How Sheila Found Freedom Behind Bars
If Sheila Silver's face was all you could see, you would never guess she's in prison. Her bright eyes, warm smile, and infectious laugh keep the prison blues at bay as she shares her story with the Prison Fellowship® Insider team.
It is a story full of despair and rejection. As a child, Sheila was sexually abused by her family. She retaliated by running away from home, and eventually, her family sent her away to California.
"I met somebody who introduced me to prostitution right away," she shares. "That became my life."
Sheila needed a savior—someone who could help her escape a world of abuse and shame. So, when a wealthy man took notice of her and offered to purchase her out of prostitution when she was just 17, Sheila could only hope her life would be different.
"I ended up marrying him," she says of her buyer. But it didn't last long.
"[I] divorced him," Sheila recalls. "I became ... a drug addict. I drank a lot and used a lot of drugs and pills to try to suppress that shame and those memories. … And I could never keep it completely down or … out of my memory."
ABUSED, ASSAULTED, ARRESTED
Though she couldn't escape her past, Sheila maintained a happy façade for the rest of the world. She became a soccer mom and joined the PTA. She even managed to quit her drug and alcohol habits for a time.
"I had three beautiful children—the perfect neighborhood, the perfect job, the perfect car," she reminisces.
Then Sheila relapsed—and all hell broke loose.
"My best friend let some people in my house who gang-raped me," Sheila says. "I just came unhinged. I dealt with it through more alcohol, more drugs."
Overcome with humiliation from the assault, Sheila decided revenge would be her remedy. Her once calm voice is now shaky as she admits, "I retaliated against [my friend]. I came here [to Central California Women’s Facility] with a 16-year sentence for basically doing something to someone which was exactly what was done to me."
FINDING FREEDOM BEHIND BARS
It was behind bars, though, that Sheila found freedom. "The devil just is a liar—[Lies] kept me in a very abusive life. … Freedom has saved my life. Our prison has saved my life. I found Jesus in prison. ... I have a completely different life."
Today, Sheila has a joy deep within that radiates from her life. She's found confidence—not just in who she is or how she might find a better life after prison, but in sharing her faith and testimony with others.
She might not know all the answers to her fellow prisoners' problems, "but I can tell [them] about the love of Jesus Christ."
HEALED AND RESTORED BY THE POWER OF JESUS
In just a few weeks, Sheila will be released from prison. "It's so exciting," she says. She has a chance to start a new life on the outside—a life restored and healed through the power of Jesus Christ. She has already reconciled with her children. Soon she'll have a chance to mend relationships with the family she was once forced out of.
"My brother and sister—they both grew up with the same dysfunctional mothers, so they have some of the same [experiences], but they've been restored," Sheila shares.
"God brought them back. … My brother has already found a church for us … so I'm going to go and praise and worship with my brother. That's huge, you know? There was never God in our home [before]."