Tag Archives: molestation

Going Public | My Raw Thoughts About Making My Abuse Known

The day after I remembered my abuse, I went to a police station to give a statement. I knew nothing about the process I was starting. I sat across from strangers. Officers and Detectives I had seen at parades and events around town and on Facebook. But I didn’t know them. 

I nursed Bess and asked them if I could close my eyes during the retelling, because I was embarrassed. They were wonderful. And I left feeling a newfound freedom. They had believed me. For a decade as a child and teenager, my father had always told me the police wouldn’t believe me. He was wrong. 

During those early months of the investigation in two states, I wasn’t allowed to say much. We didn’t want him to run away before a District Attorney could do her job. So I pretended like nothing had happened. Only a very small group of people knew what was going on. Even know, many details are just not discussed. But I worked tirelessly with two departments to help them get whatever they needed. I completed a timeline where I tried to remember (and give detail) about every instance of abuse in my life. It was hell. But I kept going, because I was determined to do everything in my power to get him imprisoned. 

People often ask me why I fought so hard to get him incarcerated. Why I felt the urgency to go public after the trial. Why I didn’t just go to therapy, get over my issues, and move on with my life? Silently. 

The answer is pretty simple. I didn’t want him hurting anyone else. I’m not his only victim. And I can’t go back in time to the first time he abused me and make it right. Get him arrested and incarcerated all those years ago. Save all those other people from him. But I can help others now.

By going to the police, his crimes were out in the open. When I sat in that first interview, I had no idea if he would still get prison time after all these years. Statutes of limitations are tricky things. But I knew keeping quiet gave him the power to keep doing what he was doing. And, like most predators, he was getting “better” at it. I knew that I couldn’t sit around when he was most likely grooming and abusing new victims. 

Some people, who are no longer part of my life, said I should’ve just let it go. It was so long ago. What did it matter now? I responded that it mattered to me. I was worth it. And it mattered to all the people he wouldn’t get to abuse because I was speaking up. They were worth it. 

He stated in a report that he was going to move back to my area after he was done serving his sentence. So when I had been on the fence about how much I was going to share publicly, that was the catalyst for going to the blog. I wanted as many local people as possible to know what he had done. What he was capable of. If he thinks he’s moving back here, that’s fine. But thousands of people know the truth. Tens of thousands of people have read and shared these posts, which will make it harder for him to abuse the next person. 

Going public was not just part of my healing process. It was my way of saying, “You aren’t fooling anyone.” Just recently, someone stopped me to say she had appreciated him as a pastor and wanted to know how he was doing. “Well, he’s in prison for being a child molester.” Her face was shocked. “How do you know it’s true?” “Because I was one of the children. And he had multiple affairs, stole all my mom’s money, then tried to kill himself to cover everything up.” Then I walked away. One more person who knew the truth. I want this area saturated with people who know. I want him to be recognized for what he is. Not what he says he is. 

Some accused me of being bitter. I’m not bitter. I’m smart. I know that predators are less likely to strike again when they can’t hide behind the facades. Blame it on being the oldest child, but I feel a duty to protect others. And I’m using my tiny corner of the internet to do it. And I’ll keep using it. Because I’m in the minority. Most people who are abused will never tell anyone. Never go to the police. Never go public. 

But maybe one person will read my posts and take that first step to say, “I’m worth it. And I can help stop this person from hurting others.” I was victimized long enough. I’m now a survivor. That freedom is worth every moment of hell it took to get here. And it started with a trip to a small police station in the middle of America. Where a scared-out-of-her-mind woman nursed a baby girl, while simultaneously protecting her from the grandfather she will never know. 

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I Was Almost A Runaway

“Mom, I’m gonna rollerblade at the park.”
“Ok. What’s in the bag?”
“Some books and snacks. I’ll just hang out there. The kids are being so loud today.”
“Ok. Be home for dinner. Love you.”
“Love you, too.”

I lied by omission. My bag had books, two peanut butter sandwiches, a thermos of water, three ponytail holders, toilet paper, a change of clothes, and a pair of shoes.

I was running away from home.

But I decided I should actually go to the park for a bit, figure out how I was going to run away with $12. My friends lived in a different city. There was no way to rollerblade all the way there. I only knew how to get there by the highways.

I thought about hitchhiking, but it seemed unlikely that anyone would pick up a pretty 12-year-old girl. They would just call the police. I wanted to actually go to the police myself, but it was out of the realm of possibilities. Too many threats had been made about what would happen if I went to the police.

I spent 4 hours brainstorming, and then decided to just eat my sandwiches and go home. It was a silly idea anyway. If I could’ve gotten to the Daniels’ house, they would’ve called my mom. I was sure of it. And my dad would’ve picked me up. So I was almost a runaway, but failed before the starting pistol even went off.

I didn’t remember until Dave was reading a book aloud to me, and the main character was talking about when she ran away from home as a kid. “Dave, I almost ran away from home. I was packed and everything. I just remembered it. But I was too scared to do it. Thought no one would believe me about the abuse and things would just be worse when I was returned home.” It’s crazy how the suppressed memories return with no warning. No control over them.

I see runaways in the news everyday. Parents begging for help. In some cases, the kid doesn’t like the rules. Wants a later curfew. Wants a boyfriend. Is just immature.

But in so many other cases, that kid is trying to get away from hell. But she doesn’t know what to do. He doesn’t have the tools he needs to communicate his pain. They have been lied to so much about how the police won’t help them. So they run. And I just pray that investigations take place when those kids are returned home. Do they have a stable family? Or do people just think they do? Are they being dropped off on a porch, to an adult who is verbally, physically, emotionally, and sexually abusive?

Several times a week, I see these runaways on the news. And I pray, “God, please let them be found by the right people. Please let the right officers find them. Please let them end up somewhere safe. If that’s home, great. If it’s not, I pray they get the help they need.”

Because I didn’t. And I had to eat dinner, even though I wasn’t hungry. I had just scarfed down two peanut butter sandwiches I couldn’t explain to my mom. The most threats were actually about telling her. And I believed every single one my dad told me.

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“At Least You Weren’t Raped”

Warning: may contain triggers for sexual abuse survivors

It’s been two years since I heard the first of many people say, “At least you weren’t raped.” It was a huge blow to my soul. I wasn’t trying to win the award for worst abuse, but having my experience lessened was painful. Almost a decade of sexual abuse. Three decades of spiritual/emotional/verbal abuse. I think most of them had their hearts in the right place, but “At least you weren’t raped” sent me the message that my pain and experience weren’t valid.

Sometimes, we don’t know what to say. So we go to extremes. We fill empty spaces with words that do more harm than good. I am reluctant to even share the things that shouldn’t have been said to me about my experience, because I don’t want this to become 14 Things You Shouldn’t Say To A Sexual Abuse Survivor.

But maybe it does need to be out there? Maybe we do need to talk about the things we shouldn’t say. Many times, what is meant to fill awkward silences morphs into incorrect statements. We go past awkward “at least” comments to outright hurtful. Just forgive and forget and move on. Our culture often tries to minimize abuse. We see this leveling in media and the justice system almost daily.

“He’s done so much good, does he really need to go to prison now?”
“It happened so long ago, does it really matter now?”
“People will think badly of Jesus because of this. Can’t you just keep it quiet?”
“I forgave my abuser, so I didn’t need to press charges.”
“Maybe if you were healthier, you wouldn’t feel like you needed him to serve time in prison.”
“Are you sure it actually happened?”
“Was it just an accident?”
“Was it just one time? No one should have his life ruined for one time.”
“Were you just dreaming?”
“Sexual addiction isn’t a crime. He just needs help.”
“Why didn’t you tell anyone before?”
“How could you not remember it before now?”
“I hope you don’t become one of those people who talks about it. It makes people uncomfortable.”

I never really had answers for these things. I often just walked away, deleted the text, unfriended the person on Facebook. As I become more secure in the fact that I did the right thing, it’s easier to give an answer. A rebuttal. I’m slowly moving from victim to victor.

Yes, I heard things I shouldn’t have heard. I was the recipient of rants and soapboxes. But, for the most part, I was met with love. And the list of amazing things family, friends, and strangers said could fill ten posts. Here are some of my favorites.

“I’m praying for your healing.”
“Your bravery will help others.”
“I have no idea what to say. But I love you.”
“I had the same thing happen. Thank you for going public.”
“It gets easier. The nightmares fade over time.”
“Don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t worth it. If it had happened only one time, that’s enough.”
“You’re not alone.”
“If you need someone to scream the f-word with, just call me.”
“I can’t even imagine. Just know that I love you.”
“Thinking of you during the hearings.”
“Don’t listen to the crazy things people will say. This is a crime.”

Friends brought Sonic drinks, Starbucks, and hugs. Texted me Scripture. Simply said, “Love you, sister.” We don’t always need to fill the silence. Sometimes the Holy Spirit speaks through us. But sometimes we just need to be there. And if you’re in the position of being in a relationship with a person who was abused…pretty likely, since it’s 1 in 5 females and 1 in 8 males…err on the side of ridiculously extravagant grace and some silence. Or a simple “I’m here for you.”

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The Memory Game

Warning: this post may contain triggers for sexual abuse survivors.

“What do you do with all the good memories of your dad? That would be weird.”

Someone asked me this after hearing about my story. Or at least the parts I’ve shared. It’s actually an easy answer.

There aren’t any good memories of him anymore.

Everything was a sham. He was a fraud. I have no good memories of my dad anymore, because all the things I thought were good, well, they were lies.

When I was little, he got rid of our tv and we played games every night. It used to be a fun memory. Family Time. But now, I see it for what it really was: grooming.

That’s a word I didn’t even know before I remembered my abuse and heard a detective use it. And then I started to realize how much of my childhood was a chapter from a textbook.

We acted out plays of Bible stories. Under big sheet tents and forts in our living room. He would tell me what to say and do, paraphrasing the Bible, and we would all laugh and eat popcorn.

Fast forward a few years, and very different things were happening under those sheet tents.

But he had groomed me. That horrible word with an even more horrible meaning.

And I had learned that he was in charge. And I couldn’t question, because I wasn’t the one holding the children’s storybook Bible and calling all the shots. He no longer had the Bible, but it didn’t matter. He was still in control.

He had already had two affairs when he got rid of our tv. Of course we didn’t know that. We thought we were a happy, healthy family. I remember him telling my mom that the tv was just a distraction from family time, and we needed to spend more time learning about God and having fun together.

All of it was a lie.

He controlled me for decades. But it all started with little things. And sexual abuse often starts with spiritual abuse.

And taking away your daughter’s Mister Roger’s Neighborhood so you can be the center of all the attention and the sole provider of entertainment in your household is messed up.

In college, it was still a great memory. I shared it in a Comp class. This really gorgeous guy who sat a few chairs down said, “That sounds like crazy shit. What the hell was he trying to do playing with all those sheets all the time? I woulda run away fast.”

I was so embarrassed, but came to my dad’s defense. Because I was a good daughter and he was a great dad. I stood up for him.

If only I could’ve remembered then. And I wonder if gorgeous-guy-whose-rough-drafts-were-painfully-exhausting-to-edit will read this and think, “I was right.” But no one takes pleasure in being right about these things.

All we can do is look out for the next group of kiddos growing up with the fake dads who are very good at being evil. And see if we can be their voice, because they don’t even know that they should be running for help. Abused kids will often speak up only once.

I waited years for my moment to speak up, and then chickened out. Then blocked it all out. Then had to remember everything in waves.

But it’s easier to relegate the things I do remember to the evil pile than it is to move the things that seem good to that same pile. Because the stuff I forgot was so bad it can’t even be justified. But the rest of my life falls into gray areas.

So I chop photographs. I toss birthday cards. I remove him from stories. I won’t ever pretend he never existed, but I keep him separate from the actual good things of my childhood. Which is easy. Because almost all of them didn’t involve him anyway.

I have more great memories of my mom and siblings and friends than I have horrific memories of him. I can’t throw away 30 years of my life for one narcissist. But I can’t ever become so far removed that I forget to watch out for the next generation.

There are no new sins under the sun. Only new sinners. Who think they’re smarter than the rest of us. But they’re just repeating what’s already been done. And I know the tricks now. So I have an obligation to keep my eyes and ears open. While, somehow, still protecting my sanity. And holding onto the actual great memories with the people I love who were real and really loved me.

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When Your Molester Tries To Implicate You

Warning: this post may contain triggers for survivors of sexual abuse.

They told me the worst thing about giving my testimony in my sexual abuse case would be seeing him face to face in that courtroom.

They were wrong.

By far, the worst part was the pre-meeting with my team. District Attorney, Prosecuting Attorney, and Victims Advocate. Even with my husband by my side, holding my hand, the worst part, by far, was when I decided to read Stephen’s side of things. His evaluations. His statements. His arguments. His packet.

Legally, I had the right to read all of it. Pages of half-truths, lies. So many lies. I did it because I was getting nervous about speaking and figured it would help me solidify my resolve.

It was only a snapshot. Due to the statute of limitations, I was only able to press charges for a few short months of my nine years of sexual abuse. And I will never get to press charges for almost 30 years of emotional, spiritual, verbal, and psychological abuse. I get ‘justice’ for this tiny blip on a timeline.

“I told her I was sorry for a bad thing and she forgave me. I repented before the Lord. She never said she wouldn’t tell, but we had an understanding that we would never tell what we had done.”

Some psychologist somewhere had asked him why he never confessed. After reading those words, I was ready to go out into that courtroom and read every single syllable of my 9 page statement. Years and years of abuse.

“We had an understanding that we would never tell what we had done.”

Note the words ‘we had done’…classic Stephen. There were several remarks in that packet insinuating that it was consensual. Which, unbelievably, is still not even the craziest thing I read.

I don’t even remember this conversation, if it even happened. My brain locked everything away until I was thirty years old. And as my memories keep coming back for 20 months and counting, I know I’m not remembering everything.

I can’t explain the terror of not being able to know everything that has happened to me in my life. Most of my dreams are now nightmares. Trying to get away. Trying to get my kids away.

But I have this recurring dream, since the hearing, that we are sitting somewhere. He talks to me about this understanding we supposedly have.

Even as he was on his way to prison, he was trying to implicate me in his crime. Not even calling it crime, but minimizing everything by using words like ‘sin’ and ‘mistakes’ and ‘misunderstandings’ and lies upon lies.

But I went out into that courtroom with the resolve I had hoped to find when I cracked open that stack of his ramblings and precise wordings. He tried so hard to say what he thought they wanted to hear. To say just enough for plea bargains. But holding back what would’ve filled books. That measly packet.

And I couldn’t get past this ‘understanding’…and I clung to that every time I thought about just having Dave read aloud my statement. Or giving copies of my statement to all the necessary people. Or just running. At one point, I thought, “Why did I wear heels? I can’t run in heels.”

As I kept swallowing vomit at that podium, I repeated to myself: “There is no understanding between us. No more silence on my part.”

Every time I thought about kicking off my shoes and just running, I remembered that lie: “We had an understanding that we would never tell what we had done.” So I kept telling. I kept talking. Reading. Flipping my own packet. A stack of truth. Every word was true.

I told everything that he had ever done. Everything I could remember. And the fear of what I can’t. I told it all with snot dripping onto the podium. I told it all with strangers from another case sitting in as observers. I told it all.

I stole two glances of him in shackles. Seeing him didn’t phase me. My victims advocate assured me he couldn’t hurt me, but I wasn’t worried for a second that he would try to do anything physical to me ever again. No, he’s moved on from that with me. He wants his victims much younger than his now 32-year-old daughter.

No, my fear was that he would somehow silence me.

I don’t regret reading that packet in the pre-meeting. It was the worst part of that day, but it was necessary. And it gave me the realization that I now have an understanding with myself: “I will always tell what he has done.”

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5 Body Rules {from a molestation survivor}

Since I was molested as a kid, for many years and on many different levels, I am now very proactive with my kids’ safety. I wasn’t sexually abused by a stranger. It was someone in my own home. Someone I trusted and loved. And I didn’t know the rules. I’ve never blamed my mom for not making the rules part of our everyday life. She was raising kids in a time when saying no to drugs was all the rage and people rarely talked about sexual abuse.

Since I can’t go back, the best thing I can do is go forward with my kids having knowledge I didn’t have. Because grooming starts young, it’s never too early to teach kids about body safety.

It makes things awkward when your child tells every stranger he meets about your rules, but that’s the price I willingly pay. Even that time when someone bumped into him and he yelled, “Keep your hands off me! I’m da boss of mine body!” Poor 30-year-old stranger in the Aldi produce section. He had accidentally bumped into Graham’s shoulder. I just smiled and said, “He knows his body rules.”

These rules work for us. As our kids grow, our rules morph to accommodate changes in understanding. Keep in mind that these rules are for an almost 6-year-old. Graham’s known and practiced how and when to say “No!” and how to find a safe adult since he was barely 4. But I wish we would’ve started earlier.

1. We have no secrets. Mommy doesn’t keep secrets from Daddy. Daddy doesn’t keep secrets from Mommy. We don’t keep secrets with Grandma. We don’t keep secrets with Uncle or Aunt fill-in-the-blank or Cousin XYZ. The kids don’t keep secrets with either one of us. Or from either one of us. Even silly stuff, like what I’ve eaten or bought. Graham has, more than once, told Dave at 5:30pm that Mommy ate a cupcake before breakfast. And our little inventory specialist will tell everything you bought on your little stop at Wal-Mart. There’s none of this “Don’t tell your Daddy” or “We don’t tell Mommy” business in our house. No secrets. Many a Christmas surprise has been ruined, and that’s perfectly fine with me.

2. We only help with grownup problems if we are a grown up. Safe grownups ask one another for help. They don’t ask kids. We’ve taught Graham to say no to helping with a grownup problem. Unfortunately, he has often extended that past what we intended. Bess was vomiting the other day and I was yelling for help and asking for a towel. “Mama, I am not da mom. I didn’t make Bess in mine belly. She’s yours job. I’m not a Daddy.” Okay, not what I meant, as I was catching vomit in my hands. But I love that Graham stands up for what he believes in.

3. We have special parts. We don’t let people see or touch our special parts. If anyone tries, we tell a safe grownup right away. I stress over and over again that Graham will never ever ever be in trouble for coming to us and saying that someone touched him. I don’t want him to ever feel shame for someone else’s actions. And we don’t touch or look at other people’s special parts. We also stress that God meant for only a husband and wife to touch one another’s special parts, and even husbands and wives still decide when and how they want their special parts touched. We have had lots of talks about sexuality, but nothing beats our first. It was hilariously awkward.

4. We are the bosses of our bodies. Which Graham has yelled at people who tried to force a hug or kiss out of him. I am constantly reminding family of this one. Our kids decide who they want to hug. When they want to kiss you goodbye. If they will sit on a lap or snuggle on the couch. If they want to say “I love you”…if you try to force anything on my children, I will address it right at that moment. Adults can’t force children into social norms that take away their ability to use and listen to their inner voices and checks in their little spirits.

5. We have doctors to check our special parts if they need to be checked. And Graham, obviously, never sees a doctor on his own. And we tried to make a blanket rule about not even playing doctor, but that blasted Doc McStuffins became so famous. So we made a rule about the things we can do when we play doctor. Height, weight, blood pressure, shots, check eyes/ears/mouth/nose, and knee reflexes. We do not remove clothes or check special parts when we play doctor. Graham’s favorite part of playing doctor: “Take dis medicine and get a sticker and don’t forget to use yours doctor debit card to pay me.” Little eyes always watching everything, even when we pay with a Flexible Spending Account.

Those are our rules. Well, the ones about our bodies and sexuality. We obviously have other rules, like always washing hands anytime we go to the bathroom. Graham tried to lawyer us on that one and stopped washing hands when he peed, stating his hands never touched anything dirty. So, we changed the rule to always washing hands when we flush. Lawyered again. He just stopped flushing for a week. We changed it back to anytime we go to the bathroom. That’s when he informed me that he hadn’t wiped or flushed or washed his hands the entire week of VBS. Fantastic.

Recently, a mom heard me going over our special parts rule before Graham went up into a playplace filled with bigger kids. “Wow. That seems a little untrusting of everyone. Not everyone gets abused.” I am just assuming she wasn’t a fellow survivor. But 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 8 boys will become victims of sexual abuse. And kids like Adelaide have an 85% chance of being sexually abused. I don’t apologize for being proactive. I don’t want my kids joining the club I didn’t choose. My membership card never expires.

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When People Stop Looking At You

In June, I went public with my molestation. It was a bit earlier than I had planned, because someone made an announcement that included part of my story. A couple weeks earlier than I had hoped, I gave a snapshot of my journey. It had to be done. It was part of my healing. I wanted other people in similar situations to know that they are worth that police report…no matter what our statutes of limitations say. And I wanted to tell my story on my terms, before anyone learned from public records or hearsay.

And it was pretty easy to write a quick post at 3 am in a castle. It was silent, other than Dave’s breathing and sleep mumbling. No air conditioning. No televisions. Just the sounds of the animals at Garden of the Gods. And the occasional toilet flushing in one of the other guest rooms.

It didn’t take too much bravery to hit publish. I wouldn’t be sitting next to her when she opened her email. Or sitting across from him while he scrolled through his newsfeed. Even though 5,000 people saw it, it still felt intimate. Small. Support poured in through messages, comments, and texts.

But then I returned to real life. Home from the hearing and our mini-getaway. And seeing people eye to eye was difficult.

Someone who would normally greet with me with a hug, abstained. Friends who knew I was going to the hearing, but didn’t know as a victim, wouldn’t look in my eyes. It was not what I had expected, but what I should’ve assumed.

One person told me she was there to talk if I needed it. Ironically, she hadn’t even read the post. She doesn’t follow this blog or use Facebook. And she was one of the few who reached out to me in that uncomfortable silence in the real world. Face to face. Never looking away.

So maybe going public was a mistake. I thought it would be the best way to communicate such an enormous part of my life, but maybe I was wrong. Maybe it was a mistake to hope that my story might also give someone a boost of bravery.

Yet dozens of strangers contacted me to share their stories. Some even said I had given them the courage to go public with their own pasts. But when real life acquaintances avert their eyes, I don’t know what to do with that.

It’s the struggle of sharing. I can’t control how people will react. And everyone processes differently. I was the victim. I am the survivor. But I quickly realized that people aren’t just dealing with my situation. My molestation doesn’t really affect them all that much.

They are dealing with the truth of my molester. That we had a wolf in our midst. And maybe that’s why they can’t look me in the eyes. Maybe they are trying to embrace a truth I’ve known for 18 months. That my suppressed memories knew for decades.

Either way, ‘real life’ is hard. I share things here that I couldn’t possibly share one-on-one. Not enough time. Not enough coffee.

But I threw something so incredibly difficult out into the internet. I thought I did it to help others, but maybe I was selfish. Scared to have the conversation and the eye contact and the awkward body language. Instead, I typed it out in the dark and published it in the calm and then waited for it to explode. And I may have damaged friendships, as she opened her email with no warning and he scrolled through his newsfeed to stumble upon the news.

I want to thank everyone who has supported me through all of this. It can’t be easy. I had to keep so many things vague and quiet until after all the court proceedings. I think I hurt people who thought they should’ve known earlier. And I’m sure I’ve alienated people who wished they would’ve never learned.

I don’t really know how these things should be handled. But if it keeps one person from being tricked by him when he is paroled in six years, then I feel like it is worth all the awkward interactions. Because he’s good at lying. But I’m better at telling the truth. For whatever that’s worth.

My victim’s advocate had warned me more than once, but nothing prepares you for that moment when people stop looking at you.

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Why I Don’t Have A Bible

“Julie said bring Bibles.” A text from a friend. It stopped my day.

I went to a Bible Study last week. And it was way out of my comfort zone. Women I didn’t know. At all. In a house I had never visited. And I almost cancelled several dozen times.

“Julie said bring Bibles.” Awesome. I had my Bible app on my phone, but no Bible. Nothing to actually flip through.

Eighteen months ago, I tossed my Bible in a trash can and muttered some curse words. My Bible had been a gift from my dad. Filled with an inscription to me…the song he wrote for my baby dedication and the song he played at my wedding. And almost all the notes, highlights, underlines, and arrows were from sermons he preached.

Beth Moore asked us to get out our Bibles. Every woman, but me, got out a paper Bible. Gilded, onion-skin papers rustling. As I swyped on my screen that’s taped over with box tape. My phone making pong-type noises. Is there an app to make your phone rustle? There should be…

In that moment, I couldn’t say to a room of strangers, “I had a Bible. Filled with  Greek and Hebrew and crap tons of important stuff. Had to toss it, because three decades of my life were a sham. And no one can be expected to read the Bible given to them by their molester.” But of course I can’t say that.

So the rustling and pong-ing continued for an hour and I sat there realizing there is a blessing in knowing almost no one, but the curse of loneliness. Of being different.

Of those 9 women, was I the only abused one? It sure felt like it. I don’t know their stories. But no one else looked like she was going to toss her bonded leather book into the garbage and say some words Beth Moore would never dare say.

But I’m going back. The study is fantastic so far. I actually managed to fill in all the blanks and look up all the verses on my phone and read all the commentary. It’s a first, I think. To finish my Bible Study homework more than 15 minutes before class starts.

And I’m saving calories today, because there were snacks last time. Food I was expected to share with no one. It’s like Mom Paradise. And I can eat while I read my Bible app. The food wipes right off the box tape.

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Mom Confession: An Envious Heart

I battle with being envious. I would say I struggle with it, but I think battle is a better word choice. Because I literally feel like I am wrestling and punching envy in the face. Every day.

It’s embarrassing. And the people closest to me see it in my body language, sarcasm, and text messages.

It’s not that I covet what others have. I don’t want them to lose what they have. I just want us both to have it. Which is still infantile. I compare myself to most people around me and wonder why my hand of cards is full of whatever cards are undesirable. I just realized I don’t know anything about cards. This analogy didn’t work out…like a lot of things in my life right now.

I read an article the other day where a dad said he had never, not even once, wondered what his kid would’ve been like without a disability. He said that he just embraced it from day one and makes the best of every moment. Well, he’s a saint. Because I think about it everyday. I wonder what Adelaide would’ve been like without a genetic abnormality…if that’s even what happened. We honestly have zero clues about what caused Adelaide’s disabilities. But I don’t make the most of it. And I find myself envious, just for a moment, of a man who can live his life never wondering. And I keep envy in check when I hear people talk about their ‘perfect’ babies. But it’s not easy.

I am envious when I see people with passive, compliant children. I don’t want everyone to have strong-willed kids who stretch you to your breaking point everyday. I just wonder how I ended up with two strong-willed kids. Two-thirds of my children. Some people have double the number of children I have, and all their children listen and obey and smile at strangers. Not mine. Two of them are acting like escapees from a chain gang, while the other is trying to eat her poop. It’s exhausting. And parents of compliant kids seem to be having more fun with life.

I get envious when people make money. Because I can’t. I’ve tried. A lot. And I fail. I’ve closed two businesses in less than 4 years. And I can’t even sell stuff in local groups. Or at consignment sales. I have wasted so much time trying to make money. And end up losing us money. So I sometimes envy women who can list the stuff they would throw in the trash and people throw themselves at the opportunity to buy it. Or they are successful in business and are able to provide for their families. If I even wanted to go back to my career-before-kids, I wouldn’t make money. I was a special education teacher. I would spend my entire paycheck on daycare for Adelaide. And there are zero daycares that would even take Graham and Bess.

Don’t even start on blogs or books or articles. This seems to be my biggest envy trap. I can’t make money with my writing. I’ve been turned down three times as many times as I’ve been published. And unless I’m writing something controversial, people don’t read my writing. Other bloggers can write about how they wash their dishes and get 27 comments and a book deal. I share my heart and get weird private messages about how I don’t know what I’m talking about. I don’t know my own opinions and feelings? I tried affiliate links for a season. I lost half my readers and made $6.50. So I bought goodies for our sponsor kids. I can’t make money and I can’t grow a community…whatever that means. I’ve tried to emulate the successful mommy bloggers, and it doesn’t work for me.

I also envy people with awesome dads. Because my ‘dad’ is an imprisoned sex offender and the only man who was like a dad to me died of cancer. And Dave’s dad died of a heart attack. I don’t want everyone to have bad dads or dead dads. I just hate being in this camp. It’s one of the worst camps. Because everyone wants a dad. It’s completely normal. And I don’t have one.

I envy people who know their purpose. Their God-sized dream. The reason they wake up in the morning and give it their all. I don’t. I wake up wondering how I’m going to get through the day and do everything Adelaide needs done. And I tried to read a stack of ‘find your purpose’ books, which sent me into a dark place. I envy those people who are passionate about their goals and dreams. I don’t even have any.

When I shared all of this with Dave, in the Wal-Mart parking lot, he took my hand and told me that he didn’t have any answers. Except something his dad used to say. That we don’t compare ourselves to others when we are fearing God. When we fear man, we focus on others. Fearing God means realizing that God is holy and perfect and omniscient and omnipotent. It shifts our focus.

When I look to God and confess, “I want what I don’t have and I don’t understand why I don’t have it.” He shows me all that He has already given me. Salvation and relationship. It doesn’t erase my natural inclination to be envious. Always thinking, “What am I doing wrong? Why don’t I have this and that and them?” The focus is still on me.

A couple weeks back, my pastor quoted Numbers 6:24-26.
β€œThe Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you, The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”

I jotted down in my notes: the juxtaposition of turning His face when Jesus was on the cross absorbing all the wrath.

God had to turn His face from His Son, so that He could look on me now. And I’m envious of the people around me, because I stopped looking into His face. I ceased fearing Him the way He deserves. A completely Holy God who wants fellowship with me. This frazzled woman, who feels broken and rejected and lonely. Whose kids are so high-maintenance. Whose words don’t go very far. Whose purpose seems foggy. He holds my face and says, “Stop looking around so much. Just look to me.” The answer to an envious heart isn’t trying to rid myself of envy. The answer is in changing my gaze. Eye contact and heart connection with the One I should be fearing.

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On My Molestation and MacBeth

I was in a Shakespeare competition when I was a young teenager. Some of the details are hard to recall, because my mind was a bit preoccupied. I’d just told my dad he was no longer allowed to molest me. After years, most I had already suppressed at that time, I said no more.

So when it was time to choose a passage for the competition, I chose Macbeth I.5.38-54. And I chose Mrs. Gerrells to be my coach. “Lyndse, you won’t win with Macbeth, but it’s a damn good choice. A damn good one. They only advance kids who do Romeo & Juliet. Are you prepared to say ‘unsex’ and ‘breasts’ in front of that boy you like? The one with the nice hair? ‘Come to my woman’s breasts/And take my milk for gall, you murd’ring ministers’.” I had actually forgotten it was co-ed. “He doesn’t like me, so that doesn’t matter at all. I don’t care about winning. I need to do this. Will you please coach me?”

She took me on as her recitation student, and I practiced harder for that competition than I did anything else in my life until that point. A teenager ready to tell the entire world I was made for strength and resolve. Brave enough to possibly embarrass myself. And even though I was the victim, I somehow related to Lady MacBeth’s guilt and shame.

I mustered every iota of courage that day, and started, “The raven himself is hoarse/That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan”…and I finished as strong as I started. It was powerful.

And I lost. One judge’s notes: strange material choice for a teenage girl, even though she delivered it the best I’ve ever seen. Another judge: intense, but slightly inappropriate subject matter.

Mrs. Gerrells had warned me. And I had lied when I said I didn’t care about winning. Of course I cared about winning. It wasn’t just a Shakespeare recitation. It was the moment I dared to be courageous and go against what people thought I should do. It was the moment I said, no one ever molests me again. It seems nonsensical, but it made sense to me.

I was mad at myself. Why couldn’t I be brave and tell someone about my abuse? Horrific acts that had stolen my childhood. Why did I waste my time practically yelling “unsex me” in front of my peers, just to get second place? I felt like an incompetent loser. I’d put myself out there, only to be told my raw emotion and vulnerability weren’t good enough.

I had no coping skills for failing at something so important to me. So I said something I could never take back. “If you fall down the stairs, I get to go in your place. Like Miss America.” To one of my best friends. She had won, and I acted like an envious lunatic. We stopped being friends a couple weeks later. I ended up losing all my friends, suppressed all my abuse, and felt more like Lady MacBeth with every passing day. And I blamed myself. I’d been taught that everything was my fault.

Not even two years ago, I remembered my abuse. At first, like a horrible nightmare. But I knew it had to be true. You can’t make up what happened to me. Screenwriters try, but all they do is copy what has been happening to girls for thousands of years. I went to file a police report. A grown woman, carrying an infant Bess, to tell my story. My memories had been flooding and trickling in, even as I waited to meet my detective. I nursed twice during my report. Breasts exposed while I closed my eyes to recount the atrocities. Shame and guilt, which weren’t mine to carry, started weighing me down again.

I felt like that 7-year-old girl. And that 8-year-old girl. And that 10-year-old girl. And 11. And 12. And 13. And even after I thought I’d stopped it all, he was still trying for years. But I’d suppressed my memories in waves. Always thinking the newest abuse was the only abuse. But the grooming and threats that started with a 4-year-old girl were always there…even when she didn’t know why she couldn’t go tell her mom. Or a teacher. Or the boy she was in love with, whose parents would’ve called the police. You can’t just go against a lifetime of indoctrination. My mind had been corrupted and controlled.

On Friday, I replaced my Lady MacBeth recitation with a 9 page single-spaced written victim impact statement. 26 years of sexual, physical, verbal, psychological, and spiritual abuse. It’s impact on my relationships, body image, self-worth, spiritual health.

Dave and I drove 12 hours. I took that statement, filled with things too graphic to write here and everything my brain and body had hidden from me all those years, and I read it all. Didn’t skip a single word. With Dave holding my hand, and tapping the podium when I was reading too quickly for the stenographer, I made myself completely vulnerable. My story became known.

There was no competition. No winners. But I stood there, remembering Mrs. Gerrells’ words from what seems like a lifetime ago, “You must be brave and not afraid of anything others think. They can all go to hell for all I care. You get up there and don’t lock your knees. I don’t need you passing out.”

I kept my knees unlocked, Mrs. Gerrells. And unlike Lady MacBeth, I shouldn’t have felt guilt and shame. I did nothing wrong. I was a child who did what her Daddy said. And on Father’s Day weekend, I told an entire courtroom everything he had ever done. Every act. Every lie. With snot dripping out my nose and my voice faltering at times and my stomach churning like the sea, I unloaded a lifetime of abuse and stepped away from that podium a free woman.

And this judge didn’t fault me for my subject matter. She didn’t think I was too intense. She listened to every word and gave my father the longest prison sentence and probation sentence she could award. 15 years in prison. 20 years on probation.

And as I continue to heal from being broken at the hands of the person who was supposed to be building me up, I move forward. But not without going back to some of the destruction I left in the wake of my teen years. When I wasn’t capable of having healthy friendships, because I couldn’t be honest or authentic. I pushed people away before they could hurt me first.

So thankful my sweet childhood friend and I were able to reconnect a few years ago. As wives and moms, we started over. I asked for her forgiveness. She gave it without hesitation. And she was one of the first people I ran to when my world was falling apart and my mind was swirling with the unthinkable. She started praying and didn’t stop.

She prayed through my dealings with two police departments. Prayed through my first time in court, when I had to get a protection order for my children. I had to nurse in front of the judge, as he talked about my molestation in open court. My breast exposed. Bess nursing while her mommy was equally terrified and filled with confidence. My friend prayed through all the different hearings and phone calls and trip preparation. Because that’s what truth does. It sets you free to love and be loved.

And I thank everyone who has loved me and loved on me through everything. My husband, my mom, my mom-in-law, family, and friends. It took the prayers and support of many to get through some of most important words I will ever say. Unlike Lady MacBeth, my hands are clean and my conscience is clear.

End scene.

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