My story begins as a new resident in a small town-coming from Chicago (city-not suburb) and joining a small local church that was three blocks from our home. Within a very short time (a couple of weeks) the physical/sexual abuse began by a male Sunday School teacher. While I remember being with him in the same room, same time; and then having him take me to my parents for service (always took me to my Dad), I can only recall some of the details of those encounters. As suddenly as it began-it stopped….for a short time. I only learned years later that he was sent to prison for child molestation. No one ever knew I was one of his victims.
After a short reprieve, his nephew took up where he left off. I must explain here that I never felt abandoned by the Lord, never asked “why me” or questioned/doubted His love for me. Not once. I continued to believe that His word was truth, His love was grace bestowed, and His protection and plan for me was absolute. That being said, the abuse continued regularly until I was 18….even after changing our membership to another church in a different community close by. The reason for the continuation is, I began singing professionally at the age of 13. Recording and singing Christian music was synonymous with my name for several years until I married at 20. The abuser was a musician in my local community, well-known, and extremely sought after for his talents. Due to the fact we both performed at many of the same events and sometimes he played for my band, we were thrown together at venues where he took advantage of whatever opportunities were offered him.
For 30 plus years those memories seemed more like a movie that I watched as a young girl. Vague images would appear and yet having detached myself from what was actually happening at the time, I never really considered those MY memories, so I did not claim or own them. It was a different girl, not the “good” girl that I was called or considered myself to be. No one in my family ever knew the depth to which the abuse had truly affected me. Truth be told, no one except my older sister (also a victim and former lesbian as a result of the abuse) even knew what had happened.
I married at a young age, 20 years old to a college student who was ordained into the ministry prior to our marriage in October 1985. He went into the marriage with the understanding that his bride was “pure” and took pride in the fact that we were one another’s “first.” In the years that followed we continued our devoted involvement in the church, singing and preaching when opportunities were given. Still no one knew. I was a great actress, avoiding the topic when it came up or in the extreme offering excellent scripture to discussions when it was unavoidable.
In 2005 I started working for a major Christian publisher. This is significant because of the amount of literature I had access too, the people/resources I had contact with and the ministries that I was involved in. It was a friend I worked with who shared a link w/me that allowed one to see those who were on the states websites as registered offenders. I got curious. So I typed in his name. It all came flooding back to me the second I saw his face. I remembered everything. He was currently serving a life sentence for child molestation and attempted murder of a four-year old little girl—his daughter. As my husband and I were in marriage counseling at the time, I was asked a question during a session that resulted in an answer no one was ready to hear.
I began to share the story of the abuse. The response I received was in two extremes. My counselors response was as one would expect. She recognized that there were some deep issues, and concerns so we began individual counseling as a result….continuing even now. She also could see where the abuse played a vital part in the problems that brought my husband and I to counseling in the first place. However, my husbands response was not what she nor I expected. He felt betrayed, lied to, and deceived. He made me feel like a victim all over again, and this was heartbreaking for me. However, it was only after this disclosure that I endured even more abuse that I never expected in my wildest dreams.
After 3 years of continued counseling both joint and individually, it became apparent that the marriage was falling apart, as he was not willing to make the changes needed to heal, and I was still enduring the open-woundedness of the abuse from my past. With each session, we both felt more frustrated than relieved and both had more questions about our marriage than we had answers. In the fall following a major argument I told my husband that I was leaving so I could do some healing on my own. This was in agreement with my counselor as she suggested I get away and journal many of the memories I had held in check for so many years. After much arguing I told my family and our children that when the holidays were over, I was going to move out for a while. A couple of weeks at the most. The two weeks that I stayed before I left were a nightmare.
My husband had always had an explosive temperament. He was the kind of person that would hold most things that bothered him in check until they built up and he would explode in anger….even though the trigger could have been so minor. This was nothing I would never have predicted. The weekend before I left on Monday, in his anger and determination to make me stay, I was raped twice. His explanation was as his wife, I was not scripturally allowed the option of “denying” him what was rightfully his. He called it love-making. I knew better….for I didn’t feel “loved” in those moments at all. Especially when I fought him off with determination. It was on Sunday that I got the nerve and will to call my counselor and tell her what happened. I wanted to know what I should do. She told me to leave-NOW. Get out and don’t tell him I am leaving. The fear being—if he was willing to go that far even after learning about my past—how much farther would he take it if I stayed and his anger increased? So I left.
In the days following the abuse, he stalked me. Knowing the only one place I could have gone, he continued to track my every move. He stalked me online—Facebook, Twitter, IM’s and Skype. There was no place I could hide from him, so I had to un-friend him on all accounts.
I was gone for two weeks, to the devastation of my children, even though I was 2 miles away. I went back for a week because my youngest son (10 at the time) asked me too. The following week, I left again and took my oldest and youngest with me. We never went back to that house. I filed for divorce, as I knew his behavior was such….that no matter how long we would be married, how long since we had a “moment”….something would be said, or a picture would be seen, a visual would appear and he would be back in that place.
I couldn’t put my children through this again. I am not necessarily a Dr. Phil fan, however I do agree as he says “Children would rather COME from a broken home than LIVE in one.” That is so true. I wasn’t going to allow my children to live in a home that was broken and full of lies when I knew that God was capable of healing us all and bringing us to a point where He is once again in the center. That was the broken-ness of my marriage.
After leaving and being on my own, it became so evident that I was not the person I had been growing up. My family and my childhood friends all recognized the overwhelming change that had come over me. For so many years, I had lived as another person….almost to the point of “acting” a personality that I did not recognize. As I began to deal with the abuse I had endured as a child, and correlated that with the abuse in my marriage that was still such a shock to me, I learned the truth of what God was teaching me. I wasn’t alone.
I found a sorority of sorts, of adult women and men in my generation that experienced the same type of abuse as I. I also learned that, unfortunately, my experience with marital rape is not uncommon even within the church body….all based on the same misinterpretation of the scripture I was given by my husband. It saddens me to think that while in counseling the only issue my husband saw as anything worth discussing had to do with sex. Yet he violated that in the marriage bed, denied it for what it was, while devaluing my personal experience (from my past and the present). I could not convince him that Christ’s commandment that “Husbands, love your wives as Christ also loved the church” was just as important—in this case even more so.
At present, I am still dealing with the nightmares of the memories that I kept hidden for so long. At times they seem to overcome me with a vengeance. However, I do know that God walked with me then, and He is still walking with me now as I confront each one head on. I don’t believe that He intended for us to hide them from public viewing. How better can I reach out to someone who is lost and without hope and who has experienced something similar? God protected me as a young girl from the horrors I endured at the hands of that man and his nephew so that no permanent damage would be done to a vessel that was His. Too many times we look at the pottery and notice only the flaws without ever seeing its intended usefulness still exists…even to the point of being better than before.
A year later, I reconnected with the young man I shared Christ with at 15 years old. My highschool sweetheart. After 28 years of not knowing where the other was, or even that the other was still alive, a mutual friend who knew what each of us were experiencing put the connection together. Unfortunately, I learned that he was experiencing his own kind of abuse at the hands of soon to be ex-wife….all in the name of Christ. I was so excited yet disheartened for him. Yet looking back, we can both see God’s hand all through our stories; past, present, and the future. The fact that after decades of distance and non-communication we would find one another; that we would be in a position to support and lift up one another; that we would walk each other through the heart-break of divorce; assist and love our children through this experience and come to the point where we would fall in love….again.
Only God could have orchestrated something so amazing, Lifetime could not have written our story. We both are healing, we both are enduring, we both are thriving and we both are loving the Lord through every step, every day. God is ever so present in our lives, our conversations daily bring us back to “Can you believe this is us? Can you believe that this is ONLY God?” There will always be scars. Our wounds will always be there. It is only with those scars that I can show anyone who is going through the same thing that they aren’t going alone. I can show them that God is still in control, He still loves, He still cares deeply for our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. And He promises that His grace-covered it all. Everything, nothing left out, nothing is missing. It was complete. We are not the “sinner” in this event….we need not be ashamed. That was nailed to the cross. Jesus paid it all….even this was covered. I don’t need to hide. I don’t need to be quiet, I don’t need to deny it. God receives glory with each telling. Even this telling.
Thank you Jack for the opportunity to share this. There are more details, more in-depth and journaling for so many years, I could have filled an epistle with this.
Blessings to you my sweet friend,
I pray for you daily.
On my knees,
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