Non-Existent Address?

Last week, I shared in a post about my experience with the victim notification system. However, I did not share the whole story as I found myself in a period of waiting to see how things would play out. What I did not disclose is that when I googled to find the mapped location of my abuser’s “new address,” I could not find it. I searched for the location via every method I could imagine- even dragging my cursor over the entire zip code seeking my abusers’ pin on the sex offender registry map. When my exasperated efforts failed to turn up any information on this new address, I reached out to someone familiar with my case who continues to work in law enforcement.

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When his efforts of finding this street address were thwarted, I became panicky and entered survival mode. It seemed that my abuser had listed a bogus address and was potentially non-compliant with the registry requirements. For what seemed like much longer than it actually took to get the answer I needed, my brain was in overdrive. I caught myself lost in thought trying to figure out why my abuser would at this point not comply with the registry requirements when he had for 12 years. I became frightened that either he had hurt another little child and was trying to get away or that he was possibly going to try and find me. I was annoyed that the registry had failed me because they “lost” my abuser- he was going to get away. The physiological trauma responses I experienced in years past returned rapidly. The whole situation caught me completely off guard and I struggled to find my ground.

As law enforcement sought answers, I informed the ADA of the latest happenings. I am so thankful for the law enforcement in Duplin County that monitors the offenders on the registry and the ADA. It is clear through their swift actions that they truly care about the people they serve. Thankfully, this story has a “happy-ish” ending- my abuser actually has not moved, the name of the road he has lived on for years is changing/has changed and technology simply has not caught up yet. While I find comfort in knowing that law enforcement knows his exact location, I find greater comfort in knowing that I still have advocates in my life fighting for me when I can’t. I find the most comfort in knowing that God is my greatest source of protection and that he has placed people in my life to help.

I wholeheartedly believe that God allowed me to experience this event because it exposed the area of my life that I am not entrusting to Him. During the waiting period I wrestled back and forth with God- trusting Him with the outcome then before I knew it, yanking it right back- wanting to take action immediately, rather than allowing for the appropriate chain of response patiently. When a person experiences traumatic events, control is often difficult to relinquish once it is regained- for obvious reasons, we did not have control in the trauma. My prayer is that I will continue to let go of the ropes that are not mine to hold.

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The Call That Made My Heart Race

Two weeks ago, I received a completely unexpected phone call. It was an automated message. I did not recognize the phone number, so I did not answer the call. My phone struggled to transcribe the message because it was nearly three minutes in length which piqued my interest in knowing who had called my phone.

“You are subscribed with us to receive updates about an offender whose last name is                      and whose first name is                         . I’m calling to tell you that this offender’s registered address has changed. The new address is                                 . Please note that it is possible that this offender’s address has changed because the offender has been incarcerated and is now in a North Carolina county jail…”

From the time the recording gave my abuser’s last name to the end of the message, I experienced many different physiological reactions and emotions. I immediately felt my heart begin to race as anxiety and fear swelled within me. Before the recording told me my abuser’s address had changed, my thoughts (irrational due to my brain’s survival motivated response) created a whole scenario about how my offender had successfully petitioned for removal from the registry and the court failed to notify me. Talk about some angry thoughts flying through my head! Next, I felt significantly relieved to learn that only my abuser’s address had changed, not his status as a sex offender. Finally, I experienced frustration because I could not recall the 4 digit pin I needed to enter to let the victim notification program know that I had received the message- thus, ensuring my phone would ring and I would receive the same message until I could recall my pin number or call the victim notification program itself.

When I recovered from the initial shock of this call, I quickly typed in the address to see where my abuser now lives. I choose to know where my abuser lives for various reasons I covered in an earlier post. It brings me comfort and a sense of safety to know this information.

I share this experience for two reasons. My first reason is to express my thanks for this program. While I somewhat regularly check out the sex offender registry to view the status of my abuser, it is a relief to know that this program will notify me if anything changes in his status. And, they will notify me very quickly. Less that two weeks before receiving this phone call, I had checked my abuser’s profile because it was close to the time he was required to verify his information.

My second reason for sharing this experience is because I want people to have an idea of what it might be like to receive that type of call. I was not prepared in any way for that call and had it been earlier in my healing, that call would have easily destroyed my day or week. Even 13 years after getting away from my abuser, I still react when I hear his name or get a call about him. That fight or flight or freeze response was immediately ignited. If you have signed up to receive offender notifications, and you get this same call, know that it is normal to feel all the emotions.

If you would like more information on how to register for notifications regarding a specific offender, follow the instructions on this website: https://vinelink.com/#/home

Make sure you pick a 4 digit pin that you won’t forget in a moment that could be very stressful.

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My phone’s attempt at finally transcribing the voicemail recording

Sex Offenders and the Church: A Response, Part 1

Over the last few weeks I have studied protocols churches have already established to handle sex offenders’ attendance/participation in the church. There are many different views on this topic; however, every article I have read so far has been in agreement on how to handle one specific situation.

If a convicted sex offender desires to attend/participate in a church where the victim of his/her crimes attends, he/she should NOT be granted permission to attend; instead, he/she should be directed elsewhere.

As I stated in my previous post, my abuser did not go to church before or during the time he was abusing me. After my abuser was charged, he never attempted to attend my church- at least not to my knowledge. When I was in high school, I found peace and hope within the walls of my church. I can not begin to fathom what it would have been like to be in church with my abuser. I know that it would have significantly impacted my freedom to worship at the church I love. It took months of hard work in counseling to reduce the anxiety and fear I experienced simply at the sight of a yellow D.O.T truck in town because that was my abuser’s work truck. For those of you who live in Duplin County, you know it is nearly impossible to drive anywhere without seeing a yellow D.O.T truck. I would have never been able to sit through a worship service or any church activity with my abuser present.

It has been 13 years since my disclosure, and I still would not feel comfortable or safe in the presence of my abuser. Though I have experienced a lot of healing and I have even forgiven my abuser, I do not want to be in his presence- especially not in a place so special to me. There may be rare times when a victim/survivor eventually feels comfortable with his/her abuser worshipping in the same church, but I am willing to say that would be an extremely rare situation. In those cases, I think you yield to the wishes of the victim and follow the protocols set forth with any other sex offender.

A very possible/likely situation churches will face is when a person desires to attend who has been accused of sexual offenses but either has yet to be tried in court or there was not sufficient evidence for a legal case. What if the victim also attends? I will come back to this situation in a future post. For now, I will continue to cover situations involving a convicted sex offender. In the meantime, consider your reactions to that scenario and how you might respond.

In my next post, I will backtrack slightly from this post to cover some actions churches will want to take before they decide about whether a sex offender should be allowed to attend. I will also share links to sample protocols already established. Stay tuned!

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Registered Sex Offenders and the Church

I have been pretty hesitant about using my voice in this manner. It seems it would be much easier to just let people figure it out on their own. But I know God would not have placed it on my heart or placed me in the center of so many recent discussions about this topic. Please know that I have given much careful thought and prayer about how to present my views in a non-condemning, gracious, and open-minded way. I recognize that it will be difficult and uncomfortable for many to read and think about. But, I believe it is of utmost importance that we talk about sex offenders and the church.

Over the last month, I have found myself in multiple discussions regarding how to respond when a sex offender attends your church. This is not something I had given any thought to prior, primarily because my abuser did not attend church. It will require multiple blog posts to provide a well-informed and multi-faceted view of this topic. Between researching the legal statutes pertaining to registered sex offenders and the church, to studying the range of protocols currently employed by churches, to asking for opinions from individuals with backgrounds in law, law enforcement, higher education, pastors, and from fellow survivors.

I hope that by the end of the series, churches will begin having more conversations about how to protect children, empower survivors, and implement best practices if registered sex offenders are allowed to worship corporately.

In this post, I just want to introduce a few different scenarios that could occur in your church. I’m not going to post my responses to these scenarios today because I hope to hear some of your thoughts first.

***Trigger warning***

 

  1. Mr. S is 65 years old and has multiple aggravated child abuse convictions that span over 20 years and involve multiple victims. He is classified as a Tier 3 recidivist sex offender. He comes to your church and shares his status as a sex offender with the pastor. He also shares how he has come to Christ and it has changed his life and he wants to join a church that will welcome him despite his past. His life has changed.
  2. Mr. T is 28 years old. He was placed on the sex offender registry at the age of 20 after he was found guilty of indecent liberties with a minor. He was 19 year old when he was in a sexual dating relationship with a “consenting” 15 year old. He shares with a church leader his status as a sex offender. He desires to learn more about God and be more involved in church.
  3. Mr. J is 48 years old. He was placed on the sex offender registry for multiple counts of indecent liberties with a minor. He was in his 30’s and the minor was 8 when the crimes occurred. He has completed his probationary requirements. He initially does not share with the pastor or church staff that he is a registered sex offender, but because he lives in a small town several congregants recognized his face from the registry. The congregants went to the pastor concerned.
  4. Ms. R is 30 years old. She was placed on the sex offender registry following multiple arrests for prostitution in her late teens and early 20s. She never abused a child. She grew up in church and wants her kids to have that same upbringing. She is concerned about how people will respond to her status as a registered sex offender, despite prostitution not being her choice. She states she was a victim of sex trafficking. She meets with the pastor to share her concerns.
  5. Ms. M is 45 years old. She was convicted of indecent liberties with a minor and sexual abuse by a teacher. In her late 20’s she was found guilty of having sex with a 17 year old student. She has abided by the requirements of the registry. She hopes to join a local church that will allow her to participate in various aspects of ministry and service. She does not initially disclose her offender status, however, when she began attending regularly she asked the pastor for a meeting.

***These scenarios are fictitious although similar or exact circumstances could arise at your church. These are just a few samples of the many possibilities that could occur. No case is the same.***

Who gets to worship regularly at your church? Who gets to join in membership and/or serve in some capacity? What regulations are in place to protect the children in your church? How will you address the concerns of other church members? Do you know what legal rights both the church and the offender have? Do you know how to access court documents that corroborate the offender’s story? How does the church extend grace as Christ would desire? How do we hold people accountable for their actions? How will this impact survivors of child abuse in your church family?

In my next post, I will share my thoughts on one scenario in which I wholeheartedly believe the registered sex offender should NOT be able to attend at a specific church.

Share your thoughts! I would love to hear them and value any input you are willing to share. Have you had any experiences like this? Leave a comment or connect with me via the “Contact Me” tab.

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This is my home church in NC. It is a place that fostered healing and hope in the most loving community I could imagine. It is my desire that every survivor can have that experience. 

My Abuser Could Be Your Neighbor

The primary reason I started this blog was to raise awareness of laws regulating the sex offender registry. Did you know that in most states sex offenders can petition for removal from the registry? My abuser is currently eligible and could file this type of petition any day. He was in his mid-late thirties when he began abusing me. I was eight years old. If he successfully petitions, he could one day be your neighbor and you would not know that he sexually abused a little girl for years.

If you have read any of my previous posts, you will pick up on my strong support of survivor voices, particularly when it comes to court proceedings. When my abuser entered his plea of no contest and was sentenced to 48 hours in jail, 36 months’ probation, and was required to register as a sex offender, I was not prepared to make any type of victim impact statement, despite being afforded the opportunity.  There was no advance preparation and simply being in the court room, in the same building as my abuser was overwhelming. Not making a statement haunted me. And I had to accept that the opportunity was missed.

Years later, when I learned that my abuser was going to be eligible to petition for removal from the registry, I was distraught. Rather than letting my voice be silenced in this matter, I started making phone calls. I was determined to not let another judge make a decision about my abuser without hearing my voice.

I am thankful for an ADA who heard my voice and listened. I am thankful for an ADA who will stand beside me if the day comes that my abuser petitions before a judge. I am thankful for an ADA who took the time to explain all the possible scenarios and who explained the basics of a victim impact statement. I am thankful for an ADA who is fighting for my voice to be heard.

A year and a half ago I posted my impact statement to my blog. While it was one of the most difficult pieces I have wrote and the scariest to post, I hope that seeing an example of an impact statement will help someone else write theirs. I found it to be healing to write. Hopefully, I never have to return to a court room and see my abuser. But if I do, I will be prepared and that is comforting.

If you have any questions or want more information about writing an impact statement, please don’t hesitate to contact me via the “contact” tab.

Impact Statement

Today, when I entered this court room, I did not come in as a victim like I did ten years ago. Today, I am standing here as a survivor. However, being a survivor does not mean that I am freed from the effects of long term sexual abuse at the hands of xxxxxx, my former xxxxxxx, my abuser. Rather, being a survivor means that through the flashbacks, depression, anxiety, guilt, and shame, I will choose to keep living, thriving, and healing. That August night I watched “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” with my then xxxxxxx forever changed my life.

What should have been an innocent bonding time turned into a nightmare that I lived every time the show aired and my abuser was home- sometimes five nights a week. While that August night is when the ongoing sexual abuse began, the intentional grooming process began long before that. When I was just six, seven, and eight years old, my abuser was preparing me for that night I would come lay in bed beside him to watch a television show- but leave a victim, terrified by his threat and feeling completely ashamed and broken. That August night I could have been covered from head to toe in manure and still I would have felt cleaner than I did as I washed my abuser’s semen off of me, at eight years old.

During the years of abuse, I would go to school every day and come home knowing what my abuser would expect of me that night. The threat and fear he instilled in me on that August night, and the years of grooming broke me down to the point that my abuser never once had to tell me to come back to the bedroom and perform sexual acts. I reached the point of believing that this was my duty and my abuser reinforced this belief by telling me that he knew “how curious little girls are” and that he was just “helping me out.” My abuser was never drunk, high, or under the influence of any mind-altering substance when the abuse occurred. Those things would not have excused the crimes, rather I say it to clarify that my abuser consciously chose to abuse me hundreds of times.

What I call my “Freedom Day,” came on November 10, 2004. I was a little over a month shy of turning 14. While I was freed in a physical sense from the hands of my abuser, I am still learning today that healing is life-long. Over 250 counseling sessions, a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) diagnosis, antidepressants, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks, shame, low self-worth- these are just some of the things I’ve dealt with in the last ten years. When physical freedom from the abuse happened, my entire world was turned upside down even more. My siblings, mom, and I were forced to leave a house we dearly loved, our belongings ended up ruined in storage, our precious pets were left in the care of my abuser, and we moved into a single bedroom in my grandparent’s house. And that was only the beginning.

I could spend a really long time detailing the last ten years of my life. There have been highs and lows but I’ve made it through them all, just like I survived the years of abuse. But that is not why we are here today. For nearly two years I have been anxious about this day. It absolutely terrifies me that there is a chance my abuser can be removed from the sex offender registry. There are hardly words to describe the peace of mind I have knowing that law enforcement knows where my abuser lives and that people who have children around him can know that he is a predator. It brings comfort to me to know that the likelihood of another child being abused by him is at least decreased some by him being on the sex offender registry. I am not his only victim. He also assaulted my xxxx xxxxxx. The abuse was not a one-time incident. I can look back at when I was an eight year old child and see just how manipulated and controlled I was by my abuser. He was brazen enough to abuse me not only in his bedroom, but also in the living room, in the swimming pool, and in the cab of his truck. The fact that he abused me despite the rest of my family being one room away shows just how capable he is of grooming another child and abusing them without anyone knowing- for years.

Not only does a denial to my abuser’s petition for removal from the registry protect other kids from the potential of being abused by him, but it also serves as continued justice for the crimes he committed against me. That August night when I was just eight years old, hoping to watch a television show and bond with my xxxxxxx, I was forever added to a list I didn’t choose- child sexual abuse victim. My xxxxxxx chose to put my name on that list. I will forever live with all that list brings. Just as I will always deal with the effects, I believe that my abuser should have to live with the ramifications of his actions, which landed him on a list. Even if my abuser is one of the very few predators that never abuses another child, it would be an injustice for him to no longer have to face the consequences of his choices that forever altered my life.  

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The Words I Wish My Abuser Would Say

How do you wish to plea Mr. *****? “No contest, your honor.”

As a 15-year-old walking through the judicial system, I did not understand how a “no contest” plea was acceptable in my type of case. If you know he is guilty, why can’t you make him say that? This plea, however, is what was accepted to protect me from the trauma of a trial [insert mixed feelings here].

If you are unfamiliar with a “no contest” or nolo contendere plea, it is when the defendant neither disputes nor admits to the crimes he/she has been charged. The way I remember it being explained to me as a teenager is that my abuser was refusing to admit his guilt but was willing to take the “punishment” that would be imposed for a guilty plea. I can recall people trying to comfort me by saying that no innocent person would plea this way because “who in their right mind would agree to be penalized for crimes they did not commit?”. While that explanation comforted me some, it was not the same as my abuser stating he was/is guilty of sexually abusing me.  More than anything in the world, I wanted to hear him confess.  

Why did an admission of guilt from my abuser feel completely necessary for me at 15 years old and why is it something that I still wish would happen to this day?

At 15 years old, I primarily wanted him to confess so that his family, who had become my family, would know that I was not lying. When my mom, siblings, and I moved immediately following my disclosure at 13, I lost an entire part of my family. Family that I had spent holidays and birthdays with for nearly 7 years. They were my aunts and uncles and cousins. I just wanted them to know the truth.

Today, I still want people to know the truth without any doubt. Every time I share my story, there is still a tinge of fear that wonders if the hearers will believe me. I want my abuser to validate the abuse in a way that only he can. When it comes down to it, only God, my abuser, and I know exactly what took place those many nights when I was just a child.

In my opinion, our norm response to disclosures of sexual abuse- with more questions than comfort and a greater emphasis on finding reasons why the disclosure couldn’t be truthful than looking at the evidence that supports a disclosure- contributes to the desire for an abuser to admit guilt. A desire for my abuser to admit his guilt.

As I have worked on this post, I have gone back and forth on whether this is one that I want to post because I believe there is the chance it can be interpreted incorrectly. But it’s a chance I’m willing to take (so if you have questions or think I’m crazy, please don’t hesitate to reach out). 99 days out of 100, I don’t think about or mull over wishing my abuser would admit his guilt. But it is one of the residual effects that sits far back in my mind and resurfaces every now and again. Whether my abuser ever admits his guilt during his time on earth, I commit to keep living brave and bold and to keep speaking truth.

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Responding to Disclosures #MeToo

Over the last several months, we have watched #MeToo permeate news cycles. The movement has resulted in many people coming forward to share their stories of sexual abuse, sexual assault, and sexual harassment. We have watched as powerful  and/or highly-regarded men, particularly in media and politics, have finally faced consequences for the crimes they have committed. This movement has challenged people to consider how they will respond to these types of disclosures. How did you respond when the news broke about Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, or Roy Moore? Overwhelmingly, the response has been supportive for the incredibly brave individuals who have courageously shared their stories; however, there have been many instances of questioning the validity of such disclosures. Before this movement, society was not as welcoming disclosures of sexual crime. Victims were often blamed, rather than believed. Sexual harassment was considered the norm a just a piece of the “boys will be boys” culture (although women are perpetrators too). The #MeToo movement has initiated a change in the way disclosures are regarded; however, there is still a ways to go. 

I want to share two things about disclosures of sexual crimes that are often points of contention for people who are unsure about the validity of such disclosures. 

1). Disclosures are not always timely- in fact, more often than not they will come in the months, years, or decades after the incident. Many times, our lives are threatened, our family’s lives are threatened, our careers are threatened, etc. Too many times our abusers have been accurate in their statements that “no one will believe you,” which reinforces our silence. We were likely manipulated to believe that the abuse or harassment was either the norm or somehow our fault. Please, do not blame or fault us for not coming forward immediately. 

2). Disclosures probably will not include all the details. First, if the abuse or harassment occurred frequently or over an extended time, it is impossible to recall each incident in a moment. Sometimes, our disclosures may include only a small piece of our story in an effort to see if that piece will be believed before we share the painful details of our experiences. Most of the time, our brain simply can not piece everything together to form a coherent narrative until we have had the time to process the trauma with a counselor. It takes time. When I reflect on my timeline of disclosure, it took several years before I felt safe enough to share everything that happened to me. Please, be patient and do not assume we are lying or making things up because we do not recall everything that happened when you ask. 

In my conversations with people who have experienced sexual assault, sexual abuse, and/or sexual harassment, and in my life, more than anything- we want to be believed and we want our experiences to be validated. #MeToo has created a place where this occurs, and my hope is that it will continue to change the societal response to disclosures. 

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Photo by: Mihai Surdu via Pixabay

I would love to hear your views on the #MeToo movement! How has it changed how you view disclosures either positively or negatively? How have you responded to the “downfall” of well-known individuals who have been accused of sexual crimes? 

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section or via the Contact Me page. 

 

Redemption. Thirteen Years.

Thirteen years ago, I was a terrified thirteen-year-old child. I believed it would be my last day on earth as I left the security of my middle school walls. Thirteen years later, I am walking into a computer lab to take the most important exam of my graduate school career. I am honored that God is providing me with an extraordinary glimpse at redemption. What are the chances that I would be taking the CPCE the year that the test date falls on this pivotal day in my life? It is a powerful remembrance and an ode to God’s healing in my life to look back on the frightened child I was to the person I am today- taking an exam that will provide me the opportunity to continue counseling hurting people. Only God could orchestrate this redemption of November 10.

On November 10, 2004 my family learned about the abuse I had experienced for the previous years. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I was finally freed from the hands of my abuser; however, I had learned to live with the pain of the abuse. I had no clue what the pain of healing would entail. There were times I did not think I would make it another day. But each time I reached that point, God showed me how and why I could make it another day, and another day after that. As the years passed, November 10 became a little less painful and a little more joyful. I slowly began to see progress in my healing and I found that there IS life after sexual abuse.

Today, I celebrate. I celebrate that I don’t have to live in fear of my abuser. I celebrate that I don’t have to go to sleep each night with a secret no child should ever have to keep. I celebrate not having to keep silent in shame of what my abuser did to me. I celebrate each day of the last thirteen years that have led me to where I am today.

I don’t know where you may be on your healing journey from sexual abuse, but please know that there is hope. The pain will eventually ease. Joy will be felt throughout your soul once again. Your days can be reclaimed. God is at work. Keep going. Don’t give up. Make it another day. You are not alone. 

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Effects of Sexual Abuse, Part 3: When Whistles Indicate Worth

When I think about how sexual abuse effected my view of self, there is one incident that most accurately depicts my identity struggles. For those of you who have followed this blog for a while, you will likely recognize this story.

I was around the age of 9 or 10 when I was on a weekend trip at a hotel with an indoor pool in Raleigh, NC. An indoor pool meant hours of entertainment for my siblings and me. When we entered the pool area, my siblings and I were ecstatic because we had the entire pool area to ourselves. As we played in the shallow water, I noticed a man in the sauna adjacent to the pool area. When our eyes locked, he slowly loosened the towel from around his waist exposing his nudity. Immediately, I equated this man in the sauna with my abuser back home. He acted the same as my abuser and within seconds a war was raging in my mind. “Am I supposed to go in there?” “I can’t leave my sister and brother alone in the pool.” “What if they followed me in to the sauna?” “I know what he needs me to do.” Thankfully another family joined my siblings and I in the pool area and the man in the sauna quickly left.

In my previous post, I talked about how after the abuse began I did not see myself as a child any longer. This incident with a stranger in a hotel sauna epitomizes the destruction of my identity resulting from the abuse. I was no longer a child. I was only worthy for sexually pleasing men. The view that my worth was found in men’s actions towards me lingered for years.  

 When I was a teenager I can remember being out at Myrtle Beach or even the Walmart the next town over. Nearly every time I was out, at least one person would holler some sort of catcall or whistle. It made me frustrated for a brief second to be yelled at like that; however, it rapidly triggered in my brain the neural pathway that screamed “yes, you are still worthy, you are still wanted, you are still needed, this is right!”  I would question what was wrong with me if I was out and did not have a catcall directed my way. This was my normal. The frequency of whistles and catcalls indicated how I viewed my worth.

I started writing this post last week before the #MeToo movement began. I find it so timely that it took off just as I was finding the words to speak. It has been overwhelming, but not shocking, to see friend after friend post #MeToo on social media. I know behind each of those statuses there are probably several others who can’t post yet because it is not safe or simply because they don’t want to- and that is ABSOLUTELY okay too- I believe you.

I hope we don’t get caught up in the hashtag. I hope that we keep this conversation going. I hope that we take action so the #MeToo will be in reference to something positive we can all experience.

The change that I desire to see is an end to the degrading catcalls and inappropriate language used to speak to and/or describe women. Every time I heard a catcall or whistle, the beliefs my abuser instilled in me were reinforced. Every whistle perpetuated the belief: “this is it. This is what you are here for. This is what you were made to do. Now, go meet his needs.”

So, before you whistle or catcall that person- consider asking her name and how her day is going.

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Effects of Sexual Abuse, Part 2: Where is the Child?

I remember it like it was yesterday.  “How can I look younger? What if people think I’m the mom here? What if people think I’m the wife here? How can I make sure people know I’m the daughter? I’ll have to make sure they hear me say ‘dad.” These thoughts flooded my 10-year-old brain as I strolled down the boardwalk of Myrtle Beach with my dad and two younger siblings.

Initially, when I began this series I was going to address the effects of sexual abuse on my view of God, my view of others, and my view of self. However, I quickly realized the intricate connection between those three views. I have decided to approach this series more from a developmental perspective detailing how those views changed through the years.

At ten years old, I no longer viewed myself as a child. Soon after the abuse began, my imaginative play diminished. I completely lost my ability to connect with Barbie dolls or stuffed animals. I could still play sports and board games, but anything that required the use of my imagination failed to culminate.

When my abuser stole my innocence, he ended my childhood. The transition into adolescence is often tumultuous followed by the excitement of entering independence and the freedom of adulthood; however, the ongoing sexual abuse disrupted those transitions and thrusted me too soon into an adult world. When I looked in the mirror, I saw my ten-year-old physique reflected; but on the inside, the child had disappeared.

When I think about those thoughts that raced through my mind as I walked down the boardwalk at Myrtle Beach, I grieve for that little girl who feared people would think these two kids, seven and nine years old, were her children. I grieve for the little girl who believed it was normal for a child to be in a sexual relationship with a grown man. I grieve for the little girl who believed no one could rescue her from her abuser.

Today, I see how God is continuing to work in and through each detail of my life. I see how He uses each of my experiences to educate others. Adults, if you recognize that a child suddenly stops engaging in imaginative play, have a conversation about sexual abuse. Create the environment and dialogue where a child will experience the safety and security necessary to take the bold step of disclosure. It could certainly be normal childhood development where imaginative play is no longer “cool,” but is that a risk you are willing to take? There is no harm that can come from having an age appropriate discussion about body safety and sexual abuse. Take that step.

A few months ago, I took my first step in the realm of poetry and I think it is worth sharing here as it exposes what it is like when innocence is stolen.

 

Come to my room, my dear

You have nothing to fear

It’s our time together

Please, let me float like a feather

Through the air, with the wind

I can’t get away, I’m pinned

What is happening? I don’t understand

Don’t worry my dear, this is all planned

What happened in your bed

Where my mother laid her head

Took what was mine

When I was just nine

Secrets unspoken.

Imagination broken.

Innocence stolen.

No more teddy bears

Or rocking chairs

My life was changed forever

When you decided to sever

My safety and trust

Now I’m filled with fear and disgust

No words, just silence

I must prevent his violence

Hear what my eyes are saying

On the inside, I’m decaying

Perfect on the outside

Please, someone find where I hide.

 

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I love these siblings of mine, more than words can express.