C-PTSD, Calvary Gospel Church, Childhood, Compassion, Pastor John Grant, Poverty, Sexual Abuse, Trauma, United Pentecostal Church

The High Price Of Turning A Blind Eye

 

I have often wondered why so many people seem to turn a blind eye when they see something that doesn’t seem right regarding a child. Maybe they did not see anything but they heard a rumor and maybe they thought it was none of their business. As a child abuse survivor, I’m here to tell you that when you make the choice to turn a blind eye you’re abandoning that child. You might feel that it isn’t your concern or that the child’s parents should be the ones deciding what to do. If you only take one thing away from reading my blog I’d like you to take away that you may be the only thing standing between that child and a lifetime of trauma.

In isolated churches where the outside world is not welcome, children have no one to turn to but those inside of their little community. If the community is more interested in protecting its reputation than protecting the life of the child than that child really has no chance. Not only will they deal with the trauma of whatever abuse happens to them but they may deal with the trauma of not being believed or of feeling unworthy of protection. It may take a lot of courage to speak up and you may have to endure criticism but in the end, is it ever wrong to try to protect or save a child?

If any of the adults around me had stopped to think about how odd it was that a 30ish-year-old man was spending so much time with me they might have asked some questions. The heat of that attention may have scared Steve off from abusing me, he may have felt he was being watched. Had one of the women who knew about this come to me just to check in and see if everything was ok maybe that would have given me a chance to open up, or again it may have scared Steve off. I told him pretty much everything about what was going on in my life. The time he was spending with me was so out there in the open for anyone who was paying attention to see. If you were one of the people who went out after church and shared a meal then you knew he was driving me around. If you were part of his group of friends you knew he was taking me on road trips with him. These adults could have saved me from some of my trauma.

When Steve Dahl was abusing me our church averaged around 250-300 depending on the Sunday. Steve played his trumpet in every service. He and his wife sat in the second row. He was popular and well liked. A man like that doesn’t just disappear from a church and nobody notices he is gone. A woman doesn’t have her husband suddenly leave and no one know what is going on. Her sister was suddenly gone too, so there is another person gone. Pastor Grant would have said something to the elders. The women of the church would have had some idea what was going on with Debbie, Steve’s wife, it would have been out there amongst the congregation. That is a lot of adults choosing to turn a blind eye. Choosing to say nothing. As a child, I could feel everyone stepping back from me like I had some disease they might catch. I knew they knew. I felt judged and unworthy of love. No one reached out to me in love, no one checked in on me, this added to my trauma. I am sure they assumed that pastor Grant would take care of it but maybe they should have checked to be sure. If love and compassion were present then I feel that backing away from me wouldn’t have happened. How do you back away from a wounded child? If they really thought I was a seductive child or whatever they are trying to say now, why didn’t that drive them to ask questions? Even if they had chosen to reach out to me at this point they could have saved me some trauma. If love and therapy had been applied here things could have turned out very differently for me.

In all of the intervening years running right up to the present if any of the adults who heard rumors or flat out knew about what happened had come to me and checked in they could have reduced my trauma.

C-PTSD encompasses trauma coming from many different sources over a long period of time. Food insecurity and poverty featured heavily during my childhood. This was no secret. I can remember one day when my mother took me for a school uniform fitting and another woman who was there commented on how I was so thin I looked like I could just blow away in the wind. On another occasion, I worked very hard to be on the honor roll at school and the reward was to go on a field trip out of town to a museum. I was sooo excited! There was only one problem, my shoes developed a sudden hole in the bottom and I was too embarrassed to go. We had no money for another pair of shoes so my mother called Roy and asked if he could help. He asked another student if she could loan me a pair of shoes for the day. I was mortified. I wore the shoes and the young woman who loaned them to me made sure everyone knew what had happened. Then I gave them back. Well, that solved the issue for that one day, but what would have really helped was if someone had offered to buy me some shoes. Maybe Roy who worked in the school and was my youth leader, or maybe this girl’s parents who were elders at the time. Instead they turned a blind eye. There were adults who knew we did not have electricity from time to time. One person, Ida Cox helped my mother. I remember it was such a big deal and made my life so much easier for a time. The other times we had no electricity no one helped. I know people dropped me off to that sad dark house after church. There were never any lights on. I would open the door and this dark heavy oppression would hit me like a wall of despair. Sometimes my mother would be sitting on the porch outside to greet me and other times the house would be silent. I would feel the way to the stairs leading up to my bedroom and then feel for the oil lamp to give me some light. Didn’t these adults wonder why they never saw a light come on? On one occasion a young adult man dropped me off after a service and I invited him in. My mom and stepdad were not there for some reason. I had nothing to offer him but Koolaid and at one point he asked me about the cooler on the floor. I explained to him that we have no power and that is where we kept our food. I even opened it up briefly to show him the contents. He smiled tightly and soon was out the door. I felt embarrassed and immediately wished I had not invited him in. Another blind eye.

I grew up feeling like everyone could see my pain and no one would help me. I grew up feeling unworthy, sometimes hungry, sometimes lonely, always unloved. This is the garden my trauma grew out of. The harvest of my childhood is an adulthood full of unraveling. First you have to figure out what is wrong with you. You can sense early on in adulthood that you are not like most people. Then you start the long journey of trying to heal. You try dozens of things until you land on some that help. Most help a little but there is no magic pill. Mine is a life of lost potential. I was too busy struggling to survive to do what most people do in their young adulthood. I had no one to help me figure out how to go to college. I had no desire to live with either of my parents and so I moved out at age 17 and got my own apartment. I worked hard to survive but there was no time to nurture myself or think about how to fix what was broken. When you think about turning a blind eye think of me and maybe reconsider. Would one adult be able to solve all of my childhood issues? Probably not, but if I could have entered adulthood with one less layer to my trauma it would have made a huge difference to me.

I believe that churches give too much power to pastors. They often feel that the pastor knows about things and is taking care of them. In legalistic churches, they often blame the victim and stand in judgement instead of applying love and compassion. They may gain salvation but they lose their humanity. The people at Calvary Gospel certainly seem to have lost their heart. How can they side with the abuser over and over again? They pray for the abuser and the victim becomes the problem. This may be why some people feel it is better to turn a blind eye. If they side with the wounded it will not be long before they are also wounded. It is selfish self-preservation. If you are in a group that causes you to silent that inner voice that tells you something is off then I advise you to run! Don’t let an organization like Calvary Gospel take away your humanity and care for children, the poor, elderly, and suffering. Don’t turn a blind eye, say something, reach out and offer your help. If you do this you can hold onto your heart and maybe help someone else to heal theirs.

 

 

 

Age 11

 

As I look at the photos above all I can think is that she deserved better from all of the adults in her life.

D

 

 

Calvary Gospel Church, Childhood, Compassion, Pastor John Grant, Sexual Abuse, Sin, Survivors, Trauma, United Pentecostal Church

Some Things Never Change

As new things develop and as I work through my personal trauma I have to ask where is the bottom? Where is the bottom when it comes to Calvary Gospel’s crimes against its congregation. I watched their Sunday morning service after they learned of Glen Uselmann’s charges and I was surprised. I shouldn’t be but I find that they never cease to amaze me. As they sink lower and lower I wonder how did they get this way? During their service, there was no mention of healing for the abused but there was mention of healing for Glenn. They did not display humbleness or any sense of self-reflection. What they did display was a sense of being persecuted. Pastor Roy Grant once again did not speak to his congregation. I have watched many regular services now and he has not spoken at any of them. I have to wonder where is his leadership? The speaker mentioned the torture of the saints and those dealing with depression but no mention was made of the trauma survivors. It is important to keep in mind that we survivors are the children of their congregation. They raised us and their lack of compassion towards our pain is nothing short of stunning. They continue to direct all of their love and compassion towards the ones who committed crimes against their children. When they speak out against myself and others they often say that we mischaracterize their views on women. I do not understand how they can say that when their views are so obvious and on full display. As girls, we were made to believe that we were second class citizens in the kingdom of God. Not just second class citizens but walking sin that needed to be covered up, hidden, and we needed to be ever vigilant lest we caused our brother to fall. Whatever they actually believed the message that was delivered was that men bear no responsibility for their actions but little girls should somehow be capable to make or break a man in the lust department. Little girls were told not to bring shame on the church by reporting, not to ruin a grown man’s life, and to take responsibility for the whole situation. Little girls often bore the stain of whatever happened while the men would go on to make their mark in the ministry. If women are truly the weaker vessel then why are they given so much responsibility to carry, especially young girls? It is also important to point out that we are talking about children. Grown men should not be lusting after children. A girl of 11 or 12 is a child. Most of the rest of society can see this why can’t they? They act so put upon, so persecuted, and they seem to have no awareness of their responsibility. As they dig in their heels they risk falling deeper into the pit they have created for themselves.

D

Calvary Gospel Church, Pastor John Grant, Sexual Abuse, Survivors, Trauma, Uncategorized, United Pentecostal Church

Something Good

It is pretty unusual for me to have something good to report and so I am really happy to have some positive news to share with you today! Some of you may remember reading Rebecca’s story here:

https://survivingchurchandchildhood.wordpress.com/2019/03/23/a-second-victim-steps-forward-rebeccas-story/

https://survivingchurchandchildhood.wordpress.com/2019/11/12/beckys-story-continues/

I am happy to report that her abuser is going to get his day in court. You can read about his charges below!

https://wcca.wicourts.gov/caseDetail.html?caseNo=2020CF001760&countyNo=13&index=0&mode=details 

Here is an update reported in The Cap Times this morning:

https://madison.com/ct/news/local/govt-and-politics/charges-filed-in-sexual-assault-case-linked-to-madisons-calvary-gospel-church/article_34569c20-ab50-5d81-862c-d425b1281b54.html#tracking-source=home-top-story

These charges are very serious and I hope that he does some serious jail time. Rebecca is fortunate that her case is still inside the statute of limitations. I am hoping that by shining a light on this case more survivors may come forward. It can be so scary to tell your story and when you go to the police often you have to tell your story over and over. Rebecca is a brave warrior and I am so happy for her!

I would be lying if I said this situation hasn’t caused me some worry. The fact is we just do not know how Calvary Gospel and the Grant family will respond to this. They have never had the light of justice shined in their eyes before. They have never been held responsible for anything. Granted this case is bringing Glen to justice and not John Grant it still has to have them rattled. They may be called into court to testify and who knows what Glen might say about the church and the Grants when he is attempting to cut a deal. In my experience, the Grants will throw people under the bus to save their own skin. I will update you as things continue to unfold.

 

Warrior Women

I will continue to fight alongside Rebecca as long as it takes to bring all of these predators to justice!

D

 

 

Calvary Gospel Church, isolation, Sexual Abuse, Shame, Stress, Uncategorized, United Pentecostal Church

Virginity

*This post could be viewed as graphic so reader beware*

When you grow up in a church like the one I grew up in virginity is very important. Alongside that goes the rampant sexual abuse of young girls. These two things coexist in an impossible way. Girls bear all of the responsibility for keeping themselves and the males pure even if those males are adults. The males can be forgiven over and over and never really lose any status but once a girl gives in she is forever ruined in the eyes of the church. After Steve Dahl abused me I was seen as a temptress and as spoiled. How sad to have the adults in your life see you as ruined at the age of 12. It hurt to be seen this way and it destroyed my self-esteem. I started to see my future as very limited. Women are viewed as only good for marriage and raising a family and you can only marry someone who is also United Pentecostal. I had 5 dating options within my church if I wanted to stay within my age group. If the parents of those boys saw me as dangerous or tainted they were going to dissuade their sons from dating me. This meant that I often dated and had puppy love romances with boys from other UPC churches. Their parents wouldn’t know about what Steve did to me.

At age 16 I dated a man who attended Calvary Gospel. His sister and her husband were part of the “in” group. This guy was well into his 20’s but no one batted an eye. I wasn’t anything to preserve or protect, after all, I was already ruined. This guy was a chronic backslider and he was the most dangerous choice I could find. At this point, I was so angry. A boy who I really cared about, one of the 5 options, had just broken my heart. I knew his mother did not approve of us being together. She made no secret of how she felt often saying things when I could easily overhear. It was after this break up that I started to see the church in a way that became harder and harder to look away from. I cried for weeks after this breakup. I would cry in my office at school and I stopped eating. Eventually, I withdrew from all of the church activities I was involved with and went from sitting in the second row to sitting in the back row. People would look at me kind of weird but no one said anything and none of the adults checked in on me. So I decided to rebel.

After years of feeling never good enough I decided to date Mike, the 20-something guy who I would eventually have sex with. We went to church together and everyone knew we were a couple but no one spoke out and said, “Hey that guy is an adult and she is underage!” It was accepted and I am sure the church saw it as a good match. The guy no one would want their daughter to marry and the teen no one would want their son to marry. People treated Mike fine, he was male, and whenever he backslid the prayer chain would light up. They had compassion for him even if they thought he was kind of a troubled guy. Our relationship was not a good one. He was mentally and emotionally abusive to me. He stalked me after I broke things off with him. One night, just like many of the evenings we spent together, we had sex. It was not special. It was more like checking something off of a list. I was detached from what was happening, being with Steve Dahl taught me how to do that. I wasn’t in my body or feeling anything. I was somewhere else watching someone else. I believe I felt that by doing this I would be stepping closer to adulthood and if the church was going to insist that I was a whore than I was going to be one. My heart breaks for my child self because I was still a child and I needed an adult, just one adult to care about me.

I have been thinking about this a lot over the last couple of days. It hit me, while I was doing yoga, and I see things clearer now than I ever have. Mike didn’t take my virginity. Steve did. By age 12 he was doing everything but having intercourse with me and he tried to have intercourse with me. Not to be too graphic but you don’t have to have intercourse to have penetration. All those years growing up in that terrible church the adults all knew something I did not. I kept thinking that I was still a virgin because I had not had sex, but they all knew what Steve took from me. I think this is part of the reason I felt nothing about what Mike and I did when we eventually had intercourse. This makes me so sad.

I want to close this post by saying I do not agree with Calvary Gospel. Losing your virginity doesn’t make you less than. If you are young and reading this please hear me! You are just as worthy before sex as after. If an adult is having sex with you or trying to have sex with you please tell someone. If the first person does nothing keep telling until someone listens. If you have been or are being abused please don’t take the shame of the abuser into yourself. The shame and responsibility belong to them. If you were abused and never told anyone that is ok too. If you want to tell now, even if the abuse has stopped that is ok too. You are good, worthy, and wonderful. I am here to support you along with so many others.

D

C-PTSD, Calvary Gospel Church, Sexual Abuse, Trauma, United Pentecostal Church

Escapism

While I have been working on my book I’ve been thinking about the past. In particular, the time right after I left CGC. Because of trauma writing is a slow process and at times it can really knock me off my feet. Other times I just sit and stare feeling nothing but a heaviness in my chest that I cannot explain. I suspect that heaviness is pain, pain that I’m not ready to address or pain that I am afraid to feel.

About a year before I left the church I started to work at York Steak House. It was my first real job and I was so happy to have it. I finally had the opportunity to meet kids my own age and feel somewhat normal. To the teens I met, I was rather exotic, a “private school girl”. I think that made me much more attractive to the boys than I might have been had I not showed up to work in my school uniform every day. While I was there I tried to blend in but it became clear to the other teens that I was not one of them. That being said they welcomed me with open arms and soon I was being invited to parties and other social gatherings. This acceptance did nothing to help the church in my eyes. The church never really accepted me and when I was there I felt so unwanted and unloved. Suddenly I found this group of kids who liked me, who saw me as normal-ish, and who were willing to be my friends. A whole new world opened up for me. These couldn’t possibly be the teens my youth pastor and pastor had warned me about, you know the ones who would lead me straight to hell! How could it be that these “worldly” kids could be so kind, compassionate, and warm?

For a short while, I walked the line between my new friends and my life at the church. I tried to be good but also cultivate these new relationships. Having these friends made it so much easier for me to walk away when it became clear to me that I could no longer tolerate the church. I want to be crystal clear about one thing, I did not leave the church because these friends were a bad influence, I left the church because of how CGC had treated me for a decade. I left the church because I had no fight left in me and no hope that my situation would ever be better.

Once I left CGC I embraced my new life slowly at first. Tears and worry came when I cut my hair and pierced my ears and I waited to be struck by lightning. When nothing happened I breathed a sigh of relief and set out to discover the world I had been in but not a part of for so long. I started to party with my new friends and we went to many many concerts together. Music has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. For most of my adult life, I have looked back on these days with rose-colored glasses firmly in place. It was a magical time. To this day I love the feeling of being down in the pit at shows, the energy of the crowd is so much better there. I may have traded in Cinderella for The Avett Brothers but some things never change. I could breathe in this new life, I could relax and just be without the stress of the church breathing down my neck. It was so fun to choose clothing that was off-limits to me in the past. Now I had money to spend and the freedom to really enjoy it by buying whatever I wanted.

Along with this came alcohol. I experimented with alcohol before I ever left the church but that was very mild compared to the drinking I did after I left. I drank every weekend with my friends and although we did it pretty safely it became a habit. I’ve never struggled to abstain from drinking and I count that as a small miracle considering how much I drank in my late teens. Before I started really digging into my past through the writing process I would look back on that time with fondness.  I was so free! I had friends and we had so many good times together. I attended so many great shows and lived my life with youthful abandon. This included my interactions with boys, and there were so many of them. I have always promised to tell the truth here and so I intend to be truthful about this as well. I had sex with many young men. It was the only way I knew to get my emotional needs met. I understand now that as accepted as I felt I could only get so close to people. I kept everyone at arm’s length, never really letting them close to my heart. I existed in self-protection mode at all times. It has been well documented that women who have suffered sexual abuse as children often become promiscuous as teens. I was not an exception.

I have always been the type of person who becomes still when I drink. I am not an angry drunk if anything I become much more chilled out. I think this is because of C-PTSD. My nerves are always on high alert and alcohol makes my system calm down some. As a teen I never drank to get drunk I drank to get to that place where I could relax and not feel so much. When I drank I could feel less and that was a relief. I was carrying around so much pain. At that time I did not want to talk or think about the past, I just wanted to move on. I recognize now that I was in survival mode. I wasn’t ready to open any of the doors inside my heart and brain, all I was ready for was removing the threat by leaving the church and then trying to catch my breath. I spent years trying to catch my breath, trying to figure out how to move on. People would always say, “Isn’t great that you’re out now, you can move on.” Sadly that isn’t how it works. Those things inside me just got louder and louder until I was strong enough to listen. Sex and relationships with men were another way I tried to cope. I wrapped myself in them and it gave me something else to focus on to forget the pain. I was chasing my dad, Steve, and every other male who had let me down and abandoned me. Through my trying to escape my trauma I only created more. Each time my heart was broken by a man it was like reliving the pain of the past over again. Sadly at that time, I couldn’t see it.

So those years don’t look so rosy to me anymore. I’m finding as I write, more and more of my past is cloaked in darkness. There are so many things, events, and people that I will never see the same again, and although that makes me sad it is also liberating. I believe in truth and I try my best not to hide from it. It can be hard to look truth in the face. Doing so may cause you to lose community, family, and so much more, but by embracing truth you can release so much pain. In my life, that action has been the only path to healing.

2020, C-PTSD, Childhood, Depression, Physical Symptoms, Sexual Abuse, Stress, Survivors, Trauma

Trauma and Illness

Happy 2020! If you are new to my blog I encourage you to start at the beginning even though there is a lot of content to get through. You will understand my story better if you start at the first post. This year I suspect the content of this blog might shift a little. I want to focus a bit more on the after-effects of trauma and how it impacts people long term. I know that it continues to affect me and many others I have contact with.

About a month ago I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and possibly another autoimmune disorder. There is a lot going on with my health, way more than I have the time to get into here. I firmly believe that my illness has a lot to do with the trauma I suffered in the past. There is science to back this up. Women are much more likely to suffer from fibro and those who have been through childhood trauma are even more likely. There seems to be a real connection between fibro and childhood sexual abuse. Even more so there is a connection between childhood trauma and autoimmune disease in general. I find this to be a fascinating topic. Many survivors I know suffer from depression and anxiety due to their past abuse and many folks with autoimmune disorders also suffer from mental illness.

I think the physical burdens carried by abuse survivors speaks to how hard or impossible it may be to “just let it go.” We are often told to forgive and forget but when your body is still experiencing things decades later it can be hard to just pretend like nothing ever happened.

If you are a survivor, have you suffered from an illness that you feel is connected to your past experiences?

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-02-links-adult-fibromyalgia-childhood-sexual.html

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/chronic-pain-and-childhood-trauma-2018033012768

 

Calvary Gospel Church, Childhood, Sexual Abuse, United Pentecostal Church

Becky’s Story Continues

This is a continuation of Becky’s story in her own words…
I’m not sure how to start this, so I’m going to just jump in and hope it comes together. It’s like being at an intersection with a million crossroads and trying to pick the best route.
After my first blog piece, I’ve had so many people ask “what’s next”, and “then what happened”, so I will try to answer some of them. It’s impossible to do fully since I can only pick one direction at a time, but eventually, I might travel all of them.
Since I (and many other fellow women) went public with our stories, I have been pleasantly surprised at the outpouring of support I’ve received. Cards, letters, facebook messages – from friends, fellow survivors, and complete strangers – telling me their own stories, offering support, or saying “thank you”. We were all warned by the newspaper staff to brace ourselves after releasing our stories for negative comments, as social media and whatnot can be vicious. I am happy to report that I did not receive one negative comment from the general public. Not surprising, the only negative and derogatory comments came from members of the church we were speaking about. Anyhow, a big thank you to all of you that showed your support and encouragement. I know many have expressed hesitancy at saying anything, as they don’t know whether we want to talk about it, but please know that it’s always ok.
Some have asked why the Capital Times article didn’t address certain topics, so I will try to clarify some.  First, there is a limit on the word count. A story like this has many facets, and not all can be addressed in 5000 words. Second, we were tying our stories in with the current bill in discussion regarding clergy being mandated reporters, so our stories were focused mostly on that aspect. Yes, there are/were many other aspects we would have loved to add, but it would take a book to discuss it all.
Moving on to more of my personal story – first, I would like to discuss the fear that was taught/ingrained in us as children in UPC. From early ages on, we were taught that if we didn’t strictly follow UPC’s definitions of biblical “salvation”, we would be damned to hell. We would burn in a lake of fire forever. We were told that there was a worse place in hell for those who had “heard the truth and walked away”. So that obviously put us in the “worse place”. Not sure how eternal fire could be worse, but apparently UPC found it. These rules, and not remotely an extensive list here, were that women were to be unquestionably submissive to the men, women could only wear long skirts/dresses, no makeup, absolutely no cutting/trimming of their hair, no jewelry, no public swimming, no movies, tv in homes was also taboo, we had to pay a minimum of 10% of all our income to the church (with your name on the envelope so if you weren’t giving they would know), and attendance to 3 services a week plus prayer meetings, etc. Public education was frowned on, so most ended up in the church-based school. Alcohol was a complete sin, to the point that some members would no go to restaurants if they served alcohol, or use food extracts because of the alcohol content. One woman I knew wouldn’t use conditioner in her hair because it had a type of alcohol in it. So between no alcohol and the strict dress code, it made most sports off limits too. Here’s a dumb example – in the church school, if the girls wanted to go play outside in the winter, we had to put skirts on OVER our snow pants. Apparently snow pants could show our curves (my eyes have rolled back so far in my head they may never come back out).
Back to the hell part – we were told that if we missed the rapture because we had sinned, then IF we survived the next few years of the apocalypse, we still had a slight chance to make it to heaven if we became martyrs for christ and had our heads chopped off. I was 9 years old when they showed us a movie about people getting their heads chopped off, and all sorts of human torture while turning off the lights to scare us even more. Even as a child, I knew I would never be perfect enough to be “saved”, so I knew my head would have to be chopped off to avoid burning forever. I know now how terribly psychologically abusive that is, especially to young developing minds. I look back now and can identify many times that I was having panic attacks as a child. I lived in terror and fear. Not just of hell, but of getting in trouble with the adults around me for not living up to the church’s rules. I was “rebellious” once and wore clear nail polish – I was given detention at school and then pulled out and slapped for it – let me say that again – I wore CLEAR NAIL POLISH, was slapped and made to repent of my sin and my “jezebel spirit”. Between school, 3 services a week, prayer meetings and youth group, I literally spent most of my childhood in that building.
Here’s something I have rarely spoken of, because for some reason it is really tough for me – but as a child, I would envision the devil and demons flying around my bed at night, just waiting for me to sin. Everything in UPC is considered a “spiritual battle” and they feel the devil is always lurking to trip them up. I would hide under my blankets and beg god to forgive me for anything I could’ve possibly done wrong. I started some self-harm techniques, long before I knew that’s what it was, and long before I could identify that was what I was doing – I would scratch myself until I bled, or pull out all my eyelashes and eyebrows – in an attempt to ease the torment in my mind.
I had no one to reassure me, to calm me, or to tell me it was going to be ok. Every person I knew was UPC, and every adult around me was UPC, and those adults enforced every rule.
Oddly, sexuality was a huge focus in UPC. Women were subservient but had to be excessively cautious about not being attractive, lest they cause the men around them to lust and sin. It was always the fault of the woman – they showed too much leg, too much arm, etc. If you were lucky enough to be naturally attractive, you were criticized and told you had the “spirit of sexuality”. Hence all the dress codes were on the women. But in their teachings, and the constant focus, they were doing much the opposite – they were keeping sexuality at the forefront of their religion. I sat through a youth class where the minister told us where men like to be touched, and what turns them on so that we wouldn’t do it. Talk about backward. Of course, it was abstinence-only. But in the background, where everyone knew but wouldn’t talk about, was a massive problem. I think because sex was such a forefront issue, and because you were only allowed to marry other UPC-ers, couples were often getting married extremely young and the only compatibility goal was your mate be UPC too. So little to no thought was placed on if you were a good match, or of life goals, personalities, etc, just be another UPC-er and god will take care of the rest. So affairs, sexual crimes, porn addictions, and unprotected sex was rampant. It was as if most everyone knew – I mean come on, I was a child and could see it, there’s no excuse for the adults not seeing it too – but no one talked about it or addressed it. No one would open that can of worms. Just as I sit typing this I can think of 7 examples of older men dating underage girls, just from my age group and circle of friends. I’m sure if I actually sat and counted, that number would be much higher. And by younger girls, I’m referring to girls in middle and high school. This was no secret, and so common in that community that no one even thought it weird. Those that did had enough sense to leave UPC, so the adults that were left were the ones too ingrained in the religion to think for themselves. I have often explained it as adults, parents would join UPC, and completely turn their children over to the church. They assumed the church was a good place, a safe place, and so they went against every parental instinct and just allowed whatever or whomever to now be in control of their children. Consequently, this mentality created a spectacular place for every predator imaginable. They could join this subset of society, do anything they wanted as long as they obeyed the outward rules of UPC, participate in services enough to be considered “godly” or ‘ministers’, and do anything they wanted and get away with it. No one would ever tell on them, because they already knew their religious group wasn’t looked on favorably by “normal” society, so they dealt with everything internally in order to avoid the public eye.
Not only was I preyed on by my perpetrator, who I previously referred to as “Ben”, but inappropriate behavior was common. On my wedding day, I was carried out by one of “Ben’s” friends, while they did the kidnap-the-bride thing, and his friend stuck his hand up my wedding dress and held onto my lady bits (sorry, oddly enough I feel weird saying “genitals”). I squirmed and tried to move, and asked him to stop, but he just kept it up and laughed at me. I couldn’t get away from him as he was carrying me, and he thought it was funny. It wasn’t until all this came up that I have even told that story. I realize now that this guy was so bold that he sexually assaulted his buddy’s wife on their wedding day. But even then I knew no one would believe me or care if I did tell. I have since learned that this same man had previously assaulted two other women, and he was actually made to apologize to the congregation for one assault, but he was still allowed to be a minister there.
What strikes me is how I had been taught and treated to think I had no boundaries, or no voice, in that arena – how UPC had sucked the very life out of me. I didn’t choose to grow up UPC – I was a child, and at the mercy of the adults around me – my parents, my teachers, my friends – were all UPC. The psychological and emotional abuse had irrevocably altered my development. I grew up in fear and suppression, completely vulnerable and completely hopeless, in an environment that preyed on the weak.
I need to wrap this up. I have a soft spot in my heart for children now. I wish every child could feel love, acceptance, and support, and to feel free and uninhibited to follow their dreams and be the person they want to be. I wish for every child to have a good meal in their belly and be in a safe place.
If anything ever comes of this, I will know that I fought for the child I was once was. I have grown up now, and have promised myself to never be that willingly vulnerable again. I can see myself as that young child, and I will be what she once needed, and somehow, hopefully someday, bring her some justice and healing.
Calvary Gospel Church, Compassion, Self Esteem, Shame, United Pentecostal Church

Good

“Just because someone isn’t willing or able to love us, it doesn’t mean that we are unlovable.”
― Brené Brown

I have been doing some deep soul searching. When you first leave a toxic church or family it is all about survival. Then as the years peel away deeper issues are revealed. One of my biggest struggles right now is to see myself as good. Now I know that if you are still a Christian you may not agree with this post and if that is the case please feel free to scroll on past. I can’t ever remember a time when I felt that I was good, from a very young age I felt wrong, off, broken, and dangerous. Some of the blame for that I can lay at my parent’s feet and some of that blame belongs to the church. I was a vibrant child with intelligence and ambition. I was artistic, athletic and loving. Somewhere along the way, very early on my light was snuffed out. Some of that was stress and some of it was from constantly being reminded that I was a sinner, and the worst kind of sinner, a woman.

“We live in a world where most people still subscribe to the belief that shame is a good tool for keeping people in line. Not only is this wrong, but it’s dangerous. Shame is highly correlated with addiction, violence, aggression, depression, eating disorders, and bullying.”
― Brené Brown

I’m taking a class right now that requires me to do a lot of journaling and soul searching. As I look back on my child self I find myself struggling to like that little girl. I find myself asking why, why did I always feel rejected by God and why did I always feel like I was somehow the exception to God’s love? It makes me so angry that my light was extinguished so young and that I was taught to hate myself especially my own body. I was taught to see my very existence as sinful and the body that I had no choice but to live in as dangerous and flawed. What awful poison! Now as an adult I try to reach back to my child self and offer her love and understanding but I feel like I’m failing. My only hope is that somewhere in my mind I can find the truth of who I was/am. I realize as I type this how crazy this must all sound. I’ve been out of the church for so long, how can this still be a struggle? It’s a struggle because I am not yet totally healed and may never be, but I strive anyways to heal a little more every day. Part of that process is to grant my child self something she never had, unconditional love and belief in her inherent goodness.

“Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story. It hates having words wrapped around it- it can’t survive being shared. Shame loves secrecy. When we bury our story, the shame metastasizes.”
― Brené Brown

When I try to hold an image of my child self in my mind all I can see is shame hanging on her like a dirty cloak. Shame because of my parents’ behavior and choices, poverty, shame about what was done to me, and shame about my early blooming body. I knew that I did not come from the right family and yes I felt shame because of my skin color. Shame about my intelligence and shame because I had questions. In the past, I have worked hard to let go of shame but this work is showing me that there is still work to do in that department. I have to remind myself that the shame they heaped on me was not my shame to carry. I need to find a way to see my child self without the gray filter that is always present.

For now, I’m going to keep pulling the past apart and reminding myself how the adults around me were wrong and deceived. I’m going to try to love my child self the way I love my own children. This might be an unpopular opinion but I believe we all come into this world good. I refuse to believe that a child deserves hell or is even capable of sin. I’m also going to remind myself that all of those statements include me. I am not the exception, I am good.

 

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

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