Throughout the eight years that I have been blogging, I have shared snippets of my life nestled in posts about faith, hope, and what the Lord has taught me over the years. Then, this spring, I encountered a young woman crying outside of a Big Box store (week 14) that changed the direction of my current blogging. She told me of a recent rape and of the haunting fear she had that the world was falling apart (judging by the nightly news, who could blame her). We spoke, we prayed, and when her dad arrived to pick her up I gave her my phone number and referred her to my blog so that she could read through my story and be encouraged that while some terrible things also happened to me, they did not define me. Neither did her experiences have to define her … God was big enough to walk her through this season and bring her out safely on the other side.
But upon returning home and browsing through some of my older posts, it occurred to me that I’d never really shared my whole story, but rather just bits and pieces. And so starting in week 20, I began writing a chronological summary of my testimony and transformation. Here we are … 9 weeks in and hopefully only a few more weeks to go. Yet before I pick up the story where I left off in 1984, I need to add a few disclaimers:
• Out of respect for the privacy of other people involved (including siblings, children and grandchildren) I am being very selective about what scenes and details are included. Some things just don’t need to be memorialized in writing, but are better shared over a cup of coffee in a spirit led conversation.
• Furthermore, I am trying not to involve family members to any significant degree. Again, some things just don’t need to be memorialized, especially if sharing them would bring discomfort or embarrassment to people that I love. My family members have their own stories to tell, their own testimonies to share. Rather, I am trying to focus on my portion of the events that took place and document my testimony of transformation and healing.
• Finally, I have spent a lot of emotional energy distancing myself from these events. Or more truthfully, releasing and forgetting them. As I have sought to reconstruct details and timelines, I’ve thrilled to discover that my memories are a little blurry. Isn’t that amazing! There was a time when these events were hard-seared in my mind and psyche … and now I’m having difficulty remembering details and timelines! What a gracious and kind God I serve! How grand is His love for me! How immeasurable His ability to go into the deepest places of soul and spirit, identify unhealthy growths of sin and shame, and remove them with the skill of a surgeon!
So with that understanding, I shall continue…..
It was 1984, I was 24, on my 2nd marriage and raising three step-children, and pregnant with my first child. My precious daughter was born that May, and she was to me the most amazing miracle I’d ever experienced. Still is!
For the most part, I was happy. The happiest I can ever recall being, because I finally had a family of my own and someone who would love me forever and always. By this time, “T” and the kids were attending church with me, I was actually leading worship at our little Baptist church (yup, they were desperate!), and my oldest two step-kids had accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. It felt like my deepest prayers had been answered, and while there were some issues … for the most part, I was happy.
Now is where things really start getting kind of fuzzy for me. For it was shortly after the birth of my oldest daughter that my world really turned upside down, and then started spiraling downward. Try as I might, I can’t quite recall the order of events … rather the next few years just sort of clump together in what I will call the pre -“SHE” period
I was not enough
• After the birth of my daughter, we scraped up the money for “T” to fly to South America for a few weeks to visit family. Shortly after he returned, he started pressuring me that we needed to get a Nanny to help with the house and kids. I refused, but that did not stop him from continuing to bring it up on a regular basis with increasing intensity each time.
• We started arguing more. He was super focused on physical fitness and appearance and was always criticizing me because I had put on so much baby weight and didn’t loose it quickly. Of course, I resented being objectified and so the more he criticized me, the more I pushed back. And pushing back against “T” usually didn’t end well, so over time I relented and traded going to church on Sundays with workouts and family soccer games to stay fit. God knew my heart, surely He would understand … especially because it seemed necessary to keep my husband happy and our marriage peaceful.
The family secret revealed
• It was late 1984 or perhaps early 1985 that my dad had been rushed into the ER to try to repair a ruptured aorta. With a very low probably of pulling through, my mom and siblings gathered at the hospital to await the news. Miraculously, he made it! But while in ICU over the next few days, one of my sisters refused to visit him. This really bothered me, and I told her so. That’s when she told my mom about the abuse she had suffered at the hands of my dad as a young girl. That conversation led my mom to talk to my other two sisters, who both told a similar story. Then they asked me…. had dad every approached me sexually? Of course not! (I had the perfect childhood. Remember?)
The ugly side of “T”
• A subtle threat of violence:
o One evening while telling me how frustrated he was with the maneuvering of the mother of his youngest child, he made a comment about arranging for her to have an accident. [Lesson: don’t mess with “T”, he can be dangerous]
o He was relentless when he wanted something. I don’t remember what we were fighting about, but I remember being in our bedroom, and he backed me up against the wall, got about 3 inches from my face with one hand on either side of my head, and yelled on and on and on. I remember trying to get away, managing to get the door opened part way, and with fingers holding onto the door frame and trying to pull myself out while screaming “let me go, let me go” (as if one of the kids might come to save me??). It was pointless … he was stronger and wouldn’t let me go. Eventually, you just had to agree with “T” or it would never end. [Lesson: don’t mess with “T”, he is relentless]
• Integrity is not a virtue:
o I think it might have been after “the secret” came out, but I could be wrong. Anyways, he began to challenge and mock me about my integrity. “I bet you’d even turn in your own brother if he robbed a bank.” (Yes, I think I would … because it’s against the law.). “I bet you’d even turn in me if I broke the law.” (Yes, if you broke the law, I probably would … because you broke the law). The implication was that my adherence to the law was somehow disloyal to family, and as a result I was in the wrong. Family was supposed to trump everything, even the law.
• It’s just sex
o Somewhere along the line, I don’t exactly recall where/when, he began pestering/pressuring me about giving him permission to have sex with whomever he wanted. His logic was simple: It was ME that he loved, but if I couldn’t satisfy him sexually, he wanted me to give my blessing to his finding sexual fulfillment elsewhere. Of course, I refused. If he truly loved me, he would only want to have sex with me. But on and on and on and on he went. Weeks. Months. And again, when “T” wants something, he is relentless. To my utter shame, eventually I agreed on the following stipulations:
1) I would NEVER know about it.
2) It must be far away, to ensure my children/family would NEVER know about it.
3) He would give me the “ILLUSION” of a happy marriage.
(What a load of crap!)
o While my family was torn apart by the revelation of incest, “T” didn’t seem all that terribly bothered by it. In fact, I remember his commenting once that “Some people would consider it a kindness for a father to teach his daughter about how to be with a man. That it would be better if her first experience was with her dad” and so on. This was fairly soon after the revelation, and I remember yelling “That’s disgusting! Don’t you ever say anything like that again to me! Ever!” He didn’t … but between the subtle and not-so-subtle threats of violence, the shaming for not putting family over lawfulness, the forced permission to let him have sex with whomever he wanted, and now this … What had I gotten myself into?!?!?!
Just bullet points, but I think you can begin to get a feel for what my life and marriage looked like during this season.
It saddens me to look back and see that I had utterly and completely given “T” the power to determine my value as a human being … instead of taking my self worth and value from the God who created me.
I would like to tell you this was the worst of it, but it would be another 4 or so years before I hit rock bottom and left.
But in the mean time, God used the blessings of my two little girls to begin teaching me about His love for me and slowly reshaping my perception of who He is. I’ll write more of that and continue on in my next post.
Have you ever given (knowingly or unknowingly) another person the power to determine your value/worth? I’d love to hear a little of your story.
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