Coming to terms with the abuse is one of the most horrific and confusing things I’ve ever done. For many years I worked hard to avoid thinking about it because of intense emotions – shame, guilt, sadness, anger, isolation, and complete and utter despair.
Why did I remain silent for so many years?
First of all, I was never completely silent. There were times I had attempted to tell what happened. Every time I opened up–even a little–I was blamed. I tried to tell one of my elementary school teachers. She told me she was going to take me to the pastor. I knew I would be in trouble for telling those secrets, so I tried to take back what I said, and then was severely punished for lying. As a young teen I tried to open up to a male Christian Counselor to whom I was taken. I had just gotten out I was ‘touched’ when he asked if I’d ever taken part in the sin of masturbation.
So, I shut down.
Silence became the only “solution,” the only “safe-place”- even though there is nothing further from the truth. The silence turned into the worst tormentor and filled me with pain of the utmost intensity. But mostly I hated myself. I believed I was unworthy of love as a result I became a magnet for abusive relationships. Abuse was what I deserved.
I shut down to up to the point my body and mind could no longer contain the secrets they were holding.
In my twenties something triggered it all and the fact I was molested and sexually abused as a child, not once, but several times, by several different people came pouring out like I was hemorrhaging emotional pain much like if I were to hemorrhage literal blood from a severed artery. I was a suffering mess. I begged for help. One of the things the Christian Counselor did was ask me if I’d enjoyed any part of the sexual abuse that I needed to ask God to forgive me for those feelings.
I was quite young when I was first molested and was completely horrified, shocked and confused. I was left with guilt on top of guilt– I was responsible for what happened.
One of the most shocking aspects of my abuse are the identities of the abusers, because they were all those people believe “could never” abuse. They were well-respected married, fathers, and the two farm hands. These were not only people I should have been able to trust, these were the ones who, due to their positions as Christian leaders, had others trust. As a result when I divulged most of their names, speaking of it would damage the cause of Christ was flung in my face. I was labeled and rejected and it was incredibly painful for me. I was treated as the cause of the problem. I was the one destroying their blissful reality that these things just didn’t happen in this corner of Christianity. The abusers walked away unscathed and scot-free, their sick behavior was defended – while the child I was who had been so brutally violated was accused and left to suffer. I am the one, even today, many Christians attempt to shut me up by screaming that I’m “just”….bitter, angry, an unbeliever and a laundry list of other labels because I am at last telling of these unholy acts.
It matters not if you dislike my ‘tone’; nor how I respond to your accusations of anger and bitterness. It matters not if you think I’m doing this because I ‘hate’ the Church or Christianity. Although those accusations are false there isn’t much I can do or say to change your opinion. If you truly believe these things, isn’t it best you grant that same love, forgiveness, grace and mercy toward me that you are so keen on granting abusers and those who covered for my abusers?
The facts are; there are no excuses for defending the abusers. Yes, maybe they are ‘nice’ guys, kind fathers, or the all-too-familiar attempt Christians use as justification “he is a man of God” – but this is not an answer and in no way changed the situation. The facts remain that they were my abusers. They are accountable for their actions. The little girl I once was and whom they chose to abuse could not and should not – in any way – be held guilty.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Would you please be so kind and sign the following petition asking all professing Christians to better address the subject of sexual abuse?
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.).