Standing Up & Speaking Out.

I've just managed to regain access to this blog after forgetting my password and deactivating the email address associated with the blog. I've watched comments pile up, particularly on my posts about the abuse I suffered as a young teen, and it's been maddening to not be able to respond! I have a bit of catch up to do, I suppose, and I've been wanting to follow up for a while, so here goes.

For years now I've been very vocal about the abuse I suffered and the situation that unfolded following my speaking out about it. Partly, it's cathartic for me in dealing with any leftover (and previously very intense) feelings of guilt and shame, but mostly it's to give a voice, however small and quiet, to other women and girls who have suffered or are suffering abuse. No one should ever feel the need to keep quiet when they're being hurt.

For those of you in the know, you've probably read a couple of the following posts of mine. For first time readers, here's a bit of the back story, in all it's gory phases of grief. I was angry and sad and traumatized, and I'd finally found my voice. I yelled a bit. *Trigger warning: please be warned the following posts may contain triggers for some individuals.  

Here's my original post about the abuse. This was the first time I ever wrote publicly about my abuse:

http://natalierose-livewithpassion.blogspot.com/2010/07/no-more-tape-over-my-mouth.html

Here's a follow-up post, written two and a half years later:

http://natalierose-livewithpassion.blogspot.com/2013/01/perpetuating-abuse-warningexplicit.html

Here's another post summarizing the different phases of my childhood and our move to Moscow when I was a young teen, there's a bit about the abuse here, too:

http://natalierose-livewithpassion.blogspot.com/2011/10/looking-back-again.html

Though it's nearly constantly on my mind in some way or another (a pesky effect of long-term childhood sexual abuse), it's been well over a year since I've written anything on the topic of my abuse. Something has changed, though. People in churches have started talking about abuse within evangelical churches at large. People have started talking about my abuse. Some people from my past have even started talking to me about my abuse, and not to sing me a familiar song about learning to forgive and move on, but apologizing for any role they may have played in supporting my abuser during the messy aftermath. After years of waiting for members of the church to reach out and acknowledge some level of responsibility or involvement in the injustice I suffered, I was met only with silence or denial. It was alienating and effected me into adulthood. So as a few individuals in very recent weeks have begun emailing me or approaching me in public to broach the topic of the church's involvement in my abuse and subsequent shaming, I find myself surprised and grateful. Surprised because I thought the communication might never happen. Grateful because it's good and it needs to happen, and not so that I may somehow feel better or move on more adequately, but because people need to acknowledge what happens to victims when those around them are silent and when we sweep ugly, scary truths under rugs or simply choose not to acknowledge them in the first place. These oversights are not without severely harmful consequences. Truthfully, the way our culture deals with abuse destroys lives.

Victims of abuse are quiet because we are scared. We're quiet perhaps because we think this is what love looks and feels like. We're quiet because we fear that being honest will make people look at us strangely and call us dirty names. We're quiet because people might think we're lying if we say what's happened to us. We're quiet because we're embarrassed, because we feel ugly and ashamed and guilty. We're quiet for all the wrong reasons. By putting my story of abuse and healing into words I hope to be a spark of action that may contribute to a flame of change in the way we respond to sexual abuse. I will not keep silent.

My story's time in the legal system is over and done with. Justice through the courts will not be seen as closed cases cannot be reopened, and in hindsight there have been moments I wish I'd let it go to trial, though I know I was in no state to be put through that ringer. I was tired and scarred, and I wanted to disappear, something a public trial as a (newly 18) adult would not grant me. Certain questions do abide - I wonder why there was an unexpectedly visiting judge on my case, and why he just happened to be one who was notoriously lenient on sexual offenders in the state of Idaho? Why, after reading the files and confessions, did he compare what happened to me to 'a teenage love affair' when my abuser was 10 years older than me and began grooming me when I was barely 13 years old? Why was my abuser allowed to turn around and address me at the sentencing? And why on earth would he tell me, after all he'd put me through for the better part of 3 years, that he hoped our families could sit around the dinner table one day and share meals and stories again? Thankfully, I'm free of the imprisonment of his abusive behavior. Unfortunately, I'm not free of his gaze or of relatively frequent encounters with him. Just weeks ago he stood several yards behind me at a local park and intensely watched me move about and interact with my children. I was unaware of this until my husband, who'd watched the leery behavior, said we should move to another area. Over the years I've run into him many times in my little town and each time my head spins and my heart pounds in my throat, an adrenal response of fight and flight coursing through my veins. For a long while, I'd shake and cry violently after these brief encounters. Flashbacks would occur sometimes for days and my PTSD would consume my actions and thoughts. In a way, it was the trauma of the abuse all over again. Through years of regular therapy and the unwavering love of a supportive husband, I've climbed my way into emotional stability and health, but I could never have done it without talking about what happened to me, openly and unashamedly. When I talked about it I felt less shame, less like I was hiding some big, nasty secret that was uncomfortable for people to hear about. Talking about it was, and is, me declaring my innocence.

The story of my abuse isn't over because the stories of survivors never really end. A great deal of research has been done on the long term effects of childhood sexual abuse and most survivors can attest to the severity of some of the lingering effects, from PTSD to anorexia to depression. Whether the battles present themselves on a daily basis or a weekly basis, they will be there, the trusty old demons, and I will face them head on because there's really no other effective way to face them.

I'm still waiting for authority figures in the church I grew up in to step forward and speak honestly about their decisions to defend my abuser and neglect my needs for love and support. Until they do, I am deeply fearful for other young girls in the church who may be victims of abuse in a religious establishment that seems to be something of a safe haven for some very dangerous criminals. I can't help but wonder how many others have been hurt and have either been shamed into silence or have been too afraid to say anything for fear that the powerful patriarchal society they live in will shun them, tarnish their reputation, or just tell them they're lying.

It goes without saying that I wish I hadn't been hurt so deeply, but beyond that, I wish my 17 year-old self had been listened to. I wish other innocent women hadn't been hurt after my abuser was welcomed back into the fold of the church. Those are not my stories to tell, but they did happen and I know a little of the pain of those stories because I felt it, too; the jealousy, the rage, the perverse, hungry sexual demands, the secrecy, and the prison all of it built around my psyche. I wish no one else had gone through that.

For speaking out about my abuse I've been told that I'm 'hungry for drama', 'living in the past', 'sensation seeking', and a 'pot stirrer'. I'll bear each of those labels if it means one hurting girl will read this blog and know that her value is greater than what she's been made to believe by an abuser and that she, too, can speak out, or if it means that one man in a position of power will look closely at his own motives and make the changes necessary to, insomuch as he is able, ensure the safety and well being of those who look to him for guidance.

While my husband probably tends toward wanting to start a vigilante posse of bad-ass MMA fighters and dedicate the remainder of his life to ridding the world of monsters who hurt innocent people, we both know better. All the anger and vindication and seething in the world won't make society a safer place for women and children, but by creating an environment where our daughters have the self respect to speak up for and value themselves and our sons have the courage and generosity of spirit to love and honor women, we will begin to change things, and it starts by standing up and speaking out.

If you feel so inclined, please share this blog. If you are being hurt, please speak up. There are many resources for help and healing. I hope you don't have your own story of abuse to tell and that sharing mine can be a part of your contribution to working toward a healthier society where fewer girls & women are abused.

With much love,

Natalie


Comments

  1. Thank you for this and your previous posts, Natalie.
    I am so glad that you have come through those times into the present with such life welling from you. Keep on your path---

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  2. Beautiful, moving, and heart wrenching story. Your courage astounds me. I am so incredibly proud of you for writing about this, speaking up, and being a so called "pot stirrer." Thank you for sharing. Your courage and voice will do so much to help and heal others. I pray for your continued healing and peace. Hugs friend.

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  3. Wait - what the heck? This is painful to read and I am so sorry. Yet I am amazed and grateful for your courage as well. I know some abuse victims and your standing up gives strength to those who live in fear. - Rich Gall

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    1. Thanks, Rich. I know it's been shocking for some of my old friends to find out I was being abused when I knew them. I was adept at putting on a happy face.

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  4. Natalie, I have posted to your most recent blog and just wanted to encourage people, or rather remind them that their feelings are valid even if they are bitterness and rage and grief. You have written with grace and eloquence because of the work you have done with your abuse but there are many out there still stuck in silence and ANY expression from their hearts is a good start. You know this already but I felt it was worth reminding others. One of the most hateful things about evangelical fundyism is how so much is silenced, so much freedom is quashed. It is a sick, sick model for life.

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  5. I am so glad to see that you still love our savior, even after so much abuse. I am a man whose depravity was fed by the lies of the patriarchy movement for years, and was led to believe that my unfair treatment of my wife was marginally acceptable. In addition, they counseled my wife to continue to bed a husband that was cyclically engaging in all sorts of pornographic and debasing activities. In their movement, I myself became a an inside-my-own-marriage predator as I had all of my physical desires met and affirmed, and none of my sexual sins confronted or kept accountable. Nor was I helped to heal. Years later, as I contemplate having exited Doug Philips movement, I am now separated from my wife (though things are going in a positive direction) and I am working through several Christian addiction and counseling groups to not only recover from this habitual sin, but also re-introduce myself to a savior that I forgot how to truly commune with. I curse the patriarchal movement now. Though I have found some modicum of peace regarding what they did and what I have done, I strongly desire to speak out against the continued war that they wage against women and the ridiculous damage that they inflict upon marriages.

    Though I never engaged in abuse toward any other woman other than my wife, I want to apologize on behalf of all men that have used Satan's method to twist the word to their own advantage to assert control over females in their lives, up to and including the abuse that little girls are continuing to experience in that movement. Left unchecked, these men will ruin more lives.

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