question is: Will we let Him hold the pen?
I am convinced that it is His Authorship that makes a life beautiful.
When we fix our eyes on Jesus, “the Author and Perfector of our faith”, we let Him be the writer and the editor (Hebrews 12:2), and we can entrust to Him our life’s good ending.
*At the time of her writing, Joy had five children. She recently gave birth to her sixth child, Caylee, last December.
This excerpt from Joy Tan-Chi Mendoza’s book, When A Good God Allows Rape, published by OMF Literature, is republished with permission.