Tag Archives: survivor

Victim and Survivor Shaming Must Stop

Victim and survivor shaming must stop. It’s imperative to the health and welfare of all victims past and current of any type of abuse, domestic, emotional, spiritual and sexual, for the shaming to stop immediately. We must be allowed to tell our stories. We must be allowed to tell them accurately and as honestly as possible. We must be allowed to tell them as often as we feel called to. We must be allowed to tell them in public, online, in books, in stories, in private and to friends and family. We must be allowed to be heard, whether our abuser is a celebrity, family member, friend or stranger. We must not be continually questioned as to the validity of our statements. Even when something is remembered only partway, there is a valid reason for that – the event was traumatic and as a result, the formations in our brains were changed dramatically. Our brains may not want to retain the information, so it attempts to lock it away in a deep dark corner, like stuffing something revolting into the bottom of the trash in order to dispose of it entirely. There is no way to completely dispose of trauma, except to heal from it and move forward. Otherwise, we are stuck in a never-ending cycle of running from it only to find we’re actually running in circles, gaining no actual ground. There is no road behind us except that which is well worn by our own souls – the same sights, smells, tastes, memories on repeat.

When we’re allowed to tell our stories, we take the power away from the event little by little. We effectively state that we are no longer stuck in the past but are actively moving towards a brighter future. We build in our community, hope. For each survivor that speaks out, another victim is listening, gaining strength to someday break free from their own hell and begin to tell their own story. The path to healing is paved by the bravery of the freed survivors – those who were not silenced by hatred and shaming but spoke up anyway. I will be one of those that help pave the road for the next generation. I will be one of the brave and you who hate what I have to say will not stop me. My God gives me strength and in Christ, all things are possible. I will speak up for those who are too weak to speak for themselves. I will inspire the next generation to stand up and tell their story. I will no longer sit in shame, but will look you in the eyes and tell you my story. I am no longer a victim, but a survivor. You cannot take that from me.

Over the years, I have been told that I should not give pearls to swine and that by telling my story openly, I am giving pearls to swine. I respectfully disagree. By keeping my story secret and protecting the identity of my abuser, I am giving pearls to swine. I choose to take my pearls back. My abuser was not only my step-father, but several of his friends as well. Most of the abuse occurred while my mother was out of the home, tending to work or to my severely handicapped sister, Melissa. My step-father was very manipulative and found many avenues for gaining control over me. It seems that one of his favorites was to nurture me. Often times he’d turn children’s shows on the television – shows like Disney on Ice that were meant to fascinate me and hold my attention. He’d then call me onto his lap and proceed to molest me, his hands between my legs and my hands often between his, at his insistence. If I rejected him, I’d often be punished severely. I remember being cornered in a narrow hallway on a few occasions, his leather belt in hand. I’d refused him. He didn’t care for that too much. I learned my lesson. The next time I focused on the television show and did not resist him. I pretended I was somewhere else and that it was not me who has touching him, but someone else. This is how I coped. This is also how the abuse was allowed to go on for so long. My memories were deeply repressed and this abusive behavior became a way of life for me, like waking up and eating breakfast before going off to school. It was habit and I was overpowered, my choices removed from me before I even realized I had a choice to make. I’d also refer to this as brain washing.

It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Luke 17:2 (NIV)

I fully believe my step-father will answer to God for all of his sins against me. The Bible makes it clear that my step-father not only sinned against me, but against God Himself as well. That is a strong statement with lasting repercussions, and it’s one I believe whole-heartedly. If he doesn’t repent fully, I believe my step-father will burn in hell. I see him suffering now in his personal life with work, health, his continued marriage to my Mother, and his fractured relationships with family (his only son, my younger brother) and with friendships. There is a large part of me that finds satisfaction in his suffering, though I am aware that Christ is not pleased with my satisfaction. I pray daily for His Light to overcome the darkness in my heart. If Christ can forgive those who crucified Him, I too can forgive my abuser. I’m finding it’s a daily, if not hourly process. Each time I think I’ve fully forgiven him, my heart finds more bitterness and I lash out. It’s my intent to forgive but never forget.

Out of the pain of the past, it’s become difficult to trust others. In my own personal life, there are precious few who are allowed intimate glances into my daily life, and fewer still who are allowed to remain in my life for long periods of time. The time of abuse from my step-father and his friends has taught me to trust no one, and to keep no one around for long periods of time. Habits form when people are allowed to be near you. It gives people time to manipulate and brain wash you, therefore, relationships must be considered disposable in order to remain safe. This has been the most difficult thought process to overcome. I understand intellectually that it’s flawed and needs to be revised in order to live a full life, but it is one of the hardest for me to address on a consistent, daily basis. It is simply too painful. I will continue praying for Christ’s Light to overcome this darkness in my heart. Could you, reader, pray for me as well? This is a hard battle, and I’m not the only survivor walking it. This battle has threatened my marriage multiple times. I will not allow it to overtake me or my marriage, but I can’t do it alone. Neither can you. I continue seeking help.

Seeking help is another area I want to address in regards to victim and survivor shaming. Over the years, I’ve sought help from many different avenues. Some of them have been entirely appropriate – talk therapy, behavior modification counseling, psychiatry, Christian Bible-based counseling, support groups and prayer. Other avenues haven’t been nearly as successful, especially within friend groups, but they did often lead to other, more helpful solutions. I also gained a better understanding of who my true friends are, and who I am in Christ. The most painful avenues I took were speaking to close and personal friends, entrusting them with information, and then being told that I was too broken to formulate a lasting relationship with. I understand their point of view to an extent; however, the delivery was painful. We are all a broken people in one way or another. This is why we must live in community. We complete the beautiful picture that Christ has painted.

I’ve written many times on the struggles that I’ve overcome – homosexual tendencies, adultery, depression, suicide, addiction…these are nothing new within the sexual abuse survivor community. These are prevalent themes. They’re sins and they need to be addressed as such, but they’re also causes for deep concern. Why are these things happening to our youth? Why are so many survivors turning to harmful avenues as a way of healing from the pain of the past? I have a theory, but you probably won’t like it.
We’re being silenced, shamed, told to keep it quiet and move on, but we can’t. Our stories are banging on the walls, begging to be let out. We can’t move on until we can heal. We can’t do that until we can talk about it, explore the depths of what happened to us and be allowed to move on in our own time. I’ve been told by several professionals that for every year of trauma a survivor has endured, it takes an equal amount of years to heal from that. We can’t even begin to heal until we’ve been effectively heard.

In the news, we’re reading about celebrities abusing youth and we turn our heads and scoff at the victims and the abusers. We make jokes about it and quote famous lines from movies, TV and commercials. It becomes funny to us, but it’s deeply harmful to the victims. I’ve been on both sides of this, and it’s disgusting no matter where you stand.

Satan has twisted scripture for so long and has whispered lies into so many ears. He’s using sexual sins, among others, to rampantly overtake the world. He’s started with the innocent children, molding them into confused, scared little people who grow up to pray on the children they’re entrusted to protect. It’s a rabid hamster running around in the same wheel, in the same putrid cage, breeding and killing it’s own off-spring. We have to treat that rabid hamster, no matter how disgusting he really is on the inside. We have to do it without killing the off-spring and without silencing their cries for help. Each person needs their own space to heal, their own space to tell their stories and their own space to carve out a life for themselves. We cannot continue to group survivors in with the abusers, nor can we continue to ignore either’s cry for help. I know, this is a controversial statement, but it’s one that needs to be made. Perhaps if my step-father had received the help he desperately needed, he would not have abused me, my handicapped sister and my younger brother. Perhaps if we have been removed from the home, we could’ve healed sooner and more effectively. Perhaps if more victims and survivors’ voices were heard, there would be less abuse and more action towards ending it.

I do not propose that simply hearing our stories will end all abuses, but I do propose that it will end for us, the cycle of abuse and begin the path to effective healing. We need more success stories and more survivors to find their voices and call out for action. We need more bravery and less cowardice. Join me now in sharing your stories. Stop protecting your abuser. Speak out and speak up!

My simple prayer for you: May God bless you in your endeavors to tell your story and heal from the horrors of your past. In Christ’s Name. Amen.

You Are Not Trash {Video}

 

Hi there! I’m Mandy from Nest Full of Birds. I just wanted to take some time to introduce myself and tell you a bit about Nest Full of Birds and why I’m writing what I write. Now, you’ll see on the blog that I write about some pretty bold, pretty risky things. I’ve really been through a lot in my life, and I’ve been blessed that God’s seen me through all of it. I feel a lot like Mary Magdalene, having been saved from 7 demons. I owe everything to God. God is my One True Father. I don’t have an earthly Father that I can turn to and for that matter; I really don’t have a mother either. God is it for me.

I was born into an abusive home and right away my mother had to flee from my biological father. He spent a lot of time in prison for drugs and just wasn’t a good person. I’m amazed that my siblings and I survived. It was a horrible situation. Then my step-dad just used me for trash. My whole childhood was rough. I’m a survivor of childhood rape and sexual abuse. Out of that stemmed a lot of issues with PTSD, anxiety, depression, suicide. I’ve had 4 suicide attempts – two before I turned 18. I died once, when I was 16, and I remember being so angry when I woke up. I truly wanted to die. But God wasn’t done with me yet and it took a long while, but I’m so glad He saved me.

I’ve struggled with homosexual tendencies. I made the choice to marry my husband, and I’m glad I did! We have two great kids and there’s no looking back for me. I truly fought a hard battle and am happily married to my husband, Anthony. As a result of the battle with homosexuality, I really struggled in the past with porn and alcoholism. I’ve struggled with self-worth. I’ve had a lot of people tell me what a sinner, what an awful, despicable person I am. The only thing they’re right about is that I am indeed a sinner, but fortunately, I’m saved by Grace. I’ve struggled hard with adultery and won that battle. All the glory goes to God for that one.

You know, I thought once I was married that all my troubles with my abusers were over. I was in a safe place, I wasn’t being abused anymore, but I just had no idea how to function in that kind of an environment. I didn’t know yet what to do with a good husband, a happy home and a quiet life, so I gunked it all up. I almost lost my marriage and my kids, but I turned to the Lord and I sought Him with everything I had. I wrestled hard for that blessing; I wasn’t going to stop until I got it. I knew I was made for more. Why else would God save me from so much?

I wasn’t made to be trash. I wasn’t made to be treated like trash and I certainly wasn’t made to be rolling in it, either.   And that’s a lot of what I’m writing about on Nest Full of Birds, because at the time I was going through all of this, I couldn’t yet see the bigger picture. I figured there was a light at the end of the tunnel, but since I couldn’t see it, I was getting really discouraged. It’s my mission here at Nest Full of Birds to really bring that message to you.

You’re not stuck in the place you’re in now. You’re not trash.

God has healed me from a lot. It’s because of Him that I’m here right now, talking to all of you.   God says in Jeremiah 1:5 that “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.”

The King is enamored with your beauty and of you, He is well pleased.

You are not stuck in the place that you’re in right now. God will make a way out of whatever situation you’re in, whether it’s healing or deliverance. You can and should repent and be free from whatever is holding you back. God is ready to hear your prayers right now.

God has done this for me, and He can do this for you if you allow His power in your life. Philippians 4:13 says that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Yes you can!

Allow God’s power to over take your lives, beloved Brothers and Sisters.

You are not trash.   So I’ll end here, summing up my story and the content of Nest Full of Birds with this scripture from Psalm 23, the Living Bible translation.

Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need! He lets me rest in the meadow grass and leads me beside the quiet streams. He gives me new strength. He helps me do what honors him the most. Even when walking through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way.  You provide delicious food for me in the presence of my enemies. You have welcomed me as your guest; blessings overflow! Your goodness and unfailing kindness shall be with me all of my life, and afterwards I will live with you forever in your home.

Sexual Assault Awareness

Be Bold {Unashamed}

Several years ago, I decided that I would not be someone who added to the stigma that survivors of sexual abuse and childhood rape should feel ashamed for what happened to them. I chose to begin speaking boldly about my experiences and to openly share some of them with anyone who asked. When we place what is dark and evil into the Light, suddenly we see two things – one, we are not alone and two, the darkness loses its’ power to consume us.

As a teenager, I was very fearful about what others would think about me and I often hid in my own little shell. Around that time, blogs and journals on the internet began popping up, as it was the mid-90’s and the internet was just getting into full swing. Some of those blogs and online journals I read empowered me to open up about what was going on in my life. Suddenly, it dawned on me that I wasn’t alone and that healing was possible. A life beyond being a victim is something I could achieve.

 

People sitting out their lives in the dark
    saw a huge light;
Sitting in that dark, dark country of death,
    they watched the sun come up.

Matthew 4:16 (the Message)

 

The more I speak out, the more people tell me that they too have been abused. Some have reported, some are unable to, as the statute of limitations is now past . I’ve even had a couple of people tell me about a child they know who is exhibiting some strange behaviors and ask if I thought the child might be caught in the claws of abuse*. Sadly, I’ve been right every time when I’ve said that “yes, it’s very likely.” Those children are now in safe homes, away from their abusers. Sexual abuse is so common. It breaks my heart! In the United States, one out of every four women and one out of every 6 men has been sexually abused in some way. In poorer countries, like India, the percentage is even higher, at 47-51% of the population being sexually abused. 60% of sexual assaults in the USA are never reported and 97% of rapists never see a day in jail. Satan is sure running rampant in the world, isn’t he?

We have to be bold and stand strong together. Each of us can find our voice and be bold, speaking unashamed about what happened to us because it is not our fault. We are not to blame. 

It is not the survivors who should be ashamed, but the abusers. 

You, reading this who is holding something deep inside yourself – you are beautiful. It’s not your fault and you’re going to be okay. Get up and tell someone about that “thing” that is hurting you right now. Report the abuse. You’re not doing the pervert any good keeping it to yourself.

You, reading this, who thinks you’re alone in your shame from what happened to you – you are beautiful, too! I’ve been there. I spent a lot of years feeling ashamed, eating my weight in chocolate and french fries and whatever else came my way. I decided to get fat so no one would touch me again. Then it hit me one day that I don’t have to do that. I can choose healing. You can, too. It’s not your fault. Nothing about the abuse or what happened to anyone around you is your fault. Walk away from anyone who tells you otherwise, even “family”.

You reading this, thinking I’m completely nuts for speaking out – I forgive you for all the mean things you’ve ever said to me or people like me. I know you’re hurting inside and you need help, too. You’re beautiful and I wish you could embrace that.

To those that assist sexual abuse victims in their recovery and provide a safe haven for children, thank you! What you do is hard work and you’re under-appreciated by a majority of the population. Please don’t stop what you’re doing. The kids need you. I still need you. People like me who speak out about their abuse still need you. We need to know that people still care and are willing to fix what the idiots have broken. You are doing God’s work and that is always a tough task when you’re fighting evil.

Share this post, please. Share your experiences. Share your feelings, get them out. If you’re being abused or know someone who is, please, please, please tell someone! You can report suspected child abuse as well and ask for welfare checks on your neighbors if you have reason to suspect someone is in danger. It’s not just kids that are being abused. It’s teens, adults, elderly and yes, even animals. Report, report, report. Be bold! Be unashamed!

Be safe, Sisters and Brothers. If one person doesn’t listen to you or believe you, keep talking to people until you find someone who does! 

The following is a list of people you can talk to and  places you can call or visit online for help.

If you need help knowing what or how to report, check this link out: Victims of Crime.org – Reporting on Child Sexual Abuse

or this one: Crisis Connection Inc.

  • Start with your local police station or county Sheriff’s station. Call 9-1-1 or walk in and make a report. If you do not do this, there is “no crime” in the eyes of the law. You have to report abuse to the authorities for it to be prosecuted. 
  • A counselor or therapist, if you’re already involved in therapy and repressed memories begin to come out
  • School guidance counselor, teacher, coach or any adult who works in the school that you trust
  • Your boss. If you’re being sexually abused at work, tell them.
  • Your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles – any adult in your family, or a close family friend
  • Clergy at your house of prayer or worship
  • Your friends’ parents
  • Your doctor (chances are, they’re going to discover it anyway)
  • Your chain of command – the military is changing rapidly so that sexual abuse victims are getting the help and the justice they need!
  • A neighbor

*I am NOT a professional, merely someone who has “been there” so please do not replace my advice and blog for real, professional help. I’m willing to help YOU build a bridge, but I’m not able to BE the bridge to healing.

My Fight With Homosexuality

My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. 

Psalm 62:7 NIV

 

For the past few years, we as a nation have been discussing all aspects of homosexuality and homosexual behavior and in some respects, I don’t really feel as though we’ve gotten anywhere on the subject. Science can be a fickle mistress, but so can the Church. Both are full of ideas, hypothesis, and flawed individuals. My goodness, I am certainly one of them. Albert Einstein once said that “science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind“. I don’t know if there is a genetic cause for homosexual behavior, and I don’t know if it’s ingrained in us the way that having blue eyes and brown hair is ingrained in my own DNA, but what I do know is that on some level, homosexual behavior and tendencies are at least as strong in us as alcoholism, drug addiction and the pull towards abusive behavior. What this means for the population is that we have to at least consider that it’s not something that is easily changed, if it can be changed at all. It’s at least a behavior deserving of our time, attention and compassion. At most, it’s deserving of our constant and consistent prayer.

Some of you who read this blog may be intensely offended by my previous statements and consider me a bigot. Others are right there with me, nodding in tune. Keep up, please. I’ve got more to say.

When I was ten years old, I knew I was different. It wasn’t just because I’d found the courage to seek help for myself and my family by turning my abuser in to the authorities. I knew I was different because I’d experienced something very adult that at the time, I’d assumed none of my peers had ever experienced. I’d had sex. I’d been abused and torn apart by someone who was supposed to take care of me. I’d seen body parts that I wasn’t supposed to see until I was married. I was marred and masked and tossed around. I’d been marked for a life of torment, and the devil was certainly after me from a young age. I was a pot made by God to be used for someone else’s garbage, or so I thought at the time. I knew a secret that very few other kids knew. All the dirty jokes about male and female parts and how they fit together were true. I’d been hearing the jokes on the playground since kindergarten. Potty mouths start young, but I’d already known all this for a long time. My childhood consisted of adult things, adult words, adult activities, adult emotions far too complex for a little girl to understand. It’s why I never understood it when adults would tell me that I didn’t understand something or that I was too young. I got it. I knew what they were talking about. For the most part, I was an adult from the time I was born. Not because I wanted to be, but because I was forced to be. I know that now, from the perspective I have as a parent, that this is a sad, disturbing way to look at it, but it’s true in some sense. I was forced to grow up way too fast and I gained an understanding of myself and of adulthood that I should never have had before the age of 18.

In therapy, I explored all kinds of emotions I wasn’t ready to deal with. I forgave a man who murdered my innocence. He forced me to bleed out my childhood through every pore, before I was even ready to start reading and learning basic math. He ripped out my basic rights as a human being and mutilated my pride and self-confidence before it had a chance to form. He forced me to look at my life from a young age and ask myself what I wanted and what the hell was I even doing here on this earth. My teenage years were spent questioning whether or not my existence on this earth was even beneficial to anyone, especially my parents who didn’t ever seem to understand what I was going through. I’m sorry, Mom. I know you’re reading this and your heart is hurting, but you have to know. You have to know how I feel because it’s real and it’s valid and I don’t know any other way to make you hear it.

Sexual awakenings are totally normal for teenage kids, but mine was so scary and I was so emotionally scarred and stunted by that point, that I just didn’t know what to do with any of my feelings. There was this amazing boy that I just couldn’t get enough of. He was so quiet and shy. I met him in the eighth grade in math class. He sat in the back of the class and never really spoke to anyone. Every day he wore a San Francisco 49ers hat and I could tell he was wounded too. I think it’s what most drew me to him. He tried to hide something behind that hat. I assumed we were the same, but I came to find out later that we weren’t. I’ll get to that later. For now, just know that I was completely intrigued by this quiet boy. I’d steal glances at him, knowing there was something about him that I just couldn’t get past. He was, from the moment I met him, completely unforgettable.

Time passed. This boy and I didn’t speak. I assumed he’d never noticed me and so I went on about my own life. I tried to convince my friends and myself that I was totally and completely into boys. In some ways, I was. My room looked like a typical teenage girls’ room – band posters all over the walls, cute celebrity boy pictures cut out of magazines and pasted on the walls. It was all pretty standard stuff, but inside I was reeling. As my friends went about kissing boys, all I wanted to do was kiss my best friend at the time – a girl. I wanted to know what it felt like to be loved, tenderly. Not the painful “love” that was inflicted on me by my abuser. Not the forced love that I felt from my parents, or even my grandmother (whom I still love, even in death.) I wanted what you see in the movies. I wanted to know that tenderness and compassion existed and I assumed for a very, very long time that it only existed in romantic love, so I wanted that. From my experiences with sexual abuse, I “knew” that it didn’t exist from the opposite sex. So while boys were certainly cute, especially that quiet boy from school, it just wasn’t possible for me to develop feelings for them. They were all corrupt.

High school was an interesting time for me, and by interesting, I mean hellacious. Despite my true feelings and desires, I allowed myself to be forced by a family member to allow my abuser back into my life. He entered back into the picture full-time just a few weeks before High School started. My family was elated. I was crushed beyond repair. It’s been nearly 17 years and I’m still not healed from that soul crushing moment. Forgiveness takes time – a lifetime apparently. Anyway, the boy was back in my life. He actually spoke to me, thanks to my best friend at the time. (Not the one I’d wanted to kiss, but another friend. Kids are so fickle, and I was certainly fickle too.) This boy captivated every part of me. I wanted to know him, to understand how he could penetrate walls that I’d fortified to keep everyone out – especially his kind (boys), but I didn’t know how to do that when I was so absolutely terrified. So I pretended to be just like everyone else. I flirted, wrote him cute notes, dressed differently when he was around, and I let him in little by little. I always knew he’d hurt me. He was a boy (read: monster) after all. Monsters have no compassion, right? And he was no exception. It was only a matter of time. The more I felt for this boy, the more I wanted to be someone else. There were many days I used the mental techniques I’d taught myself during the abuse, to disappear from my body and still remain in conversation with someone. I became a shell with no soul, existing somewhere else that no one could really see. They were speaking to someone who wasn’t really me. (It was like I was tricking everyone, but looking back, I was only ever fooling myself.) Inside, I was different and I knew it. I would never kiss boys like my friends did. I was a lesbian. I knew it as instinctively as I knew my hair was brown and my eyes were blue. I was 16 years old and I just knew.

The boy and I “dated” off and on for three years of high school until the summer after junior year when he went to stay with his father in another state, hundreds of miles away. At the time, it was devastating, but looking back, it was best for our relationship. I’m not sure it was best for the boy, but I’m not sure it’s for me to say. I don’t know what would’ve happened had he stayed. I’d like to think he’d have been hurt less, but I just don’t know. (His father was not good to him, and he’s still recovering from that, 14 years later.)

For me, it forced me to dig deep in myself and look at what I needed and wanted for my life. I could never be honest with the boy. He had no idea I wanted to kiss girls and to hold their hands. He thought I was in love with him, and I was, in a very immature, unhealthy way. I was in love with him the best way I felt I could be at that time, given what I was going through on the inside. His mom was right to ask him not to see me anymore.

After high school, still no word from the boy. I set about hiding in as deep a hole as I could make for myself. A lot of people were worried about me, but I didn’t care. Life was business as usual. Brood, sabotage my life, deal with conflicting emotions, hide the truth, and want what I could never have – true, compassionate love from a woman. My mother was harsher than she ever meant to be. I know it was because I was difficult and wouldn’t let her in. If I’d asked her for more compassion, I know she’d have given it me, but I just couldn’t do that. There was, quite seriously and beyond what I can share on this blog, no reason to trust that it would have been healthy to do so. I shut down. I experimented with all kinds of things – porn, alcohol, medications. I never took illegal drugs – a small comfort to me now, seeing as I abused medications for so long. I just needed something to take the edge off. There were feelings threatening to come to the surface and I had to do whatever it took to suppress them.

The boy came back in my dreams more often than I invited him to. He was so beautiful. I could always tell him absolutely everything, and while he was afraid, he never once told me I was stupid or childish for feeling what I was feeling. He has never fully understood me, but he has always loved me. In those dreams, he loved me without ever touching me. It was perfect.

In waking, I wanted to be touched and I didn’t know what to do about it. I spoke with my therapist extensively on the issue, even admitting to my pornography addiction, which by this point, was rampant and consuming. I wanted to figure out what was going on with me, and I felt at the time, that exposure was the best medicine. I know that sounds stupid now, but it was how I coped back then. I suspect that my therapist was a lesbian too. I’d researched her a bit years ago and never once had she been married, but she did live with a woman for a long time. No relation. So I assumed perhaps they were lovers. It would certainly explain her advice to me that I was probably a lesbian, and that I should explore my feelings on the subject deeper in a healthy environment – therapy.

A few people in my life who somewhat knew what I was going through at the time, suggested to me that perhaps my feelings toward women stemmed from my abuse as a child and that my fear of being hurt by a man again, lead me to these homosexual urges. At the time, this idea seemed absurd because the urges were so strong that they felt like the most real part of me. I was consumed by this idea that everything would be OK if I just became what my mind “organically” lead me to be – a lesbian.

From the point that I made the decision to embrace the lesbian part of me, I immersed myself in the homosexual culture. I joined chatrooms for single lesbians and confused homosexuals, I rented every movie made by or written about homosexuality. I joined blog mailing lists for homosexual writers, and I championed the cause for equality for all gays. Why shouldn’t we be allowed to live the way we want, without fear of intimidation or discrimination, right?

About 5 years after high school, I entered into my first and only homosexual relationship. It lasted all of 5 weeks, if that. Jammie was exactly what I thought I needed. Her identity and self-image were fiercely rooted in homosexuality. She was the leader of her local college’s Rainbow Club, she was raising her two boys to love the gays, but feel free to choose their own path. She had lived as a homosexual since she was 17 years old, and anyone who questioned her ability to parent, or live as she pleased, was given the boot from her life. Jammie was a strong, charismatic woman firmly clinging to her beliefs and ideals. There was nothing that was ever going to change her. She also was not a Christian and was extremely antagonistic towards all Christians, even me at times, when I’d mentioned that the Episcopal Church (of which I’d been a member since birth, practically) was fully accepting of “our kind”. Nothing could sway her. I see now how futile my attempts were, but I thought I loved her, so I had to try.

I remember that first kiss from Jammie. I’d waited years for it. I assumed it would feel like coming home, but it didn’t. It was exactly like what I imagined kissing a boy would be like. It was cold, impersonal. Though I know Jammie had feelings for me, she never tried to break down walls like the boy in the 49ers hat had. She just assumed I was as hard-core as she was. I had no idea what I wanted, and when the relationship ended abruptly and harshly, I thought I was devastated and heartbroken, but I wasn’t. I was on the road to healing.

A few months later, I met a man. A much older man who was all kinds of wrong for me, but still offered some insight into who I was and what I wanted. Like the boy from years ago, this man broke down walls, not because I asked him to, but because he wanted to. He wasn’t a terrible person, but he was kind and compassionate. By sharing of himself and his faith in Christ, he quietly and confidently encouraged me to do the same. An inappropriate friendship formed (he was eight years older than me, divorced once and prone to alcoholism. I was still a virgin, had never kissed a male before ever, and extremely naive), and we began speaking multiple times a day. His entire family embraced me, loved me, prayed for me, and invited me in to share their joy and their faith. For a while, it felt natural, healthy, good. I was happy again and I started to feel like I was figuring out who I really was finally. I set the homosexual stuff aside, and I embraced my feelings for this man.

Banker man, as I’ll call him from now on, was a wonderful person to talk to. He had no idea what went on in the few months before I came to know him, and I appreciated that he never asked, or knew to ask. I felt silly and stupid for ever thinking that I was a lesbian. Surely, with the things I felt for this man, it could not be the case. I was not a lesbian. Finally – I was just like everyone else.

The relationship with Banker man (an investment banker who bought and sold high quality real estate for a living) progressed to the point where he asked me to come and live with him. His entire family was on board, and excited about the idea. We began making plans toward that end. I even invested financially in this.

It was one week before I was to move in with Banker Man that I saw the boy again. I’d been secretly speaking to him on MySpace (the cooler version of Facebook at the time). I went out with the boy for a night, and from the moment I saw the boy – now a man, I knew I was in love with him and I never, ever wanted to look back. I called Banker Man and broke his heart. I told him I couldn’t see him again, and I couldn’t talk to him, and I couldn’t look back on my decision. He didn’t accept that too well, and kept after me for the next several years to change my mind (even recently, he attempted to come back in my life) but I couldn’t. I can’t. I married the boy three months later. He still had the same 49ers hat and wore it often, especially when we went to the beach. I hated that hat because the colors weren’t right for his skin tone, but I loved him so much it hurt. It hurt us both.

The boy knew about my past. I’d always been honest about that with him. I even told him about Jammie and about Banker Man. I told him about all my feelings, whether he wanted to know or not. I know his mother was still worried about him. I was too. My feelings for Jammie were gone, and I only wanted to kiss the boy. He was the only boy I’d ever kissed. Even Banker Man didn’t get that honor.

I still struggle sometimes with feeling like maybe something is wrong with me, and I wonder if I can handle the memories of what happened to me. I have PTSD from the abuse. I remember wanting to kiss girls and the mental escape from reality that porn, medications and alcohol had been for me, and that it’s easier to escape into those behaviors than to face reality, but I fight those feelings with such intensity that it nearly breaks me sometimes. I don’t allow alcohol in my house most of the time because I refuse to go back to that place mentally. I make sure I’m being accountable when I’m on the internet, and I pray fervently when thoughts of homosexuality enter into my brain. It might be easier at the time for me to escape into these addictions, but it’s not what I need in the long run.

I spent years running from healing, from God, from Jesus. I bought the lies that the devil sold me over and over and over again. Jesus told His disciples that “It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” and I know that it would’ve been better for me as a child if I’d never been abused in any way. Maybe I’d be whole now and not suffering from anxiety and PTSD. But you know, as bad as it can get sometimes, there is such beauty in this pain. There is such healing that can come from fighting so long and so hard for what is right, and what is true. I’ve learned through all the pain and heartbreak and stupid choices that there is a God and He can reach down to us wherever we are, and offer us a hand up out of the muck and mire of our own lives. I’ve learned that a lot of people are scared, and most never tell their stories the way that I have learned to do. Most people just stay stuck in their fear. I’m terrified. I’m still in the fear most days, but I’m so tired of allowing it to consume me. I want the blessings that God has given me. I don’t want to lose them or to sabotage them. As hard as it is, I’m running towards healing now. Sometimes I take a few steps back, assessing the situation, making sure it’s right for me, but it’s only because I’ve trusted the wrong people to help me before. I don’t want to make that mistake again.

I know now that homosexuality, at least for me, is a choice. I can’t speak for everyone else on the issue, (though I sometimes make the mistake of doing so) but I do know that for me, for Jammie and for my other friends who root their lives in homosexual behaviors, it’s borne out of pain and fear of the opposite gender. It’s a learned behavior that eventually becomes a lifestyle. I’d like to believe with full certainty that there is absolutely no way that people can be “born gay” but I just don’t know for sure. I’m not God. I’m not fully open to changing my mind on this, but there’s a crack open, because of what Albert Einstein said, and because I know how hard it was for me to fight those tendencies towards homosexuality.

What we need to practice is compassion and understanding towards those who are engaging in homosexual behavior, whether we understand it or not. Some people are so convinced that there’s absolutely no way they can every change, that we start to believe them, and really – in some way, they’re right. No one can change who they are without grace and without a willingness to allow that grace to permeate their existence.

I’m so grateful for the boy (Anthony) and his mother. They love me even when I don’t deserve it (which is most days, I’ll be honest). Neither one of them can fix me or heal me, or change me, but they can and do love and support me and that gives me the encouragement I need to keep fighting for full and complete healing from the past.

Christ has begun a good work in me, even long before I could see it. Every step I’ve taken in this life, Christ has been with me. He knows how I hurt, He knows what has happened to me. He knows what I’ve done, and He loves me anyway. He loves me – a broken sinner in a fallen world.

I fell yesterday. Broke into a thousand pieces. Stopped breathing during a series of panic attacks, and then I rushed myself to the doctor without telling anyone where I was going. I was afraid to stop fighting for the healing that I so desperately need. God is with me every step of the way, and He is with you, too. May my words and my transparency bless you in some way that the darkness cannot. For the love of your own healing, don’t let the darkness win. Shove your pain into the light and learn to fight harder. Learn to love those who don’t deserve to be loved, and learn to accept the love that others give you. God knows we need it so badly it hurts.

 

 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13