Why I recommend this book:
Ruined is an autobiography focusing on Ruth Everhart’s tangled path to an authentic relationship with God. Hers is a story of a young woman who accepted her church’s teachings that sexual purity is what determines a woman’s spiritual worth and, following a brutal rape, began a deeply moving journey of questioning and finally escaping that theology.
Please be aware that this book contains detailed descriptions of rape and violence which you may find difficult to read.
The book begins with a detailed description of her experience of a horrific break-in of her college apartment, in which she and her roommates are held hostage for hours and raped by the intruders. In Everhart’s eyes, the rape ruined her—and her relationship with God and every other significant relationship in her life. Before the rape, Everhart would call herself a “good girl,” one who went to Church and said her prayers and believed in God just as the Calvinist Catechism, and her family, taught. After the rape, Everhart feels shamed, and therefore isolated, from her faith community; she struggles to be in relationship with the God that she previously knew—the God that promises to keep safe all of God’s chosen children. Ultimately, Everhart’s story confronts a larger problem in Christian churches today: young women are taught that in order to be “good girls” (i.e., to be loved by and faithful to God), they must be sexually pure. As soon as they have participated in any sexual activity, whether willingly or forced, they are damaged goods and can do nothing to salvage their relationships or their reputation.
In due course, Everhart thinks differently; “we are all more than what has happened to us,” she says and goes on to demonstrate how women can move through the belief that their sexual activity determines the status of their spirituality by entering into relationship with God as her full self: one that includes her talents and skills and hopes and desires along with all the natural human baggage she carries.
Ruined, a stark and revealing story of one woman’s journey, emphasizes that theology and faith can bind us as well as free us. Ministers and pastoral caretakers especially would do well to be reminded that their teaching and preaching affects the daily life of all people. If you find you pick up this book but find that it is too graphic, I highly encourage you to at least read the final portion, a letter addressed to her daughters. It is a beautifully moving and passionate letter that wonderfully sums up her new understanding of women, spirituality, sexuality, and religion.