Abuse Doesn't Look The Way You Think It Looks




Trigger warning: Contains descriptions of sexual abuse.

Much as I would like to tell you I despised my abuser for the duration of the time I knew him and was being abused by him, it's simply not true. Frightening as it sounds, it's very common for victims of abuse, children and adults alike, to have a strong emotional attachment to their abuser, even after they've been severely hurt by them. There's even a name for it: Stockholm Syndrome. I was infatuated with my abuser. I thought of little else outside of pleasing him and staying in his favor, which was a challenge due to his extreme, nearly insane jealousy.  I lived to stay in his good graces and as far as I was concerned everyone in the world could have disappeared and if only he and I were left I would be happy. Sounds like love, right? Oh, but it wasn't. It really, truly wasn't. Thanks to the fact that I now have an incredible husband who loves me and sacrifices for me and supports me in ways I'd never known possible, I know what I experienced as a girl of 13, 14, and 15 years old was not love. It hardly resembled love, but when I was 13 it felt like what I thought love was supposed to feel like.

With no relationship experience, no knowledge of sexuality, and a trusting disposition to boot, I was a worthy target for a predatory, power-hungry man in his mid-twenties.

Abuse has many emotional layers and they are not easily explained. I am not an expert and I don't know all the lingo, but I do have a good deal of first-hand experience and so I'm dedicating this blog post to some blunt honesty about what it's like to be a young person being abused by someone you trust and care for. There was quite a mess of emotions to be found within me. I have spent the last twelve years of my life sorting through that mess and untying the knots my abuser left in my heart and mind, and while I have come an extraordinarily long way, at 28 years old I still have a good deal of healing left to do. Fortunately, I do pretty well with this whole open-healing thing (discarding shame and embarrassment tends to be really helpful when dealing with taboo topics like sex abuse) so I'll plainly lay out what my 'love' for my abuser looked like as a young teen, as well as the emotional and physical ramifications of being abused.


  • I wrote to and about my abuser, and often. Journal entries and love letters poured from my fingertips. I expressed my "deep love and desire" for him, I told him how I couldn't wait to marry him and to be uninhibited sexually with him (not that much was left in that sense). Very frequently, I profusely apologized to him for my behavior that didn't meet his standards. I'd beg his forgiveness for "being flirtatious" with other men, for laughing with my mouth open or lingering in conversation with friends. In my journal entries I expressed my overwhelming guilt at the "sexual sin" we were committing. I knew it was wrong and shouldn't be happening, but I also knew I couldn't tell anyone about it. Jamin told me many times and in no uncertain terms that both our lives would be completely destroyed if I ever told anyone, they wouldn't understand what we shared. "Besides" he'd tell me, "We'll be married someday and it won't matter then." Guilt, shame and infatuation tangled inside me and created a turmoil unlike anything I have felt since. Writing to Jamin about those feelings was my preferred form of expression. Over the years I have found and burned many letters and journal entries.


  • My thought life was completely consumed with my abuser. During junior high & high school I was mostly privately tutored or took part in small group classes. Once the abuse began my ability to pay attention suffered. School was a low priority for me and as a result my grades suffered. I had friends but kept them at arm's length and didn't relate well with them. Very soon after the abuse began, perhaps even when my abuser was still grooming me, I learned to mask my emotions very well - to most outsiders I probably appeared to be a relatively normal teenaged girl, I was social, bubbly, and extroverted. Our massive home was something of a social mecca in our church community, always full of people, always buzzing. We had several boarders at a time and people came and went all day long, being anti-social was not really an option. And because our 8 bedroom home was such a busy place, so full of life, food, family and friends, I could only afford to suffer in the privacy of my room when no one was watching. I mastered the skill of hiding my true emotions and wearing socially acceptable ones. In my room I would let my guard down, I'd cry, rock back and forth on my bed, bite and scratch myself in frustration, simultaneously consumed with my feelings of worthlessness and my infatuation for the man who made me feel worthless. I was in prison. 


  • While the emotional toll the long-term abuse had on my young psyche was devastating, the physical response to the sexual acts occurring was very confusing for me as well. Before the abuse began I knew next to nothing about sex. I'd only just started my period around the same time I met my abuser and I didn't know my own body at all. The function of my menstrual cycle had been explained to me but nothing beyond that. The first time Jamin touched me I was 13 and he was 23. He stroked my face with his hand and told me I was beautiful, and though I had no idea what was happening, my body responded. I'd sleep fitfully that night, confused and intrigued. For a long time after that, I ached for his touch. Months later, when the sexual abuse had escalated to my abuser frequently forcing me to perform oral sex on him, I was horribly conflicted. Desire and disgust went hand in hand and I didn't know how to process my feelings. I wanted to be held and loved by him, and at times he did hold me and tell me he loved me, but I hated the other things he made me do and I wanted them to stop. The way he spoke to me crushed me. His demeaning, hateful words successfully compounded my own feelings of self-loathing and accomplished precisely what I now know was his aim - he kept me exactly where he wanted me. Attached, desperate, demeaned, scared, guilty...indebted. 


Years after the abuse ended, when I finally met a good, kind man and married him, I was fully faced with the harsh, ugly truth of what abuse had done to me. Establishing and maintaining a healthy relationship was nearly impossible and felt like a constant uphill battle, and one I thought at the time I'd probably never win. 

I am winning, though. Healing can be found. 

Mindfulness therapy helped me greatly. My wonderful husband helps me. He has supported me and held my hand through years of severe panic attacks, depression, eating disorders, emotional shut-downs and sexually triggered flashbacks - those first few years of marriage were intensely difficult and there have been times we didn't think we'd make it through the storm in one piece. 

Yet here I am, a whole woman. 

Speaking openly about my abuse does not mean I am still entrenched in the trauma of what happened to me. It does not mean I am holding tightly to victim-hood or refusing to heal. On the contrary, it empowers me. Each time I share about the abuse I suffered I am declaring my own innocence, and not because I feel the need to convince myself of my innocence but because the sad truth is that we live in a society that cannot readily believe an abused person can be free of blame. Too many people believe that the blame of abuse must be shared and cannot rest on the shoulder's of one person alone, though so often that is precisely where it belongs

If this post follows the trend of my previous posts, it will be read by several thousand people and hundreds of those readers will be abuse victims and survivors. If you are one of those victims, and whether you are suffering in silence or have openly shared your story you must know this: You are not alone. You do not deserve to feel shunned or shamed. You are deserving of the purest and truest love. Your past experiences have not ruined you for someone else. Your dignity remains, your soul remains, YOU remain.

If you are alive, healing is possible, and you are worth it. 







Comments

  1. Thank you for writing this.

    No matter what you thought you felt at the time, none of this is your fault. The fact that Doug Wilson is trying to use things that you wrote as a teenager to hold you responsible for your abuse makes him a despicable, cowardly, violent shitbag.

    Have you consulted an attorney? I cannot imagine how it is legal for Doug to hold private documents over your head like this.

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    1. Thank you, Dash. And yes, we have our ducks in a row. ;-)

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  2. ((hugs)) I know you know this, but I'm right there with you, Sister. It feels so good to be free.

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  3. Excerpt: "Much as I would like to tell you I despised my abuser for the duration of the time I knew him and was being abused by him, it's simply not true. Frightening as it sounds, it's very common for victims of abuse, children and adults alike, to have a strong emotional attachment to their abuser, even after they've been severely hurt by them..."And what young teen girl doesn't experience emotions? It is absolutely insane for anyone to shift shame and blame onto Natalie or any other child sexually abused. This, to me, is the most reprehensible thing Doug Wilson has done and is still doing. The man should not be in the position of pastoring and if his organization (CREC) continues to allow him, I fear the judgement of God; I advise the members to run as fast and far away as they can.

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    1. Hi Angela, thanks for weighing in. I appreciate your input. I do believe some people are beginning to open their eyes.

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  4. Natalie,

    Thank you so much for your courage, your honesty, and your writing. People need to understand that abuse is not the victim's fault.

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  5. Thank you for sharing this, Natalie. Many church leaders have not handled this well, and Doug's crowd may not change, to the detriment of those he is meant to serve, yet others are watching who will learn, and this is encouraging many more to press on and to get educated. Thank you again for your willingness to persevere. Xx

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    1. Thanks so much for saying so, I really appreciate your support.

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  6. "Too many people believe that the blame of abuse must be shared and cannot rest on the shoulder's of one person alone, though so often that is precisely where it belongs."
    This is a very important statement and I want to support it. It reminds me of a man named, Norm Lee, a man who was severely abused as a child and almost killed. At a certain point as an adult with kids, he realized he had to make a decision, either to continue the ways visited on him as a child or put a stop to it and do something different. He wrote a wonderful book, Parenting without Punishing. I think it can be had on the net and is truly visionary. It lets the blame be where it belongs, on the perpetrator and thereby prevents abuse going on and on for generations. Doug Wilson and other punishers for God do not have any heart for this kind of caring.
    Thank-you for another strong, wise post, Natalie.

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    1. Hi Brian, thanks for weighing in. And thank you for the book suggestion, I'll be sure to look that up, it sounds like it's right up my alley.

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  7. Establishing and maintaining a healthy relationship was nearly impossible and felt like a constant uphill battle ~

    This is the thing that a lot of people don't understand. I thought I just wasn't cut out to be married.

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    1. Taunya, thank you for your input. I had a phase of life, while I was married, that I thought I was not meant to be married. Lots to work through, eh?

      Sending love and light your way.

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  8. I was so shunned by the "church" that thought they saved this evil man - I'm better off for it - it just confirmed why I didn't feel good in that church - Lord help them............and bless you for sharing - our stories are so important

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    1. Anonymous, thank you so much for your support.

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  9. I almost could have written this myself about my own experience, except I haven't quite learned how to put it into words just yet. I'm getting there, though, after hiding my abuse for 20 years. Thank you for your courage, energy, and time to write this. I know it wasn't easy.

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    1. Jennifer, thank you so much for your support and your kind words. I'm so very sorry that you have the pain of abuse in your past, no one deserves that.

      Sending love your way.

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  10. Cain killed Abel, and what had Abel done wrong? Nothing. God assigned ALL the blame to Cain. I agree, abuse can often be completely one sided.

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    1. Marshall, thanks for your input. I appreciate you weighing in.

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  11. Jennifer, you were not at fault for your abuse. All young people take responsibility for the harm that comes to them and if they have loving support, are able to know that they did nothing to be harmed and that the responsibility for that harm rests on the shoulders of the abuser(s). That you have hidden your abuse only means that it hurt you deeply and that you have not had caring hearts around you to hold that truth with you. You have probably had the shamer-blamers. Speak the truth about the harm you have known. Be free. You will have support. My very best wishes to you...

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  12. Thank you so much, Natalie, for bravely voicing the TRUTH about abuse. I saw on Twitter that you acknowledged the deep angst you go through every time you post something related to your abuse. I wish so bad this wasn't YOUR story but it is--and I am so very thankful you are willing to tell it. Your (and your family's) pain grieves me so much. I love seeing your beautiful young family--with such a loving healthy mom -- Amen for the healing that has and is taking place.

    I cannot for the life of me, figure out how people who support DW in this issue can reconcile that he did not advise and admonish Jamin to plead completely and totally GUILTY for what he did to you. Isn't that what Christ requires? That we come before him and are HONEST about our sin? NO MATTER THE CONSEQUENCES? DW loves to talk big when it comes to repentance but this is just so hypocritical.

    And, as far as the excuse Wilson women have given 'no one knew what to say to you'...(I remember when DW left a comment very similar to that on this very blog a few years ago!) WHAT IS THEIR EXCUSE FOR WHAT THEY HAVE SAID!?

    I pray for you and your family Natalie. And I thank God for your voice...Bless you sweet girl!

    Love,
    Mary

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    1. Hi Mary, thank you SO much for your kinds words and your support. You're the sweetest. I'm hopeful we will begin to see change.

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  13. I believe that he did admonish Jamin and did encourage his facing Court. What he did not do is support the victim and her family. He judged them, both the victim and those in her nuclear family. He chose to side with the one he could control and harm further: Jamin. Where is Jamin now and who is being harmed by the man? Does the church he attend deserve to know he is in their midst or does their pastor, a man like Doug Wilson, keep it from them like Wilson did because GOD.

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  14. Do not forget that this also applies to young boys, especially in the cases of homosexual abuse. I was homasexualy abused from the time I was 7 years old till shortly after I turned 10. It left me feeling tarnished and unworthy of the love of a young lady. I felt so vile in fact that when I was sixteen I tried to commit suicide, But God intervened and by His grace I am alive. I still have a lot of healing to do, but i know that though I have scars, God can still use me to reach and help others who are hurting.

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    1. Hi anonymous, you're absolutely right. This applies to any human, young boys included. I am so sorry you have the pain of abuse in your past. My heart hurts for you. No one ever deserves to feel unworthy of love and affection, let alone feel the need to take their own life. I am so glad you are still here, scars and all. Thank you for your input.

      To be abused and then to possess the desire to help other through your experience...that's the stuff of warriors.

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  15. Oh I'm so sorry- it definitely applies to young men abused both homosexually and heterosexually. I wish more men felt empowered to blog of their experience do other young men would feel free to come forward. This is a huge problem too.

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