In my particular case, I received a birth announcement in the mail 15 years after disclosing the abuse. My abuser had given his child my first name. My therapist immediately recognized this as typical predator behavior, and said that this man was most certainly dangerous. Most sane, reasonable people I know agree. This was certainly not “normal” behavior.
Yet, within the community where the abuse occurred, I have encountered many who have attempted to rationalize, defend, and explain this abnormal, dangerous behavior.
In my post “The Gentle Wolves are Most Dangerous,” I included a video link where Dr. Simon explains the psychology behind such reactions (he also talks about it in his book, In Sheep’s Clothing). Those who’ve never encountered or been targeted by predatory aggressives struggle to fathom why a person would be motivated, not by fear or anger, but by desire to dominate and destroy another human.
Professor of Forensic Psychology, Dr. Katherine Ramsland, discusses why these predators among us are indiscernible until after they’ve blazed a trail of damage in her article “3 Signs of Inconspicuous Predators in Your Midst.” She says this: “Among their most dangerous features are a callous disregard for the rights of others and a propensity for violating norms. They can charm and manipulate others for their own gain, conning with no regard for anyone’s feelings.”
So, what does this “callous disregard” look like? After my abuser’s mother found out part of what he had done, he was told to write my family a letter of “apology.” This was written months after my initial disclosure. Here’s a glimpse into the mind of a predator.
The W—- [addressed to my parents]
I am writing this letter in the up most sincerity and apology. It is regarding the instance with me and S——. I can’t begin to tell you all how sorry that I truly am. I will never be able to tell you how sorry I am and how I regret what I did. I feel I would give my life in return to restore or erase S——‘s memory of what happened. [Sounds good so far, right? Or does it? Note that he never actually says he is sorry. He says he “can’t tell” my family how “sorry” he is. He would give his “life,” but years later he named his child “S——.” The person who wrote this knew exactly what he was doing. Manipulation 101, in my adult-looking-back opinion.]
I feel that I have never been the same since. I mean it always seems to loom over my head all the time. And I am sure it does you all also. [Narcissism. This apology is focused on what he lost.]
I know that S—— has thought highly of me in the past and I am sure she does not now but I am truly sorry for the instance. I can also understand as a family it has shaken you all a lot. I feel that you all grit your teeth when I enter the room and that is understandable. As for me and the lord are concerned I was truly down. [More narcissism. Also, a lie. It wasn’t “the” instance. Multiple instances. Hours at a time. For over a year. Why would he say we “grit our teeth” if there was no danger?]
I have prayed tons and I know you may not believe that. I feel that I have made you [my mother] and [my father] bitter against me and possibly lost respect in the church. And for that I am truly sorry also.
I’ll never really know why I did it or why it happened. I have gone back to God many times with this in prayer and I feel miserable every time I think of it. I can understand why you as a family have lost respect and confidence in me. I only hope that I can maybe try to apologize and tell you where I stand. I do appreciate you [my mom] and [my dad] for the consideration for me after knowing what has happened. I know that I am not perfect and I really showed it there. That was the only thing that I have ever done that was truly terrible and horrendously wrong. [Again, this is a lie. It wasn’t “the only thing,” and he, himself, contradicts this in the very next sentence. Though that, too, will be a lie.]
As for being Sanctified [“saved,” or “born again”] I was not shortly after the second time. It all just caught up with me and I could not take it or try to fix it anymore. Although I have not been to the altar [our church’s way of asking for forgiveness and getting salvation] I have prayed about it immensely. [One, I don’t see how someone sexually assaulting a female could be saved at any point while he was assaulting her. That shows the mindset of someone who does not understand the gravity of his actions (impaired conscience). Two, it was more than twice, but when I confronted him about the abuse–it was an ultimatum by dad gave me: confront him or they would–did I ever do ANYTHING to make him think it was okay to touch me during my sleep? He said no. He asked me “how much I knew,” I told him two times for sure. To clarify, by TWO TIMES FOR SURE, I meant two events in time, two trips. The second car trip was a weekend event. It included hours-long assaults on the way up AND (two days later) on the way home from our 7-hour destination. And, yes, I confided in someone in between while there, said I didn’t WANT to be in a car with him (I wasn’t taken seriously). He assaulted me across three states that weekend. Wanted me to humiliate myself in front of our friends (who, again, didn’t take me seriously). So he was lying here. Three, “it all just caught up with me” is maybe the most honest part of the letter. He was sorry he got caught. “All” means multiple sexual assaults. Still, there was no “fixing” anything. It ended when I spoke up.]
If you all would like to sit and talk about it more then we can, I just don’t know how to approach you all about it. I was trying to put it all behind me and my mother called and made me feel even worse. I didn’t know what to tell her but I screwed up. I just hope you as a family do not think this letter cheezy. I am truly sorry for the pain I have caused you all and I will not even ask for your forgiveness. [Here it is. No real remorse. He didn’t write any of this out because he was sorry. He wrote this because his reputation had been damaged. This letter came a year+ post-disclosure when his mother was in town, staying with our family, and made some comment to my mom about it being a shame that I was having so many “personal issues” and couldn’t seem to get my life together. The next lines drip of sarcasm veiling the anger he really felt.]
If you could just bear in mind that wasn’t The Sanctified D—–. [My name], if you need to talk about it more please let me know. I feel terrible and I am sorry.[The condescending tone addressing me shows exactly how predators feel towards their prey. It also shows his shallow feelings and a failure to grasp the gravity of one’s actions. See, at the same time he gave this letter to my mom, he left me a scathing letter, blaming me for “allowing” his mom to find out, guilting me. The tone of that letter was anger. That he left me that letter at the same time he wrote this FLATLY contradicts this being a real apology. No real, authentic remorse. No comprehending the gravity of his conduct.]
Even reading his words, knowing he named his child “S——” after saying here he would give his “life” to “erase” or “restore” my memory, and knowing he admitted to sexually assaulting me without my consent while I was unconscious, there will be those close to this person who defend him and rationalize this irrational pattern of behavior. As Dr. Ramsland points out, the predators out there know it: “Predators count on it, especially in those rare times when someone is savvy enough to spot them and try to alert others.” If our communities are to ever be safe, we’re going to have to remove our blinders.
I don’t anticipate any from my community ever stumbling on this site and read this. They would have to search, know what they were searching for, gossiping about it, taking extra steps to find this. This site was never directed or advertised toward that audience (had I wanted to publish this with some intent to injure, I could have just gotten up to a pulpit and read this–I didn’t). This is a personal blog–it’s merely my true experience. I screamed in a crowded room for over a decade, and my screams fell on deaf ears. Sometimes people think they know others so well, and they don’t. But if this helps even one other understand real danger, if it helps one other heal, if it prevents even one other assault, then the site will be successful.
The truth is, bad actors don’t often reveal their darkness to the people closest to them. They want (need) those people to view them in a good light. My worst deed? No, it wasn’t doing or dealing drugs (aspirin gives me anaphylaxis), being a reckless drunkard (unless counting Benadryl for my severe allergies because more than one drink and my eyes, lips, and tongue would start swelling–the whole severe allergy to fermented things, ya know?), embezzling money, or committing adultery.
No, I was not the typical high school or college kid. My worst deed was NONE of these things.
“Getting” pregnant before I was married (as if I could impregnate myself). This was after the period of abuse (after my running away from church and church people in an act of rebellion against this abuser and those who tried to normalize his conduct). And THIS is what his “supporters” and “defenders” want to use to attack me.
Thing is, I’ve been honest about this, too. Yes, I had premarital sex with my current husband in my early twenties. Yep, I had premarital sex with a man I have been married to for over 17 years. I met, dated, and married that man during a period away from my church community, after fleeing my church community post-abuse. I found out I was pregnant when I was engaged to this man, had to move up my wedding from October to March. Is this a secret? NO.
We’ve been open with our children about this because, despite the persecution we endured for not aborting our baby, our child is our greatest blessing (i.e., we publicly suffered consequences for our actions because, regardless of the cost, we believed in doing the right thing, not the easy thing–kind of consistent with my attempts to protect others now). Our son knows we chose him. We didn’t want some open secret hovering over our beautiful child.
This should tell you something else. At first, I wanted to hide my pregnancy from church people. I didn’t want information coming out because I knew how church people would react (similar to the abuse), and I feared that castigation. I could have kept hiding, gotten an abortion, never felt the heat of truth. I faced the heat of truth anyway–and it was every bit as hot as I’d feared. Exactly why I also OMITTED the abuse for a period. (To clarify, I spoke out about the abuse in a reasonable manner–but I did not report to police for several reasons, one of which included fear of castigation by my church community. And after the gossip mill blew the truth around post-disclosure [and again after the abuser named his child my first name], castigation and shredded reputation was the result. It was a train wreck in slow motion. I was going to lose, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.)
Was I sexually active before or during the period of abuse. NO. The castigators could call up my boyfriend of the time. Almost laughable really. In that period of time, I was a backward, inexperienced teenager, too shy with guys to barely talk to the person I “courted.” So, those attacking me now for my “worst” deed don’t get it. They’re grasping.
But they do know about omissions. They OMITTED the truth when they did not speak up about how you knew this guy was naming his kid his victim’s name. They wanted to avoid an uncomfortable ‘scandal.’ How credible or trustworthy are such people? What exactly is it they fear?
If any ever want to know the veracity of a victim’s abuse experience, just ask a victim’s spouse. My husband has a wife who often cringes when she’s touched. She barricades herself in pillows when she sleeps. She doesn’t like full hugs (only side hugs). I had to work through my issues with intimacy, issues I’ve had since being abused during my sleep. Imagine that. But even this is no secret. My husband and I believed altar calls were sacred, and we believed humility and sincerity were necessary. He went before our church congregation–confided in persons we thought we could trust. That is all being twisted against us now, but, silly me, I cared more about my husband’s soul than what others might think.
Who was I pre-abuse?
National Honors Society President, “Most Courteous” of my high school class (as voted by over 300 peers), Secretary of French Club, A-student, Beta Club member, Secretary of my Sunday School class, Senator at our state’s prestigious summer student leadership program (also as voted by my peers there), recipient of not one, but two college scholarships (one a highly-coveted, prestigious state scholarship and the other my college’s founder’s scholarship).
I was a girl who was dating some other boy during the period of abuse, and we were mostly pen-pals (my mom kept the letters–pretty platonic and innocent stuff, not the writings of some “Jezebel,” as I’ve been called). I was a girl who only held hands with that boy for a year–there were never “make-out” sessions or untoward behaviors. I was a girl who was best friends (at the time) with the abuser’s girlfriend. I was an active, committed, consistent young church attendee (my parents did not make me go to church–my motivation was my love for God and my church).
I was a girl who spent my teen years tutoring a student with exceptional needs, picking her up from school, working with hours each day (that student graduated with a “regular” education diploma, not a “special” education one). I was a girl who taught swim lessons and helped coach summer swim team. I was a girl whose idea of a “wild time” was a late night trip to Walmart for fun, followed by Waffle House breakfast. I was a girl who signed every letter I wrote with, “Smile, God loves ya!”
No, I was never some provocative girl, some tramp, or some drug user (yes, others have told me these are rumors circulating now–again, another laughable assertion). No, I wasn’t maladjusted. No, I wasn’t antisocial. No, I wasn’t a liar.
So, no, I am not someone who conjures up lies to influence the public. The abuser’s family might think that now, forgetting how much I loved them (still love them), forgetting the person they knew me to be, forgetting how close our families have always been. The person they know isn’t the person I’ve been forced to know. It is sad and unfortunate, and it breaks my heart for them. The person they know never asked for my consent before doing anything he’s done. I’m the unfortunate messenger, and that’s a pretty painful, undesirable role to have to fill.
Yeah, I wanted to keep my life out of public eye. I ran away from church and church people. Fight or flight–I could have fought against his family, but I didn’t want to. I feared hurting them. I loved them too much (not sure how reciprocal that love is, though, which also hurts). Flight isn’t so consistent with someone who would now be talking about, writing about, reporting on the abuse with the motive of seeking attention (what people sometimes say about victims). The cost is great, and I chose to do the right thing despite the cost.
(My disclosing again occurred before the #MeToo movement ignited. It wasn’t a bandwagon deal. I was compelled to speak to local church leaders first because I was tortured over some red flags. There was compassion, and then silence. For a year. Disclosing again came a year before changing career paths. It was a time when I most needed stability and strength–not the re-experiencing of past pain, the re-opening of old trauma. In my case, it was/is professionally risky to talk about this particular type of personal experience. Why, then, did I speak? The abuser gave me no choice. I understand the red flags better now because of my professional experience and training, and I know much more than I did as a girl aged 17.)
Here’s the deal. Man’s law is the floor, not the ceiling. If we omit truth about things that are illegal, we are living sub-zero. No, victims and their families aren’t the ones sub-zero (they’re in a state of survival–can’t we see where God is on that from biblical examples?). The people who influence communities, who have the power to rally support or utterly shun–those people are sub-zero. If a person believes staying neutral between a sexual abuse victim and an abuser is right, the person is wrong. He may not be negative 50, but negative 25 is still sub-zero. God’s standard is the ceiling. No one can hover beneath the standard of man’s law and get there.
How likely are any of us to reach the ceiling and make it to Heaven when we won’t even get on ground level because the cost is too great? If we aren’t obedient to God when it costs, we cannot be good disciples. Hopefully, some reading this who are in positions to protect others will do the right thing when tested, too. Because the truth is, sometimes we don’t know even our friends and family as well as we thought we did. And the truth is, at the end of this life, we will be accountable for how loyal we were to God, not our friends and family.