"I feel I have been inappropriately massaged." The words of this young girl resounded in my ears for days afterward, I said over and over, "God knows. He knows."
My life work was to help people--especially hurting women-- and to provide them with a refuge for comfort and care. My childhood had been one of trauma and suffering and for 25 years I had rendered compassion and solace. Each time I comforted someone, the "child in me" was comforted. Now these very women had been abused by a trusted employee!
Though she did not want to report it, I took this brave young person to the police station. Initially the policewomen kept sending us away, saying it was "consensual." I rang more of our past clientele, only to hear horrifying stories, confessions and apologies for not letting me know--and still they were sent away. Finally, I appealed to a policeman who took action.
Two long years ensued. I had been advised to "close my doors and go away for six months and say nothing to anyone." But I simply couldn't do it. I couldn't cover up this wrong and risk it happening somewhere else to someone else in the future. I could not be silent, no matter what it cost me.
Three gruelling court appearances followed, with longer than an hour in the witness box each time. Defence lawyers couldn't attack the women, their own client or the police, so that left me. But my trust in God was like an anchor. The Bible moved from the bedside table to the kitchen table, where it now "lives." Different texts became "alive" and I owned them as my own personal experience, particularly Luke 21:14, 15. What a promise for a person going through this many court trials!
In the first trial, the opening question to me was "Now I believe you are a very religious person--a Seventh-day Adventist?" The thrust of this was to suggest I was excessively religious and moralistic. They wanted it to seem like this man had done nothing much, despite the fact that more than 40 women had come forward with claims of rape and sexual assault. Trembling, I quietly answered all the questions. At the conclusion
of my testimony, the barrister, ruffling his fingers through his hair, said he did not want to take the case and another barrister took over.
Those long two years had many repercussions on my mental and physical health. Many nights, I studied and prayed and cried. To add to this, I had two car accidents and unrelated surgery during this time.
In the absence of this seemingly-angelic man--who had groomed both me and his victims--having any property, one opportunistic legal firm pursued me relentlessly to sue for damages. However, my professional insurance withdrew on the basis of their exit clause regarding "sexual assault." This left me standing alone and struggling through further legal battles.
I was alone, yet not alone. God was a "very present help in time of trouble." My knowledge of Him and His care and comfort regardless of whatever I was facing, has grown to where I would go through this ordeal all over again, just to feel the same increase in trust and confidence in His love.
At the sentencing--he was given 10-and-half years in jail--the judge vindicated my victim status and commended my bringing this matter to justice in the absence of so many women coming forward. The "vicarious employer responsibility" action was dropped.
For two long years, God lovingly provided. I cried for a week after the first court appearance, despite doing so well in the witness box. At that exact time, when I couldn't face the public with all their comments and questions, God provided. Almost 12 months before--a $28 flight each way to Adelaide for this very week. The court case had been postponed many times and no-one was to know when it would be. There was no way I could have planned this "flight" and "break to recover." But God knew and in the severe financial situation that led to closing my shop, I was provided for.
I can't proclaim His Providence enough. I can't explain the way Jennifer Philippiadis is a health therapist who lives in Ballarat, Victoria.
This story is used with permission from Signs Publishing Company. More of these stories can be found in these collections: Ordinary People—Extraordinary God, Ordinary People—Faithful God, and Ordinary People—Generous God