This is your trigger warning for sex abuse and Christianity.
I don’t spend a lot of time in church. At this point, it’s as much about habit as it is anything. Habit and scheduling conflicts. As a divorced woman with kids who live several hours away, my weekends are mostly kids and God understands but my kids don’t. I would never tell my kids that my attending a church service has gotten in the way of me seeing them.
I was raised very churchy, Christian, conservative. In church every Sunday, Wednesday, and most of the other times the doors were open. I was also sexually abused as a child. There is no cause and effect going on here, my initial abuser was an extended family member. Yes, I said initial, the curse of sex abuse is that it changes you, and perpetrators can spot those changes from a mile away. Of the fight, flight, or freeze groups, I fall into the freeze. It made me a sitting duck for those who sought to do me harm.
Thirty years ago, I would not have labeled myself a sex abuse victim. As a child I did not know that this was not a normal part of childhood. In fact, I still feel fond memories for one of these men in particular. He told me how amazing I was, how pretty I was. Understand, this man was in my life in middle school. Pretty girls in middle school, unicorns. I was awkward and lanky, not pretty. I’d sit on his lap and he’d make me laugh, and he’d hug me. I worshiped him. When I started my period, he told me I was ready to date boys my own age. But what attracted grown men to me, repelled those very boys.
Now back to my church roots. Here I was being told that sex is wrong. Only for marriage. The worst I’ve ever felt in my life is attending a week long retreat where a group of, I’m sure they were well meaning, kids explained that sex is ONLY for marriage. ONLY for one man, one woman, for life. The skit that killed me most was a group of teenage boys on a basketball team. They had one pair of shoes among them all. They commented how they didn’t want to stick their feet where other boys stinky feet had been. It was disgusting. The only thing those shoes were good for was to be thrown in the trash. Don’t be that shoe, girls. Don’t be disgusting. Don’t deserve to be thrown in the trash. No grace for us shoes who’d already been worn. I get the sentiment, but the delivery nearly killed me. That ship had sailed my friend. Once you are a dirty stinky shoe, destined for the garbage, why not just earn your spot there?
How had being a victim, somehow get turned into a moral failing on my part?
I was torn between pretending I was perfect, and wanting to crawl back into the comfort of what I knew. Sex and kind words, lies though they were, won out over loneliness and fear. You see, I already knew no boy would really love me, dirty shoe that I was. I must take the first one that comes along. Or the second, or the third. Or, well, you get it. The message I put out was that I would, put out, if you loved me. Or convinced me you did. Or were even just nice to me.
Fast forward to my first day at Bible College. Yes. Being the good Christian girl that I was, and the obedient daughter, I packed my bags and headed off to obtain my MRS degree from a pool of nice Christian boys. The first night I was there, I found myself in a Christian intervention of sorts. Becky (not her real name) had kissed a boy ON THEIR FIRST DATE. And we were there to discuss proper dating etiquette. I listened to the girls go around the room and discuss how they’d been dating so and so since they were fetuses and hadn’t so much as held his hand yet. I was less than two days off dick at that point. Do I tell a room full of strangers that I’d have probably fucked him? No, I chose funny. I shared that, while I was not proud of this, I once went so far as Montana on a first date. Everyone laughed. And everyone told their boyfriends that Annie goes as far as Montana on a first date. I was pregnant by Thanksgiving.
Another moral failing in the eyes of the church. A girl with no sexual boundaries was not welcomed in their midst. Leave. Go away Annie. Do not bring your stinky shoes around here no more. Go away. Get out of here. Jesus would want us to do this.
I was barely 18. Alone. Ashamed. Not yet privy to the war waging inside of me. In my mind I was not a victim of my childhood. Not a girl trained to hold no sexual boundaries. Just a moral failure.
It wasn’t until I was 19 that I realized I was actually abused as a child. This isn’t uncommon. A child’s brain shouldn’t have to process the nuances of sex. So it doesn’t. I needed help to process this. Where was the church? In my rear view mirror. The next decade of my life would bring me two husbands, a couple boyfriends, and three baby daddies. It would not bring me understanding and healing. It would only bring me more shame. When I was finally able to deal with it, it was the world who helped. Therapists who did not have a Christian agenda. People who understood that I was fucked up way before I had the choice. That I needed to be healed. Not saved. HEALED.
I often wonder why the women in the bible didn’t have names. The woman caught in adultery. The woman at the well. The woman. The woman. The woman.
The woman is me. Caught in adultery at the age of 18. Thrown at the feet of Jesus. Had I not been so ashamed to look up, I would see that it was not Jesus that was condemning me, it was the church. I chose to crawl off alone. To hide. To find myself naked and afraid at the feet of Jesus many times. I never heard the words that Jesus was saying. “I see you. I am not afraid of you. I have told the mob to go home and think about what they’ve done.” As if they the crowd did go home and think about what they’d done. They went home and talked about me.
*I realize this ends abruptly, but it’s all I can handle at the moment. I feel it’s important for me to put out there. I am sorry I don’t have a resolution at this time. I’m working on it.