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.
To other abuse survivors reading this, I must be honest with you. I faced a lot of backlash for speaking truth, even when I had a lot of evidence and my abuser’s admissions. That said, when on a scale side-by-side, there has been more good than bad.
Full disclosure? Speaking wasn’t all that safe for me at first, but the option of silence had been stripped from me. “Forgive and forget” isn’t an option when another person’s conduct brazenly forces you to remember.
I didn’t anticipate any of my community ever stumbling on this site and reading this page, but a friend recently told me many had seen it. Makes me really curious, I guess. This is an anonymous blog. I have limited contact with most members from my church community. And there is a no-contact order for this person and any acting on his behalf, prohibiting them from contacting me, so I would not expect them to be actively seeking out this sight even if someone stumbled on it and shared its existence. Why would anyone care to find and follow this page if they did not believe me anyway?
The no-contact order includes electronic communications and communicating through third parties. Thus, if someone used pretext and “befriended” me on social media in order to communicate and then pass along electronic communications from me to him it would violate the order. Seems crazy, but when groups are biased and have great interest at stake in the matter, they can conspire against victims and act in surprisingly criminal ways (e.g., the Catholic Church).
Bottom line? I have never published the name of the person who abused me. But he did publish my name. But for his publishing my name, no one could know who he was. Is it not unconscionable for others to expect me to “protect him” with my silence not only regarding his name, but also regarding my experience, when he was the one who acted (once again and indisputably) callously and cruelly? And when his behavior is (to most rational persons) disturbing? Should he get to perversely benefit even more from his own deviant conduct at my expense forever? That people sought out this page only supports why I had to speak.
People who got here had to take action to find this site. Extra steps. There was no captive audience. There were no published names. Persons had to communicate about this site in order to search for it. I have paraphrased this verse before: there’s no fire where there’s no wood.
Those from my community who read this likely fell in one of three camps: some got here by fire (they were that wood ready for kindling); some came here out of grief and love (I share that grief and love); and some are the neutral rubbernecks, either curious bystanders or conflicted undecideds.
1. First, those who got here by fire. Those who searched this site, hoping to use it for ill-intent. Who hoped to extract or tease out some out-of-context word or phrase. Who hoped to manipulate something for more smears and attacks (ironically, those persons only reinforce exactly what I said about being forced to speak in self-defense and in defense of others).
I have learned (am still learning) the inordinate ways some groups work together (mob-style-attack) to chill victims’ speech rights. Obviously, this taints my trust for the groups below, too. There’s no reasonable way to know who’s friend or foe. Who could’ve anticipated people in my local community, some who feigned friendships, would be coordinating with other self-interested parties who lived hours away? Kind of ridiculous, no? Whatever. Disappointed, but not even mad.
I love and am praying for these people. They won’t find what they’re searching for here. I am not their enemy. They war with themselves. They wrestle with the truth. I pray God increases their faith, removes their fear, comforts their sadness, and grants them peace.
2. Second are those here out of grief and love. Those who believe and support me, who know what happened was (and is) wrong. Those persons know me. They’ve always known I was (and am) telling the truth. They know my fruits. They don’t need gossip, and they aren’t here for ill purposes. They never forgot who I was, who I am. They know I love them, and I believe they love me. Maybe some of these feel guilty they didn’t realize the extent of what happened. Maybe they feel remorse over not saying, doing more (then or now).
Maybe they tried to say something but were shut down. Maybe they didn’t know what to do, what to say. Maybe they feel regret over their own avoidance of truth. Maybe they felt I blamed them too (I didn’t and don’t). There’s been awkwardness, but there’s always been mutual love. And that’s okay. I am praying God removes the awkwardness (i.e., fear in a costume).
3. Third are the in-betweeners. Maybe these persons are just curious. Maybe they don’t really know me that well, and maybe they never knew what happened but always thought the name S——- was “weird” (I’ve heard from many acquaintances in that camp).
Maybe they do know me well, but they also know this guy well. I feel especially sorry for this group. I can relate. This group likely feels torn, like they’re having to choose between their right and left arms. Maybe they’ve known me since I was a baby, but they have also known him since he was a kid. Maybe they know and love my family, but they also know and love his family. Maybe they want to support me, but they don’t want to seem disloyal to him (his wife, his parents, his siblings). They don’t know how to help, but they don’t want to hurt.
I pray God helps this group see this isn’t a binary choice between me and the person who abused me.
The choice is between truth and lies. Light and darkness. Good and evil. There should be only one side we should all be aligned with–God, His Word, His Son, His Spirit. I pray God shows us the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.
No need to “spy” or conspire. I have nothing to hide. It is what it is. Accountability is not a process of manipulating facts. I do not desire to destroy anyone, but I also cannot lie. I cannot accept the abuse of my person. I cannot pretend someone isn’t dangerous or doesn’t pose a serious risk when I know he does. Here are some FAQs answered.
Q: Why did I begin this blog?
A: When I first wrote of my experience, it was in desperation. I desperately feared for others’ safety. I was screaming (i.e., reasonably reporting through proper channels, discretely and respectfully), but my church community had pressed the mute button. They weren’t listening. I did not wish to publicly expose my personal, private experiences. I did not want to make myself vulnerable again to people who had proven themselves unworthy of my vulnerability, my trust, my truth. But I was put in an impossible position. It was not fair.
What is the lesson? When people can’t kill your truth, they try to kill your character instead. Speaking the truth was a necessary self-defense. It was a fight for life. Silence meant death–death of dignity by forcing me to wear a muzzle, a dis-empowering control barring me from speaking for myself or others.
Q: Did I have some some agenda in starting a blog?
A: No. I wanted to heal. I believed I had a reasonable and valid right to be part of the conversation regarding my own experience. My community had shut me out of that conversation. I also had concerns for other victims of sexual abuse who felt abandoned by their church communities. I knew I was not alone. There was a need.
I did not make my church community a captive audience. I would guess the person who abused me or his associations did. I removed persons from social media who I believed to be in close contact with the person who abused me (as advised). Of course, many foes camouflaged themselves as friends. Maybe they shared?
I joined a new online community of survivors, and we shared our blog pages with each other. We have developed new friendships. We created our own safe space. We offered each other what our churches, our families, and our “friends” could not. This allowed me to begin processing my own abuse in a healthy way along with others who were also processing similar experiences.
Also, there were many victims from my own church who had reached out to me. They were closely watching the church people’s response to my disclosure. I feared they might be triggered or re-traumatized when they saw how some church congregants closed ranks on me. I did not want anyone feeling hopeless. I wanted anyone searching for light to be able to find it.
I am the type of person who heals when pain transforms to purpose. Humans are connected by shared experience, and my new friends check in with this site periodically. We share with one another, and we support each other. We are traveling this post-abuse road together, pulling each other up the mountain, strengthening our legs the further we climb. We are building new identities together. If I can share some God with them, too, that’s a bonus. 🙂
I felt a sense of purpose, and I wanted all survivors of sexual violence to know no matter how dark our situations seem, we always have access to light. No matter how dark any one night, the sun will always rise in the morning.
Q: Is this blog a “platform” for “your career” or a vehicle for “revenge”?
A: No and no. This is not a professional blog, though I will maintain professional decorum, even in my personal life. I hope to be clear–I harbor no anger toward the person who harmed me. I do not believe his above letter showed authentic repentance; however, I do not wish any injustice on him. I wish for him to have authentic accountability in proportion to what he actually has done. I wish him to be sorry for what he has done. I wish him to get the help he needs.
I am concerned for him and those around him. Based on credible information, the person is not telling the whole truth. That makes me concerned for his soul and our community. It’s recently been made known to me that some from my church community have been eerily shadowing me and my family members’ online presence. I am concerned for their souls, too. I’m concerned for their mental health. When we get to a point where we can no longer distinguish between right and wrong, we’re in serious trouble.
That said, this is not an “opportune” time to revisit this experience and begin processing the past. It would be easier for the short-term to avoid remembering right now. I am a huge advocate for due process rights of accused persons. In fact, I presented an academic paper/project on due process rights of teachers whose contracts had been terminated based on flawed high-stakes testing data. I do not believe any person should be denied due process rights. Being a “victim” in a legal process is not a great bullet point on a resume. It is not something you want to discuss with a prospective employer.
No legal advisor worth his degree would recommend writing about one’s personal experience like this. I wrote because I worried more for others’ well-being than my own. I shared the kind of stuff that makes lawyers cringe. Yes, I understand how defense attorneys will try to pick and pry at every minute detail. Lawyers work in words. They try to create wiggle room between denotation and connotation. They’ll take a misplaced comma and turn it into an independent clause. They’ll take an ambiguous pronoun and try to insert a proper noun who doesn’t exist. So be it. I worried for other victims more than I worried for my career. I guess we each have our own priorities.
When I spoke to my church leaders and friends it opened a hornet’s nest. As I said, other silenced victims reached out. Months ago, I went on the record expressing my concern for such victims from my community who had repressed their experiences of abuse. I was especially concerned they would internalize the community hostility they saw directed at me. It isn’t a community criticism to point out this truth. It is what it is. I knew enough from teaching to know one disclosure commonly creates a domino effect.
My community is not just a church. Family is so interwoven with the church that it is impossible to separate the two. My church is not simply a matter of “a building” where two people “happen to both go to worship.” If my disclosure was met with hostility, that could disturb every facet of other victims’ lives. I knew they would likely feel the hostility and be re-victimized. I am so sorry for any who feel they’ve experienced more hurt. Light is a disinfectant. It burns like a beast at first, but we’ll all be stronger for it in the end.
Still, this site was never directed at nor advertised to my church community. Had I wanted to publish this with some intent to injure, I could have read this at a pulpit, right? Yet, I didn’t. Again, this is a personal blog–it’s merely my true experience. Sometimes people think they know others so well, and they don’t.
If this site 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. I doubt the people who worked with Larry Nassar had the same perception of him that the gymnasts he abused did. I doubt the Penn State football coaches, players, and fans had the same perception of Jerry Sandusky as his victims, either. Bad actors need the people closest to them to view them in a good light. Otherwise, their entire schemes of abuse are compromised.
Q: Have you ever done drugs? Do you have AIDS?
A: Oh. My. Goodness. 🙄 Heaven help. No. I have never even smoked a cigarette.
This is kind of silly, no? I laughed about it when I first heard it. Then, low and behold, some poor, desperate souls leached onto these absurdities. SMH. Bless their hearts. Sigh.
Can’t believe I am even answering this. No, I’ve never done illicit drugs. I rejected pain killers after my C-Sections (easy medical record check would confirm). In fact, aspirin gives me anaphylaxis 👍. Never been a reckless drunkard (unless counting Benadryl for my severe allergies). When I did drink (lightly) in my twenties, I learned quickly alcohol wasn’t my friend. I knew I’d never be cut out for jello shots when my lips, tongue, eyes, and throat swelled after drinking a glass of wine once (y’all, I have never been at a “jello shot” party–laughing out loud). Turns out the whole severe allergy to fermented things isn’t conducive for drinking a lot of alcohol, ya know?😜
Nope, I’ve NEVER slept around. Someone called me up recently (oddly timed phone call) and brought up my post-abuse period after I left the church. The person tried to suggest I’d “dated around.” Ha. That’s a gross exaggeration of my boring life.
I’ve dated a whopping total of three people. The first was during high school years within the context of church; the second was a three-month disaster (my most rebellious post-abuse period when I’d completely lost faith in God or His existence–even then, I wasn’t a partying, drinking, drug-using fiend…my “wildness” wouldn’t have registered on the radar for a “typical” college student); and the third is now my husband. Believe that’s four fewer than the national average for women?
Sure, some other guys asked me out. A couple of guys asked me out in high school, not knowing I had a long-distance boyfriend. I declined, obviously. During my first year of college, while dating my first boyfriend, a roommate had some friends over. We all hung out. One of her friends tried to kiss me. I jumped up and abruptly said, “Nope. I have a boyfriend.” I told him I was sorry if he got the wrong idea, and I immediately left to remove even the mere appearance of impropriety (he apologized). I know the difference between misread signals and abuse, and I know how to speak up when in a fair fighting position.
Another guy I worked with asked me out for coffee. I was flattered but declined. Another guy was a friend living in my mom’s apartments who used to come in and talk to me. We hung out, but I didn’t even know he had romantic interest in me until he sent flowers to my mom’s office. He was a smart, nice guy, but we never dated. I was NEVER a loose, unscrupulous woman.
While some other young couples in my church got in trouble for second and third-base behaviors (e.g., engaging in oral sex), my first dating experience (during the period of abuse) was not like that. My first kiss was appropriately innocent, under a street post, like something out of a black and white movie. We only kissed on the lips twice. No open-mouth kissing. Our relationship was a pretty innocuous “hand-holding” one. We didn’t even step on the first base plate. Never “kiss and tell,” right? I would have loved to keep all of this private. But this ridiculous conspiracy (and assault on my reputation) has unfairly and unjustly forced me to be this absurdly transparent.
I’ve never had a “one night stand.” I’ve never been promiscuous. I’ve never had an extramarital affair. (And FYI, for the people who think my husband has “slept around” because he appropriately confessed his sins at an open altar of prayer–he has only had two sexual partners in his life, contrary to what some might believe. Yes, he passed a polygraph test. Wonder if the guy who harmed me would be willing to take a polygraph?)
Q: Do you think you’re perfect? (Of course not.) What was your worst deed?
A: I “got” pregnant before I was married as a result of premarital sex. Yep. There it is.
It is outrageously cruel and offensive to suggest that consensual premarital sex with my fiance resulting in a pregnancy is on par with someone’s non-consensual sexual abuse of my person. Recall how all those other church couples’ premarital sexual encounters were covered up? Kept hidden? Mine wasn’t. It was open and exposed.
I guess we could have kept it hidden. I could have had an abortion. It would have been an “easy” out, a simple way to evade accountability and avoid judgment. We chose to do what was right, not what was easy. We chose life. We chose our son. (Thank God we did! His empathetic soul is a gift to this world.)
Again, this was after the period of abuse (I’d made a break from my church community when a therapist stressed, based on church persons’ responses to my abuse, the church culture was toxic for me). This is a “wild” history of “dating around”? Sounds like a Jezebel, right? Maybe some need to reread the story of Jezebel and King Ahab. Hmm. Pardon the sarcasm, but to any wanting to impugn my chastity, why don’t you put up your own dating history beside mine before the public for a fair, objective assessment. Otherwise, your angle is incredibly biased and skewed. Not feasible.
As I understand, this is what the guy’s supporters want to use to discredit me. Is it not kinda scraping the bottom of the barrel when a woman’s choice of life is the best “dirt” her foes can find? (This is what happens to victims when they disclose, and this is exactly why victims so often do not report to police. I was a chaste, celibate teenager, and the assault on my character has been intense. I did not have sex until in my 20s after someone had abused my person, disgracing my temple and making my body feel foreign. I wonder how aggressive this smear campaign would be had I been a “typical” teen by the reasonable person standard?)
The thing is, even though I struggled with telling others when I first learned I was pregnant (how unreasonable considering my culture), I’ve been openly 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 nearly 18 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. I moved up my wedding from October to March. I have pictures of my friends trying on wedding dresses with me after engagement and before I “got” pregnant. Is this a secret? No.
Yep, I also publicly–publicly and openly–repented for fornication. My husband and I have been open with our children about this because, despite the persecution we endured for not aborting our baby, our child is our greatest blessing. Our son knows we chose him. We didn’t want some open secret hovering over our beautiful child.
Q: Didn’t you have marital problems?
A: Yes–as all long-term married couples do. Just we were more open about our issues than most (the other “open secrets,” right?).
Marriage is work. Not sure if anyone married can ever say it’s all roses, not if they’re honest. If any ever want to know the veracity of a victim’s abuse experience 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 (usually gives 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 to be transparent–we 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. This experience is teaching other young people that honesty is rewarded with hostility and lying is rewarded with honor. How does that make sense?
We worked through those issues with transparency, and we’ve come out stronger on the other side. Incredible how transparency, accountability, and wise trust (not blind trust) can work to heal and restore, right?
(Obviously, this proves something else. It shows I am not a begrudging, angry person bent on revenge. I am pretty forgiving and open to restorative justice when the offending party puts in the proper work for rehabilitation and restoring those he or she offended. But even restorative justice must be part of an authentic accountability process, not a coverup. That is the only way it works. That is what is reasonable.)
Q: Who was I pre-abuse?
A: I think if you’re honest, you already know.
This community-wide amnesia is the most incredible part of the hostility. For goodness’ sakes–I was asked to play “Ms. Fruit of the Spirit” in the skit for our Ladies’ Circle convention during the period of abuse. No one in our community had any doubt regarding my chastity, character, truthfulness, integrity, or goodness. How have you been so deceived now?
Mine was the house that took in any young girl needing a place to stay during our annual church “feastmeetings.” Remember how you would call and ask if we had room? Remember what I would say? Did I ever turn you away? No. I always found more room for you. I always included you.
I was National Honors Society President, “Most Courteous” of my high school class (as voted by several hundred 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).
Here’s a note about me written by my AP Calculus teacher and Beta Club faculty advisor (she taught me for three years):
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 the “nice” girl. A friend once asked me, “How can you be nice to everyone?” My response?
“How could anyone not be nice to everyone?”
I was a girl who spent my teen years tutoring a student with exceptional needs, picking her up from school, working with her for 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 (one of my nicknames was “Walmart girl.”) I was a girl who signed nearly 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, these are nonsensical. Read these notes. These are but a few of many. They do not show the same picture these others have more recently tried to sell. I believe the persons uttering these absurdities know this, but they are so driven by their own selfishness that they do not care. That their preposterous lies not only harm me but also my family and my children doesn’t make a bit of difference to them. How sad.
No, I wasn’t maladjusted, antisocial, bipolar, isolated, histrionic, or lonely. No, I wasn’t wasn’t a liar.
You really want to know who I was? Maybe you should interview my school friends. Want to ask them about my character? There was no reason to “fake” being a good person for them. None of them attended my church. Was I acting as a double-minded teen? Acting one way at church and another at school? Doesn’t seem so.
I was the responsible friend, the designated driver friend. I didn’t even go to prom (I was asked to go with someone as a friend, but my boyfriend at the time didn’t feel comfortable with me going so I declined). My house was the “safe house” to hang out at after prom (alcohol-free).
My school friends and I met early before school to join hands around the flag pole and pray. The most profane words I spoke? “Oh grunt.” (As in, “Oh grunt, I left my permission slip at home on the table.”) I read my Bible during lunch period out on the open lawn, freely discussing my beliefs in open-minded fashion with any who asked. It is unreasonable and incredibly injurious to hear people defaming my character now when this is the person most knew and still know me to be.
I am still in touch with many of these people. I imagine they’d tell you I’m no different all these years later. The difference between these and the people impugning my character (besides the fact that these impugners have not spent much time with me)? They have no self-interest nor involvement with the person who abused me. Amazing how that works.
Q: Why do you want to hurt his family?
A: I don’t. My heart breaks for his family. But my heart breaks for my family, too. This is an impossible position to be in, and it is NOT fair that he put me in it.
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. My mother lived with his dad’s mom, and my mother lived with his mom and great-grandmother. My aunt lived with his family when he was little. That’s pretty close. They were like extended family. That magnifies the impact of this, makes the hurt worse.
The fact is, his parents knew years ago about this (before he named his child). That’s why he wrote the letter above. I desperately wish someone in his family had intervened sooner. I repeat this often: I should not have been the one forced to speak. It was not my responsibility. He is not my responsibility. His conduct is not my responsibility. But everybody was cool with forcing me to be the antagonist–that isn’t fair.
The fact is, their son, brother, cousin, husband, friend is capable of bad deeds and has committed bad deeds. But all have sinned? His deeds are pretty bad crimes, not just sins. And he has not taken full responsibility for them. How do I know? From what I was told, he said he just touched “one boob” over the clothes. Here’s the deal–if he is denying he unbuttoned my shirt or put his hand up my skort, then he is lying. If he is denying or minimizing degree or duration, then he has not accepted full responsibility.
In this case, any who love him should be more concerned about his soul than any civil authorities. They should not rest until they help him develop a conscience. It is not possible for him to have salvation unless he confessed all with a broken and contrite spirit.
The fact is, they haven’t been forced to know the side of this person he forced me know. It is sad and unfortunate, and it breaks my heart for them. But he 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.
Q: Did you have a “romantic interest” in him?
A: No. Did he not in his words write (paraphrasing) he was sure I used to think highly of him and did not any longer? Why did he say that?
This is important for others to understand. I “used to think highly” when I had a childhood crush. Newsflash–I had a crush on a boy in sixth grade who asked me out (as in “will you ‘go’ with me, check ‘yes’ or ‘no'”). When he called me to ask me to a school dance a few weeks later, I said no. I was over it. (Want to look up and talk to that guy, too? Geez.)
Do I think this person capitalized on my early puppy love when selecting a victim? YES. I absolutely think that is why he targeted me. I think I even wrote in a diary at age thirteen “I’m so over [his name]. Not sure what I ever saw in him.” That’s how kid crushes work.
As an older teen and adult, did I find the same guys attractive that I did at age twelve? NO. What type of guy do I find attractive as an “adult”? Tall, lean, broad-shouldered, dark, masculine facial features, strong jaw line, and larger nose. Guys fitting that description–Joseph Fiennes, Patrick Dempsey, John Krasinski. I’m more of a Liam type than a Chris (Hemsworth). This guy does not fit the description. But know who does? My HUSBAND. (No way. Ridiculous.)
Really, though. What kind of guys did I find attractive? The kind who don’t abuse girls. Not a super high bar but gadzooks.
Was there some degree of trauma bonding AFTER the abuse? Yes. What does that mean? Traumatic bonding is “a strong emotional attachment between an abused person and his or her abuser, formed as a result of the cycle of violence.” “Traumatic Bonding” at Wikipedia. The person who abused me had been a friend pre-abuse. He used guilt, our community, and even my own parents (they were oblivious to how they were being used) to get me in this cycle of grooming and abusive conduct: “Initially, the abuser is inconsistent in approach, developing it into an intensity perhaps not matched in other relationships of the victim. It is claimed the longer a relationship continues, the more difficult it is for people to leave the abusers with whom they have bonded.”
The trauma bonding occurred after the abuse. After I disclosed the abuse, I was told that church leaders counseled/prayed with him in ‘private.’ He never sought out the counseling–they only went to him because I spoke up. I was told he had been forgiven, that it was just his “hormones,” and that it was good for me to “forgive” him. (I was “counseled,” but no one ever wanted to hear the full details of what he did–in fact, when I offered to tell some people exactly what happened, they said they did not want to know.)
This person remained in my home church crowd after the abuse. His parents stayed with my parents in my own home. And while he did not touch me during that time, he still exerted a form of power and control over the entire situation (part of the cycle).
When my first relationship predictably fell apart about about 10 months after I disclosed abuse (again, this person’s abusive conduct occurred during most of that relationship), this guy swooped in to “protect” (not real protection). It was the same grooming, the whole “you know I love you” and “I would never let anyone hurt you.” I DID NOT know the term “grooming” back then. After a therapist helped me comprehend the facets of abuse, I could see it for what it was.
In my account (open letter), I write about riding with the person to see mutual friends in NC (around May/June of 1999). Looking back, it seems crazy that I would have gone anywhere with this guy after his hideous past conduct. But I had “forgiven.” And this was two years after disclosure (let’s be clear about that). Is it reasonable for the people who say I should forgive and be around the guy now to act like I was unreasonable for “forgiving” back then at age 20? (Now I know better and can assess this much more objectively.)
We rode in his white work van. Nothing seemingly disturbing happened (of course, I was on guard the entire trip–but this also shows (a) I have a good memory and (b) I don’t make stuff up). He payed for my food, and he seemed like my old friend again. We joked. It was fun. We got back to my parents’ house (my parents were away), and he brought my luggage up to the door for me. There was a long, awkward pause. Then, I abruptly ducked inside. Something snapped in that moment. This was NOT okay. It was not normal, no matter how much people in my community tried to convince me it was. That was a Susan Powder “Stop the insanity!” moment.
My therapist had tried to get me to understand the cycle within the context of abuse. The therapist had said (paraphrasing here) my community’s seeing no hazard was very dangerous for me. Until this, I couldn’t see it. I’d had cognitive dissonance, too. This was the exact point where the dissonance ended. He did not run from me. I left the church I loved to get away from him. It was a desperate escape–a quick and clean break (much like a domestic violence victim fleeing her home).
So NO, I did NOT say I wanted to “hook up.” I was not romantically involved with him, nor did I desire to be. I was not infatuated with him. I ran away from him. Over a decade later, he contacted me out-of-the-blue. I did not contact him. He sent me a friend request on Facebook. Months later, he named his child my first name. Instead of taking people’s subjective opinions, wouldn’t it make more sense to look at objective evidence? Does it not seem dishonest and offensive to mischaracterize this? Does it not seem incredibly narcissistic?
Q: Isn’t this all a bunch of #MeToo racket?
A: No. My disclosing again occurred before the #MeToo movement ignited.
I didn’t jump on some bandwagon. I am too much of an avoider for that. I was compelled to speak to local church leaders first because I was tortured over some red flags. I was convicted over what to do. The first church service after our annual campmeeting, I broke down in tears and asked to speak with our local leader. IN PRIVATE. There was compassion. I think she saw my tortured countenance. And I think she saw the authenticity of my tears. She wanted to help me. But for some reason nothing came of it but silence (I believe she tried to help–I don’t know who silenced her, but I have some ideas). For a year I waited. I had just made myself extremely vulnerable, spoken in confidence. I was holding out hope I’d get some answer, some guidance. I never heard did. I was ignored. Avoided.
Q: Didn’t you disclose because of your career change?
A: Absolutely not. Only ignorant, uninformed persons would think that. My conversation with that leader above was nearly a year before applying to school. 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 new career path, it is professionally risky to talk about this particular type of personal experience. Why, then, did I speak? The abuser gave me no choice (and others’ safety is paramount to my career aspirations). I understand the red flags better now because of my professional experience and training (as a teacher, by the way), and I know much more than I did as a girl aged 17. I had reasonable concerns for others, and I could not live with his deeds on my conscience.
Yeah, I wanted to keep my life out of the 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.
Q: But good Christians have to forgive and forget, don’t they?
A: This platitude coerced me into silence years ago. What an awful and convenient way to distort the gospel and spiritually abuse inconvenient victims.
First, I can forgive him all day–7 times 70,000. It will not fix what is broken in him unless he makes a full and authentic confession. Read above. He isn’t there yet. Accountability is a necessary part of forgiveness. Read Mark 3. Without accountability, people’s consciences become numb to the Spirit. That puts people in peril of blaspheming the Holy Ghost. Jesus treats that particularly harshly.
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 is negative 25 not 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.