Childhood, Compassion, Family, Forgiveness, Holiness Standards, Leadership, Parents, Poverty, Self Esteem, Sexual Abuse, Shame, Trauma, Uncategorized, United Pentecostal Church

You Are Worthy

Today I want to tell you that you are worthy. If you were sexually abused as a child you are worthy. You did not draw that older man into sin. He made his choices and he was an adult. You were a child and children cannot consent. I am so sorry if the church did not protect you, love you, and help you to heal. You deserve love, support, and an apology. I am still stunned at Calvary Gospel’s silence. I am experiencing them as no more loving now than they were when I was a child.

You are worthy even if your family did not dress right, or if you are brown or black, and even if your family did not tithe enough. A child shouldn’t have to pay for their parent’s choices. None of us can control the color of our skin or the family we are born into. We certainly could not have controlled our parent’s actions.

You are worthy even if you made mistakes, snuck into the movies, or listened to top 40 radio when your parents were out. These things are not sins, they are a normal part of growing up. No one perfectly listens to the adults in their life. Normal human development dictates that teens challenge adults, it is how we grow and become independent.

You are worthy if you wore a slit in your skirt, asked too many questions, or got bored in church. If you kissed a boy behind the church camp auditorium when you were supposed to be inside, if you faked being sick to stay home from church, and even if you faked speaking in tongues because you were afraid to disappoint your parents.

I see you trying to pretend that you are ok, trying to heal, trying to deal with the coldness coming from the people who raised us. I see you dealing with trauma, being the family outcast, never being 100% sure if you made the right decision when you left the church. I see you wondering if you should have kept your mouth shut about it all.

I understand not being educated properly and how that stays with you all your life. I understand playing small, staying invisible, always waiting for something bad to happen. I understand feeling weird in the world like you can never quite fit in. I understand the world not understanding where we come from and how exhausting it can be to try to explain.

For the men out there I see you too. Struggling to come to terms with what has happened to the women you grew up with, ministered to, your sisters and friends. I see you having many of the same struggles as I have only different at the same time. I know that there are survivors among you and when you are ready to tell your story we will be there for you as you have been there for us.

Consider this my love letter to all the survivors out there no matter what your damage is. You are worthy. Please don’t let those who refuse to ask for forgiveness, who refuse to take responsibility, and who choose to stand in judgment rather than lend aid define you. I see you as strong, brave, and overcomers. We have overcome the lack of love, support, grace, and normal human kindness we should have received as kids. We have found each other and created a life raft for one another and any new survivors who choose to join us. You are good even if you are not perfect. You are worthy.

 

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Justice, Sexual Abuse, United Pentecostal Church

Letting The Sunshine In

Yesterday was a big day for the survivors of Calvary Gospel Church. Rebecca Martin Byrd and I spoke at a press conference regarding two bills. One would end the statue of limitations for sexual assault survivors and one would deal with the clergy loophole regarding mandatory reporting. You can watch here…

https://www.facebook.com/representative.taylor/videos/506129963263512/

We were also featured in an article in our local paper.

https://madison.com/ct/news/local/govt-and-politics/stolen-childhoods-women-allege-they-were-sexually-abused-as-kids/article_22c01351-890d-5bac-8790-d701b1f31c3a.html

I cannot begin to explain how good it felt to be heard and to receive the support of so many people. This morning I woke up to more survivors coming forward to tell me their stories. It saddens me to know there are more survivors but I’m so happy they have found their way to us. It is my intent to continue to drag these stories out into the light.

I feel that we’re all lighthouses, and my job is to shine my light as brightly as I can to the darkness.”  Jim Carrey

I will not stop not matter how tired I am and right now I’m pretty tired. I have been fighting off tears all morning as I go about my work. Nothing about this is easy and for those who think we are doing this for fame or revenge I cannot begin to tell you how wrong you are. No one seeks out this burden. Putting your darkest wounds out for the public to see is not easy or something most people desire. Nevertheless I will continue to tell my story and the stories of others until we see justice. We have been called devils and and it has been said that we are bringing damnation down on our heads. No one from Calvary Gospel has reached out to speak with us to either apologize or to ask for more information about what happened to us.

“I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.” Brene Brown

Although many of us have suffered sexual assault that is not the only way Calvary Gospel has wounded people. As much as I want the stories of sexual assault to be revealed I want all of the other stories to be brought into the light. So many people have been impacted by a constant fear of hell and the rapture. Some folks have been severely financially affected, and some have had their self-worth destroyed. Many survivors have struggles with making up for a subpar education and always feeling like they don’t fit in. Social awkwardness is not uncommon. Many of us never recieved any comfort or love following our abuse. We were forced to suffer alone and in silence during our childhood. All this makes just living your life so much harder.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.” Brené Brown

People have asked me how they can help. If you are in Wisconsin you can call your representatives and ask them to support the bills that were introduced yesterday. You can also help by sharing our story in as many places as possible. Change is hard and it requires all of us to do our part. If you are a survivor you can help by coming forward and telling your story. We will be here waiting for you and ready to stand beside you.

An extra thanks goes out to Representative Chris Taylor for being our champion. Her willingness to listen to our stories has meant so much. Katelyn Ferral who wrote about us for the Cap Times did an amazing job throwing open the windows and letting the light in!

Warrior Women
Working together for justice!
Family, Justice, Leadership, Sexual Abuse, United Pentecostal Church

Laura and Dan’s Open Letter to John and Roy Grant

July 9, 2019,

An Open Letter to Roy Grant and John Grant

This is mostly directed to John Grant since you were the pastor when we were at Calvary Gospel Church (CGC). There is a lot I’d like to say but will make this brief.

It was one and a half years ago when we discovered the betrayal. Up until then, we trusted you, believed that you were a good and decent man, and were dedicated to protecting those under ‘your care.’ We now know how terribly wrong we were.

Let me take you back in time. 

Approximately 27 years ago, we were in a meeting with you and two couples who held the title of elders and the Asst. Pastor.  A police officer in uniform, who was a member of the church but not an elder, was also present. We were told that our minor daughter, who had recently moved in with her dad, had become involved with an older, married man in the church. We were crushed and broken to hear this. If you remember, we had gone to you on several occasions asking your help in keeping him away from her. We also asked your wife for help, as well as going to this man directly. 

Eventually, the older married man convinced her that he was going to give her a wonderful life where they would travel and see the world, painting a very enticing picture in the eyes of a teenage girl. After years of being groomed, she gave in at the age of 17. He was in his mid-30s.

At the meeting, we were told that our daughter and this man would both have to go up before the church to confess their sins and promise to change their behavior. She was kicked out of the Youth Group and Calvary Christian Academy. 

During the meeting, one of the elders told us to be thankful we weren’t living in the Old Testament times because our daughter would be stoned. Another one of the elders sneered, “If the parents would live right…!” We felt we were being kicked in the face by people who we thought would love and support us during one of the most horrible moments in our lives.

This brings us to you, John Grant. I remember you saying to us, “I have to report this, I’m not going to jail for a fornicator!” You also said, “You leave everything to me as far as (the man involved) goes. You just see to your daughter. We will take care of things.” 

We trusted you and took you at your word, believing that a police report was filed. You stated the need to do this while the uniformed officer was standing right next to us in the meeting.

Fast forward to around January 2018 when we heard about Debbie McNulty, who came out with her experience at CGC concerning being molested as a young girl. She opened the door for others to step out and share their experiences. We were told that you were informed about similar situations back when they were happening but never contacted the authorities. It caused us to reflect upon how our situation was handled, and eventually, we decided to contact the police and inquire about the report you filed concerning the married man from CGC who preyed upon our daughter.

Imagine our shock when the police told us there was no report. We felt betrayed. 

This was when the church Facebook page started to receive reviews from those who were harmed under your watch and those of us who supported them. Can you imagine how they felt when they were called troublemakers, liars, and bitter by the church members? It opened a lot of people’s eyes to the ugly truth about Calvary Gospel Church and those who were involved in leadership. Your church soon took the review section down.

We write this to warn other parents to please beware. It is our opinion that you should use caution with who you trust your children to at Calvary Gospel Church. Protect them. If anyone lays a finger on them, do not trust leadership to handle the problem. Call the police. From what we understand, many innocent people have been hurt and many of the guilty have been protected.

John Grant, we ask that you become the man of God you claim yourself to be and make things right for these survivors. We would like to see you apply your teaching notes on ministerial ethics to yourself. We want to know why you didn’t do what you were supposed to do, what you said you’d do, and what was the right thing to do.

Roy, you are in a hard spot. Most of this didn’t happen under your watch. But you have the power now to do what is right. And for any current situations that may be happening at CGC, we ask that you protect the innocent, and admit to any wrongdoing if need be. Please do what is right.  We beg you.

Dan and Laura

C-PTSD, Compassion, Crime, Justice, Leadership, Sexual Abuse, Trauma, Uncategorized, United Pentecostal Church

An Open Letter To Pastor Roy Grant

Roy, it has been a long long time since we have spoken or really had any contact with each other. I have thought about reaching out to you many times but something has always stopped me. I know instinctively that any interaction between us will be painful because neither of us is who we were when we knew each other.

When I was a child I looked up to you as a big brother. You were an adult but just barely and at the time I believed that you understood me. As the youth leader and school monitor, you kept us within the lines without seeming authoritarian. I felt like you understood how oppressive it could all be and so you tried to bring the fun with you when you could. For a long time, you gave me rides to school along with as many kids as you could fit into your old Blazer. I’m sure my mother almost never gave you gas money. It makes me smile now to think of how Norman and Tim would have to hoist me into the truck because I was so tiny and it was so high up. My childhood was a dark dark place and the times when I was having fun with you shine bright in the midst of it all. Even now it makes me smile to remember watching Star Trek in your basement after church and doing donuts in the empty parking lot. I was so scared we would crash and you and the boys would laugh at me. Silly kids stuff but when your home life is so bad things like this make life bearable. When I won a place on the honor roll field trip and my shoes developed a hole I told my mom I would just skip it. She called you and you called around until you found a pair of shoes for me. We never talked about it but you came through for me and it was a big deal in my little life.

I don’t think you singled me out and to most people, these things might not seem like much. Speaking from my child self they were important to me. You just never know how a small act of kindness will impact a child. I always try to remember to smile at kids because I recognize that my smile might be the only adult smile they see that day. Once you stepped back some and John Seidl took over youth group and Sunday school things became harder. He was much sterner and I never felt like I could not let my guard down around him. I’m sure you were not perfect but I always felt like you wanted everyone to feel included. When you were not around school or the youth group as much I felt like there was no adult I could turn to who wouldn’t immediately judge me. Sympathy and compassion were impossible to come by.

This brings us to now. I know that I am probably not your favorite person due to the things I have exposed within my blog. I am sure that you and I disagree on most things. I know that this will probably not bring about the change that I and so many others wish to see but I feel compelled to try. I’m sure it has felt like I’m attacking the church and your family. It has never been my wish to attack anyone. I have only been trying to shed light on my experiences in order to help others and maybe get a little bit of justice for myself. If I thought your father would listen I would be directing this towards him. You are the pastor now and so I’m directing this towards you. I’m writing this to plead with you and Calvary Gospel to change. I’m asking you to acknowledge how bad things were handled with regards to Steve Dahl and countless other abusers. I’m asking you and the church to apologize to all of the people who have been hurt by policies that go a long way towards protecting the church but leave in their path, countless victims. I’m asking you to develop church policies that include going to the police first when a victim comes forward because this is the only way the community at large can be protected from predators and physically abusive people. Lastly, I’m asking that the church no longer tolerate older men dating underage women. It is one of those things that everyone knows about but no one does anything about. By acknowledging the church’s role in the pain of so many survivors you could help bring a tiny bit of healing to my community. We could all rest easier knowing that you are committed to reporting abuse and protecting children. We could all rest easier knowing that another Becky or Debbie is not being groomed within the walls of the church.

I know how hard this kind of change would be and I understand that my posting this publically is going to make things even harder. I’m posting it publically because I don’t believe the church or you will respond any other way. I am also concerned about my words being twisted and this way it is all out in the light for anyone to read. I’m going to sign off for now and I hope that you will be the hero this situation needs. To the other pastoral staff, I’m sure you will see this and I hope you will also be a part of bringing some healing into the lives of so many who have been devestated by Calvary Gospel.

Books, Compassion, Sexual Abuse, Trauma

Learning About Trauma Responses

I’m finally getting around to reading “The Body Keeps the Score.” I think I glanced through this book at some point but this time I’m really digging in. At first, it was harder than anticipated because of how it made me feel. I feel sicker and more broken than I did before I started. I did not know it was possible to feel more broken so that was a big shock! Now that I have settled in and I’ve had time to sit with the material I’m starting to feel more compassion for myself. Reading this book has shown me some of the reasons why I am the way I am. I feel like it has given me permission to forgive myself for how my life has unfolded.

Back a few years ago I read “Emotional Freedom” by Judith Orloff. I consider her book to be one of those life-changing books. Reading it truly changed the way I moved within the world. It helped me to disengage from the voices of my past and distinguish between my truth and the truth that was handed to me by my parents and other authority figures. I feel like reading “The Body Keeps the Score” is helping to continue the work I started with “Emotional Freedom.”

What books have you read to help you deal with spiritual/sexual abuse and trauma?

D

Sexual Abuse, United Pentecostal Church

A Second Victim Steps Forward – Rebecca’s Story

Today I’m sharing a new story with you. Another victim of Calvary Gospel Church has decided to tell her story. I have always intended this blog to be a place where victims other than myself can also share their experiences. This is Rebecca’s story.

It’s my turn now. I’ve left Debbie high and dry while I’ve done a lot of processing, now it is time to tell my story. I struggle with where to start, as my story starts in the UPC when I was very young. How do I choose what to say in my first post? So please bear with me as I give the highlights and the can of worms will follow.

My parents joined Calvary Gospel United Pentecostal Church when I was in the 3rd grade. Soon after my sister and I were enrolled in the church’s school. My childhood was completely enveloped by the UPC. Parents were expected to take a backseat roll in favor of teaching whatever the church dictated. My parents questioned nothing, and allowed everything, as long as it was within the church’s walls. Needless to say, we were easy targets for anyone wanting to take advantage of vulnerable kids. If we questioned anything or any of the leaders, we were disciplined and labeled rebellious. Calvary Gospel is a tight-knit community, where any independent thought is quashed and shunning is commonplace, it can be frightening to show any independence. I witnessed parents who disowned children and teenagers forced to make public apologies in front of the congregation. It was built into all of us if the “man of god” said it, it was unquestionably true. I could say more about this but I need to move on.

So I was unlucky enough to catch the eye of one of my Sunday School teachers, who also helped out as a youth leader. Everyone knew he favored me and teased me about him constantly. I was called his “little girlfriend”. He would give me rides, leave notes in my school desk, show up at my house or my friend’s houses if he knew I was there, he came to every youth function, every service, everywhere I was.

In the eyes of Calvary Gospel Church, my predator was a great young man, a burgeoning minister. He was also 17 years older than me. I’m going to refer to him as “Ben”. I was 12 the first time he sexually assaulted me. He never even noticed or acknowledged that I never responded when he’d kiss me. I clearly wasn’t enjoying what he was doing and I resisted when he’d make me touch him. He would take my hand and force it onto his pants. This went on for years until we had full intercourse when I was 14. He was 31. I took my first pregnancy test at his job after hours when I was 15. I went on birth control shortly after.

During this time I wrote letters to a friend of mine telling some of what was happening. She told her sister and her older sister went to the pastor. One night after the evening service Ben found me and was very angry. He pushed me up against a car and told me I had to lie. He threatened me, telling me it would be my fault if he got into trouble, that he wouldn’t be able to able to become a minister. I was terrified of being caught, being humiliated, kicked out of the school, and shunned. So I lied. I told Pastor John Grant Sr. that I made it all up. Strangely, Pastor Grant accused the girl who brought him the letters of making them up herself to get attention, and he kicked her out of the choir. I felt completely responsible. It silenced me even more. Sadly this made me that much easier to manipulate, control, and abuse.

I can’t wrap my head around how all of the church adults knew we were a “couple”. How was it appropriate and acceptable for a 33-year-old man to be dating a 16-year-old girl? And of course, the sex continued. He would show up wherever I was. At my school, my job, at my friend’s houses, and my driver’s ed class. He once picked me up and took me to the duplex he shared with a few other guys. He was on top of me in his bed when he heard one of his roommates come home. He shoved me into his closet and shut the door hiding me so his roommate wouldn’t see. I don’t know how long I was in there. Maybe minutes, maybe an hour. It was long enough that he grabbed some old fast food cups and gave me one so he could tell my mom that he took me there to eat instead of where he had really taken me. All I know is, I felt so demeaned, so ashamed, so lost. I felt hopeless. He controlled my every move. I couldn’t date anyone else, I couldn’t go anywhere, I couldn’t do anything, without him. After every sexual contact, he would make me get down on my knees and read Psalm 51 out loud and repent. Thinking of it makes me sick to this day. I hated it. I never liked praying out loud. I never saw the point in wanting others to listen to me. My prayers were between me and god. But I did it, read the Psalm and begged for forgiveness. “Ben” would assure me that he forgave me too.

Now I see the absurdity of it, forgive me for what?! Being a temptation when I was 12?! But in the Calvary Gospel culture, it was my fault. Men were never held accountable for their actions. I saw younger girls that were also preyed on by older men and watched how the men would be sheltered and protected while their victims the young girls would pay the price. It was reinforced again and again that the adults around me knew and would do nothing. Once when I told Pastor Grant what had happened, when I actually built up the courage, he told me not to “rock the boat” because it would “make the church look bad”. I knew I was being eaten alive by this system. I was hopeless, but like any good UPC’er, I made it look good.

I should wrap this up for now. It’s like a plate of spaghetti, one thought/memory leads to another and another…It’s difficult to stay on one path when I have so many stories and details to add. But I want to add my voice to Debbie’s, and many others, that were and probably still are being victimized by the UPC. After all of these years, I’m not the scared and depressed little girl anymore. It’s my time. I will be heard.

Childhood, Depression, Fear, Justice, Sexual Abuse, United Pentecostal Church

The Walking Wounded

I am one of the walking wounded. I have been attempting to write a book. Even though the process of writing can at times make me feel all alone I know that there are so many others like me. I just finished listening to the NPR podcast “Believed.” This podcast covers the story of Larry Nassar and his many victims. Although their story takes place in the world of competitive gymnastics there are so many similarities. Last week was an awful week for me. I battled my demons daily as I continued to write and try to unwind the story of my childhood. ITunes helpfully suggested this podcast to me and I’m so glad I took a chance on it. Now if you are like so many people in my life you might ask why would I put myself through that? Well because listening to other victims tell their story makes me feel less alone and strange in the world. The podcast was hard to listen to. I could relate to many of the women and their experiences. They inspired me to keep going and their journey gave me hope that maybe my story can have a better ending than it has had so far.

My friends and family worry about me. People tell me to take breaks and to take care of myself. They worry that telling this story might hurt me more than it helps me. I’m grateful for everyone in my life who has reached out to check in and give me advice. The thing is I cannot quit. I carried this trauma inside me for decades and now is the time to give it a voice. I cannot sit back and do nothing when I know that young people are continuing to be abused in the church I grew up in and others like it. My abuser is still out there doing god knows what. This isn’t about revenge but about justice. Justice for myself and all of the others like me.

Right now I will speak anywhere I am asked to speak and share my story anywhere I can get a platform. I am afraid because I don’t know if I have the skills to make my book a reality and I know for a fact that I am not a public speaker but the time for fear is over. Fear can be really hard to let go of, especially when you are raised on fear and it is what you know best. When you are told to keep yourself small and to go unnoticed it can be hard to step into the sunshine. So I keep going. I do it for myself and all of the survivors of Calvary Gospel and the UPC organization. Most importantly I do it for her…

Age 11

D