“This man came into my life and he began to abuse me,” Mark Sowersby said as he recalled the tragic events of his youth. “He began to abuse me in every way, shape or form; verbally, emotionally, physically and he abused me sexually. That was my reality. That’s all I knew was this rejection, this pain, this brokenness, this sorrow. That was normal. That was life.”
Mark grew up without his biological father. His mother divorced her first husband after he cheated on her, and Mark was born later out of an affair with a married man who quickly abandoned them.
“I think my mom was dealing with a lot of neglect in her own life, rejection and pain, insecurities and fears,” Mark said. “But as her pain became louder in her life, her hurts became louder, it spilled out.”
When Mark was seven-years-old, his mother married a man twenty years younger than her. Shortly after, the abuse began.
“It was a late night I could never forget,” Mark said. “I can still remember the smell of my abuser’s breath; I still remember the threshold that crackled and I still remember the attack of my body. I was very confused because I was attacked in a sexual way, not knowing anything about those kind of touches – good touches, bad touches. I remember it very clearly that when it was done my abuser told me to keep it a secret or they’d take me away.”
From that point on the abuse occurred almost daily, and not just sexual. Mark was beaten, cut, burned and sold to other men for their perverse pleasures.
“I felt like I was bad. I felt like I did something wrong,” Mark said. “I was confused. This was a normality. I’d come home, I’d be abused, I’d be raped, I’d be sold to others, and this was just my reality. It was all I knew. I didn’t know a different way. I didn’t know up and down, left and right. I knew abuse and I became empty.”
Mark kept the abuse from his mother for a while, but when he finally told her what was happening his agony fell on deaf ears.
“She did not know how to handle that,” Mark said. “She called my abuser in the room and she confronted my abuser with my abuse, and he promised never to do it again. Well, the next morning I got the biggest beating of my life. So I felt empty, alone, guilty, afraid.”
The abuse continued for 7 years until Mark turned 14 and found the courage to fight off his abuser. He then ran to his uncle, who took Mark in after he learned what was happening.
“He was somebody who stood up for me and he protected me from that day forth,” Mark said. “And after the day I told my uncle about the abuse, it never came again.”
When Mark turned sixteen he was invited to church by a friend. There, he found comfort and community the likes of which he never knew. He was also introduced to Jesus Christ.
“I said that prayer, ‘Father, come into my life, forgive me of my sins and become my Lord and Savior.’ At that moment I knew Jesus Christ was with me and I became a fixture at that church,” Mark said. “I met some great people in that church. I met people who loved me and supported me. The church truly became a sanctuary for me.”
Mark soon felt a calling to go to Bible college and become a pastor. He graduated and married, starting a family. Mark would become a pastor of his own church, but the tortures of his youth were an ever-present shadow.
“The things that stuck with me after I left the home, the lies that filled my heart, my mind, and my soul, was the insecurity – ‘Mark, you’re junk!’ It was just something that was always there. Like the sun rising in the morning and the sun setting in the night, my abuse was always there. It was always about me,” Mark said.
The anxieties and fears that he harbored began to affect his health. He found comfort in food until a prediabetic diagnosis caused Mark to take stock in his physical and mental state. He knew something needed to change.
“I was always waiting for the day that the past, the hurts, would no longer be there,” Mark said. “But that day never came. What happened is that God became louder. God became bigger. I started telling those lies from the enemy that my God is stronger. I started to get confidence, not built in me, but a confidence that comes from knowing that my God can still open doors, move mountains, He can still make a way.”
He confronted his past through prayer, reading God’s word and counseling. He then found true healing when he made the choice to forgive his abuser.
“Forgiveness changed everything because it severed the attacks, it severed the lies of my abuser,” Mark said. “So, now God’s truth echoed louder than the abuser’s. I’ve forgiven my abuser by giving him into the hands of God. Being honest, talking to counselors, talking to Christian social workers, and having mentors in your life, that’s how all this came to place. I gave myself the freedom to say, ‘You know what, I’m angry today, can I really forgive? I can’t, except for Christ.’”
Mark reconciled with his mother before she passed away and met his biological father at the age of 45 – he asked Mark to forgive him for his abandonment. Mark’s physical, mental and spiritual life are healthy now and he started a ministry called Forgiving the Nightmare, where he shares his story of overcoming abuse through the love of Christ.
“God said, ‘You’re no longer a victim. You’re no longer abused. You’re no longer leftover. You’re no longer junk. You’re no longer broken, but now through me, and only in me and through me, are you an overcomer.’ Now my name is no longer victim, it is victorious,” Mark said. “Now my name is no longer broken, it’s overcomer, and I live in that. My identity, it’s true, one hundred percent, I was abused, neglected, raped, that’s one hundred percent true. But that’s not who I am. Who I am is what Christ calls me. I’m a son of God. I’m a servant of the Most High and I am delivered and set free in Jesus.”