Sexual assault survivor shares story of healing and helping others to Wheaton Bible Church singles group

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By Tom Siebert

Julie Woodley was sharing the message of “me too” long before there was a Me Too movement.

The sexual assault survivor turned trauma therapist told her inspiring story Friday evening to more than 180 women and men at the Single Purpose group at Wheaton Bible Church in West Chicago.

“Women, let us rise up whether we have it right or not,” Ms. Woodley said. “You men, cherish the women in this room. Our hearts have been broken.”

Julie’s life was shattered at an early age, when her father began to molest her, threatening her with guns if she told anyone. She grew up in “dirty shame” and by high school was medicating her psychic pain with alcohol and marijuana.

Julie ran away from her home in the Rocky Mountains of Montana and wound up in St. Paul, Minnesota, living in the streets and scrounging for meals and a place to sleep. Then she began looking for love in all the wrong places and became addicted to the original sin that her dad had committed upon her.

“I became a prostitute,” she said tearfully. “I had two abortions. I became the spokesperson for Planned Parenthood.”

To add more trauma to her already-traumatized life, Julie’s best friend was murdered, prompting her to go on a bucket-list binge of drinking before deciding to commit suicide by taking a bottle of pills.

Sobbing uncontrollably, she took the bottle, but instead of consuming the deadly medicine, threw it into the trash, and shouted out: “God, save my life.”

Then she cried herself to sleep, only to be awakened by a voice, saying, “Julie, I love you.”

It was God speaking to her, Ms. Woodley told the hushed Wheaton singles group. And shortly thereafter, her life began to radically change.

Julie enrolled in nearby Northwestern College, joined a church and Bible study, got married, and had four children. She was even able to forgive her father, whom she had not seen for 17 years.

She later attended Bethel and Liberty universities, earning a master’s degree in counseling and a certificate in theological studies.

For more than 20 years, Ms. Woodley has used her past horrors to help others, especially those who have been suffering from the emotional effects of sexual assault and abortion.

“I love to work with the traumatized. I was one of the first trained therapists at 9/11,” she recalled, referring to the coordinated terrorist attacks on four U.S. targets that killed 2,996 people and injured more than 6,000 on September 11, 2001.

Recently, Julie took on the opioid epidemic in south Florida, counseling addicts in treatment centers.

“It is time to reach out to the generation that is dying of addiction,” she implored the enthralled church audience. “Step it up.”

Ms. Woodley recently relocated to west suburban Naperville, where she continues to lead her Restoring the Heart Ministries. She has co-authored three books: Restoring the Heart: Experiencing Christ’s Healing after Brokenness; Post-Abortion Trauma: The Silent Side of Abortion; and Surviving the Storms of Life.

She is also a brain tumor and thyroid cancer survivor. Her story has been featured on several radio and TV shows, including Unshackled, Focus on the Family, The 700 Club, and Life Today.

Meanwhile, in October 2017, the Me Too movement began and spread virally on social media, calling attention to sexual assault and harassment, particularly in the workplace.

Ms. Woodley’s focus, however, is on healing, forgiveness, and moving forward.

“We are all sinners and saints,” she concluded. “Let’s reach out to a hurting world.”

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About Tom Siebert

Tom Siebert received a journalism degree from the University of Illinois and worked as a staff writer for newspapers in California, Florida, and Illinois. He reported general news, interviewed entertainment figures, and covered elected office holders––including four presidents and a pope. More significantly, Tom profiled human suffering in the form of a homeless man dying of AIDS, a college cheerleader battling Hodgkin's disease, and a senior couple living the long goodbye of Alzheimer's. He also worked as a copyeditor and proofreader for Tyndale House, a Christian publisher based in the Chicago suburbs. Tom is presently self-employed as an editor of Christian books. In addition, he serves as community relations director for Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County, Illinois. And Tom is on the leadership team for the Celebrate Recovery ministry at his church, Harvest New Beginnings, in Oswego, a suburb west of Chicago. He may be contacted at tmsiebert@gmail.com or (816) 344-7815.
This entry was posted in Christianity, MeToo, Recovery, Sexual Assault, Tom Siebert, Wheaton Bible Church and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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