Sunday, December 29, 2019

Decade in Review

When I stepped into the 2010s, I was still living with my abuser.  My children and I were still trapped in the Cycle of Violence, and I believed I had to stay in it forever. That's where I was when the clock struck midnight turning the calendar to 2010. 

Little did I know that only 6 months later the kids and I would begin our journey to freedom.  On June 10, 2010, my abuser was arrested and removed from our home.  I opened The Car Door and got out.  I have not lived with him since.

In the summer of 2011, as I began to reclaim some of my value and confidence, I took an online Philosophy course and started to prove to myself that I was not as stupid as my abuser continuously told me I was.  I passed that course with an A. 

In the fall of 2011, I started an online program for a Social Service Worker diploma.  Over the next two years, I proved repeatedly that I was a good student and that I could learn.  I graduated from the program with Honours with Distinction. 

In July 2013, I packed up the children, our home, and our dog, and moved us 1700 kms away from my parents to a city where I had two relatives I hardly knew, and one friend that I had not seen in 18 years. My plan was to work in the Social Services field, but that did not happen.  Instead, I managed a Portrait Studio for a year. I quickly began to realize that was not my calling.

In the fall of 2014, I started a post-graduate Paralegal program at a local community college, and a year later I graduated with Honours with Distinction.  A month after writing my licensing exam, I was hired by a local firm that specializes in Provincial Offences Act matters.  During my time there, I did intakes, corresponded with our clients and the courts, attended court, ran trials, and met with the prosecutors.  For the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed that job.  I love the people I worked with at the office and I still consider them family.  Again, I began to realize that it was not my calling. 

In the summer of 2015, I began attending Celebrate Recovery.  Through this program, God brought and continues to bring, so much healing to my life.  I have worked on some of my hurts, hang-ups, and habits, and met an amazing group of people who have been with me through some tough times of healing. It is a blessing to have a place to go to every week where I am accepted and love purely for being me.  When someone asks, "how are you" they genuinely want to know.  The freedom to be my messy self is such a blessing to my journey. 

In the fall of 2018, I started a Master's Theological program at a local College & Seminary.  The first semester was really difficult as it was a different denomination than I grew up in and they have beliefs that I didn't even know existed.  My foundation was shaken and I experienced a lot of growing pains.  Thankfully, I had a supportive faculty advisor and a close friend there who helped me through.  

In 2019, my daughter graduated from grade twelve and legally became an adult (I don't know how to be a parent to an adult!).  And, I changed churches so I would have the opportunities to serve God and His church in the ways He's been preparing me for over the past ten years. 

Now, as the clock is going to strike 2020, I look back and see just how much God has done in my life in the last ten years. He took me from being a victim to someone who helps victims. That's my calling - to help others the way I have been helped.  Paul says it this way: (2 Corinthians 1:4)

     He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. 
     When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort
     God has given us.   

I like how the Message version puts it: He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.

I am starting 2020 with infinitely more hope than I had when 2010 started because God has done infinitely more than I could have ever thought or imagined

Saturday, December 28, 2019

The Non-Consensual Road - Part 1

Warning: Sensitive Content

If you have not read the Introduction, I would suggest you do so here.

I have never lived with my father.  In fact, I have never even met him, nor has he never been a part of my life.  

According to this article, "A father’s influence in his daughter’s life shapes her self-esteem, self-image, confidence and opinions of men... He must, first and foremost, treat his daughter with respect and love. Whether or not he is married to or still together with his daughter’s mom, showing respect to her mother is essential as well,” explains Austin. “He must also value women as human beings, and not as persons to be used. Daughters will see what their dads believe about women by how they value and respect women, or by how they fail to do so."

Failing to have a positive influencing and guiding father during my formative childhood years, and developing teen years, left me seeking attention from men.  I didn't have a consistent, positive model of how men should treat and value women, and partially because of that, I found myself in situations with men where I was getting hurt over and over again.  

I had some innate intuition when I was in grade six.  When I was babysitting one night for a couple, the father arrived home first.  He sat beside me on the couch and we chatted a minute, then he told me he had his horoscope read that day.  He went to the paper copy to show me.  When he came back, he sat beside me again and started showing me the document from his astrological reading.  He starting talking about star placement and other astrological things I didn't understand.  Then he said, "See this? Right now I am in the middle of my sexual phase."  That was my cue to get out of there. As I walked toward the door, I was shaking with fear that he was going to grab me.  Somewhere inside I knew it was not a safe place for me to be, and when I got out of there unharmed, I knew God was protecting me.  I never went back there.

Sometime that same year, there was a group of men sitting in front of one of the units in our complex.  It was summer and a friend and I were at the park in the middle of the complex. One of the men called me over and asked me to get my friend to come over to see him.  When she refused, I told him she didn't want to.  I knew something wasn't right, so I started walking to my building.  The man started following me.  When we got to the outside door, I told him I had to go home.  He kept asking me if he could come in to see the apartment.  I said, "no" and went inside. He could have held that door open and went inside with me.  Again, God was protecting me.  I went out the back door to a friend's house.  Later on, the superintendent of the building saw me and told me I shouldn't be talking to those men.  She knew there was something not right about them, too.

The catalyst in my life that changed every single future encounter I would ever have with a man happened in grade eight.  I was new to the school and a boy older than me started showing me attention.  He would talk to me.  He even called me one night.  However, all he wanted was a sexual relationship.  Our first physical interaction was him touching me from behind.

I sat in front of him on the bus one day.  He was slumped down in his seat with his knees on the back of my seat.  He kept grabbing my hand and pulling it towards his private area.  After a couple of tries and me resisting, he finally gave up.  On another occasion, we were in a classroom together, just the two of us.  He was sitting in a desk and I was standing beside it.  He slid his hand across the top of the desk and right between my legs.  I stepped back and left the room, but he followed me.  We went into another classroom and I went to the back and sat down.  He leaned down and tried to kiss me.  I got up and walked away.  

At lunchtime one day, I went into the computer room to do some work.  He was in there.  He came over to where I was and pulled his chair tight to mine so that the teacher and other students who were in the room could not see what he was about to do.  I had both hands on the keyboard, so he had full access to the private areas of my body.  He reached over and put his hand between my legs.  I grabbed it and pushed it away.  I went back to typing and he did it again.  As I was moving his hand away, he grabbed it and began pulling my hand towards himself.  I used all my grade eight strength to pull against him.  

He said, “Please?” 

I said, “No.” 

Again he said, “Please?” 

I responded, “No.” 

After one more “Please?” and another “No”, all the while pulling my hand towards him, he got mad.  He let go of my hand and moved his chair back to his own computer.  This is when I knew I had to tell someone about what was going on.  I told a female teacher, to which her first words were, "I can't believe it."  The next day the guy tried something again.  As I was passing him in a doorway, he put his hand up and rubbed it across my chest.  I told him to get his grubby hands off me, which is what the teacher told me to say if it happened again.  

The Guidance Counsellor spoke to the guy either later that day or the day after.  And, the guy requested to talk to me.  As I walked down the hallway to the Guidance office to face my abuser, I was freaking out.  I stood in the doorway as he said what he wanted to say.  He said he was sorry and that he would never do it again.  He said he would put his hand on the chopping block if he ever did it again.  I said, “Not to me or anyone else?” and he again said no.  I said, “You don’t know how much that hurt.”  I left the office in tears.  A few days later I told the story to the Police.  Then, I was told that the guy tried to kill himself.  I was non-verbally being blamed for his suicide attempt and shamed into thinking that it was my fault the guy was having a hard time.  Eventually, he did return to school so I had to see him on a regular basis.  He went to court and was sentenced to two years probation. 

This traumatic event changed my life.  My power was taken from me, my boundaries were not respected, and my pain ran very deep.  I considered suicide on a regular basis, and my natural "freeze, fight, flight" responses got very messed up. 

In grade nine I was at another babysitting gig. The kids were sleeping and the husband returned home first.  I was sitting in the living room watching television on one side of the “L” shaped couch.  He came in and sat down on the other side.  He flicked through the channels for a few minutes and then turned on something boring.  He laid back on his right elbow, picked up my left leg with his left hand, and began stroking it.  I froze. I actually couldn’t move. The ability I had in grade six to leave the house was not there anymore.  The husband started talking about relationships, asking if I had been in any.  Then he started talking to me about self-gratification.  He described parts of my body in detail and told me exactly what to do to feel good.  I sat there stunned, frozen, and in shock, as he continued to rub my leg.  I could not say how long we sat there.  When he heard his wife open the door, he put my leg down, sat back up, and started switching channels again.  I got up and went over to his wife.  She knew right away that something was wrong, but I denied it.  She offered to bring me home, but her husband insisted that he be the one to drive me home.  I did not want to say that I didn’t want her husband to drive me home because that would alert her to the fact that something did happen. I got aboard his truck and stayed as close to the passenger door as possible.  He immediately started back up with the inappropriate conversation.  He told me to “try it” and get back to him with the results.  I never babysat for them again. 

My boundaries had been violated again.  I had no power.  All I could do was freeze.  I started to believe that the only reason any man would want anything to do with me was for sexual reasons, and my future relationships resembled just that.  

The purpose in me sharing all these details is to show that the road to regular, non-consensual sex with my ex-husband began long before I ever got married.  My ex found easy prey.  I was a hurting teenager who continuously sought after attention from men to fill my father void, and I had no boundaries, voice, or guts, to stand up for myself.  I was easily controlled, very passive, and wanted approval from men.  My past created me to be the perfect candidate for a future abused wife. 

I'll talk about that next time. 

The Non-Consensual Road - Introduction

How does someone reach the place where they are having non-consensual sex on a regular basis?  This is the question I am going to attempt to answer over my next several posts.  I am going to examine my own personal history to help shed light on this topic.  I am sharing this for several reasons:

1. To let you know you are not alone.  I have been hurt in many ways throughout my life.  Living in domestic violence was a big part of that, but it is not all of it.  

2. Spousal rape is something that very few people take about.  It is a difficult subject to tackle because sex often invovles shame and secrecy.  I want to help break the silence. 

3. Your past affects your present, even when you work so hard at keeping it hidden.  

4. Knowledge is power.  The more you know, the more power you can have in your life and your relationships. 

5. There is hope.  If you are in a non-consensual relationship right now, I understand your pain and hurt.  There are so many emotions and truths that are difficult to face.  I'm here to tell you there is hope.  

This is not a subject I approach lightly, and I am certainly not an expert in the field. I am simply a woman who has gone through a lot of hurt and pain, and have come out on the other side a stronger person, who desperately wants to share the purpose of my pain - hope.  It has taken me a long time, several counsellors, and years of recovery to get to this place of stepping out of fear to share my story.  My prayer is that God will use it to bring hope, help, and healing to others.  

I know that some people will not be on board with what I share.  Some will find it offensive, too-real, and perhaps even say I am only sharing for attention.  Let me assure you, this is not the kind of attention I would intentionally seek to get.  I am sharing because God has asked me to help others go through what I have gone through.  I am not helping anyone, and God is not receiving any glory, when I sit on my pain instead of showing what God can do through pain.  

Some people will be triggered by what I share.  If you begin to feel triggered, please stop reading.  Find an accountability partner or sponsor to talk to and, when you are safe, read it with that person.  I would never want my story to bring avoidable harm.  Know yourself, and shut it down if it is too much for you at this time.  It's okay to not be ready.  This is your journey and I want you to be safe.  

Finally, please find someone to talk to.  You do not have to go through this journey alone. There are counsellors, pastors, ministers, and people in your circle who would be willing to listen.  If you are not already attending a Celebrate Recovery group, I encourage you to find one in your area. 

Let us journey this road together. 

I Don't Want a Man (and why that's okay)

Person: Do you have a man yet?
My Answer:  No, I do not have a man yet. 
Person: But, it's been over eight years!

As much as we have heard it said that "time heals all wounds," it is, unfortunately, not true. The truth is the healing journey takes a lot of hard work.  And, while I have journeyed the path for quite some time now, I am still not "healed."  

Let me ask you this:

- After eleven years of living in a home where anger came with physical and emotional violence, is eight years enough time to stop flinching in fear every time a man near me is angry?

- After eleven years of being told that all the bad things that happen is my fault, is eight years enough time to stop feeling like I am to blame when things go wrong?

- After eleven years of having to account for every minute of my time, is eight years enough time to really understand what freedom feels like?

- After eleven years of mostly non-consensual sex, is eight years enough time to intentionally want a man in my personal space?

- After eleven years of walking on eggshells in my own home, is eight years enough time to believe that a relationship can be any other way?

- After eleven years of having my boundaries kicked down and trampled on, is eight years enough time to learn how to create healthy boundaries, implement those boundaries, and know how to respond when someone crosses them?

If eight years is not enough time, how much time is?  Will time heal these wounds, and the many others I did not list?  For some, eight years may be enough time.  However, for me, it is not.  And, whether it is or it is not enough time, that is totally okay. 

During my eleven years in domestic violence, my emotions took a beating.  They were shattered on a regular basis and eventually they turned to ice.  It has only been in the past couple of years that my emotions have begun to thaw.  Most would think that is a good thing, and I am sure on some level it is, but what the thawing is doing is making me feel the emotions that surround the abuse and pain that happened in my life.  The situations of my past are no longer just facts, as I had referred to them for many years, they are memories that hold deep hurt that I need to work through.  My memories hold emotion and responses that need healing in order to move forward in a healthy way.  My broken heart, emotions, trust, boundaries, and security need healing before I can consider having a man in my life.  And, that's okay.  God needs to continue restoring me and returning what was stolen from me before I can embark on an intimate relationship.  I still need to fully accept my worth and value as a daughter of the One True King so I do not go looking to a man to provide what only God can give me.  

I am still on my healing journey.  I have an amazing support team who accept me exactly where I am yet will kick my butt to move me forward when needed.  I am growing and recovering by the power of Jesus.  I am not ready for a man.  And, that's okay. 

Hope - The Purpose of it All

I have spent a long time in fear.  I fear telling my whole story, I am in fear when I am in close proximity to men, I fear that something tragic will happen to someone I am close to, I fear doing or saying the wrong thing, and the list goes on.  I live my life in a heightened emotional state.  

The fear stems from pain - the pain caused by hurts from the past that I have not fully worked through.  My counsellor asked me if it is hypervigilence. Yes, I would have to say it is.  I struggle with fear and hypervigilence, especially around men.

Perhaps you are wondering why I am sharing this stuff, and maybe you are thinking this does not sound hopeful.  Let us start with the why.  As scared as I am to share all of my story, I know that holding it in means missing the reason I went through pain to begin with - and that is a lot scarier to me.  I heard a message this week that talked about the purpose of our pain. The minister said, "​As painful as it was, was it leading to something that, when you looked back on it after the fact, would maybe not exactly make it worthwhile but would at least give some meaning to it all?​​​" He went on to say to say there is purpose in our pain - that purpose is hope.  So, a purpose in my painful experiences is that I now have hope I can share with others. That is life-changing! Just as Mary, on this very night 2000 years go, found hope and purpose in her labour pains, I, too, can find hope in my pain.  It is a hope birthed from my pain - a hope I can now share.

How does fear and hope link together?  Let me show you.  On the night Jesus, the Hope of the world, was born, the angels visited the shepherds.  The very first words that were recorded after the birth of Jesus were what the angels said... "Fear not!"  That is the first thing God wanted us to hear.  The ultimate Hope entered the world and we no longer have to fear.  WOW!

I do not know exactly where this new understanding and desire will lead me, but I do know that I can keep quiet no longer.  God gave me a story filled with pain, but in the thick of it all, there is unexplainable hope. And, I desperately long to share that hope with others.