To abuse survivors reading this, the letter below (first published in December 2016) is a real, grainy, high-definition account of my abuser’s actions. Periodically, I will revisit and clarify the same grainy details. Not change details, but clarify more. Zoom in the lens to communicate as precisely as possible. I have learned if a victim doesn’t sharpen the picture sufficiently, people will Photoshop truth and apply their own filters to justify their cognitive dissonance. What is sufficient? Who knows? People in denial seem to require an inordinate, exhausting, above-average amount of sharpening.
The truth is, though, no matter how clear the picture, some will still deny. That’s okay. I can take a deep breath and let go of that. “Letting go” (Disney lesson) is about freedom. It isn’t avoiding the truth. Letting go means confronting the truth despite one’s fear. My battle is to speak the truth. Their battle is to hear it. Their battle is not mine.
Be aware, if you are a survivor of abuse, this could trigger negative images or flashbacks. This is the truth. My truth. My experience.
There is no angry intent in this. Writing this allowed me clarity and reasonable perspective over the criminal acts committed against my person. I had been taught my whole life to avoid pain. Put on a pretty smile. Tiptoe carefully around conflict. Never ripple the waters.
But avoiding pain does not heal it. Putting up caution tape doesn’t make a hazard less hazardous. Many victims avoid the details of their abuses to cope (I write about my avoidance in other posts). However, I am now learning healthy healing requires facing uncomfortable details head-on. Facing the past is the only way to move forward. Walking through the fire forges new wholeness–it strengthens.
Writing, speaking, living, and breathing truth restores dignity. It allows me to discard chains of silence, and shed the weight of shame. Writing this gives me back control over my own truth–my own experience.
I had listened to peripheral whispers, mistruths, distortions, half-truths, minimizations, excuses. Some of those mistruths were grossly offensive. People freely and casually gossiped about my most painful life experiences, but forbade me from speaking about my own experience. I was the secret keeper, chained to my abuser’s misdeeds, powerless to correct the false record. The open secret paved way for my abuser’s continued public humiliation of me. It was not okay, then. It is not okay, now. Only darkness and evil force victims to keep abuser’s secrets.
Healing and forgiveness means confronting the whole truth. Some people would like me to offer blind trust and put confidence in my abuser now. No. I can apply wise trust (see my post), but not blind trust. This guy molested me on a Sunday and handed off the Bible in a spontaneous, popcorn-testimony-style meeting just days later. He was the most masterful showman, a true con man. Never skipped a beat in church before, during, or after the incidents of molestation. He did not come to me in remorse to confess. He did not go to an altar to confess. We–my family and I–had to go to him (go to his family), again and again. Somehow, every time, truth was so twisted that we were the ones apologizing and consoling the others.
Certainly, there’s empathy to share. However, I’ve come to believe compassion and accountability are two sides of one coin. Reciprocity, equality, mutuality, protective boundaries, honesty, and respect are all ingredients for healthy relationships. It is not reasonable to move the goal posts, hinder consequences, pacify or enable abusers, or excuse, condone, or justify abuse. See The Mend Project.
Confronting truth was necessary in my case, but this may not be part of your journey. Unfortunately, abuse victims often suffer more when they speak truth. This is called secondary victimization. It is shameful that any churches, schools, workplaces, or any other institutions, would stone the victims who speak, but in our society they do. Jesus is clear such treatment is unholy, ungodly, and outright sinful, but it still happens. Don’t doubt the love of God in you when others respond this way. By their fruits you will know those who are God’s and those who aren’t.
I cannot recommend what’s best for you, but please know that a licensed therapist can. Here is a link to the National Sexual Assault hotline (RAINN).
Whatever path you choose, remember that it’s not your burden to carry abuse in silence. It’s not your shame. You bear no fault. Abuse happens to us, but it does not define us. Our identities are more–much, much more–than someone’s willful acts targeted at us.
To all other readers, real details of abuse cannot be blurred, watered down, or glossed over. Watering down the real, gritty details allows others to rationalize what isn’t rational. It allows minimization of what isn’t minimal. It allows communities and institutions to marginalize victims of serious crimes, deny serious crimes, and define acts of violence as sin when they’re both sins and crimes. (God never said the washing away of sin also blotted out any crimes we committed–one can’t repent of stealing a car and then keep the stolen goods just because the sin is gone).
Recasting accounts in a softer filter allows violent actors who commit serious offenses to escape authentic accountability, without which there can be no authentic change in those actors.
It allows excuses for what isn’t excusable. It allows community members to say, “It wasn’t really that bad. I mean he made one mistake, but he’s not a real predator,” when the truth is, “it” was a purposed, planned and controlled attack. Not a “mistake.” Truth is, it wasn’t “one” incident. And truth is, but for the actor’s use of a vehicle as an instrument of crime, he could never have attacked his victim in such extent and duration (trapping and confining his victim in a moving vehicle such that the only “exit” was death by highway).
And to any of my church people who found this page (it took extra steps to find it), I would ask this: can the person be a sanctified man of God if he is lying about this? If he has not taken responsibility for the full gravity of his conduct, is he not a REAL, PRESENT DANGER?
If any of us are to have salvation, then isn’t it true we must first understand the full gravity of all deeds? Does it serve God when we lighten darkness and pretend it isn’t so dark? Doesn’t that also dim the light of God? Is it not TRUTH that gives any hope in salvation? Is salvation found by fear? Is salvation compatible with concealment? Can we not love others and still hold them accountable? Is that not, in fact, what God calls us to do? Is accountability not a necessary part of forgiveness? (Luke 17:3?)
I welcome civil discourse on these questions. However, I have yet to find scripture showing truth to be wrong. The Bible does not water down truth. Watering down the truth allows others to control, manipulate, and distort it. Is that not what Satan does in the Bible? Doesn’t such deceit allow abuses to continue?
The letter below is a blunt, frank, and (often) ugly truth. Telling the truth isn’t wrong. An abuser’s acting criminally and believing he should escape accountability is wrong. Others’ acting to manipulate truth, claim rights over experiences that aren’t theirs, attack the abused, and (thereby) cover up abuse are wrong. Period. (What my Bible tells me.)
I’m tired. Carrying the burden of your actions, answering for your deeds, is exhausting.
You are a time thief, and you’ve stolen too much of my time.
20 years. 10,512,000 minutes. 630,720,000 seconds. That’s how much time I’ve wasted silencing what you’ve done, recovering from what you’ve done, trying to understand what you’ve done, retelling what you’ve done, conveying the truth of what you’ve done, assuming blame and shame for what you’ve done, being interrogated about what you’ve done, explaining what you’ve done, apologizing for what you’ve done, and feeling guilty for what you’ve done.
Yeah, I’m tired.
Last summer I heard a young, brave woman speak about the sexual assaults she endured as a teenager at the hands of her teacher. She said this about abusers: “They will use our silence to kill us and then say that we enjoyed it.” She spoke so matter-of-factly absent any fear. I admired her freedom, her courage, her strength. I didn’t have that freedom.
When my child was brought from Bible School with a “stomach ache” a few years ago, I didn’t know you were volunteering there. When I looked in the Chapel and saw you standing there, the panic I felt was unearthing. I didn’t fear for myself. I feared as a mother. I panicked for my daughter and the other innocents. You know my panic was reasonable.
I was the secret keeper, forced into the invisible non-disclosure contract after I spoke up years ago. As a teenage girl, my choices were silence plus salvation or truth plus damnation (no one communicated to my teenage self that any other option existed). As an adult, as a mother, and as a teacher, I would choose truth every time to protect the innocent, even if truth meant damnation (FYI, though, truth doesn’t condemn a person to damnation–Satan hates truth; Jesus IS the “way, and the truth, and the life”). I don’t care what others think. You know there’s no exaggeration, no hyperbole, here.
Safety for other innocents required truth. Freedom for myself wasn’t possible unless I discarded the chains of silence and released myself from the weight of your deeds. Why should I even have to defend breaking silence and protecting innocents?
Silence made me look guilty, especially with some of your more recent choices. I didn’t randomly reopen healed wounds after years. You did. I put up with whispers about my name . . . whether and to what degree I was culpable. I had to abide those whispers around the peripherals. But you know I am not worthy of the blame, the guilt. I had no choice. No one asked for my opinion, my consent, my approval. No one asked if I was ready to jump into these waters again. I was pushed in without warning.
You acted wantonly, willfully, and criminally, knowing you had no consent. It’s the truth. This shame is yours to carry, your sin to repent, not mine. I don’t want to carry this burden for you any longer. I am tired of abiding the stares, whispers, and gossip for stuff over which I had no control (and you made sure I had no control). I am done keeping secrets.
You stole vital years in my youth. You stole my trust. I grew up with you. As a kid, I admired you for your laid back, carefree attitude. I liked that you could make people laugh. My family trusted you, and I trusted you. Our families were close, going back generations. You were friends with my older cousin, and you were always around. You knew I admired you, you knew my family trusted you, you used these facts, and you used me. I had known you my entire life, and I had been in a car with you more times than I could count. I had no reason to sense danger.
Mother’s Day Feastmeeting 1996 (here’s the scene as I recall it, but you remember it better–you were conscious when I wasn’t). That was the first incident of which I was aware. There may have been earlier incidents, but I’ll never know (you haven’t been so forthcoming with truth). We were carpooling home together from Columbia after a fun, but tiring, weekend. I had just turned 17. You were about to turn 21.* You had a girlfriend 21, maybe 22. Me? I was talking to another guy. I remember what I was wearing down to the Esprit tennis shoes. Nothing scandalous. Nothing inappropriate.
[*Correction: You were almost 20 here, and you were 20 (almost 21) during the second and third attacks–which you collectively refer to as the “second” incident even though they occurred two days apart. And to the people who want to say you cannot be held accountable for something you did at ages 19, 20, and 21, answer this for me: how old was Dylann Roof when he went into an AME church in Charleston, SC and shot and killed nine people? Your argument is such persons should not face accountability because they are “young”? What was his sentence? Would you tell the families of those victims you don’t think 21 year olds should be held accountable for serious violent crimes?]
There was nothing romantic between us, no romantic words, no nonverbal gestures. You were a church friend like an extended family member. I rested my head on my pillow and went to sleep while you drove. My sleep was the ugly, open-mouth-snoring, drool-on-shirt kind of tired sleep.
There was nothing enticing or attractive about it. I was out. In a hazy dream, I felt sensations on my chest. The touches seemed part the dream at first. Then, as the light gropes became harder squeezes, I woke up. I was confused and shocked. I didn’t know what was going on. I knew a hand was on me, but I didn’t know whose hand was on me.
When I realized the car was still moving, I panicked. I thought, we had stopped at a gas station and some predator had stolen the car with me in it. Whoever it was might kill me. I just couldn’t believe–didn’t want to believe–that you were the predator groping me.
Later (maybe even now, I don’t know), you made it sound like you just brushed my breasts a little, merely bumped against me. Like it wasn’t so serious. Nope. Not correct. I’m calling you out on your malarky. Tell the truth.
Truth? It was pervasive molestation, ongoing for an extended amount of time. There were hundreds of “touches” in varying degrees. First trip (first molestation of which I am aware), thick fingers fluctuated between light and hard. Light cup, hand raised up, light cup, firmer cup, squeezing of the breast (massaging like a mammogram), hand raised up. Repeat on right breast. Repeat again on left breast. Slight break (maybe you finally needed that hand to help the other one drive?). Repeat again. Better imagery? Produce department of a grocery store–when you molested my breasts (both) it was like you were picking cantaloupes, lightly squeezing, then more firmly squeezing each with the palm of your hand to see if it they were sufficiently ripe.
This continued the duration of the trip. While you drove. While I was buckled in. Starting after I was good and asleep.
It’s not like you tried to make a pass at me while I was awake. Logically, this is something others who thought I had a “crush” on you should consider because guys making moves on girls they know have “crushes” on them need not wait for those girls to be incapacitated to act.
And truth? You knew I did NOT have a crush on you. Have you made sure to explain this to others? Before we left the church parking lot, you and another older friend were chatting through the window of the car. You guys were joking. Then, you asked who I thought was cute. You said, “Those are all single guys. It’s like a guy can’t be ‘cute’ if he’s not single.” I said yeah, that’s right, a guy can’t be on the cute list once he’s no longer single. In trust, I told you who the guy was I was liking. You knew I had a crush on someone else, not you, just before you molested me. Hormones is your defense? That is not reasonable. There were no mixed signals.
In fact, no normal hormonal young man acts out on sleeping girls after trapping and confining them in locked in moving cars (setting up a ‘trap’ to catch prey sounds like a hunting scheme, doesn’t it?). Normal young men don’t wait for a vulnerable moment, weaponize vehicles, and leverage humiliation to “make a move.” It’s cowardly predation, not hormones, that motivate such aggravated conduct.
You waited for me to be asleep, unaware. With purpose. That’s what makes what you did so dangerous, and it’s what exacerbates the trauma (along with the absolute betrayal of trust by both you and members of our community afterward). You had plenty of time to consider your acts before acting, and you had plenty of time to re-consider what you were doing during and between acts. You continued anyway.
I knew I was in danger. I could tell the car was still moving at a dangerous speed, and if I wasn’t careful, if I reacted outwardly with the panic I felt inwardly, then whoever was driving could wreck the car and kill us both. I was buckled in, trapped with no escape. I had to remain reasonably calm until the car stopped and I could safely get out.
The groping didn’t stop until the car stopped. My arm was forcefully shaken and I opened my eyes. (Without me ever disclosing the elbow nudging, —– later told me how she once had a ‘weird’ encounter with you where you kept nudging her elbow when she was in a car with you. Only, she wasn’t totally asleep, so she said something. She had no idea how close she was to becoming a victim, did she? Yeah, I know about that. Want to explain how that elbow nudging was part of your modus operandi?)
We were stopped at a red light, about to turn the corner onto Highway 17. It was you. Within minutes we pulled up to your girlfriend’s house and she met us outside. You hopped out of the car and left me shocked and confused as if nothing had happened. I didn’t know what to do. I drove home and cried. I tried to make sense of it, but there was no sense to it. My first experience having my body touched was that non-consensual encounter. In one short hour, you broke my trust and stole my innocence. In one long hour, you turned my body parts into foreign objects.
I reasoned that maybe I had imagined it all, except my body remembered the realness of every hostile touch.
I didn’t want to remember. I was like the kid sister of the group, and you were like the older brother. I believed you were a good friend, and I loved you as a person. I didn’t want to think you capable of using or hurting me. I prayed that it had all just been some terrible dream. To make matters more confusing, you got close and whispered things like, “You know I love you. You know I would never hurt you.” I was a teenager, and I knew nothing about sexual abuse or grooming tactics. These words confused me. You duped me into believing you were a good person who couldn’t help but do a bad thing. I felt sorry for you, and I felt responsible for your deeds. I carried the weight of your sins then. I stayed silent to keep everyone safe from hurt.
Your words said love. Your hands said hate.
You stole me—my identity, my rights, my freedom. You were the thief in the darkness who dehumanized me. You disgustingly acted like I was your pet, your chattel, your object to use for your will without concern for my wishes or well-being (for anyone’s well-being). You were grossly selfish, narcissistic. You were a taker, a trickster, a swindler, a charlatan. You enjoyed taking what you wanted at my expense. You gloated in it.
Are you like this now? I don’t know. What I do know is you took from me so you could possess me the way a person possesses a trinket on a shelf. You treated me like an object. You controlled me, toyed with me, punished me, damaged me, and broke me, THEN. You’re still dehumanizing and publicly humiliating me, NOW. So, yeah. I have valid concerns.
I saw you in the shadows and watched you twist dreams into nightmares. You became my boogeyman.
You imprisoned me in my silence. Remember the things you would say? Even in public, crowded spaces? You would sneak behind me or pass by me closely, and then you’d whisper comments and watch my reaction. You emotionally blackmailed me with the truth of what you’d done. You would say things in front of the crowd that contained some embedded, cryptic message. Even though you later said you weren’t sure if I even knew what you did during my sleeping moments (and you know I’ll never know all you did), you would say, “Yeah, S—— sure does like to sleep.”
Then you would watch my reaction, knowing I would decode the meaning, or at least watching to see my reactions, to see what I knew and how much. I was terrified you’d tell others that I’d let you touch me. What could I say? No one would believe the real truth. It would be my word against yours. You knew I had to play along, didn’t you? You sadistically enjoyed making me squirm. You still sadistically enjoy humiliating me.
[Here’s another recollection…funny how opening the floodgate a little allows a tsunami of memories to break through…no details change, but I do keep remembering more details, more vividly…more witnesses, and more potential victims, too: After I disclosed the abuse to my parents, sometime after you and R—- broke up, she and I met at the mall. I was terrified but knew she needed to hear the disclosure from me directly. She was my dear friend, but she had also been your girlfriend so I wasn’t sure she would believe me. She DID. No questioning, no interrogation, no minimization, no judgment. She looked at my face, showed compassion, acted as a true friend (I believe God knew I needed her back then). She said, “It explains so much.” She then told me about something that had always bothered her. She said once, when you had spent the night with her brother and I had spent the night with her, she woke and found you crawling on the floor of the bedroom. She said you made up some strange excuse that never set right with her.
Did you do anything that night? I don’t know. I do know I found this unnerving and haunting. Why were you crawling on our bedroom floor? Was that normal? It begs one to ask, what else have you done?
I cannot believe she would lie now. She is one of very few I still trust among our church people. That said, there have been some surprisingly dishonest church people closing ranks who’ve adopted the convenient “I can’t recall” catchphrase. Funny because I recall well. Know who recalls even better? God. Here’s the deal on what’s reasonable: I was not the one who saw nor confronted you crawling on the bedroom floor. I would never have speculated, contemplated, or considered this occurrence on my own. But for her chronicling this to me, I could not have conceptualized this occurrence.]
You were like the cat who releases the mouse just long enough to watch him flee in panic before he pounces on him again and devours him.
Just over a year after the abuse began, I thought you might finally let me be free. Remember this? I had just started officially “courting” someone else. I was wrong. Instead of leaving me alone, letting me be free of you, you punished me for giving my attention to a guy who wasn’t you. You would find me in some church hallway and then whisper things like, “You like this guy, don’t you? And I can tell he likes you.” That’s when things escalated. You made me terrified to be around a guy I genuinely liked. I didn’t know what you’d do or say. It’s no coincidence you punished me with hours of multiple assaults during the weekend where I spent harmless, innocent time with this guy friend.
We had a caravan of young people who rode together to and back from Virginia that weekend, right? (Friday, May 23, 1997, wasn’t it? It was sometime between May and July because it happened before Campmeeting 1997.) On the way to Virginia, I thought I’d be safe in the car with multiple people present. You were driving the car. I was in the backseat. I was shocked when I felt your hand moving up my upper thigh. I had my head against the window and my legs across the seat.
Had you molested my breasts (plural) before? Yes. Did I expect you would do something like that again WITH OTHERS IN THE CAR? No. I was being more circumspect. What do so many tell young girls when they attach blame to them instead of offenders? Only travel in groups. We were not alone. This was a new, unforeseeable deviation beyond the scope of my risk calculations.
You reached behind the passenger’s seat where K was sitting, dropped your hand, and touched me up my legs, reaching my upper thigh.
I was shocked, angry, and disgusted. You knew I couldn’t say anything. Now I was trapped in your secret game. Who would believe it? (Far out belief? Doesn’t seem so given how many church people have joined in this character assault conspiracy against me now.) I wouldn’t have even believed you could have reached me when I was in the back and you were driving. But you did. You couldn’t reach my breasts this time, but you took advantage of what you could reach. I knew, then, you weren’t touching me for gratification (at least, not to satisfy some “hormonal” surge). It was pure abuse. It was about control. You were clarifying that you would harm me on your terms, in your timing, and when I least expected it.
Just like before, you were driving a car at a dangerously high speed and you knew I had no way of escaping. This time, though, you made sure a witness was present who could vouch for you, say she saw nothing out of the ordinary. If I said anything, I’d be the one humiliated…not you.
But you and I know the truth, don’t we?
I told my friend you had done something “weird.” I asked her if you did anything to her. She questioned me, rationalizing your “weird” behavior, and I immediately knew she had no clue. I said nothing more except that I didn’t want to ride in the car with you again. And I did not get in your car on the ride home. (I remember hanging out of the cars, waiting for you to decide which vehicle you were getting in, and then making a last-minute ditch into the other vehicle. I remember that angering and frustrating you. Why were you so frustrated?)
Why wouldn’t I think I was safe to rest on a seven-hour car ride home when we were in separate cars, and when we weren’t alone?
I should have been safe. It wasn’t unreasonable to want to be safe, to want to sleep in peace without your hands all over me.
Yet, hours into the trip I woke up to your being in my car and beside me in the backseat, touching me. It was nightmarish (two days after the previous incident–on or around May 25th, 1997?). Our friends had to know you were up to something, and I still struggle with my anger towards them for seeming to have bystander apathy when my overt conduct patently showed I did not want to ride near you. (Reasonably, though, I cannot fault them for your conduct. You put us all in an impossible situation. It was part of your scheme.)
You knew I didn’t want to ride with you. You knew you were making us all uncomfortable. You alone are responsible for your actions. I don’t know what you told them. Maybe you made them believe I was “in” on your plans? I don’t know, but I will never understand it. I did everything short of making some big spectacle to keep away from you. Had I made any bigger spectacle, I would have been another “weird,” poor, unfortunate, “not-raised-like-our-folks” “mentally ill” or “hysterical” girl put on trial, right? Not you. But you knew that, and you counted on it. No matter what you led them to believe back then, no matter what you lead them to believe now, you and I know the truth.
You knew you had no consent, and you used my body as a weapon to punish me. When I became aware I was being molested, I sat up. You told me I could go back to sleep. You said you could see I was tired, and that I could lie down and stretch my legs across your lap. My answer? “No.” I sat upright, turned towards the window, covered myself with a pillow. Then, I said I felt carsick and needed to stop. I asked to move to the front seat. Let’s be clear–this was a SEVEN HOUR TRIP. So when you read below, put it into context. This was cat-and-mouse. This was the earlier part of the trip. This was like an appetizer, a warm up before the main course (see below).
You took advantage of the people in the car and used them to muzzle the truth. If I said anything, I would be marginalized as some crazy, hysterical girl because they couldn’t see the extent of what your hands did, and they would never believe you capable of such acts. Last leg of the trip? There were just three of us in the car. You brazenly CLIMBED INTO the backseat with me. Driver up front like some chauffeur while you got your way.
I knew no one would believe me if I screamed out and said what you were doing (my concerns then were reasonable given how people have disbelieved, dismissed, minimized now, even calling me atrocious things, accusing me of being all manners of devils–but you and I know better).
Since people who said they “don’t want to know” the details also now try to say I didn’t “tell” them “all of this” years ago (incongruous claim–you cannot disclaim wanting to know and also claim to be an authority on what occurred), let me zoom in even more. It’s really preposterous that victims would be put through this kind of re-victimization merely because other people have denial issues:
- I cannot remember all of the pit stops along the way, but I remember the cat-mouse chase between vehicles. I remember, on the parts of the trip through Emporia to I-95, you driving the other car and pulling up beside our car, feigning some need to stop again. I remember you then making an absurd excuse to get in my car (I remember because I was afraid–I was afraid of what you would do, and I was afraid of being humiliated in front of everyone). I remember this battle of wills–your frustration when I won a battle and escaped you, your pleasure when you won a battle and got into my car. That went on through Rocky Mount, NC to Columbia, SC. I remember the last leg of the trip most vividly. I remember there were three in the car–your friend, you, and me. I remember you got in the back (where I already was) while your friend drove (you moved from the front passenger seat to the back when I would not “go to sleep” and “stretch out” to give you access to my body). My last hope was in your friend–hoping he would intervene, stop the car, say something, be a good Samaritan, help me find a way out without humiliating myself. I don’t know why, but he didn’t (he later told me he knew you were doing something weird, but he did not know exactly what you were doing nor what to do about it–wow does this sound eerily similar to what people recently said after you named your kid my first name). I remember feeling the defeat of powerlessness. You were going to win, and I had no ammo. The fight was never a fair fight. It was rigged from the start in your favor. I do not think you cared if I was asleep at that point because you had me confined, trapped, and overpowered (even though you later said I was so asleep you did not know I was aware of what you had done). There were two of you and one of me. And when your friend stayed silent, I feared he was “in” on it (after talking to him, I got the impression that he kind of “froze” and dissociated, too). Once again, it was another new escalation. The pattern was to continue the “old” and add something “new.” I had hoped if I kept dodging you, you would give up and quit. You did not give up. My resistance ignited you, intensified the hunt. You were relentless in your pursuit to restrain and commit prohibited acts despite my refusals (refusing to even ride with you), rejections (explicitly saying NO), and disapproval. My only way out would have been jumping into traffic on an interstate. I wouldn’t be here now had I done that, so what was reasonable under such circumstances?
- There was the same over the clothes light cupping, light squeezing, and harder squeezing and massaging of both of my breasts. Hundreds of violations.
- Then, you moved your hands up my thighs again (as you had two days earlier, and despite me explicitly saying in an earlier part of the trip that NO, I did not want to stretch my legs out across you to “rest” better–you knew I was terrified when I told you “no,” and you knew you were playing a game I could not win). You brushed my vagina through my underwear briefly a couple of times. It felt like burning. I had my eyes closed and was frozen in fear. I checked out.
- Then, you focused back on my breasts. You unbuttoned my shirt–the hot pink cotton voile blouse (light, gauze-like fabric) with orange and white plaid lines. You put your hands into that shirt and you touched my breasts repeatedly–under the tank top, over the bra, continuing the cup-squeeze-massage pattern. The tank top was white with adjustable, bra-like spaghetti straps. Not much different from a bra, low neckline with easy access to my cleavage, and also an undergarment. Appropriate to wear under a shirt, but little coverage on its own. More like a slip. Nothing I would have worn out of the house on its own. (I think I still have the garment in an old bin somewhere. Didn’t know I would need it, but I can try to retrieve it if that would help your memory.)
- You then put your hands back up my thighs, this time going further. You touched my vagina more, continuously brushing, rubbing your fingers back and forth across the white cotton fabric. At this point, I felt a tingling sensation for the first time in my life–my body was betraying me, and I couldn’t stop it. There was no orgasm, but there was a warmth and tingling I did not understand then. I was disgusted at my own body. Is that consent? No. It is biology. I was ashamed over biology. Your touching my vaginal area naturally increased blood flow there. That caused sensations I could not control. Why have I always said it “burned”? Because that is what stimulation to the vaginal area feels like. Blood flow to an area makes it feel “warm.” (What I understand as an adult looking back.) So how do I know this happened, that my memory is not “impaired,” and that I am not imagining details? Because it was the first time I had experienced such vaginal sensations in my life. I was repulsed by your conduct and my body. It was all revolting. I was an non-consenting non-participant. These sensations weren’t between me and a significant other within the context of a loving relationship. They were not enjoyable. They arose mid-attack to my person. It made me feel like a piece of trash. Like a used, foul piece of dirty cardboard. Do you think I will ever forget that? When you put your finger between my elastic and skin, I was sure you were about to put your fingers into my vagina. I was a virgin who had NEVER gone to second or third base with a guy, so I had no experience to understand what was happening other than your fingers being very close to penetrating me. You did not penetrate me, but you did abuse my vaginal area for a long time, and you were VERY close to penetration. I was most certainly in reasonable apprehension that you were imminently going to penetrate me. “It’s not like I raped her or anything.” I am not angry at you, and I have forgiven your acts so many times, but to me this is an attempt to minimize and justify your conduct. It is a dishonest characterization of what happened.
- You put me back together, re-buttoned my shirt, and straightened all of my clothing like someone dressing a toy doll. This was minutes before the car stopped. I was in shock. I don’t think I even went in my aunt’s house because I wanted to get away from there fast. I went straight home.
Apologies if it’s unpalatable. It was tough for me to take, too. (Sorry-not-sorry.) I don’t fabricate details, but I won’t let you whitewash them, either. For what purpose does one undress someone EXCEPT to put his hands inside the undone clothing? Is intent of only “over-the-clothing” touching consistent with your unbuttoning and opening my shirt? If you cannot be truthful about these grainy details, then have you confessed all? If you have not confessed all, then did you ever feel penitent? If you never felt penitent, how could you ever (then or now) have been forgiven? If you were not forgiven (then or now), then how could you be sanctified (then or now)?
Do you do good deeds now? Perhaps. That I don’t know. What I do know is this: if you are denying these facts now, then you are lying now. And if you are lying now, how could you have salvation now? Does our church not follow the original John Wesley Methodist doctrine of conversion and sanctification? Does our church believe in “once saved always saved”? (Read John Wesley’s Sermon #43 here.) From our church perspective, is it enough to be justified? To justify oneself? If you are living under self-justification, is not that dangerous?
Moreover, consider the non-religious perspective. The reasonable person standard. Would reasonable persons not see higher risk of danger in someone who holds cavalier attitudes towards abusing another person (such that he assigned his victim’s name to his own child)? Does such lack of conscience, low appreciation for one’s criminal deeds, and impaired credibility not make you dangerous to society now?
Yes, I wish to God I could have forgotten all of this. I have prayed for God to erase my memory of it. Until you resurrected the past, my mind was able to avoid and dissociate from past abuse. However, my body relentlessly remembers. I cannot fathom why any would need me to be this graphic in retelling this when there is no dispute about much of what you have done and whether you had consent to do it. Research shows minimization is a common cognitive distortion among offenders, so my rational self understands why you minimize. However, that others enable this minimization is neither rational nor safe. Thus, grainy unfiltered details are necessary for reasonable analysis. I am strong enough and prepared for the high definition microscope.
I hope those in unhealthy denial get the help they need. Details might be gross, but no, I am not gross. That someone would commit this conduct on a non-consenting party is gross. I can love all as God requires, but I have lost complete confidence in the credibility of many because of the distortions. The excuses. The minimizing. The justifying. The “not wanting to know” but wanting to judge. Minimizing is reckless, hazardous, and unreasonable.
Do the above illustrations depict someone “touching one boob once”? Does a person touching “one boob” tell his victim she would rest better by “stretching” her legs out across his lap? Does a person touching “one boob” continue to pursue that victim after she tells him NO? After she refuses to ride with him? Does a person who did a bad thing “once” crawl on a bedroom floor where unsuspecting victims sleep? Does a person with no premeditation (acting on hormones alone) repeat the same elbow nudging on another victim he believed to be asleep (stopping only when he realized that potential victim was not incapacitated)? Really? By their fruits, right? Are such “fruits” not poisonous? So what do such fruits say about any who minimize or utter these falsehoods? What does it say about any minimizer’s credibility? Salvation? When the blind lead the blind, where do both end up? (My faith is big, though. Truth will out–God will shine a light in all dark places and set all crooked things straight.)
Someone else said having someone put his hand down your pants constituted real, traumatic abuse (trying to insinuate you didn’t go that far—ha—that’s a lie). This person didn’t believe you had done anything like that. You did do that. You may have touched my vagina from the outside of the underwear, but you put your hands there, and you dared going further. You had your fingers at the elastic, between my skin and the elastic. I was frozen in fear believing you were about to rape me with your fingers and that I was powerless to escape.
Yeah, I remember vividly–I even remember the color and fabric of the underwear (Walmart value-pack Hanes Her Way in cotton white–real enticing, right?). A person remembers moments of terror like that well. I sang the song “When the Storm Passes Over” in my head, imagined I was somewhere else, and, again, prayed for you to hurry up, get your kicks, and be done with me. You didn’t hurry.
It was no one or two-time touch. Tens, twenties, hundreds of touches. Your hands violated me repeatedly for hours (add the time above–at least 6-7 hours of active, pervasive, persistent, and relentless abuse, if not more), and you didn’t stop until the car pulled into my aunt’s driveway. You didn’t button up my blouse until minutes, seconds before the car stopped there (P- Dr., last street before turning on my aunt’s).
When others asked you about this, were you this clear? Did you describe the escalating nature of your molesting (as you say, “fondling”), and did you tell them it lasted HOURS? Did you tell them how you confined your victim so she couldn’t fairly fight you?
You didn’t stop because you felt condemnation or concern for your victim; you stopped back then ONLY because I blew the whistle on you.
One-hundred percent, I know you would have gone further and continued the abuse if you’d had more time or more opportunities, but my breakdown after that trip alerted my parents that something very traumatic had occurred. I was balled up on the floor, fetal position, heaving, when I got home.
My mother kept asking, “S, what happened? Just tell me. It doesn’t matter what it is.”
I kept crying, repeatedly, “I can’t. I just can’t.” I was so ashamed, and my parents loved your family so much. I loved your family so much. I loved our church so much. I felt I would be stabbing them in their hearts with the truth. I couldn’t tell my mom.
A few days later, my parents took me to a doctor.* I never attempted suicide, but I had something called suicidal ideation. I wanted the torment to end. I had prayed, read my Bible, prayed more, read more…and you know what? It didn’t stop you. God didn’t stop you.
[They enrolled me for initial treatment in April of 1997. After the abuse in 1996 and continued grooming / harassing throughout that year, I withdrew from life. This National Honors Society President, Student Council representative, AP / Honors / A-Student, chorus member, French Club Secretary, pep rally organizer, social butterfly who met with friends before school to pray around the the flagpole withdrew from school, school activities, and school friends. Academic / merit and leadership scholarships awarded, I should have been enjoying my senior year and eager for starting college. My parents knew something was wrong, but they did not know what. I disclosed the 1996 trip to my doctor before the 1997 incidents. I withdrew from treatment for awhile after the 1997 incidents, believing everything hopeless. I couldn’t stop you. Treatment couldn’t stop you. God couldn’t stop you. My parents took me back to the doctor after they learned about the 1997 incidents.]
I thought, if God didn’t stop you when I prayed so fiercely, then maybe it was a sign I wasn’t worthy of God. I imagined ways to end the pain–crashing my car into a tree, driving off a bridge, taking an entire bottle of pills so I wouldn’t have to wake up from sleep. I did not want to die. I wanted to live in peace. I wanted to be the one to decide who touched me and when.
I was in a no-win position, stuck between (1) allowing you to keep escalating the abuse (any other escalation would have been rape) or (2) disclosing the truth and losing everything and everyone I cared about.
I was a kid. No adult who knew stepped in, counseled, or let me know any other options existed. And you knew–you still know–how our church thinks. If I lost my church, I would lose any hope of salvation. I ideated suicide as the only solution to end your tormenting, especially in my irrational, tormented teenage belief my soul would be condemned to Hell either way. (My goodness–no monolithic silence should ever leave a teen who’s been molested thinking those are his or her options! It’s an unconscionable, evil, and murderous silence that does that.)
In the doctor’s office, in my desperation to live, the dam broke. Everything spilled out. Why didn’t anyone report to police then? By then I had reached the 18-year-old threshold. The abuse had been going on for over a year. My doctor couldn’t report the abuse unless I agreed. You and I both know I couldn’t agree. You still had the power. I would be cast out. Shunned. I was already so wounded and so fragile. I wanted my old life back. I wanted to rewind the clock. Fighting to survive was all the fight in me then.
My support consisted of mere threads. I feared losing even that. I was not exaggerating in my belief there would be side-taking. There was side-taking back then, and there’s side-taking again now. It’s sad, and it breaks my heart, but it’s another hard truth. It must break God’s heart. Back then, some close members of my own family took your side. Didn’t believe me. Called me a liar.
[After you clearly crossed boundaries again these past few years, those family members saw the light. But my seventeen-year-old self was right. My friends and my church punished me for telling the truth. At least, that’s how it felt. I guess, bravo, if that was your goal. Pardon me, though, for withholding congratulations on that victory. Because I didn’t speak to win anything. I had to protect others. Yeah, I worried about your own daughters, you nieces, your cousins, my friends’ children, my family members’ children (who are now the age, maybe older, than I was then).]
Doesn’t matter if the others understand. You do. You can take my church support, fool a congregation, con a church board, even take something as personal as my name (and call it coincidence), but you can never take God from me. And at the end of this life, God will take up my appeal against you’re hurting any other, for if you hurt any other innocent or are conning the congregation now, God will deal. Saying that doesn’t mean I don’t wish the best for you. It doesn’t mean I want revenge. It’s hard truth. Plain and simple, there’s no conning God.
The details of what happened are disgusting, but the disgust is not mine to carry. My body is not disgusting, my existing is not disgusting, my telling the truth (then or now) is not disgusting. Your criminal acts were and are disgusting. Your pursuit of a sleeping girl was disgusting. Your tormenting that girl was disgusting. Your grooming that girl so she’d feel sorry for you is disgusting.
Even some of my best friends put that disgust on me, thought I was to blame. They thought I’d put myself in bad situations. You know. Not true. You could’ve just as easily molested K–. But you didn’t. Was that because a fight with her family would’ve been harder to win? Her family was a lot higher in the community hierarchy. I don’t know. Some of my friends even believed we had formed a relationship of mutual consent, suggested that I simply didn’t “turn down” your “advances”! Isn’t that comical? Now that makes me feel disgust. And sadness.
Fortunately, my friends weren’t forced to know what you were capable of. Am I supposed to believe the guy who did those things above used my name as a coincidence? Allowed the use of my name without a side thought of the effect that would have on the girl whose life he permanently altered? Pardon me for being a skeptic.
Either you have so many victims that you casually forgot one of them had that name, or you intended to torment more. Under either scenario, you are dangerous.
You haven’t given me any explanation. No one else can give me a rational explanation. There is no rational explanation. No, it’s not cool. It’s okay for me to say that’s not cool. It’s not cool to my husband or my children either, by the way. I think about your children and worry for them. Do you think about how this stuff affects my children? Can you imagine having to explain these grownup things to your children? Having to protect them from passing gossip? Having to explain to your teary-eyed kids why people were shunning them? Why they won’t stand at the Bible School bus stop with them? Why their friends suddenly “block” them?
If you have now accepted sanctifying grace, that is wonderful. I hope that is true. Am I supposed to blindly trust that you’re right with God, though? It’s certainly possible. God’s power is that mighty. With God all things are possible. My question is this: Is it probable?
You say you attend church regularly and participate actively? You did the entire abuse period, too. But you’re married now? You had a girlfriend then.
Bottom line is this: whether this is probable depends on you, and your choices.
Bottom line? I will know you are NOT sanctified by your fruits. If you lie, if you deny or minimize ANY part of what you did. If you pretend you didn’t put your hands on my vagina. If you say it was “just twice” and deny that you also molested me on that car ride up to VA. If you deny R’s account, ——‘s account. If you say you never gave a passing thought to S being my name. If you say using my name wasn’t wrong. If you deny any part to lessen the gravity of your conduct, I will know you never truly repented. I will know you are a real and present danger to others. And I will make sure others are forewarned of that danger. That’s reasonable, not vengeful.
Again, you’ll have to excuse my skepticism. Your word and the word of others isn’t enough for me to believe you pose no risk, not after so many breaches of trust. I mean, you molested me while I was sleeping on a Sunday and passed me the Bible during a Paul & Silas meeting a days later. Like nothing had happened. That was bold. (If you deny that and all the other little comments, I’ll know you were never penitent.)
You hadn’t the slightest remorse or contrition. You enjoyed what you were getting away with. You never skipped a beat in your church stomping. You may be different now, but you can see my reasonable caution given your public use of my name fits right in line with your old patterns and schemes (see below).
So, let’s set the record straight. No dispute (you’ve admitted this to me, my family members, your own parents). You knew I didn’t want to be in a car with you. You knew I tried to get away from you. You were thrilled by that fact. Shortly after I said I felt sick and moved to the front, you came up with some new excuse. You suddenly felt very awake and wanted to drive. I couldn’t even make up something so crazy, and why would I want to anyway? You knew what you were doing, and you kept doing it for the thrill of trapping and overpowering your prey. Yes, it is insane.
You were chasing me in a four-door sedan, daring me to make a scene and expose you at the cost of my own reputation.
You knew they would never believe the younger teenage girl over the older, 20-something guy. They would never believe the girl whose parents didn’t go to church over the guy descended from a long line of church leaders. They would never believe the outsider over the insider. Your actions were calculated, premeditated. Planned. Yes, predatory.
I tried to preserve my reputation, but it didn’t matter. You stole it anyway. That and my truth. When my parents finally discovered, I was given an ultimatum. Either I had to confront you, or my parents would. The truth would come out, and even though the abuse might end, I would still lose. I would be destroyed even more. I knew it, could see it happening in slow motion, but couldn’t stop it. I told two friends who I trusted first. They were skeptical, and they went to speak to you. I don’t know what you said exactly, but they said you admitted what you did (they didn’t know what you did), you cried, and you told them it was a “one-time mistake.”
Oh yeah, and you told them you were sorry. If any of the above paragraph is wrong, please, correct it as I wasn’t there for the apology you gave them. (I was there for the abuse, though. They weren’t.)
Maybe you were sorry, but you weren’t sorry about what you did. You were sorry you got caught. You were sorry I told and that the whole truth might expose the real you. If you were sorry, then why did you wait until I disclosed your deeds before you sought repentance in private prayer? And why did you lie afterward? Why did you say you committed a “one-time mistake,” when it wasn’t?
I confronted you myself (kind of dangerous, but shows how much fight I have in me when alert and not trapped in a locked space). When I did, you said you weren’t even sure if I knew what you had done. You admitted, privately at least, that you knew you had no consent to touch me.
I asked you if I had done anything—anything at all—to erroneously give you the idea that touching me was okay. You said, “No.”
But then, and I didn’t understand this you asked me “how much” I knew. You were still toying with me. I said I knew it happened at least twice. Your answer? Yes, that was all—just twice. You said you’d done nothing before to anyone else. That was a lie. You lied to my friends, and you lied to me. You knew there was more. You knew you attempted to do the same to others (see above). You stole into bedrooms at night, at the least, to play voyeur (see above). How do I know that? How do you think I know? You think I’m the only witness to the brazen behavior? Not everybody covers for you.
You may have done more. I will never know, and that’s part of the thrill for you.
Part of your sickness is controlling my truth as a jigsaw puzzle of your design. I’ll never know all of it, for you’ve hidden some of the pieces that complete the picture so that I’d always be under your control.
Your biggest mistake? Thinking I was easy to control. You overestimated my childhood admiration for you. You underestimated the strength in me. See, while I am compassionate to a fault, I am no doormat. I was always strong-willed (more of an avoider initially, but someone who would always boldly stop injustice when confronted directly). And, while I don’t go looking to pick fights (I prefer live and let live), “flight and freeze” isn’t my usual response to attack.
I’m a fighter. A fair fighter, but a fighter. As a teacher, my students knew me as fair and firm, selecting for our advisory motto, “Power through grace.” I wouldn’t have abided abuse. I didn’t abide abuse. I have a history of stopping and setting straight males who violate boundaries. And had the setting been fair, I would have been able to stop YOU.
You would could’ve never harmed me in degree and duration had I been awake, had I not been trapped locked spaces, had there not been threats of public community humiliation, and had there not been such a disparity of power. Your scheme was cowardly.
Maybe you thought your position in the church, your deeper roots gave you a special power over me. I don’t know. Maybe that’s why I could speak–was called to speak. I was allowed some clarity, reason, and distance other victims with deeper family lines might not have been afforded. As much as I had on the line, I risked losing fewer family members by speaking truth than others might.
S—— the woman isn’t S—— the girl. I am no longer the high-school superlative, “Most Courteous,” politely pleasing others. I am calling you out. It’s time someone did.
Time–you’ve had a lot of that. You could have used the time you stole from me to make a real apology and prove you’d changed. A real apology is more than lip-service. A real apology requires contrition, a focus on the hurt and harm caused to another, acceptance of all you’ve done (without minimizing or making excuse), accountability for harm, and acting to restore the person harmed. It isn’t a statement given to other people. It isn’t shrouded in self-serving narcissism (“I’m sorry for what I did to your daughter. I know you always thought highly of me and I hope I can one day be restored in your eyes.”).
It is acting better, more circumspectly, so not to cause the same or similar harm again.
You say you apologized? Well, you wrote a letter of “apology,” right? But to whom? Not me. You gave me a faux “I got caught and now no girl will ever want me” pity speech when I confronted you. You manipulated my family and made them feel sorry for you. You cried to my mother so that, instead of pressing charges against you, she consoled you. You cried to my friends and they consoled you. You cleverly avoided being prosecuted. You never gave me a real, authentic apology. Why not? Maybe you weren’t sorry. That’s how it seems.
Remember the letter you wrote me? The scathing letter you left on my car? The one where you condemned me for allowing my mother to tell your family what had happened?
You want to know why mom finally told your mom (though you begged her not to)? She told her when your mom was commenting about all the “personal problems” I was having. Ha. “Personal problems.” Yeah, well, that’s what she had heard.
You mom was saying wasn’t it such a shame that a once-strong Christian girl was having such problems? In that moment, my mom spoke truth. I didn’t know my mom had said anything. I had nothing to do with that. But you sure let me have it. The tone of that letter wasn’t remorse. It was rage.
Your acts were acts of hatred.
Acts of abuse are acts of hate. It’s that simple. When you molest a sleeping girl, you inflict your hate on her. When you wrote that scathing, angry letter, you seemed to quickly forget that you committed multiple sex crimes against me in three states. I guess you also forgot that I was a minor when the abuse began (whatever the law on sex crimes in my state, the state very much considered 17 year olds minors in nearly all other life decisions), you were an adult, you premeditated your act, you took advantage of someone who was unconscious, and, as if you were shampooing your hair, you rinsed and repeated.
You forgot that my parents could have reported you to police and that you could have spent a decade or more in jail for your crimes. You forgot so quickly that you wrote to condemn me, shame me, and guilt me. You condescendingly said, “I thought we were over this…I thought I had put this behind me.” You remember that, right? Cause, really? That’s how I felt when I opened that birth announcement. It’s how I felt when I endured your odd intimidation around me and my family on the Campground.
You blamed me, and you made me blame myself. I felt sorry for you, and I thought there was something wrong with me that I was still bothered by everything. Everyone acted like I should just forgive you and get over it. I tried. I tried acting like it hadn’t happened. Tried forgetting. Tried pretending it hadn’t happened. Tried acting like it was all some innocent mistake. But it wasn’t a mistake. It wasn’t innocent. It was planned and (in your words) “horrendous.”
One year later* I even tried to show you I was letting bygones be bygones. A mutual friend of ours had an event in North Carolina, and I willingly agreed to ride with you that weekend. This is the only time I ever put myself in a dangerous situation with you, and I have tried to understand it. In my mind, I rationalized my choice to ride with you as an act to prove I believed you’d changed. I thought I was proving to everyone that I was “better,” I was over “the mess” (what a “friend” called your abusing me), and I was being the bigger person, giving you another chance, being a good Christian. Forgiving (Some Christians really know how to manipulate that word). Others told me I should trust God’s change in you.
[*Correction: Two years later. Late May to early June of 1999. I met my now-husband three months later.]
I was on high alert the entire trip, and nothing seemingly inappropriate happened. You were the old funny and charming guy I’d grown up with. It was as if nothing had ever happened. Back to good ‘ol friends, right? But it wasn’t right. It felt wrong, bizarre. It was all shallow, superficial. I got home and something snapped. I realized I was being lulled into a false sense of security, and it was dangerous. There had been no real apology. No accountability. It was all too easy.
It was like the scene from the movie The Labyrinth where the Goblin King (David Bowie) seduces Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) into a crystal ball of distortions. Time is ticking away while the Goblin King dances with Sarah at a glamorous masquerade. He entices her to join him and live with him in his world. Sarah is the only one not wearing a mask. Suddenly, she sees through the fog. Sees it’s all a dangerous, bizarre illusion. A trick.
And that’s what it was for me. A bizarre illusion. It was all too wrong. It felt bad, sordid, low.
Blindly accepting you had changed absent accountability equaled self-debasement. Church leaders, mutual friends, and even some family wanted me to accept the Lord’s change in you. (Retrospect–I accept the Lord’s power to change you, but it is foolish to blindly accept the Lord actually changed you because that required your authentic participation.)
I saw through the illusion, and I ran away from you that weekend–I ran away from my church, my friends, all of it. One of our mutual NC friends called me later. He wondered what had happened, said I’d seemed so strong spiritually. Said he hoped he hadn’t done or said anything to offend me. He exemplified a true spirit of Christ (such people remind me good outweighs the evil in this world). I told the friend it wasn’t his fault at all. I did not tell him this, but it was you I was avoiding. I was escaping you. You had sucked me into a whirlpool of self-loathing and shame, and you had drowned me in a dark pool of distortions, leaving me feeling helpless.
The community saw me drowning, but they were cool with leaving me in that dark pool. I was worth so little as to even warrant more than a hollow, self-serving “I’m sorry I got caught, but how dare you tell anyone” letter of shame. Opaque details are enough when the goal is dodging conflict. It was illusion at my expense.
(A mutual friend more recently said something like, “Trust me, [all questions around the issue and the church’s handling of the issue] have been answered.” The friend said many knew all about it. Really? If many knew, isn’t it curious that no one talked to me about it. Why didn’t anyone ever speak to me? Did no one think I might have any questions? Funny no one inquired with me about the full account of what I experienced. The most logical answer is the “many” really didn’t want to know the truth.)
You stole so much, and I wanted it back.
You stole my body, my peaceful sleep, my faith in humanity, my ability to trust, my truth, my reputation, my church, my community, my friends, my family, my scholarships, my self-worth, my autonomy, my faith.
You stole my identity. You stole me. Then you left me in Hell.
[The Standford Rape Survivor said something similar to the predator who harmed her: “You have dragged me through this hell with you, dipped me back into that night again and again. You knocked down both our towers, I collapsed at the same time you did. If you think I was spared, came out unscathed, that today I ride off into sunset, while you suffer the greatest blow, you are mistaken. Nobody wins.” DITTO.]
God picked me up. He took the pieces out of the ashes, reclaimed the bits minus what you stole, and reshaped me into a new, stronger person. He gave me a new identity, one your hands couldn’t touch. He took away your power. What else could you do, right?
Recently, a friend of ours said you weren’t a real predator. She’s known you all of her life, too, but she’s never really known you, has she? She said if you were a dangerous predator that you’d have more victims. You and I both know you do.
Out of over 325,000,000 people in the United States, only about 350,000 share my first name. Did you know that the name “S——” isn’t even a top 100 baby name? For males, it hasn’t even been in the top 1000 names in the past 10 years. 81% of all “S——-” are female. Do you want to know how many male babies were named S—— the year you named your son?
Fewer than .01%.
Fewer than .007%. Fewer than 150 in the entire nation (you can run a search on the name yourself at the Social Security online database).
Yet, that’s the name you chose for your son. And please understand, it breaks my heart that your son has my first name. What a beautiful, innocent child.
But, applying a little logical reasoning, there is no other way to interpret this deliberation other than disturbing and dangerous. If I am, as our mutual friend alleged, your only victim, then why on earth would you give your son your only victim’s name?
I’ve had three children myself. Naming them was no easy, casual task. My husband and I made many lists, discussed, debated, changed our minds, researched, and carefully deliberated over each child to make sure we’d gotten it right. A name follows someone for life. It’s part of a person’s permanent identity. It’s a big responsibility to choose a child’s name.
So, let’s consider a hypothetical. Imagine, in some parallel world, I had stolen your name. Can you even think of what a scandal it would have been, how my husband, my friends, my family, or our church would have reacted, had I named one of my sons —–? Even if, somehow, my husband had been dead set on naming our child —– after some hypothetical favorite great-uncle who shared the same name, that another guy with that name committed violent crimes against me in my youth would automatically disqualify it.
(There are only two “S——s” in our church, by the way. You might as well have published your victim’s name in The New York Times. That’s how obvious it was to everyone.)
I would never want a permanent, daily reminder of something I’d worked so hard to put behind me. But more than that, I would never want to weigh my son with such notoriety. Doing so would be making him a pawn, dehumanizing him. It would make him a victim, too. It would be narcissistic, self-serving, insensitive, and cruel. I could never do that to my child.
But you could–you did–do that to yours.
Children are naturally curious creatures. Your son will one day want to know why you named him “S——” Just today, there’s one of those silly Facebook lists circulating taking personal inventory, and the first question on it is this: “Who were you named after?” What will you say when you son asks you this? How will you justify your decision if or when he ever learns that the name you gave him also, coincidentally, was the name of some woman you sexually assaulted multiple times while she was unconscious?
BOTTOM LINE. Don’t you dare ever blame me for any hurt an innocent child suffers by YOUR self-serving, empathy-lacking act. (Sorry-not-sorry, again, if that seems harsh–it’s the truth. You never repented or apologized for this. It’s NOT truthful to pretend you weren’t “aware” this was my name, that you never thought about this, and that it is not wrong and, at the least, sinful.) I’m old enough now to know your conduct is more than mere “mistake” or “coincidence.”
How do I reasonably know the “new” was NOT coincidence?
- It fits the old patterns of conduct. The same intimidating / humiliating public messages to and about me in front of the community (refresh memory above). Acts purposed to control, humiliate, and exert power. (Exerting control and power over another’s person is antithetical to holiness and the Spirit which seeks to spread the gospel and develop each person to his or her best spiritual self.)
You sent me a “friend” request on Facebook proximate the birth of your child (the same year, months before the child’s birth). Let’s go through that again. YOU sent ME a friend request on Facebook just before your child was born. That defeats any claim that my name never crossed your mind in that time period. I was wary of this (my husband was aware of my wariness–talking with him about that back then was part of applying “wise trust”), and I only accepted because (i) you had assured me years ago that you’d prayed about what you’d done and gotten straight with God (I had to “forgive” you [right?]…and I did, wanting to be a good Christian as others advised), (ii) you “had a family,” (iii) you “regularly” attended church, and (iv) “so much time” had passed (these are all things that people with cognitive dissonance about all of this have said to defend you now, so how unreasonable was my good faith belief in you living a different life?).
Guess when your only comment on one of my FB posts occurred? (I believe you know when.) Mere weeks before your child was born. That tells me you knew exactly what you were doing. How many other FB friends named S—— did you have? Ten? Five? Two or three? Nope. You had ONE. One guess who the only S—— on your friends list was? Oh, sure, you were friends with R, whose middle name is S——. But really? No reasonable human would believe it “never crossed your mind” S—— was my name, the name of someone you victimized multiple times for over a year. NO REASONABLE HUMAN. Not in light of all the circumstances. Not even any of our mutual friends would reasonably believe that, and you know it.
You–you alone–made the choice to tether your victim’s name to your innocent child. You alone knew how that would appear. You reasonably should have known the effect that would have on the person you have admitted you victimized. You alone resurrected the past. You alone are responsible.
And I have to wonder, did you tell the others all of this? Were you honest about all of this? My guess is you weren’t. I imagine you said something like, “I don’t know what she’s talking about? [gasping and looking shocked] I never even thought of S—— being her name. I haven’t talked to, seen, or spoken to her in years [not the truth, is it?]. I had a friend once with that middle name and just thought it ‘sounded’ cool.” As if I were crazy, oversensitive, overreacting.
I imagine you withheld these next details.
The timeline. You don’t think I tried to rationalize it, too? I went back through reality so many times. I had laid out everything and tried to look at it from every other perspective. No angle made sense or justified it. Seeing each red flag in progression was like watching slow-motion instant replay of someone setting up a layup on the basketball court. No, my returned panic, my feeling anxiety, wasn’t me overreacting. This WAS NOT and IS NOT rational. It WAS and IS wrong (sinfully so). It is dishonest. That you feel no remorse for this should give people reasonable concern for the risk you pose to others.
It should give people concern for your very soul.
You made a beautiful, innocent child–your own innocent child–a victim (victim counter is AT LEAST two). If you would do that to your own child, it begs a reasonable person to ask this: what wouldn’t you do to others? Any harm that results from your actions (I pray none) is on you. You have risked your life’s blessings like chips in a game of poker.
You have kind-hearted, compassionate, church-going parents (who I pray will one day understand I did not consent to how their son made my church a very uncomfortable and unsafe reminder of unconscionable harms–if there are consequences for not going to church, then there are most definitely consequences for those who make church unsafe). You are blessed with loving siblings; a church-going wife; generous, faithful in-laws. You are surrounded by a supportive church.
Obviously, they cannot see you the same way I do. There’s cognitive dissonance. Many can only see their son, brother, cousin, husband, friend.
I can empathize with their difficult position and the pain this reality brings.
I’ve been there. I had a friend I once worked with accused of and charged with similar crimes. It took the wind out of me. I’d trusted that friend, and I’d seen him do so much “good” while working with teenagers. I felt similar cognitive dissonance. I would have likely minimized, added to the facts, or altered my attitude in some way to make what I thought I knew consonant with the charges the guy faced. I did do some of these things at first. I remember how some people in our school rushed to judgment without knowing facts–said the teen may have “lured” the man, said maybe the guy’s behavior wasn’t so bad. When we first got news that this friend had been charged with a sex crime, even I had initially thought (hoped) it was some drunken public nudity stunt or something. I thought police had the wrong person. I pressed pause on these knee-jerk reactions. Experience had taught me that any person, even a trusted life-long friend, could have the capacity to do both good and evil. I knew better.
The fact is, though, the man’s victim did not cause my pain. My son’s pain (the man was my son’s favorite teacher). Our community’s pain. One person was responsible for all the hurt, and it was our friend, teacher, colleague. The same is true with you. I know you would hurt me because you hate me (again, abusive acts are default acts of hate). But how could you hurt these others? It’s on you to explain it, take responsibility for it, and own the hurt you’ve caused.
Here’s what’s on me. It’s on me to tell the truth, whatever the cost. It’s the only way you will ever be accountable for your bad behavior. I used to think my silence protected me from losing even more. I knew I’d likely be shunned in our church if I told the truth (how messed up is that?). It doesn’t matter. You are a PRESENT danger to others. That matters more than my fears, more than my discomfort.
Silence never protected me. It only allowed you to escape accountability and continue hurting everyone I love, everyone you say you love.
You say this was all just part of your remote past? Nope. It’s not your past that bothers me now–IT’S YOUR PRESENT, MORE RECENT BEHAVIOR.
I’ve heard some of your lame attempts to explain the revived grooming conduct in my presence in these past few years, but c’mon. You knew what you were doing. Explain for everyone else.
Why did you come sit by me in at the Tot Lot (children’s play area) in the vacant cafeteria? Why were you looking at my daughter, and why did you tell me how “cute” she was? Why did you think it was okay to talk to my son as if you knew all about him, ask about books (say you never liked to read either, but “[his] mom sure did”)? Why did you walk in my cabin the Sunday before Bible School? You said you were picking up your daughter’s toy, right? (Yeah, that’s not weird considering we weren’t super chummy fraternizers, right?) Why were you volunteering around my child in Bible School that week?
It was all creepily close. Too creepily close. The words, looks, posturing–it was all too familiar of another time when you did the same things to degrade me, intimidate me, and humiliate me. ALL RED FLAGS. The unearthing of the Mama Bear in me was warranted (and, no, I didn’t come at you or act unreasonably–I peacefully tried to resolve things with our church leadership considering you were around my child on church property). Know what would be crazy? Not being bothered by your being around my child given the truth. You know why I have concerns, and if anyone has issues with me bringing that up, then YOU should explain to such persons. Your conduct is NOT my responsibility (it should never have been my burden).
Again, you must know I am not the only witness to your conduct, right? (Seems that’s always been part of the thrill for you.) You might describe for everyone how my husband caught you following my daughter into the foyer of the cafeteria (you most likely hoped to alarm me, but caught his attention instead). And why, of the 30+ tables in the cafeteria, would you sit at a table behind mine, in a seat directly behind me, facing me, and making sure I was aware of your presence? Why did you audaciously lean back in the chair, stretch out your arms, and coldly stare at me in the window’s reflection? Doesn’t seem “Christ-like,” but is it even “normal”?
Explain sitting in the row in front of my family at the children’s program, or how in the big, open outdoors, you stood just inches behind me outside of the Chapel when I (and dozens of others) were waiting to pick up our kids from Bible School. You didn’t stand with the dozens–you stood inches behind me. Your actions are always bold, unapologetic, and purposed (even when I see you rarely, which makes me even more concerned for the unassuming innocents who are around you more frequently).
Oh, I know. Right…all “coincidences.” Others you’ve duped may still try to rationalize the long string of acts, but would you expect me to buy any of it? (Of course, you don’t. You are angry that I am calling you out, but you always knew I wouldn’t think any of this “coincidence.”)
Answer this. Why do you still insist on making the one place that should be safe a place of terror? You know I know the dark side of you, a side many others have never seen. Has God replaced it? I sure hope so.
God can change you, yes. Conversion, right? The first work of salvation. What is conversion? Doesn’t real conversion require one to be sorry for ALL he has done–doesn’t it require a “broken heart” and a “contrite spirit”? Doesn’t the Bible say, “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth…[I]f we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (John 1:6,7)?
“For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.” Luke 8:17.
And while I can forgive you 70 X 7 or even 7,000 X 7, that’s not all Jesus said. Before this, Luke tells us Jesus said, “If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.” Luke 17:3. Accountability is part of forgiveness. It leads to an awareness of right and wrong, good and evil, righteousness and sin. It precedes forgiveness.
Both God and Shakespeare are clear, “truth will come to light . . . at the length truth will out” (Merchant of Venice, Act II, sc. ii). If you never admit and feel broken and contrite about all your deeds of darkness, you may never walk in light. I wish for you to receive the light of God in your heart, but this is the truth of salvation which Jesus was sent to deliver. I did not ask to know your dark side, and I did not want to know that side, but I know it. There are some in our church who don’t think that side of you ever existed. That is DANGEROUS. You know this.
Concealment of sin bars real conversion. Remember the parable of the sower? The one who received the seed on stony places? Immediately receiving the word with joy, but having no root in himself and only enduring for a little while? Can you have a rooted spirit without being deeply affected, without being overwrought by ALL of your offenses, without feeling remorse, regret, self-loathing? Without knowing just how dark the darkness is so that you abhor it and want nothing more to do with it?
I have outgrown my fear of you (fear of calling you out, at least). However, I also know your propensity to harm. And I know one cannot have sanctification without conversion first. And I know conversion requires “a falling away first and that man of sin be revealed.” And I know as long as you fail to take responsibility for all you have done (sweeping out all the nooks and crannies of darkness), you are dangerous. Thus, knowing what I know (what you know I know), I have reasonable concerns about you and your propensity to hurt those I love.
So if you want to tell everyone you simply forgot one of your victim’s names, allow me to refresh your memory: “S——” is the uncommon name of teenage girl you groomed, isolated, and attacked during her sleep–not once, not twice, but many times for many hours.
You did not have my permission to use my name no more than you had my permission to abuse me. When you used my name you violated my boundaries, my rights, and you made it impossible for me to remain publicly anonymous, a right the law affords nearly every abuse victim. I know the law now, I am armed with my rights, and I will hold you accountable for any harm you cause me or my family.
(Just FYI, though, I reported up the ranks well before ever applying to law school–in fact, before I ever registered for the LSAT or considered law school. Sometime before that, a church board member did not seem to think your recent conduct very holy, and he contacted me to see about discussing the issue. My opportunity to study law–my scholarship–all part of God’s plan after discussions within our community stalled. Know what my entrance essay was about? THIS.)
I can forgive you, but it is not my forgiveness you need. My forgiveness cannot fix what is broken in you. You don’t get to abuse God’s gift of salvation, manipulate it, and use it to create your own “get out of jail free” card, and then continue to act badly–selfishly, fraudulently, egotistically, and malevolently.
Actions have consequences.
A person who murders someone can be forgiven and have salvation, but that doesn’t mean the person is “off the hook” for his crime. He still must serve his sentence. His sin is forgiven, but his crime has repercussions. The cold apathy to that–by you or any around you–is not of God. I hope you don’t cost others their souls over this.
While I hope you have real forgiveness and authentic salvation, you are not excused from accountability for your actions. I am accountable for any sins I commit. Every person is responsible for his own sins. And I have repented and been absolved of my anger toward you. (That I’m no longer angry at you doesn’t change the truth. And, unless I’m mistaken, sanctification doesn’t allow me to lie for you, does it?) If each person is accountable for his or her sins, then shouldn’t you be accountable for your conduct, too? Wouldn’t someone with godly charity in his heart want to make sure he caused no more harm, no more pain, to his victims?
You can steal a car, sincerely repent, and receive salvation. But if you keep the stolen car afterward, then were you ever really penitent? And could you ever have really received salvation without necessary, authentic repentance in the two-part conversion and sanctification process? Could a truly sanctified person keep the “stolen car” and keep it concealed? If a person keeps stolen goods (conceals them), does he realize the gravity of his actions?
Shallow emotions or sympathy from congregants who know no better won’t absolve you either. God’s gift isn’t to be mocked so you may excuse yourself from responsibility or protect your pride. You don’t get to behave badly, criminally, and then make yourself out as some victim when others hold you accountable for the consequences of your crime.
I forgive you, but because of your purposeful, wanton, willful actions, I don’t trust you.
I cannot imagine I will ever feel comfortable sitting beside you, across from you, in front of you, behind you. I don’t feel comfortable sharing a pew with you. I don’t feel comfortable having you around my children. I wish I could feel comfortable there, but you have made sure I cannot. You should know that, understand that, and respect that (that you haven’t respected that shows me you aren’t sorry at all). Thankfully, there is distance between us. Our encounters are generally limited to one week per year, and yet, even one annual encounter is enough opportunity for you to cause a lifetime of hurt.
No, you are no victim, but you are deserving of some sympathy. You are weak (you have been weak). You need real, authentic help. Maybe professional help (I’m not an expert). Maybe your actions cause you suffering, too. I don’t know. If that’s case, then why would you do the things you’ve done, not decades ago, but within the past few years?
I don’t care how many people drag me through the mud. Their anger comes from the fog. They lack any clear vision, and it seems unfair to blame them when they are void of facts. But you know. I know. God knows. And you know God knows.
I will not be held hostage to the past, and I refuse to give you opportunity to hurt the people dearest to me. You need expert help from those who understand your particular weakness, treatment tailored to your diagnosis. If any close to you read this, then I hope they help you find such treatment.
All the best available treatment in the world won’t help you if you don’t want to be helped.
If you can’t seek help for yourself, then I hope you’ll think of your family. You have such a beautiful family. I feel sorry for you because you chose to put yourself in this place again, but my heart hurts for them. You think your actions destroy me, and you don’t mind that because you hate me, but your actions hurt us all–you, me, my family, your family, and our church. Sure, people who don’t understand your patterns and schemes will think I am hurting you and your family. They won’t understand, and I forgive them that. However, the reality is these are your crimes. You know your patterns of behavior. No one deserves to be entangled in your crimes.
If you are at all capable of empathy at the least, think of your family. Be honest. Come clean on all of your crimes. Then, for your family, get some treatment, counseling, something. Your method of coping with stress when you’re “low” (your words) is victimizing others. Experts work with such persons. Your family will likely need to be a part of that treatment so they may understand your behaviors, so they may help keep you accountable, and so they, too, can heal from the pain you’ve caused.
Finally, I love you (you are a human with a soul). I don’t trust you, but I love you. I offered you my trust often, and time-after-time you breached it. You betrayed my trust and my forgiveness when you attached my name to your family, attaching a part of my identity, forever, to the person who abused me. I don’t care how anyone tries to slice, dice, or spin that. It’s the plain and simple truth.
It would be absolute insanity for me to trust you. Did you not admit this yourself once when you wrote, “I wish it would have never happened…I wish me and S—— were back to the same old friends but I have to live with what I have done”? How could someone who wrote that not realize your recent conduct warrants withholding trust? Reasonable precautions are necessary to ensure you do not gain access to other innocents, for the risk to those innocents is too great if you ever fall away or lose out again. Reasonable precautions do not mean I don’t trust God’s power to work in you. They merely recognize the free will underlying the process of conversion and sanctification.
I love your family so much more than you will ever understand. I always have. They have always been like my own family. It’s still hard for me to think of the abuser who did those things to me as the guy I grew up with. I ask God all the time, why couldn’t this be some stranger instead? I love your parents, your siblings, your wife, your cousins. Really, you are a person with a soul, you were my friend once, and I want you to be better. You cannot get well without being honest and accountable. You cannot have sanctification without conversion. Plain and simple truths.
I have two sons, and one day, despite all the love I give them now, they could act criminally. One got in a little trouble in class last year for saying some slang phrase he’d heard older kids say, and of course I knew his teachers. Do you think I called in any favors to get him off the hook? No way. His father and I expected him to be held accountable. Why? Because he will never reform his ways and see such behavior as serious without accountability.
So if my sons acted criminally one day (and they could), I would still love them, but I would also understand they needed to be held accountable. Because I love them, I would make sure they were accountable.
The same goes for you. Your whole life you’ve evaded accountability, but accountability is necessary.
I hope that accountability will lead you to change, to God, and to real contentment. You will never have true salvation or happiness until and unless you come clean, own any and all of your actions, seek to understand your actions, seek to understand the consequences of your actions, and feel true contrition. If you’ve never felt sorry, then pray to feel sorry. Start there. If you have done this, then you should be the one leading making sure you have accountability checks.
Ever want corroborating evidence of whether a sexual violence victim is telling the truth, then ask the victim’s spouse–intimacy issues are the “norm” following this particular type of crime. When my husband had an affair, do you think I blindly trusted him afterward? Even though he’d gone back to the altar and gotten sanctified (he went to a public altar of prayer in humility, not a private, closed-room prayer seemingly staged for saving face). No, I did not blindly trust my husband.
My husband was the first one advocating for freedom restrictions, accountability checks. He breached trust. Checks were (still are) reasonable. And that was an affair, not a scheme of sexual abuse against sleeping persons nor public exposure of an abuse victim years later. To be clear, his “sin” hurt God, me, and our family. Your “sin” is also a crime. It harms not only God, you, and your family. It causes a lifetime of destruction in its wake. It is the murdering of souls–millstone around the neck stuff. It’s a crime against society, and the risks for harm to the public are much greater (especially where a person is a repeat offender, and you already are).
Applying wise trust, I don’t see that I’ll ever want to sing “Kumbaya, My Lord” with you around a campfire. But I do wish healing for you and your family. I wish safety for our community. I wish wellness, peace, and happiness for you and all of us.