Crawling INTO the Dark

Sure, I talk a good game — storming into the light, dragging my victorious truth with me, and all that.

It’s only half the story, though.

Actually, it’s not even half. Most of the story is about being blinded by false lights for most of my life. We’ve all seen them — the colorful, flashing, attractive distractions; a veritable carnival of demi-healing.

There are a lot of people offering “light” of some sort, and I’ve met them all, including — but not limited to — those I told, those who were in a position to protect me, and my abuser(s).

I even became one of those faulty light-bearers.

First, there were the soothing, progressive blues of denial, lit up by everyone around me:

“You must have misunderstood.”

“He’s not that bad; just ask him to stop.”

“I’m just showing you how special you are, and how much I appreciate you.”

“Maybe you’re exaggerating, Honey.”

“I just don’t think he’s capable of that.”

These blues continued into my adulthood, when I was told by a doctor to:

“Think of it not as childhood sexual abuse, but instead as being introduced to sex in a different way than the norm.”

I wanted the blues to last forever. They were cooling, and numbing to the pain. They were easier to believe than the truth.

The reds were violent; accusatory. They flashed with all the brilliance of a piercing strobe, accentuating every move, thought and decision I’d ever had or made.

“You’re sucking up the teacher so you don’t have to do your work.”

“You know you like this.”

“Look at how you dress — you’re practically begging for it.”

“What did you expect, hanging out with older boys?”

“How could you be so stupid?”

“No one will believe you.”

“He’s a nice guy… He’s not really like that. Why are you trying to get him in trouble?”

“You’re a slut, and everyone knows it.”

“You’re delusional.”

“You’re mentally ill.”

The reds hurt. Not only were they piercing, but they put the blame squarely on me… Where it “should” have been.

Over time, I created my own light shows. They were mostly purple, and a blend of the blues and reds I’d been retreating to.

“It wasn’t that bad, and other people have real problems.”

“Maybe I did send the wrong signal.”

“How could I have been so stupid?”

“Maybe I’m remembering it wrong.”

“I don’t deserve the ‘good’ thing. I know this isn’t healthy, but it’s what I’m worthy of.”

“It’s my fault, because I didn’t speak up.”

“It was terrible, and my body responded in a confusing way… I must be a deviant.”

“I’ll never be healed. I’ll always be messed up.”

“I’m a bad wife. The Bible tells me sex is a gift. There must be something wrong with me, if I can’t feel good about it.”

I developed lush green lights, too, which gave the appearance of growth, healing and power:

“If men are just going to use my body, I’ll show them… I’ll get what I need from them in exchange.”

“I’m liberated because I can see sex as a physical act, and not get emotionally caught up in it.”

“There is no one — no one — that is ‘safe.’ By not giving my heart, I’m protecting myself.”

“I can just pretend it never happened, and everything will be okay.”

The greens worked for a while. At least, I thought they did. In reality, they blended with the blues, reds and purples, and created a murky, suffocating brown.

Color is a funny thing… Did you know, if you could blend every color of paint together, the result would be black? We often think of black being absent of color, but in reality, it is all the world’s colors, combined.

Light is different, though.

If you combine light of every color, it actually produces WHITE light.

For me, that white light was very attractive. It meant freedom from darkness. However, what I failed to realize at the time was that the white light I was following was a blend of all the colored “light” lies I’d come to believe.

It wasn’t until I was able to scoot away from all those “pretty” lights — the distractions — that I was able to see the value of the dark.

Yes, I said the value of the dark.

In the dark, in the quiet stillness, there is clarity. In the darkest of places, it is easiest to see the light that fights to invade it.

Did the blue light-burners come for me? No. What about the red light-bearers? Nope… They were happy to see me retreat. Even the self-ignited purples and greens were swallowed by the darkness.

The only light that seeped in through the cracks was white — PURE white, not a combination of all those others. It stood alone, its own beautiful creation, and it didn’t subside.

I won’t deny it… It hurt, at first. Just as my eyes had begun to acclimate to the darkness, that tiny sliver of light was invasive, and threatened to blind me. I tried to turn away from it.

Still, the light persisted, even when I closed my eyes to it. It provided warmth when I moved toward it, and proof that something else existed, beyond my darkness.

As time passed, I grew to appreciate the constance of the illumination. It never ebbed, and didn’t abandon me. Eventually, I trusted it.

I trusted it enough to move forward, to claw my way out of the darkness, to scramble over every action and every event that I’d lived through, and to fight my way out.

I learned to ignore the flashing neon signs — in those old colors — that popped up along the way, threatening to stop me in my tracks.

I picked up speed, pressing onward, and the light grew.

With a thundering, mighty YAWP, I sprinted over the edge of the shadowy past, and into pure, brilliant, loving LIGHT.

I was safe and warm. My eyes were finally opened fully, and I didn’t go blind.

When I looked back, the dark was gone. The remnants of my past were still there, but illuminated, with glints of beauty marking each time I survived, each time I chose to live, instead of giving up.

God was my pure light. He came looking for me, when I huddled in the dark, and kept me warm, even when I closed my eyes to Him.

He remained constant, and His steadfast love allowed me to trust that there was more than the darkness.

For me, I had to crawl into the dark… Even if only to find the most beautiful of lights.

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Small Victories and the Battle Ahead

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I recently shared my story, with the intent to give others hope, and to give a voice to those who also suffered at the hands of my abuser, only to not be heard in the ways it mattered.

While some thought I should have “called out” the man who abused me, and others, I was protective in writing my story… Not to protect him, but to protect other victims.

You see, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) of Washington state made a grave error, twelve years ago.

When a teacher loses the legal right to teach in my state, that information is posted on the Disciplinary Actions page of OSPI’s website. That is a good practice, as far as I’m concerned, because it establishes, for the public, a record of that action.

Normally, as far as I can tell from looking at other disciplinary records, the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law are redacted to remove the names of minor victims before being attached to the Order of Revocation and posted to the website.

In my teacher’s case, the “normal” procedure wasn’t followed.

Instead, the full Findings and Conclusions were attached to the Order — including the FULL NAMES OF THE MINOR VICTIMS.

A Google search for my teacher’s name turned up, as the first result, that document, exposing the names of many (not all; just a select few, plucked from the investigative file) of his victims.

Dear Readers, I could not risk exposing these precious individuals to re-victimization or further pain by dragging their names into a public forum, for anyone who had access to the internet.

So, I played it vague, and contacted as many named victims as I could, letting them know my story had gone public, asking their forgiveness for not being strong enough to stand with them when I was asked to testify, and alerting them to the fact that their full names were out there, on the internet, associated with their victimization at this man’s hands.

One individual told me she was aware. She had, over the years, done internet searches for our abuser, trying to “keep tabs” on him, to learn whether he was still alive, whether he’d faced any consequences, whether he still had access to children… I understood her curiosity all too well. I, too, had attempted to learn as much as possible about him.

She’d seen the document, and shared more of her story with me, over the phone. I cried with her, and prayed with her.

Another individual was completely blindsided. Learning her name was on the internet as part of the Order of Revocation stirred up in her panic, alarm, fear, and a deep sense of betrayal.

She’d been promised by investigators that her testimony and name would never be made public, and it was a condition of her testifying.

Again, she had been failed by the very people who were supposed to protect her.

This woman was failed by her teacher (we all were), by fellow teachers who stood by and allowed — even enabled — his cruel behavior, and by the school administrators, who were — apparently — complicit in her abuse.

And then, OSPI — the “good guys” who swooped in to make sure he would never teach again — they failed her, too. They posted her name and story, in direct opposition to the promises she’d been made in exchange for her testimony.

I was outraged, with her, and for her.

I knew the fear associated with speaking out. In fact, my fear was so great that I had failed to do so.

So… She and I got on the phone with OSPI. We demanded the document be removed. We refused to listen to excuses about how it got there, how it was overlooked for twelve years, and how it remained unredacted, after all these years.

We didn’t play into the fishing expedition performed by the OSPI rep to find out how deep their liability might run. We dug our heels in, and demanded it be removed.

Finally, it came down.

If nothing else was gained by my story going public, I will take this small victory. No longer will the innocent risk re-victimization through being “advertised” as his victims.

Praise The Lord for this small — but necessary — battle victory!

So… I’m sure the question I will face next will be, “Will you name him, now?”

I don’t know. I can’t promise that I will. What I can promise is to pray about it.

I don’t want to confuse speaking out for the sake of the voiceless with my own personal revenge, or a misled crusade for justice.

I don’t want to lose the focus on the larger problem of sexual exploitation by targeting one man.

When, and if, I decide to name him, y’all will be among the first to know. My suspicion is that he has already read my story. If that is the case, I hope he becomes convicted before The Lord, and repents with sincerity.

I fight each day to not let resentment and hatred overrun my life. I’m not yet strong enough to forgive, though I know it’s critical to my healing.

Perhaps the largest battle — for me — lies ahead, as I fight my own heart to find the strength to forgive.

My Story: Part 3

(Continued from Part 2)

Two marriage licenses, bought and expired — that pretty much symbolized our relationship. We couldn’t quite make the commitment. We joked to others that it was time for us to get married, or never speak to one another again.

Finally, we did it. We got married in the meadow of a friend’s home, mostly because he’d purchased a ministerial license online from some “internet church.” Mr. Wright’s friends and cousins started a betting pool, wagering we wouldn’t last more than six months.

There’s something to be said for stubbornness, and Mr. Wright and I both had it, in spades.

With the help of my doctor and counselor, I eventually got off my meds, and for the first time in a long while, I was able to think and feel, fully and completely. It wasn’t always a good thing.

Mr. Wright got a job offer in my hometown, and I begged him not to take it. There were too many horrible memories waiting there for me, and I no longer had the support of my counselor.

We moved, anyway.

It was stressful, terrifying, chaotic, and welcoming. I took a volunteer position with the local library, became the local newspaper columnist, and began writing in earnest. I wrote poetry. I wrote a novel (which has yet to be published). I wrote for regional parenting magazines, and started my own parenting publication. My first book was published.

Longing for the sense of belonging and community I’d felt in the food ministry, I took my family to my hometown church. We walked in the door, and immediately walked back out when I had a full-blown panic attack. There, in the front row, was my childhood abuser. My teacher.

I contacted the pastor, and asked for a meeting. I told him he had a child molester in his church, and I wanted him to be aware, so that children would be safe. He asked me if I believed people could change in Christ.

Well, yeah. Sure. But… I felt my concerns were, once again, dismissed.

I threw myself into learning everything I could about my abuser. I traveled to the state Capitol, where I pulled the investigative report done by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). I reviewed the public Superior Court files surrounding the case. I even read his divorce file.

I wasn’t quite sure what to do with all the information, but I had to know. I needed confirmation that I wasn’t alone, and I didn’t “misunderstand.” Report upon report surfaced — many from people I knew, or who were schoolmates of mine. But there was one glaring absence — my story. I’d refused to testify, remember?

My obsession caused great distraction from my marriage and family. Mr. Wright and I argued frequently, and he seemed increasingly distant.

I didn’t know it at the time, but he was battling his own obsession.

Frustrated, confused and lonely, I welcomed an email from an old boyfriend. He, too, was a writer. We began communicating regularly, and my writing flourished. Just being “near” him sparked my creativity, and made me feel cherished in a way I wished my own relationship would.

I knew I was in the “danger zone,” but I arranged to meet him during a tri-state road trip I planned to visit my great-grandmother.

He greeted me with an embrace, and I welcomed it. Suddenly, I was years younger, living on poetry, and not the tired mommy of five kids with a husband who ignored her. I was wanted, and I wanted so badly to be wanted.

We drew physical boundaries, “out of respect for my marriage,” but we fantasized about me running away, getting married, and leaving behind the life I’d somehow found myself in. It didn’t fit me, I thought… I’d always be a messed up, broken, wild thing, and this creative soul was the only one who “got” me. Certainly, my inattentive husband didn’t. And, really, I didn’t deserve my kids… I’d only end up screwing them up with my anger and fear, anyway.

I lived that fantasy, make-believe dream for months, before it all came crashing down… I got caught.

Suddenly, Mr. Wright found a new distraction — my online activities. I was ashamed, angry and outraged. I denied what I could, admitted to only what he could prove, and asked him, “What did you expect, ignoring me the way you did?” (The similarity of that line to what I’d been asked when I was raped the first time was lost on me, at the time.)

I agreed to end communication with the writer, and fell into an even deeper depression. Mr. Wright said he wasn’t giving up on me, or our marriage, but I’d given up on myself.

I went through the motions of trying to be a better wife and mother, and when we agreed to foster a seven-month old baby girl, I found new focus for a while. She needed constant care, and due to her birth history, had issues that needed to be addressed.

I sought support in a charismatic women’s group. I enjoyed the worship services, and meeting new people, but when they reached out to me in friendship, I pulled away, always ready with an excuse to not meet for coffee or have a play date with the kids. I wasn’t ready to be a friend, and I knew if they learned how screwed up I was, they’d be horrified.

During the services, I vacillated between crying out for God to touch me, and throwing up my shield when I felt He was too close. To accept His love, I thought, would mean I’d have to change — let go of everything I knew about myself. Really, I wasn’t prepared to do that.

At one service, during an altar call, women were receiving the laying on of hands, and almost immediately falling, slain in the spirit. What a crock of theatrics, I thought.

Defiantly, I marched to the front of the sanctuary. Before the prayer leader placed her hands on me, she told me God had a plan for me, and I was going to become filled with His power and love. Yeah, right.

Then, she touched me. Suddenly, I was on the floor, trembling, and completely at peace outside my own body. In that moment, I saw myself, and I was safe, beautiful, and more powerful than I could have imagined. It was very real, very intense, and completely terrifying.

I wasn’t ready. You, Dear Reader, might think this was the moment it all turned around for me; the moment I was washed clean, picked myself up, and started to live the life God intended for me.

Have I mentioned the stubbornness? Don’t underestimate my propensity for it.

When the moment passed, I picked myself up, gained my composure, and said to God, “Nice try.” Yep. I said that.

I stopped attending the women’s fellowship meeting.

By that time, we’d taken in another baby — the sister of our foster daughter. Even though I delighted in those two precious babies, I remained depressed, and the daily struggles associated with getting them both the help they needed weighed especially heavily on me — even more so, with Mr. Wright spending unusually long hours at his office.

I wish I could honestly say I was blindsided by my discovery of his addiction, but it would be a lie. There were signs, all along, but I “accepted” the flimsy excuses offered — and by “accepted,” I mean I heard them, saw them for what they were, and filed them in my “resentment box.”

That box got pretty full. Then, it overflowed.

I’d learned to become a master at amateur web-sleuthing — probably through going to such great pains to hide my own online activity. Finally, I’d seen and had enough.

The confrontation wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was nightmarish. I’d never be able to trust him again, I just knew it.

With my personal history, I couldn’t think of a worse addiction for my husband to fall prey to. It was very, very personal, and I couldn’t hear or contemplate what he tried to share with me about how he arrived there… All I could hear was my own voice, making it all about how it affected me.

I never wanted him to touch me again. I never wanted him to speak to me again. I never wanted him to tell me he loved me again. How could he?

We lived in a stalemate state — both of us angry at what the other had put us through, both of us sickened at our own actions, both of us staying on our own sides of the invisible line between us. During that time, I could have left him, and never looked back.

But, I stayed. I was stubborn. I wasn’t going to be the one who walked away! If he was so miserable, I’d show him — I’d make him more miserable, until he left me.

He didn’t. He was just as stubborn as I. (And, somewhere in that, is a lesson on how God really does have a sense of humor in giving us what we need, and not necessarily what we want. If it had been any less stubborn a man than Mr. Wright, I’d be twice-divorced!)

I don’t remember who broke through the invisible line first (my money is on my husband — he’s more sentimental than I am), but one day, one of us made a small peace offering.

We began by becoming accountable to one another. All passwords, accounts, usernames, and full access to anything and everything were handed over. We developed guidelines for our relationship, and created rules for keeping it safe from temptation.

Mr. Wright confessed his addiction to a trusted friend; a Christian man who had mentored my husband.

We began praying, together and separately. Personally, I prayed — and continue to — that God would help me feel safe and cherished during intimacy with my husband, and stop allowing sex to be a trigger for me.

Finally, one day, I woke up and realized I was no longer afraid. The fear of myself and my past, which had lorded over me and directed my every thought for so long, was silent.

I was safe.

More than that, I was clean. Really, deep-down clean… Everything that I was before — the entire prologue of my life — had faded into a watermark of a memory that reminded me where I had been, but had no bearing on who I was, or who I am.

See, God and I didn’t have a big, monumental meeting of the minds… Instead, after I rejected so many of His “hit ya over the head” overtures, He healed me in a way I couldn’t protest.

He healed me behind my own back, and in spite of myself.

Today, I know I’m special. I know I’m wanted. I know I’m loved, because I can feel it.

As it turns out, the key to love wasn’t giving up my body. It was giving up my heart, and allowing myself to be loved.

And, finally, I am telling the story I couldn’t tell my senior year of high school. Maybe, I couldn’t tell it then, because it wasn’t finished.

It still isn’t! However, now is the time to tell it, up to today, because I finally have a voice, and I’m using it to cry out for comfort and healing for others.

You are not alone. And, looking back, I can see I wasn’t alone in those darkest moments of my life. God was with me, keeping my head above the surface of everything that threatened to drown me. It almost did.

He brought me through it, so I can speak to you today, and affirm these truths to you:

You are precious, and meant to be cherished. There is no stain that God’s love can’t remove. You are His beloved child — the son or daughter of the King of Kings! You, Dear Reader, are ROYALTY. Hold your head high, and march against your captors, abusers and fears, because they will be struck down by TRUTH.

Don’t be afraid to speak out, and keep speaking, until you find someone to LISTEN.

My Story: Part 2

(Continued from Part 1)

I dropped out of college, moved home, and reconciled with the Good Guy. He was stationed in-state, so I moved to be near him. I didn’t have a place to stay, so I crashed in his room in the barracks, which was totally against the rules.

I found out I was pregnant, then suffered a miscarriage. It was early, and I didn’t need medical attention, but weeks went by and my pregnancy symptoms didn’t subside. I was still pregnant, with the surviving fetus of what had been twins.

Suddenly, I realized life was bigger than me. I began eating — actually eating. I agreed to a quick marriage, and set my mind to being a wife and mother. My son was born healthy, and for a while, things settled down. We got an apartment. I became a military wife. On the surface, life was good…

…but my mind was a mess. I wouldn’t be diagnosed for years, but my trauma had manifested in bi-polar disorder. I felt attacked and unsafe all the time. I didn’t trust my husband to be faithful, and I didn’t trust myself to be, either.

The breakup and following divorce was painful, and a legal mess. Back in my hometown, I took a job managing a bar, and sought help — any help — for what seemed, to me, to be a life spiraling into a hopeless void.

I joined Alcoholics Anonymous, because it was the only support group I could find. I figured I had a big problem, and drinking certainly wouldn’t help, so… I quit. I was sober for over two years, but nothing really changed.

I created relationships with addicts. I had indifferent sex with indifferent partners. I had desperate sex with indifferent partners. I told my AA sponsor, who put me on a “sex fast” that forbid me from having sex until I got my head straight, that all I really wanted was someone who still believed in love, and who believed that the fairy tale of happily-ever-after could still happen. I wanted someone to see me for the broken, hopeless person I was, and love me all the same.

Impossible.

Ten days later, I met Mr. Wright.

For me, it wasn’t one of those “love at first sight” stories people hear about. It was more like a romantic comedy moment — one in which the heroine is completely put off my her would-be wooer, but he is sure he’s going to get the girl, eventually.

We met at the bar I was managing. It was my night off, and I was sitting at the counter, working on inventory and the schedule. He walked in, sat down next to me, and proceeded to talk to everyone but me for 15 minutes. He even leaned across me, to talk to people on the other side.

Who did he think he was?! I wasn’t used to being ignored, especially by men, and he had the gall to come in, sit down, and ignore me?

Finally, he said, “Oh… And who are you?” He touched my arm when he said it, and for some reason, I didn’t flinch.

“Who am I? Who am I?” I echoed. “I’m Christina-Marie. This is my bar. These are my people,” I said, indicating my friends and coworkers, “and that’s my spotlight you’re warming your a** on. Who the hell do you think YOU are?”

With a smooth, but boyish, smile, he said, “Me? I’m Mr. Right.”

“Really? Let me tell you,” I said, “I’ve been in this business for far too long. I’ve heard all the lousy pickup lines, and Honey, you need new material.”

Then, he handed me his business card. Oh… The “W” was silent.

I told him to get lost, and he protested, saying I couldn’t scare him away — he’d been married. He’d been in the trenches, he said. He could take whatever I could dish out, and come back for more.

It may surprise you to know, Dear Reader, that I did not melt into his arms at that moment. Rather, I engaged him in a several-hours-long diatribe on what a farce love and marriage was, how monogamy didn’t exist, and how tired I was of the whole thing.

He looked into my eyes and said, “I see your heart. I can tell you’ve been hurt, deeply. What you need is someone to tell you it’s okay to still believe in love, and to show you the fairy tale can still happen.”

Hmmm… Where had I heard that before? God sometimes has to put a billboard directly in front of your face, rather than a subtle sign.

Wasn’t that what I said I wanted? Wasn’t that all I was waiting for? Of all the “gin joints in all the world,” why did this man walk into mine?

God and I weren’t exactly on speaking terms at that point in my life, so I chalked it up to coincidence. The man in front of me wasn’t running away, despite my best efforts, and he was attractive.

It’s said water seeks its own level, and in the story of Mr. Wright and Christina-Marie, that was certainly true. I was angry, with a broken spirit, and a reckless soul. He was coming out of a divorce and battling his own demons, and was my mirror image.

Our relationship progressed rapidly, physically, and chaotically. Before long, we were living together, three hours away from my hometown, with our cumulative five kids, and for every good day, there were four bad ones.

We had relationships with other people, fought constantly, and I was becoming more and more disturbed by sex — I was acting out sexually, but it was like I was outside my own body.

Again, I didn’t know it, but I was suffering bi-polar disorder, and I was dissociating on a very scary level.

I was hearing things that weren’t there, was highly paranoid, and literally saw demons hovering over my bed when I tried to sleep. Sex became a violent memory I was acting out, and I was losing control.

While on a business trip with Mr. Wright, my itinerary got rearranged, and I ended up with a flight several hours after his. I ventured into the city for a bite to eat, and found a small bistro. There was a street concert going on a block away, and the bistro was packed.

The hostess told me, if I didn’t mind sitting at a table with other people, she could seat me in the courtyard. I agreed. Of all the things I remember about that day, the most clear is Third Eye Blind performing “Jumper.”

I was seated at a small table with two men, who told me they were in town for a pharmaceutical conference. I ordered a small appetizer, and a cup of coffee. The bill that would show up on my debit card later was $12.00, which would become pertinent, only because I would later be asked if I’d consumed several alcoholic drinks. I hadn’t.

At one point, I got up to use the restroom, and returned to the table, where the two men were still seated. As I sat back down, I saw my coffee had been refilled. It was the middle of the afternoon, and the last thing I would see for several hours.

The brief flashes of memory I have include being pushed into a cab in the dark, and a male voice instructing the driver to take me to the train station, because I needed to catch a train to the airport. Then, nothing, for over an hour.

I woke up instead in a hospital. The police had been called by the cab driver.

I’d been drugged.

The “date rape” drug was something I’d read about in the news, but it never occurred to me to be afraid of it. After all, I wasn’t a college student.

I answered questions to the best of my ability about the men, but aside from first names, I was at a loss. I was told I’d been picked up at a hotel. To this day, I have no idea what happened.

Eventually, I suffered a complete breakdown, which resulted in messy legalities. It was a blessing, though, because I was finally diagnosed, and found a supportive counselor who let me talk it all out at my own pace. At first, I could only vocalize how angry I was, but bit by bit, I began to talk about how afraid I was, and how scared.

For the first time in my life, I was on medication, and it was helping. Sort of. I never could feel quite “right” when I was on meds, but I was able to function more or less normally, on the outside, and my legal issues were dismissed following a few months of therapy.

Mr. Wright and I began helping in a ministry, feeding the needy. We met a kind and compassionate pastor who headed the ministry, and didn’t ask any questions about our relationship, but always referred to us as if we were married.

To tell the truth, it felt a bit hypocritical, working in a ministry, but living together and having sex when we weren’t married — especially when we began to be more actively involved in God’s work. Finally, I spoke up.

I told the pastor we weren’t married, and he confessed he’d figured it out, but had been waiting for us to come to him. He suggested — for spiritual health and to demonstrate obedience to God — we should stop having sex, and one of us should move out, until we were ready to get married.

No problem, we said. Except… We couldn’t afford to live separately. And, I didn’t know how to have a non-sexual relationship.

I’d never had one. Never.

A short time later, during a prayer meeting at the food ministry, I received the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Afterward, I cried… Not because I was filled with joy, and not because I was cleansed or enlightened, but because I didn’t want it .

While I loved the fellowship of the ministry, I really hadn’t settled my arguments with God, and I wouldn’t, until years later.

Where was God when I was molested? Where was God when I was raped? Where was God when the demons hovered over my bed, threatening to suffocate me?

I’d read that famous Christian prose, Footprints, and shake my head in disbelief. Certainly, God hadn’t carried me through my most difficult moments. I’d been alone, then. Completely alone.

(Continued in Part 3)

My Story: Part 1

It began with grooming. At the time, I didn’t know what grooming was, nor did I know how to recognize or label it, but it was things like pastries and other treats delivered to me that the other kids in my class didn’t receive. It was school work I didn’t have to do, because I was “special.”

I was so special, in fact, that I was trusted with tasks like typing up lesson plans, and correcting the tests and quizzes of my fellow students, while my teacher stood over me, rubbed my shoulders, and checked my progress.

I don’t remember, precisely, the first time his hand “slipped” to touch my breast, but I know it began happening regularly. I don’t remember, precisely, the first time he touched my thigh as I stood beside him behind his expansive desk, but I know it began happening regularly.

I was 10 years old, and my abuser was my teacher.

What I do remember precisely was what he said to me, following a conversation with my enraged mother. “I never meant to make you feel uncomfortable. I only meant to show you how much I appreciate you.”

The touching didn’t stop, and I began to question why I’d even told anyone. It hadn’t made a difference, only made me doubt what was actually happening. Maybe, after all, I’d misunderstood. I was just a kid.

I survived the school year, and moved up with a shattered concept of my body. I didn’t want it to mature. I didn’t want to develop breasts and hips, because I didn’t want to be attractive to men. I didn’t want it to happen again.

The first day of seventh grade, a kind teacher gave me the nickname “Tiny,” because I was the smallest kid in our class. I regularly deprived myself of food, read stories of anorexia survivors like primers (Wow, she got by on 50 calories a day? I can do that!), and ran. I ran, and ran, and ran, and ran… miles a day.

My body stayed, essentially, ten years old. I was, indeed, tiny, and it was a matter of control. I couldn’t control what happened to me. I couldn’t control what people around me did. I couldn’t control how my body acted and responded to stimuli, but… I could control how my body looked, and I took it to the extreme.

By the time I was 14, I was emotionally out of control. I had so much anger and resentment inside me, I lashed out at everyone — mostly, myself.

There was guilt, and shame. A lot of it. See, at ten years old, I didn’t know enough to know that we humans are created to be sexual, and to crave intimacy. I didn’t know that the body wants to be touched in healthy, positive ways, and that it can all get crazy-confused when the touch isn’t healthy. I hated my body for how it betrayed me.

I hated my mind for liking the attention I’d received. I’d been told I was “special,” and I so wanted to be! I began looking for that attention in negative ways — namely, from older boys and men.

When I was a young teen, I attended a house party. There was a lot of drinking going on, but I knew a few people, so I felt safe to cut loose a bit. Okay, a lot. I drank too much, and ended up a hot mess. A male acquaintance noticed my state, and took my by the arm.

“You need to lie down,” he said. He led me to the back of his truck, which he’d outfitted with a canopy and mattress for a recent camping trip. I managed my way into the truck, thankful for a place to put my head down so the world would stop spinning.

The spinning didn’t stop.

Suddenly, I was fighting off my “friend,” who was undressing me. I kept pushing him away, and telling him, “No,” but he didn’t stop. I don’t know how long the rape would have continued, had it not been for my friend, “Jay,” opening the back of the truck. He’d been looking for me.

Jay walked me home that night, and he cried with me.

Months later, when I found the courage to tell someone, that person asked me, “What do you expect, when you’re drinking with older boys? How could you put yourself in that situation?”

More shame bombarded me. What did I expect, indeed? What did it matter?

I began acting out in more destructive ways. I became “that girl” — the one that popular guys partied with on the weekends, then ignored or made fun of on Monday in front of their friends.

My senior year of high school, I was pulled aside by an administrative investigator. They were investigating my old teacher, and one of the witnesses had shared that I was a victim, too. They wanted me to tell my story.

I told them I didn’t know anything; there was nothing to share. I didn’t want to relive it, so I lied. As it turns out, there were many victims, between 1977 and 1991. His certificate to teach was revoked, but he never faced criminal charges. Today, he lives in my hometown, does not have to register as a sex offender, and is free to have contact with children.

My risky behavior continued through my teen years. I met and spent time with older men who visited my hometown — a resort community — only to find out later they were married, and I was a throwaway fling.

Through all of it, I was desperate for love. I just wanted someone to love me and cherish me, to tell me I was truly special, and I didn’t know how to go about that without giving carte blanche access to my body.

I just wanted them to love me.

There was a guy who did love me. I met him my junior year of high school, and we began dating. He was kind, considerate, compassionate, and didn’t judge me — a Good Guy. He taught me to drive, told me I was pretty, and put up with me when I had angry, emotional outbursts for seemingly no reason. He missed my high school graduation, because he was in Basic Training, but we’d promised to stay together, even though I was going halfway across the country to college, and he had no idea where he would be stationed.

We tried to make it work, but deep down, I felt I didn’t deserve him. I knew he would leave me. Who wouldn’t? I was so broken, used and dirty. He wouldn’t love me, if he really knew. All those fears led me to continue my self-destructive behaviors.

At college, I was raped again, under almost the exact same circumstances as the incident when I was 14. This time, in my head, I didn’t call it “rape.” I called it “a bad night of drinking.” I’d begun minimizing the act, in my own head.

(Continued in Part 2)