Covering up sexual abuse

I wonder, if it came out that So-and-So public figure tortured and mutilated a number of people in his basement for a year and left them disfigured for life, would crowds rally behind him and say what he did wasn’t that bad, and hey, he’s sorry for it now, so let’s forget all about it, let’s sweep the victims under the rug—they weren’t hurt badly anyway…

I know the world is falling apart fast and all manner of evil is being called good now, but I would hope that even so, no one would support that person. I would hope that everyone would call for justice for those victims, standing outside his home, if necessary, with picket signs; calling the law enforcement officers and judges until the officials’ phones explode in flames.

It is unbelievable that people are defending this sicko—that they ever defend sickos.

Imagine that the father of this person, an even bigger public figure, knew all about it, all along, and covered up the crimes. If that doesn’t make you want to vomit…

Now imagine that this person is a Christian public figure. Oh, wait, that changes everything, right? You don’t feel like what he did was that bad anymore. He should be given grace, right? NO. A million times, NO.

But that’s what we keep hearing from so many Christians…

Because the victims MUST forgive him, and we MUST let him off Scot-free, because, you know, grace and all that.

The latest monster in the news didn’t keep his victims tied up in his basement, and he didn’t torture them with whips and chains, but he tortured them nonetheless, and he kept them prisoner just the same.

Force the victims to forgive him? Give him grace and let him off the hook? Hide his crimes? Those are good things? I assert that just the opposite is true. He should be held to a higher standard, NOT let off the hook because he claims to be a Christian.

He deserves the death penalty for torturing and psychically disfiguring those children. They will never be the same. They will be forced to live with a special kind of hell, forever. No amount of therapy or counseling or prayer will ever erase the damage. At best, sexual abuse victims learn to prevent it from ruining every aspect of their lives.

His father, who covered it up, deserves the death penalty for sacrificing his daughters and the others who were disfigured for life, for protecting his son until it was too late for anything to be done about the horrible crimes he committed.

I believe that sexual abuse of children should carry the death penalty. It is the worst thing anyone could ever do to another human being. Murdering the victim would be more merciful. If someone covers it up instead of helping to put the perpetrator in prison and doing what they can to help and assure the victims that they are valued and did no wrong whatsoever, then that person deserves the death penalty, too.

What comes to my mind when I hear about these sick and EVIL people is the verse about the millstone. I think there’s a special place in hell for child molesters and those who protect them.

As long as there are people sending the message that a woman exists to please a man, or that sex is taboo and forbidden fruit…

As long as boys aren’t taught how to handle their urges, or that they themselves are responsible for their lust—the females never, ever are…

As long as people aren’t taught to be puke-your-guts nauseous at the very thought of any sexual contact with a family member…

As long as baby-making is exalted above truly raising and paying attention to one’s children and keeping them safe…

As long as children are taught that they don’t have the right to have boundaries and that they have no control over their bodies and who gets to touch them where…

As long as sexual abuse victims are swept under the rug and criminals are protected…

As long as the damage is minimized and invalidated…

As long as there isn’t a severe, sure, and swift punishment for this horrible crime against a PRECIOUS human being…

We will have Christian leaders sexually abusing children, and others covering it up.

Having a sense of peace

Photo of river and sky invoke a sense of peace.

Nature can help us maintain a sense of peace.

Sometimes having a sense of peace in this world is hard to do. Of course we hear that we should keep our sense of peace about us. Christ said He gave us His peace. Other times, however, we are enveloped in peace, like a field of energy surrounding us, emanating from within. It might sound a little woo-woo, but it’s real nonetheless. You’ve probably experienced that yourself.

Sense of peace amid turmoil

The kids are fighting, the baby is crying, the insurance company is denying your claim, your spouse just got fired, the house is a wreck, and you have company coming over in ten minutes. It may be “natural” to scream and pull your hair out, and you may find yourself doing just that.

You may also feel as if you’re standing in the eye of the hurricane, aware of, but not controlled by, the things going on around you. This is one of the goals of Orthodoxy: to maintain a sense of peace, no matter what is going on in our lives. I think it’s a result of theosis and taming the passions. I am no expert on Orthodoxy, though, let me tell you.

How to have a sense of peace

I don’t have any silver bullet or magic pill to make that happen for you, or even for myself. There are still times when I feel shaken up, angry, or afraid, such as every time my cyberstalker sends someone else to contact me for him. Also, there are times when I can’t see the next step in the path, or when nothing seems to work, and I’m frustrated.

Getting out into nature, even if it’s just for a few minutes, almost always helps me. Sometimes standing in front of our icon wall and praying helps the way I feel, and sometimes it doesn’t. Notice I said “how I feel,” not “how things are.” Feelings, while important, aren’t the most important thing sometimes. Sometimes what we do is more important than what we feel, and sometimes things can be getting better even when it doesn’t feel like they are.

I have suffered from depression and anxiety my entire life, stemming from severe abuse with no way out. Trusting God is HARD for me. I can CHOOSE to do it, but I might not FEEL it. That’s okay, because the feeling follows the choice. It might take a while, but it comes. I have to do it over and over. Perhaps someday it will be automatic, but for now… I have to make the choice. Trusting God, for me, is what provides that sense of peace. Not all of the Saints had that abiding sense of peace, but many did. I hope one day it just stays with me. Until then, I choose to step into it whenever I can. If it doesn’t come naturally to you, may you do the same. I wish you a deep and abiding sense of peace.

Is raising kids enough?

Mother in bed, feeding her children. Is raising children enough?

Is raising children enough, or does delaying your dreams make you ill?

“I always dreamed of being a doctor and traveling, but I had children and that killed my dreams. It’s okay, though, because I raised three kids. One is a doctor, one is a CEO, and the other is traveling the world working for a magazine. They are my contribution to society, and I guess that’s enough. It has to be. Oh, I’m okay with it, really,” Mabel said, as tears dripped off her face.

Sherry told me, “I planned to be a professional writer and speaker, to change the world, you know? But I didn’t get to do that. Instead, I gave birth to twins, and two more after that. Between taking care of my children, my husband, and my home, I never had time to think, much less write or speak. My husband didn’t approve of daycare, even though he could afford to pay for it. So I stayed home and reared my children and let my dreams die. I tried not to think about what my true purpose in life was. When I did, it made me cry, just like I’m doing now. I woke many a morning with a tear-stained pillow, but I just turned the wet side down, made the bed, prepared breakfast, and got on with my day. My health is gone now, so there will be no empty-nest career for me. I have nothing to show for my life except for my children, and I am useless now. But it’s alright. They’re grown now and have children of their own. They’re happy, doing what they like to do, so it’s okay that my life was spent on them. So I never got to do what I was designed to do. I created four good people. That’s enough.” Her face was red with shame, and didn’t match her assurance that it was alright.

Sad stories of lost dreams

I’ve spent over 30 years hearing stories like these, from women all over the place and from all socioeconomic levels… women who had dreams, goals, aspirations….women who gave up everything they wanted just because they gave birth and they thought they had to stay home and raise the children because religious leaders told them they had to…women who SAY that it’s okay, but who cannot say it without tears in their eyes and regret and shame all over their faces…

Not one, in over 30 years, has been able to say it’s okay (that they gave up their dreams) without showing those emotions and signs of deception all over her face. They do not believe what they are saying. In other words: they are lying. They lie to themselves, and they lie to others. It’s not okay with them. It breaks their hearts.

There are a couple of possibilities (that I can see) as to why.

The women were told that being a mother isn’t enough, that they should do more than that to make a worthy contribution to society. They believe that they did not do enough.

OR

Women really ARE wired to do more than just raise children and take care of a home. Having children is not “enough” for a person. Using one’s gifts and talents, pursuing one’s goals, those are needed as well, regardless of what pastors and others say about it.

Society says we have to do it all

What do I think it is? I think it’s probably both. Mary is held up as the Mother of God, and nothing else about her is emphasized (or even mentioned) in most churches. For years, I thought it was such a shame that “all she did” was raise Jesus and his stepbrothers. I wondered if perhaps she did do other things but they weren’t mentioned for some reason. Now, though, I think it’s such a shame that our culture teaches us to think that way!

I’m somewhat balanced on it at this point: I think it’s fine for Mary, and for any other mothers who truly want to have it be enough for them, and it’s fine for others who want to do more than that. Fighting societal messages is hard, but sometimes it’s needed.

Orthodoxy leaves room for different opinions

Each person is different. Each person has different goals and needs. No one should try to cram others into a mold. No one should try to tell others what they should and should not do, believe, or think. Abbot Tryphon shared a statement on facebook about how the Orthodox Church frowns on telling people what to do.

Women who are mothers have owned businesses or held jobs throughout time. It has been the exception, not the norm, for a woman to take care of only her own home and family. Taking in washing or ironing, baking extra bread to sell, babysitting, raising and selling vegetables and eggs… all of these were common in households all over the world, throughout time. If a woman did not do something to earn money, it was because she was well-to-do, not because mothering was enough.

People are goal-oriented

Humans are teleological. We need a goal to work toward, a purpose. Some things in parenting and housekeeping fit well with that, but some just don’t. Might a person have that goal-achieving need met by taking care of home and family? Sure! Especially if they write out goals and mark them off as they happen. But people don’t like to be someone else’s project. They dig in their heels at that. I know that all too well. So if housework goals aren’t enough for someone, they’ll have to get that need met elsewhere.

Perhaps a mother only has an hour a week free. That amount is not an unreasonably small amount for a stay-at-home mom. Can she accomplish any goals with such a tiny time allotment? Yes.

Learning new skills

She could choose to spend that hour following her dream of learning to dance, paint, or play a sport. Just 20 hours will give her a good foundation in nearly anything, according to Joshua Kauffman, the author of The First 20 Hours. She could develop two skills in a year, if she only has an hour a week. Over time, that will give her more abilities, more chances to do things she wants to do.

If she has an hour a day, she could develop 18 new skills in that year. Developing a number of new abilities seems worth having Dad take care of the kids for a change. Now, I know that some fathers take care of their children and give the mothers time to do things they want and need to do, but the vast majority of the ones I know don’t do much, even now. No hate mail, please.

Is raising kids enough for you?

Please don’t be like all of the stay-at-home mothers I’ve spoken to over the last 30 years. Whether you pursue hopes and dreams in addition to parenting, or whether raising kids is enough for you and you have no other ambitions, please, please do not get to the empty-nest stage and regret your choice.

Please don’t put things off in the hope that you’ll be healthy enough to do them once your children are grown, or even “older.” I’ve seen far too many people do that and find themselves confined to a rocking chair and chained to an oxygen tank. You might have the chance to do that, but please don’t count on it. Scripture is clear that we’re not promised tomorrow.

Contribution to society

Do whatever is going to make you honestly feel that you’ve made your contribution to society, that you’ve shared the music within your soul, that you’ve been who God made you to be—whatever that may include.

We must all choose either the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The pain of regret never fades, but it does fester. Join the ranks of women who feel good about how their lives were spent, not those who cried bitter tears of regret and shame. Is raising kids enough? If it is for you, fabulous. If it’s not, that’s fabulous, too. Tell Daddy-O to man up and take care of the kids while you develop another side of yourself. In either case, I pray that you will be blessed.

Cyberstalking by clergy

Cyberstalking is a nightmare, no matter who is doing it to you. It’s always bad, but I think it’s really “sick and twisted” when it’s done by people who are supposed to be religious leaders. You probably already know that some churches and groups are cults in disguise. Sometimes cult escapees find that the leaders don’t want to let go of them.

These leaders continue to harass them long after they’ve left the group. Sometimes it’s through phone calls, emails, text messages, facebook chat boxes. This is cyberstalking by clergy. Sometimes the harassment is done in person and the stalker shows up at or near the escapee’s place of work, new church, or home. I’ve become friends with some people who have left cults and cult-like churches, and we’ve had discussions about these kinds of experiences. I tip my hat to them. They are strong survivors, all.

Dislaimer: I am not a member of the legal profession. This is not legal advice. It is information which is publicly available. Please speak with a legal professional for legal advice.

What is cyberstalking?

Cyberstalking is two or more instances of harassment through electronic communications. What is harassment? Contacting someone in a way that alarms, torments, or terrorizes that person. Electronic communication includes phone calls, text messages, emails, pagers, or any other electronic means.

Cyberstalking may include direct threats, but doesn’t always. Sometimes the person has reason to be fearful or shaken up even though a direct threat hasn’t been made. Sometimes just the experience one has had with the stalker is enough for them to be worried about harm.

Cyberstalking by clergy often includes threats that go beyond this life: telling you that you’re in spiritual danger if you don’t mend your ways (and by “mend your ways” they mean coming back to them). Some people are not bothered by threats of hell, but others are deeply disturbed by them.

No cyberstalking sign. Cyberstalking by clergy or anyone else is a felony in Illinois.

Cyberstalking by clergy or anyone else is a felony in Illinois. Image by Internetsinacoso.

IL cyberstalking law

If you’ve been harassed, you may be able to put a stop to it through legal channels—criminal, civil, or both. The National Conference of State Legislatures has links to the different states’ cyberstalking laws. In Illinois, for example, cyberstalking is a Class 4 Felony. The following paragraphs are from the Illinois General Assembly website. See the site for the rest of this section of this law.

Sec. 12-7.5. Cyberstalking.
(a) A person commits cyberstalking when he or she engages in a course of conduct using electronic communication directed at a specific person, and he or she knows or should know that would cause a reasonable person to:
(1) fear for his or her safety or the safety of a third person; or
(2) suffer other emotional distress.
(a-3) A person commits cyberstalking when he or she, knowingly and without lawful justification, on at least 2 separate occasions, harasses another person through the use of electronic communication and:
(1) at any time transmits a threat of immediate or future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint and the threat is directed towards that person or a family member of that person; or
(2) places that person or a family member of that person in reasonable apprehension of immediate or future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint; or
(3) at any time knowingly solicits the commission of
an act by any person which would be a violation of this Code directed towards that person or a family member of that person.
(a-5) A person commits cyberstalking when he or she, knowingly and without lawful justification, creates and maintains an Internet website or webpage which is accessible to one or more third parties for a period of at least 24 hours, and which contains statements harassing another person and:
(1) which communicates a threat of immediate or future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint, where the threat is directed towards that person or a family member of that person, or
(2) which places that person or a family member of that person in reasonable apprehension of immediate or future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint, or
(3) which knowingly solicits the commission of an act by any person which would be a violation of this Code directed towards that person or a family member of that person.
(b) Sentence. Cyberstalking is a Class 4 felony; a second or subsequent conviction is a Class 3 felony.

 

Cyberstalking by clergy is a crime

Here’s my interpretation of what the Illinois General Assembly says (again, consult an attorney for legal advice): Threatening or alarming someone just twice via facebook, email, or text messages, after that person has told you to leave him/her alone, is a felony. Sending someone else to do it for you is legally the exact same thing as doing it yourself.

To demonstrate this, let’s look at Tim and the Reverend. Tim had some really bad experiences with The Reverend and his followers. Traumatized, he left the group and asked them to stop contacting him. The Reverend persisted in trying to convince Tim that Tim had sinned by leaving the group, and that Tim must reconcile to the Reverend and the group regardless of what Reverend and his followers did. If he doesn’t, the Reverend said, Tim is in danger of hell. Tim told the Reverend that he’d press charges if the Reverend contacted him any more, in any way whatsoever.

The Reverend then succeeded in getting other people to contact Tim even though Tim made it clear that he didn’t (and still doesn’t) want to be contacted anymore, even though each mention of the Reverend’s name sends Tim into a tizzy.

The law seems to say that The Reverend is committing a felony, and so is every person he gets to contact Tim. The poor shmucks who are contacting Tim probably have no clue that they’re being used as pawns and could go to prison for helping the Reverend harass Tim. They probably believe that the Reverend truly is concerned about Tim, and just wants to be sure Tim is okay. They don’t know that the Reverend suffers from prelest and is a control freak who just can’t let go. They especially don’t know that they are committing a felony on behalf of the Reverend.

Legal protection from harassment

Even if the person harassing you is a pastor, deacon, or priest (a person who is supposed to be godly), it is still a crime—a major crime. You have the law on your side, and you have the right to prosecute stalkers, including the cyber kind. Please keep yourself and your loved ones safe, physically and emotionally.

You have the right to conduct yourself online, and to feel safe while doing it. Cyberstalking by clergy or anyone else doesn’t have to be part of your life.

To clergy and other leaders: If someone leaves your “fold,” you may choose to contact them one time. If they indicate that they don’t want you to contact them anymore, leave them alone. If you contact them again, you may be breaking the law. If someone wants to leave, let them go! Bless them and leave them in God’s hands. Then stop talking about them, because according to Illinois law, that counts, too.

Stalking on facebook

Facebook is just one of the avenues a stalker may use. Fortunately, the block feature exists for the purpose of preventing someone from further contacting you on there. It doesn’t prevent them from sending their friends to harass you, however. You’ll have to block each person as it occurs, and you also have the option of reporting them to facebook.

Yes, it may be upsetting each time it happens to you. You’re minding your own business, catching up with friends or managing your enterprise, and someone pops up out of the blue to remind you of that person or group of people, or to order you to “reconcile” with them. If you’ve been traumatized enough, it may be sufficient to trigger an anxiety attack or PTSD episode.

You don’t have to be shaken for long, though. That’s why block and report exist. Perhaps one day facebook will allow users to block all of the friends of a particular person at once, to save you the trouble of handling one at a time as they join in the harassment of you. Until then, it’s whack-a-mole. Please stay as safe as you can.

-This post is dedicated to all survivors of spiritual abuse and cyberstalking.

God wants some people poor

When I was a Protestant, I heard all kinds of platitudes for “explanations” of why God allowed such horrible things to happen to me, including the abuse and poverty I endured. I hated the platitudes, and at times, the people who spewed them. It didn’t help. I didn’t want to believe that a loving God would purposefully allow, much less send, things like that into anyone’s life. I didn’t think anyone deserved those things, much less that I did. I couldn’t see any good reason for them.

Christian platitudes never end

Since I’ve become Orthodox, I’ve still heard a lot of those platitudes, along with some new ones, about how life is suffering, and I still didn’t like them. It seemed to me that people were still making God out to be a horrible Creature, and that anyone who accepted these ideas had to be depressed. Why would life be worth living, if all it’s about is suffering?

Then I began to see a longer-term perspective—a longer term going beyond this lifetime—due to reading some of the quotes from saints. What if it is—or could be, if we let it—a purifying process? What if it’s true that it’s not about whether or not we will suffer, but about how we handle it? What if the whole point is learning to handle these nasty things quietly, without kicking and screaming? What if THAT is the point of these difficult things?

Some people have come to this conclusion long before I did, many of them with far less suffering than I took to begin to see things this way.

How I survived

I stayed alive the first 20 years of my life or so by kicking and screaming most of the way, by objecting to the horrendous things that were done to my mind, body, and soul during all those years of abuse. Objecting to the things being done to me, believing that I deserved better, that there was something better to look forward to in life… that’s what kept me alive. Or so I thought.

And now, the terrible thought: what if, instead of being what kept me alive, what if that held me back somehow? What if, had I believed that I deserved that treatment, that it was somehow good for me, that it was a “blessing in disguise,” what if that would have cleansed and developed me more, somehow, if I had approached things with a different mindset? When I “tried on” those attitudes I heard from others, I immediately rejected them. They were not helpful in the least, at the time. But what if they had been? What if I had decided to respond in a way that could have transformed me into something even better than the way I dealt with it did? Could I be a saint by now?

Dealing with suffering

There are currently some pretty bad things going on in my life, though thank God I’m not being sexually assaulted or knocked around anymore. Some would say the current happenings are no fault of our own, but we all know that our decisions lead to consequences, so…though my husband and I were deceived by someone, and though these things are wrong and illegal, I still put us here. I also say the current situation is still better than the one my decision got us out of, and I hope it will be worth it in the end. Some Orthodox friends have encouraged me to get a lawyer, or to get out of the situation (both impossible for us to do).

The other night, when I read a quote about the importance being not what we are going through or getting it to stop, but HOW we go through it, it reinforced decision I had made to endure this. Maybe I hadn’t been doing it so quietly. I had been complaining about it somewhat. I can still pray that the situation will be resolved soon, but in the meantime, I can go through it with a quieter, calmer spirit than before.

The process of transformation

This is the part of Orthodoxy that I find so hard to explain to people. Yes, the historicity and therefore authenticity of the Church that Christ founded is all I needed to decide to convert. But this…this process of transformation…sometimes it’s so gradual we don’t notice it, and other times, we can see it as it’s happening. Who knows where we’ll end up, or what we’ll end up looking like, but we sure won’t be the same.

Maybe instead of going kicking and screaming, digging in my heels all the way, objecting, “This seems like a horrible idea, God,” maybe I can feel okay with the decision to believe that it really is for the best, no matter how idiotic or unfair it may seem to me. And plenty of things have seemed idiotic and unfair, and I have no qualms saying that. God knows exactly what I think, anyway, and trying to hide it is useless.

God wants some people poor

There was another statement by a saint, about how some are rich, and some are poor no matter what they do, and that even though it seems unfair, God is using it. I have railed against that notion since I was a child. I thought when people quoted scriptures along that theme, it was just wealthy people justifying the way they trample on the backs of the poor.

If anyone deserved to be wealthy, I thought… if anyone deserved to benefit from all her hard work, I was the one. I had so many dreams of helping so many people, but all I could do when someone else was in need was to cry with them and pray for them. Anything I had to give was just a drop in the bucket and didn’t make any difference. It was so frustrating to be unable to make any kind of difference physically, materially, practically.

And now, I accept that for whatever reason (I always swore it was because God hated me for some reason unknown to me), I’m going to be broke and unable to provide any kind of financial help to others my whole life. I don’t say “poor” because I believe in America, “poor” is caused by mindset and decisions; it’s a way of life and “broke” is a bank account status.

God wants me to be broke

So, apparently, God is going to keep me in poverty forever, living hand-to-mouth, and He thinks it’s a good idea to do that. Knowing my luck, he’ll keep me that way in heaven, too. There will never be the luxury of being able to buy clothing from a retail store, or to go out to eat on a whim, or to have a home that isn’t riddled with code violations. I’ll never be able to look at my bank statement and sigh with relief, knowing that when something comes up (in our lives or the lives of others), we can just write a check and take care of it, like so many people we know can. That has probably always been the truth, the way is was going to be, though only God knows why. It doesn’t matter how many books I read on building wealth, or how many decisions I make that line up with how rich people think and behave, or how many hours I work on my marketable skills each week (it’s “many” on all counts).

Accepting God’s will

(That phrase sounds so Protestant to me. Sorry. If there’s an Orthodox equivalent, I don’t know it yet.)

The only thing that has changed is now I’ve started to accept it. Do I like it? Nope. Do I think this is because I’m depressed? Clinicians would probably say yes, but I don’t. I think it means that I’ve come to the conclusion that for some reason, God thinks it’s good for me to lack in material things. Thankfully, I am surrounded by resources for spiritual growth, so at least I can work on that. Something tells me He won’t deprive me of those things, and in the long run—and I mean the eternal long run—those are better anyway, though the material is important to God or He wouldn’t have created it. It’s just not something He wants me to have.

It would be nice if God would lift this ban on good things and grant me some comfort in this life, but something tells me He never will. And something tells me that even though it will never be fair and I will never have the things I want no matter how long and hard I work, eventually it won’t matter anymore. In the meantime, I’m going to double my spiritual reading and prayer time again. Something good may come of it.

It definitely takes a load of stress off, deciding to stop trying to climb out of this hole, just hang out with the kids and become like them: have no aspirations in life. As long as I don’t think about it, just totally shut down my brain about it, I can live with it.

Thinking is the enemy

 

The moment I start to think, though…I’m right back to trying to make things better, even though it seems God wants the opposite. Something tells me that He’s going to have to remove the part of my brain that is responsible for seeing possibilities if I am ever to become a saint, because as long as I am aware that there might be a chance, I’m going to keep going back to fighting with how things are and trying to have a better life. I think that saints must be able to shut down that part of their brains, to be able to just accept things the way they are and have no desires or drive to make things better. I haven’t totally become okay with this even now. Maybe I’ll never be able to, but I can keep working on it, and I will.

Stress responses with DDNOS and PTSD

Stress responses with DDNOS and PTSD are unpredictable

As a severe survivor who has had several letters after my name, such as DDNOS and PTSD, sometimes I’m triggered by things that wouldn’t bother most people. For example, someone accused me of causing a problem that was in fact her plumber’s fault. He didn’t install the required plumbing vents, so sewer sprays out of the downstairs sink when anyone flushes upstairs, and the sink goes glug-glug-glug all the time. He lied to her, saying it was all caused by our flushing a toilet downstairs while the water was turned off to that toilet. All that would do is drain the toilet’s tank (which it did), and there’d be no influx of water to fill it. No problems.

Anyone who knows the first thing about plumbing, water flow, or gravity would have known he was wrong. But she believed him and turned her anger on me.

The Orthodox response

The Orthodox thing to do would be to respond calmly and explain the truth, or perhaps to keep quiet. My response? I kept quiet, alright, but not because I’m Orthodox. I froze like a deer in the headlights, because I was triggered.

I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t tell her what was actually going on: that her plumber ripped her off by not installing the necessary vent pipes when he installed the plumbing, and he was lying to cover his tail and convince her to put the blame on someone else. I have done some plumbing and have read quite a bit about it, so I know some things about it, and I can Google and ask a good plumber about anything I don’t know.

Mental health counselor

The irony here? The woman is a mental health counselor, and she didn’t even realize that she had triggered me and sent me into a state of frozen panic. The sad part: I really like her and I can’t even talk to her right now. I think she would care if she knew. At least, I hope she would! Also, it bothers me that her plumber took advantage of her like that.

If she would just look it up online or talk to another plumber, she’d find out the truth: sewer from upstairs spraying out of downstairs drains has nothing to do with flushing a toilet that had the water turned off to it. Nothing at all. It’s caused by improper/insufficient sewer venting, and it will never go away until that is fixed. Vents need to be installed in the building, and run all the way up to the roof. If I weren’t scared of heights, I’d offer to install them for her. Maybe she’d be less angry with me.

Triggering stress responses

So this has all been very stressful. Obviously, some people’s stress responses with DDNOS and PTSD are not triggered by things like this. Everyone has their own unique constitution.

Sometimes, I can handle a huge stressor like an assault and just shrug it off, or take charge in an emergency and go home when it’s done, unaffected. Some people who know me think I’m a paradox like that. I have to agree, and I feel bad for them that they are dealing with it, but I don’t know what to do to help them. It’s not like I can just say, “Okay, my stress responses will be more predictable from now on.”

I don’t think there’s any way to know for sure how a person with these conditions will react to a stressor, or even what things they will find to be stressful. I know with me, being accused of something—especially when I know I didn’t do it—will trigger me every time. So will someone being angry with me, unless I have years of experience with them that tells me I’m still safe. I’ll think of just the right thing to say, hours or days after the confrontation. But I probably won’t have the nerve to go say it to the person, so it will sit inside my head.

Now, I could choose to let this new relationship go and just let her stay angry at me forever because she was taken advantage of and bought a lie, or I could find the courage to speak, and try to repair it. She and I have quite a bit in common and I thought we could be friends. I’m going to try to repair it, even though I know it will be stressful. I like her. I think she’s worth it. I know she won’t physically assault me, so I’ll be safe that way. If she yells at me, I can just walk away and go get safe emotionally. Stress responses with DDNOS and PTSD are a royal pain, but they’re part of life.

Update: I sent her a card, explaining my response. She brought me a gift in return, and things seem to be better now. She also told me that her handyman also told her the plumber was not being honest with her.

Yes, abuse happens in churches

My latest critic took it upon himself to write a long and accusatory comment denying that a certain kind of abuse happens in churches across America: that of making sexual abuse victims feel worse by teaching a purity doctrine that compares them to worthless used chewing gum (or other disgusting things). To him, and anyone else who denies that some groups that call themselves Christian sometimes can and do teach harmful things like that:

Yes, this abuse happens in churches.

No, I am not saying it happens in all denominations, or by all leaders, as your comment seems to accuse. Does everything apply to everyone, all the time? When someone points out that a certain teaching is being taught and is harmful, does that mean that they’re saying that EVERY leader teaches that? Of course not. Not unless they clearly state that. Don’t assume they mean what you expect them to mean. Slow down and actually read what is there. In the last 35 years or so, I have run into some real pieces of work who are called “church leaders.” They have taught some extreme and incorrect things, harmful things, specifically purity doctrine and other disempowering notions. Their denominations run a pretty wide spectrum, too:

  • Mormon
  • Baptist (Southern, American, and Independent)
  • Free Methodist
  • Assembly of God
  • Nondenominational Christian
  • Orthodox Christian

I want to be clear, one more time: not all Christian groups, and not all Christians in those groups do the harmful things I might talk about in some of my posts. Just because I say some people in Group A teach a certain off-the-wall and harmful thing, it does not necessarily mean that everyone in that group teaches that and harms people with it.

But some do. And some = too many.

Disrespect, discount, dismiss

This is my experience, and when it comes to the topic mentioned in the post in question (about purity doctrine), it’s also that of many others. If you’ve never seen these kinds of things happening, that’s great. In fact, I would love it if no one ever saw those kinds of things happen ever again. But don’t you dare discount my experience—or that of countless others—just because YOU don’t think you’ve heard these harmful messages in your church. Maybe you haven’t heard them. Maybe they haven’t been sent in your church. I hope it’s true. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t been sent or heard in thousands of other churches. When you attack my writing using words like “everyone” and “never” and other all-inclusive and incorrect terms… When you tell me that everyone who reads it questions my motives for writing it… When you tell me not to speak these truths and accuse me of striking at the Church of Christ… It doesn’t send me cowering into a corner. It only shows that my post hit close to home and that you’re overstating the things you’re saying. “Always,” “never,” and “everyone” are usually lies. Is it possible that you don’t want the truth uncovered? If you are not perpetuating those harmful teachings, then what do you have to get defensive about? The Church is not harmed by shining the light of truth in the dark corners. It is made healthier by rooting out the evil being done.

Playing God

You played God with your statements, acting as if you could judge the hearts of other people, that you could know what each and every person who reads it thinks/will think of it. God’s shoes are some pretty big shoes to fill. You don’t know me. You don’t know my motives, or what I know and what I don’t. And you sure don’t know what’s going on in churches across America every week. That is, unless you’re present everywhere at once and you can witness what they’re teaching, and unless you’re inside every young person who hears those teachings and can tell what message they receive and what it does to them.

What kind of abuse happens in churches?

Abuse happens in churches sometimes. More than one kind of abuse happens. Financial abuse happens. Sexual abuse happens. Spiritual abuse happens, where people throw their weight around and try to control things that are none of their business. Young girls and women are made to feel less than human because of the chauvinism that still exists in many churches. And, when taught purity doctrine, (many? most?) sexual abuse victims receive the message that they are worthless now. Many Christian books have these teachings in them, so to tell me that I made it up, and just recently, too, is laughable. As of May 27, 2014, Google shows 7,580,000 search results for purity doctrine, and 3,000 for it in this specific context. If I “just made up that term,” as you claim, then I could take credit for all of those search results, but alas, I can only claim two so far. The rest of those webpages were created by other people—many other people. Many, many people have had this same experience, have received this same message, and thousands have written about it. I didn’t “make it up.” It’s real.

Your comment has many incorrect assumptions about me and attacks on me that I think are, to use your own words again, “decidedly unhelpful to anyone.” As if you get to decide for others what is or is not helpful to them.

Helping others who have been hurt

Get to know me a bit and you’ll find out that the purpose of everything I do is to help people. Almost everyone who invests any time in getting to know me comes to that conclusion. Granted, I don’t always help people with a sugary tone. Sometimes helping someone doesn’t mean giving them what they want, but instead speaking some painful truth. Sometimes I fail, but I don’t let that keep me from doing what I can, when I can. I help people directly, one-on-one and in groups, and I help others in other ways, such as through blog posts that might help them realize that they are valuable and loved, no matter what happened to them. Sometimes helping people means quietly holding someone’s hand and letting them work through it. Sometimes helping people means standing up and saying “Hey, this is wrong, and it needs to stop.” As long as I’m able to, I’ll keep at it. I hope you further the cause of Christ as well, in whatever way(s) you’re equipped.

Purity doctrine says sexual assault makes you worthless

A friend shared with me a statement by Elizabeth Smart. When Elizabeth says that we’re taught that our life is worthless and has no value once we’ve been used sexually, she nails it. She was talking about abstinence education, but it applies to the entire “purity doctrine” message females receive. Purity doctrine says sexual assault makes you worthless.

Just to be clear: I fully support parents teaching their children that waiting until marriage is the right thing to do. I fully support young people making that decision to wait. This is NOT to say that abstaining from sex until marriage is a bad thing. I teach my own children that God designed sex to be for a married couple, that it is a way to grow their family and to grow closer to each other and to Him. Also, some churches get it right. They are not the problem.

Sexual abuse ruins everything

Sexual abuse strips you of all dignity, all control. It harms you all by itself. Hearing abstinence/purity doctrines makes it worse because it teaches you that sexual abuse strips you of your value as a woman. I have never heard male victims be told this (though I am aware of their feelings of deep shame associated with being abused), but I’m not saying it’s not possible for them to be given the same message. If you’re a male victim and did get that message, please let me know.

Purity doctrine says sexual assault makes you worthless. People who hold to purity doctrine teach that a female’s value resides between her legs, and there are only three possibilities.

  1. If she’s unmarried and not a virgin—whether she voluntarily had sex or was raped—she is worthless and no one will ever want her.
  2. If she’s unmarried and still a virgin, she still has her “value.” As if she’s a piece of property that could rise or fall in worth.
  3. If she’s married, her sexual purity belongs to her husband (again, as if she’s a piece of property) and all she’s good for is giving her husband sex, babies, and home-cooked meals in the house she cleans.

Damaged goods

No matter how much the fundamentalists who subscribe to this way of thinking protest and say they do not think that assault makes a young woman less desirable, it is obvious that they do. I’ve seen proof of it for over 30 years now. It underlies what they say. You’re a chewed piece of gum if you have sex before marriage.

That makes us feel even worse, to be told that we deserve to be thrown away by everyone who loves us, including God, told that we deserve to be rejected by any man we might love and that we are less worthy because we are not virgins.

A young man rejected me as “wife material” because he knew my history, and he had been taught by his church that any woman who wasn’t a virgin when she got married was “damaged goods” and “not worthy” of him. He had played around with innumerable women, several at a time, but he was still technically a virgin, so that made him okay and made me garbage.

Sexual assault and depression

If a girl who is raised in purity culture is assaulted prior to marriage, she will feel even more nugatory than other victims do after being attacked. That feeling alone is enough to lead to suicide, even in someone who was not raised with purity doctrine. How much more depressed and despondent would a person be if they were raised with it? Purity doctrine says sexual assault makes you worthless.

I was molested from the time I was an infant until adulthood. Moreover, my own mother and stepfather held me as a sex slave for years. Different church leaders—in several different denominations—my whole life have told me (some indirectly, some just flat-out) that I was worth nothing, that no one would ever want to marry me, and that I was not allowed to do certain things because I was “not pure.” As if I would infect the other girls! Needless to say, I was depressed!

Female oppression

Some groups teach that a woman is only good for taking care of her husband (sex daily and waiting on him hand and foot), her children, and her home. Christian women in these groups are told that they must service their husbands every time he has a “need.” Entire books have been written on it (see Debbi Pearl for just one example).

For abuse survivors, it’s a miracle if they are ever able to get married or are ever able to stand sex at all. The message, “This is all you’re good for” retraumatizes sex abuse survivors every time they hear it, not to mention that it’s wrong and should not be taught to anyone, even if it is packaged in a pretty bow and labeled “a woman’s highest calling.” Actually, especially if it is packaged that way, because that’s dishonest. At least call it what it is: male domination and female oppression in the name of God. Something tells me He doesn’t like that one bit. And according to every priest and monk I’ve spoken to about it, that is not Orthodoxy.

Abuse survivors need love and acceptance

Anyone who’s been assaulted should have tons of love, acceptance, gentleness, and consideration. They should never be made to feel like they are less than human, that their value depends on their state of virginity, or that God and their family members should love them less now that they have been “defiled.”

All of those things are lies straight from the pit of hell. Stop telling those lies. People say they don’t send that message, that they actually think sexual assault is a horrible thing and that the victims should be helped, and yet they say the victims must have sex with their spouses. They are wrong. They do send that message.

One “leader” even went so far as to tell me that I had to do it at least three times a week, more if my husband wanted it, and preferably multiple times a day, every day.

Make victims feel even worse

Such harm is perpetuated on us by the people who are supposed to love us, because they put emphasis on the wrong thing. When we are used in that way, we are not choosing it. We are not defiled. We are not made dirty. We do not become impure. Our hearts belong to God still.

When we are older, IF we choose to get married, we give our hearts to our spouses. We are faithful. We are pure. The violence perpetrated on us has nothing to do with that. Teach victims that they are STILL PURE, that their assault has nothing whatsoever to do with that, if you value “sexual purity.” I never use that phrase with my kids. I hate that phrase. I teach them that sex is just for their spouse, and that assault has nothing to do with their value or holiness.

Stop degrading women

As a survivor of over 6,000 sexual assaults, at the hands of a number of people, over the course of over 20 years, and as someone who’s had years of counseling and has helped other victims, too, I think it’s pretty safe to say I know what I’m talking about here. I speak out against abuse and those who perpetuate it, especially the ones who don’t know that they are perpetuating it. They can be the most dangerous of all.

Quit telling girls that whether or not they’re a virgin at marriage has anything to do with their worth. Purity is in the heart and it has nothing to do with whether or not we were molested. We honor God with our actions—the only ones we can control: the ones WE take, the ones we take from now on, not the ones someone else takes, ever, and not the ones we took in the past. Our worth has nothing whatsoever to do with sex or sexual abuse. Nothing. Ever.

Update:

I have been asked to provide more people’s opinions and experience than just my own 30+ years of experience with it, besides the link to Elizabeth Smart’s statement at the beginning of this post. Here are a few.

Purity culture teaches women to put up with abuse.

It’s not okay to say no to sex with your husband, because his needs are all that matter. 

You will be like a cup of everyone’s spit if you are not a virgin when you get married. 

Also, someone just told me that I just invented the term “purity doctrine.” Apparently, between the time I published this post and this update (about 8 hours later), I managed to create 7,580,000 Google search results for my new, made-up term. 😉 Sorry, sir, but I didn’t invent it. It’s been around quite a while. Every woman I’ve spoken to who was raised with that teaching who was also molested or raped said that she felt doomed because of that teaching.

Game of Thrones and rape culture

Rape culture says rape is okay because she actually wants it.

Excuse me while I PUKE. Thanks. I still feel queasy, but I think I can talk now.

I just read a blog post at Patheos about Game of Thrones and rape culture, and that’s what this is about: how I felt after reading that post. It’s about rape culture, rape myths, and how media is still perpetuating those myths. I’m not writing a review of the show. I haven’t read the books it comes from and I don’t watch the show—I don’t even own a TV, though I do watch a few things online—but I can totally relate to the reaction that blogger and a lot of other people have had to the episode where Jaime rapes Cersei. First of all,

game of thrones and rape culture

should be enough to make everyone sick. But, somehow, that part seems to have been glossed over. They are siblings (twins). Am I the only one who’s totally appalled at that? Maybe viewers are used to it by now. Some are saying what happens in that scene is “not really rape.” And, get this, it’s “complicated consensual sex.” I won’t even link to the guy who said that one.

Lies.

It’s a rape myth.

There are several rape myths. The one that this episode is showing: No Really Means Yes. Rape victims really want it, even when they say no, the myth says. You just have to convince them that they want it, and by “convince,” they mean coerce, guilt-trip, wear down their resistance, and/or force them. Then the resistant ones see the light, admit that they really do want sex with you, and they agree, or even beg for it.

Game of Thrones and rape culture—is this what passes for “entertainment” now? A rape myth being perpetuated by the media should not be surprising, though it still makes me want to vomit every time I see or hear about it happening.

Complicated consensual sex

Just what is that, anyway? It means that one person starts off saying “no” but is “convinced” to say “yes.” They don’t want anything to do with it at first, but part way through, and definitely by the time it’s over, they enjoy it, they want it. When a woman says “no,” it really means “maybe” or “yes.” It means, “Convince me, you big stud.” Our culture has taught this for a long time, maybe forever.

 LIES.

“Complicated consensual sex” is coerced sex, which is…rape.

Game of Thrones and rape culture

From what I understand, in the book it is consensual sex in that scene. As Slate says,

“Turning it into a rape [in the TV show] just turns Jaime into a monster, the kind that would rape a woman he claims to love in front of her dead son to punish her for being ‘hateful.'”

Ah, yes, forced sex (RAPE!) as punishment. Too many victims can relate to that one, too.

Getting triggered

I wonder just how many people put in an emergency call to their therapist, spiritual leader, or close friend after seeing rape scenes. It’s triggering. You might say, “Well, they could just change the channel.”

To that, I say this: it only takes a fraction of a second to trigger someone. Just one glimpse of an assault, one sound of the struggle. No one can grab the remote quickly enough  or plug their ears quickly enough to keep from hearing it. That’s why there is an entire website dedicated to listing movies and shows that might trigger sexual abuse survivors, so we can be prepared and/or avoid that movie/episode altogether. Game of Thrones and rape culture…I’d say this scene is reason enough for some to stay away from the books and TV series.

In order to stay away from any “blurred lines” of what is or is not coercion (which is rape) let’s say that anything other than an enthusiastic “Yes, I want you, too” is not consensual sex.

PS. Some of the responses on the facebook walls of the people who have shared this post so far are sickening, though I must say that many people’s comments show that they “get it.” Lord have mercy on us all until everyone does. +

Looking perfect, A tale of two vases

A story about looking perfect

Two pottery students each were tasked with creating a slab vase from clay. The first one hadn’t taken a pottery class before, but the second one had.

The first potter was quite concerned with appearances, and thought that if the outward appearance of her vase was good, then her vase would be good. So she threw the clay onto the table once, cut it into slabs, pried them up, and forced the pieces together in the shape of a vase.

She then spent most of her time focusing on smoothing out the surface of the clay, making sure there were no blemishes showing on the outside of her vase. She wanted her vase looking perfect before it went into the kiln, and it did. Other students came by and “oohed and ahhed” over the appearance of her vase. Yes, it certainly did look good. She and her vase had succeeded in looking perfect.

Build a good foundation

The other pottery student wanted a beautiful vase, too, but her approach was different. She knew that

  • the clay had to be worked to the point of pliability,
  • the air bubbles inside it needed to be removed, and
  • getting the air bubbles worked out takes time.

The clay needed to be thrown again and again and again, to remove the air bubbles. It needed to be warmed by her hands to be made pliable, and worked gently into shape or it could crack and split and need to be redone.

Better than you

During that time, things didn’t look so pretty. So while the first potter instantly had something that looked good on the outside, the second potter’s work didn’t look so beautiful at the time.

The first potter pointed at and made fun of the bumpy appearance of the second potter’s slab as she worked on it, and kept throwing it repeatedly to work out those bubbles. She said, “You should do it like I do, and make that thing look good, fast. You’re a horrible potter. Everyone can see that I’m better than you.” By the way, if you do anything like that in my class, or anywhere within earshot of me, my response will be swift. Mistreating others is not tolerated.

Ignore bad advice

The second and slightly more experienced potter knew that yes, her slab still had some blemishes, and it didn’t look as good on the surface as the other’s, but it would soon be air-bubble-free and thus structurally sound, and ready to survive the fire of the kiln.

A piece of pottery that has air bubbles in it would explode in the kiln, and while the shards might look beautiful, it wouldn’t be a whole, functioning vase. It might be able to be glued back together, but the damage would always be there, and would be pretty easy for people to see.

Beautiful but shattered

The second potter also knew that any on-the-surface problems in her vase could be smoothed over before it was fired, or sanded away after it had been fired. Either way, it could be glazed or painted and its appearance improved even more after it had been tested in the kiln.

The more important thing was to build it soundly so it would withstand the heat of the kiln. Appearance was secondary to that, and it would come in time. Appearance without correct underlying structure just gives beautiful, broken shards—shattered vases.

Quit worrying about appearance and be concerned with reality

Looking perfect has nothing to do with being good. Christ called this way of doing things being “whited sepulchers, full of dead men’s bones and all manner of filth.” It doesn’t lead to life, but to death. Is appearance important? Yes. But far more important is the underlying structure, the reality. Take care of the structure underneath before worrying about the surface. Take your time and do it right.

~An art-class lesson I gave years ago (without the reference to Christ or scripture, as it was designed for public-school classes).