Today, I feel compelled, for a reason I can't explain, to share my story. It is my story, my journey, the road I was meant to go down. I believe there is someone that must need this story. Someone asking "Why", as I so often have. This will be a long blog, so please be sure to have the time & desire for a long read, as well as a cup of coffee!!
Before beginning, please listen to this song, by the lovely Amy Grant. youtu.be/MSvgne2kOP0
When I was child, I was a very Christian spirtual person. I believed wholeheartedly in Jesus. My parents limited my extracurricular activities to those associated with our church, sent me to private Christian schools and ensured that we studied the Bible. Summers were spent at vacation Bible school, and Christian camps. To this day, I can quote scripture and still remember many wonderful songs of faith. I loved the music. I loved to sing and play the piano. I was very secluded and sheltered from the secular world.
As I matured, however, a number of realities slapped me in the face. I vividly recall being allowed to sleep over a friends house. It was perhaps the first time I'd been allowed to do so. Her name was Jennifer, and we were probably about 7 or 8 years old. After dinner, we snuggled in our sleeping bags on the parlor floor, and watched a television movie. The movie was about a young girl, who was being molested by her father. I watched, and commented innocently to Jennifer, "My father does that to me.... does yours do that with you?" Well, that was the last time I was allowed to visit Jennifer. My father told me that her parents forbid her to ever see me again, because I told them about "us". I was quickly pulled out of school and placed in a private Christian school. Isolated.
The molestation continued, and as a young girl, I truly believed that all fathers did this with their daughters. I simply did not understand what was happening to me. I had no idea it was a crime and I was perplexed by losing my good friend Jennifer, and all my other friends, for that matter. As I became older, the physical beatings grew in intensity. As a young child, my brother and I would be spanked with a leather belt, when we were "bad". But as I grew into my adolescent years, the leather belt was replaced with a 2 x 4. My father would beat me, and then cry and tell me he didn't want to have done this, but the Bible commanded him to, and if I wouldn't have been "bad", he wouldn't have been forced to use the "rod" on me. I recall many mornings waking up to the sound of my brother screaming, begging for mercy, as my father beat him with his "rod", the 2 x 4. I also recall many private moments with my father than no young girl should be made to recall. My mother closed her eyes, and never protected either of us.
To the outside world, we were a perfect Christian family, but inside was a nightmare. One that I was afraid to talk about for fear of losing my world, yet again. So, we remained silent.
At some point during my mid teenage years, I was sent to the principals office at the Christian school I attended. During the conversation, I disclosed the sexual abuse to him. This is when I learned what it really was. He said to me, "Do you realize that what you are describing is against the law, and your father could be arrested and go to jail for it?" I was shocked - I truly had no idea.
The next day, a government social worker came to my school and removed me from class. My mother arrived, and she was instructed to bring me to the hospital, which she did. She never uttered a word to me during the entire 1 hour car ride. When I tried to say "I'm sorry", she replied "I don't want to talk to you".
After hours of being interrogated by the police while at the hospital, and a 2 week stay in a foster home, the authorities quickly learned that I was not going to say another word. They were unable to get a statement from me, and I was sent home. This, afterall, was all I knew and where I wanted to be. I loved my parents, my brother, my friends. I couldn't bear the thought of having it all taken from me.
The remainder of my teenage years were a nightmare. My parents stopped being my parents, and openly told me that they could not parent me, because an attorney had told them not to "make me mad", as I could still give a statement, and my father would face imprisonment. I became a wild child, using drugs, drinking, hanging around in the cities, and not coming home at night. They never did a thing to stop it, or to help me. But, they kept going to church! And of course, my father would tell everyone that I was pure evil, had lied about what happened in some effort to hurt him. I was a child out of control that had ruined his world.
At 17, I gave birth to my first child, and placed her for adoption. Agonizing time in my life, but clearly I could not bring a child into this nightmare. At 19, I was pregnant again, and married the father --- not the best choice --- but I was not going through the heartache of losing another child. I moved out, and still maintained a relationship with my parents. My father was more involved in the church then ever, and would often comment that God had given him another chance to be a better person with my children. He had changed, and would be an awesome grandparent. I believed in him. I loved him. I wanted so desperately to have a normal family. The kind I saw my friends enjoy. At this point, I left the drugs, drinking, etc behind. I was working and raising a family. I wanted to be a great Mom. My daughter was born 2 years later. My marriage, however, was a mess. Very dysfuntional --- by the age of 25, I knew it was over. I needed to leave. So I divorced, and moved back home with my children and parents. I lived with them for 5 years, and my father essentially undermined every parental decision I tried to make, and left me feeling again like a helpless child. He began indoctrating them into the church. I felt as if I was losing my children, and I moved out into an apartment some 45 minutes away. I needed to be free.
This is when I learned the unthinkable from my children. He had molested them. I immediately called my sister-in-law, who had 3 children that had been around him. She talked with them and discovered he had molested one of them as well. I remember putting the phone down and running to the bathroom to vomit. Over and over. I felt as if someone had taken me and broken my very spirit. I knew, however, what needed to be done. My sister-in-law and I drove to the police station in the Town my father lived in. We both gave detailed statements of all that had occured, and my father was soon indicted by a secret grand jury and arrested, charged with multiple counts of felony child molestation. I cannot even begin to describe how difficult the next two years were for my children and for me. My entire family sided with my father. We were very much alone. I wondered, if there is a God, why oh why is He allowing this to happen? Why, why, why? The case went to a full trial, and my children, my niece and I all had to stand and face him publicly and detail what he had done. For sure, this was the most awful experience of my life. The jury came back in three days, hopelessly hung. 8 agreeing he was guilty, and 2 unsure. Could we possibly go through this again? I couldn't imagine how, without ending up going insane. The prosecutor was able to get him to plead guilty, although his sentence was suspended, and he never served 1 day in prison. He is, however, a registered sex offender and we secured a 25 year no contact order, which essentially means he will be well into his 80s when it expires.
At his sentencing, I stood in public court and read a victim's impact statement. For the first time in my life, I publicly placed his shame squarely on him and I disowned him. My mother held his hand, as I spoke. They left the courtroom that day together, and I have never laid eyes on them again.
After this whole ordeal ended, I remarried a wonderful man who is now my life partner, my love and my best friend. He stood by me during the trial and gave me such strength, love and unconditional support. I have come to realize that as children, we do not choose our circumstance, but as adults, we are in the drivers' seat of our lives. You can choose your family.
I completed my college education and started a career. All looked well from the outside, but the trauma of my life had left me struggling on the inside. Struggling with the idea that I deserved to take care of me. To exercise, to eat right, to get enough sleep, to not abuse my body with cigarettes. I have come to terms with my life, and I know that I must love myself first. I must treat myself the way I would treat a child. An old cliche, but a truth.
I do not write this for anyone to feel sorry for me. In fact, I can't imagine that I would be the person I am today, had it not been for the trials I have endured. They have made me strong, unafraid and able to tackle almost anything. For me, the last piece is my physical health, and I am taking it on, making great strides each day.
I'm not so sure I believe everything that the Christian faith espouses --- but I do know there is a creator, for nothing else can explain the miracle of life, the beauty of the mountains, the splendor of our vast oceans. Christians call this creater God, and I just know Him as the spirit of life. I converse with Him daily, I trust in Him and I know that He will lead me in the direction I am meant to go, if I allow myself to hear Him. Perhaps this paragraph is the "Why", I've so often wondered about.
Today I write this for 4 reasons.
1) To restate my belief that there is nothing we cannot overcome - nothing!
2) Because. individually we are each accountable for ourselves. There is noone who can love and care about us, the way we can care for ourselves.
3) Because, everyone has a story. Mine is no better or worse, it's just my story. When we deal with other people in our lives who are struggling, we need to remember this. Everyone has a story.
4) A particular religion is not the important part of spiruality. The important part is the belief in something larger than ourselves and the ability to be still, and hear His voice.
I'm not sure exactly why I was compelled to share all this today, and I apologize for its length. I do hope the person it was intended for has read it, and I hope it blesses them.