Why Abuse Survivors Suffer in Silence

Someone shared the following list of why sexual abuse survivors in a secret group on Facebook.   I will not share the name of the person who posted this list to honor her privacy.  If at any time the author gives permission, I will credit her.

Some Reasons Abuse Victims May Not Tell

by Anonymous
If the victim is young and has never told anyone before:
1. “No one will believe me.”
2. “I’ll get in trouble. They’ll blame me.”
3. “It really was my fault. Any time something bad happens, it’s my fault. I feel overwhelmed with shame and guilt.”
4. “My abuser is also my authority. He said I’m not supposed to tell.”
5. “If I say anything, I’ll be disobeying my parents. I’m not supposed to cause trouble or disrupt the ministry. ”
6. “I’m confused. I don’t know what to say, what to tell and what not to tell. I don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong. I don’t know how to answer the questions they’re going to ask me.”
7. “I’m supposed to be a living sacrifice. This is just part of that.”
8. “I’m not supposed to get anyone else in trouble.”
9. “I don’t feel safe. I’m afraid if I tell it might be even worse.”

If the victim is older and has never told anyone, she can feel all of the feelings above, plus these:
10. “It was so long ago. I didn’t say anything when it happened. I shouldn’t bring it up now.”
11. “It was so long ago. I should be passed this. I should be able to get over it.”
12. “Everything I know will come apart. I want to keep my world together.”
13. “I’ve been told I’m supposed to be strong. I’ve been told that bringing up anything about my past is complaining or ‘being weak.’ ”
14. “I’ll make them uncomfortable. Nobody wants to be uncomfortable.”
15. “It seems impossible to explain. There are no words to describe some things.”
16. “They won’t understand. They’ll minimize it. They’ll tell me it wasn’t as big a deal as I’m making it out to be. I can’t bear to hear anyone minimize my trauma.”
17. “They’ll talk about God’s sovereignty. I can’t bear to hear that God planned my abuse.”
18. “I saw how they treated someone else who came forward. They made the victim forgive the abuser and have a relationship with him again. This terrifies me.”
19. “If I tell, then I’m admitting that it really happened, and if I never speak about it, then I can pretend that it didn’t.”
20. “I don’t know who I can trust with this broken part of my heart.”

If the victim has tried before, she can feel all of the feelings above, plus these:
21. “They said I’m sinning in response to the abuse (eating disorder, cutting, drinking, etc), so I feel helpless in the face of their judgment.”
22. “Nobody believed me or understood me, and I don’t want to risk it again.”
23. “They said that nobody should air their dirty laundry.”
24. When I told before, they all turned away from me and wanted to avoid me. I’ve got to pretend I have a normal, happy life, or I’ll lose all social connections.”
25. “They told me I shouldn’t be stuck in the past; I should just move forward. They said, ‘let the past be the past’ and ‘time heals all wounds.’ ”
26. “I’ve been told that if I forgive I’ll be fine, and if I bring up the past that means I haven’t forgiven.”
27. “The abuser denied it and they believed him. It’s far easier to keep it a secret than to see all the church lining up in support of the abuser.”

church leaders abuse

I Was Never Dirty Water and I Don’t Have Throw Away Parts!

The professor was unusually animated this one particular fall morning.

He was giving his signature spirited lecture where instructed  men from ‘good homes’ avoid dating and most assuredly never—ever —marry someone from a bad home background.

In particular he was honing on the “preacher boys.”  Preacher boys should never date or marry someone who was sexually abused because she will make a terrible pastors wife.  He went on to tell a tales of former promising preacher’s  who had married such stained women.  According the professor the reason these ministries ended in absolute failure was because of the former preacher picking a woman with a bad background.

At one point this professor was no longer merely pacing back and forth at the front of the classroom.  He had climbed atop the wooden desk located the front of the classroom.  As he spoke of these promising preachers boys ministries being destroyed, he jumped up and on his desk to further drive home his point—-women from bad background make preachers  worthless.

I just won’t date one of those “preacher boys” as I don’t want to be responsible for ruining one of those called to serve God in the ministry, I thought.

The professor hopped down off of the desk, removed a white handkerchief, paused just long enough to wipe the sweat from his brow.

Then he started talking to those male students who weren’t even ever considering the ministry.

He warned the other young men had better be just as careful.

He made a point of stating although most of the time it wasn’t the girls fault if she is violated, all young men–no matter what they were considering their future vocation avoid getting into relationships with young ladies who weren’t virgins.  The reason her virginity was lost didn’t matter.  This is the basis of for what some in Christian fundamentalism teach as the “Strange Woman” doctrine.

Looked thoughtful for a few seconds….

Stated, “I’ll be right back.”  He exited the classroom and soon returned with coffee cup with the University logo in his hand.

He walked up and down each aisle as he showed each student, both male and female, the pure clean cool water inside his cup.

The professor stopped a few of times to ask a male student to take a drink of the cold water the professor had just filled the cup from the water fountain outside the classroom door.

The professor made a dramatic statements about how pure the water was as the male student he asked obediently took a sip.

The professor never offered his pure water to any of the female students.  

Suddenly, the professor ran from the classroom once again.

He soon returned.  His cup refilled.

He quickly crossed the classroom.  Over to the window sill.

There on the window sill sat a small potted plant.  In dramatic fashion he placed a small amount of dirt in the cup he’d just refilled.

Next he offered the contents of his mug with the University logo to two male students sitting in the front row.

Both declined.

He told the class is what it is like to have sex with a girl who isn’t a virgin for whatever reason.  “It’s like drinking a cup of dirt-filled water.”  drink dirty water
I can’t begin to count the number of young men whose first question wasn’t “Would you like to go on a date with me?”   Instead their first question was, “Are you a virgin?

For nearly 3 semesters I would could feel my face redden from embarrassment at the question, but I had enough self-respect to not answer such a question.

One day, I thought to myself, “I’ve had enough of this. I’m just going to tell the truth.”

The next semester anytime a potential date asked me if I were a still a virgin.  I’d respond, “Nope.”

Most of those who didn’t immediately move on to “pure” girls, were a little too interested in the details.  I turned down the latter as potential suitors.

Walter Freemont was the professor’s name. He had just shamed me over and over again for 50 minutes.

Walter Fremont

The shame didn’t last just for as long as his 50 minute lecture in the 1980’s, the shame lasted decades.

No, he didn’t call me out by name, but he shamed me.  At this time I was so ashamed I didn’t talk about this lecture to anyone. I lived thinking I was alone in my shame. Over the years since that time, I’ve learned he gave the very similar lectures every semester while he taught at Bob Jones University and shamed 100’s of young women.

He also was the one who made male students think it was appropriate to question if a woman was a virgin before the first date.Freemont’s books can still be purchased.

Bob Wood was the Executive Vice-President of the Bob Jones University for twenty-nine years.  He was known to counsel abuse survivors.  Stuff Fundies Like posted a video of Bob Wood teaching how to counsel the hurting.     bwood

BJU has made no attempt to distance itself from Wood’s remarks in the nearly twenty years since this video was made; as of 2012 the video was still sold here (pdf)

bob wood throw away parts

It matters not if these men’s intentions are/were well intended.   This needs to end. While I am the last to defend Jim Berg.  Berg has just expanded upon what he was taught at the feet of  men such as Walter Freemont and Bob Wood.

Jim Berg is the last man Bob Jones University should have teaching counseling to its seminary students.

We Don’t Want Your Kind ‘Round Here!

Over seventeen years ago,  I started having flashbacks from the years of abuse I suffered as a child. Flashbacks came on as a tsunami. I could no more control these flashbacks than those in the path of the 2004 Tsunami could pile enough sandbags to hold back the Indian Ocean.

Flashbacks of all the  smells, ghastly images, and disgusting physical sensations came unbidden during my waking hours.  Bloodcurdling nightmares from agonizing years of abuse invaded my unconscious during sleeping hours.

I was sure I was losing my mind.  Terrified and panic-stricken that I had become psychotic or worse was developing schizophrenia.  I told a family member who was a physician what was occurring.  This family member was familiar with some of my history.  He allayed my fears.  He assured me I wasn’t becoming psychotic nor was I developing schizophrenia.  He explained I was not losing my mind.  I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  He suggested I get some counseling.

I was attending Bob Jones University as a  20 something town student.  The Dean of Students, Mr. Jim Berg, and I both attended the same church.  Everyone from church and the University highly recommended I go to Jim Berg for counseling.  Although, I couldn’t explain the reason why, Mr. Berg gave me the willies since the first time I shook his hand at church. I had spoken to him very superficially, briefly and hastily at church, but to me he seemed like a scoundrel.   It appeared to me the only true smile I witnessed was when he spoke of punishing Bob Jones University Students or his own children.  At those times his ever present grin appeared to be more of a smirk.

Everyone told me how wise and wonderful he was in counseling those of us who had abuse in our past.  I decided my creep detector must be broken as all of these people thought him to be the bee’s knees.   Mr. Berg was the recommended “go-to man”  known for counseling 100’s of victims of sexual abuse both at the church I attended at the time and at Bob Jones University.

I soon found out that Berg didn’t believe in PTSD or depression. PTSD and depression were both sins. And, according to him, flashbacks are a result of the person *wanting* to relive their past.  Flashbacks were a result of of pride and bitterness.

I wish I were making this up, but I’m not. 

He even tried to convince me to place my forefinger in what he demonstrated was a set rat-trap as his idea of a “trust exercise.”  When I refused he upbraided me.  He told me if I couldn’t trust him on a horizontal plane then I couldn’t trust God on a vertical plane.

I knew there was a God in Heaven, but didn’t think god’s last name was Berg.

He said and did other terrible things too including telling me I had sinned while I was raped. After counseling me for about 6 months  by Mr. Jim Berg (who calls himself a Christian Counselor), he became irate with me because I wasn’t getting better. He told me, “I can’t help you. No one can help you. Not even God can help you. You’re too damaged.”

So, I gave up. I was too damaged, I thought,  As a result of believing I was too damaged, I went home and attempted suicide by overdose.

different egg

I forgot to call into work and my supervisor became concerned. In the few years I worked there, I had rarely missed work at all was certainly was never was a “no call, no show” before this.
Then the Berg decides attempting suicide is a sin. He expels me from the University.

Way to kick a girl when she’s down.

Doesn’t sound to me  how Jesus would act toward someone who was hurting.  What do you think?

At the time I was a member of the same church as Jim Berg and after this, I decided to try another church in the same town affiliated with the University.

This pastor is also a well-respected Bible Professor at the University. I went to his church that morning, didn’t say a word about my abuse history, or what had transpired. I was full of shame and guilt. At this time in my life, I apologized for everything. After the morning service as I was leaving the pastor calls my name asks me to come into his study for a moment.

Now it’s important to remember I was a first time visitor at this church. He started referring to me being sexually abused and a child and told me in no uncertain terms if I was going to attend his church I could NEVER speak to anyone in “my church concerning the immorality you took part in as a child.”

He stammered on about about pure children and defiled children for a few minutes.

I knew he had a daughter who at the time, was around the same age I was when my abuse first started. I asked him, “What if you found out ____ was being molested?”

He told me, “pure children don’t attract such men, only IMPURE children attract such men.

I must have looked as shocked I felt at his remarks as then he and his wife walked with me to the door of his church. He opened the door and as I walked out his parting remark to me was, “We don’t want your ‘kind” ’round here.

He closed the door of the church.

kitten we don't want your kind

I walked away, tearfully, that day realizing I was kicked out of the Christian University and out of visiting a church all within 1 month.  I was speaking out– shyly at the time–about my abuse.

I was so full of guilt and shame.

I never stopped believing in God, but I did question everything I was ever taught. It took years before I put my pinky toe back inside a church–any church. I don’t think I would have walked completely away from church for years if that pastor hadn’t said what he did.

By the way, I was three-years-old when the abuse began.

Psalm 56-8

Me? Okay? Not At the Moment.

“…lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world. Amen~ Matthew 28:20 (KJV)

My ears  still were  ringing with the laughter I heard from my adoptive father after musing I was made to sleep in a barn as I passed a billboard engraved with those last recorded words of Jesus on earth.

I must have passed this same billboard 100’s of times.

That billboard was meant to be the encouragement, but this particular afternoon, I broke down into uncontrollable sobs.  My friend who was driving became so concerned he was forced to pull off of the side of the highway.

I was sobbing and crying out!

“He was there!  He saw everything.  Jesus was there every night as my innocence was stolen. He was there as  I was sold.  He was there as Cleo beat me and burned me.  He saw my bruises.  He saw tears and heard me as I begged for mercy as Cleo beat, burned and poked hat pins through my thin upper arms.  Oh dear Lord You saw everything!”

“And did nothing to stop it!”

My friend who was driving the car was asking, “What’s the matter?  Are you okay?”  (He had never seen me, a usually stoic person who doesn’t display such strong emotion completely break down.)

No!… I am officially not Okay!

Reading this billboard on this particular day has plunged me into a deep crisis.

What in the world am I doing giving one more moment to a God who allowed such horrible abuse to happen to a little child?

Recently, I have been interviewed as part of an  independent investigation into sexual abuse  that happened in my past.

The interviewers actively listened as I recounted my story of my abuse and later the account of the abysmal counseling  I received at a Christian University as I was suffering from severe PTSD.

Toward the end of the interview, one of the those interviewing me asked how this has affected my faith.

My response was if he’d asked me a few weeks before, I would have said everything was I was fine.  Now…I don’t know. Right now, I’m not too happy with God and am telling God exactly how it is!

You see over the weeks prior I have found out my “story” I thought couldn’t possibly get any worse … It is worse.  Much, much worse.

No…I’m not Okay.

I’ve found out a several things lately that show there were serious crimes committed against me. (In addition to the crimes I knew about) Christian leaders all knew, were accomplices or actors and none thought of them thought of anyone but themselves. Certainly not the little girl I was then. I was trafficked with less thought than it took for them to sell horses and cattle from that farm.

Yet, every one of these men continued in the ministry for years. Two died “serving the Lord”. One major player is still alive and is still preaching from his pulpit every Sunday Morning, Sunday Night, Wed Night.  One other abuser is alive, but no longer in the ministry.  Every last one of has lived to see their golden years.

God blessed all of them.

I’m struggling with Jesus doesn’t seem to have cared anymore than any of them what happened to me–a young child.

If He did care, why did He bless them and curse me? What did a child from the ages 3-12 do to deserve Him turning His back? And then further used and abused in a different way after age 12?

Was Jesus just not paying attention?

Or, did Jesus just choose to look away and think “I don’t want to get involved” like many humans who knew and instead chose to do absolutely nothing?….

A friend reminded me that easy answers usually aren’t worth it.  Bethel Baptist and Upper Bucks are so full of the easy, pat answers. Fundamentalism as a whole is full of the easy, pat answers.  Hard answers are worth it in the end. I have to believe that is true. But then getting the answers is frustrating.  I’m have to believe that the real God, the real Jesus does care and isn’t mad at me for asking these questions.  I have no idea when  I might “arrive” at some answers.  But my true friends keep telling me that God is still here and always was.  I believe that and maybe, at some point, I will.  It’s just hard – but then maybe God isn’t a God of easy answers anyway.  In the end, I’m just trying to understand that He still loves me, even as, of late, my glasses are many times not much good for anything but tear catchers.

 “You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, Each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book.”  Psalm 56:8 The Message

Psalm 56-8

Did God Laugh While I Was Abused?

I have wrestled with my faith in the past.

Once again I am wrestling with my faith.

Cleo my abuser started me in Upper Bucks Christian School, an Independent Baptist church school when I was in Kindergarten. But even before that, the pastor of this church and school said Cleo showed up at his church with me in her car when I was three years old.  She claimed she had found me abandoned in one of her apartments or rental properties in Philadelphia.

Years later, when I was 17,  this pastor … this man and his wife … adopted me into their family.

I became a Christian as a 16 year-old teenager in this man’s home.  I embraced that faith. I took it so seriously by age 17  that I read the entire Bible from cover to cover because I wanted to understand – to fully understand – my Christian faith.

Fast-forward a few years later when I started having flashbacks. By that time in my life, I knew that facing a painful time would be easier with a faith than without it.  However, I had the same question that many other child abuse survivors have: “Where was God when I was being abused?” It took me a while to work through this question, with lots of prayer, Bible study, and other forms of reaching out to God for the answers.

Yet here I am decades later, back to wondering “Where was God?”

Recently I’ve been looking over some old documents and pictures from that time.  I may discuss the documents I’ve found at some point, but in this post I’m just going to stick with those old black and white photographs. These are pictures of Cow Pasture Rallies thatwere held on Cleo’s farm by the evangelist, Carl McIntire.

In one of these black and white photographs, the barn looms large in background.

The barn where she made me sleep many nights.  Hot summer nights or freezing cold winter nights; it was of no matter to her.  Once she and Lou  finished abusing me and selling my very young  body to men for money …

Men who stole  my innocence

Cleo would have no more use for me after the ‘customers’ left  late at night.

Lou was either  already drunk or well on the way there.

Cleo would  banish me either to the barn or throw me  into  the dark basement – barn or basement depended only on her whim.

Recently I was looking at these old black and white photographs. I thought out loud to myself with my adoptive father sitting across the

room, “Do you know how many nights I spent sleeping in the barn in this picture?”  farm barn

He laughed.

He laughed as if I had just told a funny joke at a party. I, of course, missed the humor as I see nothing funny about being made to sleep in the barn.

I asked, “Why is it you laugh when I say things like that after I’ve shown you these pictures?” His answer was, “I didn’t know.” [about me being made to sleep in the barn.]

I’m really confused.  He claims he didn’t know.  I’ve just told him I was made to sleep in the barn, and he laughs? Here is the man who adopted me as a teenager, laughing as I mused out loud about being made to sleep in a barn with farm animals when I was a little girl?

A pastor … a “man of God” … He preaches in the Word of God from his pulpit.  Many go to him for advice on spiritual but often for personal matters too.

Why did God allow Cleo to pierce hat pins all the way through the fleshy parts of my upper arms for no other reason than to torture me?  Where was God when she beat, cut and burned me because one of the men didn’t pay her the  money she wanted as he stole my soul along with my innocence? Where was God when Cleo and Lou sold my little body to men to use for their perverse pleasures?

….Some of the men she sold me to where “men of God”  too.

Did God laugh when he looked down and saw me suffering?

Did … God …  Laugh?

I think God did not laugh.  I think He was pretty angry as he heard someone who preaches in His name laugh about such a thing while the day before this same “man of God” opened the Word.  And God did not laugh when I was a child either.  In fact, I think God cried …and He still does when I remember all these things.

God's tear

Added Note I have chosen to share my story to get the truth out there and to encourage other survivors of abuse, not to create a debate. I will not be accepting negative or abusive comments to protect myself and other victims from additional trauma.

Thanks for understanding.

Cathy