September 13, 2017
I was born to a father who was not ready to be a dad and to a mother who didn’t believe she could raise a child. They signed me over to my birth mother’s sister within my first year. I acquired a new mom and four older siblings. For the first few years and into early elementary, I remember being a happy, normal kid. I remember my older sister painting my nails and my mom singing me to sleep with Puff the Magic Dragon. I remember being loved. But after age six, things started to change. This was when my years of sexual abuse began
By seven years old, I had been stripped of my clothing, and with them fell my innocence.
By eight years old, shame had traced its way into every crack and crevice of my life. I was embarrassed of my body. I stuttered when I spoke to adults or older kids or boys.
By nine years old, not understanding the process, I feared becoming pregnant.
By ten years old, I was afraid to take a bath, because he would often sneak into the bathroom after me. I would run the water just long enough to make my mom believe I was in the tub, but most nights, I wouldn’t actually get in. I would change my clothes as quickly as I could and get out.
By eleven years old, I was certain I would die. At any given moment, he could grab me by the throat and squeeze… all he would have to do is squeeze a little tighter than usual. Or he could just blow my brains out, he said, as I tried to leave his room one day. Before I reached the door knob, he stuck the barrel of his pistol against my temple. The coolness of the metal and his vicious yellow grin made my body freeze. “You know I could shoot you if I wanted, right?” he said.
By twelve years old, I had had enough. I stood up to him. I threatened to scream, to expose him. And that’s all it took.
When I was around the age of six, a girl cousin and I would pretend to be a mom and dad, and for some reason, we started to play without our clothes on, like real grown-ups. I can’t remember where this idea came from, as my abuse had not yet begun and she herself had not been abuse. This secret we shared later became my greatest shame.
During the following year, my abuser had begun the grooming process. It started with us taking our clothes off, then progressed to me touching him, and finally, later on, oral sex. After the first time, when it was still just touching, we sat on his bed and I asked if he had ever done this before and he said yes. He then asked if I had, and I said yes, with my girl cousin.
At first, I looked forward to these times because it made me feel special and loved, but after a few weeks in, when I no longer found it fun, he transformed into a terrifying person. He told me that if I didn’t do what he wanted, whenever he wanted, he would tell my mom that I had done bad things with my cousin and she would no longer love me. She would give me away. So I did what he wanted. My daily prison turned into weeks, then months, then years. For him, it didn’t matter where we were; he was powerful enough to have what he wanted, when he wanted it.
My only constant during these years was God. I would run away to Him, day after day. He was my best friend and my protector. I prayed for wisdom for a long time and I asked God to show me whether or not telling was the right thing to do. I asked Him to send a sign–make me sick or cause bad weather to happen. I don’t remember what sign it was, but I had convinced myself one day that He was speaking to me. That He wanted me to tell.
While sitting in the car with a family member, waiting for him to get out of school, I blurted out the words–he makes me do things with him. family member was completely stunned and it was in that moment that he got into the car. She kept her composure until we made it home, then she asked me to go sit in the back yard with her. We sat down in a bed of clovers and I told her what had happened and she promised to find a way to make it stop. I found several four leaf clovers while sitting there and I knew God was speaking to me again–He said, “see didn’t I tell you it would all be ok?”
My family member didn’t speak to my abuser about what I told her, but instead, a lock was placed on my door and he was sent away. Things began to feel normal and safe until my he came home for Thanksgiving break. He came into my room, expecting it to be as it always had. I told him to get out and he closed the door. I told him I would scream and anger came as a flood through him. His face turned red, veins were visible, his fists were clinched. Through gritted teeth he said, “you bitch” and walked out. The season following this was one of uncertainty for me because I was so sure he would kill me for trying to take away his power. I was so sure of it. This was in November 2005.
Some months after that, after things had somewhat settled, I told my best friend, who a classmate overheard telling a teacher. The girl who overheard went to my abuser to warn him of the lies being said about him. Out of fear, he went to an older family member and she called a family meeting between the three of us. She explained that if anything was said, I had to deny it because I could be taken away. We bonded that night by lying on her bed together, reminiscing over old photo albums. At the time, I had no idea how dysfunctional that evening together was.
I buried the abuse deep in my mind and put most of my focus into the youth group at my church. This was the only place where I felt comfortable. Where I could be me and not get in trouble for it. At school, I didn’t understand the information and made F’s and D’s. I would get grounded for up to six months at a time, and this included going to church, my safety place. I would then cheat to get myself out of trouble for having the bad grades. At school, I was a failure and at home, a disappointment. But I felt like God had given me church for a reason and I loved it.
I remained serious in my faith until I was 15 years old. A boy I was crazy about didn’t want to be with me because I wouldn’t have sex with him. He instead, went to one of my friends, and she became pregnant. I was devastated and so angry with God. I felt like everything came down to sex. Why would He allow this to happen if He loved me? Because of my anger, I decided to stop speaking to Him for awhile–teach Him a lesson. But then, that old familiar sense of shame kicked in. I was so ashamed, I felt like I couldn’t even tell Him how sorry I was.
Depression had been part of my life prior to this but it was during this time that the darkness really took hold of me. I left my church and receded into myself. I felt numb and I wanted to die.
The next several years were a blur of emptiness. I was full of hatred and sorrow. At school, I skipped class every chance I got and hid in the bathroom or library. At home, I hid in my room and I drowned out the noise of my head and the people around me through music. Loud, pain-fuelled music.
My next serious relationship was a boy I met when I was 17 years old. I wanted so bad to not drive him away, that I almost lost sight of myself in the process. We had been together for about seven months when I asked him to go get checked for STD’s. I knew he had been with many girls and I wanted to have the peace of mind because I thought, and hoped, we would one day share a sexual relationship. A few weeks after my request, he walked into my apartment, sat down his bag of free condoms and Chlamydia information packet and nonchalantly said they treated it and he was good to go. My heart was crushed and my body went numb, with that old, familiar sense of emptiness. Everything always comes back to sex. ALWAYS. I saw him once more after this to exchange our belongings.
I was at a local community college at this point and had to work hard to learn simple English and math that I had never caught on to during my younger years. I managed to graduate with honors. I went on to Southern Miss from there.
It was during this time that I began to explore the idea that perhaps my depression and aversion to sex could be connected to my past. I did a few therapy sessions and opened up more to a particular family member. She, who had always told me not to tell my grandmother, told my grandmother. When I found out, it triggered a string of panic attacks. I was on campus and didn’t know what to do, so I went to the little sanctuary campus and I cried and I begged God “Please” because I could get nothing more out. This was my first time to acknowledge God in six years.
I didn’t go back to school after that day, and with that, I felt shame and hopelessness. I woke up to use the bathroom and occasionally eat, then I would go back to sleep. I can remember one time having a mouse run across my pillow and all I could do was bury myself deeper in the covers and hope to die.
Around this same time, I had written some memories from my time of abuse and I was struggling with how to deal. One evening, the weight and shame felt so heavy that I shut myself up in my closet to stop the panic and show down my racing mind. My ability to function on my own was dwindling away and I felt I was losing control. The desire for death was a constant. When I was like this, often I would go hunting for books because it would give me a momentary high. It was like I expected a book to be able to save me. On one particular day, I went to a local flea market, where outside, I found a box of religious books. I surprised myself by looking through them and surprised myself even more to find a handwritten journal. I bought the journal for a dime. In the inside cover, a name was written: Ginger Chamblin. I called her number and it was disconnected, so I googled her name. I found her obituary and was amazed by what I read. I called her oldest daughter, in hopes of returning it to the family, and her daughter told me to keep it. She said she hoped I would find a blessing from it.
I met a man not long after this. He was silly and intelligent. He was old school in his ways and tender towards me. On our first date, he was so nervous, he tripped over his words and ran over a few curbs. This man was Adam. After we met, I told him of the journal and how from Mrs. Ginger’s obituary, it seemed like she was a woman who had known struggle, but yet she had also known acceptance and love. I wanted to know that. I wanted what she had experienced.
After our first week of dating, Adam agreed to go with me to Mrs. Ginger’s church. It was scary for the both of us because even though he had not pushed God away as I had, he had still turned away from God’s light. Our one visit at Trinity showered us with love and tears over the memories of Mrs. Ginger.
In the months leading up to this, I felt like God had literally hung me upside down and shook me. He made the change fall from my stubborn pockets.
After getting to know some of the Trinity women, I shared with a handful of them a piece I had written about my childhood abuse. They responded to me with friendship and acceptance. They showered me with grace. Sharing my story in this way gave me the courage to share it publically. I created a blog and posted it to Facebook. A family member saw it and was outraged. She called me, raising her voice. Asking if I had even considered the other people in our family. I hung up on her and she called another family member called me and told me I had caused her so much shame. She told me what I was doing was selfish and evil, because I was jeopardizing the lives of others. As the house I was living in did not belong to me, the power was shut off and I had one month to get out.
I had Adam and my new church family but this was such a lonely time for me because it was then that I lost the safety that came with keeping secrets quiet. The safety of an unrocked boat. The safety family.
I have since gone through a great deal of therapy and personal reflection and have grown as a woman andsurvivor and believer in Christ. I married my best friend in November 2015. Alone, in the woods, with God and few others to witness. It was perfect. In March of 2016 my husband and I decided to try for a baby. His mother encouraged us by saying if we wait for things to be perfect, we will be left waiting forever, and that was some of the best advice I’ve ever received. After a year and a half of trying for our precious baby, we have experienced many days of sorrow and unknowing. I often remind myself of the line, “And if not, He is STILL good” because I know, that even in the midst of our aching hearts, He knows what He’s doing. He was there for me when no one else was. He held me during the years of abuse done to me by the one I trusted. He held me during the moments I felt wronged by my family or my teachers or my classmates. He held me during the times when boys only wanted sex. He held me when I was ashamed and his gasp tightened when I no longer allowed myself to believe. He holds us now, even during our uncertainty. He hold me, even during my bitterness.
I still struggle constantly with my faith and my prayers are often nothing more than single words or simple sentences: Please, Please, Please. I need you. Please.
This life is a hard one, and sometimes we’re dealt hands that we don’t agree with. That we think we can’t possibly survive. Life is lonely and makes us experience things that we were never meant to experience: shame, loneliness, bullying, abuse, emptiness. God didn’t create us for this and he certainly didn’t create us to carry the weight of our sins, and the sins of others, alone. We’re meant to seek Him not only during the happy times, but also and perhaps even more so, when we ache. When we are left crawling on our knees. When the air is knocked out of us and we can’t breathe. We’re meant to seek HIM. I struggle with this because I often want to do things on my own. “If I can’t make this better, how can He?” He can. Even in the midst of my unbelief, I know the truth. He can and He always will.
My goal is to be raw and open. That’s the kind of person I want to be: one who is REAL. There are parts of my history that I have not shared on my blog or in the public form until this. Details about my family, mostly, because one of my greatest fears is to shame them. I fear their reaction. I always do. I tried to write my story down without details of family but it’s impossible because they are such a huge part of who I am and where I come from. I hope my story can be viewed as not all negative. I hope people can see my growth. Can clearly see what God has done in my life and is continuing to. I’m far from where I should be but I’m one hundred miles from where I use to be.
“Let me tell you this: faith comes and goes. It rises and falls like the tides of an invisible ocean. If it is presumptuous to think that faith will stay with you forever, it is just as presumptuous to think that unbelief will.” –Flannery O’Connor