I sat and pondered a friend of mine on twitter. We have been talking privately and she has told me a little bit about her struggles and trials. While telling me about her life she told me she went to church the other day. When she told me that it was like she was reporting a victory, or a good thing. But when I asked her how church was, her response, as I almost could have predicted was, “it was ok.”
The fact that Survivors have a difficulty with religion is very real. But also real are the many studies that show that religious people are happier. The fact is much of the way religious people talk and think about the world insults survivors. But I also know that Gods plan is a plan of happiness, that when we follow his plan we are happier. The fact that going to church opens us survivors to feeling continually judged and shunned is real. But then I know I have received significant love and support from many in my church community. Survivors pains and discomforts with religion are so real, and difficult to live through. Yet religion that teaches love one another, bear one another burdens, comfort those in need of comfort, is teaching the very things survivors need.
As I sat on the side of my bed pondering, I felt inside that sexual abuse left a person branded for life. That sexual abuse took away some of a persons worth, that they could never get back. I could not see this flawed view in myself before, it was so ingrained into my reality growing up. As I thought of this flawed thinking I instinctively knew that other survivors I knew had not lost any of their worth. As I thought of them I knew that they were strong fighters, they were amazing people.
Elizabeth Smart said that children should be educated that “you will always have value and nothing can change that.” She said this in May of 2013 while speaking at Johns Hopkins University. It was in the summer of 2013 that I finally faced and admitted my sexual abuse. It was shortly after she said this that I finally faced the feeling that I was a chewed up piece of gum, spat out on the black-top, walked all over and blackened, and of no worth to anyone else. It was as I was struggling with this very thought that I was lead to this article. In the article Elizabeth Smart is quoted to have said “I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value,” Smart said. It was in the summer of 2013 that another famous survivor agreed to meet me at the park. At sometime, either at the park, or in our emails afterwards, we talked about the chewed up gum feeling.
When I faced the sexual abuse and admitted it, I needed to know that I was of worth in spite of it. In fact wrapped up in the memories of sexual abuse were the overwhelming feelings that I was evil, and worthless. I faced the reality that I was molested at age 12 by my father recently. But it was not until several months later that I finally faced the memories of being raped by my father. The rape was a much more significant thing to face, because it meant from the time I was raped, I was not a virgin. Facing this reality pulled the double edged sword out of the deepest parts of my heart. It cuts me to know I was raped, and it cuts me to know I was not a virgin for most of my childhood. Truth is, it probably always cut me twice like this.
But even today, as I sat here on the side of my bed, I realized that I still felt branded by my sexual abuse. I think the religious stigmas about sexual abuse are wrong. Sexual abuse does not make me a bad or evil person. Sexual abuse does not even make me a fundamentally flawed person. Sexual abuse picks us up off of the developmental standard path and sticks us on a new path. On this new path the victim of abuse needs allot of love and understanding. The pains and wounds of abuse will remain bleeding and unhealed until they are addressed. Only love and understanding can heal the wounds left after abuse. We will be continually wounded until our wounds are addressed, loved, and healed. It is our unhealed, unaddressed wounds that make us so fundamentally changed, not the nature of our beings. Sexual abuse does not change our beings into evil or bad beings. The fundamental goodness of our natures cannot be changed by sexual abuse. What is changed by our sexual abuse is we are wounded, but are often too hurt to show it, we hide it and protect our wounds. I am not, nor will I ever be evil because of my abuse, I am only hurting because of my abuse. Often when we are hurting because of abuse, when we feel the stigma of us being turned evil upon us, often we rebel and act like the person the stigma believes us to be. But the truth is, we are not, nor ever were, turned evil by the abuse.
The facts are it all comes down to healing and to learning. It is like the abuse victim is picked up off of the standard path in life and placed on a new and unique path in life. I will never be like someone who was not abused, I will always be different because of my abuse. My abuse and pain is so great that it will require a lifetime of healing. The years that I have been in therapy have been a significant amount of healing, and I have been heroic through them. All abuse survivors are being heroic when they go to therapy, therapy is very difficult. The facts are my abusive home environment taught me many wrong things. But my nature has always been, and will always be, the nature of someone who is good. Before facing the sexual and spiritual abuse I knew I had endured emotional and physical abuse. I have always chosen to break the patterns of abuse and learn new ways to parent and govern my life. In my early years as a mother, I read every parenting book I could fit into my life. I have changed the pattern, I have broken the generational chains of abuse. But in my own life I still brought with me the broken and wrong ideas about myself. But now I know, today I know, I am not fundamentally wrong. I do not have a demon inside of me waiting to take hold of my heart and turn me to evil. My abuse does not make me evil. I am good, I have always been good, I have always fought off the evil effects of abuse. I am not branded, I have infinite worth.