Clarksville, TN – Tia Jones, a communication student at Austin Peay State University was in Germany, serving her country in the U.S. Army, when her past finally caught up to her.
A native of Goldsboro, North Carolina, Jones grew up in a self-described broken home. Raised by her mother, Jones did not meet her biological father during her early years, and in his absence, a six-year-old Jones found suffering as the victim of sexual assault at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend.
Struggling with the physical and emotional burden of her assault, she said she sought help from her family. But when she needed someone to trust, Jones said all she received was suspicion, blame and denial.
“I grew up being told not to tell anyone (about being the victim of rape),” Jones said. “I felt like I had to tell someone, so I talked to a babysitter I had at the time, and my mother ended up being upset at me that I had told someone my secret.
“Over the course of time, I started to blame myself for what was happening and I grew up thinking that I was the only person who was going through these experiences.”
During her teenage years, she said that internal struggle manifested itself in the form of bad decisions. Looking for healing any way she could, Jones found what she thought were answers in the form of bad relationships, sex and drug use. Those demons were partially responsible, Jones said, for her dropping out of college in 2010 and a return to her damaged home.
It was then, Jones said, that she began to feel the influence of a higher power. While she had grown up in a church environment, she said she often struggled to comprehend God’s plan. If there was a higher power who knew why things happened, then Jones wondered what he had in mind for her.
“I broke down and said, ‘I know you’re real, God, so show me you care about me,’” Jones said. “Almost right after that moment, I started experiencing small spiritual things. People were coming up to me and talking to me about personal things that I had never told anyone. That’s when I knew God was listening.”
With returning to college not an option, Jones said she turned her focus to the armed forces. In 2012, Jones enlisted in the U.S. Army, and would eventually find herself stationed in Germany when a friendship made in the service led her to find a call to serve others.
“When I got away from my home and found myself all the way in Germany, that’s when it really hit me that the home I grew up in was not normal and I started to think about what I had gone through,” Jones said. “I was invited by an NCO to go to this bible study, and that night, I just decided to share my story. There were probably 40-50 people there, and I just decided to finally tell other people about what I had gone through.”
Jones said her courage was rewarded, as her story was received well by those in attendance, with multiple people telling her their own stories and offering her encouragement that she was not alone.
Now enrolled at APSU, Jones continues to share her story as a speaker and a worship leader at Mile High Church in Clarksville. Last year, she published her memoirs, titled “Come See a Man,” detailing her struggle, as well as her eventual healing and renewed relationship with God.
“I never thought I’d be an author, but what inspired me was that I finally decided that I wanted people to see Christ for who he really is,” Jones said. “He’s not judgmental; he really cares. And I know that anyone who has dealt with abuse or insecurity or depression can overcome it because I overcame it. That drive is why I wrote this book.”