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Joy Mendoza Talks About Forgiving Her Rapists With Toni Gonzaga
PHOTO BY Instagram/joytmendoza
  • Editor's note: This contains discussions of sexual assault and violence that people may find upsetting or triggering.

    Sometimes, finding the grace and strength to forgive someone even for a minor offense is difficult already. What more for injustice and violation such as rape?

    Forgiveness was the central theme of Toni Gonzaga’s recent conversation with inspirational speaker and homeschooling mom of six, Joy Mendoza, in the former’s popular YouTube program Toni Talks.

    In the episode, Mendoza shared how she was raped by seven men when she was 15 years old and still found it in her heart to choose forgiveness instead of getting even with her offenders at the time.

    Home invasion

    In 1992, when mobile phones were not yet widespread, 10 heavily armed men managed to enter Joy’s parent’s home to rob them.

    “When the doorbell rang, we thought it was my uncle delivering (sacks of) rice which he does every month, but there were robbers that followed him in. That time there was like a syndicate going around in Antipolo,” Joy, who was 15 at the time, recalls.

    Joy’s parents were out for a Bible study, and she was left at home with her two other siblings, their helpers, and a driver. Joy was expecting two of her friends for a sleepover.

    At around 6 p.m., Joy was about to take a shower in her parents’ bedroom when she heard unfamiliar footsteps in their living room. “There was scuffling on the floor na weird kasi we would always walk around the house barefoot,” she narrates.

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    “I felt it,” she tells Toni, referring that she knew something was amiss. “When I looked out the hallway, one of the robbers saw me.”

    Sexual assault at gunpoint 

    The intruder ran after Joy who went inside her parents’ room, where she was raped at gunpoint. “It was surreal that felt I wasn’t there anymore. But I remember very distinctly, I was reciting Psalm 23, ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.’”

    Six of the other robbers sexually assaulted Joy. Her two friends, who arrived at around 7 p.m. for the sleepover, met the same fate. The rest of the people in the house — Joy’s uncle, his wife, and their young son, the helpers, and Joy’s two other siblings — could not do anything because they were all tied up.

    It was Joy who found help. The parents of one of her friends dropped by to check in on them. The robbers asked Joy to go to the gate and tell them all was well. Joy acted casually but managed to say to them robbers were in the house.

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    How did Joy stay calm despite what happened to her? Joy credited everything to faith. “I remember giving myself to Jesus when I was 9, so in my heart I knew, if they kill me, I know where I’m going, so I had that peace,” she says. “I was thinking, they can do all these stuff to my body but they cannot touch my soul because that belonged to God.”

    Choosing forgiveness

    Joy says some people have questioned her decision to forgive and that she is doing a “disservice if you don’t put them behind bars.” But, Joy tells Toni, “I have to trust that God is bigger than the justice system.”

    Joy says her family later learned that some of the robbers-rapists who invaded their home were either killed or caught while doing criminal acts.

    When asked if it was easy to forgive, Joy responds, “Sometimes it’s harder to forgive my husband’s little offenses.” Laughing, she adds, “Sometimes it’s that repeated offenses that really hurt us and parang it’s hard to give our spouses a clean slate.”

    Joy is married to ANC anchor Edric Mendoza, her husband of 20 years. She says she learned that not all men are bad because of her husband.

    It’s been more than two decades since the nightmare, and Joy’s experience continues to be a source of wisdom for her and an inspiration for many. In 2015, she shared her story and the lessons she’s learned about faith in the book When The Good God Allows Rape, which has 4.9 stars out of 5 on Amazon.

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    Apart from her book, her regular ministry at the Christ’s Commission Fellowship (CCF) has allowed her to reach out to other women who have experienced the same abuse and trauma.

    “We have all gone through brokenness so it either makes us bitter or it makes us better. So, we have a choice, and it begins with forgiveness.”

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