Easter Thoughts from an Abuse Survivor

Does God Love Even Me?

Today is Easter Sunday. I didn’t make it to church.  I want so badly to be able to go to church and not be filled with anxiety and literally break out in hives. To have a “normal” church experience where I don’t need to find a seat on the end of the row and a direct escape route with nothing between myself and my exit.

16303-clouds2bdoes2bgod2blove2bme

As a child, my basic needs were not met.  Food was scarce, and what there was, was seldom prepared or served to me. The private Christian school did not offer breakfast and lunch, so I learned I needed to steal or horde food to quell the familiar hunger pangs.  As mentioned before there  was a pizza shop near the farm.  The stop owner had pity on me, and would  “treat” me to a pizza and soda. His gentle smile and kind words are one of the few positive memories from that time.

Clothes were old and worn. In anticipation of the regular spring and fall shopping sprees someone would give me black trash bags with second-hand clothes. The were a few times when I actually found an outfit I thought pretty enough to feel pleased about but my hopes were ruined by the glances of the girls in school who stared knowingly at my cast-off dresses. The humiliation caused a flush to spread on my cheeks..

My body was sold to child molesters. When I was very young one of them used to tell me that God had created me to be his concubine. The way he presented this  I believed this man was talking about a princess.  When I was old enough to learn what a concubine was,  my response was to feel deeply ashamed.

Both the Christian school and church were harsh places too.  Punishment was quick, sure and harsh

As a result I began developing an anxiety disorder. I became paranoid of breaking even the smallest rule.  I worked harder and harder to be good enough, but never could seem to meet it, no matter how hard I tried.

Although in some ways I grew up very quickly, understanding early on that I had to fend for myself, a part of me remained frightened even when I couldn’t show it.  This has extended into my adult life too. 

Success was because I am too darn stubborn for my own good.  I wasn’t going to quit and be the miserable failure some people had informed me I was destined to become.  I’d show them!


After an assault in my early 20’s, I pressed charges and saw a successful prosecution for the crime committed against me.  Shortly after all of it was over my life began to unravel.  I couldn’t keep it together like I had once been able to do.  All of the pain came to the surface. I mentioned before I was hemorrhaging emotional pain from years of abuse, just as if I would have hemorrhaged literal blood if I had severed my femoral artery.  I was a suffering mess.   The abysmal Christian counseling I received made my suffering worse.  Fortunately, I began seeing an exceptional licensed therapist and we began unpacking all the pain in a safe environment.  I still remember staring at her business card the first time I anxiously dialed her number.

The compassionate voice on the other end answered and within a few days I was sitting in her office where  the dam broke of my emotions, and I sobbed out my story to her. The next few months are a blur, as I treated with professionalism and compassion.  She has never broken my confidence.

After a several months had gone by my therapist recommended that I attend a support group for survivors of human trafficking. Sharing my innermost thoughts and feelings in a group setting was something I did not believe I would ever be able to do. However, after listening to the members tell their stories, I realized that my deepest secrets had been experienced by others. Though some of the details were different, the underlying issues were amazingly similar. The looks of understanding that passed between us gave us all strength to move forward as we were restructuring our lives.

 My coping skills were weak, but as usual, my stubborn streak was a mile long. I devoured the information from the human trafficking support group and completed my writing assignments assigned by my therapist with zeal — much to my therapists delight.

But, my therapist continued to point out that the little girl inside of myself also needed tender loving care.

Gradually I learned how I could stop being a doormat. Slowly, I began to make decisions which reflected my own strengths and desires instead of worrying so much about what others thought of me.    I stopped worrying so much about the future. I took it one day at a time.

I am still a care-taker.  Often still tend to second and third guess myself.  I remain somewhat of a people-pleaser at heart but I now realize that the difficulties which I endured have enabled me to see past the mundane chores of daily life, and to appreciate the need to also care for myself.

The thing I lack and desire with all my heart is to feel secure in the knowledge that God really does love me even as a result of my many physical and also emotional scars. Since God is perfect, I was left with believing that I am not worthy of being loved and protected by Him.  I want to rest and be able to truly believe He’s not disappointed nor mad at me.  That I can come to Him just as I am with all of my shameful scars.  With the pain I still hold in my heart….

Maybe someday…



*Originally blogged April 24, 2014

“WE SAY We Are Biblical and Obeyed The Law Ya’ All. Now be Gone”

This is the copy of the portion of the minutes of March 13, 2015 remarks to the BJU faculty/Staff meeting.BJU F-S minutes March 13 2015

Click on each image to embiggenSteve Pettit Remarks GRACE Report March 2013-2

Steve Pettit Remarks GRACE Report March 2013-3

Steve Pettit Remarks GRACE Report March 2013-4

NOTE: In December 2014, Greenville County, SC Solicitor Walt Wilkins opened an investigation into the way Bob Jones University handled sexual abuse reports from students to see if state law was broken or obstruction of justice occurred.

Greenville Police Detective Collis Flavell is currently investigating these allegations. If you or someone you know has any information please contact Detective Flavell.  Detective Flavell can be reached by calling 864-271-5333 or by email at cflavell@greenvillesc.gov

Mr. Steve Pettit’s Own Disturbing Statements Concerning the GRACE Report

The following is what Mr. Pettit told the Bob Jones University faculty/staff in a recent staff meeting. Mr. Pettit has also stated nearly identical misleading information emails to me personally:

The allegations that we did not report to the police about some situations: When it comes to children under the age of 18, reporting abuse or assault is absolutely mandatory—every employee at BJU and BJA is required by law to make a report. We comply with what is known as Title IX, which means that educational institutions whose students receive federal funds are not responsible for reporting incidents for those 18 years or older. They cannot report without the consent of those over the age of 18 unless we believe there is imminent or immediate danger to a minor or vulnerable individual. We CAN’T report it—we can only do that with the consent of the one who is a victim. The GRACE report did not acknowledge our Title IX obligations in most of the incidents it cited. So when you are reading in the report that we didn’t report the incident, they were basing it on their philosophy—which is a moral obligation to report. From their perspective, it wasn’t the law; it was the moral obligation that GRACE placed upon our people as a responsibility to report.

Jim Berg was misled in his interview by GRACE to the point where Jim said he must have failed to report; when we actually were within the law because they were making the point of the moral obligation. [Dr. Pettit] was asked by Channel 4 why it is that we didn’t report because of the moral obligation concept—and he responded that we are morally obligated to obey the law of the federal government; and we were obedient to the law in that in some cases, we were not in a position where we could report.

It is terribly disheartening to read these untruths that Mr. Pettit is putting out there about the investigation and about GRACE. Bob Jones University was prohibited from receiving federal funds until 2007 – hence the University not subject to Title IX.

In my case, the counseling occurred in 1996. As an adult, I specifically asked Jim Berg how to report my sexual assaults and child sex-trafficking. To be more specific I asked Mr. Berg which agency it was I should contact, whether it should have been the Greenville County Sheriff’s Department -because I living in Greenville, SC at that time? Or should I have contacted the PA State Police or should I have contacted the Feds? Only a small portion of the counseling had anything to do with my marriage, because I chosen to leave my ex-husband and divorce proceedings were in progress! As described here, Mr. Berg actively spoke against notifying law enforcement. Berg advice was that I “would bring shame upon the cause of Christ – that would cause people to burn in hell for eternity.” Further stating “there is no point in you telling the cops because they would never believe you.” Mr. Berg overtly humiliated and shamed me to the point that I never once thought of reporting to law enforcement for another 20-plus years until GRACE heard and believed me.

To make it worse, in his last paragraph Mr. Pettit goes as far as to claim GRACE misled Jim Berg in his interview! GRACE quoted Mr. Berg’s own words in its report. They allowed Mr. Berg to talk and to talk and to talk. What about his all of his own books and sermons? What about all of his handouts, pamphlets, class lectures and DVD’s? What about Jim Berg’s new project, “Freedom that Lasts”? Is Mr. Berg misled by GRACE while he is writing and teaching?

Jim Berg

All of this makes me wonder if Mr. Pettit actually read the GRACE Report because Title IX gets multiple mentions.

Mr. Pettit, you may wish to ask your attorney about the SAvE Act which took effect March 2014.

More to come….

Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2015 Coming BJU

Each April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). During April 2015 the national conversation will focus on preventing and to build policies and programs that will respond well to sexual violence. In light of the Bob Jones University choosing to ignore the Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Community (G.R.A.C.E.) Investigation Report.

The national conversation will need focus on Bob Jones University too.
2015 SAAM poster
Recently, the president of the University has made some confusing statements to people in emails. Mr. Pettit has claimed to some that if the University were to follow Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Community (G.R.A.C.E) recommendations would cause the University to be in violation of Title IX and Clery Laws. (PDF)

Psalm 56-8

No GRACE at Bob Jones University

After a two-year-investigation of BJU Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (G.R.A.C.E.) suggested that at least two men be disciplined relating to mishandling charges of sexual assault.

Bob Jones University President, Mr. Steve Pettit, disagrees with G.R.A.C.E. The two men named in the investigation were Bob Jones III and Jim Berg. Bob Jones, III made public statements concerning what he termed “consensual rape” after the a jury convicted a former church usher of the forcible rape of a fifteen-year-old girl.
Jim Berg was the one who performed most of the counseling which was the focus of the Report.

My personal testimony includes but is not limited to the following:

I went to Jim Berg and told Berg about years of sexual assaults and child sex-trafficking. Berg thought it best to inform me that it was I who had sinned. After counseling me for approximately 6 months Mr. Berg became infuriated with me because I wasn’t getting better fast enough for his taste. He told me, “I can’t help you. No one can help you. Not even God can help you. You’re too damaged.”

While that is bad enough, at this time while attending Bob Jones University I was a “town student.” During a portion of this time I was married. My then husband was physically abusive. I went to what was known as the “clinic” which was East North Medical Associates. The “clinic” was the doctors BJU faculty/staff and students could see. I was sent to Mr. Jim Berg for counseling.

On more than one occasion I went to school with bruises and blackened eyes. I was told I needed to submit to my then husband and pray for him. At one point, Mr. Berg told me “You need to duck better and let God hit your husband.” During the course of counseling I divulged to Mr. Berg that I had been sexually abused from my earliest memory.

We (Mr. Berg and I) talked more about my past child abuse than we did about my marital problems. I told him that I was sold to others. I told him that I had memories of possibly being kidnapped. I told him of my finding out that Cleo Smith had never legally adopted me when I was 12 or 13. I told him I had found out that the name “Salina Smith” Cleo had called me was false – there weren’t any little girls born between 2 years of my birth with that name.

I informed Mr. Berg of the different versions of the story I had been told over the years:

1) I was abandoned in one of the rental properties in Philadelphia. Cleo took me and then drove me up to Bethel Baptist Church, Sellersville, PA . I was around 3-years-old. The pastor, Richard A. Harris saw me, claims he told her she just couldn’t keep me but the pastor never called the police or Child Protective Services.

I remember being in Cleo’s car and taken to the church. I remember the carpet in the church as red.

The pastor was always around when I was on the farm. I went to the Christian school associated with his church. If you’ve been reading this blog you know there are many other details too including the fact that I was taken in. I was given a bed in the corner of the open floor-plan basement while the the Pastor and his family their own private rooms.

2) My biological parents sold me to Cleo.

3) At other times when I asked too many questions about my Biological family they told me that after Cleo took me; my father was blamed for murdering me. That my father had died in prison.

I divulged all of the above to Mr. Berg in much greater detail. I specifically asked Mr. Berg what I needed to do to contact law enforcement because the differing stories about how Cleo got me and who was involved I had been told where not adding up. He not only did nothing but actively spoke against notifying law enforcement. At first Mr. Berg said that since those who sexually abused me were well-respected ministers in BJU-orbit fundamentalism I “would bring shame upon the cause of Christ – that would cause people to burn in hell for eternity.”

When I questioned Mr. Berg about that, Mr. Berg told me that “there is no point in you telling the cops because they would never believe you.”

I had been told all of my life if I told no one would believe me. Jim Berg – was the most respected counselor at BJU- telling me that no one would believe me once again shut me down from thinking about reporting to law enforcement for more than 20 years.

Berg served in his capacity as a counselor for 30 years. GRACE recommended that he be banned from counseling, and that the school should cease sales of his books and DVD’s. Pettit has stated that the University finds Mr. Berg’s teaching and materials “Biblical.”

It is also said that Jim Berg has been promoted to professor of counseling after the G.R.A.C.E. report was issued.

Sexual abuse and sexual assaults are hideous crimes.

Mr. Pettit talks a lot about the trustworthiness of Bob Jones University. Mr. Pettit talks a lot about the safety of Bob Jones University. Parents and students are supposed to trust that whatever occurs on the campus will be handled properly. Parents and students are to trust school administrators to act wisely in all matters. Then Bob Jones University hires an outside organization to investigate allegations of both sexual abuse and poor counseling to its victims and Mr. Pettit refuses the G.R.A.C.E. Teams recommendations? Trust is earned, Mr. Pettit.

**You may be unaware but in December 2014, Greenville County, SC Solicitor Walt Wilkins opened an investigation into the way Bob Jones University handled sexual abuse reports from students to see if state law was broken or obstruction of justice occurred.

Greenville Police Detective Collis Flavell is currently investigating these allegations. Detective Flavell can be reached by calling 864-271-5333 or by email at cflavell@greenvillesc.gov

Sacrificial Thanksgiving Lamb

At one point I was living in the pastors home for awhile after I was released from the hospital following being burned.

On Thanksgiving Day Cleo and Felix were also invited to eat Thanksgiving Dinner at their home.  They knew of the allegations.  It was particularly known concerning the allegations against Felix because he had also been accused of attempting to molest another little girl from the Christian school.

I was scared.  Why had Cleo and Felix been invited?

Not only was I afraid of Cleo,  but I knew Cleo would most likely be on her best behavior in front of Mrs. Pastor’s wife.

I was terrified of what Felix would do if he had any opportunity at all.

I was not only scared for myself, I was scared for the pastor and the pastors wife two daughters who were minors at the time.  I knew Felix would try to do something to myself and to those girls.

Felix is the ultimate predator.

I followed the two teenage pastors daughters around as if I were glued to their backs.  Being teenage girls they were more than a little annoyed that they couldn’t shake their tale.

During the middle of dinner Felix excused himself to the restroom.  A few moments later Felix calls out that there wasn’t any toilet paper.

I knew what he was planning.  He was planning to “accidentally” expose himself and worse to which ever unfortunate girl was chosen to fetch a roll of toilet paper.  

I volunteered.  I thought I would have a better chance at avoiding Felix since I had become accustomed to his tricks.

I retrieved a roll of toilet paper from the hall closet.  And I attempted to quickly toss the roll inside the bathroom door.

Felix was too quick for me.  He grabbed my wrist and pulled me into the bathroom with him.  He told me to perform oral sex and threatened me….if I said a word, the pastor would kick me out of his home right away.

Within about a week or so, I was back on the farm with Cleo and Felix. At the time, I thought the pastor had somehow found out, but that wasn’t the case.  It turns out the reason  Cleo and Felix were invited for Thanksgiving was so Cleo could “restore” her relationship with me as it was the plan all along I was to return to the farm.

The two daughters didn’t know until many years later that little Fifth-Grade me was hell-bent on protecting them.  Although they remember Cleo and Felix being invited for that Thanksgiving dinner, When I told them as an adult, their eyes glazed-over as I recounted what happened.  I tend to think they still do not believe or comprehend what happened that Thanksgiving Day 1976.

To be honest, considering what I know the pastor knew, it is a baffling mystery why Felix allowed to be within ten miles of the pastors own young daughters.

Psalm 56-8

 

We are nearing the end of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

We currently have only a little over 2000 signatures.      

We can do better.  

Please sign and share the following petition asking all professing Christians to better address and deal appropriately with the subject of sexual abuse in faith communities.

A Public Statement Concerning Sexual Abuse in the Church of Jesus Christ by Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (G.R.A.C.E.).

 

 

Does God Love Even ME?

This past weekend was Easter Sunday. I didn’t make it to church.  I wanted so badly to be able to go to church and not be filled with anxiety and literally break out in hives.  To have a “normal” church experience where I don’t need to find a seat on the end of the row and a direct escape route with nothing between myself and my exit.

As a child, my basic needs were not met.  Food was scarce, and what there was, was seldom prepared or served to me. The private Christian school did not offer breakfast and lunch, so I learned I needed to steal or horde food to quell the familiar hunger pangs.  As mentioned before there  was a pizza shop near the farm.  The stop owner had pity on me, and would  “treat” me to a pizza and soda. His gentle smile and kind words are one of the few positive memories from that time.

Clothes were old and worn. In anticipation of the regular spring and fall shopping sprees someone would give me black trash bags with second-hand clothes. The were a few times when I actually found an outfit I thought pretty enough to feel pleased about but my hopes were ruined by the glances of the girls in school who stared knowingly at my cast-off dresses. The humiliation caused a flush to spread on my cheeks..

My body was sold to child molesters. When I was very young one of them used to tell me that God had created me to be his concubine. The way he presented this  I believed this man was talking about a princess.  When I was old enough to learn what a concubine was,  my response was to feel deeply ashamed.

Both the Christian school and church were harsh places too.  Punishment was quick, sure and harsh

As a result I began developing an anxiety disorder. I became paranoid of breaking even the smallest rule.  I worked harder and harder to be good enough, but never could seem to meet it, no matter how hard I tried.

Although in some ways I grew up very quickly, understanding early on that I had to fend for myself, a part of me remained frightened even when I couldn’t show it.  This has extended into my adult life too. 

Success was because I am too darn stubborn for my own good.  I wasn’t going to quit and be the miserable failure some people had informed me I was destined to become.  I’d show them!


After an assault in my early 20’s, I pressed charges and saw a successful prosecution for the crime committed against me.  Shortly after all of it was over my life began to unravel.  I couldn’t keep it together like I had once been able to do.  All of the pain came to the surface. I mentioned before I was hemorrhaging emotional pain from years of abuse, just as if I would have hemorrhaged literal blood if I had severed my femoral artery.  I was a suffering mess.   The abysmal Christian counseling I received made my suffering worse.  Fortunately, I began seeing an exceptional licensed therapist and we began unpacking all the pain in a safe environment.  I still remember staring at her business card the first time I anxiously dialed her number.

The compassionate voice on the other end answered and within a few days I was sitting in her office where  the dam broke of my emotions, and I sobbed out my story to her. The next few months are a blur, as I treated with professionalism and compassion.  She has never broken my confidence.

After a several months had gone by my therapist recommended that I attend a support group for survivors of human trafficking. Sharing my innermost thoughts and feelings in a group setting was something I did not believe I would ever be able to do. However, after listening to the members tell their stories, I realized that my deepest secrets had been experienced by others. Though some of the details were different, the underlying issues were amazingly similar. The looks of understanding that passed between us gave us all strength to move forward as we were restructuring our lives.

 My coping skills were weak, but as usual, my stubborn streak was a mile long. I devoured the information from the human trafficking support group and completed my writing assignments assigned by my therapist with zeal — much to my therapists delight.

But, my therapist continued to point out that the little girl inside of myself also needed tender loving care.

Gradually I learned how I could stop being a doormat. Slowly, I began to make decisions which reflected my own strengths and desires instead of worrying so much about what others thought of me.    I stopped worrying so much about the future. I took it one day at a time.

I am still a care-taker.  Often still tend to second and third guess myself.  I remain somewhat of a people-pleaser at heart but I now realize that the difficulties which I endured have enabled me to see past the mundane chores of daily life, and to appreciate the need to also care for myself.

The thing I lack and desire with all my heart is to feel secure in the knowledge that God really does love me even as a result of my many physical and also emotional scars. Since God is perfect, I was left with believing that I am not worthy of being loved and protected by Him.  I want to rest and be able to truly believe He’s not disappointed nor mad at me.  That I can come to Him just as I am with all of my shameful scars.  With the pain I still hold in my heart….

Maybe someday…

 

Psalm 56-8