When Rachel Wilson was 8 years old, she witnessed her mother being physically abused by a romantic partner in ways that shattered her sense of stability and security for many years. Now as a 46-year-old pastor, the abuse she witnessed her mother endure inspires her calling to minister to women suffering from domestic abuse.
Wilson is the co-pastor of Kingdom Vision Life Center in Greensboro, North Carolina, which she leads alongside her husband, Ronald Wilson. In an interview with The Christian Post, Wilson shared how she turned her pain into testimony by founding Girl Talk International to help other women who have been victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse and other traumatic life experiences.
"My mother was heavily abused through domestic violence. I witnessed her being beat up and being body slammed. And as a young girl, with my other girl siblings in the house, we actually saw my mother being abused and beat up in front of our very eyes. So, that was like an indirect hit that was very terrorizing and traumatizing," said Wilson.
"When you see something firsthand, it's different. I know what that abuse did to us as children. Because it's really disrespectful, but it also messes you up. It broke my security. I thought I was OK until my mother was getting abused. I thought I had a good life until I found out through her screams and getting hit that there was no security here. Anything can happen. It broke my security."
According to Wilson, her mother endured physical abuse from her romantic partner for roughly two years, from the time she was 8 until she turned 10.
"As my mother continued to be abused, she could pinpoint how I started becoming angry as a child. And I started being very fussy. Like, I wasn't a person that would holler and scream and stuff like that. But after my security was broken, when I got traumatized through that, she noticed a shift in my behavior," Wilson recounted.
After the abuse ended, Wilson went through another life-altering experience that led her to develop a relationship with Christ later in her life at age 16 — a severe car accident.
"My mother was driving me and my siblings, and we were coming down from the hills of San Diego. San Diego is amazing. It's beautiful. But it has these huge big slopes and hills that have no rails on the side," Wilson recalled.
"My mother was going down one of the hills, and she had a front wheel blowout, doing 65 miles an hour. And so we have this car with seven of us; my mother and then five siblings along with myself in it going full speed, uncontrollably down a hill."
Wilson recalled that while it "was like a bomb exploded," with the car turning and flipping over before hitting the bottom of a hill, all the passengers survived with only a few minor scratches and bruises.
"In that terror, I will never forget that moment, at 16, for the first time in my life, I saw my entire life flash before my eyes," she said.
On that same day, Wilson said she prayed to the Lord for the first time and later accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior.
Wilson said that witnessing her mother's experiences with domestic violence and her near-death encounter with her family led her to start Girl Talk International.
The ministry has helped dozens of women locally and in five neighboring states. Wilson told CP that she hopes her ministry can continue to grow.
"I know this ministry is something God has given me. I've just always had a passion to help women because I'm a woman, and I know what women go through," Wilson said.
When Wilson started her ministry, she saw it as an opportunity to use all her past pains for something good, namely to help other women and give them hope in Christ.
"We encourage them first. We teach them the love of God and what God requires through the Word of God and what He sees women as: beautiful and 'made in His image and His likeness.' So first, we try to refer them to the Word of God because women have to come in agreement to know and understand what God says about them," Wilson said.
"In a lot of cases, women who are being abused by men will be told all these evil things about themselves by their abusers. So we try to work on the mind of the women we care for and help them to understand the Word of God. And then from there, we encourage them to do self-care and to have love and hope for themselves and others around them."
Wilson said she and her team of about 10 ministry staff will refer women to 800 hotlines for domestic violence or to other facilities so they can receive help or relief from their situations.
Wilson believes her ministry is set apart from other domestic violence programs that aim to help free women because it is rooted in Christianity.
"I will say the love of God sets us apart. And I will say understanding and being able to relate in some type of way. You have to be able to relate with people that are traumatized. They need to know you understand them. Sometimes your trauma causes them to gravitate towards you because they feel like you can relate and that you're talking their language," Wilson said.
"I haven't been involved in domestic violence or abused personally. I haven't gone through what my mother went through. However, I can relate because the indirect hit sometimes hits harder than the first hit. Secondhand smoke is worse than firsthand smoke."
People facing domestic violence or know someone who is can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for support at (800) 799-7233.
Nicole Alcindor is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.