Crystalina Evert, founder of Women Made New Ministries and co-founder of Chastity Project. Pulling from her own personal experience, Evert speaks on the trauma of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, and how abuses in a woman’s past affects her present views, relationships, and feelings. Evert also walks through the step-by-step healing process she finds most effective for abuse survivors.
TRACI GRIGGS: Thank you for joining us for Family Policy Matters. I’m Traci DeVette Griggs, Communications Director at NC Family. One of the sad realities too many young people face today is that they have suffered abuse at the hands of a loved one. These experiences—whether physical, emotional, psychological or sexual—leave deep, often lifelong wounds that are difficult to overcome. Today we are joined by Crystalina Evert, founder of Women Made New Ministries, and co-founder with her husband Jason, of Chastity Project. Together Crystalina and Jason have spoken to more than 1 million teens on five continents, answering the tough questions about dating, relationships and sexual purity. Of particular interest for our conversation today, Crystalina is also a survivor of abuse. She has a new publication entitled, “Made New: Healing and Hope for Abuse Survivors,” which is designed to help people find healing from abuse.
Crystalina Evert, welcome to Family Policy Matters.
CRYSTALINA EVERT: Hi Traci, thanks for having me today.
TRACI GRIGGS: Crystalina, I noticed that your book focuses primarily on women who are survivors of abuse, and of course we know that men often are as well. Why did you choose to address this book mainly to women?
CRYSTALINA EVERT: Because of my own healing process and what I went through as a woman, I felt like I could speak with a certain amount of authority of my own healing process; I felt I related more to women. I just have such a heart for women and the struggles that they deal with on a day-to-day basis. I know that men are subject to this as well, but as of right now I just felt comfortable speaking out to the woman, from my heart.
TRACI GRIGGS: Do you feel like the message that will be given to men is probably going to be another book? And it’s going to be slightly different for them?
CRYSTALINA EVERT: Yes, absolutely. I was actually talking with my husband about that not too long ago. So it’s probably something down the road that will definitely be in the works, because I think that men are under attack in their own way. I think that’s absolutely a project that Chastity Project will be coming out with down the road.
TRACI GRIGGS: Great. Well let’s start with an observation that you open your book with. You say that women are particularly good at “stuffing our stuff,” and having a put-together exterior while numbing internal suffering with false consolations. So why do you think so many women focus on putting on a brave face in the midst of their deep suffering?
CRYSTALINA EVERT: I feel like, especially in my generation growing up, that’s what I was taught to do. I was never taught to actually deal with the problems but just kind of be strong, suck it up, and just move on. And the outer had to look as good as possible so no one could actually see what was going on with the inside. I think women these days have absolutely perfected that, and it’s just easier to go on with life and not really have to deal with the hard issues.
TRACI GRIGGS: Your book addresses many of the things that women say to themselves, this self-talk. What do you find are the biggest lies that prevent abuse survivors from finding the healing and the future that they need and want? And many of these lies they say to themselves, don’t they?
CRYSTALINA EVERT: Oh, we say it all the time. I even catch myself saying little phrases here and there. I truly believe that a woman’s self-talk is the most important she hears throughout her day, and in her life, because it really kind of shapes the direction that we actually go in our life. I realized that I was actually holding myself back with the things that I was saying to myself. Those are things that we just have to overcome; we have to bring them to the light. One thing that I found in all of this is that fear that we have and the secrets that we carry are of the evil one. He likes to keep everything in the dark, but when we bring those things to the light and bring it to Jesus, the devil can’t follow us there. He’s got to go, he cannot stand the light. And then that’s when we truly can deal with things and we can confront things. We can look at the things in our past that we were scared to, or we want to overcome, and we want to act like they didn’t happen. I really believe that it’s so much easier for women—at least they think—that, “Well, this isn’t going to affect me.” I think that was a huge lie I said to myself. Because slowly things just start coming up, and coming up, and then they start affecting your marriage, or motherhood, your relationships. You actually start living out of that wound, and you don’t even realize how you’ve handicapped yourself over time.
TRACI GRIGGS: What about people who say they feel they are unworthy of love, who can’t envision a better and happier future because of past abuse? What kinds of things would you say to them?
CRYSTALINA EVERT: I feel like that’s really a stronghold on someone’s life because everybody has the capacity to give love and to receive love. And so the most important thing I think in a woman’s healing process is confronting those lies that you kind of feed yourself. What kind of self-talk are you giving yourself? Where are you going in your life? And so with this book, that’s one of the main reasons I wrote it. I feel like these lies that we’re perpetually telling ourselves as women are what handicapped us in our relationships, in moving forward and becoming the women that God truly is calling us to be, with all of the gifts and all of the graces and all of the things He’s asking of us. We can’t fully complete that if we’re coming to it handicapped with all this brokenness and all these wounds.
TRACI GRIGGS: So with all of this often destructive self-talk, and then trying to keep it all a secret, I would imagine seeking outside help is probably a good first-step. Discuss that a little bit.
CRYSTALINA EVERT: You know, counseling is a hard issue and a hard topic, and at first I didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t think I needed counseling. I used to think of counseling how my family talked about it: “That’s for someone who’s crazy or really has some psychological issues.” But it’s really not true. It was humbling and very difficult, but I knew I went as far as I could in my prayer life, and I went as far as I could on my own, and I really felt God in my heart calling me that that was the direction he was asking me to go. And so I was obedient and I followed that inclination. Oh, and I thank God that I did because in that moment that I realized that I was sexually abused as a child, I made so much sense to myself for the first time in my life. All the pieces clicked, all of these things just started connecting and as hard as that was, it was really such a grace in my life.
TRACI GRIGGS: Did you feel like you went through a time of cleansing, and was it really difficult at first? Was there a lot of kind of having to dredge up old and difficult things before you started to feel a sense that you are making progress? How did that go for you?
CRYSTALINA EVERT: I felt like all of these things that were built up that were a lie in my life, God just started breaking everything down. I felt like I was so broken and I had to start from scratch, but I felt like also in that time, as hard as that was, God was also rebuilding what had to be broken down within me. Because if He takes something away—by doing that within the counseling and with me going to my priest or reading the Bible and journaling and finding that good group of people that could support me in all of this—He was taking the bad away, but He was replacing it with what I felt was always meant to be there: with the good, with the grace, with the strength. I just started feeling so alive, together, and not always this angry, this “something wasn’t right,” and I was tired of living that way. As hard as it was to confront all of these things—to have to go to counseling, and just recognize certain things within my own family, which is very difficult—I’m out of that now. I can look back and I can talk about this and I can write about it because I’m not ashamed anymore. You don’t have that guilt. You don’t have that kind of yuck and unworthiness you’re constantly walking around with. These unhealthy things that I was doing are no more, because that’s what happens when you bring things to light and you let God heal you with His love and His mercy. And especially the people around you that you let in that are healthy for you.
TRACI GRIGGS: OK, so let’s talk a little bit about that. Seeking a professional counselor who has experience dealing with people that have suffered from abuse, you clearly think that’s important. But you’ve mentioned a few times the other people that are in your life. So are those some hard choices that you have to make as well, about who you allow to stay in your life, and who you decide is not good to have in your life any longer?
CRYSTALINA EVERT: You know there are four major things that I did in my healing process, but one of them is getting rid of the toxic people in our lives. I feel like there are bad cycles that we get in with these people that are just not good for us. In order to do this and the healing process I had to go through, I really prayed about it and I knew there were just certain people that did not belong in my life and I had to get rid of them. I let them know, “Look, I’m going through a healing process right now, and for this time I just need to step back, and this is about me, not you.” I always made it about me to make it easier. Some of them were family members and it was very difficult, but at the same time I knew if I was really serious about my healing, I had to get them out of my life for that time because I just needed healthy boundaries. I feel like that’s something that has to be relearned after you go through something like this. And while you’re going through something like this, you really decide what’s okay, what’s not okay in your life, because sometimes they tried to decide that for you. It’s not something to feel bad about, but it’s good for you; you’re doing something good for yourself. It may not be a forever thing, but it’s a temporary thing that will help you become strong so when you do, maybe bring those people back in your life—and that’s the decision you have to pray about—you’re stronger. You are able to deal with them in the proper way versus getting manipulated or just being unhealthy again.
TRACI GRIGGS: You also mentioned that once you’re healed and you’re becoming more willing to admit that you have been hurt in this way, that it can actually be a help to other people who are suffering the same, and fighting the same battles. Can you actually encourage people who have suffered from abuse, to be a person that’s going to help others through the process of healing?
CRYSTALINA EVERT: I think people that have been abused—and I know in my own life—that you actually feel like you’re the only one because of the shame that is wrapped up in that. It is something you just want to take and you want to hide and you want to stuff, and you just never want to bring it to daylight. I do understand that, but by doing that and bringing it out, there’s a strength and there’s an empowerment in that. Courage is contagious and I’ve seen it in my own life, and I’ve seen it in other people that have affected me, that have given me courage to actually step out and do what it is I’m doing. And don’t be afraid because that’s just not of God. No matter what you’ve been through, no matter what has happened, a person can be healed and they can overcome that, and they can be strong and they can be whole and they can be everything God is calling them to be. All they have to do is just show up to their own fight, because this is a battle. But at the end of the day, if we just go to God and we pray—and we know in our hearts that we need to do something because it’s not working—no matter what it is, no matter what secret, no matter what type of abuse that has happened, they can overcome it and that they are not alone in any way, shape or form. There are other women out there just like them who have faced it, who have owned it and who have healed it, and not to be afraid.
TRACI GRIGGS: So how can those of us who have not experienced this kind of abuse, how can we keep our eyes open for this? How can we avoid maybe making the hurt worse? What can we do to help?
CRYSTALINA EVERT: One, I would just encourage someone if you do know that they have been abused, just love, just unconditional love. Because a person that really is so locked within themselves that they can’t bring those things out, or bring them to the light or even talk about them or want to address them, they really just need that safe person, that safe place, and that love. And also pray for that person. That’s such a powerful thing that we as Christians have, to pray. The power of prayer for these people—there are so many abused women out there, and children and men—the power of prayer can do so much. And then just to get things like my small booklet or other resources that are out there to give to them, to really encourage them to come forward because God wants to do great things with them.
TRACI GRIGGS: Great. Well thank you for sharing all of that. We’re just about out of time for this week, but before we go Crystalina, where can our listeners go if they want to get a copy of your new book and learn more about your ministries?
CRYSTALINA EVERT: womenmadenew.com, and also chastityproject.com
TRACI GRIGGS: Crystalina, thank you so much for sharing your experience and being with us today to discuss this very important topic on Family Policy Matters.
CRYSTALINA EVERT: Thank you for having me, it was a joy.
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