The other day I posted this article – https://sojo.net/articles/courageous-leadership-actually-vulnerable-humble-belonging. It brought out very strong emotions because it articulated all too well why I walked out on church almost 2 years ago. I was surprised by how betrayed I felt by Bob Goff being mentioned in the article. Here is what was said:
We also need his fellow Boomer brothers in ministry, men such as Bob Goff (who wrapped Hybels in a bear hug and led a standing ovation during the Willow Creek “family meeting” back in March where Hybels called the accusations against him “flat-out lies”) and others, who have enabled or papered over Hybels’ offenses to pull a 180. They all need to come tell the truth — the whole truth — about the rampant culture of abusive power in our churches, or they need to step aside.
I had such strong emotions that I had to talk it out with Jake. Why am I always losing my shit? I know it seems obvious why one would be angry, but my anger is directed in a different direction. My anger is not solely at the actual abuser. I am angry with the nice people trying to balance the equation – always. The people who could help create the change more swiftly. The men who could help women have a safe environment, but just won’t speak. They will do all the good things in the world, but yet – won’t speak. The silence is betrayal of the highest order. Sometimes there is no balance. There is truth and we must live that truth. Will there be a cost, yes. Is that cost worth it? Yes.
I am going to flip flop my time frame of my realization I have experienced abuse with church. I am going to start with the Trump sex tape – my Facebook status said rape instead of tape, also true. I was astounded by the silence of my brothers. Shoot! Sisters were even defending him because nothing could possibly be worse than Hillary. Too many white women voted for Trump. That is a shame. The vote did not have to go to Hillary, but Trump should clearly have been an absolute no for all of us. Everything about Trump was against the christian witness – no repentance, sexual assault, xenophobic, racist, has not concept of morality, love of money — the list goes on.
After that tape came out, I was shaken to my core. I was also dealing with another sexual assault case in my own personal life. People were not acting right. We seem to not understand abuse – or care to change it because we like the abuser. We don’t know the victim, so easier to demonize them. The apathy in my personal life and what I saw in the political environment matched.
After the tape released, one of my friends wrote this as his status. “Come on guys. You know we all have talked like this before. We all say we want to raise boys to never say these things, but boys will be boys in the locker room.” I literally lost my breath. People I knew and respected were liking this status. I commented – “My boy won’t. He is going to know he is good, and that women are not objects to talk about or grab (his words said he did it!). He can control himself.” The responses by these white conservative christian value men were abusive. They mocked me for thinking my son will be different. Then they berated me about Hillary saying “She let her husband run around on their marriage”. I said -“Excuse me? Let him run around? So you are saying Trump is not responsible for Trump, but Hillary is responsible for her husband?” His dad went in cruelly on me. He eventually said, “I will see you at the polls.” I wanted to say, but refrained, “I will be at the polls, and you better hope to God you don’t see me.” Honestly, it was probably best for my safety. These were friends. Not me arguing with strangers on the internet. People I knew in my everyday life who would do anything for us. At least I thought. I looked at Jake and asked, “What is this? 1950?”
Then Beth Moore spoke. Praise the Lord! We needed a respected conservative voice to speak. Turns out – she is a victim of sexual abuse too. She knew she could not stay silent. Later on she wrote this blog post https://blog.lproof.org/2017/12/why-consent-isnt-all-there-is-to-it.html that helped me realize I have experienced sexual abuse. I took it on as my own fault, but we were not two equally consenting parties. One had more power and used it all the time on me. It was emotional abuse, and when he was done with me I felt like I had thrown my life away. All I wanted was to keep him. I had gotten to a point I would do anything. I was unrecognizable. Here is the section that opened my eyes to my own abuse:
Countless women and girls (and boys) consent to sexual advances they do not welcome or want and that scar them for a lifetime. Or sometimes they consent to one thing and get something completely and disturbingly different. They do so for the same reason I did. They feel enormously pressured, extremely unprotected, overpowered and, at times, utterly powerless. I well remember feeling something akin to paralysis. The word “no” was not even in my vocabulary. The boundaries around my life were bulldozed early and by a bully, I might add, because, while not all bullies are sexual predators, all sexual predators are, in one way or another, bullies. There was no manual within my reach about how to rebuild those crumbled boundaries.
After that I never wanted to return to church. I had broken the worst rule you could break – sexual purity. Our purity culture is from the devil! I could not sign any purity contracts. “I Kissed Dating Good-Bye” was not a book I could live by. The weird thing is though, I did trust God’s forgiveness. I did not trust my own, and I certainly did not trust this story with my fellow brothers and sisters in the church. I was going to church hearing sermons like this – if you are having relations outside of marriage, you are cheating – even if you don’t have a partner currently. You are cheating on your future spouse. I am like great, so when I find someone I have to say, “Hi. I am Lindsay. Just so you know right away, I have already cheated on you.” I could not breathe. Also, why could I not be the kid that never listened in church?!
I got to college, thankful for a new start. I wanted to believe I could be innocent again, all was not lost. A really great (so I thought) friendship sprouted between me and another guy. I kind of liked him, but he wanted to stay friends. We were really close and did almost everything together, but something happened that was absolute betrayal-not with me. Thankfully, we were not in a relationship so I ran the Hell away. I recognized his behavior from the guy I dated in High School. Then he started calling me all the time. He wants to go to church. He started carrying my bags for me to class. I wasn’t giving into this, but I knew I had to take him to church. That is the Paige Patterson way–I had no idea. Later my “friend” comes over uninvited one night and starts grabbing me. I had to push him off of me. It was so scary. He did stop, but the grabbing and groping had already been done. I felt so little, and so inhuman.
There was also another instance where one of my girlfriends set me up with another guy. We went to the lake and had a great time. But later I looked out the window of the car and saw them making gestures with their hands talking about my body.
When I watched Patch Adams and listened to Coryn cry about how she hated men so much, I was bawling with her. I got it. I wanted friends, but I felt like I kept finding friends that saw me only as an object. It is heart breaking. I told Jake I fell for him because he was not raised in church. He was one of the good ones. He was good just for the sake of being good.
I do want to say when I really felt like I wasn’t going to make it, there was a minister that did help me. The College Minister at the Church of Christ was fabulous. There are these moments that I have experienced in church, even in the fundamentalist days, that kept me going. He literally saved my life.
Now back to current day with the political mess, and a different sexual assault issue I am dealing with. This time I had read enough books and listened to enough good voices that told me to go ahead and fall apart. Glennon’s words – “Go through your pain. Pain means you have loved.”
When I finally laid down in the green pasture, I started hearing a new story with scripture-one my heart longed to hear. I was finally hearing the love story. I also noticed we weren’t getting this liberation story at church. Nor do many churches in our area tell this story. Jesus wasn’t so much concerned about personal sins as he was the systemic sin. One we are all participating in. I was still falling apart, but something new was happening in me too. Every minister I ever had showed up when I posted I am not ok. I was even breaking down crying in public. When I started rising again, I noticed they were no longer there. People are generally good when you are down, but don’t know what to do when you rise again and are different. I was ready to take on these justice issues, but the church wanted a balanced conversation. The Silence was killing me on things we should never have been silent on – The Sex Tape, blatant racism, xenophobia, money – all things the Bible is actually clear about. This is why the Bob Goff part hurt me more than anything from that article, because it is what we all so often do. We believe the abuser. We know them. They are our friend. We also try to avoid speaking. We think our good work will cover it. Words heal too. I never told anyone in church my story because I did not feel it was a safe place to reveal what had happened to me. I wasn’t wrong.
This is why my joy is so abundant finding Wilshire. There are men here that not only validate my voice – they see me completely equal as a partner in Ministry. They want to help me make that happen. The thing is, I did not know I wanted to be a minister by vocation – they noticed it–Four of them! They are encouraging and preaching sermons with me in mind, or sending me their sermons. It has healed my soul in ways I did not know still hurt so much. I am also discovering my life story since I have joined. I have not thought about this story in ages. We were raised to hold it in and just move forward. I always felt I was bothering ministers when I would email or take up any of their valuable time. So when I started emailing the staff at Wilshire, I always apologized in my opening sentence because I had it in my head I am a burden. George asked me why do you always apologize when you send emails. He said, “I like reading your thoughts. You are free now”. One of many examples I can give about the healing power of words. Speak! Also, go through your pain. Your story will liberate someone else. Beth Moore gave me words for my own abuse.
5 thoughts on “#MeToo #Silence #Church”
I wanted to respond to this post, but similar to reasons you discussed I don’t feel safe or comfortable doing it on Facebook. This will be a long comment, but it’s a necessary story I feel the need to share.
First, I want to sincerely thank you for sharing this post and your story. It is the hardest thing to be this vulnerable. I applaud you for your courage and hope your story helps others to understand why this toxic rape culture needs to die out.
When I was 14, I was assaulted. By a friend. Outside in an open apartment building breezeway. He sat with his legs crossing over mine so I was trapped beneath him. Then he used my hand to give himself a handjob… He told me he was teaching me what to do right. I tried saying no and he didn’t listen. So I sat there terrified and silent while he forced me to do that to him. The following day I was at church and one of my best friends at the time blamed me when I couldn’t handle my pent up emotions and confessed to her what happened. She said I didn’t do enough to stop him, so it was my fault it happened. She said I could’ve done more to stop it if I really wanted to, that I probably wanted it and just felt guilty about doing it afterward. Her reaction made me hold that secret in for over 3 years.
Summer between senior year of high school and freshman year of college, I broke down at summer camp and told my youth minister and his wife about what happened. They didn’t blame me, but encouraged me to tell my parents so I could seek the help I needed to feel less traumatized by the situation. Like you, growing up in the church made me paralyzed with fear about what people would do if they found out… I still waited another 6 months to tell my parents about it and it was a very awkward and emotional moment for our family.
I took 5 years to graduate from college due to financial reasons and stress. My second to last year there (my “first senior year”), I broke up with the guy I had been dating since mid-freshman year. He was my whole future at the time and I was completely at a loss for what to do with myself. I immediately got close with a guy I worked with who was a terrible influence. At the same time, a married man in one of my classes started flirting with me. When the married guy started moving into creepy and sexual territory, I lost my virginity with the guy I worked with just to spite him.
I went to a Christian University, but had never felt further away from God than I did during that dark time. I felt dirty and cheap and used. I did not value myself and hated the person I had become. Ignorant people called me a slut and a homewrecker. The married guy later confessed I was just his sociopathic experiment to see if he had a real conscience and could feel bad about things. Turns out he doesn’t feel bad for kissing another woman and basically cheating on his wife. (They are still married today and have a child together now…) My self-esteem was at an all time low. So I let a lot of people treat me horribly and slept with a lot of scummy people.
In April, at the end of that “first senior year,” I was raped. By a friend. Who was drunk (I was sober). We had slept together before (it was consensual those times), so I figured letting him crash at my place and cuddling with him would be no big deal. I was in a very vulnerable, codependent state of mind at the time. We talked for an hour and a half about how I felt like all guys ever did was use me and hurt me and treat me like dirt. I explained my frustration at how sometimes I want to kiss someone and that’s it and that should be okay. If I don’t wanna do anything else that should be the end of it.
So he started kissing me. I went along with it because I was in that painfully lonely mindset, battling a hard depression and many feelings of no self-worth. Within 10 minutes, and without my really noticing, he had all of my clothes off. He started touching me in ways I didn’t want but I couldn’t open my mouth and tell him no. I started silently crying. He kissed my neck at one point and when he moved away, his nose dragged across my cheek and he felt the tears.
He immediately backed away. Started asking what was wrong and stopped touching me altogether. I started crying harder and then explained for 30 minutes about how I was molested when I was 14, by a friend, and I had never done anything besides kiss someone before that guy and I told him no over and over again and he didn’t listen.
I explained to this guy that I had realized while I was laying there crying that I still couldn’t say no. I was too scared to say it. I was laying there and saying it in my head, I was telling myself to just open my mouth and say it, or to at least try to push him away. But I couldn’t. He proceeded to tell me that I was special and he didn’t want me to feel any less than that and he was extremely sorry if he did something I didn’t want.
I calmed down, stopped crying, and thought that was the end of it. We didn’t get up, we didn’t put our clothes back on, we just went to sleep. 45 minutes later, I was on the verge of deep sleep and we were spooning. Out of nowhere, when I thought he had been asleep, he pushes his penis into my vagina. I wasn’t wet, I wasn’t in the mood (clearly), I was barely awake, and he wasn’t wearing a condom. It was, to this day, the most painful sexual experience I’ve ever had. Physically and emotionally… I cried the entire time and I kept telling myself to say no, but I still couldn’t.
I didn’t think I had been raped for the first month or so. And then I decided to tell some guy friends of mine about what happened. They were outraged. Not only at what this guy did to me, but also at the fact that I didn’t think it was rape and that I didn’t think it was wrong. They were mad I was blaming myself instead being outraged at the guy who did it.
In the midst of #metoo, it is becoming painfully obvious that this happens every day, every where. My rape happened at a Christian university. Nowhere is safe. And that scares me more than anything. This is real. This is life. And it shouldn’t be this way. Until we get messages and stories out like these, it will be though… My parents may know about when I was assaulted at 14, but they still don’t know about my rape at 21. I don’t think I’ll ever tell them, tbh. It just hurts too bad to admit I was in such a dark place and was so broken back then.
I’m now happily married and my husband treats me very well. But I still feel the emotional scars from all of those experiences. I completely understand and sympathize with your anger toward those “Christian” people posting such hurtful and disgusting things. I still struggle to wrap my brain around how people can justify believing those things are okay and acting like pigs is the norm. I wish rape culture and victim-blaming/shaming would die out because it is extremely harmful and toxic.
I didn’t ask for the treatment I received from those men. I didn’t ask to be battered and broken. I didn’t ask to be someone’s psychological experiment. I didn’t ask to be hurt by guys I considered friends. Sorry if this was hard to read, but I felt urged to share my story, even if it’s posted anonymous.
Also, sorry for any typos I didn’t catch.
My dear friend,
I am so sorry. Tears are pouring down my face reading this. You are precious. Your life matters, and you were absolutely taken advantage of and raped. I know it is extremely hard to say those words. The purity culture brought so much shame that when we were hurt – it somehow felt like our fault. I will pray for you daily. I don’t want to tell you how to heal because it will be different for everyone, and I know church can be a trigger. I love that Rob Bell said – “If the Bible stresses you out, take a break.” I will only suggest one book, and I totally understand if this is not something you feel lead to do – but “How to Survive a Shipwreck” by Jonathan Martin really helped me. He is also readily available on Twitter. He walked me through a very dark period via Twitter. Kind of crazy. But no one in my life was tender or understood pain. Well, I think they are all in pain, but refusing to walk through it. Avoiding pain has lead to all kinds of cruelty. The church never taught us half of the Bible was a lament, and repentance is the foundation of our faith. Funny how we thought outsiders needed to repent – we never saw it as something we needed to do-together as a group.
No, you never asked for any of this. Feel your pain. This hurts. The Spirit is in the chaos, and God hears your cries. That is the only truth I know in all of this mess. You are so valuable. Your voice is needed, but heal first. Take all of the time you need. Thank you for reading and reaching out. It was incredibly hard to write. I could only do it because I actually found a safe church. Only took 40 years to do that.
I love you. You are precious. Go through your pain so you can go where the Spirit needs you to go. And you if you don’t believe anymore – that doesn’t scare me either. People hanging on to things that don’t work is what scares me. It created this mess.
Love you – Take care of yourself and find help if possible to process all of this. Talking it out and writing is helping me process what happened to me,
Thank you, Lindsey, for these words. I, too, was shaken when the Trump tape came out. Like a light switch flipped on. I never considered my assault an assault because it didn’t end in rape. I was in a situation where I needed help. He pretended to help only to help himself. I blamed myself for trusting a stranger. I knew better. My fault. It is so important that we speak up. So glad you found Wilshire.
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Wow, Megan. I’m sorry. This is far too common. I couldn’t believe the church had so little empathy, but when women aren’t at the table this seems normal to them. Not only am I glad I found Wilshire- I’m glad I found you, sister. ♥️