Few would be willing to speak publicly about the pain of being sexually molested or the agony of losing a child in death, then surviving a painful divorce after 24 years of marriage. But …
Few would be willing to speak publicly about the pain of being sexually molested or the agony of losing a child in death, then surviving a painful divorce after 24 years of marriage. But Julie Corbello Giordano addresses her pain in a way that teaches others how to live a purpose-driven life beyond the pain to the point of being empowered. The single mom was willing to share her journey and the lessons learned that empowered her to transcend a series of painful ordeals that could have destroyed her life.
Her first ordeal started when she was only 5 years old and living in the small town of Moss Bluff, La., just outside of Lake Charles. Her biological father, who is now deceased, began sexually molesting her. The nightmare would go on for 10 years. Julie, the baby in a family of four siblings could not understand the depth of betrayal that was going on at the time, but now, in retrospect she said, “Many believe that monsters aren’t real — that they’re just on TV or in stories. But when you’re living with sexual abuse you realize monsters really are real. You’re a child and you’re forced to deal with emotions that you’re not equipped to deal with. Finding out years later that was a generational curse in our family — it’s devastating. ”
To top it off, Julie said her father was admired and a strict disciplinarian who made sure his family practiced Southern hospitality daily, but they were not a “church family” who attended church weekly.
“Our family was well-respected in the community,” Julie said. “My mother and siblings were unaware of the family secret and deep pain, because it seemed we lived a normal life. But honestly, there was a bit of a split personality because he was so respectable, a hard worker, a good man — but on the flip side there was this monster.”
Looking back, Julie said, “What’s so crazy about this particular type of secret sin is that it can be kept quiet out of fear and embarrassment.”
But as she entered puberty and realized that other youths was not having to deal with such a “problem,” Julie said she became increasingly frustrated.
“I was a good kid. I was very athletic, played a lot of sports and was very involved at school. So I’m in the seventh grade now, and getting on the verge of crossing over to the point where I really didn’t care. The anger was building, so I was acting out in every area. I was on the verge of becoming promiscuous with boys. I was thinking, ‘Who cares? Why do I have to follow the rules?’”
It was at this point when a Catholic priest moved into the community. According to Julie, he was a former football coach who had a caring, sincere love for teenagers. Since her high school was just across the street from the church, the new priest had all the football players help him with landscaping and other chores.
“That’s where everybody started hanging out. That’s how I go connected in church and ended up in a youth ministry,” said Julie, who described an epiphany when she said she felt “a raw presence of God” that said “I will give you all of me if you give me all of you” — “and I needed Him,” she confessed. “That was my turning point. But even though I was reading the Word and trying to serve God, it was still happening in my home.”
It was when she turned 15, in the 10th grade, that Julie said she could no longer keep silent.
“It was eating me up,” she admitted. “There was anger. There was hatred. I was struggling with all of it. I just couldn’t keep it in anymore, and I called him on it. Taking responsibility of my life was important to me.”
Julie confessed the family secret to a family member only to discover that she was not alone. Three other female relatives were also involved and soon found strength in numbers. Initially, only the victims confided in each and first sought comfort in prayer together.
“We prayed and prayed and prayed for a couple of hours and really got a breakthrough,” Julie said. “I got a release of the hatred. It has literally made a difference in all of my life, not just in that moment. It released me of that heaviness of unforgiveness.”
Throughout her abuse, Julie said it was her prayer to be saved from ‘the monster’ that manipulated her mentally and emotionally and continued to molest her. She soon learned that miraculous salvation from sexual abuse was not how she would be saved. Instead, Julie’s spiritual journey took her from being a victim to becoming empowered.
“A revelation that I feel has carried me my whole life was the fact that ‘If I rescue you, I rescue one. But if I can empower you, I can change a generation.’ In that journey, God taught me how to stand up for myself, take my life back and speak to the enemy, and he would obey. So at 15, I started saying, ‘No! We’re not doing this! You need to leave my room! You need to get out of here!’ We went through a lot of fighting. The sexual abuse stopped. But there was more mental abuse to deal with.”
Julie admits when her father’s secret came to light, the family was “heartbroken and went through a lot of emotional changes.” A family intervention was arranged, to which her father agreed to continuous counseling and monitoring, which resulted in many boundaries, including children under 18 never being left alone with him. The counseling and boundaries lasted the rest of his life.
Julie said it is important that people understand her father was also a victim of child abuse and that “hurting people hurt people,” a cycle she and her fellow victims were determined to break.
“During this time, he had an encounter with the Lord and transformed his life” Julie said. “He experienced a major change and there was great restoration with all of us. This was a very unusual story of love, restoration and healing. He had a terrible life. He was also abused. He was a good man but he was also a very sick man. He had issues. At the same time we all have to be accountable for our actions and learn how to empower ourselves to break cycles of abuse. You can’t change a person’s ways until they change their thinking. In any sin, the mind has to be transformed, as it says in Romans 12:2. The persons themselves have to allow the Lord to transform their mind. That’s what happened with him.”
Julie said her father sincerely apologized for what he did and she forgave him, just as she wants to be forgiven for her trespasses.
“We can’t expect forgiveness if we don’t forgive,” she said. “Forgiveness is about my relationship with God. I’m not validating that it was OK that my father did that to me. My forgiveness was saying, ‘I release you. You have no more control over my life.’ I believe forgiveness is an act of our will every single day. It’s also a process. In my situation, I was trying to forgive him and we were still in the middle of it. So, how do you stay in a state of forgiveness? The Lord can help you in this process.”
Julie came through her child abuse as a self empowered woman with a passion for empowering other women to fulfill their purpose and destiny. Her journey, however, was far from over. A gas can that ignited near a hot water heater would result in the tragic loss of her precious child and send her on another painful journey with new trials of faith.
Julie Giordano’s extraordinary story will conclude in Sunday’s Lifestyles.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Experts say children as young as age 3 can and should be taught sex education to prevent them from being sexually abused. Family and Children’s Services says, “It is very important to emphasize repeatedly that if a child cannot stop an uncomfortable touch of any kind, it is never the child’s fault!” If you know or suspect that a child is being or has been sexually abused, contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453.
Print subscribers have FREE access to clevelandbanner.com by registering HERE
Non-subscribers have limited monthly access to local stories, but have options to subscribe to print, web or electronic editions by clicking HERE
We are sorry but you have reached the maximum number of free local stories for this month. If you have a website account here, please click HERE to log in for continued access.
If you are a print subscriber but do not have an account here, click HERE to create a website account to gain unlimited free access.
Non-subscribers may gain access by subscribing to any of our print or electronic subscriptions HERE