Mabel wears many hats. Close friend, killer designer, small business owner, and super strong soul. Recently I caught up with her to talk about some areas in her life that she has truly recovered from and then some.
Matt : Real talk, how would you say your life is going right now?
Mabel Nevel: I’m trying to start my own business currently, so that’s kind of a venture. It’s not traumatic, I would say. I think learning to trust God is the biggest thing I’m learning more of right now. And there’s always room to learn more of that.
M: I know what you mean. So on the flip side of that, what would the lowest point in your life be? If you were to look back on it, what would be a point in your life if you look back and it’s just every facet is zero, zero, zero?
MN: I think a super low point would probably be my senior year in high school when I was raped. I felt like I couldn’t tell anybody because I didn’t report it, so I felt like it didn’t realty count in anybody’s eyes. And I was even actually told a few times, “No, that’s not actually what happened to you.” Then, thinking at the same time that I might have been pregnant and what to do with that. Thankfully, I wasn’t. Just dealing with all of that as a 17-year-old when you’re in high school. You still have so many of these daily pressures, and then to have this thing that you can’t shake. It’s kind of, it is, traumatizing and that’s kind of become your focus and your life and you feel like you can’t tell anybody because of whatever, X, Y, Z.
I think that was definitely a really low point, and I think that’s why I’m so vocal now because I want to make sure I never lose my voice again. It’s actually something that Troy (my boyfriend) and I talk about all the time because I’m very, very quick to raise my voice. Not raise it like yell, but quick to speak up and I’ve actually learned that’s not good and I need to listen and there’s balances, but I think that comes from a place of being silenced and being made to feel like I can’t say what I need to say. I think I’m learning that now years later just going through the process of healing still. There’s always healing.
M: What else do you think you learned from it?
MN: I think I just learned… Oh gosh, so many things. I think the greatest thing I learned and am still actually learning is what forgiveness looks like, specifically from a Christian standpoint. The Bible says that God is love and love, in first Corinthians, holds no record of wrongs. So if I’m going to forgive somebody, I think some people confuse the words trust and forgive because I think you can forgive somebody, but don’t need to trust them continually. I think that’s something I learned almost immediately was, I can forgive you, but I don’t trust you.
But also now, I can forgive you, and I still don’t have to hold my own anger or bitterness against you. It doesn’t mean that I trust you, but it doesn’t mean that I’m still reliving it or holding onto it because I’ve learned that reliving it… Yes, people go through different stages of grief and I’m not saying that somebody who does experience trauma should instantly just forgive and forget, but I think that not holding onto it is something that has really helped me because you’re holding onto anger or bitterness towards somebody for something, you’re not actually holding them accountable. You’re just making yourself a bitter person.
M: Being bitter never made anyone better.
MN: Bitter never made better. Yeah, I like that. That’s great.
M: If we can circle back, who were the people that told you that’s not what happened?
MN: I didn’t tell anybody actually what happened to me until two years later, and then when I started to open up with people, a lot were very receptive and very helpful, especially a lot of women who had experienced the same thing. It’s really unfortunate, but there’s actually a lot of women that I found within my church who had experienced the same thing, so it was really nice to have similar community. But I think the people that were mostly telling me, “Hey, that’s not what happened,” it was mostly coming from a place of, “There’s no police report. There’s no evidence. There’s no proof. You didn’t say no. You didn’t try hard enough.” Not that I didn’t say no, but all of the victim-blaming.” People victim-blame and they don’t even know it. But people were looking for reasons for me to be in the wrong, and I think for different people that means different things, and I think they were more or less looking for reasons to believe I wasn’t.
M: Did that play into your identity at all in the time?
MN: Yeah. I mean, I didn’t tell anybody. Not my best friend, not my mom for two years. I was already very quiet about the whole incident. Not that I was looking for pity. I actually hate when people feel sorry for me now because of that incident. When people hear it, their first instinct is to go, “Oh, I’m so sorry,” but I actually hate that because why are you sorry? Are you that person? No. You can be sorry that something happened, but it’s actually no help to say that. A lot of people would have pity on me, but a lot of people would offer support, so meeting somebody that I would tell my story or share my story with, I was never expecting support, but I never expected to meet such abrasiveness and such angry, hurt people who directed that at my situation for no reason because they didn’t know me.
M: How would you keep yourself from winding up in that position of silence?
MN: There’s this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, I think, and it’s that, “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
M: I think that is Eleanor Roosevelt.
MN: I think it is Eleanor Roosevelt because you know why? You know why I know that? Because it’s in the movie Princess Diaries and she quotes it in the movie. Shout out Anne Hathaway. Freaking love you. Grow your hair back, please. Not really. You can do whatever you want. You look great.
M: I don’t think she’s gonna hear this.
MN: I don’t think so either. But that quote rings true for a lot of people so that’s why I use it. I think one thing that I’ve learned over the course of time is that nobody can actually make me feel silent except when I’m made to be silent. Maybe somebody else is trying to silence me, but I don’t have to play into their hand. There’s definitely a balance. The Bible even talks about how it’s better slow to speak, quick to listen, and I think there’s just a time for everything, and I think that in order to prevent myself from being back in a place of being silenced, I think it’s more of just a healthy relationship with others, a healthy relationship with God, healthy communication with people.
I think it’s coming from a place of security that I don’t necessarily need whoever I’m telling my story to to validate it. Something I heard in church a super long time ago was more that nobody can debate your story. Your testimony is your biggest tool in sharing the gospel because you’re telling someone your own experience. Nobody can debate that experience because that’s your truth, right? I’m not saying go live your truth, but that’s what happened to you. Nobody else has lived that. That‘s your own personal experience and so regardless of if somebody else wants to say it’s not true or it’s not valid, they actually don’t have the power to unless you give them that power.
M: Would you say in the long run that this has made you stronger or it’s just something that you’ve recovered from?
MN: I think yes, I’ve come out the other side stronger. Do I think that this is something that needed to happen in my life to make me stronger? No. But do I think that I’ve become stronger because of it and because of the challenges that I’ve overcome while facing this? Yes. This is also a question I’ve come across as well, the whole why do bad things happen to good people and wouldn’t God stop this from happening?
M: That was gonna be my next question.
MN: I think that in the Bible it says that God works all things for good. It doesn’t say that he makes all things happen. God is not a puppeteer. He doesn’t orchestrate every detail of our lives, but I do believe the things that happen he will use for good. And so, yes this was a bad thing that happened. But hey, it happens to other people, and I’m able to be a voice for them when they go through what I went through just like somebody who’s a recovered addict in our church is able to help addicts overcome their own addictions. It’s not necessarily that what’s going on with them is a great thing or what they went through is a good thing, but God’s actually gonna use it for good, maybe in other ways. I’ve seen God use this for others good. I think that’s the good of God. It’s not about me. It’s not about ‘what am I going to get out of this?’ I think when you have that mentality is when you don’t see the good. But if you have a mentality of, this is going to help somebody else, then yeah, that’s a good thing. Rape is not a good thing, but when you have people like me and the women who helped me through this, I’m able to now be that for somebody else, so that’s good. Right?
M: That’s great. Last question: If you could give any words of wisdom, anything else additionally to the old you, senior year of high school you?
MN: Oh, God. If I could talk to her, I would probably shake her. I would say, pre-incident Mabel, the Mabel before December 10, 2010, I would say, “Hey girl, don’t worry about boys.” This whole situation happened because of a boy that I thought that I liked. I wasn’t worried about them, but I liked to date and I liked the attention as anybody does. I think that I wasn’t really searching for anything that was special or lasting. I mean, I still have so much to learn about the one, quote-unquote, what everybody says is the one. I have so much to learn about even the one that I want to be. But I think my biggest thing in life is always rushing to the next step and I think that is so easy for so many people to do, so I would probably tell her, “Hey, everything is going to work out. You don’t have to worry about planning it. You can’t plan your life anyways, so don’t try. Just trust that God knows you and God’s got you.”
I think that if I were to talk to the Mabel post-incident, maybe December 11, 2010, I’d probably be like, “Hey girl, tell your best friend.” Because, probably more painful than the rape itself, was being in silence for so long. But then, telling my best friend two years later and knowing her reaction was one of love and not one of condemnation. She’s still gonna be my biggest fan and my biggest supporter, and she’s still gonna love me, she’s actually not gonna think any less of you.
Sometimes, we think that our problems are burdens on other people, and I get this all the time. I’ll meet up with somebody for coffee and I’ll be like, “Hey, what’s going on?” and they’ll be like, “Ah, no, I don’t want to burden you,” and it’s like, you’re not. That’s actually what we’re here for. We’re here to carry each other’s burdens. And they’re not burdens like you’re dumping this on me, it’s a shared weight. I think for me and for that girl who I was, it’s just like, “Hey, tell somebody. Tell your best friend. Tell your small group leader. Tell your school counselor. Tell your parents. Tell somebody.” I mean, it literally took me forever to tell my mom, but my mom is one of my closest friends to this day. Knowing that your community, they’re not just there for the good. They’re there for whatever you’re going through. So I think that’s maybe something that I would tell her.