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!
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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

Justice, United Pentecostal Church

Processing

The good news is I am continuing to write. The bad news is I have spent pretty much my entire day processing. I feel like my brain has two parallel tracks. The child’s mind track and my adult mind track. They both exist at the same time but hold two very different opinions. When I seek to tell the story from the perspective of my child’s mind I see my abuser as a confused man. A man taken over by his impulses, I see him as partly sympathetic. When I allow the adult part of my mind to do the talking she has a much different story to tell. She sees him as an evil manipulator who stole my childhood and consumed it with relish. The child within seeks to understand why he would commit such acts and assumes he could not help himself. The adult sees each step of the path and how his decisions one by one added up to the crime he committed. Right now at this moment, I hate them all, all the adults who have let me down. I teeter on the edge of falling into an ocean of my own tears. There is a loneliness in all of this. There is a feeling that no one can really understand the depth of the damage that was done to me. Even though I know there are others I feel freakish and like a sideshow. My heart weeps for my 11-year-old self. How could she have been so alone and neglected that Steve looked like the best option for friendship? Where were all of the adults?

After I finished writing for the day I painted my nails and watched a little television. I was trying to distract myself from the heaviness in my chest. In a few minutes, I intend to do some yoga to try to bring some calm. I’m trying to maintain some sense of balance. The reality is I think I could work on this story day and night only taking breaks to eat and go to the bathroom. It is burning a hole through me and it won’t let me be. It’s all I can think about. As I’m pounding this blog post out on my laptop justice pops into my mind. I could not get justice from the law and what if I can’t get justice from writing this book? What if I never get justice? What if I put all this down on the page and it just sits there? We have seen what has happened within the Catholic church and now the Southern Baptist church, when will it be our turn? Who will bust the story wide open for us? All of us broken souls searching for justice. Right now I feel like the UPC is laughing at us. It feels like something has got to give but it can be hard to believe that things will ever be different. When will they face justice? Let it be soon.

Compassion, Crime, Forgiveness, Sexual Abuse, United Pentecostal Church

Missing

My story is being read by more and more people. I appreciate everyone who takes the time to stop by my blog and go on this journey with me. I have been receiving lots of feedback and I would like to address some of that here.

I’m finding some Christians feel a real need to defend god. They feel like my story is an attack on god or that I’m somehow blaming him for what happened to me. Often their comments are filled with statements like “don’t blame god” or “god never fails” or “I’m sorry you feel that way, I hope you will come back to god” or “god will provide and protect”. Please understand I have no desire to debate god with anyone. I have made my choices in life and I’m happy with them. I don’t care what you believe as long as it helps you get through life, makes you happy, and doesn’t hurt others. What concerns me is the missing lack of attention to the content of my posts. I don’t think it helps anyone to debate who is worse Catholics or United Pentecostals. Arguing over whether or not god was blamed in my post or whether or not it is all UPC churches is not the issue.

I know this can be hard for some folks to hear but I don’t see how god is the issue at all. Why even bring god into it? In my view, the issue is adults and how they commit crimes and are not held accountable. At issue are the systems that make it possible for people to get away with hurting children, or how children fall through the cracks. Another thing to consider is how the church is a business and men are protected because they are the ones paying the tithes. Rape is happening within UPC churches and some people’s main concern is to preach to me? It worries me that I have laid my soul bare and many don’t want to talk about how we stop what is happening.

I know it can be scary when it feels like something you cherish is at risk. As humans, it is normal to want to protect what you cherish. For some people that is the Christian god, pastors, and churches. I would only ask you to take a moment and just be human, show some empathy and compassion, and be willing to look critically at what has happened, and is continuing to happen and ask yourself if you are ok with doing nothing. Do you feel that praying for me is enough? Will you carry my story with you into the pew this Sunday? Will you ask your church leadership what its policies are regarding sexual assault? If those policies are not in line with the law will you leave that church or take action to change the policies?

Whether we agree on the topic of Christianity and god can we at least agree that sexual abuse of the young is wrong and that those who commit these crimes should be turned into the police? Can we also agree that those in leadership who cover up these acts should be turned into the police? I’m fine with people claiming forgiveness if that is what they believe, but should that forgiveness mean they suffer no consequences? When my children would disobey I forgave them immediately because I loved them, but I also made them suffer a consequence so they would understand that there is a cost to our actions. Shouldn’t these adults suffer a consequence as well? I love my country even if I don’t always agree with those in power. I respect my nation as a nation of laws. When an atheist breaks the law he should pay for that, and so should a Christian. Your house of worship or lack thereof should be of no bearing.

If you have any ideas on how we can work together to change the culture of abuse within spiritual communities I would love to hear about it!

D