There were certain words I did not use in yesterday’s post: abuse, domestic violence, victim, perpetrator. I can honestly say that it was not a conscious choice and yet it is one I believe in nonetheless…because I have seen how people tip their head, a tell of unbelief, whenever I’ve used the word abuse. No one will repeat it back to me. Those words are intense words with even more intense implications. In my experience, using them makes it easy for someone to say or think: she must be exaggerating.
So it was not a conscious decision to leave those words out of my post. But it was a conscious decision, when I finally decided to share what happened, to simply tell my story. You can tell me I am exaggerating if I use the word abuse because that is your prerogative.
But you can’t tell me that the moment on the couch never happened. You can’t tell me my thigh wasn’t pinched beneath tables time and time again, hard enough to leave bruises. You can’t tell me my head did not crack open against the door when shoved and shaken against it.
Those are things no one can take away. They are facts, truths, part of this story and a much larger one.
I’m tired of statistics and buzzwords because they don’t do enough. Put a face to a story, to these radically different complicated stories. Do you know how many women have stories like mine? They are not all alike and they are not all shaped like cookie cutters (believe me, I received so many messages in so many forms.)
We are not numbers. It’s easy to dismiss a number, to see a stat on a piece of paper and think: Oh, that is awful. And then go about your day.
I heard from so many women, too many women in the past 24 hours with too many awful stories so yesterday I spoke for me and today I am speaking for them because they are afraid, they are broken, they still deal with the consequences of some man’s actions every single day (to varying degrees, of course. I believe in redemption…I think I made that clear yesterday. God has done a powerful work in me but He is still working and I am still healing.)
I loved him.
This person? The one on the other side of the story? I’m sure he has his version too. I’m sure he doesn’t remember a lot of it because most of it was done in the white hot moments of anger. And I’m sure he doesn’t remember the couch because I never called him out. I never said: what you did was not okay. It’s frightening to realize how much you will accept and explain away when you love someone, even if it is a messy, twisted, love (it’s not just men I struggle to trust; it’s myself too now). I would never have said these things aloud while we were together, not because I was ashamed of them but because I loved him (excluding the couch…there was so much shame there but I could not name the feeling because I loved him and somehow I thought, though high on pain killers and a mouth full of gauze from wisdom teeth removal I should have stopped it.) The shame came after the fog of first love lifted.
I was a baby, fresh faced, and in love. So it wasn’t until we broke up that I told a friend about my head cracking against the door, just off handedly, the way you do once a relationship is over and all the bad is coming back to you as the good sinks away. I said it the same way some other girl might complain: And you know what, he farted all the time! So glad that’s over. And jeez, he chewed with his mouth open!
This friend told me, when it came to the door, quite plainly: that is not okay. She became angry on my behalf, a warrior. At first, it baffled me, this righteous indignation. But I loved him for a long time and it was like coming out of a fog. Though our friendship has ebbed and flowed, she has never stopped being that for me–a warrior. And over time and over years, I shared more with her and each time with more vehemence she declared how exactly not okay those things were until I believed her, until I could see the girl in the prom dress, the girl with the bruised thigh, the girl with the cracked head, the girl on the couch, objectively. There are a handful of others like her. But she was the first–my first warrior.
If you know me in real life, I think you would be shocked to know some of my closest sisters, the closest, could never even say these simple words: I’m sorry he hurt you. Most of them were my Christian friends. To this day, they have never said: that is not okay. They have never taken a stand for me and I have to be okay with that. Because we are Christians and forgiveness and grace and no judgement and–
But what about the girl on the couch?
What do we do for her, Christians?
So now I am publicly proclaiming myself a warrior on behalf of all the women who commented and emailed and texted and Facebook messaged me. I will say: what he did is not okay. I so desperately hope this is not the first time you are hearing this but I will say it again: it is not okay. I will also say: what happened to you was awful but God is still good. He is the very opposite of that man. Where you lived in constant state of unsafety, He is safety. He is a mender. He takes the ashes of what we have left over and he creates the most vivid pictures. He is a God who can redeem anything. And I know that seems impossible now. And that’s okay. You are not alone, darling girl. I am here with you; I am one of you who lived to tell about it. And now that I finally fought my fear and told, I am going to keep telling until people listen…not for me but until I have no words left and there are no stories left to tell.
I also need to clear something up. I wasn’t a wimp. That is to say, I didn’t date loser guys. I knew what I wanted out of life. I was outspoken. I was assertive. I was well read. If you said to me, before I dated him: someday you will lay on a couch…I would have laughed in your face. I watched less than smart girls all day long (and probably judged them). What happened to me, can happen to any woman. It took me a long time to realize that, to forgive myself. I am still not at the point where I trust myself.
My parents? They are good parents. I tell them everything. I told them everything. I have no filter in general and still they had no idea what was happening, not because I hid this from them but because I thought I had nothing to hide. Because I loved him. I covered for him without knowing it. Yesterday someone commented and noted that when we love someone we sometimes think we have to take the good and the bad, sometimes even the unspeakable.
If it happened to you (and I know so many of you are reading this can say that it did…): I am so sorry he hurt you. I am praying for you. I will be your warrior. I will say the things that others are afraid to say.
Starting with this:
The Church and the body of believers are not doing enough to protect young Christian women and women in general. Here’s a news flash and excuse my bluntness: young christian men need to talk about other things besides how often they masturbated during discipleship and mentoring time. Yes, sin is sin. But when a young man masturbates, my head isn’t slammed into a door. I’m not laying on a couch, on painkillers, while he does what he wants with my body. When a young man masturbates, I don’t have to go to therapy and live with the consequences of finding other men untrustworthy, of feeling unsafe too often, of going stiff and still the moment someone raises their voice a single decibel.
As another commentator noted, damaged people damage others. Hurt people hurt others. So put the damn (yes, I swore) football down during discipleship time. Get these young men to talk about their feelings and their damage and their hurts because I will not pay for them anymore. And I don’t want my sisters to pay for them either.
So I’m saying it: men who mentor other men, pastors, men in the church, you are not doing enough to protect your sisters, your daughters, young women, older women. You would be shocked at the emails and texts and Facebook messages I received in less than 24 hours. There are too many of us. There are too many women with stories like mine which means there are too many men as antagonists in these stories.
And if you are a father, I don’t think you understand how easily your daughter could grow up to have a story like the one I shared yesterday. But he read his bible. But he went to church. But we prayed together. But we fought for purity. He is the last one you would consider, an upright guy with his stuff together, a leader, someone dependable, funny, charismatic. Girls fall in love with that guy. Not the guy who rings the doorbell on the first date and punches them in the face. We aren’t idiots. It’s that those guys we fall in love with become someone else entirely.
Evil, the kind of lies a man has to believe in order to treat a woman this way, can take root in any type of soil. Christians are not immune.
This won’t be the last time I write about this because sisters, I am now your warrior. (Although we are going to take a break from such serious topics. Emotionally, I need one.) I was so scared to hit publish yesterday and I still am afraid to step out and be known for this. I don’t use the word victim because that is not who I choose to be and that is not who God made me to be. I will be damned (oops, swore again) if I let some guy take away my freedom in Christ. And here we are, back to the power of words again. As a writer, I find this fitting. Words possess more power than we can imagine. So do stories. So I am done keeping quiet on this, even though the words may come haltingly, even though I am scared. I am convinced, you have convinced me, my words and my story are necessary.
P.S. Women, keep writing to me in any way, shape, or form you choose. I am here. I will listen. And I promise to write you back. I’m also not here to say that what happened to me or you is the flu and eventually you are over it. It’s not something you get over. For me, God, therapy, and time (in that order) brought me the place at the end of yesterday’s post once I zoomed out. Someday, and there is no timeline or deadline, you will be able to zoom out too.