Jackie Hill Perry

A sexual abuse and trauma survivor

Jackie Hill Perry

It’s hard to describe the indescribable, especially considering age and how it makes memories dim and inaccurate at times. I don’t remember plot points. I don’t know what color shirt I had on. I don’t know if it was blue or orange or black like the room it all happened in. And I don’t remember how he got me to follow him into the basement; if he bartered the promises of toys or candy with me; if he led me by the hand, or if I ran after him like any child under 7 does when around a teenage boy that they trust. 

But there I was, completely unaware, with no context for how familiarity with someone by no means excludes them from harming the ones that they know. If anything, it’s always proved to be the currency of abuse. To know him already was to leave my heart unguarded. So, imagine my surprise when I was told to do something that I’ve never done or known or seen or heard. This act. My inability to breathe during it. The dark basement. The adults upstairs never coming to see what a 16-year-old boy might be doing with a first grader.

My mother, at work, believing her baby to be safe, trusting that the people she left me in the care of would protect me as only she would. But there again is the contradiction of familiarity. You expect it, and the people it describes, such as family or friends, to mean that they are trustworthy. You hope their nearness makes them that, or at least you hope to have enough wisdom to be able to discern if there is a serpent up their sleeves. But he’s crafty enough to hide from even the most protective eyes. 

When the teenage boy, the one whose name I will forever remember and never speak, was finished. I was able to breathe again. And he never told me not to tell, or maybe he did, and I just don’t remember. But what I do know is that it became a secret because to tell someone, I thought, was to implicate myself in an act of doing something that ought not be done. Being a child, I didn’t have the capacity to even consider that his evil was not also my own. I’m the one that followed him into the basement. I’m the one that whispered in between the shadows. I am the one that silenced my laugh to replace it with silence. I am the one who let him take my breath and my body from me. I didn’t speak of that day until I learned of its name.

Naming what happened to me 

I was 14 and watching an episode of “Oprah” because Oprah is America’s therapist. There was a woman speaking, with wet eyes and a cracked voice, and she was telling Oprah about the molestation that occurred in her home. She described the scenario in which her innocence was overcome. And as I listened to her story, I thought of the basement’s darkness and what happened inside of it. What I heard from her and what I remembered sounded the same, except I’d never given it a name like she did. 

To me, it was just something that happened. But according to this woman, I was a victim of sexual abuse. To call it by name allowed me to connect dots. The consequences of abuse like fear and shame and control dominated my days. But it had a source that I could not acknowledge until it was reintroduced to me. It was not merely that a teenage boy did something to me when I was little. That’s far too abstract, which mutes the heartbreaking reality of what actually happened. It was that I was molested and violated by an image-bearer who did not see me as one. What happened was perversion, demonic, a tragedy, the product of a corrupted bloodline, a cursed humanity, a dying boy spreading death because he thought to steal from me would give him life. To call it by name, no matter how painful, was to make sense of it all; to put flesh on floating bones and watch it walk.

If I wanted to be healed, I needed to be specific about what had been broken. I always thought that healing was an immediate act of God dependent upon the measure of my faith, like the woman whose bleeding stopped the moment that she touched God’s clothes. Though I had no hem to hold, I had all of the time to pray; to ask God to deliver me from what that almost-man did to me. But what I’ve come to learn of God is that his healing is gradual and unassuming, and it usually begins with the hard work and sometimes unintentional revelation that the trauma actually exists. 

Unearthing the pain 

Everything related to my molestation that needed to be healed had to be recognized first. It wasn’t until my now husband began his pursuit of my heart that much of the unearthed pain surfaced. He liked me, and I liked him. We followed each other on Twitter and liked each other’s posts. But when we voiced our attractions for each other, and he followed through, I shut down. I became hard, unfeeling. And for the life of me, I did not understand why. 

I wanted to love him freely. I wanted to let him hold me. I wanted to be vulnerable, but I couldn’t. He wanted to lead me well. But complementarianism as it looks when lived was terrifying when I remembered what happened the last time I let a boy lead me. I learned my lesson on letting a man use my trust as food for his demons, and it made me hypervigilant, always needing answers to motivate me to action, always questioning things so I had enough information to guarantee safety. How could I know that this new boy wouldn’t be and do the same? That he actually wanted me and not just my body? What proof did I have that I’d be able to breathe when he was in the room, and that I wouldn’t have to hold my breath until he finished?

Trauma makes you inquisitive. It makes you doubt everything and everybody. It makes you squint your eye at the familiar, rummage through your memories, and project what you gathered onto anybody that might mimic it. It makes you afraid to be yourself, to be honest, to have faith in anything other than God and your own feeble attempts at self-preservation. And it makes you jealous when you see other people who only held their breath underwater and not in basements, so they have no fear of swimming in the dark; when you see a woman being held by their lover, and they love it. They don’t resist his affection for fear of what it might mean or do. They delight in his love, and they tell him why. They don’t see vulnerability as a threat, but a gift. The sexually traumatized can only imagine a world where they don’t have a ghost in their bedroom at all times. 

I cannot tell you how frustrated I still am, because it does not matter how much theology I have attained now, I am still affected by what happened to me then. Even though my mind does not remember all of the details, my body does. I am all of 30, and I still feel like a 7-year-old on most days. I am still so fearful of following anybody, anywhere. I have made a living out of showing people how to breathe, but here I am, still holding my breath, still wondering if when I surface there will be someone to say, “Jackie, you will be OK.”

Jesus has the final say 

At this point, heaven is my ultimate hope of healing. It isn’t that God is not healing me now, because he is. He is using my husband’s patient love, my community’s constant ear, and my therapist’s insight to mend me, but I am not satisfied with that. And I don’t believe that I have to be. This incomplete healing is what propels my hope for a more sufficient one—a healing that is not limited by space and time. A healing that isn’t undone by what triggers me here. 

There, in heaven, is when I will be made whole. And not merely by faith, but tangibly. I will see it. I will feel it. I will know it. I won’t need a sermon or podcast or conference to convince me. It will be an eternal reality because what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. This body, with all of its fear and shame, will be done anew. I will no longer have to force myself to think on whatever is good and pure. I will do it on its own accord. Whatever memories I will have, they won’t have any control over me. 

They will remind me of Jesus and how he suffered too. How men made in his image did not recognize him as God. They abused his body before killing it, but they could not control the body nor the God that they abused. His resurrection is all of the proof that I need that he will make all things new—and not just this world and the heavens and the church, but me, my mind and my heart and my body will resurrect into something glorious. 

In heaven, I won’t have to hide behind the delusion of strength to protect myself from pain. I will still be weak, as all humans are, but I will be stronger than I have ever been. In heaven, I won’t have to be afraid of intimacy. The one-flesh union between spouses and the closeness experienced between Christians of all kinds is but a metaphor of what is to come. I am constantly finding leaves to cover my nakedness, but there we will be completely exposed and yet unashamed of what our neighbors will see. They will see us for what we are and what we’ve always wanted to be, which is free.

In heaven, there will be a man that has never taken advantage of me. A man that has always used his power to serve. A man who unrobed to cover my shame. I have followed him out of darkness and into light. And with him I can breathe at all times. There he is, seated at the right hand of his Father and mine. Fully victorious, not only over my sin, but also over what the sins of other people have done to me. Neither their sin nor mine was missed during the crucifixion. Jesus sees and settles the dust that the devil kicks up around us. The serpent, though crafty, is still a created thing who will bow before the King one day. The devil and the death that he brings will die. 

And this is our hope: that all will be made right one day, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

There will be a new heaven and a new earth with new people living on it—people that we can know well and trust thoroughly. And don’t think that when I speak about heaven I am disregarding the trauma of today. I speak about heaven because it reminds me that today and all of its troubles are not eternal. So I can be honest about my struggle without being cynical, and I can look forward to what is to come without being negligent.

Jesus is healing me, and Jesus will heal me. It is an already-and-not yet-reality that has made my days much brighter. Yes. It hurts, still. But, what has happened to me or us won’t hurt forever. Trauma will not have the final say. Jesus will.

Jackie Hill Perry is a writer, poet, and artist whose work has been featured in The Washington Times, The 700 Club, Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, and other publications. Since becoming a Christian in 2008, she has been compelled to use her speaking and teaching gifts to share the light of the gospel of God as authentically as she can. At home she is a wife to Preston and Mommy to Eden, Autumn, Sage, and a son on the way.

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24