Sandi Patty Shares How She Found Her True Voice

She is known as a powerhouse singer, but in her new book, the Gospel icon opens up about the sexual assault that kept her quiet for decades.

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- Posted on Nov 6, 2018

Sandi Patty performing

Sandi Patty has been a name synonymous with Gospel music since she released her first album in 1979. She was dubbed “the voice” at an early age because of her singing ability. 

Patty’s newest book, titled The Voice: Listening for God’s Voice and Finding Your Own, takes a deep dive into parts of her life she’s kept private for years. Surprisingly, The Voice is not primarily concerned with Patty’s singing voice. Patty was always a talented vocalist. However, she struggled to find her inner voice and speak up for herself.

“I was a shy kid. Words were hard for me,” Patty told Guideposts.org. “It was hard to learn how to speak up and share my thoughts. As the years rolled along it became more and more difficult to speak up.”

For example, Patty’s last name was misspelled on one of her early albums as “Patti.” Instead of correcting the spelling, she went by the name “Sandi Patti” for decades.

One of the reasons Patty found it so difficult to use her voice was because of a traumatic childhood experience. At age six, she was sexually assaulted by a female family friend, an experience she opens up about for the first time in the book.

“The message you get when you are sexually abused, especially at an early age, is that you don’t tell because no one is going to believe you and it’s your fault,” Patty said. “I was already a kid who had a shy personality and tended to second guess myself. That message became a lens through which I saw the rest of my life. In other situations, I would think that doesn't feel right, but I’m not going to speak up because I’m probably wrong anyway.”

She’s sharing the story of her assault now in hopes that it will help other people feel less alone.

“[Feeling alone] is one of the things that keeps everybody silent about the tough times in our lives—we think we’re the only ones,” Patty said.

She writes in The Voice that she felt like it was “her job to make everyone feel better.”

“Especially for women, I think we feel this need to somehow personally make everyone’s lives fulfilling and better, which is not even possible!” Patty said. “The cost of that is we don’t speak up because speaking up causes conflict.”

Friendships were essential to helping Patty find the courage to speak up. They reminded her that she didn’t need to make others feel better because the people she loved didn't doubt she cared for them. 

“For me having a group of friends that I trusted, and who had lived a lot of life, boy I tell you, that was lifesaving and life changing for me,” she said.

Friends and family were crucial to help Patty confront another struggle she faced: shame. She felt plagued by insecurities about her weight, her divorce and her assault.

“I’ve heard it explained that guilt tells us we’ve done something wrong—shame says we are wrong,” Patty said. “Shame is probably the last piece we really have to figure out a way to let of—it’s like unwrapping yourself from a wet shower curtain. Counseling was a huge piece of that and continues to be a huge piece for me.”

Shame was a huge presence in Patty’s life—and one she freely admits is an ongoing battle. How does she fight it?

“I have to say, ‘God you have forgiven me, you have redeemed me and I don't need to carry this shame any longer. I am going to lay it down,” Patty said. “And that's a process and it's hard but… it is so worth the battle.”

Patty hopes readers will be encouraged to find their voice after reading her story.

“I want [people] to know that their story and their voice matter,” Patty said. “We have to figure out a way to take our pain and put it where it needs to be, without letting it guide our lives. [Pain is] a part of our story. It describes us, but it doesn’t need to define us.”

The Voice is available wherever books are sold.

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