When Lisa Johnson’s daughter was molested at the age of six, their entire family went on a journey toward healing that has led to an incredible organization to help families going through situations just like theirs.
4word: Share with us your daughter’s story.
Lisa: Let me begin by sharing I have four children – Ashlyn (17), Alayna (16), Aiden (14), and Zane (4, yes 4). At the age of six, Ashlyn was sexually violated by a man who was close to our family. He spent well over a year gaining the trust of everyone in my family. He then sexually violated Ashlyn. He wasn’t new to this, as he had previously violated another girl about five years earlier. This previous victim was 10 years old, and he violated her in the same exact way he violated Ashlyn.
He was skilled in getting others to trust him. He was well respected in our circle of friends and acquaintances, and he was well liked in our church. In fact, quite a few people were completely shocked and couldn’t comprehend that this respected, Christian man could do something like this.
We reported him to the police, and shortly thereafter, a one-and-a-half-year long court process began. We experienced devastating challenges throughout the process. With the grace of God, we prevailed and the court case ended in our favor with a conviction.
4word: How has Christ redeemed through this situation? What has your daughter’s healing journey been like?
Lisa: What’s so amazing is how God has worked through Ashlyn. He began working on her heart to forgive her violator before I could even think about considering the option of forgiveness. Ashlyn now shares her story with others as she feels called to do so and that continues to bring so much healing to her. God is so good!
My faith has grown phenomenally through our journey. And if I’m being honest, there were a few times when I questioned my faith, although I knew deep down, God was there. Even if I didn’t feel his presence, I knew He was there.
As a parent, it’s hard to make sense of something like this happening to your precious baby. It’s not always for us to understand. And while I don’t believe God meant for this to happen to Ashlyn, I truly believe that He knew that we would do something about it. He gave us so much strength to do something about it. And He continues to work in us and through us to help others with similar stories.
In fact, Ashlyn, Alayna, and I have founded an organization, Hope Through the Journey, to help other families through the process we found ourselves in over 11 years ago. Through the organization, we will be imparting empowerment and hope to teen/pre-teen overcomers of sexual abuse, their parents, siblings, and loved ones through community, acceptance, and encouragement. We will do this through monthly meetings held in and around the Tulsa area. Our launching event will be Saturday, November 19th. Our website is still under construction, but for more information, go to HopeThroughTheJourney on Facebook.
4word: Have you found that the topic of molestation is something people are willing to open up about?
Lisa: People weren’t open to talk about it over 10 years ago. Early in our journey, people didn’t want to talk about it, nor did they want to hear me talk about it. However, since I began writing the book over four years ago and people have been aware about the topic of my book, and since the book’s release in July, people have actually approached me and emailed me to share their own similar stories. Some had never told anyone else. Others had told a loved one about their experience but nothing was reported and it was never discussed again. Once people hear about my book or read my book, they feel comfortable opening up to me, even if we’ve never met. And this isn’t just limited to women. Men who I’ve known professionally for years have shared their stories with me as well. I hate that anyone has had to endure such a painful experience. However, I love that people are sharing their stories. It is incredibly freeing and therapeutic for them. They can begin the healing process, or start over with the healing process. They can work towards restoration wherever they are in the process.
4word: What led to you write your book? What has the response been?
Lisa: I felt so incredibly alone during our one and a half year court process. I would ask for prayers only to be told once that Ashlyn wouldn’t appreciate me gossiping about her. I asked for prayers for her, not for me. Although I have a great family, they didn’t know how to provide support. And even though I felt alone and overwhelmed, I had to hold it together for my kids. I had to make them feel safe and secure in our home. Some nights I broke down after they went to bed, but they never knew it.
What’s so incredible is that writing and releasing “Ashlyn’s Story” has opened doors of communication about molestation. After people have read our story, they’ve provided feedback to me that has completely blown me away! I had no idea it would make such an impact. As people have begun to face situations in their pasts and in their lives, they’ve then been able to process their feelings about those situations and work through them towards healing. One woman told me she feels empowered through our story. Another woman told me that she was a victim herself who had never dealt with it, but the book provided a pathway for forgiveness. It has been incredibly amazing! (Follow Ashlyn’s Story on Facebook for updates on how Ashlyn is doing.)
4word: If you are or have been a victim of molestation, what should you do? If you know someone who is a victim of molestation, what should you do?
Lisa: Tell a teacher, counselor, coach, principal, pastor, or a youth group leader! These people are trained to help report it. It should absolutely be reported to get justice for the person who was violated but also serve as a warning to others that this violator is not safe to be around. If you tell someone and are not heard, tell someone else. Keep telling someone until someone actually listens and takes action.
4word: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Lisa: What someone else meant for evil, God is using it for good. He was ultimately the author of “Ashlyn’s Story.” He has been and will continue to be glorified through our experiences.
God doesn’t waste a hurt. Share your story with others. You never know who you can help simply by sharing your story.
If you or someone you know has gone or is going through a situation like Ashlyn’s, please seek help or find someone safe that you can go to for guidance. Do not suffer in silence or feel like you’ve brought your situation on yourself somehow. Let Lisa and Ashlyn’s bravery and perseverance be a comfort and inspiration to you!
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Lisa Johnson is a dual certified HR professional (PHR and SHRM-CP) as well as a professional speaker. Lisa has over 15 years of Human Resources experience gained from working at three large, prominent Tulsa-based companies including WorldCom (now Verizon), CommunityCare of Oklahoma, and Tulsa World/BH Media. Lisa has also worked as a Recruiter and Consultant for various recruiting firms in Tulsa. Lisa now owns an HR consulting firm and serves as an outsourced human resources professional for small to medium-size businesses.
Lisa has been invited to speak to numerous groups including multiple professional organizations, women’s organizations, colleges and university programs. She has served on various nonprofit boards and currently volunteers at several ministries in the Tulsa area.
Lisa is currently involved in outreach efforts to educate and inform leaders and citizens in the community about Ashlyn’s story to bring awareness to tragedies that are taking place in our homes and in the homes of our families, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and fellow church members. Along with her daughters, Lisa has founded Hope Through the Journey to impart empowerment and hope to teen/pre-teen overcomers of sexual abuse, their parents, siblings, and loved ones through community, acceptance, and encouragement.
Lisa is passionate about serving others and helping them to be better informed.
“Ashlyn’s Story” is about a mother’s deep love, determination, and faith. At the young age of 6, Ashlyn experienced something no child should ever endure. Ashlyn’s innocence was taken from her and left her and her mom to work through the confusing, chaotic aftermath. Ashlyn, her mom, and family overcame hurts, failures, and disappointments and learned how to live without the presence of shame or guilt. Ashlyn’s Story is a journey about faith, hope, perseverance, justice, triumph, and forgiveness and will leave you feeling inspired and empowered.