Trigger warnings: Rape, Sexual Assault, Faith
If you are a victim/ survivor reading this, please know this is not an easy read. While no graphic material will be shared, it is real and raw.
This is a long post. You might read it one sitting, or you may need to take a break and read it in sections. To be honest, I’ve had to walk away and take breaks while writing this.
If you are a victim/ survivor reading this, there are some things I want to say directly to you, up front.
– You are NOT at fault!!!
– What you wore, what you drank, how you acted did NOT mean you asked for/ deserved what happened.
– The shame is real, but it is NOT yours to carry. The real shame belongs to your perpetrator.
– If you are a victim/ survivor and have not come forward to share your story, I am a safe place. I will post hotlines at the end of this post. You are WORTHY of help. You are WORTHY to move forward. SPEAK UP and use your voice!!!!!
– In case you have never heard it before. I BELIEVE YOU!!!!
I am now choosing to share parts of my own story of rape and sexual assault because I have been in therapy for a hot minute with the most incredible therapist. Honestly, if it weren’t for her, I’m not sure I would be here to share my story in this moment. I first opened up to my two best friends. Our friendship had been in place for roughly 15 years. Now we have now been friends a little over 20 years. I thought they would cast me aside and end our friendships. Thankfully, that was the total opposite of what happened. I was terrified to tell my husband because I thought he would view me as dirty and not want to be with me anymore. Thankfully, that was also a far cry from reality. Through the good, the bad, the nightmares that come with PTSD and the panic attacks, he has more than honored our wedding vows. I have also developed an incredible tribe who has walked alongside me in my journey to move from victim to survivor.
While I have been in therapy for a hot minute, I have not arrived. I still have work to do. Following the crap show that has been the SBC for the past several years on this front has been triggering. I hate that word because it gets thrown around so much and not used in the correct context. That being said, the stories, the investigations and finally the Guidepost reports have shown I’m still struggling on several fronts. To be honest, my faith has taken a hit, but I will share more about that later on this post.
I HATE porn!!! I hate what it does to people and who it turns them into. I was in 5th grade when I was raped. It happened in a living room. There was a VHS porn tape playing on the tv. In 6th grade, someone who “should” have protected me sexually assaulted me several times a week for about a year. A boy in my 6th grade class took upon himself to snap my bra on a regular basis. My first boss made sexually inappropriate comments on a regular basis and that was a situation I was able to walk away from.
I was terrified to speak up. I was afraid of what would happen. I wanted to tell my dad, but was honestly terrified he would have murdered both perps. If he went to prison for murder, I was afraid everyone in my family would have hated me for it. I have often wondered how my family would look like today, if I’d had the courage to speak up.
Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, I turned to food to cope. I started what I know now was binging. It didn’t matter if I had eaten a meal and was full, I wanted more. I gained a lot of weight. The people around me chalked it up to puberty. My hygiene also went out the window. I had one teacher who noticed the changes. She talked to me about the importance of showering, eating a healthy diet and exercising. However, she never once thought to ask other questions. She never once thought to see if there was more to the story. People at church noticed the changes in my physical appearance and temperament, but never bothered to ask questions.
Fast forward to college. I had friends and roommates who played volleyball. Because I wanted to support them and earn credit as a Human Performance minor, I often called lines for games and tournaments. On a Saturday, our college hosted a tournament and I was asked to call lines. I got to the gym a little early to help set up. Teams were coming in. I looked up and saw a man making a bee line straight for me. He hugged me like I was his long lost best friend. I wanted to punch him and throw up at the same time. The perp who sexually assaulted me through all of 6th grade was standing in my college gym as the head coach of one of the volleyball teams. I honestly don’t remember much about the rest of that day. I can just about guarantee I messed up my fair share of calls. That night, my roommate/ volleyball player went home with her family. I somehow made the walk to our 4th floor dorm room and stuffed myself with food. I ate until I puked. Binging and purging would become a habit for a couple more years.
Once I graduated from college, I served a Semester Missionary through NAMB. Christmas of 2000, all of the Semester Missionaries gathered for a Christmas party before we flew home for the holidays. I ate until beyond full. Later on that night when I was sure everyone was asleep, I went to the bathroom and purged. I “thought” I had gotten away with it. The next morning there was a knock on my bedroom door and two other girls I served with were standing there. They asked me straight forward about my behavior the night before. It was the first time anyone caught on to what I was doing and lovingly called me out. I begged for them not to tell our house parents. I begged for them not to tell anyone at the board. They agreed on the condition I would come clean to the YMCA Fitness Director when we came back. Reluctantly, I agreed. When we returned they held me to my promise. The director had me keep a food diary and I was only allowed to work out with her. Sadly, I jumped from binging and purging to restricting. There were days I only ate 500 calories. Since then my weight has consistently fluctuated. I have never had a healthy relationship with food and still don’t to this day.
Fast forward to summer of 2014. Married, 3 kids and in the process of buying our first home. We had moved into a temporary rental while waiting to close and move. Anyone who has ever bought a house knows it’s far from easy and the stressors can be high. My emotions were all over the place. For whatever reasons the stress triggered nightmares and flashbacks. I couldn’t sleep at night because I could feel the assaults all over again. The people around me assumed I was overreacting to the stress of buying a home. They had no idea the hell I lived when I attempted to sleep.
Things were so bad that summer, I wanted to end it all. I prayed for the courage to end it all. There is a picture of my daughter that sits in the dashboard of my van. It was taken when she was around 3 years old and in day school. I don’t remember how are why it ended up there, but I am convinced the Lord knew what that picture would come to mean to me. That picture literally saved my life. Every time I made up my mind to follow through with my plan, I would see that picture and wasn’t able to do anything. Even with as bad as things were, it still took another two years before I could finally open up to my best friends and my husband. July of 2016, I finally walked into a therapist office to start my journey towards healing.
Several years later, all hell broke with the former president of the seminary I attended. I was serving on a church staff. I was embarrassed to be SBC. I was embarrassed to be serving in an SBC church. I had been following the “hearing” over Patterson’s behaviors. I stayed up until a little after 1a following the story on Twitter, because I had to be at work the next morning, I finally turned off my phone and attempted to sleep. When I turned to Twitter the next morning, I couldn’t believe what I reading. Even though Patterson basically patted a perpetrator on the back, shamed and punished the victim, he was handed retirement on a silver platter. I pulled into the church parking lot that morning and had zero desire to walk in. I was not angry with my senior pastor, the missions pastor I served under or anyone else on staff. I angry with the fact the reputation of a misogynistic, hypocritical, so-called man of God was getting a pat on the back and smooth ride off into the sunset. After texting my favorite pastor’s wife, praying and talking myself into walking into the church, I walked into my office and pulled my SWBTS diploma off the wall. To this day, I have not hung my diploma back on the wall in any place.
Patterson continues to placed in prominent, prestigious, places of honor. Based on scripture, he has ZERO reasons to fill any pulpit. I see where he is being allowed to preach on Sunday (5/29). There are so many biblical reason to have his ordination pulled. Because no one has offered biblical discipline, according to Matthew. He continues to be allowed to leave damage in his wake. He continues to be allowed to demean women. He is allowed to continue to be completely hypocritical and contradict scripture at every turn. I could write a whole other post on the hypocrite that is his wife, but that’s another blog for another time. (I do plan on writing one on women and the SBC and I have plenty to share on her and my first hand conversations with her).
As all of the sexual assaults have come to light. The good old boy system has forged ahead like a bull in a China shop. Perpetrators masquerading as pastoral staff have been protected and moved around. Victims/ survivors have been shamed and called liars across multiple social media platforms. The investigation that finally happened was fought because “reputations” were on the line. I can’t even begin describe my anger and rage at what I’ve read and heard. Against all odds and legal battles, Guidepost finally performed an investigation. I have read the majority of that report. The details that have emerged “Should” be a major call to repentance and a large number of men who have been biblically disqualified from the pulpit “should” be stepping down. Instead, reports have had sections redacted. Perpetrators are STILL being protected. Yes, Guidepost posted a hotline for victims/ survivors in the church, but I struggle to believe anything will actually change.
Many churches, both large and small, and have posted statements to the Guidepost findings. Unless pastors truly step up and put action behind their words, the words are empty and meaningless. It’s past time for pastoral staff to come alongside us. My assaults did not come at the hands of pastoral staff, but the view of men and women in the SBC played a role. Until the SBC sees women as valuable and reteaches how men are to treat women, nothing will change.
A victim/ survivor hearing “Oh that was hard” and “I’m praying for you,” then sending us on our way helps nothing. I have shared my story and been dismissed. To say anger at those who have attempted to silence me and send me on my way has been more harmful than they realize. My faith has taken a massive hit. While the core of what I believe has remained, I question so many other things. I don’t agree with so much of what the SBC teaches at this point. I don’t agree with view of men and women and their roles in the SBC. I honestly don’t believe Christ would stand in affirmation at the current state of the convention. I think He would be overturning tables. I believe righteous anger would displayed.
I believe the perpetrators in the pulpit should be called out and cast out. I know I am not the one sitting on the judgement throne at the end of days, but there are a large number of perpetrators at/ from our seminaries, universities and churches who will find it too late to repent. They are convinced because they have filled a pulpit that they will hear “Well done thou good and faithful servant,” when in reality, they will hear “Depart from Me because I never knew you.” These perpetrators “Should” fear eternity and the ultimate judgement. These perpetrators “Should” be in fear of the eternal fiery furnace. I am far from perfect and wholeheartedly acknowledge this, but know I strive to live a life that would honor Christ and how He calls us to treat others.
I’ve spent a large part of this post calling out so-called pastors and “Men of God,” but parents you also have a responsibility! I understand the anger of the Duggar sisters. Parents teach your sons how to treat a woman. Teach your daughters to be confident of who they are. Teach your sons and daughters that “NO” means “NO.” Give your kids a safe place to speak. For the love, BELIEVE them when they talk to you. If you have any ounce of compassion and love your child, do NOT speak the name of a perpetrator in comparison to/ over your children and/ or your grandchildren. If you do, don’t be surprised when the relationship ends. Defending and placing a perp on a lofty pedestal will never end well. Relationships will be destroyed and it will be your own fault.
I am hurt. I am angry. I am frustrated. I could write so much more, but I will stop here, for now.
As promised, here is a list of supports for victims/ survivors.
Guidepost Hotline: 202-864-5578
Lantern Lane Counseling Center- 615-973-5454
Terri Atwood Counseling- 615-477-3073
Vertrees Clincal Group LLC- 615-784-4056
Sexual Assault Center- 615-259-9055
Crisis Call Center- 1-800-273-8255
The Jason Foundation- 1-888-881-2323
Please know this is only a small number of resources. You can Google resources in your area.