I recently viewed a video by Sheila Gregiore about why Andy Savage is unqualified to start a new church. Although the triggers made it very hard for me to sit through the entire 20 minutes I wanted to hear her words to the end, and I'm glad I did. It made me reflect on the sexual assaults I endured and brought to light that I have struggled with guilt and shame over those assaults for 30 years. That guilt and shame are what has made me NOT want to share, but the truth (easier to type than to say out loud to myself) is that I never asked to be assaulted and the blame does not belong to me.
If you've read any of my other blog posts you know that I was raised by an abusive, narcissistic father. My mother did her best to raise my sisters and I in Christ, but she was also abused as a child and raped by my father. She thought she HAD to marry him. In my mind, she carried an awful lot of guilt and insecurity to believe that, and she put herself through almost 24 years of abuse with that man in order to keep our family together for us three girls. I remember her greeting my sisters and I excitedly when we came home from school. She was never able to volunteer except during the few years we lived walking distance to school, so she spent her days alone at home. Dad never wanted her to drive and was always in control of the money he made. Mom taught us how to make things with our hands out of cereal boxes, yarn, and scraps of fabric. She helped us scoop snow with large bowls and melt it on the wood stove to wash our hair when we lived out in the boonies with no running water. We drew scribbles on paper and she would turn them into hilarious cartoon people and animals. She taught us to bake bread and other goodies, and to be thankful for the 2-3 new outfits we would get for a new school year along with hand-me-downs from friends. She made popcorn and cranberry chains and pulled taffy with us at Christmas time. Most importantly, she taught us that Jesus was always holding our hands wherever we were.
It's good for me to focus on those fun memories, because underneath her great efforts to do those things with and for us, she was filled with pain that we did not understand. She was often depressed and seemed to sleep a lot. It breaks my heart to even think of what my mother went through for us all those years, and I wish that she could have been freed sooner. During my teen years I had nightmares of stabbing her to death and laughing. I would wake up horrified and confused. I loved my mom. She was my best friend. I could talk to her about just about anything. I didn't know why I was having those dreams. There were things going on that I was unable to process. In my immature mind, mom was supposed to fix everything but she didn't, or couldn't. She didn't even know what was going on and I didn't know how to tell her.
Dad had once hugged me too hard while my breasts were just developing. I said, “ow, Dad, that hurts!“ and pushed away from him. He reached out with both palms toward my breasts and replied with a derogatory chuckle “Awww, did I hurt your little titties?” I was mortified and backed away just before his hands reached my body. He also sometimes came into my room, which my sister and I shared, and put his hands under the covers to poke at my body- I guess because I was the one who slept on the outside of the bed. It was his way of waking us up in the mornings and he nearly always poked private areas if I couldn’t jerk away fast enough. We couldn’t run upstairs in front of him fast enough to avoid his butt-pinching or swatting hands.
Of course I didn’t understand what “being fresh“ was! I didn’t realize that my own father was the very definition!
Once, after that time the little boy from school came to our back yard to show my sister and I how sex was done, my mom asked me if I new how babies were made. I was immediately embarrassed, thinking she had seen us out the window the day before, but she did not indicate that she knew at all. She was just as uncomfortable as I was. I thought of all the times I had seen our dog mating with other neighborhood dogs and answered, "like the way dogs do it?". She chuckled nervously and said, "yes, well, there are other ways..." I quickly replied, "I know." and she and I were happy to go back to whatever else we were doing. Later on she gave me a book to read but I don't even remember whether I read it at all.
Somewhere around Junior High, mom wanted dad to tell us girls what to watch out for with regard to boys. Dad really didn't want to talk about it - I KNOW why now - and only said, "don't even hold hands with a boy because I know what they are like." Huh?? Mom said, "don't ever let a boy be fresh with you!" Again, huh? What does "fresh" mean?
In the summer after my 6th grade we moved to 160 acres of beautiful wooded country, with a creek flowing through it. Our trailor was set back from the road on a steep hill up from the creek. We were about a 30 minute walk from the little village and corner store off the highway, so dad made sure the school bus came out to get us, because, as I heard him say, "WE ARE PAYING TAXES, SO THAT BUS DAMN-WELL BETTER COME OUT HERE". Riding the bus is an experience I never wanted my kids to have.
Being the new girl in school again, I had no idea who I should or should not be friends with. You'd think in 7th grade you could just be friends with everyone.. not so. I was shy, but there was one young man in my class, and on my bus, who started giving me special attention. I was obviously not wary of the wrong kind of attention. Actually I was not used to any attention from boys at all. I hardly lived anywhere long enough to make any kind of friends. So, I would catch this boy staring at me in class, and I was flattered. Mind you, I did not know that he had NO friends and was 16 years old at the time. He passed me notes telling me that I was pretty - nobody ever told me that before except my dad during the times I was all dressed up. Mom didn't count because she was mom, and all moms think their kids are cute. Next, this boy asked me to sit with him on the bus. I did, holding my armful of books. We never talked in person at all. In fact, I was very nervous around him and I would stare out the window the entire time we sat together, me on the inside by the window, him on the outside by the isle. Next thing I knew, his hand was on my knee, still at first, but then massaging. (I'm squirming in my seat and grossed out as I type.) I held my breath not knowing what in the world he was doing to my leg or what to do about it. Thankfully the bus stopped for someone behind us to get off, and he jerked his hand away so it would not be seen. I put my books in my lap and still never said a word, but hoped he would NOT do that again.
The next day at school he passed me a note asking if he could touch my leg. I thought it was weird for him to ask after he had already done it. I answered in the most immature, completely naive response ever: "why, when you already show me enough love?" What? I know, it grinds my gears to think I even wrote that on the piece of paper and gave it back to him! But I was TWELVE. I didn't even know what love was. The love I was shown by my father was inconsistent and very conditional on my performance in school, my appearance, my ability to answer his math drills at the dinner table, or how many pieces of wood he could stack in my arms while we were stocking the wood pile. He was always busy, rarely had time to stop working whether at home or away, and rarely gave hugs or praise just for the sake of demonstrating that I was precious to him. A boy at school was giving me special attention and I thought it was love.
On the bus trip home that afternoon, I let this creepy boy sit with me again. Again I avoided eye contact with him, looking everywhere but at him, not having a clue what to say or how to behave. Then I felt his hand on my leg and I froze. I stared out the window and couldn't move. I felt his fingertips massaging my leg and slowly moving up, and up. I could feel myself starting to panic but I was still unable to move. I felt pressure on the very top of my thigh, and thought he couldn't possibly go any farther, but his fingers began to lift and I knew their next destination. I suddenly dropped all the books I had been squeezing against my chest. His hand jerked away and I busied myself picking up all my books off the floor, still not saying a word. When the bus stopped to let me off a few minutes later I was relieved beyond words, and I never sat with that boy again. I also avoided him like the plague in school. But I never told anyone. Until now.
Interestingly, this boy's brother stalked my sister, even writing notes asking her to meet him at night in the woods. She was wise enough to share the note with my parents, who both flipped out, of course. I FOR SURE couldn't tell them about my experience with the older brother. Years later we found out from old friends that this boy and his two younger brothers were charged with the rape of a little girl. I never found out more.
I have often wondered why I didn't slap that boy in the face. Why didn't I TELL on him? Then I wonder who I could have told and what would I say? That he touched my leg? Was that even something anyone would think was a big deal? And then there was that stupid love note.. Who would listen to me anyway? But what if there had been someone who would listen and believe me? What if I was able to tell the right person that this boy had bad intentions, that his brother also propositioned my sister? Would anything have been done to prevent them from raping a little girl in the future? I'll never know. It's those kinds of questions that haunt and make me so passionate about #empowering children with the kind of confidence, strong self esteem, clear #boundaries, and permission to speak or act out when those boundaries are being threatened.
My story doesn't end there, sadly. As it turned out, my initial response in any precarious situation was to freeze. Just like I did on the bus. Until something pushes me far enough to snap, like the time a boy was picking on me in school and I actually ended up on top of him, pounding on his back with my fists as he covered his head with his hands. He ran away when the bell rang and never came back to school. He was another boy that should have been two grades ahead of me. I thought I would be suspended from school for fighting, but overheard my parents laughing with the principal. I still lived with guilt over my lack of self control rather than being proud of myself for actually being able to fight against someone who was at least 2 years older and a head taller than me.
In high school, when I was 17, I was again flattered by a young man. He was a bible student at the Christian school I was then attending. After my terrible experiences (too many to list here) at public schools I assumed that Christians would be better behaved. I should have gotten a clue because of the very first boy I met who was nice enough to give me a tour of campus and walked me to the little town and back so I would know my way around. A few days later I was told by other new friends that this boy had been telling everyone I kissed him. I do not remember having the opportunity to confront him, however I was told he had also lied about several other students and was no longer a student himself at that school by the second or third week in.
The Bible student gave me special attention, complimented me, made me feel pretty and wanted. What I didn't realize was that he was older than I thought (about 23) and I was afraid of him. How many details do I need to tell you? I'm again quivering as I think about this dangerous relationship. Thankful to say that a dear friend and mentor intervened just when I was about to be #raped. My boyfriend had spent weeks and months #grooming me, and letting me know that I belonged to him. If other friends, who happened to be boys, looked out the window at us, he would bend me over backward to kiss me in front of them. He isolated me from my friends, forbidding me to enjoy spending time with them even to throw snowballs outside. He had gotten me alone several times, and each time pushing more boundaries. The last time we were alone in the home of a couple he was house sitting for. He had managed to get my shirt off and made me stand with him to look at the two of us in the mirror. I could not look into my own eyes or at my naked breasts. I was frozen when he put me on the bed and started kissing me, still at least wearing my jeans. He kept kissing lower and lower and then biting at my crotch - I had no clue why in the world he would do that. I knew nothing about oral sex at the time. I tried to say "no" but the sound would not come out any more than a whisper. He looked up at me and asked "why". If God had not provided me a Father Figure on the school campus to send someone to that house to knock on the door, right at THAT time, I have no doubt in my mind what would have happened.
Oh, God, why is this still so hard to think of, let alone to type? My entire body is shaking, my teeth clenched, breath shallow, fingers quivering on the keyboard. The thought of others reading these words and judging me for not standing up for myself. For not ditching this guy from the beginning. For not seeing what he was after rather than being flattered.
My Father Figure rescued me from this relationship that I was trapped in. He gave me permission to say NO MORE. It meant so much to me that he was looking out for my well-being. But I was not strong enough. I had to get friends to look out for me - to warn me if Bible Boy was in the vicinity. They told him for me that I didn't want to see him. Once he caught me on my way back to the dorm from the school. He pinned me against the wall and started kissing me. I couldn't speak, but I refused to kiss him back and kept turning my head away until he finally let me go and never bothered me again.
It scares me to think how my body would refuse to respond the way I wanted it to. Why couldn't I fight or flee instead of freeze? If you think I was rescued forever from that moment on, think again.
But, my little ones will be awake any second from their nap and my body is so stiff from shaking I need to stop here.
Now's a good time to watch the video I mentioned above, if you have time.
Thank you, Father in Heaven, for ultimately rescuing me. I am NOT 17 anymore. I am 49, happily married to a loving, protective husband, with 3 beautiful grown children that YOU allowed me to give birth to, a gorgeous and sassy 4 year old daughter YOU CHOSE us to adopt, and an 18 month old snuggly boy that YOU have also chosen to place in our forever family. I know you love me and you were with me through all of those horrible times. You never left me and YOU turned my sorrow into joy, my mourning into dancing, evil experiences into good that benefits others. Please let my story be a blessing to someone who needs to hear. #RaisingPEARLS #Prepared #Empowered #Armored #Restored #Loved #Secure #Children