Evangelist Josh McDowell has revealed that his faith and the guidance of a spiritual mentor allowed him to overcome the pain resulting from years of sexual abuse as a child and forgive his rapist.
During the Together 2016 event on the National Mall on Saturday, the 76-year-old bestselling author revealed to thousands gathered in the audience that between the ages of 6 and 13, he was raped on a weekly basis by a man his mother had hired as a housekeeper, according to the The Christian Post.
Because his mother ordered him to obey this man, simply known as "Wayne Bailey," or face severe punishment, McDowell was unable to fight back. Even worse - his own father was abusive and an alcoholic who was largely absent from his life.
When he was 9 years old, McDowell finally told his mother about the sexual abuse, but she refused to believe him and took him out to the back yard to beat him with a stick. Finally, the little boy screamed "I'm lying" to get her to stop.
The abuse went on for several years, until the little boy was finally big enough to defend himself. At the age of 13, McDowell finally grabbed the predator's throat, shoved him against the wall, and said "If you ever touch me again, I will kill you."
"And I would have," McDowell said.
Enduring such horrific abuse for so many years caused McDowell to develop a deep mistrust of men and negatively affected his self-image. When a small group of Christians at his college in Michigan attempted to talk to him about God as a loving father, he was unable to relate due to his tragic upbringing and responded with anger.
However, the young man's heart was eventually softened to the truth of the Gospel, and he opened up about his past to the Christian man who led him to Christ. McDowell was amazed when the man believed him and urged him to forgive his rapist.
Despite the pain and horror he'd experienced, McDowell was able to forgive Bailey, thanks to the power of Jesus Christ: "One of the smartest things I ever realized was that I needed more than Jesus," McDowell said. "I needed a group of men around me...who would be there at 2 o'clock in the morning when I wanted to end it all."
Today, his ministry activity has allowed him to share the Gospel around the world and use his past to reach others.
"There's nothing too great in your life that God can't reset," McDowell continued, "nor anything too small that He's not interested in."
According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice, approximately 1.8 million adolescents in the United States have been the victims of sexual assault. However, disclosure of sexual abuse is often delayed; children often avoid telling because they are either afraid of a negative reaction from their parents or of being harmed by the abuser.
McDowell further detailed the abuse he sustained in his 2012 autobiography, "Undaunted." His story is also shared in a docudrama of the same name.