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

 

 

BITE Model, Calvary Gospel Church, United Pentecostal Church

Thoughts About CGC and the Bite Model 2

In my previous post, I discussed Steven Hassan’s Bite Model and how I feel it pertains to Calvary Gospel Church. I am still working through the Behavior section.

  • Regulate a person’s physical reality.
  • Dictate where, how, and with whom the member lives and associates or isolates.
  • When, how, and with whom the member has sex.
  • Control types of clothing and hairstyles.
  • Regulate diet – food and drink, hunger, and/or fasting.

Ok, that is a lot to chew on! I lumped these together because to me they all have so much to do with the material world. I think the first point covers most of the others. CGC plays a powerful role in where members reside and even which UPC church you can attend. I have heard stories of folks who have attended CGC being told they cannot move or cannot switch to another local UPC church. The church certainly teaches about who it is ok to associate with. If you are obedient regarding these things you will soon find yourself isolated with only the church as your support system. My mother was even told which jobs she could accept.

Whether you believe in premarital sex or not you cannot argue that the church dictates when, how, and with whom a member has sex. You must be married to have sex, period. If you are a woman and you break this rule you can be sure that you will wear the stain of your transgression for the rest of your life. Anything bad that happens to you may be used to point back to that time you had sex outside of marriage even if that was when you were 15 years old. Men do not wear this stain. Jesus may forgive but the church does not forget and if you are a woman you will be viewed as “fallen” forever.

I have discovered through communicating with other ex-UPC members that CGC is on the strict side concerning holiness standards. Again for men, the clothing and hair standard is not that different from what you might find in the world. They must have short hair and no shorts but that really isn’t a huge burden. Women on the other hand do not blend into the world at all, in fact, they stand out like a sore thumb. Now that I am out of the church I can spot them a mile away. Uncut hair, no pants, no makeup, and mostly no jewelry. For women, their appearance is highly controlled. As a teen, I spent a lot of time worrying about whether my clothing was right. After all that I was still judged for what I wore. I was trying but because my mother didn’t really care and I did not have an adult to guide me through some of the finer points, and boy do those finer points matter. Women within CGC are very cruel to each other regarding dress. It is used as a way to classify women and assign them a rank. How much can you spend on your clothing? Does it fall perfectly within the rules? There is also the complicating issue of depending on your rank you may be able to get away with more than someone lower down. Clothing and hair can be used as a weapon against women and it is one of the uglier parts of the underbelly of CGC. When I was a kid we did not have a lot of money, especially before 1983. My mom would buy me things on clearance and at Goodwill and then I would have to try to make it work within the standards. I always carried safety pins with me and my blouses and skirts were often all pinned up to make them compliant. My hair was fine and frizzy making it hard to recreate the fancy hairstyles synonymous with the UCP. I felt like I never looked right.

This brings us to the 5th point. You can’t drink booze that is common within the UPC. Fasting is encouraged and I did that with ease as a kid because I was well acquainted with hunger. I don’t know that they restrict any other food or drink but they do have a problem with food. This is my opinion and others may disagree with me. I feel CGC has a food problem or more specifically a gluttony problem. Food is like a sport to them. There are so many things you’re not allowed to do but eating is embraced with gusto, maybe too much gusto. Food is often associated with community and sharing food builds closeness. I feel it becomes an issue when all gatherings seem to center on food. That is how it was when I was a kid, it may have changed since then.

In my opinion, CGC hits all of these points, what are your thoughts?

D

BITE Model, Calvary Gospel Church, United Pentecostal Church

My Thoughts About Calvary Gospel Church and The BITE Model

While trying to recover from my childhood and young adult experiences I have listened to many podcasts and read many books. Over and over I have seen and heard Steve Hassan’s BITE model discussed. I have listened to Mr. Hassan talk about his personal experiences within a cult and how he was able to escape. After learning about the BITE model I feel CGC has many features of a cult. I personally feel CGC is a cult but some of you may disagree and that is ok. BITE stands for Behavioral Control, Information Control, Thought Control, and Emotional Control. I would like to take some time on my blog to talk about some of these things and give you my perspective. My hope is that this will spark some respectful conversation and understanding.

Let’s start with a topic that falls under Behavior Control, promotes dependence and obedience. Whew, this is a meaty topic. My opinion is that CGC definitely hits this marker. Let’s talk about dependence, when you become a new member you often really don’t know what you are getting into. Maybe you came to a service because a friend or family member asked you to and the next thing you know you are down at the altar repenting surrounded by people you don’t really know. Carried along by the energy of it all before you know it you are being told you are apart of this new family. This process happens with a heavy dose of love bombing and acceptance. If you stick around you soon learn that all of that love and acceptance are not unconditional. Soon you learn that it isn’t really ok for you to keep your “worldly” friends unless you are doing it in order to bring them into the church. You should probably be careful around unsaved family as well. The devil will use anyone he can to lead you astray. Before you know it all of your friends are part of the church and all of your activities involve the church as well. It is just the safest way to be sure you only expose yourself to Godly influence. This creates dependence. It makes it very hard to leave. If you go you will lose all of those friendships and connections. You may have pushed away other support systems and burned many bridges. The church also breeds fear of the outside world which means if you try to leave you will go with a pretty hefty fear of the unknown world out there.

This brings us to obedience. You are supposed to be obedient to God, your pastor, and if you are a woman to your husband. Children should be obedient to their parents. There may be other people thrown in depending on your situation. You might feel you need to be obedient to your Elder, Sunday School Teacher, or some other teacher. One of the first things you learn is that you shouldn’t question God.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8-9, KJV

Then you learn that you shouldn’t question your pastor.

“Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.”
1 Chronicles 16:22, KJV

So now I am not saying that these verses are being interpreted correctly, I am saying these are the verses that were used on me when I asked questions. I am sure I am not the only one.

You are expected to be obedient to God and your pastor without questioning them. You are supposed to let your pastor tell you what God means within the pages of the Bible and that gives the pastor so much control over your life. If you do not obey your pastor then you can expect to be shunned and your status within the church will be lowered. Within CGC the pastor dictates how you dress, spend your free time, and how much money you give to the church. Now of course you can choose to not listen but if you do your life will be harder within the church. No the church does not enforce obedience at gunpoint but the emotional pain brought on by questioning and disobedience can be used as a powerful way to keep you in line.

What do you think of all of this? Have you attended a United Pentecostal Church and if so was your experience similar?

D

Calvary Gospel Church, Childhood, Pastor John Grant, racism, Shame, Uncategorized, United Pentecostal Church

More On Racism and Calvary Gospel Church

Growing up half Mexican and attending Calvary Gospel was an odd experience at times. There were people who seemed to view me as white and then there were others who made it clear that they saw me as a person of color. The Grant’s real feelings about things were never spoken of over the pulpit and so when I was confronted with them it always surprised me. An adult once told me that the church did not believe in interracial marriage. When I asked about the people who I knew had interracial children I was told that if you were in an interracial marriage before you were saved it was ok. Hmmm ok, even as a kid that seemed off to me. As a person not seen as white or black I lived in this weird out of place world where I felt I did not fit in anywhere. Plus no one would give me straight answers about where I fit in, everything was communicated in looks and second-hand information.

Darlene Grant pastor Grant’s wife never spoke to me, I mean never, unless she was delivering criticism. If she said something to me regarding the school or the youth choir there was always a sharp edge to it even when there was no need for it. She communicated her dislike with every glance and I was left to wonder what I could have done to deserve her attitude. I suspect it had to do with Steve Dahl but who knows it could have been for a multitude of reasons.

Once or twice a year our church would be visited by a very popular evangelist. His name was Brother Hightower. He was very animated and funny and everyone loved it when he would pass through town with his family. He would pack the house and the altar would be filled with people. These revivals would last for up to two weeks and they had the feel of a festival. Less boring than a normal church service because they were more fun and more high energy. This particular event happened when I was about 13 years old. The Hightowers were in town and they brought their son who was the same age as me. The whole family was very sweet to me. It was clear that they did not view me the same way the Grants seemed to. Their son was kind of sweet on me and he would ask to sit by me and my friends during church. His mother was very strict about behavior during church but she didn’t seem to mind him sitting with us. One day he asked me if he could have my phone number and I said sure. We liked each other but it was strictly a very puppy love situation. He was only in town for a couple of weeks and I imagine it was hard to travel with your parents and not have any friends your age around. Somehow the Grants got wind of him asking for my phone number and I bet you can imagine how that went over.

One night after church Sister Grant sat down next to me. She asked if she could speak to me for a moment. This sent my heart up into my chest because she never came bearing good news. She informed me that I was not to sit next to my new friend anymore and if he called me I shouldn’t talk to him. She also forbid me to explain to him why I was no longer speaking to or sitting with him. Better to just cut it all off, because in her words, “We do not believe the way they do.” I couldn’t tell him why because it might offend them and pastor Grant did not want that to happen. So she laid in my lap rejecting the friendship of this sweet boy and forbid me to explain thus making me feel like a monster. She did not care how this action would make me look to him or his family. She was expecting me to be a mean girl in order to save her and pastor Grant from having the adult conversation they should have had with the Hightowers if that was so important to them. I will take this time to remind you that I was 13.

It felt like what they were saying is, you are too brown to be white, but too light to be black. They would not have wanted me to marry their son, but they also did not want me to be friends with this black boy who was infatuated with me. Can you see how this was all so confusing to me? I also feel that they thought this black family was good enough to come and minister/entertain them and their congregation but they were not good enough to have an honest conversation with or to “mix” with too much. They did not bring this situation to my parents they plopped it into my lap and left me feeling like I had once again done something really wrong. Over time I would see this kind of attitude play out over and over. Church kids (mostly white) don’t really mix with Sunday school bus kids even if those kids had been attending for years. I would befriend these mostly black kids because I worked the bus route and they were my age. By choosing this action I was ensuring even more side-eyes from the adults around me. Eventually, you get to the point where you recognize that no matter what you do they will look at you that way so you just give up.

I know that the church has changed some over the years. I am only speaking regarding my experience. As a side note, before the Hightowers left Sister Hightower pulled aside and told me that if I was ever in their hometown I was welcome in their home anytime. She smiled sweetly to me and I had the feeling she could see what was really going on. That gave me some relief from the shame I was feeling, shame that did not belong to me but to the adults in this twisted situation.

 

Calvary Gospel Church, Childhood, EMDR, United Pentecostal Church

What I Need Calvary Gospel To Know

Today I went to my second EMDR session. I left the session exhausted and completely drained. I cried the entire time and I left feeling so angry. I was not planning to write here today but I need to say this even if I have no hope that Calvary Gospel will hear me. I cannot blame Calvary Gospel for all of the abuse I suffered due to how my parents decided to parent me but the church did not make it any better. Along with that, my mother’s association with them brought so much drama into her life and reinforced all the things her parents passed onto her. By taking me to church there she reinforced her beliefs and thrust me into a very toxic enviroment that would impact me for the rest of my life.

Now unto Calvary Gospel….you might feel that I am unfairly targeting John Grant Sr. but I can assure you that I have given this a lot of thought. Yes, Steve Dahl is the man who sexually abused me and he deserves all the blame for his actions. That being said, John Grant Sr. was the pastor of our church and superintendent of our state and he was in authority over everything in my world. I went to John Grant and told him what Steve was doing to me and he did nothing to help me. He was supposed to be my shepherd but instead, he left me to suffer alone with no support. Sure my parents have their roles to play but to pretend that John Grant wasn’t in power over my life is insane. He was the ultimate decision-maker with regards to the school I attended and the church and all of the ministries I was involved with. He said jump and all of the adults around me said how high. He could have helped me. He was the head of a racist church that neglected the poor and favored the rich. He preyed on his congregation’s fear by preaching about hell and the end times and rarely speaking about grace. This fear keeps people stuck there, afraid to leave even when they see how sick his congregation is. If they leave they often can find no solace anywhere else because they have been told that any church that isn’t UPCI affiliated is doomed. Even within the UPCI, some churches are seen as good or bad.

Why does any of this matter? Well, it matters to me in part because I have C-PTSD. What do I hope to accomplish with this post? I hope to show the very real and long-lasting consequences of attending this church and having John Grant as a pastor. I have great health insurance but it doesn’t cover my EMDR provider so I have to pay out of pocket for her help. I have spent most of my adult life in and out of therapy trying to deal with the aftermath of being raised with Calvary Gospel. I grew up feeling bad about being half Mexican in part due to the church’s racism and feelings about multiracial marriages. That standard came from John Grant. I felt bad about being a woman and I felt bad about being poor. Yes, the teachings of the church about women came from above John Grant but he was the mouthpiece who delivered that message to me. He cultivated an enviroment where I learned that we were poor because my mother must have some sin in her life, and she was sick for the same reasons. Give yourself out of poverty! Clean up your life and your asthma will disappear. Even though I no longer believe any of this the scars of all it all are engraved deep within me. I don’t sleep. That might not seem like a big deal until you realize I’m not talking about sometimes. I mean for most of my adult life I have had severe debilitating insomnia. It has made it hard for me to live a normal life. I have anxiety even when everything is going great in my present life. Because you see it isn’t about the present it is about the past. I’m not choosing to live in the past, you have to understand that when a person has been traumatized their brain isn’t the same as someone who hasn’t experienced trauma. It isn’t something you just put down because ultimately it isn’t within your control to choose to do that. I’m not saying you should use that as an excuse not to work on yourself, I am the queen of self improvement and transformation, I’m just saying that it isn’t as simple as some folks would like you to believe. What John Grant taught and how he ran his church impacted me severely and it still does. My EMDR session today wrecked me for the rest of the day. I am angry that I’m STILL dealing with all of this. I am angry that Calvary Gospel’s doors are still open and I’m angry that I feel powerless to do anything about it.

I think sometimes people who defend John Grant forget that he was a man and I was a little girl. He created an environment where abusers felt they could get away with sexually abusing children. He turned a blind eye to what was reported to him and to what any person who was paying attention could see. To me that is unforgivable not that he would ever ask for forgiveness. In his world, I am nothing but a problem a bitter woman drudging up the past, I wish that was true. The reality is that his past is my everyday and has been ever since I walked into his church around age 8, I will be 50 on Sunday. If you’ve stuck around till the end of this post thank you. i know sometimes it must seem like I’m repeating myself but I have to keep saying it over and over because it’s true and as of now we survivors have seen no justice.

D

 

 

Calvary Gospel Church, Childhood, Southern Baptist Church, United Pentecostal Church

I Was A Praise Junkie

 

 

As I was considering writing this post I became a little concerned that it might offend some people. It is not my intention to offend. This is my experience and yours may vary.

I grew up knowing nothing but Apostolic worship. Clapping and singing very repetitive songs over and over with a dash of hymns thrown in for good measure. My mother loved the likes of Jimmy Swaggert and she would sing along with him whenever his show came on. No matter how good a church was if the worship did not make you want to get up and dance my mother wasn’t interested. She grew up attending “holy roller” churches her whole life and would often regal me stories about the characters that attended services with her family. My mother and her siblings would get into trouble because they laughed at this one older woman. My grandmother was a severe woman and laughing in church was a big no-no. This older woman would dance in the spirit and while doing so would get dangerously near a flight of stairs leading down into the church basement. My mother and her siblings would laugh in anticipation of the day that woman would finally fall down the stairs but it never happened. My grandmother said the “Holy Spirit” kept her safe.

When my mother was church hopping, which happened often when I was young, she would judge a church on whether the worship was “dead” or not. She fell under the spell of Calvary Gospel in part because of the awesome praise and worship services. She loved all of the instruments and the way congregants seemed to really “feel the spirit move.” Growing up attending that church I would wish for the services that would go on forever. Eventually, they would declare there would be no sermon and things would just take off. Tambourines would be shaking back and forth and people would fill the aisles. Some would dance, others would fall out in the spirit, and others would run laps around the church. You knew it was going to be a barn burner of a service when the older women would get in on the act. My mother instilled in me a love of music and so I really enjoyed all of the singing that happened at church. It was the only part of the service that truly uplifted me. My brain would swim in all of the happy endorphins flooding my body and in those moments I could convince myself that God loved me. Once the dust had settled and the singing was over all of my old worries would creep in. Many people would get filled with the Holy Ghost on nights like these, and this is how you can become sucked in. You experience the high of this type of service and then you have to go back to your mundane life. As the days go by the glow of that service wears off and you start to desire your next fix. Sunday nights were the hot night at our church and so I would live for those services. Many people start to associate that endorphin high with God. If you could get to that place you could get close to God, or more accurately “feel” close to God.

After I left Calvary Gospel I did not attend services anywhere for a long time. I was nursing my wounds. Once I had children I told myself that I had to take them to church somewhere. That message had been implanted into my brain since birth. I searched and searched for a church and much like my mother had expressed so many years ago, they all felt “dead” to me. Finally, I started to attend a little Southern Baptist church. The service was not as rowdy as the ones I grew up on but they clapped and I recognized some of the songs. I stayed there for a long time before eventually being forced to leave because of needing a divorce. It took me a very long time to be ok with the lax holiness standards and lower energy worship. I settled for this church. It wasn’t anywhere near ideal but it was as close as I could get. Over time I grew to really appreciate the quiet worship times. I started to see that to be spiritual you don’t have to be loud and you don’t have to show off. But that realization did not come until a long period of detox and withdrawal. As soon as I started attending church again it was like a junkie going back for a fix. It was like starting my journey away from Calvary Gospel all over. Part of this is because I had not properly dealt with the issues from the past. I thought I could just bury my pain and move on, that proved to be a huge lie I had told myself. To this day Christian music is extremely triggering. I can’t stand to be around it because it causes me so much anxiety.

I do not feel this experience only happens within The United Pentecostal church. I believe it can happen anywhere where ecstatic worship is the norm. It can really make some people addicted to that high and it can keep people in a bad situation longer than they should be. My mother stayed at Calvary Gospel for so long in part because of the worship, which she felt was very godly. Did you experience anything like this? I would love to hear about your experiences.

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.

2019, Calvary Gospel Church, Childhood, Compassion, Justice, Support, Survivors, United Pentecostal Church

2019

December is often a month of reflection. Some folks start to think about New Year’s resolutions and some of us just try to get through to the next year. 2019 was full of highs and lows and now that we are almost at the end of it I’m looking back.

This year has been a year of reunions. The CGC survivor group became a reality. We found each other and found strength in each other’s stories of resiliency. We comforted each other, listened when we needed to vent, and laughed at silly memories from childhood. I am grateful for this little island of hope and support. Who knew that from all of the pain we suffered would come this group so full of love and friendship for each other. Calvary Gospel taught us pain but we cultivated love, where there was shame now there is acceptance and mercy. For those CGC survivors reading this I feel so blessed to have you in my life. Thank you for walking this journey with me.

Over the summer I was able to do so many things I never thought possible. I spoke to the media and spoke at a press conference about my experiences. I allowed myself to bloom instead of keeping myself small and allowing the shame of what happened to me keep me quiet. I allowed my truth to be told in a very full-throated way, unfettered by worry about what CGC might think or do. This was a very liberating and healing experience. I learned that when you share your story you might get some blowback but more than that you open the door for people to support you.

I was on a podcast! It was amazing! I am a podcast junkie and so this was a really big deal for me. Again all I found was support and understanding. I realize I keep using the word support over and over but it is the best word for what I have experienced over 2019. My network has grown so much and put me into contact with so many wonderful people. Ronna Russell has helped me keep my dream of writing a book alive and stoked the fire when it was growing dim. Thank you Ronna.

I have no idea what 2020 will hold but I have a feeling it is going to be a big year. I intend to keep fighting. I want to see the Mandatory Reporter bills pass here in Wisconsin. I also want to continue to tell my story both here and as I attempt to get a book on paper. Is there a podcast coming? Maybe…Who knows? I’m keeping all options on the table that don’t involve quitting.

I hope 2019 has been good to you and I hope 2020 brings you much happiness!

Debbie